Thursday 31 July 2014

Potato "Nicola"

I have been harvesting potatoes again... This time it is some of the variety "Nicola".

This is a late Second Early type. It has cream-coloured skin and firm yellowish flesh. Its eating qualities are similar to "Charlotte".

Not counting the "tiddlers" which were too small to be worthwhile, there were 35 useable tubers in this batch, which weighed 900g. I suppose it is because they have been in the ground longer than most of the other types I planted, but I think that is a good yield from one seed tuber. All the potatoes in this series of photos came from the one plant, grown in a 40cm container. They are a nice size too - no huge ones, and mostly the size of a small hen's egg.

They look even nicer when washed and ready for cooking, don't they? I have to say that even I am impressed with how clean my spuds are this year. I'm sure it is due to the fact that they were grown in composted stable manure. Anything with a high "bulky organic matter" content is good for preventing scab on the tubers. So you win some, lose some, eh? The tomatoes have been very poor due to compost issues, but the potatoes have been good despite having been grown in the same compost. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the contaminated compost was not the stable manure stuff, but the multi-purpose compost in which my early seedlings were raised.

Potatoes like these are not intended for long-term storage. They are best eaten within a couple of weeks of being lifted. I have three more containers of "Nicola", as well as four of "Pink Fir Apple", so we should be OK for potatoes for about the next two months!

Wednesday 30 July 2014


For years I have wanted an Echinacea (aka Cone-flower). I don't know why I didn't buy one. I suppose it was because until recently I have considered my garden to be just a veg-plot and have devoted little attention to flowering plants. Anyway, all that has changed now.

Last year I bought a rather bedraggled white Echincea ("Pom Pom White") in an end-of-season sale at our local Garden Centre, and was fortunate enough to get a plant which was easily divided into two

September 2013

A couple of weeks later I also bought another Echinacea plant, this time one called "Little Magnus". It has flowers that are magenta coloured. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the plant at the time I bought it.

The plants have grown a lot during the year. This is what they look like now:

I am currently so enthused with this plant that I have taken loads of photos, some of which I want to show you now...

That beautiful green beetle thing (I have no idea what it is!) appears to be carrying a load of those little Brown Mites, like the ones I found in my compost bin back in April. Here's another shot of it:

These plants have already earned their place in my garden, and I expect them to get even better as they mature.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Tomatoes - a harvest at last!

I had hoped to have a nice harvest of big Beefsteak tomatoes this year, mostly ones grown from seeds from a Facebook friend in Belgium who kindly sent me a big pack of seeds for not just tomatoes, but also peppers. If you want to see the complete list of varieties, just follow this this link ...

I won't bore you with the details again, but due to problems with compost contaminated by weedkiller, my harvest is very much reduced. However, I am finally harvesting tomatoes now, and that is a major milestone for me!

One of the big ones in that basket was "Larisa". I  have had only two fruits from my plant so far, but each one was over 300 grams.

The flesh of this tomato is a very pink shade of red, and very sweet. The shoulders of the fruits seem to be prone to remaining green

The other big tomato in my basket is the orange-coloured "Dynnye".

This particular specimen has a very pronounced heart shape. It weighed approximately 425 grams.

The yellow tomatoes at bottom right of this next photo are "Banana Legs".

"Banana Legs" looks like a yellow version of "San Marzano", but I regret to say that it is nowhere near as good in terms of texture or flavour. Of course this may be because the weedkiller problems have rendered it somewhat under par. In normal circumstances it might be better.

The small red tomatoes are "Maskotka", a variety that I have grown many times before. It's very reliable and produces exceptionally tasty fruit.

The medium-sized red fruits are "Orkado". In normal years these would be nice and round, but this year they are all "heart-shaped".

In every case, the pointed bit at the tip has not ripened like the rest of the tomato. This is definitely not Blossom End Rot, because the dark spot is not soft and squishy; it's dry.

Now what do you make of this enormous ugly beast?

This one is "Cherokee Purple". Not at all like the stylish regular-shaped fruits I had from this variety last year. Not only is this one a "double" - two fruits fused into one - but underneath it is dramatically "cat-faced":

As you can see, there are still a few bits that are under-ripe, but I decided I had to pick it anyway, because it was beginning to split, probably as a result of the sudden exceptionally heavy rain we had had the previous day.

It may not be pretty, but I'm sure it will be just fine when made into some sauce - all 536 grams of it!

Anyway, returning to the theme of this post, as indicated by its title, I'm going to end by showing you a photo of the inside of my fridge...

That's a bit more like it, eh?!

Monday 28 July 2014

Harvest Monday - 28th July 2014

We have finally reached that time of year when I can pick lots of different crops on the same day. I love being able to do that, because it presents good photo opportunities too!

