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.
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Talking about tubers, I also cut back the Jerusalem artichokes, and in the process I dug up a few artichokes for dinner.
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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: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/05/chutney-recipe-making-veg-garden

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.

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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. 

https://cookpad.com/uk/recipes/287119-german-plum-butter-pflaumenmus

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! 

In preparation for the rain 


They have forecast a day of solid rain for tomorrow and I am very happy with that! Because this is what our ground looks like at the moment. 
I regularly water the polytunnel and any seedlings, but we don’t have enough water to regularly water the whole plot. As we only have stand pumps a fair way away I try to make our rain water last if at all possible. 

Especially the raspberries could do with some rain. They are sweet enough, but very small and hard rather than big and juicy. 


In anticipation of the expected rain I watered the (recovering) second batch of beetroot as well as other main crops yesterday evening, hoping that it will soften the ground and let the rain water soak in rather than run off. 

It also prompted me to get the onions in. A job I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of weeks. Best to get the onions in before the rain. Here is our onion drying system. 


Now I just hope that the promised rain will come. Time to sort out tomorrow’s knitting… 😏 

Save the beetroot! 

Today’s allotment visit revealed that something is still nibbling the beetroot seedlings. I suspect it’s birds but I’m not sure.


If my husband was here he’d probably say “let’s rake them over and start again”. But he is not here. And this is already our second attempt at sowing late beetroot. Do I decide to do something to rescue the beetroot.

I don’t have anything decent to cover them up with, so I use what I can find in the far end of the shed: Two old net curtains and – because they don’t cover the full length – a bit of cheap netting. A bit ramshackle, but I  figure any cover is better than none!


On the cucamelon front, the plants have grown into a nice little thicket, but the cucamelons themselves still leave much to be desired. This is the biggest one I could find! 😊



Apart from that we are now harvesting regularly. Particularly French beans, courgettes and pattypans, tomatoes and cucumbers, and raspberries.

And then there is weeding. Always weeding……………..

Happy allotmenteering!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

They did it! Despite my best efforts the Cabbage White butterflies have managed to get to the netted summer cabbages! Probably on the corners where the netting can sometimes lift up slightly Grrr! 

Luckily the cabbages in the centre of the plot seem less affected. I got down to picking the caterpillars off. I have long lost my squeamishness about  squashing baby caterpillars with my bare fingers. And I collect the bigger ones in a jar to feed to the goldfish. Does that make me mean? 😏 

The second sowing of beetroot got hit too. I don’t quite know what by. Looks like birds might have bitten the tops off. Any ideas? 

In better news we planted our baby leeks out today. After lifting them from the nursery bed I trimmed the roots and cut the leeks to about 4″.

Hubby made the rows of deep holes where we watered in the leeks. I hope they will do well. 

And still a few left to take home to eat like spring onions. 

So there you have it. Some good news and some bad. That’s gardening for you! 

Summer raspberries 

I should have taken before and after pictures, but I forgot. 

I was on my way to the allotment when I had to fight my way through the overhanging raspberry canes and decided to sort them out instead. The summer raspberries have finished fruiting. Unlike the autumn variety on our allotment which fruits on this year’s stems and can just be cut back after fruiting, the summer variety fruits on last year’s stems. So it’s important to only cut back the old and dried stems (which are visibly dying back now) and leaving the fresh leafy ones for next year. 

I tried to weave them fairly tidily into our raspberry frame. 

You can see on the left the thornless blackberry which has crept into the  raspberry patch. 

As I tidied away the removed stems and weeds I left a little wildlife patch. Hopefully the frogs, hedgehogs and other wildlife will find it a good hiding place.