Winter harvest

With Burns Night looming, a visit to the plot to collect some potatoes was quickly becoming necessary.

We leave our crops in the ground until we want to use them. This can increase the exposure to pests and diseases but we find they just last better this way, probably because we have a well drained sandy soil.

So off to the plot on a wintry afternoon, dry but cold.

The main crop potatoes we planted were Sarpo Mira – a blight resistant variety, producing quite large tubers.

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Our chilli trial – the results

One red chilli among many green on a wooden table top

With the first indications that we’ve had frost on the allotment and colder weather forecast for the end of the week, we decided it was time to harvest our chillies. How did they do?

As explained in an earlier post, we had acquired a number of chilli seeds and decided to trial them against each other. I would like to say that we nurtured our little seeds and gave them the best growing conditions we could, but we didn’t.

For various reasons, some previously described, we got very behind with our allotmenting and were playing catch up for most of the year. Our chilli plants had to put up with late sowing and late planting out. This is as much a trial of what can look after itself as it is an exercise in what grows well in our part of the world.

What germinated

First thing to say is that not all the seeds germinated. One seed tray failed to produce anything even though they were kept at an even temperature. Damping off disease? Well, we kept the greenhouse clean and used clean compost and fresh tap water but who knows.

This meant that, for reasons not necessarily the fault of the seeds themselves, there were three varieties where we only managed to produce one plant each – Naga Jolokia, Numex Twilight, Peperone Picante Calabrese. And we only got two plants from another four varieties of seed.

Nevertheless, some varieties grew more strongly, both as seedlings in the greenhouse and once they were planted out.

So how did they do?

The chilli plants that did well

Pepper cayennetta

Many green chillies and one red growing on a plant

We ended up with three plants which grew to 40cm, 23cm and 20cm. All produced an abundant crop, and a couple had started to turn from green to red. It would be nice to leave them to ripen but, with temperatures dropping, we can’t risk it and have harvested them green.

Sweet and Tasty mix

Three large green chillies growing on a plant

Two plants, one of which was our largest chilli plant at 60cm, the other reached 35cm. Both produced large impressive looking peppers. The larger plant’s fruits were green, the other black – a variety called Black Knight F1.

Black Knight chillies growing on a plant

I was excited to try them. The green pepper was delicious, much as you’d expect from an ordinary green pepper, perhaps just a little sweeter.

The black was, well, disappointing. If green peppers are less sweet than red, our black ones were less sweet than green. But it could be that they just weren’t ripe enough.

But are Sweet & Tasty Mix a chilli? They rate zero on the mild to fiery pepper meter graphic on the front of the packet. With zero heat, I would call these a sweet pepper rather than a chilli.

Numex Twilight

Chillies on a plant which are mostly purple with two turning yellow orange

Only one plant but it reached a respectable 40cm and was covered in tiny peppers, easily producing the most fruits.

This really is a most attractive plant. The fruits remind me of Christmas lights. As the peppers ripen they change from purple to yellow and then red. Most of the fruits are purple with only a couple starting to show some red, so not fully ripe.

Heatwave mix

Green chillies hanging on a plant

One plant growing to 35cm with a good crop of peppers. Again, we have had to harvest these green although one fruit has gone a brownish colour as it begins to turn red.

Peperone Picante Calabrese

Round green chillies hanging on a plant

One plant which achieved 47cm. It produced three green globes which really look as though they need longer. We will try them as they are and hope to grow this again next year.

What didn’t do so well

Naga Jolokia

A small Naga Jolokia plant next to its plant label

12cm and 8cm plants, no fruits.

Habanero chocolate

A small habanero chocolate chilli plant

This is the one I was most looking forward to growing. I don’t know why. The habanero chocolate is one of the hottest chillies so there is so there is no way I’d be able to eat it. And I know chocolate refers to the colour, not the flavour. I just liked the sound of it and thought it would be fun to grow.

So I was disappointed that although we got two plants, they didn’t grow very well and didn’t fruit.

One grew to 20cm and was robust enough to plant out on the allotment. The other didn’t look strong enough to plant out. It’s still on the windowsill at home and, although it looks healthy, it is growing very slowly and has only achieved 10cm.

Trinidad scorpion

Small Trinidad scorpion plant

One plant which grew to 15cm, no fruit.

Naga morich

Two tiny chilli plants in small pots on a shelf indoors

One plant which is growing very slowly on our windowsill at home, next to the habanero chocolate. Again, it looks healthy enough, but is growing very slowly. Having only achieved 6cm, not made it onto the plot and not produced fruits, this is the poorest performing variety. But if we had succeeded in germinating more, we may have been more successful with it.

Sowing French climbing beans in deep root trainers

Purple and yellow climbing French beans growing up bamboo canes

Our climbing French beans were such a hit last year, that we were definitely keen to sow them again.

