“Growing your own produce is great if you want no food, then 400 tomatoes, then nothing, then 120 cucumbers, then nothing, then 3 carrots that weren’t eaten by the local wildlife, then 40 weird looking courgettes, of which only 3 are edible.”
This quote pretty accurately describes where we are right now with our allotment. We are most definitely in the midst of a glut, particularly of tomatoes. We have grown A LOT. In the last month I have turned 10kg of ‘Tigerella’ and ‘San Marzano Plum’ into pasta sauce. We’ve even considered buying a third freezer to preserve it all. On top of that, we have also been cropping ‘Golden Crown’ and ‘Black Opal’. Who’s idea was it to plant almost 50 tomato plants? …. Errr, that would be me! I’m not hugely impressed with ‘Black Opal’. The fruits are fine but not outstanding. They take a little longer to ripen, the flesh is nice but the skins split very easily. ‘Golden Crown’, however, is a joy of a tomato, small, sweet and delicious to snack on whilst dead-heading the dahlias or watering the allotment – even Millie enjoys a tomato or two.
In July’s post I mentioned the courgette glut. Well, that continued for a while and then, all of a sudden, the plants were covered in mildew. This is a common occurrence in the squash family. I decided to cut off all the affected leaves and fruit and wait for them to flush up again, which they did. We have gone the other way now and instead of picking young courgettes we have been missing them and picking some monster marrows! I stuff them with a mince and vegetable mix, wrap them in foil and bake for an hour before serving on a bed of steamed, home-grown Cavolo Nero – delicious).
I have pickled more beetroot. This time I cropped all the white and golden ones together. In a jar of clear vinegar, they look rather appetising. I confess that I made a small error with the original jar of ruby beetroot. Instead of a teaspoon of pickling spice I used a tablespoon. If anyone would like the roof of their mouth blown off by some rather fiery beetroot, please do let me know as I don’t think we will be eating them. However, I cannot bring myself to waste them. I just need to work out how to ‘soften the blow’ – any ideas, readers?
The Tromboncino squash continue to cause a stir with passers-by, particularly ladies of a certain age and pretty much all the male folk. We have eaten a few and really enjoyed their dense, nutty flesh. But, as the days get shorter, I have taken the decision to leave some on the vine and let them turn into autumn squash. What I did not consider is that they would become monsters: they are huge! One of them must almost four feet long. I am particularly looking forward to roasting them or making soup. I am hoping the extra time on the vine will increase their flavour. I will definitely be growing Tromboncini again next year. They have quickly become a favourite of mine on the allotment for their easiness, their rampant growth, their size, their taste and, of course, the humorous comments and gasps they elicit.
The gladioli have almost finished now. We are still enjoying the blooms of G. ‘Sancerre’; a beautiful, big, white variety. All the others are over and gradually dying back.
Our zinnias have been a joy and a pleasure: I forgot how long the flowers last. We’ll definitely grow more of these beauties next year. (I’d personally like a bed devoted to zinnias, but I think that would be a waste in terms of production). For me, zinnias are second only to dahlias.
Apart from the crimson-red flowers, the broad beans were utterly disappointing. As soon as the pods appeared it seemed as though every black fly in the country descended upon them in plague proportions. They were never the same after this onslaught, although we tried in vain to rescue them. I think it’s fair to say that we won’t be growing broad beans again – who eats them anyway? (I’d like to but I don’t think my life would be less so for not eating them and, from a positive point of view, not having them means we can grow something else.) We did have success with runner beans and dwarf french beans, which we are still cropping, and they taste delicious too.
Another crop I don’t think I will try again is heritage sweetcorn. As with the broad beans, they were very disappointing. ‘Double Red’ didn’t produce many cobs and the stalks were very weak. We had a fair bit of wind during the summer and you could bet that when you got to the plot one or two of the ‘Double Red’ sweetcorn would have been blown over. I was filled with eager anticipation for ‘Mexican Giant White’. The higher the plants got and the bigger the cobs became, the more giddy with excitement I was. What a let-down they were. The plants look good, healthy and strong, standing about 8 feet tall, but the cobs are not great and they are not sweet at all; quite bitter in fact. I tried them but I won’t be trying again. The modern variety we grew was definitely much sweeter and more successful. However, I will be growing ‘Glass Gem’ corn next year for no other reason than that their multi-coloured cobs are a joy and a pleasure to look at. (Google them, you won’t be disappointed.)
As you may remember, we grew several varieties of potato – ‘Anya’, ‘Pink Fir Apple’, ‘Kestrel’ and ‘Cara’. We’ve been slowly eating our way through ‘Anya’, a salad potato, and they are very tasty. I would definitely grow them again. The other varieties are still in the ground and I am hoping they can stay there until such a time as we are ready to consume them. Please don’t ask about early, main or late crops, I’m a bit lazy in that department and just plant the potato I like the look of and that has a nice flower. I know it’s ridiculous, but I firmly believe you should plant what you like, not what you should, if that makes sense?!
Our allotment society has a Facebook page. Just recently, a member started a thread about the theft of her fruit; it was plums, if I remember correctly. This person was adamant that someone was taking all the fruit from the top of her tree, not the bottom where it would be easier to take them from. What a lot of allotmenteers fail to notice is that our site is full to the brim with wildlife. We have foxes, rodents, frogs and a large and varied bird population, including woodpeckers. I have seen foxes take corn cobs from the plants and wood pigeons strip brassicas in a matter of minutes if left unattended. So it is no surprise that a few days ago TFG and I stood watching a flock of ring-necked parakeets (an introduced species) snacking on the fruit trees in the allotment. To my utter joy they started perching on and eating our spent sunflower heads. I am and will always be happy to let these ‘thieves’ eat their fill, especially the birds. Not only are they getting a meal but I am being brought closer to nature. That can only be a good thing …. just don’t strip the crops bare, please!
Knowing how much I love dahlias, TFG bought me a wonderful gift this week – a book showing me how to hybridise and breed my own dahlias. I am already rather excited about choosing my first hybridising project. What colour will I choose, what size, what shape? I have caught myself already thinking of names for any successful hybrids that I might one day produce. The possibilities are endless and infinite. Watch this space!
Talking of which, I haven’t mentioned dahlias much so far. What can I say apart from that they are MAGNIFICENT! We are still enjoying lots of gorgeous blooms. Currently I am very much in love with ruby dinner-plate Dahlia ‘Spartacus’ …. he is a beauty and my favourite on the allotment. Other favourites include ‘Tartan’, ‘Taratahi Ruby’, ‘Ornamental Rays’, ‘Henriette’ and ‘Black Narcissus’. We are currently discussing the introduction of even more dahlias to the allotment in 2021. In my opinion you can never have enough, so this is obviously music to my ears. We are creating a wish list of varieties that we would like to grow and then we shall whittle them down to those we really want. If you’re interested, you can see more of our dahlia pictures on our Instagram pages. My account is ‘jmkna’ and, of course, TFG is ‘thefrustratedgardener’.
In other exciting news, TFG and I are currently finalising plans for our spring 2021 bulb display. That’s where I am off to now – I need to ensure that he’s included all the gaudy tulips I’ve chosen before he checks out.
Happy Gardening One and All!