In this basket there are French Beans, Runner Beans, Chillis, Peppers, Beetroot, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Tomatoes and more Tomatoes. Naturally I am especially pleased to be able to show off some tomatoes, since with all the issues I have encountered it seemed at one stage that I might get none at all this year.

The big tomatoes are "Dynnye", (the orange one) and "Larisa" (the pink/red one):

This week also saw the harvesting of my first Runner Beans - hooray!

Actually, I picked two lots:

Jointly it was enough for us to eat in the way we normally celebrate the arrival of the first beans of the year. We have them as a Starter, plain boiled, served with butter and black pepper, with a piece of bread - in this case some of Jane's home-made Juniper and Thyme focaccia. Having them this way allows you to appreciate their flavour without it being confused by flavours of meat etc.

I picked this "Predzvest" cabbage too.

 Unfortunately, when we cut into it, the centre had been extensively nibbled by caterpillars and the cabbage had to be thrown away. However, I immediately cut another just like it, so we still had cabbage for dinner. I found this chrysalis on the underside of the cabbage, so I guess the guilty party was inside. Does anyone recognise it?
 The French Beans are my old favourites "Cobra", a decent quantity this time - about 325g:

The two pale-coloured peppers seen in the next photo are "Ohnivec". They will supposedly turn red when ripe, but I just wanted to pick a few early on, to see what they are like when green. A taste-test is in order, I think.

 Last thing for me to mention this week is another 420 grams of Blueberries:
This is my contribution to Harvest Monday, and I expect lots of other people will have been harvesting nice crops this week, so why not drop by and take a look...?

Sunday 27 July 2014

Summer dining

Good food doesn't have to be complicated. When you have good quality ingredients you don't need to do very much to them to make a nice meal. And in any case, when the weather is hot you don't really feel like spending hours slaving over a hot stove.

Yesterday was a hot muggy day, and since it was my turn to cook I decided we would have a salad-based meal, with the only hot element being some potatoes. This is what I produced.

Firstly, one plate of vegetables:

All those are from my garden: beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes, French Beans and a garnish of Leaf Celery.

And then one plate of "protein items" - all these are NOT from my garden!

That is French saucisson sec (foreground), Jamon de Teruel (A type of Spanish ham), some lovely ripe Brie cheese, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs.

Then a big bowl of lettuce - "Devin", from the garden.

This is a really good butterhead type of lettuce. The leaves are soft, and have an attractive buttery colour.

Not pictured in their cooked state, but nearly so, the potatoes. (No, we didn't eat all of those!)

Also not pictured, but worthy of a mention, were some slices of Jane's Juniper and Thyme Focaccia, going a bit stale by this point, but great when toasted. The toasting process really seemed to enhance the flavours.

The fact that there was very little cooking to be done meant that we had a good opportunity to relax, and we sat watching a classical music concert on the TV as we ate. After dinner we sat in the garden and sipped a glass of cool Chenin Blanc and watched for bats (which we often see at this time of year). We didn't see any bats, but we did see a Barn Owl flying over (and making its distinctive eerie cry), which was really special. Summer evenings should all be like this!

Saturday 26 July 2014

The Salad Succession

My self-imposed challenge this year has been to maintain a continuous supply of salads, through a disciplined approach to successional sowing. Every couple of weeks I have sowed seeds for more things like lettuce, endives, radicchio, landcress and Lamb's Lettuce (aka Mache)

I have devoted one of my seven raised beds entirely to salads (that's if you include beetroot):

This next photo demonstrates very nicely the variety of plants I have included, with beetroot at the top,  and lettuces, chicories and endives of various sorts at the bottom:

This is Curly Endive "Tosca" with lettuce "Marvel of Four Seasons" (the red one) and "Devin" (lower, centre). There is also a small "Can Can" lettuce and a Basil seedling.

Until recently I had a few Turnips at the end of the bed, but those are gone now, and I have slotted in some more lettuce and chicory seedlings from the next batch.

The Mesclun that I sowed in a small pot on the patio was looking good until a couple of days ago, but then the Flea Beetles found it and everything is riddled with holes. The mustard and the rocket is particularly badly hit. I'm not throwing this away just yet because the plants may survive and put up some fresh leaves, but I rather fear it might be beyond redemption.

It is supposed to be the case that lettuce seeds will germinate very badly or not at all if the temperature is above 22C (70F), but I don't believe this. The best germination rates I have had this year are the lettuces sown recently, at a time of prolonged high temperatures - up to 31C this week.

P.S. I have not been able to do much blog-visiting or commenting recently, because I have been working in London, which for me means long tiring days, and when I get home all I have the energy to do is to water the garden - and it has needed it a lot too, with all the high temperatures we have had. My stint in London comes to an end next week, so hopefully you'll see a bit more of me after that.