This morning I was admiring the amber-gold foliage of the oak trees in and around our holding.
Then the winds hit and the leaves streamed horizontally into the adjacent fields. The autumn colour won’t be around for long. Today it’s a prevailing south westerly; strong, around 24mph at times. As it has brought the rain I have retreated inside to continue with preserving.
Luckily we had picked all the medlars yesterday, otherwise the fruit would have been scattered to the ground. Our picking was quite late, many had already bletted whilst still on the tree. Even so, I should have enough hard fruits.
An 80:20 ratio of bletted to hard fruit should help set the jelly, (the unripe fruit contain more pectin).
We have started planting for next year. The garlic went in yesterday; Arno; Provence Wight; Germidour and Carcassone as well as Elephant. We had ordered Garcua and Garpek, which produced fabulous heads for us but the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, so the supplier withdrew these varieties. I may break a rule and plant some cloves from our own heads. I’m also experimenting with starting the autumn onion and shallot sets in modules as the spring planting did so well when started off inside.
We have made excellent inroads into preserving the gluts of late summer and we’re finding new recipes for our produce. Squash risotto is an excellent choice for a cold day!
Reading this week: An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade
If you are a dedicated GYO then it pays to have some decent vegetarian recipes up your sleeve. We raided the polytunnel for chillies and tomatoes; the veg. plot supplied garlic and onion. I did look at our aubergines but decided they needed to bulk up a tad so I picked one up with the groceries.
As our chillies range the scoville scale from mild to inferno, I substituted some Poblano for bell peppers added Joe’s Long for a bit of pep and the lovely OH made harrissa paste, adding in Super Chilli.
Once the vegetables had roasted for 45 minutes I added the harissa along with more of our tomatoes, (instead of canned) and returned to the oven whilst I baked couscous. Finally all the ingredients were stirred together and served with a sprinkle of coriander.
Listening to this week: Plants: From Roots to Riches omnibus editions on Radio iPlayer.
The wonderful thing about living in a temperate zone is that you experience the transitions between seasons. The truly hot summer weeks have been few this year – a fleeting 10 days in June, possibly a number of weeks in August, fingers crossed. In the growing patch some of my favourite vegetables have been harvested for storing or are bulking up, ready to be lifted for glorious feasts later this year…..
The lovely OH did a roaring trade selling our excess garlic at a local agricultural show whilst supporting our smallholder association. The onions have been lifted and are drying before stringing….
Cabbages and kales are often underrated, but I love red cabbage with bacon served alongside loin of venison with a red wine sauce , (Rosemary Shrager does a cracking recipe).
This year I have sown, for the first time, celeriac, (makes a delicious soup), and quinoa…
and of course, the pumpkins and squashes are starting to swell…
so much good food to look forward to!
The soil has warmed up sufficiently so I decided to plant out the onions sets I started off in modules. Besides, I really need the space in the potting shed.
The onions have formed a good root ball and it was easy enough to push each out of the tray. I spaced them around 4 to 6 inches apart.
So that’s it on the onion & garlic planting apart from some red onion seed I’ve sown. This article prompted me to have a go at onions grown from seed; I want to see if they will store better than those grown from sets.
Now what to do with all that space freed up in the potting shed? Why fill it with more trays of sown seed of course!
Oh dear, there seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle across the channel concerning some changes to spelling. Too late for me I’m afraid. It took a great deal of effort to learn French the first time around so now I am immune to the changes – OIGNON it is.
However on the subject of longevity – here is where I am open to change. Storage of our onions has never been as successful as the shallots. We still have good solid strings of shallots in the lean to –
and not an onion in sight.
In my experience the red and white onions don’t store as well as the brown. Even so we do take quite a hit with spoiled brown onions, so I’m always on the look out for an onion with superb flavour AND good storage capability. This year, at the local Potato Day, I picked up a bag of ‘Jagro’ and ‘Jet Set’ onion sets alongside the potato tubers. I can’t find a huge amount of information about ‘Jagro’ – though at the event it was described has having ‘excellent flavour and good storing’. ‘Jet Set’ is a recent introduction and seems to have favourable reviews – some comments even describe it as ‘outstanding’. We shall see.
For the first time I have sown the sets in modules rather than directly in the soil.
The idea is to give the onions a head start in growth rather than having the sets rattle around in the potting shed or risk planting out into saturated soil. I use multi-purpose compost and push the set down by a third into the compost. I’ll plant them out in about a month’s time.
The lovely OH has also been hard at work – amongst other things he kindly cleaned and sharpened all the tools:
The tools are now looking GORGEOUS!
We have started to pick the first crops – lovely crunchy red radishes, (Cherry Belle), from the polytunnel and forced pink rhubarb, destined for a rhubarb and ginger crumble pudding tonight. Baby salad leaves will be ready to harvest from the tunnel next week. We have planted up two tubs of first early, waxy salad potatoes in the tunnel to add to the swell of produce.
Also, under cover, pea sticks have been pushed into place and extra seed sown in the gaps. The protected broad beans look green and lush – hopefully the growth will be able to support a bumper crop.
Outside, we have weeded through the alliums, (garlic; onions and shallots), and planted the last of the sets for this year. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will dig the first trenches and set the bean poles.
In the orchard the almond blossom has started to break…..
The OH and I have put in the last of the shallot sets for the season. This spring planting adds to those put in late autumn last year.
Autumn planting of garlic and shallots; weeding to be done once the ground dries!
We’ve given up allocating much space for onion set planting, apart from a couple of rows of red onion – Red Baron. It’s a bit sad because I like the look of a row of onions with the tops folded over ready for lifting. However, brown skin onions are cheap to buy and we have found over the last few years that shallots store far, far better than onions. We are still cooking with stored shallots lifted last summer.
So the pluses for shallots are: they store better; they taste better; I don’t cry when I chop them and I’m always surprised at how expensive they are. So it makes sense to give more ‘Allium allocated’ space to growing them. Perhaps the yields from commercial fields of onions is much greater than fields of shallots hence the price premium on shallots and of course shallots have to be separated once lifted. Like garlic, a single planted shallot bulb clones itself, producing offsets creating a cluster – all very clever botanical stuff involving meristem cells. The clue to a shallot’s habit is in the species name Allium cepa (Aggregatum Group)
When I plant my shallots I only have a little bit of the neck showing as the birds have a habit of walking along the rows pulling the bulbs out and tossing them around, mixing up the rows of varieties. Which is really very annoying. Once the roots have formed anchoring the shallots I shall pull back the soil a little.
The varieties we have just planted are:
- Red Sun – this is a pretty round red skinned variety, good for storing and crisp white flesh;
- Golden Gourmet – a variety that is less likely to bolt with good-sized round, gold skinned bulbs and again excellent for storing;
- Red Gourmet – a recent development, early to mature, pink tinged flesh and meant to have a ‘spicy’ flavour , (I’m looking forward to this one) finally,
- Vigarmor – a French variety, banana shaped bulbs, coppery coloured skin and crisp, pink flesh. Again, this one is meant to store well.
January sowing/planting done – onwards into February.