Things are quiet in the kitchen garden – and on the blog – at the moment, not so much because there is nothing to do, but rather because we are in the middle of some major renovations to the house and short of time. One matter that we have been attending to, though, is the selection and purchase of young trees for the prospective orchard. Over the next couple of weeks, I will write a few articles on our selection of varieties and preparations for planting.
We have never had much trouble with storing winter squash before, except when some left in an unheated garage froze during a particularly harsh spell, which ruined them rather quickly. This year, though, we have found the stems afflicted with grey mould. When harvesting the squash, it is critical to leave a certain amount of stem intact, as this area is most susceptible to rots. The appearance of grey mould on the stems is, therefore, rather worrying. It appears that many recommend the use of a dilute solution of bleach to wipe over the squash before storing, but I have never fancied the idea, nor previously found it necessary.
Following the recent chilli harvest, we had a large number of the mild chilli pepper Big Jim. These look rather like the more common pointed sweet pepper, and they are mild enough to substitute for them in one of our favourite rice dishes. I am somewhat loath to call this a paella, as this no doubt has specific connotations, but it is inspired by this Spanish dish of rice, seasoned with paprika and saffron. Continue reading
With the weather turning and the chilli plants starting to look a little ragged, it was time to bring in the crop. They do not seem to suffer nearly as much from grey mould as the tomatoes, but leaving them too long in the increasingly damp conditions of the glasshouse at this time of year is asking for trouble. We have been using them fresh for some time now, but the bulk of the crop needed to be harvested and stored for use over the coming year. Fortunately, chillies freeze very well indeed – they do not appear to suffer unduly from the process, and their fruity and spicy flavours do not seem much harmed by the process. I am not usually fond of freezing, preferring fresh produce, but chillies are one of a few exceptions. The majority, then, were simply bagged up and frozen whole. Whilst they could be processed in some way, I rather suspect that they do best when left whole. They can be used straight from the freezer as needed. Continue reading
I am generally rather bad at sowing for the late winter, and keeping such things as winter saladings growing, and I really need to improve that if we are to get diverse produce all year round. The polytunnel certainly makes it easier at this time of year, when outdoors it is becoming rather cold and miserable; the polytunnel can still be very warm even on cloudy, windy, and rainy November days. Although I have not bothered too much about general winter crops – I am bogged down with some house renovations at the moment – there are some vegetables that are ideally sown in the autumn for late spring harvests: peas, broad beans, Japanese onions, shallots, and garlic. Continue reading
It is some weeks since I pictured Pop, one of our Rhode Island Reds, looking a bit shabby as she started moulting. Thankfully, most of our eight girls are now coming through their moult, with a just a couple with a few feathers still developing. In keeping with the Englishman’s inherent support for the underdog, Pop has always been my favourite – she was the smallest, at the bottom of the pecking order, and somehow not the finest of specimens, even though I got to choose which birds to take from a good selection, but has a great personality. Now, though, she has grown into a good sized bird, no longer appears to be at the bottom of the pecking order, and her new feathers are looking great – sporting that deep, rich mahogany red colour that the Rhode Island Red is named for. Thankfully, none of our girls opted for the oven ready look and seem to have come through the moult with the minimum of bother. Continue reading
…still a mystery. It is now just over nine weeks since I sent some samples of our mystery apple to Brogdale for identification. Today I was excited to receive the identification – apparently our apple is Barnack Beauty. As the name suggests, this variety hails from the village of Barnack, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and appears to date back to 1840. The only problem is that, as far as I can tell, this cannot possibly be our apple. Continue reading