Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Bean there done that

The last of the seasons tomatoes. Too soft to eat will be fridged and made into sauce.

Yes I have a "Mist" setting on my hose. Oh come on, allow me some artistic licence.

Too fussy I know.

Aumunm Bliss

These are the first real harvest of the raspberrys that I've had. My Nephews graze on these plants every time they visit and Coryn & Harry have a freezer full of them. I can't begin to tell you how great these taste fresh off the bush. This variety is actually called Autumn Bliss. They have a very complex aroma like dried tea leafs and roses, they are soft and juicy and melt in the mouth. Add Raspberrys and a couple of scoops of Green & Black's vanilla ice cream to a bowl and eat with a small spoon.

Borlotti Beans.

If you are making a stew in the coming winter months you can do a lot worse than adding a can of these to proceedings. Canned are best for stews in my opinion. They are rich and starchy and they add real depth to the sauce.

These need a good week maybe two to dry out properly. This is best done on the vine so we take them down now and stick them in the green house to dry. This lot will probably only produce about a pound of beans but it is worth it in my opinion. Don't start a Minestrone with out them!

Here's a tip to give your soups and stews a velvety texture.

Just before your soup is ready to serve take a ladle or two out of the stew or soup and put it in your liquidizer. Make sure you have a little bit of everything in the ladle and not too much liquid. Buzz it until it is very, very smooth. You may need to skim off and bubbles, random debris or unrendered fats that come to the surface ( you'll see them if they are there) and add it back to the stew and stir in well. Now you're cooking. Be careful when using liquidizers and hot liquids.

Shoot the runner

Ha! The end of the runner beans. Cower brief mortal! You are going to die alone in a big black composter and no one will mourn your passing. I hate runner beans!

You're goin' 'ome in a big black composter!
(This is funny to about six people, none of whom read this blog)
How can something that I cherish and revere be so close to something I loath and despise? Oooh! it just like Spurs and Arsenal.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Throw away your television. Chili stuff

Yes it's time for more Red Hot Chilli Pepper malarkey as I attempt to save my chilli plants so they don't have to be grown from seed again next spring. I took a shot at this last year but due to my poor communication we threw away our spent chilli plants last year.

Moving on.

So. Here are what I am tentatively calling my test plants.

Jalapeño mild to medium heat. The reliable work horse of the chilli world. Will produce a pleasant flop sweat on your brow and a warm sensation on your cheeks. More heat than this you are in dare territory!

Anaheim or Stak variety very mild. Just about a pointy sweet pepper really but a prolific cropper.

These are common or garden variety chillis that are uncomplicated to cultivate in a greenhouse. I have found these two plants in particular to have high quality fruits with the jalapeño giving a nice medium heat in cooking.

Sliding scales

For the heat lovers among you there is a chilli heat scale called the Scoville scale.
Here is how it shapes up. The Bell Pepper registers a Zero on the Scoville Scale. No heat.

Conversely the Habenero is a chilli for the serious heat lover. It registers around 300,000 "watts" towards the top end of the Scoville Scale. It has closely related family in the infamous Scotch Bonet and Naga chilli variety used in Jamaican and Bangladeshi cuisine receptively. If there is food in front of you which has been prepared using these, and you are not Bangladeshi or Jamaican or Mexican, then run. You are out of your depth.


There are hotter chillis than the mighty Habenero and it's kissing cousins. A rather unnerving example is that Police grade pepper spray comes in at 5.5 million "watts" on the Scoville Scale.

There are chillies available in this country that are twice as hot at that.

Recent "progress" in crop breeding has produced turbo nutter chillis with names like Mad dog, Mega Death, "Devil's any number of things" and the beautifully poetic "Possible Side Effects".

If this is an avenue you wish to explore than you can do a lot worse than visiting the magnificent Michael Michaud. He's certified organic and probaly has a similar accreditation for his sanity. He is not some loon cross breeding this things in his back garden. He's got a poly tunnel.

Here's the crazy.

Son. You're on your own.

