Tuesday, 2 January 2018

December 2017 in pictures

This month saw the first snow of the winter and some heavy overnight frosts. 

We are steadily eating our way through the winter squashes, but it looks as though we shall still have some for January at least.

The Babington's leeks are ready for harvesting and, after three years in the ground, a few clumps now need thinning out.

There are plenty of brussels sprouts in the garden, a few parsnips and some "volunteer" potatoes that were found lurking around the edge of the compost heap. I had hoped to have more from some late plantings in the growing sacks, but the foliage was completely flattened when the fence panels came down in the September storms. Better luck next year!

December is when I place my orders for fresh seeds and new varieties, but first I have to organise my existing stock so that I can see what I already have. That took half a day to do and then I could work out what I needed to order from the seed suppliers. My next task will be to create my sowing diary for the coming year.

December 2017 Harvest Summary

Weight 2.940 kg

Garden harvest shop/market price £9.14


Garden crops

Weight g

Shop price

Brussels sprouts736£3.21
Cabbage/brassica leaves396£0.45
Babington's Leeks286£0.66
Jerusalem artichokes130£0.50

Herbs - estimate £2.00

Sunday, 24 December 2017

November 2017 harvest summary

Weight 2.862 kg

Garden harvest shop/market price £6.95

Foraged £2.30


Garden crops

Weight g

Shop price

Runner beans234£0.84
Jerusalem artichokes186£0.65


Weight g

Shop price


Herbs - estimate £2.00

November 2017 in pictures

Our dividing fence was finally replaced at the end of November. We had tried to prop up the lose panels in various ways but we had a series of strong winds over the month that resulted in them disintegrating even further. Once the work had started, the chap who was doing the work for us said that the posts were still good apart from the parts that had rotted underground and suggested that we reuse them. The rotten pieces were sawn off and the posts placed in metal fence post spikes. They shouldn't rot so easily and the fence will be easier to maintain. Unfortunately, three of the panels were irredeemable and had to be replaced.

On the opposite side a series of frosts resulted in the end of the squash plants and the remaining runner beans. The brussels are doing well, though.
And the garlic finally arrived. Last year, I carefully labelled their positions with name of the variety but when I came to harvest them the labels had vanished! This year, as well as placing labels in the ground, I have kept a note of what has gone where. 
A bonus crop of volunteer potatoes found whilst turning over the compost heap. There may be a few more lurking around the edges. 

And finally for this some month, some reading matter for the dark winter evenings. The Minimalist Gardener by Patrick Whitefield is a collection of articles on permaculture and growing fruit and veg, including tips and advice for small urban gardens.  See The Minimalist Gardener for further details.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

October 2017 harvest summary

Weight 13.103 kg

Garden harvest shop/market price £44.43

Foraged £7.60


Garden crops

Weight g

Shop price

Runner beans262£1.27
Jerusalem artichokes108£0.50
Sweet peppers94£1.00


Weight g

Shop price

Sweet Chestnuts  

Herbs - estimate £3.00

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Quince and citrus marmalade

I don't eat a lot of sweet preserves but do make some wild fruit jams (blackberry, elderberry and apple/crab apple is my favourite) and marmalade. The last time I made a traditional English orange marmalade was over 20 years ago. These days I use a mixture of citrus fruits combined - when in season - with wild fruits such as rose hip, rowan or hawthorn. This autumn I was given a large bag of quince so I experimented with a quince and citrus recipe.

For the citrus component I use up the saved, sliced peel from limes and lemons that have been stored in the icebox, plus the remains of lemons and limes that have been squeezed for various recipes (also stored in the ice box). It's such a mish mash that I can't give you an exact weight or number of fruit used, which I know is not at all helpful if you want to try this for yourself. I also usually buy a fresh lemon, lime and in this instance a red fleshed grapefruit that was on special offer. I peeled them, shredded the peel and squeezed the juice from them.

All of the peel and juice went into a pan, the pulps into a muslin bag and placed in the same pan. The whole thing was covered with about 1.5 litres of water and simmered until the peel was tender. This is the basic marmalade recipe.

Meanwhile, I peeled and cored 5 large quinces, chopped them up, added them to a separate pan with enough water to just cover them, and simmered until soft and mushy. Then I mashed them with a potato masher.

When the citrus peel was ready I did the usual squeezing of the muslin bag into the pan and dumped the contents of the bag onto the compost heap. I then added the quince pulp, mixed it all up and measured the volume. For every half litre I added the usual 450g sugar and then boiled until setting point. Hey Presto! Quince and citrus marmalade, and delicious.

P.S. The quince peelings and cores went into a large jar of water and fermented to make scrap vinegar. 

October 2017 in pictures

The autumn harvest from the garden continues: squash, cauliflower, herbs, carrots, tomatoes and courgettes. 

The sweet chestnuts came from a tree next to The Church of Our Lady and St Anne in Caversham. It is a well established tree and there is always a good crop, although the quality of the chestnuts does vary from year to year. This year they were really plump and a great addition to stews and casseroles.
We gathered in the last of the tomatoes, some of which were still green but may ripen indoors. They are usually eaten before that happens, though, chopped and fried with a little garlic, onion salt and chilli. It was not the highest yielding year we've ever had but a good one and we did manage to avoid the blight that afflicted so many vegetable gardens and allotments in the area. The photo on the left is a sample of some of the varieties we grew this season.

A friend gave me a bag of quince from their garden. I poached some in a honey syrup along with some foraged apples and the rest I incorporated into marmalade (recipe to follow in a separate post).

We harvested the two monster squashes that were growing against our kitchen wall; they weighed in at just over 6lb each in weight. I found the label at the base of the plant and it said "Harlequin". I've been collecting seeds from our squashes for about three years and so far the harlequins have all been small to medium sized yellow/orange specimens (see the one on the right in the photo). I initially thought that there had been cross pollination to produce the green giant on the left but on checking my seed catalogues I see that Harlequin is an F1 hybrid. It's amazing that my collected seed generated so many "true" harlequins. Some of the green giant was made into chutney and the rest eaten over two weeks in risottos, curries and roasted veg recipes. Its twin is waiting to be eaten. We shall probably tackle it at the end of the year!

Our other main harvest was that of runner bean seeds. We have been growing runner beans and collecting our own seed for many years and have long forgotten what varieties they are/were. It doesn't really matter as they are well adapted to our garden conditions, are prolific and taste good. I may, though, try out one or two new "bought-in" varieties next year.
Some of the brassica and swiss chard seedlings have been planted out in areas that won't be trampled on when our storm-damaged, dividing fence is replaced (hopefully in November). They have all been covered with fleece, not to protect them from frost but to stop the pigeons getting at them! The brussel sprouts that you can see in the background are big enough to take care of themselves.