Category Archives: success

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.

 

 

Cooking Allotment Squash #gdnbloggers

It will be soon that time of year again, where we cannot move for Pumpkins. There are two of our-well, Mama F’s-that are waiting in the wings to meet their merry end. In the mean time though,  you may have a few allotment squashes hanging around that need to meet their end.

There were a few round courgettes that were floating around looking rather sorry for themselves. Mama F has decided to make a curry type dish with them, and I just happen to be in the vicinity to catch it on film.

You can also view the clip here.

The recipe is simple enough. Onions, garlic and ginger were sauteed in a pan with some cumin. Ma then added spices to these, and cooked them through to infuse the flavour. She also added Punjabi Wadi-these are made of urid dahl and are effectively dried spiced dumplings-a bit like a bollywood oxo cube, just a bit grittier. These are spiced, and give a little more depth to the dish.

 

punjabiwadi

Once that base of the mixture is cooked through, chopped squashes were added. They were already in water, so there was no need to add extra. Allow this to all cook through, under cover so as to allow steam to cook the squashes through. The dish is done when the squash is tender, but not too squishy or mushy.

Depending on how coarse and stringy the squash is, this will influence how long you cook it for. Don’t forget to stir, otherwise it will burn. Keep it all on a moderate heat, just to make sure; this also allows the water to be soaked up.

You can also view the second clip here.

Plot produce ideas from Petal #gdnbloggers

Sometimes, typing up things only gets you so far! Thought I might try and make some videos of plot produce and provide a different dimension. You’ll have to forgive the rambling and wobbly camera work.

Squashes and beans can be really very prolific on the plot, and you soon run out of ideas as to what you can do with them. You could stuff the marrows and patty pans, or cook them them as a curry. Yep, sauteed with some onions, garlic and ginger, you can make a really simple Indian inspired dish. It is up to you how spicy you make it-and if you have some home grown chillies, you can add these!-maybe even add some home grown potatoes.

Squash and beans you tube link.

We had a spot of drama with the tomatoes this year. From not thinking that they would be productive, to quite a few green tomatoes. These were all removed from the vines as dreaded blight appeared and left to ripen. There was soup made at one point, in efforts to use them all up. Tomatoes can be use as the basis of many Indian dishes. Once you have made a tarka base, you can add fresh tomatoes to form a gravy base that gives the dish body and helps to infuse the flavours that you are cooking with.

Tomatoes and squashes you tube link.

Compared to previous years, the plot has produced quite a few chillies and across different varieties. Some have been quite mild and used in Mama F’s, others are bit a more potent. These more potent varieties make really nice chilli jam! Unlike traditional jam, this type doesn’t have to set or wobble; it only has to gloop. This is really simple to make and depending on how hot or sweet you want it, you can moderate this by using different chillies.

Chilli Jam you tube link

Tomato time! #gdnbloggers

“Get them home before the blight comes.”

So said the Allotment Secretary as I trundled home with trug number of two of tomatoes. It started with trug number one and a couple of carrier bags.

We have had quite a few varieties on the plot. These are-if I remember correctly-tigerella, latah, moneymaker, yellow stuffer, cream sausage alisa craig and marmande. I may have missed out a few.

Anyway, I’ve been complaining acutely over the course of the growing season as to how little produce I have managed to sow and grow. I may have over looked the productivity of the thirty two-ish plants that were grown across the two family plots.

I remember having that many plants, and dividing them between my plot and mum’s. I had a feeling, that there would be quite a few if all things went well. Now, having seen a few of plants on neighbouring plots start to with and go all very baroque gothic with would be blight, I have harvested a fair amount.

For fair amount, read poundage and one big massive puddle. I have maybe one trug full left, which I might harvest next week if the airborne blight is still away in distance.

Some of the fruit are actually turning; there are splodges of red, yellow and orange floating around. I have to say, that it is the latah one’s that are by far the reddest of them all. Even moneymaker is somewhat orange hued and not red.

As you can see, there is an assortment of different shapes and sizes. Once you have sown and grown your own tomatoes, you cannot look at the generic shop bought ones in the same light. There is also the question of flavour-the distinct tomato-y-ness. The fibre of the fruit, is is squishy, solid or just a flesh that is held up up by sugars.  This lunchtime, as I sliced up a yellow stuffer for a side salad, I realised why it was a stuffer and not a salad tomato. It had been looking at me for days, pleading to be used. Although moneymaker is uniformly round, there are other varieties that are less pretty. And thank goodness that they are! There are quite a few knobbly marmande fruit, with their rather weird and wonderful shape. It is a shame, that in most instances, not many people will eat what is lovingly termed ‘ugly fruit’. It tastes the same, is of the same edible quality, and proves that nature loves wonkiness. There are far more wonky things, compared to the bland, uniform, tick all the boxes, don’t make a fuss variety.