I've grown the Habenaros before and I don't recommend it. They numb your tongue and throat and give you horrendous heartburn. You then get a hot sensation on top of the head and a tingling sensation at the back of the neck. Finally you are drenched in sweat for two hours. Heaven knows what a second bite would do! ( Thank you Peter Mahler)

Example. A teaspoonful of oil from a four year old jar of roasted habeneros will be sufficient to "heat" about 2lbs of chile con carne or a fiery curry to a level where you cannot feel your tongue. Handle only with rubber gloves. Burn the gloves after you have use them. Burn everything else the gloves touched. Lunacy!

Here's your 4 year old jar of roasted Habenaros. Oh yeah. I did! SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO!

Back to the sanity

The Jalapeño registers around 5,000. You know these little guys. These are the chillies that Old El Passo Corp put in the pickle jars and sell to you at £1.75 for 100gs

The Anaheim registers around 250 and is suitable for salsas and adding a zing to a salads or as Homer Simpson would say "suitable for some one recovering from surgery!"

It's basically a pointy sweet pepper.

Once Autumn has passed and the crops have stopped growing we'll look at how to preserve the plants from the tricksy English Winter.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

History repaets itself, first as tragedy then as farce.

Oh look at these terrible things. Leek Worm (Who knew?) and paper leaf invasion have put paid to all my vast leek bed this year.

It's a disaster zone. I really should air lift this lot out of here. This happened last year too. We ended up drafting in shop bought baby leeks to cover the gaps. Too late for that this year. We grew all our leeks in a raised bed on the plot. You can just see them peeping over the top of the far blue barrel.

We had hundreds. Really. We planted about 120 gave away most of the rest to our plot neighbours. Most of our plot neighbours have the same problem too. Err. from the leeks we gave them. Ouch!

C'est la vie is becoming a bit of a theme this year.

Maybe it's a Karma thing. Perhaps giving away most of our leeks wasn't enough to square me with Krishna this year. On reflection...........Krishna is probably right.

I'll perceiver for a while yet. All but three leeks have been cut back to a couple of inches from the ground. I have thoroughly fed and watered the remaining leeks and removed dead leeks from the bed. Hopefully in this non hostile atmosphere they can thrive and become the Leek-opolis I had dreamed of for this winter.

Mmmm. The gaps are very conspicuous.

It's bad enough I lost all my corn this year. I'm hope I'm not going to loose my leeks too.
A close up of the kill or cure technique. Brutal.

Hari Hari!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Mellow sunday afternoon

Being at the plot yesterday just reminded me of the good bits of this time of the year. It felt like one of those lovely lazy Sunday afternoons.
The things that need doing you can linger over. You can relish the job for the gentle art involved, and the reward is the job itself. There is an imperative with no deadline.

See. Notice no spade. Tea, milk, kettle, burner, Ipod, camera, phone,Carol Klein book, hang over cookies and of course a marrow. I have no idea what that is doing there. Honestly, this picture was not set up. The kettle is of course on.
Sundays man. Watching Marx Bros films on TCM, hot (Duck?) soup and crusty bread rolls or tidying the herb patch and pottering in the greenhouse. Golden days.

It's a special time of year. Foot off the gas baby. We'll coast this bit.

Some of you may have caught the original verion of this post. I was asked to revise the post. Only a reference to the Marx Bros and duck soup remain.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Happy little squashes

Last year we had a bit of a rough time with out butter nut squash. It was OK but there were not that many of them and we lost loads to disease. Without really realising it we've had a cracking season this year. I think that is just the way things happen sometimes.

The plants went out in late June after any fear of late frosts had passed and the squash have trailed along happily doing little butter nut squashes as they go.

We've helped a little. A bag of bark chippings to keep the fruit off the dirt has helped. Bark chippings also help air circulate under the fruit, giving you fewer flat spots and less disease. Bark chips keeps weeds to a minimum and keep in moisture in our free draining soil.

