Our first taste of Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum)

Winter 2018 was spent deciding what vegetables we wanted to try, focusing again on the new or usual.

Again we were tempted by South American vegetable tubers so we ordered Mashua, pronounced Mash-wa (Tropaeolum tuberosum), a perennial of the nasturtium family.

As they were a little expensive, we bought just two roots and decided to plant them at either end of the plot.

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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. 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

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 Burns Supper with a colourful twist

Burns night, 25 January, is a celebration of the birth of Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, songwriter and collector of traditional songs (1759-1796).

Celebrations usually include a meal of Haggis (a traditional Scottish dish), mashed potatoes (the tatties) and mashed swedes (neeps).

For a number of years we have invited friends and laid on a meal to mark the occasion. Thanks to our allotment, this year there was a colourful twist and an unusual addition.

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Growing oca or New Zealand yam

If you’re growing vegetables and you haven’t tried oca (also known as New Zealand yams), you’re missing out. They’re easy to grow, easy to cook and super tasty!

Sandra kneeling by the oca bed holding a bunch of freshly harvested oca

When we took on the Quest For Veg plot, one of our goals was to grow unusual produce. So when we spotted oca in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue last year, we didn’t hesitate – even though we knew nothing about how to grow them, how to cook them or what they would taste like.

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A wee visit to the plot

Since our last blog, we have both been fighting one of those stinky autumn colds, and unable to work on our plot. So last weekend, although it was very cold, the weather was dry enough for a wee visit to the plot. We fully expected to find everything overgrown and in a bad state.

Apart from our poor leek patch, that has been adopted by our local fox as a daytime lounge area,

Our leek patch - flattened and chewed

Poor leeks all flattened and chewed

everything else was much better than expected. Continue reading

Recipe: beetroot leaves and spaghetti 

Title graphic: beetroot leaves and spaghetti
Almost without trying, we grew some beetroot. We bought a packet of Unwins Gourmet Mix from the garden centre, sprinkled them into the soil and, apart from a bit of watering, pretty much left them to it.

And look what they produced: stunning colourful orbs that tasted as good as they looked.

Their characteristic earthy flavour had a delicious sweetness. We immediately grated one of the white ones raw into a salad. Wonderful!
Red, orange, pink and white beetroot.
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