Monday, 25 July 2016

Great expectations

Best garlic ever
So far we've had several harvests exceeding our expectations this year: strawberries, gooseberries and garlic. This has meant a lot of fruit processing, but I've become better at the jam-making game and, with the steam juicer, it is very easy to make jellies and fruit wines. Just add your fruit, no need to top and tail or remove bits, steam for 90 minutes or so and drain the juice into a large bucket.

For fruit wine, add sugar to get the right specific gravity (around 1080, hydrometer needed for this), let cool to 22C or thereabouts and add yeast. Then rack into a demi-john with air lock after about a week and leave until it's done its thing. You'll probably have to rack it once more before bottling.

Strawberry punch
Then there are other crops that look very promising this year, particularly raspberries and Jerusalem artichokes.

Raspberry outlook
Very tall Jerusalem artichokes
The new crops of the year - grain amaranth, oca and quinoa - are beginning to look substantial:
Grain amaranth
Oca with flower
And the tomatillos, which didn't do so well last year, are a lot happier this year.

Pretty, zingy tomatillos
Inside the polytunnel it's a jungle of tomatoes. Two of the new varieties this year, Black Cherry and Dattelwein, have a wonderful flavour and will definitely become regulars.

It's a jungle in there
I haven't been quite so lucky with the beans. No problems with the broad beans and runner beans but poor yields of any French beans I've tried so far (Hunter, Cobra and Sultana). I'm still looking for the definitive French bean - any suggestions welcome. I quite fancy a yellow one.

Runner beans
I particularly like how we've got very smooth transitions of crops this year. No real gaps and manageable quantities of everything. Just now we have one more portion of broad beans left, for example, so that they are finished just as the other beans are coming on stream. The only gluts so far have been strawberries and gooseberries, but that's a nice problem to have.

We've been working on the area around the pond, which will get covered with black plastic this month - a project for next year - while we ponder what to do with the space. The soil seems very good.

Astilbes by the pond, area to be covered on the other side
The chicks have been growing at quite the rate. They now get to roam during the day but are quite skittish, particularly when the adult hens pass in the vicinity. Another month maybe until they're going to be catapulted into the hen house at night.

Tippy, our black-combed hen, and Feathers, one of the Christmas cockerels


  1. Out of dwarf green beans Nautica and Faraday are our favourites, and so are the wax beans Sonesta and Orinoco. They all are high-yielding and pretty dependable.

    !t definitely is a luxury time just now - your strawberry punch looks delicious; our favourite drink at the moment is sparkling wine (preferably Freixenet Ice) and lots of wild raspberries...

    1. Thanks for the bean recommendations. I already agree, after a very short trial, that Latino is the definitive courgette. For the strawberry punch, infuse one bottle of white wine with one litre of strawberries for a couple of hours, then add a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle of sparkling mineral water. I'm sure it'll be equally delicious with raspberries. Probably best to have at least four people for that!

    2. Wuth the temperature nowadays at +27 I'm sure I could drink that lot all alone...

    3. 27C! Our scale stops at 26C here and it hasn't budged beyond 20C for a while now. Yes, it's the right kind of drink for those temperatures.

  2. Wow your tomatillos are much further on than mine. I've had a miserable crop of french beans 'Tendergreen' but the runner beans look much more promising. I've failed miserably in the past with broad beans they grow brilliantly, flower than get covered in blackfly so this year I'm going to try them in the polytunnel over winter. With two consecutive very hot Julys I'm having to rethink what and when to grow. My overwinter crops were great much less so for summer crops. Watering is as you say very tedious and given the heat spraying is a complete waste of time so I hand water with a watering can (on a water meter so this also saves water). My dream of a very very long strip of meandering veggie plot is so I don't need to keep paths clears, I could put in a leaky pipe its full length plus I could do veggie/flowers/herbs so it didn't look like a veggie plot. Hope you've got some ideas for using the Jerusalem artichokes as mine too are going daft!

  3. Other than cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup, I usually peel, chop into disks and boil. Then serve with lashings of butter, salt and pepper. Basically a straight potato substitute. Apparently they also make a good chutney and, very thinly sliced, you can pickle them and use instead of gherkins. Something to try next winter!

    1. Jerusalem artichoke casserole with pureed artichokes is a lovely wintertime food...