Excitement Mounts as does a Weedy Weekend Window

Can you see what I see?

Yes 3 days of sunshine are predicted. Now I know you may look at the temperature and say brrr - but will you just focus on that sun symbol! Do you know how positively giddy that makes me feel? We’ve had weeks of rain and grey clouds, a few glimpses of blue sky here and there, the odd peak of the sun but the predominant weather pattern has been cool and wet and windy and grey. Bluerrgh.

I realise now that those grey clouds made me feel flat. Deflated. In fact they made me feel grey too. I need sunshine in my life.

I’ve just come back from the plot after a quick session of weeding, I took a couple of snaps with my phone to share, so I’m sorry about the lack of quality – but you’ll get the picture (literally!)

I think the nasturtiums are on a takeover bid. I leave them to self seed every year, let them ramble around, they smother the weeds, they attract the good buzzies and detract the baddies away from my precious delicate veggies. Nasturtiums come in every colour – from deep maroon-red, bright orange-reds, vibrant yellows and pale-yellows.

A real burst of vibrancy, so even when the sun isn’t shining I do get a burst of sunshine and warmth looking at them. I plan to pick a few seeds this year to try and make some capers – poor mans capers are made with nasturtiums. We’ll see if I get round to it, if it works and if I like them. We have to try new things don’t we.

And then there is this. A real piece of sunshine. A bright yellow courgette flower – hopefully one of many.

And as I’m working tomorrow I’ll be out and about this weekend enjoying the sunshine, and yes my sunhat will get an outing! Hoorraayyy! ! I’ll be weeding – all that rain has made the weeds grow like crazy monsters but it also means they are easy to pull up by the roots. Let’s call it a Weedy Weekend or maybe a Weed Window might be more accurate before the sun dries the heavy clay soil. The combination of rain and sunshine makes weeding a simple task. And as I weed and try and tame the plot I’ll take the big camera up and we’ll do a show and tell, a progress report for all you growers and foodies alike.

And tonight’s meal? A real allotment meal. I picked the first courgette today. Ding Ding Ding! Alongside a bowlful of spinach, chard and beetroot leaves, a forkful (garden sized) of New Potatoes – so maybe a Sag Aloo. A handful of sweet tasting peas. How do I know they are sweet tasting? I munch on them while I’m weeding,. so I can see a peas pilau to go with the Sag Aloo and maybe a dal. The courgette – who knows, perhaps raw in a salad with a light vinaigrette for starters?

This meal tonight is beginning to sound rather grand isn’t it! But it’s inception is as I wander around the plot and look at what needs picking, what is ready and as I picked a few leaves I mulled a few ideas around and there you have it – a mini Indian feast of fresh garden vegetables.

And then there are the beetroot, I could always make a beetroot pichadi but to be honest I’m more likely to roast them and have them as a salad over the coming days. Time and energy will tell.

And as I pulled the last of the radishes, they are getting too big now the skins toughen up and the inners go woody. The good ones to eat, the remaining composted; and while I’m talking about radishes I’ll write a reminder to myself to sow a handful more this weekend. In the meantime there are always radish pickles. Crunch and munch my friends.

Ahhhh that’s better isn’t it. Happy days are here again !

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Digging for gold

Have you ever grown and eaten your own potatoes? Do you just think that there are white ones for chips and red ones for mash, and those little new ones that are really expensive in the shops? That was probably my sum knowledge before I started to grow my own veggies. I used to wonder what the fuss was all about. I’m now a convert. Freshly dug potatoes are special. Their flavour is pitch perfect. And they are as cheap as chips. Pun thoroughly intended. And guess what they are easy to grow, they were one of my first successful crops, and frankly if I managed it then anyone can.

Planting a potato is like planting a promise.

It’s time to sort my potato orders out, get them delivered and get chitting and then onto planting them. Chitting, is yet another gardening term that I had to learn if I was to be able to read an article about growing potatoes AND understand it. Chitting is the process of getting potatoes to start sprouting. So by the time you plant them they have had a head start. Reams have been written on the subject, some people swear by chitting others decry it as a waste of time. Basically you place your seed potatoes in good light and encourage them to sprout. I do it for my early potatoes, and if I have the time and inclination the same is true for the Seconds and Maincrops.

I see more unknown words springing up! What’s this about Seed Potatoes, let alone Seconds and Maincrops? Seed potatoes are literally a potato that you as the gardener is about to plant. 2nds and Maincrops? Those are kinds of potatoes based on when the mature and are ready to harvest, First Earlies are literally that. Read on…

“Earlies take about 13 to 14 weeks to develop before they can be dug,  Second earlies take 16 to 17 weeks and Maincrops about 18 to 20 weeks.” Good, glad we got that sorted. A little tip? I make a diary note of the date I planted the potatoes and another entry for when they will be ready. My memory isn’t what it should be!

