Showing posts with label Squash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Squash. Show all posts

24 Nov 2012

Sub-Arctic, Canadian Wonder and Striped Pyjamas


Abundance is not the word I'd reach for when describing the past year's veg successes. It's been more a little taste of this and that when the weather has obliged. In choosing my 2012 veg, I envisaged a nice prolonged warm summer (like last year) with the right conditions for tomatoes, chillies, sweetcorn, squashes, courgettes and exotic pulses such as LabLab beans and purple podded peas.  Foiled (or fooled?) again!

My sweetcorn grew but the cobs didn't fatten, the fennel has seeded itself all over the garden thanks to high winds, peas and pole beans amounted to nothing much.

On the other hand, the Canadian Wonder (red kidney) beans that I ordered have been a triumph; they produced a huge number of slim pods over a long period so that I had plenty to give to friends and neighbours. I picked the pods young (about 3 - 6 inches long) for eating - they were delicious.  I had hoped to grow several plants for mature pods so that I could save the kidney beans over winter (I love a good bean stew or chillied beans) but it didn't happen. I guess much more warmth was needed for that.

~ Canadian Wonder beans, late August 2012~
Most of my courgettes rotted before they grew much more than a few inches high - apart from the Sicilian Long White on my balcony :)  but a spaghetti squash planted close to the wall struggled through to September when it was rewarded with a few weeks of warmer weather. That did the trick nicely and it went on to produce several huge squashes, the biggest weighing nearly 3 kilos, probably enough to feed at least 6 people! Is that a big achievement? It certainly felt like it to me.  I chose this vegetable purely for it's name - Striped Squash Pyjamas. Sometimes a total lack of logic is best.

~Spaghetti squash: Striped Pyjamas ~
My tomatoes were very deliberately chosen - Sub Arctic Plenty.  Touted as fruiting within 9 weeks of planting and being able to set fruit in cooler conditions, surely this was the tomato for me!  It didn't, however, live up to expectations, producing only a couple of dozen tomatoes between the 2 surviving plants - and those after several months of nurturing. I blame the weather.  It's a lovely looking tomato though, like a small beefsteak and with a very good flavour, thin-skinned and lovely squiggly insides - I'll be growing this one again in 2013 and hoping the weather is kinder. (All my veg are grown outside and at the mercy of whatever the weather may thrown at them.)  Incidentally, the other two seed choices, Red Alert and Principe Borghese, either didn't grow or didn't fruit. What a year!

Tomatoes sliced
~ Sub-Arctic Plenty. Very pretty determinate tomato. ~
I also had a bonus tomato plant in the patch, grown from the seed of one of last year's dropped Cherriettes of Fire tomatoes.  This time, knowing its dendency to droop, I potted the little found plant into a large pot where it flourished to produce lots of very late mini tomatoes. Even now in November, I'm still able to pick a small handful from this plant although it's now on the way out.

Cherriettes of fire
~ Cherriettes of Fire, tiny cherry tomatoes ~
So what about next year?  I'm thinking only about the vegetables I buy in quantity:  purple sprouting broccoli, beans, squashes, beetroot, blueberries, raspberries and, of course, plenty of herbs and edible flowers. Potatoes break up the soil and carrots take up very little space if grown in tubs but both are cheap to buy, as are onions (but I've already bought white onion sets). I'll grow lots more salad leaves on my balcony (far far away from those pesky slugs!) and broad beans (red flowered, hopefully) as they get the season off to a good start.  As to varieties, I'm already reading through the catalogues to see what's new, thinking about weather protection for my crops and dreaming of a greenhouse.

1 Nov 2012

Catching up and a new London apple

Autumn harvest
Autumn harvest - squashes, late ripening tomatoes, foraged rosehip jelly and syrup.
It's late Autumn, things are supposed to be slackening off but this year continues to rush by; there's lots still to do and it seems to be getting harder to spare the time to just sit still and write for the blog. Bad time management? Or maybe not; there's almost too much going on at the moment which makes it hard to find the time to gather my thoughts into a newsworthy post. I'm also feeling the lack of time to read my favourite blogs so apologise for the lack of comments, both here and elsewhere.

I've taken photos I'd like to post, I've had some good fortune, I've made foraged-for goodies, had a day trip to RHS Wisley gardens, started to clear the veg garden (and harvested some spectacular squashes in the process), picked lots of green tomatoes for ripening and made a start on sifting the saved seed pods from my 9-star perennial cauliflowers - and, of course, the Garden Design course is gathering momentum with lots of back to basics sketching, plant knowledge and a couple of assignments (due in very soon) - who knew there was such a lot to know about year round bulbs! I'm still loving it, though :)

New London Apple 
Image taken from
London Orchard Project
My intention is to catch up with several short posts but, for now, I can't wait to share the news of my good fortune.  The London Orchard Project have developed a new apple variety specifically for London, the first since 'Merton Delight' was introduced in 1953.  It's been 10 years in the making, is yet to be named and the first 100 trees are now almost ready to be planted ... and I've just been told that I'm to get one of those trees for the gardens here. I'm thrilled - but also wondering what rootstock (if any) it's grown on and what the maximum height may be. It's going to be a flavoursome, crisp apple, developed from a cross of Laxton Fortune and Pixie, both of which have strength and good disease resistance.  My tree will be planted in December;  I just have to pick the spot.  Carefully. Previous trees have grown tall and leaned into the sun's path.  There's also the not insignificant matter of ancient water pipes under the gardens; these days, nobody's too sure where they are.  So, careful thought is needed.  Any London-based readers who fancy growing one of these apple trees should check out this page on the London Orchard's website and suggest an appropriate name for the apple - either by tweeting or email.

