Tag Archives: tomatoes

To talk tomatoes #gdnbloggers

It’s okay, I am not thinking about sowing them; it is still too early, and I am inclined to wait at least another four weeks before I start sorting out runners and riders. Even then, I will be thinking about tomatoes and their sixth cousin, the aubergine. For now, I am thinking and reflecting on what might be whilst taking stock of what has already been experienced on the plot.

In 20 16, thirty two plants made it passed the initial seed and germination stage. Think these were sown in late february-most likely started off in the heated prop-as by March, the seedlings had already sent out their baby seed leaves and were about to send out their frilly first true leaves. These were then pampered and kept safe at home on a window sill so that the might establish and be sufficiently robust enough to be planted out. As you can see, we had a fair bit of fruit. Trouble is, very few turned red on the vine. In addition, there were fairly early blight warnings that led to plants being stripped of fruit and cast aside before it struck. Blight struck tomatoes are not particularly pleasant to look at; a putrid shade of puce and stomach turning. This has meant that much of the crop is ripened at home, somewhere warm and light. Ripening does happen eventually, it just takes some time to get going.

You’d think a red tomato was a red tomato. On the contrary, there are  many different varieties, each with their own unique qualities that determine productivity, attractiveness to the taste buds and what you might eventually do with the end product. Not all tomatoes are red, and I have sown and grown some rather nice yellow ones as well. Also, you get the odd ugly one that is really quite amusing. Doesn’t look particularly attractive, but that does nothing to hamper the taste. Food becomes that more interesting when it’s not perfect, but beautifully ugly. You can still eat it after all, there is no supermarket or political mandate as to how your fruit and veg might look. Wonky, uglu fruit and veg is something to shout about and not to be dismissed. (Trust me, I once wondered why I had curly beans; turns out they were never straight to begin with.)

The very first variety that ever tried was a cherry tomato called ‘Minibel’ and that was a fairly simple, straight forward introduction to growing tomatoes. Since then, I have decided to experiment and sown quite a few different varieties. Such as:

  • Latah
  • Money maker
  • Gardeners delight
  • Cream sausage
  • Tigerella
  • Marmade
  • Aisla Craig
  • black cherry
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Brandywine
  • Shirley.

And those are the ones that I can remember, there is probably a list somewhere. These have been used in salads, Indian dishes; I even made a sage and tomato soup that was rather nice. I am still a little curious about beefsteak varieties though; I rather like marmande with it’s tendency to be sizeable with rather intriguing green shoulders. Brandywine tomatoes are something that I might look into a little further; these take time and with mega-bloom like flowers the development of fruit is somewhat delayed; that or I like something of a quick response when it comes to tomatoes. I have definitely noted the lower yield with these as well; it is much lower than other varieties and I suspect this is why I haven’t made many sowings in recent years.

It would be entirely odd to not have tomatoes on the allotment. I tend to transplant them into raised beds, occasionally they might get plugged into the open ground. I do find however, that productivity is somewhat hampered with the clay, so raised beds are a safer, more equitable bet. I did try transplanting into the poly tunnel; alas, that was a learning curve. We had triffids, yes, but not many tomato fruit. So back we went outside with all subsequent tomato growing.

As mentioned above, there are no plans to sow any tomatoes yet. The heated prop is currently full, and I am going to wait a short while. This allows me to have a look at the tomato seeds and see which ones are going to be sown. Marmade may well feature, but I also fancy trying Roma VF alongside.  I have not sown and grown this variety before, and a request was made by a sibling that we could try a plum variety.

We can talk tomatoes, but we’re not sowing them just yet.

Hello, Allotment and #Destinationstartrek #gdnbloggers

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Hello, allotment, I have missed you.  I have missed the grapes getting ripe, and being plucked from the vine. I have missed cutting the last of the roses, all of the glads are now done. I have missed you and quite a bit.

Today, after what feels like an age, I have made it to the allotment to see what is happening and what I might do next. Ordinarily, as this time of year, I would be thinking about or will have planted garlic. I haven’t got that far yet.

Over the last few weeks, things have been a little unsettled. Time has been challenged, stretched, I have been battling against cramped head space with lots of things competing for my attention. I have had lots of reports from Mama F who has helped keep things in relative check on the plot. To be honest, not a lot has fruited this year, so she’s just been overseeing it all. I don’t think this years lack of productivity has made things easier.

Going today, was case of taking stock. Taking a moment, to breathe. And when your shoulder feels like it is going to fall off as does your arm as adrenaline and cortisol drag you through a stress response; that is quite difficult.

