And So It Begins…

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It is official, we won’t go hungry this summer! Harvesting on the allotment has well and truly begun, especially the crop of courgettes, and we are eating more of our home-grown produce every day.

Previously I mentioned our salad crops and I can most definitely confirm that we are now eating plenty of fresh leaves. All those lettuce that TFG planted have plumped up, grown up and been pulled up. He’s sown more, however, I am more than happy to be eating a mountain of lettuce if it’s accompanied by something delicious on our outdoor grill. Isn’t that what summer meals are all about, especially when you’ve grown the veg yourself?

Our first proper crop!

It would appear that we have grown some rather high-yielding courgette plants: the varieties are ‘Atena Polka‘ and ‘Sunstripe‘, both yellow cultivars. In the last week we have cropped thirteen fruit. I’m going to need to consult every cookbook I own in order to rustle up interesting menu options using courgettes. I particularly enjoy making chutneys and pickles but our tomatoes are not yet ripe and I don’t want to buy them when they’re growing on the allotment – I shall be patient…

Sunshine on a plate (‘Sunstripe’ has the delicate, pale pinstripe and ‘Atena Polka’ is pure gold)

Another crop we’ve been enjoying is beetroot. We sowed a packet of mixed colours and we’ve just cropped the traditional red along with white, gold and striped. Apart from a handful of white beetroot that I roasted for dinner (TFG confirms they were de-li-cious!), the rest of the crop were pickled. We have already sown another batch and they too are almost ready to be eaten.

Taste the rainbow

My absolute favourite sandwich in all the world is fresh, thickly-sliced white bread stuffed with mature cheddar cheese, sliced pickled beetroot and lashings of mayonnaise. I can assure you that once the pickled beetroot is ready I will be enjoying that first sandwich of the season – my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

In a pickle

On the day that we cropped the beetroot, I also thinned out and cropped Swiss chard. I have grown the ‘Peppermint’ variety for a number of years, simply for the colour: it has bright neon-pink and white stems. However, I must confess that until this year I have never eaten any. Instead I have grown it, cropped it and given it away under the misapprehension that I wouldn’t like the taste. Well, how wrong can one man be?! We had Swiss chard simply steamed in a recipe with roasted white beetroot and it was delicious, We don’t talk about the rest of that particular meal: I didn’t know one could create lentil porridge until that evening … don’t ask!

Think pink

Vegetables currently creating excitement and discussion on the allotment are the Tromboncino squash. They are romping away, producing lots of fruit as they go. Okay, they do look a little bit rude even to the non-smutty mind. Yes, they do grow very quickly and sowing more than half a dozen plants may have been a bit overzealous. No, I wouldn’t change a thing. They are super plants; one of my favourites on the allotment. Every day they grow around a foot or so, if not more, casting their long-reaching tendrils as they go, clinging to the frame we built and steadily getting higher and higher and higher. It’s the stuff that inspired Jack-and-the-beanstalk! During the summer you can treat Tromboncino as a courgette, picking when young and small. Later you can also leave them to ripen on the vine and use them as winter squash. They’re related to butternuts and their flesh tastes nutty so we are looking forward to eating them.

Baby Tromboncino

It’s not just edibles that are currently cropping. Our cut flowers are covered in blooms, in particularly the gladioli. I say ‘cut flowers’, but neither TFG or I can actually bring ourselves to pick the flowers and bring them home, preferring instead to leave them to the bees and butterflies, of which we seem to have many. Only yesterday we sat watching clouds of large white, orange-tip and meadow brown butterflies perusing the plot, along with some gigantic bumble bees.

Pollinator heaven

As well as butterflies, the plot is currently smothered in ladybirds. They are everywhere and on everything. We have had a plague of black aphids and so the presence of ladybirds is welcome. They will hopefully consume their fill of the little blighters. We also appear to have a population of frogs that shelter under the shed. As they enjoy a meal of slugs or snails, they are also very welcome to stay as long as they like. Being on an allotment we are both mindful of the wildlife that frequents the area and are keen that we don’t harm the delicate ecosystem that we share with them. However, getting Millie to stop chasing foxes is going to take some time.

Ladybird, ladybird …

Last, but by no means least, there are dahlias. Oh my Lord, how I love them, but you already know that. It was my intention to devote an entire blog post to these wonderful blooms, however, I am pretty sure that TFG is going to show you all the flowers we are currently enjoying at the allotment. Instead I will leave you with the image below. It was supposed to be ‘Cafe au Lait Royale’, however, it plainly isn’t. Does it matter? When a bloom looks this good, who cares what it’s called? It is currently my favourite flower on the allotment. Once we know it’s name, will be one of my favourite Dahlia varieties. It is glorious!

Blousy, flouncy, beautiful and thus far unidentified!

I still have to remind myself that we have only had the plot since January of this year. When I stand in the middle of it, surrounded by vegetables and flowers that we have grown, some of them towering over me, it fills me with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Every time I visit I say to myself, ‘…we did this, we grew all of this and it looks fantastic!…‘ and it does, it really does.

Welcome to the other jungle

Happy Gardening One and All.

The Beau.