Category Archives: Soft fruit

Pudding prep

 

There is quite a stash of fruit in the freezer, waiting to be used up. For the most part, I plan to jam or jelly. However, over the last few weeks I have been harvesting raspberries every other day and stowing them away. The plan had been to be jam them. However, when it was announced that work would be hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, and that colleagues were invited to bake, I thought about what I might do to support the event. I was racking my brain for a while. It is not usual for me to experiment, make a bake and inflict in on my colleagues.

There have been crumbles and cakes made using allotment produce that have shared in the work kitchen. Depending on what it is, the bake doesn’t last long. The quickest to go and recently was a bakewell containing some home made jam. I remember putting it down, and coming back one hour later.

A handful of crumbs was all that was left behind. I have never seen a pudding move so fast, and stood there a little perplexed as to how and why.

I quite enjoy baking, I find it quite therapeutic; in most cases, I make a bake for home, and a second is taken to work. That doesn’t mean I’m a proper baker, I enjoy making mistakes and things, rather than showstoppers.

So with Macmillan Coffee morning 2017, it seemed quite straight forward to volunteer something. I just couldn’t think of what I might make.

Only, for youngest sister to look at me, and say cheesecake. “Make that cheesecake,” she said, “The baked one, you’ve not made on in a while. That was nice.”

If in doubt, ask your sister.

I haven’t made the baked cheesecake in a while, no, and it was nice. I think I have made a couple previously; one was with blueberries, another with strawberries, all the fruit was from the shop.

Now I have my own fruit; blueberries have come and gone, strawberries are not my thing, those raspberries have now got an opportunity to actualise their potential. They are going into Ms.Farmah’s baked raspberry cheesecake. I just need to find some white chocolate to go with it.

There is another reason why I wanted to support the event. Regular readers will be aware that two years ago, as a family we experienced the loss of my Maternal grandfather. Without the support of palliative care staff, his final days may have been even more difficult. Plus. he rather liked my allotment, and one of my fondest memories is Nana visiting. He would then ask what I had growing and what I planned to do with it all. So when I said my last goodbyes to him, I may have sent him off with a packet of sunflower and cabbage seeds. it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

So this year’s raspberries are not just raspberries. I have just harvested what might be the last batch to freeze.

Here’s to pudding.

 

Mint Marauding and Mooli Pods #gdnbloggers

There used to be a herb bed on the plot, only it is now full of mint. Mint truly is a thug, the cliché is true. Unchecked, it runs riot and takes over. With the unbalanced combination of rain and sun, the plot mint has grown quite a bit. This has meant mint marauding, chopping it back to harvest leaves. As you can see, the bouquets were nearly as big as me, and three large bundles of the stuff were harvested. I guess that you can never have too much mint! Having harvested it all and carried it home, Mama F and I spent a few hours at the dining table stripping the leaves so that it could all be frozen. There are several different varieties, with some smelling like spearmint and chocolate mint in there somewhere too. It would take a proper connoisseur to smell out the different mint varieties.

At the moment, I have vague plans to make mint jelly. Usually, the plot mint ends up in chutney; Mum can rest assured, there is tonnes still left for her to use.

The second half of the day focussed on Mum’s mooli pods. She had found that the radishes that she sown had bolted; as such, there were lots of seed pods.

pods1

These are actually edible, and different varieties of radish will produce seed pods of different potencies. For example, seed pods from Japanese radish have a peppery fiery-ness. In the image above, these are pods from an unknown red variety, and these were quite sweet to the taste.  As you can imagine, I was going a little dotty anyway, having plucked away all that mint. However, as Mum had helped me, I was going to help her. All We had harvested less than half of her entire bolted radish crop, yet we managed to fill three troughs of seed pods. How I did not see seedpods in my sleep, I do not know.

Mum plans to cook up the seed pods; the recipe is in sow grow eat!

Other than mint marauding, I was loitering with therapeutic intent as well. I’ve not een to the plot in a while, so have missed the blooms blossom. Shakespeare is well and truly kicking off, and the glads have finally kicked.  I have the standard, as expected six pears on the tree-it’s always six, no idea why-with tomatoes making slow but certain progress. I’m not holding my breath with the tomatoes; there will be a significantly smaller crop than expected, and no puddles of tomatoes like last year. There are fewer plants, and I don’t think the Roma variety will keep their place on the plot. Marmande appears to be the winner as per usual.  All three of the grapevines are burgeoning; lusciously leafy, there are clusters of grapes starting to swell. With raspberries creaking to an end, I was able to harvest a handful of plump ‘darrow’ blueberries. The other two varieties haven’t so much as sneezed this year, the one plant is turning copper and going to sleep.

