Monday, 21 September 2009

Allotmenticity 21-09-09

It's been a while since I've had chance to write up the goings on down at No87. Suffice to say I'm really busy at the moment but I did manage to get down over the weekend and get some tidying up done.

The Sweetcorn is all finished and I've frozen the ones I couldn't eat straight away. Best to top and tail and leave the outer leaves on.

The French Beans are also finished and were really tasty this year. Again quite a lot in the freezer.

I'm having a MAJOR problem with Whitefly on the Brassicas. Clouds of them flying up when I brush past. I've been reading up on ways to deal with them and the best one seems to be a spray of Insecticidal Soap. Evidently if you buy Liquid Detergent you can make it up yourself.

Has anybody tried this, and if so which Liquid Detergent did you use?

It's been a strange year for pests and problems. I've had Lily Beetle, which I sprayed quite successfully and reported them to the RHS Lily Beetle website.
The French Marigolds limited the Blackfly to 2 Broad Bean plants, and although some of the Potato leaves went suspiciously like Blight they're OK.
Growing the small rounded Carrots in my containers kept the Carrot Fly at bay and worked really well. I plan to expand on that next year.
The Garlic crop suffered from mould on the thick-necked varieties, but the later ones were fine, but my Japanese Onions were very disappointing. I'm digging Horse Manure into the raised beds over winter to try and give them a boost.
I'm also going to try Green Manure where the Spuds are going next year. Has anyone any thoughts on this idea?

I've decided to go for a petrol strimmer. The rechargeable one is OK but doesn't last long enough and really struggles with deep grass. And especially since my neighbour has decided to vanish, leaving a forest of weeds, I need something more drastic.
I've been looking at a Ryobi 30cc model. Anyone had experience of this make?

Well that's about it, a satisfying win for The Reds yesterday gives us bragging rights for the moment.

The Captain.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Allotmenticity - 24-08-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Another Monday after a beautiful weekend. Lots of sun and everything is looking great on No87.
I've just been awarded my Official Share which makes you feel part of what's going on.

I planted the Lavender earlier this year and it's now really strong with a lovely perfume every time you walk by. I've also sown some French Lavender which has a shorter flower bud at the top.

The Climbing French Beans are producing loads of long pods. I'm having to utilize the freezer as I can't keep up with them.

The Sweet Corn is starting to ripen and really benefiting from being in the cage.

This is the Asparagus bed. I'm not quite sure when to cut the growth down. I think when it starts to go brown. After that I'll give it a good mulch of the Horse Manure I got recently.

These are the 100's & 1000's Tomatoes. They're really sweet.

And here's a visitor really enjoying the Oregano in flower.

Here's a recipe for Blackberry & Apple Pie from the Duchess of Edgbaston. It uses all the fruit from the Brambles which are really prolific right now.

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 2 tablespoons (about) ice water

  • 2 pounds tart green apples (such as Bramley), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cups blackberries
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain purpose flour

  • Milk

For crust:
Combine flour and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Mix in beaten egg. Mix in enough ice water by tablespoonfuls to form moist clumps. Divide dough in half. Gather dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

For filling:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix apples, blackberries, 1/3 cup sugar and flour in large bowl.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish.

Spoon filling into crust. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Place on top of filling. Fold top crust edge under bottom edge and pinch to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Brush crust with milk. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Cut several slits on top of pie.

Bake pie until crust is golden brown and fruit is tender, covering edges of pie with aluminum foil if browning too quickly, about 55 minutes. Cool pie on rack 30 minutes. Serve pie warm with whipped cream.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Allotmenticity - 17-08-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Sorry for the delay in posting Monday's broadcast. I seem to be getting more and more tied up with other chores.

However here we are and another few beautiful days and the produce is fantastic. Over the weekend I picked a large bag of French Beans, the last of the Broad Beans, a massive head of cabbage, Brocolli, and a bucket full of Arran Pilot spuds.

I've got sprouts forming on the stems in the Brassica cage. and the Red Cabbage is almost ready.

It's been a great year for Beans. Can't think I did anything different from last year, although the weather has to have played a major part. I think I'll have a go at Runner Beans next year.
My neighbours Ethel & Cecil gave me a bag of theirs and the taste brought back memories.

My mate "Choff's" folding frame has worked wonders protecting the Sweet Corn. There's quite a few with brown tassles getting bigger every day.

Has anyone else seen the ad on TV for Low-Calorie Water!!!!

Gordon & Sarah Brown have got a couple of raised beds in the garden of No10! Bless!!! Looked after by the Royal Parks Agency! Cos Lettuce for the cafe.

The Obama's have got local school kids to help look after 1,100 sq ft of vegetables in the White House lawn! Only In America!

This weeks recipe is very tasty, I tried it last week. It's good if you've got a few lettuce starting to bolt.


The Captain.