Desire Potatoes

Which spuds to grow ~ Potatoes are fickle friends. Did you know that already? I’ve read many a review of potato varieties and how great they are only to be truly disappointed when I’ve grown them, I ‘m thinking of  Lady Christl, they were positively disappointing, even dare I say it miserable and yet other growers waxed lyrical about them. You see potatoes grown in one part of the country will differ in flavour to those grown in another. That’s what I call fickle. But I secretly like them for it.

However it does give an extra frisson of excitement and doubt when trying new varieties. I’m on the hunt for a tasty first early. So far they have been elusive. Last year was probably the best with Red Duke of York, I also grew Sharpes Express but wasn’t wowed by them.

After that I need to decide on some 2nds, I see these as my salad potatoes – Ratte were gorgeous last year, lovely texture and colour, took no cooking at all and were heavenly with a dot of butter and some chopped chives or mint. No doubt I’ll find some room for Charlottes as a 2nd, and absolute classic salad potato.

As to Maincrops and more salad type potatoes I had a break from Pink Fir Apples last year, and yes I missed them and grew Belle De Fontany, a close cousin. Tasty but again I missed the wow of a home grown potato.

But I did grow Mayan Gold and they more than made up for others shyness in the taste department. Mayan Gold or Twighlight – the deep buttery yellow flesh has hooked me in.

Between Alan Romans  and JBA Seed Potatoes they will give me the amount of potatoes and the varieties I want. I only want to grow a few of each I don’t need several hundred weight in potatoes, I don’t need to sink the navy. Or feed them for that matter. It’s amazing how far a few potatoes will go when in the ground. You see they are not just fickle but clever, from that one potato you plant you will get at least a dozen more. See I told you they were as cheap as chips.

If you are short on space just grow Earlies. The taste is all wow, and they don’t suffer from pest or blight damage. Unless I get some extra growing space this year I won’t bother with a maincrop, so bye bye Salad Blues and Pink Fir Apples, it was lovely growing you but space is space and frankly we just don’t eat that many potatoes.

Salad Blue Potatoes

Ways to grow them ~ they are reputed as perfect ground breakers, but it will be you that will be doing most of the ground breaking, simply by earthing them up. My first year of growing them, I diligently did this. Digging and lumping clods of clay-soil up them. It worked I got beautiful spuds and the ground was broken up. The following years, I haven’t been as diligent. Yes an admission. It’s time consuming, and hard work. And besides I’ve since become “enlightened” or rather I grow lots of other stuff that takes up more of my energy. So I sort of earth them up, but I do so by using lots of mulching material, I no longer do the back breaking digging, it’s mulch, mulch, mulch all the way. Panic Ye Not! Mulching yet another gardening term – its all about keeping the moisture in, and the weeds at bay.

You can even plant potatoes in a shallow hole, place black plastic over them, remember to cut a whole in the plastic so the plant can grow through it. And yes, no earthing up. But I understand you are creating some kind of slug and snail heaven. They’ll be travelling miles just to go and live in that shiny damp residence. And slugs like potatoes.

You can grow spuds anyway you like, in bins, in buckets, in boxes and in bags. And yes even in the ground.

I’ve seen people who will peg a stake in the ground, tie a piece of string to it and then carry it to the other end of the bed, tie the string to another stake and create a perfect and straight planting line. So that when they earth up their spuds they create the most beautiful straight lines, and have a triangular thing going on. I admire them in a sort of warped way, but frankly I just think that’s showing off (oh and having too much time on your hands and possibly being a bit OCD about it too). I think they are showing off their perfect soil. You see you can’t create a triangle shape with lumps of clay.

So it’s mulch, mulch, mulch for me, and a vague bit of drawing up the soil around my potatoes with my Azada.

How to plant them ~ A word of warning, don’t plant them too deep – the first plantings may need protection from the frost, but after that they will grow and grow. And when you come to dig them up, if you have planted them too deeply you will be digging for …. miles underground.

Caring for them ~ well we’ve already covered earthing / mulching. Other than that there is very little care needed. The will need sunshine, warmth and water. But that’s true of all plants.

Pest and diseases ~ did I see mention of slugs? Yes, they like them. And as with all plants they have their friends and foes. Blight and Scab are 2 that get many mentions. It’s worth having a read up, or at least look up some gruesome photos to know what to look for and do.

Harvesting them ~ Take some kids along with you, borrow some if you have to. I haven’t met a kid yet who hasn’t been whisked up in the excitement of digging for treasure and hunting out all the potatoes, it’s like digging for gold.

Cooking Potatoes ~ before you order, buy and grow potatoes have a think about how you like to eat them. Is it chips, salad potatoes, roast potatoes or mash you are after? There is a variety for every occasion.

Right, I better go and get that potato order sorted

Patatas Bravas and Garlic Mayonnaise

Garlic Bulb

The quandry is that I have lots of teeny tiny potatoes that I dug up from my TPS (True Poato Seed), and I’ve been trying to decide how best to cook them. And for some inexplicable reason I hit on Patatas Bravas. Having searched … Continue reading