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.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Allotmenticity - 06-07-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Another great week for growing conditions. Loads of sunshine then a good splash of rain. It's so much better to have natural rain water than using a hose. I don't know about anyone else but I can really see the difference.
The brassica cage is in full flow now. It's strange, even though I tried to stagger the sowing and planting they're all hearting up and arriving together.

My Carrots in Choff's plastic trays are really tasty. Suttons Parmex variety. Rounded roots so

they grow well in the trays in compost.

I've tried to keep regular sowings going and because I put the lid on during the early days it
seems to be keeping the Carrot flies at bay!

I emptied my potato barrel and found these beauties. I remember Matron advising to make sure it was well watered, and there was evidence that more moisture was needed at the bottom, soI'll take heed and make sure that doesn't happen again. I'm going to sow some more for Xmas in the potting shed.

My friend The Earl of Edgbaston donated a bookshelf for the shed after his visit to No87. It's now residing in the Flght Deck laden with pots, seeds and fertilizers. Bless you M'Lord!

And finally a couple of flower images.

My Lilies have bloomed for the fist time so deserve a mention

And this is the Elephant Garlic showing off.

Time to savour the fruits of all that hard work last year. Broad Beans, picked young are sweet, Courgettes, Brocolli, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions and fresh Garlic.

Until next time,

The Captain.

This weeks recipe was from The 2 Fat Ladies. A tasty Potato dish which can be served with any meat roast or as part of a vegetarian spread. Enjoy!

2 Fat Potatoes

Thinly slice 4 large waxy potatoes. (Possibly using Mandolin but mind your knuckles!)

Dry potatoes with kitchen towel.

Put glug of Olive oil in ovenproof dish then layer of potato slices.

Sprinkle with chopped Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic.

Season with Salt & Pepper.

Add another glug of Olive Oil.

Another layer of Potatoes, more herbs and moisten with Vegetable Stock.

Finally add a couple of knobs of butter on top.

Put in a hot oven for about 45mins – 1 Hour.

Check after 30 mins.

Serve slightly crisp around the edges.