Why do I mention that?

Well, that’s my stress response. First thing first, I’m okay. If I wasn’t, I would say. It’s all a bit implicit, rather than explicit. There is some anxiety invoking issues that my brain and body don’t really like. Explicit, in that whilst I feel okay and am coming to terms with recent challenging events, there is something implicit that is not helping and would rather I had horrible pain from time to time. Not all the time, but occasionally and it’s rather irritating as you ordinarily take thing head on and do them to the best of your ability. But we have plan! The idea is to work through these concerns, get a balance; feel a little more congruent and use the allotment to do that. The allotment has always served an additional purpose beyond plot to plate food; it contributes greatly for me in terms of maintaining positive mental health. It is something that I have always promoted, that gardening, horticulture, pottering on the plot has a positive effect on mental health. I would be daft to not practice what I promote.

That is why I have a picture of a blank bed. I am aiming to sort the plot out over the autumn and winter months, change the second half of the plot; nothing was cultivated this year in that area and it has effectively become fallow.

We have had some produce to cheer me up. The above chillies and garlic have met their fate in the base for tonight’s dinner which is prawns in a masala. The  base is simple enough: garlic, onions, ginger with carom and cumin are sauteed. Tomatoes are added to this, as well as the contents of a masala box and both fresh and powdered coriander.

 

The video can also be viewed here

As well as liking the allotment, I am also a fan of star trek. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original series and it’s impact upon modern contemporary culture has been huge! As teenager, I remember watching ST: TNG as a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that was the height of my Thursday nights. Subsequently, voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise followed. I might even find myself watching the extension of the franchise with the new one pencilled in for next year.

There is the most tenuous of links between Star Trek and Horticulture. I remember watching Neelix growing tomatoes in a cargo bay, there was Keiko the botanist and at one point Janeway and Chakotay end up on a planet where they have to grown their own food. On a more contemporary level, we have had a certain British Astronaut growing seeds in space; so this whole thing is not entirely without foundation.

It’s funny, even though they were on the poster, I don’t remember seeing Picard, Janeway or Archer….

I did hear a certain George Takei; I heard  but did not see, as he was delivering one of the paid talks and I didn’t book any. He sounded lovely!

It was months ago, that I decided to put a star trek convention on my list of things to do. After all, I had already gone to an Angel/Buffy one, it made sense. Lo and behold, I saw this advertised! Naturally, I had to go along and see what it was all about.

The first part of my journey had mild fury as the trains from hobbitland to the centre of town were not running. In true persistent fashion, I hopped onto the rail replacement and made it to the NEC all ready to go. My first thought? “Wow, how many red shirts are there?” Some of which were in the queue for Costa, which rather amused me. If you are in Command, you may need a strong Americano.

As with the buffy/Angel con, there was loveliness in being with like minded people. For the record, I am a blue shirt. (Trainee counsellor, psych teacher, I think that qualifies….) The highlight for however, was this. Being sat in the Captain’s chair in a replica of the TNG enterprise.

Yes, it was as cool as it looked. (no, no one is trying to beam in to my right, it just looks like that…)

tngbridge

Seeing sights and souped up

The summer holidays are over, Petal and I have done our adventuring, real life will be resumed shortly. A week spent afar, relaxing, writing and going slightly crispy has come to an end. There was some adventuring across a windy island, with a blue lagoon, fire mountain volcanoes and camels! I’ve had a camel ride before, I just can’t remember if that one involved one hump or two; these had one hump and a mood to match!

lanzarotenationalpark.jpg

This is the lava fields of the National Park. I understand and appreciate how it can  be awed at; but the 14kms of space odyssey-esque scenery was a rather spine chilling. The whole area is a desolate wasteland, the sort that you might expect in space; the sort of scenes from star trek and probably star wars. With no life,  it was rather eerie.

It did however make think of something to write in the future! There was a fair bit of writing  done. Having gone a little  crispy and sun burned in the first few days, applications of after sun meant hiding in the terrace bar with the notebook, pen and dictionary.

And whilst I was away, there were plot updates. We have a lot of tomatoes! I wasn’t convinced that we are going to eat so many and quickly, so decided that whilst the holiday laundry was on, soup would be made. Two thirds of the harvested and red tomatoes were used, as well as some sage from Dad’s garden. Jalepenos have gone red on the sill, so a few of these  have been chopped and dropped in. I did actually use a tarka base, with carom and black mustard seeds sauteed with home grown onions and garlic. So it’s not a traditional tomato soup, but a spiced tomato soup.