Lettuce Soup

Serves 4-6

8oz Lettuce Leaves
1 Small Onion finely chopped
1 Garlic Clove finely chopped
1oz Butter
3/4pint Chicken Stock
3/4pint Milk
2 Egg Yolks
Salt, Black Pepper
Grated Nutmeg
Creme Fraiche

Wash & blanch lettuce leaves 5 mins in boling water.
Drain & rinse under cold water and roughly chop.
Fry Onion in butter for 5 mins until soft
Add Lettuce saving a few shreds for garnishing.
Add stock and bring to boil.
Season with Salt, Black Pepper and freshly grated Nutmeg.
Allow to cool then liquidize.
Add Milk and reheat gently, simmer for 5 mins.
Beat together egg yolks and creme fraiche.
Spoon a little of the hot but NOT boiling liquid into mixture and blend well
Pour back into soup and simmer gently until soup thickens.
Just before serving add reserved lettuce shreds.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Allotmenticity - 03-08-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Gary forgot to press record this morning!!!

"The answer lies in the soil!"

It's annoying that these guys can be so destructive! What an amazing design.

Not a lot to report on this week as I've been suffering from the various symptoms of the dreaded S word!

I did manage to get down over the weekend though and harvest a wonderful selection of fresh goodies.

I used them with this weeks recipe. The Broad Beans are plentiful and were great with the Beef. I didn't have any Chard so substituted Spinach, but I'm going out today to buy some Swiss Chard seed.

Made a Cauliflower Cheese and steamed Brocolli, French Beans, baby Carrots and the Kestrel Potatoes which are new to me this year but very tasty.

Well worth a try, it's from an Egyptian recipe I saw recently on TV.


The Captain

Broad Beans with Beef & Chard

For 4.

2 Beef steaks (Sirloin for preference)
2 good cups of shelled Broad Beans,
Bunch each of fresh Coriander & Dill
Heaped teaspoon of Ground Coriander
Large bunch of Chard or Spinach.
1 medium Onion
6 cloves of Garlic.
Olive Oil.
Salt & Pepper


Cut the Beef into 1" cubes, rub with Ground Coriander salt & pepper and brown in the Olive Oil.
Add the chopped fresh herbs and fry for 5 mins
Add the Broad Beans and cover with water.
Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook until Beef is very tender. 30 mins at least.
Crush Garlic Cloves and add to chopped Chard/Spinach.
Mash together in a Pestle & Mortar and add to the Beef mixture.
Add more liquid if necessary.
Cook for further 10 mins.

The original recipe added rice to the mixture, but I served the stew with a mix of fresh seasonal veg; Potatoes, Brocolli, Carrots, Courgette.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Allotmenticity - 27-07-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

I had the privilege of a visit by The Earl & Duchess of Edgbaston with their daughter, Andrea, The Princess of Edinburgh on Saturday. She has applied to Edinburgh council for an allotment and now has a 3 year wait. So she came down to visit the Captain's patch for a few hints & tips.
As I said before, always spend the most you can afford for your tools. It's false economy to buy cheap as they'll soon let you down.

They brought a Ploughman's picnic down which was a rare treat.
It's not often the Captain gets a lunch break!

The Brassica cage is "groaning" with produce right now. There's even Sprouts forming on the stems. A little early I think but everything seems healthy and growing well without the attention of the local pigeon & magpie population.
Despite the Liming of the planting holes there's still evidence of Clubroot, but it doesn't seem bad enough to effect the top growth.

I mentioned last week about cutting Cos Lettuce just above the stem. Here's what I mean about secondary growth. You won't get full blown lettuce, but you will get a good supply of fresh leaves.

About a month ago I had some fresh Root Ginger which developed new growths on the surface, so I thought I'd plant them and see what happened. Below is the result. I'm not sure what the next step will be but there's certainly strong growth there.

Has anybody done this before?

I can't let Lewis Hamilton's victory go by without a mention. I'm afraid that it's more down to the machinery and less to the driver though!
I still think they should all be put in identical vehicles with the same engines and tyres. That would soon sort out the wheat out from the chaff.

Oh and whilst we're on the subject of motor sport, did anybody see Jeremy Clarkson's comment in last week's Times? Here it is - "Gardening is like doing a jigsaw. A pointless way of passing time until you die" I met JC a few years ago and thought he was a self-opinionated .... then, and this has not changed my mind!

It would appear that Tescos are planning on releasing some of their urban land for use as allotments. Let's hope this can be a way of reducing the waiting lists and getting more people "On the land".

Does anybody know any Guerilla Gardeners who plant stuff on roundabouts or in public places?
I'm definitely going to suggest to my friend Igor Romanoff to set up one of his style bulletins. He posts stuff on The so watch out for his ideas, I'm sure he'll come up with something unusual.

I also mentioned last week about finding a pigeon ring. Well having registered the details on the RPRA website I received a call from it's owner. He only lived locally and was training a new bunch and was thankful for my report. At least he knew what had happened to it.

This week's recipe is one you'll either love or hate. I found the Marmite Appreciation Society on Facebook and this was on it.


The Captain.

350-380g dried spaghetti 50g unsalted butter 1 tsp Marmite freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and 1 tablespoon of the pasta water.