 

P.S. yes, I know,  need allotment proof nail varnish.

 

 

Blackcurrant, blooms, bogey and bindweed #gdnbloggers

Have you seen the sunshine, have you smelt the pollen?!

It’s a bit bright outside, and I don’t recall seeing anything on the weather about it. Anyway, doesn’t matter, I shall do my best to enjoy it.

From the safety of the kitchen, as  I cough, splutter and sneeze my way through conference prep.

 

It is that time of the year again, where I pootle off to the annual conference of The Association of the teaching of Psychology.  Having prepared one workshop on mental health and the classroom, I had a second one to prep, but before that, I took a walk to the plot.

I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy; I had already woken up sneezing, dopey, and full of bogey. As such, I had breakfast and dosed myself up with ant-histamine to take my second cuppa tea to the plot with me. The plan was to pick any fruit that had ripened over the last few days. I came away with most of my black and white currants-these are wellington and versaille varieties-with red ones yet to turn, as well as polka raspberries. What I forgot to do was check if any more fall gold raspberries had come through, I realised that after I had come home and had to stick the kettle on again.

The process of picking the fruit was hampered by sneezing and on loop. I was however hell bent on getting it picked, even if I was struggling to breath, coughing up my lungs and couldn’t string a coherent thought together. Up until this year, I have never ever, felt so flipping hamstrung in trying to survive hayfever. It woefully frustrating and does nothing but make me further frustrated by the lack of productivity on the plot.

Real life commitments have made it more difficult to work on the plot, I have spent increased time at work and also had training commitments. As such, bindwind has appeared as though the creature from the black lagoon. It’s a horrible, invasive thing that is probably from outer space.

However, there are some positives. Whilst they are quite diminutive, the roma and marmande tomatoes are starting to flower. I don’t think that there will be much of a bounty this year, but at least I might have some tomatoes to go with the gorgeous roses.

Gooseberry pickle anyone?

gooseberries
mixed gooseberries

The harvest may be small, but I still had half a plan as to what I might do with the gooseberries. In the past, the crop has been put into gin and jam. There was one small scale experiment of Indian Pickle. Thought I might try it again, and this time extend the recipe a bit.

 

 

Going to leave the jars in a darkened room for a bit, they will be very tart right now!

Fruitful flaming June #Gdnbloggers

Has flaming June been hot enough for you?

The last week has seen a heatwave move across Blighty. With that, the levels of UV and Pollen have skyrocketed. For me personally, this has meant staying away from the plot as the grass pollen tends to assault my senses and render me sneezy with bogey overload. I can be stood there sneezing and on loop as soon as I get there. At one point, I was dragged away and by my mother whilst trying to find roses.

Today, the weather is distinctly cooler and I can actually stand up straight without having been kiboshed by pollen.

This morning, I have taken a walk down to the plot and tied tomatoes against canes. I have Roma and Marmande varieties sunk into raised beds, and do rather fancy finding some more. If I do manage to successfully cultivate anything on the plot this year, I would like it to be tomatoes; additional plants are on my shopping list for the weekend. A simple as job is and of staking tomatoes, I am glad I did. Over the last few months, going to the plot has been a challenge. For a whole host of different reasons, I  have rather lost my zing, and I could feel it all too much. I pottered on the plot this morning, I wandered around-like the proverbial cloud-and then decided that I wanted to see what fruit was growing. I had forgotten what it was like to wander around, pull out weeds, trample over blackberry bushes and just take in the scent of roses. I stood talking with a ‘lotment neighbour, and a gentle breeze carried the scent of zingy lemons towards as we spoke.

Last weekend, I was able to harvest a handful of raspberries to put into jelly-yes, fruit and jelly-along with some black and redcurrants. There were also some red, yellow and green hinonmaki gooseberries that had appeared.

There are gooseberries and raspberries on my plot and also Mama F’s, so I have picked a few of these to take home. I think I have got most of the gooseberries, having had a fight with the bushes; I had forgotten how vicious the damned things can be. Last year, I had made gooseberry and chilli jam. Prior to that, I had steeped some in Gin-now that was interesting-I have yet to work out what I will do this year. It is currently a toss up, between jam and Indian Amla Pickle.  It has been far too long since I played with my preserving pan; I need to find the moments, my mojo and a bit of fruit to do it with.

