Tag Archives: Big Allotment Challenge

Big Allotment Challenge 2015: Epi Four

This week, it was tomatoes, tears, tantrums and jams.

The two key area for me were the tomatoes and the jams, quintessentially two good parts of allotmenteering. To be honest, it was through watching the show last year that I started making preserves myself.

With the tomatoes, the contestants had to grow and show as usual. You’d think that growing tomatoes is fairly simple. Lots of people do it and not always because they have an allotment. I do hasten to add, that in this context, with a show, being on show is the key. I watched this segment, as though I was watching penalties. I was sat on the sofa, huffing and puffing, about how complex-and competitive-tomato growing could be. Huffing and puffing, as I grow them-you have seen the previous posts about them-but never get them going red. Yet the contestants did that, no problem. In their fairly swish, heated greenhouses. And they were nice specimens.
Specimens. They are not exhibits. They are tomatoes. You eat them. And that was my biggest problem with it. I do hasten to add, that there was a tomato jam later on that they had to make as part of the eat challenge.

These were very pretty, very red, bountiful crops. The most pampered tomato plants in the British Isles. There were techniques and there were tears as some of the crops didn’t quite get there. Another thing, that got on my wick, Some of the contestants had bought plants from a garden centred. You can get tomato seeds anywhere, and the plants just need a little bit of TLC to get them growing. I’m not completely against plugging in plants. I do that with cabbages, and in the past, I have cheated and bought plants when things were a bit late and my seeds had died a death. This did slightly irk me. I am not for cheating. I would rather sow seeds and follow my goods from cradle to ladle as it were.

The floo’ers. No comment. I didn’t pay any attention there. Sorry.

I was too busy waiting for jams. Last series, the jams made me realise just what else you could do with your crops. This week, interestingly, there was a savoury jam and a sweet jam. And there were dramas, with jam that was burned, jam that wasn’t going to set. I had genuine empathy for that, I really did. That does happen. I have experienced that, and wanted to cry with having burned the bottom of the jam pan. The jams didn’t look like jams to me, more purees. Perhaps I expect a bit more wobble. Next week, it’s pickles and chutney’s, so I will definitely be paying attention.

Big Allotment Challenge: It’s Back! 2015

It’s back! The Big Allotment Challenge is back!

I watched this earlier this year, with a mix of curiosity and excitement. Of all the things to base a reality television game show. An allotment. Remember, we had already allotment wars, showing just the sort of Machiavellian mischief that could happen with mud, manure and marrows.

For the whole series, I was hooked.  A bit cynical throughout, huffing and puffing a little, as to how it didn’t necessarily reflect my experience of allotmenteering. My little 200sq metres, isn’t for example, in the back yard of what looks like a very posh country house. So my viewing, was a bit mud splattered, and fairly closed minded.

There were lessons to be learned though. Or at least nuggets to be taken from it. You’ll have to look through the assorted blogs, for the whole picture. The show inspired me to try aubergines again. I did. And I still don’t know how the contestants managed to grow them. I had diddly ones. Nothing from the seed’s I’d sown. but a few oddments from the shop brought one’s. In a poly tunnel, my crops, didn’t compare. So I am at loss, as to how those lovely people got those whopping big aubergines. I might just sow a couple of them, leave them in pots this time. Then there was the melon. Sown, planted, I didn’t get one of those either. It just snaked itself around the polytunnel.

The growing, seemed absent of wonky veg. Okay, the showbench is about pretty and perfect. Thing is, I don’t have perfect veg on the plot. I have beautifully ugly, a bit bruised, slightly worn around the edges, but still home made and mine, because of it. Don’t necessarily have pretty perfect ones. After all, if it’s edible, it’s going to be chemically and mechanically digested, and possibly taste good with it. If I can grow a perfect cabbage, then yes, I shall concede.  That was the ‘Grow’, primarily for the show bench.

The two things, that I took away from the make section. How to tie a handmade bouquet, when the roses have have thorns. I was glad to see the show have roses, there is something quintessentially English about them being in an garden. I have quite a few, including one that is supposed to be blue. It’s a funny shade of lilac, actually. As far as the flowers were concerned, I became aware of Gladiolus. And planted dozens and dozens on the plot, of all different sizes. High summer came, and the plot looked as though fireworks were going off in assorted directions. As for growing one that was perfect. Nah, it was pretty, that I can live with. And bumblie bees seemed to like them.

Then there was the eat section. And the world was re-introduced to the wonder that is Thane Prince. Prior the show, I have dabbled in the odd chilli jam, the odd chutney. But watching the show, the world of preserves became that bit broader and a bit more colourful. Makes sense really, you do have to eat the stuff you grow. Yet, there is only so many curried courgettes and aubergines that you can take. In watching the show, I learned how you make sure that a chutney was cooked, If you can part the mixture with a wooden spoon, and it stays parted. Then the job’s done. The Thane Prince torch test with Jelly, passing a beam through. Was also a nugget. Though I do intent to make a jelly-santa brought me a jelly straining kit-with edible glitter to see if the beam will bounce. I brought a jam pan, I wanted one anyway, having window shopped it throughout the series. I ended up making a lot courgette chutney, a lot of jam.  My second batch of blackberry jam, set rock hard, I didn’t have a thermometer at that stage. I had faffed with the cold plate test. I found a jam thermometer. My mama was all very excited at first. We had discovered how to make jam. So of course she was going to pick a pound of blackberries, and were going to make jam. But then came the rest. The chutneys. And lots of them. Mama’s enthusiasm has since waned. The assorted handful, yes, a handful -I gave away my experiments- in the pantry are a few too many and clutter the pantry.

Then there was the homebrew.  A case of, now I realise that I can do something with that.

The show did have good aspects. Allotmenteering was having a renaissance. The illusion that it was an old man’s game, was being shattered. Women could do it too, and it wasn’t as sedentary as you might think. In my own allotmenteering experience, I’m quite happy to bust those myths. Happy, to spread it’s assorted messages.

All being well, I shall be tuning in again. Apparently there have been some format changes. It will be interesting to see what these are, and what impact these will have.