Finally we planted a bit of Borrage near the plants for the bees to pollinate the flowers. Borrage is very easy to grow. It's a hairy and largely unlovely plant that grows about two foot six high and about the same wide. it has beautiful blue star shaped flowers and most importantly Borrage is like crack for bees. Bees go mad for the flowers and will happily pollinate any other plants around while they are at it.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Cobs wallop

The Sweetcorn was a disaster this year. This was due to the variety more than anything else. I was so exited about it. Fresh corn is the best thing about August & September. Not this year. I tried to put it to the back of my mind.

Last year we had great hulking sweetcorn plants, seven feet high (really) bristling with four or more cobs per plant.

These piddly things boasted a creditable two, creditable only because of the size of the plant. However the quality was very poor.

I had two cobs from a crop of 18 plants. They tasted very earthy and not at all sweet. Most of the cobs were thrown away. Those we did harvest were tasteless or not fully formed or had rotted on the stem before reaching maturity.

C'est la vie. I'm over it.

The Party's over

So the explosion of summer fruit and veg is over. More or less. It feels like clearing up after a long and very enjoyable party.

And like all good parties some of the tidying up makes you laugh, some is quite surprising in a "How did that get here?" kind of way. Some things you discover make you slowly shake your head is disappointment and the older and wiser among us already have a list of those that will not be invited back next year.

To torture this metaphor a little further we had a gatecrasher this year which meant that the party finished earlier that usual. Blight. Not only did it affect our party it affected alot of other people's parties too.

This is it. Blight.

Hi. I'm here with John.

Like all good parties, I'm already planning another.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

I've said it before. It's not all dirt and turnips.

So I've been absent for a few weekends recently.

Reason one. Java settings. Or as I like to call it Javaaarrrggghhh! Some how I've managed to prevent my PC from uploading photos to websites including facebook and my blog. Fixed. Relived but puzzled but I suspect that is not a thread that I want to pick at.

Reason two.

This bloke
Yes that's Tony Christie. Avenues and Alleyways.

and these

but we were not with the Clanggers. We were dressed as Coneheads. In the very unlikely event that you too were at the best kept secret somewhere just north of the M25 this summer then you probably saw me that weekend. Probably? No, you saw me.

and reason Three.

I was here

doing this

and watching the Muse homecoming gig in Teignmounth.

Pronounced "Tin mouth". You not fram round 'ere bay.

No turnips. It was quite dirty.

Weeds provide the greeen shoots of recovery

Don't panic I'm not a halfwitted politician gasping for the oxygen of publicity by claiming that I can see the green shoots of recovery.

It's weeds man. You need weeds? Come see me I've gots acres of them. I pull up bags, trugs and buckets full of the wretched things every visit. Some of them go on the compost heap but most get bagged and taken by car full to the recycling center (formerly known as the tip).

Talk about "where there's muck there's brass." I dig up my weeds and take them to the council recycling centre. A year later the council sell them back to me. I know.

Here's your everyday magic in action.

The council put my weeds in a massive pile with all the other rubbish people don't want. They build the weeds and grass cutting and hedge trimmings into giant mounds of largely organic something or other. They water it, turn it and occasionally have to cover it. All this is done on an industrial scale using reclaimed land and the kind of earth moving equipment that brief mortals like us cannot get their grubby hands on outside of a quarry site or maybe Diggerland.

Diggerland? No? More muck and brass. Here's your link because I can't make this stuff up.


So the breakdown process that make your hedge into humus (no not the chick pea dip although that would be magical) actually produces enough heat to kill off the most pernicious of weeds and all the spiteful and hostile bacteria too. So there is no need for burning infected plants any more.

I'm not claiming that industrial composting is some sort of divine gift but it is a cracking idea and, whilst it does have a few suspect down sides, it's a step in the right direction.

Here's the kicker. Come spring next year the council will sell me back my own weeds and your hedge clipping and grass cuttings in the form of compost at around £4 a bag which, I should add for reasons of full disclosure, I will happily pay.

The circle of shite! Capitalism at it's most happy and shiny. No casino banking, no quantitative easement, no cash for clunkers, kickstart or stimulus packages, just rubbish turned into something useful and sold on to help perpetuate it's own usefulness.

Oh it's gooood to be back!

Cheeky Quote