Mum has more raspberries than I; the pinks ones on my plot have never actually taken root and flourished, with the yellows being something of a saving grace when they do crop. A small harvest was made of raspberries and currants; mostly red as I am waiting on the black and white ones to ripen.

Seeing red and purple cherries did make me smile. This is by far the largest harvest that we have to date; I’ve picked those eight, with a few still left to ripen on the morello. The varieties that I have are stella and morello, and these were from Victoriana Nursery in Kent. So far, I have been lucky and not lost them the birds on the allotment.

Given how the weather has only just found it’s footing, the three plot grapevines are foliated and the some. Amongst all of the leaves are small clutches of baby grapes. I don’t remember having any grapes last year, so seeing the bunches is heartening. Not sure if they will make it to homebrew, but there is always grape jelly as an alternative.

 

As well as the fruit, there are the plot blooms. Roses are coming up lovely , and filling the floral trug with blooms is always nice. I am waiting for the glads to kick off; right now, they have risen blade-like from the dirt and are very green and leafy.  I cannot even begin to calculate how much the rose blooms might actually cost.  They are by no means perfect; they are au naturale, if you like; but they do smell and look lovely!

Strawberry wine and beyond #gdnbloggers

From the last post, you will have seen that there was an experiment on the go with strawberries. It is time now to move the experiment on.

The youtube version can be seen here.

 

Having left the fruit to ferment for three days, the must  is suitably calm and ready to be transferred into the demi-john. It was a slow but steady process to strain the must through the scalded muslin, as I was doing it pint by by pint and there were five litres in the bucket. As you can see, this has nicely filled the glass demi-john. For now, I am using the demi john and will most likely be transferring and racking into five litre water bottles fitted with a grommet. I know that  second had glass demi -johns are available, and this is something that I might look into should the experiments work. The plan is to now leave the demi john alone, for about three months. I will need to keep any eye on the bubbles.

There is still a lot of fruit to use, and the next experiment is going to involve rhubarb and red currants. These are sat on the side defrosting.

Beyond this experiment, there is the small matter of the plot grapes.

There are three vines on the plot, red and white. These are boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner, which are dessert varieties. These can be used to make wine, the second hand wine making book suggests that acid is added to them, if these are the only ones available. I am not aware of any of the plot neighbours having vines, and there was a crop last year. So the plan-I think this has always been the plan really-is to wait til October when the now baby grapes have ripened to harvest and to try and make some wine out of them. Other than making vinegar, my other concerns in the volume grapes required. The recipes all require a significant amount of grapes, at least 13-14 lbs of fruit. Right now, the wine being produced is using 4 lbs of fruit, so that is a significant difference and depends on the vines producing enough. That, or the quantity will have to be scaled down.

At least now, there is a big enough fermenting bucket.

Plot experiments abound! #gdnbloggers

Since I have yet to play with the preserving pan and make jam, jellies and chutneys, I have been looking for experiments do. It doesn’t help that I have a lower than expected courgette threshold.

This week, I have considered two things.

  1. ooh, dehydrator; could do home made chilli powder
  2. And hold on, you have a home brew kit that you have yet to christen.

But first, let’s look at what is actually working on the plot.

Plot tomatoes are sprawling, having absorbed a fair bit of sunshine and have sent out lots of yellow flowers. It is quite easy then to spot the red smudge of tomatoes as they turn red beneath the foliage. I somewhat revel in the going red, as with previous experience I have had to ripen tomatoes at home. The raspberries are a combination of polka, a well established set of canes and newly planted ones. Above, you will see that the trug is rather full. Contained in that trug was coriander and fenugreek from Mum’s half plot and my mint. I still have mint to harvest actually, it really is very productive.

And at last! The plot glads are coming through. It does feel a little delayed in happening, but I have spotted two of the blooms breaking up the green tomato foliage. I do rather like the purple ones. Though somewhere on the plot are black ones, and I’ve never seen those in bloom before.

Now, I said something about experiments.