On a completely different note, I've also won a portable barbecue from Notcutts!  I can't remember how I came to enter this one as I rarely bother with competitions but, there we are, a lovely cream barbecue duly arrived, ready for use next summer.  I'm hopeful that there WILL be a summer next year and am already planning a new layout and planting for the garden in my head!

20 Sept 2012

Autumn Bliss

I hardly feel as though summer has been and gone but there's no denying that the end of the year is approaching.  Yesterday evening's chilliness had me wondering whether the winter duvet should be put back and where I left my slippers.  (I have terracotta tiled floors in my hallway and kitchen; lovely underfoot in the heat of summer, not so when temperatures drop.)

I'm noticing conkers lying on the ground, hips ripening in the hedgerows and seed pods forming on perennial sweet peas and orache.  This photo was taken this morning; this is my favourite season for orache as the colours of the seed pods really sing out.

Autumn Orache

I'm about to have another little break from work, a holiday-at-home where I can potter about the veg garden, tidying and mulching and preparing for colder months and, I hope, more regular blogging! Today was the first of those days; I was able to spend some time giving the veg a good watering and noting what needs to be done - quite a lot, as it happens...  who says that spring is the busiest time for gardeners?

The Autumn Bliss raspberries are still fruiting well; if I didn't munch them as I went round, I'd have brought home a small punnet but still have a good handful or two for later.  These are the canes that I chopped back in February, leaving some of them at 40cm to see if they would fruit earlier (a tip gleaned from the internet).  Looking back at photos, I see the first fruits ripened in the third week of June:

First raspberries June 2012
:: June ripening Autumn Bliss raspberries ::
... and are still fruiting today, with more to come.

Raspberries: Autumn Bliss
:: Still fruiting third week in September ::

Three months of raspberries.  Result.  But who can tell whether this is due to my "experiment" or the bizarre weather we've had this year?  Either way, I'm happy.

Elsewhere in the garden, my "Striped Pyjamas" spaghetti squash has stopped sulking and trebled in size, yielding this marrow sized beauty before climbing up and through the plum trees:

Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash - so simple to prepare and so delicious in a squashy-marrowish way. I like them cut in half, microwaved, seasoned and served with lashings of butter over the forked flesh. Unfortunately for me I started a fat free slimming diet last week so I hope they store well - it will give me something to look forward to!

I won't be posting or gardening tomorrow; rather excitingly, I'm starting a part-time garden design course at Capel Manor.  I'll be studying horticulture in the mornings and drawing and design after lunch. Combine that with a stroll around the college gardens and I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend my Fridays (rush hour traffic excluded).

9 Oct 2009

Oh My Gourd!

Change of plan folks - and my Secret Surprise cakes will have to wait for another post.  (Sorry, 'bout that but I have an urgent veg/soup situation).

I've been granted permission to harvest one of L's butternut squash, lovingly grown on her YorkRise allotment and, having recently tasted the most delicious B'nut Squash soup made by my niece, I had to make a batch and bring this bowl of goodness to your attention.  A soup, by the way, which can be made in haste whenever a quick and satisfying lunch (or supper) is needed for extra guests or hungry children – my family are all soup-makers and use whatever veg we have available.

Here we go:

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

You will need:
1 Squash, 1 Sweet Potato, 1 Onion, 1 litre (2 pints) chicken (or veg) stock, 1 oz butter.
Optional:  a few fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley) - finely chopped, swirl of chilli sauce, homemade croutons.

Melt butter slowly in large pot or casserole dish.  Chop onion, add to pot. Cover with lid so that the veg 'sweats'.  Peel and dice squash and sweet potato.  (In case you're wondering, I don't use garlic in this recipe as I make my chicken stock with garlic, but you can add a clove or two if you wish.)

Add diced veg to the onion in pot, replace lid.  Leave to cook for about 10 - 15 minutes on a very low flame (we're still just softening the veg), but check and stir round from time to time.  Add the stock.   Season with a quick grind of sea salt and pepper.  Bring just to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool and blitz in a blender. (If you blitz before cooling,  you'll blow the lid off your blender if it's over half full - and scald yourself in the process.  Believe me, I know.)  Or leave chunky if you prefer. 

Blitzed to a puree and waiting to be heated through for lunch.
Either way, heat up a bowl for lunch, garnish with herbs, croutons, creme fraiche or chilli sauce - any or all of these! - and chunks of warm crusty bread …

Here's a thought:  Instead of adding chilli sauce at the end, you could chuck a finely chopped chilli in at the beginning with the other veg - or add a dash of Tabasco sauce during the simmering. 

19 Aug 2009

Sky High Squash…

Alright, I confess I'm looking for an excuse to post a bit of sunshine and blue skies. (The photos were getting a bit brown what with all that mud, etc.) Whilst not strictly reporting from the Veg Patch today, this is by way of proving that the York Rise Growers do not limit themselves to growing on the ground. Every summer I'm treated to this view as the delicate tendrils of my neighbour's squashes climb up like vines towards the sun from his third floor balcony. And today was particularly inspiring, set against a backdrop of a rare (in the UK at least) azure sky.
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