Mix thoroughly to dissolve.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Allotmenticity - 20-07-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Up and about early today and we're visiting an old Victorian terraced house not 5 minutes away from the busy Fiveways roundabout and Broad Street in the party area of Birmingham.
It belongs to the neighbours of my friend The Earl of Edgbaston and he's invited me down to look at their wonderful chickens.
The gardens are all on a steep slope up to large Oak trees, but there's a good selection of veg and fruit trees apparent in all the adjoining property.

You can see the Chicken Run hidden under the trees at the top end of the garden.

There's 4 of them. Lily, Ruby, Fred & One-eyed Jack and their owners the Mon Trapp family feed them on a diet of grain and Tesco's Spring Cabbage which gives a subtle green tinge on the shell.
Their eggs have a deep sunshine yellow yolk and are delicious.

It's great down on the plot at the moment with new spuds (Arran Pilot) in abundance, Hispi Cabbage, Brocolli, Broad Beans, French Beans, Onions (only a few though) Garlic, Lettuce, Rocket, Carrots (from Choff's containers) and Courgettes all presenting themselves ready for the dinner plate.
Delicious fresh from the ground to the plate in less than an hour!
My mate Choff has come up trumps again with another treasure.
It's a collapsable frame that is like a mini gazebo that is ideal for covering my Sweetcorn from the birds. With the addition of some netting it's a perfect solution and I can walk in to weed.

I found the remains of a pigeon on the plot the other day and nearby this ring. I did a search on the internet and found the RPRA site with a section to report found rings.
Obviously there's an anxious pigeon fancier awaiting the return of a prize racer. But, alas, he met an untimely end on No87 in Birmingham. There were only feathers remainig so something, a fox I presume from the size of the paw prints, had a good dinner that night!

And finally, thanks to my fellow judges and all the entrants on Saturday night's Talent Contest. It was a very interesting evening, even if our choices differed wildly from the eventual winners!

This weeks recipe is a variation on something I saw on TV the other night and has a wonderful fresh taste for warm summer evenings.


The Captain

English Garden Soup

25g/1oz butter
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthways, seeds scooped out using a teaspoon and discarded, flesh sliced into half-moons
large pinch freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
220g/½lb fresh peas or blanched & shelled broad beans (or a mix of the 2) 200ml/7fl oz fresh chicken stock
1 cos lettuce, core removed, leaves separated, core and leaves chopped
Handful fresh Rocket leaves
2 tbsp crème fraîche

2 handfuls cooked North Atlantic prawns, to serve (optional)

1. Heat the butter in a pan over a low to medium heat. When the butter is foaming, add the chopped shallot and garlic and fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until softened but not coloured.
2. Add the sliced cucumber and nutmeg and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Stir well and continue to fry the mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.
3. Add the peas/broad beans and stock to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and cook gently for 6-8 minutes, adding a little more stock as necessary to prevent the mixture from drying out, until the peas are tender. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
4. When the mixture has cooled, transfer it to a food processor and blend to a smooth purée. Set aside to cool further.
5. When the mixture has cooled, add the chopped lettuce leaves and stalk and blend again until smooth.
6. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Whisk in the crème
fraîche until well combined, then chill in the fridge until cold.
7. To serve, ladle the English garden soup into shallow serving bowls. Garnish with the cooked prawns, if using.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Allotmenticity - 13-07-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well here we are again another fabulous week weather-wise. I harvested this the other day. All I need to do now is learn how to play it!!!

I've decided to move loyalty from M&S to Sainsburys in the bird scarer department. These colourful streamers are hopefully protecting my Sweet corn. Quite an attractive colour scheme.

Talking of protecting, my French Marigolds have done a pretty good job as companion planting with the Broad Beans. Out of about 30 plants only 2 have been attacked by Black Fly, so maybe the principle works?
Had a good day out in the country last week with my neighbours collecting horse manure. Tough work digging and loading up the truck, but well worth the effort when you get it back.
This will now quietly mature ready for a good covering of next years spud bed. Also I'll use it to mulch the Sprouts and Purple Sprouting Brocolli over winter. The raised beds will also get a good dollop as they need a boost every now and then. Hopefully the onions will benefit as this years crop is very disappointing.

This colourful visitor dropped by yesterday. Any ideas as to his name?
This weeks recipe is prompted by the crop of delicious Courgettes. It's an adaption of a Naked Chef idea. I made it the other night and it was very tasty.
I hope you enjoy.

The Captain.

Courgette salad with Lemon, Ginger, Garlic & Fresh Herbs

Serves 4 as a starter.

Slice 4 courgettes lengthways as thin as you can (use a mandolin if you have one). Grill on a red-hot griddle pan, or on the barbecue, until lightly charred on each side. Scatter the slices over a large plate, making sure you don't sit them on top of each other otherwise they'll steam and go a bit limp. While they're still warmish, sprinkle them with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Deseed a red chilli and chop finely. Finely chop ½ a clove of garlic and sprinkle the chilli and garlic evenly from a height over the courgettes.

Tear over a handful of fresh herbs ( mint, basil, tarragon work well ) and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil and juice of ½ a lemon.

Blanched broad beans or raw peas work well as an extra taste.

Serve with a Tuna steak cooked on the griddle.

Lovely with steamed rice and seasoned yoghurt. Very fresh and good for you.