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
We have started to remove the heat-loving fruit and vegetables from the polytunnel. All the ripe chillies have been picked along with the tomatoes, (green and red), melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers.
So we have quite a lot of preserving activity ahead of us. The lovely OH has made a start on the chillies.
He has found that putting a slit into the chilli before drying in the dehydrator helps to dry the chillies faster. Once dried we can use the chillies through next year.
Of course, we are eating as much fresh produce as possible, so our weekly supper menu has a definite lean towards vegetarian recipes. Gathered together here…the vegetable ingredients for a sambhar, recipe courtesy of Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India‘.
I popped into our village library the other day to pick up some ordered books and to catch up with the news on the recent, fund raising Harvest Festival/Apple Pressing day. I couldn’t make the event, but we had donated produce to help make money to keep our library open. Over £750 was raised at this event – onwards and upwards.
My librarian mentioned that not many borrowers took books from her curated display so I volunteered and was very pleased to pick up ‘The Modern Preserver’. I was immediately smitten by the spiced plum sauce recipe.
Unfortunately, whilst I had plums and damsons a week ago; when I checked the orchard, all had gone!
Time to get our skates on with gathering in the harvest.
The squashes have done us proud once again and yes, mid brother, some of those spaghetti squashes have your name on them. The walnuts, once again, have been raided by the grey squirrels…..
….we might manage a few for Christmas
but no matter, we have plenty of other ingredients to keep us happy – here the ingredients to accompany pheasant poached in cider…
Reading this week: Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation by Richard Mabey
The nearby town was frantic with shoppers. It is much calmer here on the holding where we have been gathering up ingredients for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner.
Sweet shallots and cox style apples from our stores; thyme from a ragged bush in a terracotta pot near the piggery; the cider – bought, as we have finished all of the lovely OH’s homebrew; the plump pheasant also bought, and the reason for the venture into the melee.
Potatoes, again from stores:
and some wilted stems of swiss chard from the vegetable garden.
The recipe is this one from Delia.
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.