The experiments are two fold. In the first instance, I decided to find  dehydrator. Primarily as I fancied dehydrating chillies for chilli powder. However, we also have lots of mint and fenugreek. These were the first things to go in, as well as some garlic, red habaneros and also some mango. Garlic, didn’t go so well; perhaps I should have sliced it a little thinner. Ir’s still usable, just very very dry. Red Habaneros, had me sneezing and took over a day to dehydrate. These were shop bought though, from a local Indian supermarket and were effectively a pilot study should I actually get a few chillies from the poly tunnel. The mango was also shop bought, and was a collection of under ripe fruit that I wanted to make mango powder. I use mango powder for chutneys, it has further uses in Indian Cuisine. Again, an experiment; as it took two dozen mangoes to get 100g powder. I shall be reflecting further on the merits of garlic and mango dehydration. What did work well, and took hardly any time at all, was the drying of the herbs. I was rather pleasantly surprised by how green the powdered fenugreek was.

Then there is the second experiment. The rather boozy one.

First thing first, I have parental consent (There are people who will huff and puff at this, I assure you; as an activity that a bollywood young lady ought not to do. So let’s make clear, that :: blows raspberries::  Beyond that, not my roof, there are still agreed understandings). I am old enough-yes, I am-to imbibe it, and I’m not distilling anything. Look, there are far worse hobbies, and with less palatable outcomes. With the parental consent, comes the first refusal of quality control and production management.

(I had actually decanted a year old steeping of Cherry brandy actually, as Pop’s wondered where my experiments had gone from the pantry; so it’s not as though the experiments have noses turned up at them. Was a case of “Punam, you had bottles of gooseberry gin, where did they go?” You’ll have to imagine it being said in Punjanbi).

strawberryferment
Fermenting strawberries

As you may already be aware, I dislike strawberries. However, the strawberry God was kind this year and blessed us with with pounds of the things. All frozen, they were waiting for their fate to be decided. With the preserving mojo a little off kilter, I wasn’t too sure about what to do with them. Then I remembered that I had a brewing kit, yet to be christened, and a second hand wine making book. Not to mention, some rather lovely Grape Family members who are rather experienced home brewers. (My immense and heartfelt thanks to these lovelies who have been so supportive in getting my experiments of the ground.)

It just had to be done really.

Fruit was defrosted and the kit actioned. There was a bit of drama this morning, as it became apparent that we were having a ‘Jaws’ moment.

We needed a bigger bucket.

Over night, as expected there was fermentation; happens when you add yeast, sugar and water. I awoke to the smell of fruity boozy-ness, and found myself fighting strawberries off with a plastic spoon. All in an attempt to not make a mess of the carpet in the garage.

Needless to say, we have found a bigger bucket. There is just over five litres of liquid in there. A demijohn is at the ready, to decant the must in the next few days. This is my first foray in proper home brewing, so you can imagine the nervousness, and the first of a list. But first, let’s get this one done.

Experiments. Always the best way to learn.

(Sat here, it is impossible to avoid the waft of fermenting strawberries.)

Chillies and Cherries #gdnbloggers @Victoriana_NG

I very nearly forgot! Whilst I have picked one purple haze already, I have also grappled with a jalapeno and a couple of hungarian hot wax. They are both unripe, they both could go red on the plant. However, I have removed them so that other fruit get something of a chance to develop. The are both varieties that have a kick anyway, so i’m taking my chances with them as they are.

Then there are the cherries, morello to be precise. I have managed to grow cherries!! And in Birmingham! That might sound reasonable to you, but I didn’t expect the tree to crop having only been in situ less than a year. Alas, we had a handful of cherries. And my, how nice they did taste!  I simply cannot be detailed enough. This small harvest, I think we had one each, tasted so superior to shop bought ones.

I thoroughly recommend this variety, and just growing cherries anyway. The tree in question, a bought two-one morello and sylvia-was from Victoriana Nursery.

Chillies and cherries, both a success.

 

Sweet and Spiced #gdnbloggers

You know, I haven’t sneezed so much this week. This may be down to the slightly wibbly wobbly weather. I am however now rather tired of seeing strawberries. As Wimbledon has drawn to a close, and the single handed champion-yes, that’s what the men’s winner is called-was told game, set and match; the crop has started to reduce.

With the strawberries waning, there are other things compensating.

We have blackcurrants and red currants; in an increased quantity to previous experience. In fact, when the rain abates, I will go double check the red currants that need harvesting. There are strings of the things, and the plants themselves are relatively new. I have yet to figure out what to do with the white Versailles currants. The red ones are most likely to be jammed or preserved in one way or another.  In harvesting black currants, I do quell and resist the urge to say  ‘this children, is where your ribena comes from’. And these are not diddly things, they are rather round and squishy berries, that really do evoke the memory of ribena.

