As summer mellows into autumn, the allotment and garden is full of ripening vegetables and fruit. Mornings are much colder now, it’s something of a shock after our much hotter than usual summer: we started picking salad at Homeacres this morning at 6:30 (the day actually started at 6 in the packing shed, preparing radicchio), so chilly I was wearing a vest and two pairs of socks! But once the sun comes out, it’s shorts and t shirt again for a few hours until the sun starts to descend.
Early morning salad picking at Homeacres, September 2018
Sorry that I haven’t been able to write a blog for a few weeks, I’ve been working on my new book The Creative Kitchen, which has been with the designer. I now have the PDF of the book to proofread – it is so exciting seeing it in electronic book form! We’ve also had a lot of courses at Homeacres and our open day – which attracted around 1000 visitors (!!!); busy times. Plus all of the odd jobs that pop up, including shifting 3 dumpy bags of wood for winter warmth.
Tomorrow I am giving a free talk in Castle Cary at 5 pm about making your own cleaning potions for the home as part of the Green Fair.
This week, the focus is on sowing and sweetcorn. I have now sown everything (I think!!) that I need to except for seeds that I direct sow: carrots and radish. Most of my September sowings are for planting under cover in my polytunnel, greenhouse or outside with some protection (homemade cloches, fleece, etc). In a series of blog posts written during September and October 2017, I explained how I sowed and planted for harvests throughout the winter and spring: this is the first one. To find them all, search the category No Hungry Gap.
See the end of the blog for a list of veg I have sown this week.
The dead looking plant in my seed trug is my home saved Grenoble Red lettuce seed! Every year I save one plant for seed in the polytunnel. It always produces far more than I need but it’s always nice to be able to share. It finished drying in my greenhouse – the rather space age background are electric heat mats, which I use to start seeds off in late winter/early spring.
I sow either under the apple tree or inside the greenhouse if it is cold or wet. Both are a little too low for me, so I have a simple raised platform to sow on, made from a plastic tray from a charity shop and a plant tray found (with permission) in a skip. The tray is useful because it collects any excess compost, which is then easy to tip back into the bag.
A ‘barrier’ down the middle of the seed tray means I can sow many different kinds of seeds in just one tray. I’ll prick out the best of these seedlings into module trays, to plant out as little sturdy transplants in a few weeks. Some seeds (including rocket, spinach, coriander, dill) are sown 2 or 3 to a cell directly into the modules.
A useful sowing tip! When sowing two similar seeds, such as these two varieties of Florence Fennel, sow something quite different between them – it stops any muddling up.
These were sown a few weeks ago and are ready to transplant.
As plants reach maturity and are cleared in the polytunnel, space becomes available between the remaining plants for new sowings and plantings.
The allotment sweetcorn is at the peak of perfection. This week I have harvested most of it, will get the last few cobs tomorrow. Any that we don’t eat soon will be frozen for the winter. I tried out my new Roo Apron for harvesting. Having a pouch is a lot easier than trying to hold armfuls of the cobs through the rows and you are less likely to find earwigs inside your t shirt (not a pleasant experience!)
(I am not affiliated with them, I was sent an apron to try out. It’s been very useful and comfortable).
The sweetcorn in my back garden is quite different: Double Red and Painted Mountain, both from Real Seeds. Although edible, I have grown these for decorative purposes: love the colours.
Recently, we made a short video using my iPhone at the allotment in which Charles explains how to check if sweetcorn is ready>
We eat most of the allotment sweetcorn simply boiled, grilled or roasted. For the courses, I’ve been making roast sweetcorn salads – here are two recipes.
I do not weigh any of the ingredients when making the salads for the course days, it’s all done ‘by eye’. In my book, all of the recipes have weighed ingredients 🙂
Roast Sweetcorn Salsa
This is as spicy as you wish, a delicious side dish: great with salads, in a sandwich, in a burger, in a wrap, with chilli, curries, over pasta or noodles, eaten greedily with a spoon…
2 corn cobs, de-husked
2 green peppers, quartered, seeds and stalk removed
3 red or white onions, cut into quarters
3 chillies, seeds removed – or not if you like it very spicy. Use fewer chillies or omit if you prefer
3 limes – mine were some spare ones that I’d removed the zest from which is why they are striped
6 cloves garlic unpeeled
fresh coriander, mint or parsley
salt, pepper and olive oil
Arrange the vegetables on an oven proof dish. Drizzle over the olive oil and coat using your fingers or a pastry brush. Season and roast at 180˚C, turning occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
Carefully remove the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife. Squeeze the juice and pulp from the limes and scrape into a dish with the chillies and onions. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the dish and mix everything together. Combine with the sweetcorn. Taste and season if you wish.
Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving.
Roasted sweetcorn and green pepper salad
This salad is a combination of roasted and raw ingredients, with a citrus dressing. You can spice it up with fresh chopped chillies if you wish. Vary the ingredients to use whatever you have to hand.
2 sweetcorn cobs, de-husked
1 big handful of French beans, topped and tailed and snapped in half
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 medium red onions, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
8 medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 lime, zest and juice
4 tbsp olive oil
2 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and minced
fresh coriander (or parsley or mint)
sea salt and pepper to taste
Place the sweetcorn and French beans on an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and using you fingers or a pastry brush, make sure they are lightly coated. Pop in the oven at 180˚C for 20 minutes or so until cooked, turning occasionally. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables and place in a mixing bowl.
Make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice and zest, garlic, olive oil and seasoning.
Finely chop 4 tbsp of fresh herbs.
When the corn and beans are cool, remove the kernels (see previous recipe) and add with the beans to the other ingredients. Add 3 tbsp of the herbs and the dressing. Mix thoroughly and pour into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the other tbsp of herbs over the top and serve.
What I have sown this week:
Grenoble Red lettuce
Many different kinds of spring onion and bunching onion
Curly and flat leaf parsley
Florence Fennel – Solaris and Finale
Kale: Cavolo Nero, Red Russian, Dazzling Blue, Red Ruffled, True Siberian, Red Ruble
Pak choi: Vibrant Joy and Yuushou F1
Beetroot for leaves
Spring cabbage: Winter green and Durham Early
Tsoi Sim Japanese Flowering Shoot
Quick heading calabrese
Hom Tsai Tai purple sprouting greens
Wa wa Cai Choi stem vegetable
Sobi chinese salad cabbage
Yukina Savoy Chinese cabbage
Rapa Senza Testa turnip greens
Kailaan Chinese stem broccoli
Green Days Eighty Chinese flowering shoot
Still to sow in September ….. radishes, carrots, peas for pea shoots