Monthly Archives: July 2014

Well Preserved

Succession sowing ….I’ve never really mastered it.  Every single year I think to myself – this is the year.  And without fail something gets in the way of the planning and preparation. So given that this year, yet again, I’ve failed miserably we have arrived at the point of produce glut.  On the bright side it provides the opportunity to experiment with different DSC_0401ways of cooking or, even better, preserving.      The Golden Nugget cherry tomatoes I’ve sprinkled with fresh chopped garlic and oregano and oven dried.  They can be eaten as a snack or stored under extra virgin olive oil.

DSC_0398Gleaming necklaces of red currants – easy, easy; picked and frozen to be mixed with strawberries, black currants, autumn raspberries, and blackberries for a late summer, summer pudding.

DSC_0400Of course the real challenge, is the courgette.  The glut monster; the butt of many an allotment joke – the vegetable that just doesn’t know when to call it a day.  This year I’m ready – and first up I’m going to give this recipe from a whirl:

Courgette Chutney


Serves: 15 

  • 1kg courgette
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and cored
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 250g dark brown soft sugar
  • 250ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh root ginger
  • 1 tablespoon English mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Prep:30min  ›  Cook:45min  ›  Ready in:1hr15min 

  1. Peel courgette and discard any large seeds; chop into small pieces.
  2. Finely chop apple, onion and green pepper; place in a casserole along with courgette and remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until thick, about 45 to 55 minutes, stirring often. Cool. Ladle into jars; cover and refrigerate.

Bring it on…..







Fly, fly away….

Fruit_fly(1)Drosophila – or the fruit fly; so beloved by geneticists, (well one species anyway).  Apparently they have HUGE chromosomes in their saliva glands.  Very cheap to keep and they reproduce like insect bunnies.

Not very beloved chez nous.   At this time of year the fruit and veg from the plot comes thick and fast.   So do the fruit flies.  The OH has invested in a tennis racket like contraption (called the Executioner)  that zaps the flies but he is losing the battle.   The kitchen and utility rooms are studded with jam jars of cider vinegar into which the flies gleefully tumble.

But the really, really annoying thing about the fruit fly, (apart from generally being really really annoying), is that single one in a glass of wine will taint the wine so badly that the only option is to chuck it away.  The wine is utterly undrinkable.   The taint comes from an enzyme released as the alcohol dissolves the fly.

So cork back in the bottle and a saucer placed on top of the wine glass is the order of the day until they fly fly away (or die at the hands of the OH).

Reading this week: The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah

Out damned spot ….

Late_blight_on_potato_leafLate blight has hit the potatoes.   I’ve cut off all the haulms and cleared the debris from the rows.   The combination of wet and warm allowed the oomycete, (water mold), spores of Phytophthora infestans to get a hold.   It is a horrible disease; brown, sodden rotting leaves, lesions on the stems and if left, the pathogen causes the tubers to rot.   We don’t spray so the only option for us onceDSC_0399 blight symptoms appear is to cut the foliage off, clear away the debris and earth up.   We will leave the tubers in for a couple of weeks to let the skins harden and then all will be lifted.  None can be stored.  This isn’t a problem this year as we cut back quite significantly on the potatoes.  

I can never understand where the  sporangia come from; it is difficult to ensure that all traces of a potato crop have been removed from the soil.  A tiny tuber can develop into a potato plant the following year.  Could this be a source?  How many miles are the sporangia or spores blown?  Can the pathogen survive as oospores in the soil?  

I had signed up to blightwatch ( but hadn’t received any notice of full or near miss Smith Periods.  Smith Period conditions are conducive for the  sporangia germination and spore formation. I’ve just looked on the Potato Council ‘Fight Against Blight’ map page and I see that blight outbreaks were recorded in my outer postcode fairly recently, (

As with most years we had planted a ‘Sarpo’ variety.  These main crop varieties are meant to be more resistant to the blight.  I cut the haulms off everything anyway.

Of course I’m now on tenterhooks – will the spores get in to the polytunnel and run amok through the tomatoes?  The humidity in the tunnel means that if the spores get in then blight is inevitable.

I’m keeping the doors shut and crossing my fingers.



One girl went to mow – went to mow a meadow….

Yes I did, courtesy of the council plus Andrea, tutor in charge of making sure we didn’t lose limbs/fingers etc. from our razor-sharp Austrian scythes.

Andrea works for Caring for God’s Acre ( and does a marvelous job teaching all sorts of handy things like using lime mortar, scything etc.

DSC_0394The Austrian scythe is an amazing development in low tech grassland management. An English scythe is very much made for an individual.  The Austrian scythe can be re-set so that I (5’2″) or the OH (6’2″)  can wield it equally effectively (cough).  Scything is very zen, and has a cool vocabulary – such as snath (the shaft), peening (cold forging) and the blade comprises a tip, heel, tang, beard, belly and knob (step forward Baldrick!)

I had a fabulous day and came back so enthused that I did a bit of scything chez nous.  And I have plans for knocking up a hand driven baler.

DSC_0396Thing is …. we have an awful lot of grass ……which is now about as high as I am…..



I think we won’t be canceling the contractor plus tractor/baler this year.