Tomato update and other tales

A month on from planting our tomatoes into the polytunnel (Read previous blog) the news are not good. I suspect that it was just still too cold. We’ve had a couple of night frosts and despite the fleece, the tomato plants have not done well.
Today I dug them up and most did not seem to have to developed their roots.
Here is their sorry sight:

Luckily I had sown a double amount of tomatoes, so I could replace the ailing plants with new ones. I have also sown a few mini tomatoes, but I will probably keep them at home.
That looks better! I hope these plants will be OK.

In other news, we have done lots of sowing. The beans and courgette/squashes have emerged and are still at home. Also sown are lettuces (2nd batch), leeks, beetroot, fennel and kohlrabi.
Summer cabbages and potatoes are doing well.

Another success story this year is our asparagus. The plants are three years old now, and this year is the first proper harvest. We’ve had a few meals out of them already.


Apart from that, it has been very dry and our clay soil is rock hard. Although we have managed to dig the whole plot over, some part are very rough and the clumps of soil are nigh impossible to break down. We are eagerly waiting for rain. Some has been forecast for Monday, so here’s hoping.

Here are a few more sights from  our plot. I hope your gardening is going well!

Planting the tomatoes 

This time last year we were still building our polytunnel. This year we can put it to use earlier by planting tomatoes inside. 

All varieties are saved from last year’s crop: Black Krim (heritage variety), Yellow Pear and a plum tomato without name. 

We have covered them with fleece to protect a little from potential night frost and daytime heat. They will need watering, so we will have to begin regular allotment visits. 

Most of the plot is still bare, and we will have to do some serious planning. 

Tomato and chilli seedlings 

Our house does not have a good south facing window, so every year in March/April time our spare room turns into a nursery. We have used our trusted old strip light (made by my husband) for many years. It is height adjustable and can be altered as the plants grow. 

We are using the tomato seeds we saved from last year’s crop – Black Krim (heritage beefsteak variety), Yellow Plum and a plum tomato. And we are also trying a chilli pepper (Hungarian Black). 

Having a polytunnel this year we are contemplating how soon to get the plants put there. They would have plenty of light and greater warmth during the day there. 

Hello again!

I’m a little embarrassed to have neglected by allotment blog for so long. I have been busy with political activities, knitting EU beanies, rehearsing for a Godspell musical performance and starting a new EU food blog.

We have already done a fair amount of preparation work, such as digging and weeding. We still have some kale, cabbages and leeks on the allotment.

This weekend we put our potatoes in the ground. This year we opted for Penthouse Javelin (First Early) – a variety we have used before and liked; and Picasso (maincrop). We haven’t bothered with maincrop potatoes for some years, so this will be a new(ish) experiment for us.

Today we planted summer cabbages, lettuces and calabrese. My husband hates it when people confuse calabrese with broccoli. I have yet to fully understand what the difference is…

It feels good to have made a proper start on the allotment and to have put some stuff in the ground.
The rhubarb is doing exceedingly well already, and the raspberries are coming on nicely.

Happy gardening!

Overwintering cucamelons

You may remember that we tried growing cucamelons this year. They took a while to germinate. I finally planted them out in June and we had our first fruit at the end of August.
In fairness, we had a fair crop of cucamelons, so I’m not complaining.

Cucamelons are perennials, and the Suttons website says this:
“Cucamelons can also be treated like a perennial providing you with fruit year-after-year. In late autumn once the fruiting period is over, lift the cucamelon’s main radish like root and store in barely moist compost in a garage or shed over winter. Plant out again in early April to achieve early fruiting.”
So I’m giving it a go…

Digging up the plants I found the roots to be tubers rather than radish-like, but they are now stored in a large pot of compost in the shed, where they will be frost free until spring. Look out for updates in April.

Talking about tubers, I also cut back the Jerusalem artichokes, and in the process I dug up a few artichokes for dinner.

I’m enjoying the last dry days. Surely they can’t last forever…
It is getting quite cold and we’ve had the first light frosts,  but it has been largely dry for several weeks.


Another allotment year draws to an end… 

We have been on the allotment. Honestly! Things have just been too frantic on the political front for me to have time to blog. 

The season is coming to an and we have done much of the winter digging already. Parts of the plot are now covered in green manure. 

The polytunnel has been a real blessing. We are still getting tomatoes, which is great because our outdoor tomatoes came to nothing. 

Today it was lovely to sort out some flowers for next year. I collected Sweet Williams seeds and also split and replanted the daffodil bulbs which have been stored in the shed since early summer. 

So whatever happens in the political world (short of a complete Apocalypse), there will be flowers next spring! 

Seasonal chutney and other preparations

We won’t be around much on the allotment during September, so I’m trying my hardest to get on with some food processing. 

I am picking blackberries whenever I can because a batch of blackberry wine in the autumn has become a bit of a tradition. 

Today I am making Seasonal Chutney – a great way to use up some of the plentiful pattypan squashes (instead of the courgettes in the recipe)  

Here’s the full recipe:

“Makes 10-11 jars

1kg marrows, peeled and diced; or large courgettes, diced

1kg green tomatoes, peeled and diced

500g cooking apples, peeled, cored, diced 

500g onions, peeled and diced

500g sultanas

500g light soft brown sugar

600ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

A pinch of salt
For the spice bag

50g root ginger

12 cloves

2 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds
1 Make your spice bag by tying up the spices in a 20cm square of muslin. Put this into a preserving pan with all the other ingredients and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. This will take a while as there will be lots in the pan, but don’t hurry it.
2 Simmer, uncovered, for 2½-3 hours – maybe more. You do not have to hover over the pan, but do keep an eye on it and stir regularly to prevent burning. It’s ready when it’s glossy, thick, rich in colour and well reduced – but with chunks of fruit and veg still clearly visible. It is thick enough if, when you d draw a spoon through it, the chutney part toreveal the base of the pan for a few seconds.
3 Pot while still warm in sterilised jar. Pack down with the back of a spoon to remove air pockets. Seal with vinegar-proof lids.”

My foodie son persuaded me to let it simmer for much longer, more like 5 hours – by which time it was thick, glossy and very tasty… and only amounted to 6 and a half pound jars. Not too late to make a second batch. 

For other recipes see the full article:

The onions are in

Time to string the onions up. Here’s last year’s blog as a reminder… Saves me writing it all again. 😊

Plotting away

We harvested our onions a week ago or so. After leaving them out to dry off for a few days and trying to keep the rain off (hubby never built the promised rain cover), they are ready to string up and are now hanging in the kitchen looking rustic.


By the way, I don’t know the variety, but these red onions are viciously strong, making even the hardest man cry!

Here’s a handy guide on how to string onions.

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Making Pflaumenmus (German plum butter) 

I  had a bowl of Victoria plums going spare. There is still plum jam in the cupboard from last year, so I decided to try a German recipe instead. Pflaumenmus, a kind of plum butter.

Because Pflaumenmus is so concentrated it has much less added sugar than jam. Only 200g sugar to 800g of fruit. Jam typically contains one part sugar to one part fruit. 

After simmering the fruit and sugar for a couple of hours and whizzing it down yhe consistency became quite gloopy. 

Then into the oven at 180 degrees Celsius or gas mark 4 for 90 minutes. 

It yielded a good pound of Pflaumenmus. Well, a bit more perhaps because I tasted a bit more than was necessary throughout the process. This jar is worth its weight in hold!