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….)

Kindle Promotion: One day left!!!

There is only one day left to get e-versions of both books at 99 pence!

Just think of all the courgettes and things that are now in full scale glut.

Both books contains recipes and ideas that might prevent you from going slightly too doolally and lobbing courgettes and beans as far as you can. If you ever wanted to make your own jams, jellies, pickles and preserves you can find some potentially useful nugges that I have learned from experiments.

You can find links on the blog: right hand side, or you can go click on the page that says books above.

Once the countdown deal is over, both books will revert to their pre-promotion prices. So go have a butchers and share far and wide.

Not over, not yet. #gdnbloggers

Dear allotment, I have not abandoned you. It might feel as though I have, but I haven’t. Honest.

trugglads

This year’s growing season really does feel different. As though my mojo has dipped, and the erratic weather has made it feel even worse. I’ve also spent a lot less time on the plot due to real-life commitments, and this goes towards amplifying the feel of discontent. I am seriously missing something this year and trying to reflect upon how I might improve things now and also for the future. It’s not all gloom and doom:

There are tomatoes everywhere. Green ones, yellow ones, striped ones and sometimes even red ones. I rather hoped that there would be; last year, we had triffids but no tomatoes. So we have fruit, and I’ve been clipping vines of fruit off so they ripen at home. We do have a few that whilst sat on the window sill, these have ripened. Technically, not all is lost and I have actually been able to make chutney. That did help with the lack of mojo, especially the part where I play with my preserving pan. I have, however, done a lot less playing with the preserving pan in comparison to previous years. The only preserving I have done, is the home brew! I thought I should give that a rest for  a bit, least of all on the blog. So  all is not lost with the tomatoes, at least. There is probably going to a poundage of green ones clogging up the conservatory for a brief period of time. I shall have to decide what to do with them, other than chutney.

You know, I have never ever, managed to get a proper cob of corn from the plot. Until now, that is. Mum had great success, and bounced home with three big cobs that once grilled, were a rather nice tea time snack. Needless to say, I was a bit envious. Especially, as I had sown all the seeds, and then divided everything between our two plots.  I swear, that we have different micro-climates and soil across the two and this means differences in crops.

The one thing that has actually kept me buoyant, would be the flowers. There were sunflowers on the plot this year. So glads and roses have been the main focus. Admittedly, the roses were a little slower and not as productive as they have been previously. The glads are also somewhat delayed. However, it has all been pretty. We have had stonking great big beautiful bouquets for the kitchen. (If I ever acquire a husband, he’ll have to box a bit clever should he ever want to provide me with flowers.)

 

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.)

Trussing up tomatoes and furtling for carrots #gdnbloggers

Eau De tomato. There is nothing quite like it. The spiced warm scent that nearly all tomatoes provide if you so much as touch their foliage. Then there is that yellow pollen that lingers on your fingers tips; staining them as though you’d smoked one too many.

 

Was a bit warm today, weren’t it, and tomorrow things gets warmer still.

I hid for most of today, doing school work and then watching ‘Henry VI part one’-Didn’t particularly rock my world that play-as it was rather warm. Once it had cooled down a little at tea time, I took to the plot with pair of scissors and some wool. I wanted to sort out the triffid like tomatoes that over the last few weeks have become wonderfully luscious and sending out cascades of yellow flowers.

My thoughts were that as the weather had been so erratic, that like the squashes, the tomatoes would be a little stroppy. However, for some daft reason, Blighty finds itself in the middle of a temporary heat wave. I add the caveat temporary, as it may well be our entire summer compressed into a few weeks.

Anyway, off I pootled, having forgotten to take a drink-I eventually got thirsty, came home and then returned with a bottle of squash-and spend a good three hours trussing up tomatoes. Unlike a more seasoned grower, I don’t defoliate very often, and I don’t arm pit the stems that turn up in the nook between the stem and branch. Primarily, as I can’t keep up, forget or find it some form of torture for a plant that I really want to do well and be happy. Result being, I end up with plants that have three or form long gangly arms that sprawl across the bed. Tomatoes take on an almost alien like quality and become monsters. The long extended limbs then need tying to canes and being raised aloft. It also helps prevent the foliage getting all tangled and promotes air flow.

It dawned on me, as I was trussing up the tomatoes, that this was an exercise in mindfulness.  I actually smiled as I thought it. There is the undeniable scent of the tomato plant. The feel of the fluffy leaves, as you try and detangle them and stretch out the tomato vine. The sound, of nothing but birds and the occasional “All right, Punam?!” from a passing allotment neighbour. You know it’s mum, when you hear ‘HAYYYYY PUNERRRRRM!”