They were relatively easy to grow, looked great, tasted great and were even better with the recipe we found for preserving them. What more could you ask for? More beans, of course!

Learning from last year

We decided to stick with exactly what we did last year – Suttons’ colourful climbing mix.

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The start of our chilli trials

Apparently, 2018 is the year of the chilli. When we went to Glee, the trade show of the garden industry, last September, several companies were featuring them.

Here’s part of the Thompson & Morgan display at Glee which has what we thought was a well-designed heat indicator.

A Thompson and Morgan chilli seed display with clear heat indicator

We thought we would take the opportunity to do our own mini trial of a few varieties of chilli to see how they perform.

Sowing the seed

Here’s Andrew in the greenhouse, explaining our trial and sowing the first seeds: Continue reading

We have bean impressed

Here’s a recipe I came across for preserving french beans. Although we didn’t plant a lot of climbing french beans, we thought we would invest some of our limited crop and try it out.

Preserved beans

We used the pickling vinegar jars to preserve the beans

Having discovered this recipe just as I was harvesting what seemed to be the last of the bean crop, I got straight down to work and processed them quickly.

The recipe is so simple Continue reading

Our 2018 gardening year begins

Andrew with his new Hawes watering can

We were finally able to make it down to the greenhouse on the Easter weekend. But have our new tubers survived the long wait to be planted?

Major works at home kept us occupied for most of March. Not only that, snow and freezing temperatures made visiting the plot or the greenhouse even for a short while impossible. As a wheelchair user, Andrew can’t move around as readily as most of us, which means that his body temperature drops fast – something he’s not always aware of until it’s too late, which can make him very unwell.

And so the plants and tubers we ordered have had to wait – some survived better than others.

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A rose by any other name

Close up photo of a watering can rose

Last September, the Quest for Veg were invited to Glee – a show for the garden center trade.

Glee is the place where the garden industry comes together to launch its new ranges, latest innovations and next bestsellers. Over three days, 7,000 plus visitors come looking for the products that will fill the shelves of garden centres, high street stores and supermarket shelves in the season ahead.

We were invited as part of their bloggers publicity programme. Continue reading

Recipe: Roasted pumpkin wedges with oca

Roasted pumpkin with feta and oca on a bed of salad leaves

All too soon we’re down to our last pumpkin. We grew Invincible, a variety with an unusual bluish flesh and a lovely creamy flavour.

Ok, so ours didn’t turn out as dramatically blue-grey as on the seed packet. They were more of a pale green. But the contrast with the orange flesh is very pretty.

Pak Choi and Pumpkin

We didn’t get a huge crop and were through our harvest before we knew it. So how best to savour the last one? We put the call out for suggestions on social media.

On Instagram, Katrina from the Homegrown Garden suggested a curry with chickpeas and green peas.

Meanwhile on Facebook, Don suggested a popular eastern Mediterranean dessert.

A screenshot of Don’s suggestion of using the pumpkin to make a Mediterranean dessertHe suggested cutting the flesh into 1 inch dice, making a stock syrup with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to flavour, then poaching the cubes until the pumpkin is cooked. Leave the pumpkin to cool in the syrup, he advised, then drain and serve with natural yogurt, creme fresh or cream.

Then Darren from Allotment Notes told us on Twitter to ‘oven-roast that bad boy until the edges go all crispy and caramelised and then stuff it into your face until the juices run down your chin’.

Screenshot of Darren’s suggestion on TwitterWe liked all of those suggestions. If only we’d asked while we had more pumpkins!

Perhaps it was Darren’s descriptive turn of phrase that persuaded us to try the roasted pumpkin route. We thought it would allow us to create a tasty supper that would put the pumpkin centre stage and allow us to show off the attractive contrasting skin.

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A shelving unit for the shed

A view of the shed from across the plot with Andrew sitting inside surrounded by parts of the shelving unit

You know how it is, you get a new shed and think you’ve just built a Tardis. Look at all that space, you say. Oh, the possibilities.

Perhaps you will put in two (maybe even three!) easy chairs and there you will sit, making tea and bacon rolls over a camping stove, admiring your beautifully manicured allotment.

Perhaps there will be a Welsh dresser (painted a heritage colour) behind you, a rug on the floor. Perhaps George Clarke will drop by to admire your handiwork over a chilled glass of something fizzy.

And then all of a sudden the shed is full of stuff. And not chairs and Welsh dressers, either. It’s all the stuff that didn’t previously have a home: rakes, hoes, bamboo canes, spades, my fork, our little draper cart.

It’s full of bags with potatoes because we finally dug them up since we now had somewhere to store them.

And then there are the plastic bags with all the sundries we’d either had to bring with us every time or hide in the compost bin. Plant pots, string, tubs of fertiliser, bottles of tomato food, hand tools. And it now takes five minutes to find my gardening gloves because I can never remember which bag they’re in.

Time to get organised!

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