That puddles is huge, and would probably make a lovely green tomato chutney. I’m not particularly feeling the chutney at the moment. I have some hope, that within the confines of a warm environment, these fruit will turn. In which case, they can be used in Mama F’s kitchen and I might even consider investigating pasta sauce  of some kind. There is also the option of ready made tarka mix as well, that could be interesting.

So the growing season hasn’t been an entire bust; the tomatoes are okay. I’m sure I have spuds to lift as well……

 

For now, it’s all okay, and smelling of tomatoes. (Trust me, that is not attractive….)

From #Gdnbloggers to #Indieauthor

August 17th 2016 was a rather important milestone. It was one year exactly since I pressed publish and published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. This is the first of two books, and was the start of an interesting adventure.

#Plantpottales was the product of fevered writing, and a deep rooted desire to share what I have experienced whilst having an allotment. Based upon this blog, the book extends to some extend some of the learning that is documented in these cyber-pages. I didn’t write it to replace, but as an accompaniment. It is an additional source of information, that can be accessed and used.

I wanted to write a book, it seemed a challenge and a good thing to do! It call came from guest blogging, and with encouragement that is the legend https://mrplantgeek.com/ He is also the chap who indirectly helped create the #bollywoodgardener. Without his encouragement, I don’t think the book light bulb would have switched on. It was not easy to write the book, I had a list of ideas and wanted pictures. Throwing together is probably a better description, as I remember having all sorts running through my head.

There was distinct movement from being an allotment garden blogger to an indie author. I had never in the first instance, termed myself an garden blogger-yet this was another lovely group that I have found!-but it did make sense to me; I am blogging about a garden, it just happens to be an allotment garden. This is a dynamic linear development, I am still a garden blogger and I happen to now be an indie author. I self published,  don’t have an agent, a publisher; I am also still learning about the process.

Didn’t stop me from writing a second book.

There is a fantastic indie community, and if you are on FB, you can find their page here. Indie Authors and Book Bloggers They also have a website, http://indieauthorsandbookblogs.weebly.com/ where you can find information about this fantastic community. They have an affiliate magazine, that I just happen to be in this month http://pub.lucidpress.com/b9f1a33c-1afa-4708-b466-3811378f474a/?src=fb

There is also a cracking good garden bloggers community, that started via the twitterverse https://twitter.com/gdnbloggers and they have also been immensely supportive. There is also the gdbbloggers website where you can find further details.

To me, having self published two books is an achievement. It is something that I am very proud of, and want to share with anyone who will listen! I appreciate that not everyone is green fingered, not everyone wants to know about garlic and chilies; yet you never know. There was just something about holding a book with my name on, and knowing that I wrote it.

I remember walking passed a bookshelf in a well known book store, it was headed ‘Gardening’. To me that felt like a set of goal posts, and the thought in my head was that one day, I might get there.

It is however important in my head to keep a few things straight. In the first instance, I have written about a very niche interest. Gardening and cooking isn’t necessarily everyone’s cuppa tea. So that means that interest in the books might not equal or plumb the depths that heavyweight Gods and Goddesses of Horticulture. Second, Rome wasn’t built in a day-I have been there, I know-and writing is a process. Neither of the books is perfect, but I have given them my all, I will continue to do so.

There are further books to be written, I know there are. I am half way-ish writing book three; there have been struggles with that, I can tell you! At the moment, Book four has a cover image but no content, and that is likely to be a gardening book. Book three, is definitely not gardening and is something of an experimental work in progress.

I have enjoyed this journey so far, and I do hope that it will continue. And the key word is hope. Hope, as you never know.

 

Windowsill Wednesday #gdnbloggers

March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb. That is meant to the seasonal adage. There is most certainly roaring, as the weather displays it’s mood with rain, slush and sleet. You would not think that this was the start of Spring. With the inclement weather making it difficult to go play on the plot, all reflections are contained within four walls of home. In particular, reflecting on the window sills.

Despite being a little behind, the window sills are starting to fill up. Chillies and tomatoes now occupy the available space, and will need to be carefully observed as they start to grow. They all look very delicate and spindly. largely due the fact that it is still very cold and I don’t use grow lights. I never have, though the hardened chilli might do; grow lights have never been on my agenda. Maybe when I have my own castle and have won the lottery, I might invest in some.