Slowly but surely, I went around each of the 15 plants-mum’s got the same number, I just didn’t get so far as trussing hers up-and carefully tied up leafy limbs. This is the same concentration, that I use when colouring and knitting. The sort of concentration where you pause your mind, and take stock of the moment. Take stock of all that you see, hear and feel; take stock of your experience. A really profound effect of gardening, this is why I will always stand by it as a therapeutic intervention when it comes to mental health.

So that occupied me for a while. And I liked it. It was only later, that I remembered that tomorrow it’s meant to be a bit hot again. I should then perhaps open the vents in the poly.

poly chillies

That is my polytunnel. It’s not a huge great big thing; it’s two by three metres. And rather filled with chillies; I would adopt more tomorrow if I was so tempted to do so. There is quite a diverse range in here. On the left, you have Sparkler, coffee bean, devils rib, apache, red scotch bonnet and orange habanero on the staging. On the right hand side, we have patio sizzle-one plant-patio sizzle, jalapeno, purple haze and hungarian hot wax in the corner. You can just about make out the white flowers that have started to appear. I have opened the vents to offer some breeze to the plants. Otherwise, they may well cook to death in there; it is not fun trying to revive a chilli that whilst it needs warmth, might well have been cooked alive. I am aim to water them tomorrow evening anyway as it does get wonderfully hot in there. When we have a temperature of late teens to twenty something, the mercury sky rockets anyway.

Now what might I do with all of those chillies? Well, if they all crop, I have a plan to make chilli powders as well as use them in Mum’s kitchen. There are many flowers, so for now, we live in hope.

I also furtled for carrots. These were an experimental sowing direct into the raised beds. They are small, but they are straight and have a wonderful carrot smell. One of the crops that I haven’t sown very often, so might have again. And yes, there is a stray snow ball turnip in there.

Weathering the strangeness

June has arrived, and it has been rather strange in it’s infancy. The weather hasn’t exactly been the best, confused and entirely erratic. We have had rather nice windows, punctuated by cold and chilly days reminiscent of early autumn.

With that, I have been looking at the tomatoes and squashes that were transplanted prior to the end of May bank holiday. (I was adventuring, and more on that later) Ordinarily, squashes grow like triffids; they are rapid, hungry and likely to take over the patch of ground into which they have been sunk. Looking at them though, they do rather look a little developmentally delayed. Perhaps it is early, perhaps I am overestimating them; but they should have started to get a wiggle on. I suspect that the inclement and inconsistent weather has some what confused them.

There are factions of the plot that are doing well, that are resisting the variance in the weather. Waking up from a slumber, the grapevines have started to send out leaves and bulk up on their frame. Small clusters of flowers and fruit have been spotted, and indicates that the vines are so far quite happy. Even the currant bushes are starting to flower and flourish, and look as though they have been strung with green pearls.

June, July and August generally involve garlic being harvested. In spite of the horrid weather, the Marshalls Heritage seed garlic appears to be romping away. It is a little wind burned, which given the windy nature of the site is not all that unusual. The foliage is still lush, green and is now nearly a metre high; it looks rather robust. It may be some time yet before the foliage starts to die back and become raffia like.

 

Plot produce picking up

 

Things are starting to pick up! Inside the poly tunnel, the first of the chilli plants is starting to flower. The Purple haze variety has sent out a couple of flower buds. These tend to be a purple rimmed flower that indicates that the fruit will be a matching purple and eventually turn red. I did have a quick scan around the other pots, and I think the jalapenos were also on the turn.

Across swathes of the allotment, there is a carpet of white flowers. These flowers, all being well, will turn into strawberries. I don’t think I have seen quite so many strawberry flowers; they seem to have run riot.This is not altogether unexpected, the idea was that they would run riot and send out lots of runners and form a carpet that would help reduce other weeds from springing up.

In terms of other soft fruit, there are the tiniest of gooseberries coming through. To be honest, I had not seen much by way of gooseberry flowers. The plants are still young, and will still need time to become more established. I am looking forward to see the different colours, there are red, yellow and green varieties that are all looking very leafy.

Then there are tomatoes. There are quite a few plants, seventeen, at the last count; and they have taken something of a beating with the inclement weather. At the moment they do look a bit weather beaten; however they can’t be that miserable as there are baby tomatoes. There are tiny fruit on both my plants and those planted on Mum’s half plot. They could be a little more leafy, but all being well, they well catch up.