As mentioned before, the strawberries are now dwindling. There are several pounds that have been frozen. As well as currants, raspberries are starting to come through. Having replaced the slightly dodgy canes, the newer ones are establishing. Donated by a friend and colleague,  this is a polka cane and this the pink fruit that you see. These are rather plump and juicy things that are being stored for jams and things. The yellow one that you see, is technically an autumn variety called ‘Fall Gold’. These do kick off rather early, and are just as good as the pink ones.

So there is a lots of sweet stuff.

Now the spicy

In the poly tunnel there are a number of different chilli varieties. What you see above are examples of purple haze cayenne and jalapeno. I have removed the purple haze as the poly is cooler than expected at this time of the year. It is now sat on the window sill next to unripe tomatoes, and hopefully it will turn to the bright red cayenne that is so familiar to chilli eaters. The jalapeno that you see, I found by fluke and you can see that it is actually a decent size. There are few other fruits forming on the plant, and I will keeping an eye on this one to see how it changes. Apparently, jalapeno crackle as they ripen and change colour. I have in the past, made jalepeno chilli jam. And I remember, the pain of having chopped them up. The moral being to wear gloves on handling. I have also spotted white flowers on the adopted apache, as well as the chillies such as prairie fire, patio sizzle, sparkler, orange habanero, coffee bean and devils rib. These are chillies that are smaller and a different shape to the familiar cayenne and jalapenos, with an altogether different flavour as well. Previously, there as been a good level of success with the patio sizzle. Small and pointy fruit, with one hell of a kick.

And no….I don’t paint my nails so that they match plot produce. Not really….honest.

Jubilant July #gdnbloggers

If it wasn’t for this lot; I would wholly miserable. There are no runner beans on the plot, the courgettes have all mostly been written off. I should at this stage in the growing season be starting to swim in courgettes. At the moment, I have the grand total of zero. All the plants have been subject to carnage by slugs and snails. I would be very surprised to get something, if anything, over the coming weeks from the courgettes and the rather spiny and spindly looking courgette and runner beans.

On the other hand, I am very close to throwing a small histrionic fit over strawberries. Every other day, I have been harvesting between 1-2lbs of strawberries. I say harvesting, it’s a case of picking the fruit before the slugs get to them. I would really like someone to invent a machine for hulling and chopping. Fruit has been stashed in the freezer; I am hoping that my jam making mojo returns so that the strawberries can be spiced with chilli and redcurrants maybe.

Tomatoes have filled out and up, with fruit forming after the bright yellow flowers. Mum had a lovely large marmande one, only for it to explode. I suspect that it might have become over ripe; a couple of money make have turned as has one single solitary tigerella. The surprise however, has to be the fleshy and fruity morello cherries. This is the first year on the plot and the tree has done very well to have survived frosts and inclement weather. There are less than a dozen cherries, but these are rather special in being the first ever crop. Have only pinched three ripe ones, so we shall see about the others. All being well, they will be harvested before the wildlife gets to them. I think I actually jumped to see that the cherries had turned, they were squishy to the touch, that’s the only way I can describe it. Though I have probably picked them a little early. I guess they could have done with a little more sunshine perhaps, and turned a little darker still. There are three sat on the kitchen window sill next to the tomatoes, so they may turn yet.

With the roses blooming on an almost daily basis, the gloom does lift a little. I have been waiting for William Shakespeare 2000 to bloom, and you can see the first three blooms that have developed this year.  The bouquet above also contains a raft of lost label roses, the yellow one is rather productive. No idea what it is called, but it’s a brown limbed creature that cascades outs. Might even be a climber, but it is rather nice to pick.

In the poly tunnel, the chillies are also getting going. There are lots of white flowers and also purple tinged purple haze flowers. Jalepenos are starting to form as are hungarian hot wax. You see the one purple haze chilli, that I am hoping will turn red. The jalaepeno, apache chilli, orange habanero and devil’s rib have formed large white flowers. In comparison, patio sizzle, prairie fire and sparkler are forming the most delicate, tiniest of white flowers. With all the plants in flower, this means feeding regularly and making sure that the plants don’t get too arid. They do dry out, but too little water and the flowers will drop off.

So there we have it, we can’t be too miserable, now can we?