There is still a lot to think about, so early on in the season. I have a long list of things to consider. I need to find some ‘orse poop so that I can sink all the seed potatoes that are currently waiting in the wings. With Easter being early, the planting of the seeds will scheduled in line with a break from school. Previously, I have spent the odd Good Friday and Easter Monday digging trenches for potatoes or building bean frames. No trenches on the plot, by way of learning and experiencing different things; and the beans go into wig-wam structures. All of the spuds are likely to go into raised beds that will be filled with ‘orse poop. ‘Orse poop that has decayed well, and isn’t steaming fresh as this can kill things dead and that’s not quite what we want.

This years Psychology Sunflower challenge will be kicked off as well. (You can find last years blog posts about that in the archive). As April swings in, one will need to consider squashes, runner beans and climbing French beans; and sow these into pellets. This will mean window sill shuffles and making sure that the four tier blowaway in the garden is in a fit state. It’s actually looking a bit battered and weather beaten, and the cover might have disintegrated in patches in addition to the zip on the one side having lost it’s teeth. Happens to all of the covers!  Sowing of the beans may take a while, even though in the past they have been sown around St.Patrick’s Day. We had a nice crop last year, though mum did pull faces at the Borlotti beans. I quite like them, and will probably sown a few seeds sneakily on the side. She won’t know til they vine!

Happy Wednesday folks!

 

Plot Pumpkin gets curried

Mum has just used the second half of the pumpkin, so now all of it has been used. Needless to say, we are probably going to be eating pumpkin for a few days. You can watch it via youtube here.

With one pumpkin we have created straight forward dishes. Both have contained fenugreek which despite being a green manure, is really very useful in Indian dishes. The recipe used here for the curried pumpkin can also be used with squashes and it’s entirely upto you as to how much of everything you might want to use. I have found that pumpkin can be either be quite sweet or bland entirely. With both of these you can add different spices and condiments to make it how you want to.

The curry and the soup were always going to be the plan for the pumpkin, I have yet to make pies!

 

 

Plot Pumpkin meets his fate

IMG_5647

 

With two of the three plot pumpkins already having met their fate: it was time that my last one met it’s fate. Having survived Halloween, it has been hanging around for a while.

 

The process involved chopping, roasting and adding the combination of pumpkin, tomato and a bit of home grown chilli to an onion base. With this recipe, I have only used half of the 6lb fruit.

The youtube clip is here.

After roasting, we did this.

The recipe is fairly straight forward. Having peeled and chopped the pumpkin it was then roasted with an assortment of spices. Once cooked through, this was added to a base of onions, ginger, onions and cumin that had been sweated off. Adding water and simmering till tender, the pumpkin became tender and was then blitzed with a hand blender. The one difference in this soup compared to ones made previously, was the addition of home grown fenugreek for additional flavour. There were also some frozen home grown chillies in there too.

If you hold a second, I will be posting the other half, where we curry Bruno!

World Book Day 2016: Thursday 3rd March

I hear it’s World Book Day tomorrow; the global celebration of literary fiction, of characters that inveigle themselves into our imagine to loom larger than life, and of the passion and pride that authors feel when their words are read and enjoyed.

Admittedly, these were my second. third and fourth thoughts after thinking of my own book and how I could plug it all day tomorrow. Not the most appropriate thought I suppose when there are books for every taste and interest that should be celebrated. I wrote mine as it corresponds to mine, the fortunate thing being that there are people out there for whom I hope it is useful. I enjoy having a vegetable patch, and I wanted to share the lessons learned from it.

It is less than seven months since I published #Plantpottales, and I am trying to think of what to do next. There is a current work in progress, with slow and steady progress being made. I do have a self imposed deadline that I am working towards; and two months in it is feeling rather tight already. I don’t write full time, I don’t even play on the plot full time; so it is shoe horned into the real life. This makes having a monthly quota a challenge, and I have a long list of things I want to write and put into the work. It’s a move away from non-fiction; I am trying to use my imagination and a thesaurus to create a work of fiction.

But I would also like to write another non-fiction gardening book. The thought has entered my mind of late. It will have recipes in it, certainly. I have a list! Of the assorted jams, jellies and chutneys that have been plot experiments. (I’m going to be cautious here and tell you that I am not a professional preserver but a hobbyist, so don’t be expecting full scale rules and regulations for health and safety et cetra. Keep yourself and your kitchen safe, all right?).  Whilst I have the list of recipes, I will need to reflect on what I put in the book proper. This means devising a list of chapter headings in the same way I did when developing #plantpottales. Some serious reflection is required as to what I want to put into it; knowing what I had put into #plantpottales.

This is the first-I think-World Book Day that I can experience as an author. I might be self published, but an author nonetheless, and I like to think that #plantpottales is one of the many books out there that will be appreciated not just tomorrow, but also beyond. The growing season has but just started!

With two possible, projects for the coming year, I can only hypothesis what world book day 2017 might be like.

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!