A Bit Of Magic On Monday ~ Quintessentially Exquisite Quince Flowers

I discovered the quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) at the allotment only last year. It was hanging in large golden fruits like overfed pears. They had a subtle fragrance too. And I was entranced. It seemed as if the tree had materialised from out of some ancient Persian painting. Later I discovered that this was indeed one of its homelands (in that belt of southwest Asia between Armenia, Turkey, North Iran and Afghanistan). On Saturday evening as I was going home, I caught the tree on the last lap of flowering – petals like finest Dresden porcelain. What a treasure. And then I started thinking about quince jelly and quince ‘cheese’ – the dulce de membrillo – as made on Spain’s Iberian peninsula and eaten with Manchego cheese. And then I thought how very generous is the plant world to human kind.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Spring?

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Dare one say it – suddenly spring seems more intentional, as if it’s meaning to stay for more than five minutes? These lesser celandines were blooming hell for leather yesterday when I was delivering stuff to the allotment. Even the spider seems to be having a bit of a sun bathe (apologies arachnophobes) rather than being sneekily on the hunt.

Things being transported to the plot included three black bin bags of leaves gathered from mother-in-law’s lawn (they will take a couple of years to turn into very useful leaf mould) and twenty new seven-foot canes. These last are not for this year’s runner beans, but for peas. After seeing last summer’s mega-pea-crop success of fellow allotmenteer, Dave, I thought I would give climbing pea Alderman a go. This is a heritage variety, apparently favoured by ‘good old boys on their allotments’, and not much to be found elsewhere.

You need to treat them like runner beans using plenty of tall supports because they may end up growing six to eight feet tall i.e. heading for around 2 metres. The beauty of this variety is that it crops without surplus production over several months. Whereas modern pea varieties tend to produce all at once, which is why you need to sow the seed successionally e.g. every couple of weeks, which can be a faff if you lose track of time.

At the moment the pea seeds are just germinating  (I sow in trays due to allotment mice), and yesterday I moved the first batch into the cold frame, so I truly am hoping that winter has gone. I will report back in a few months time on how this good old girl is getting on with the Alderman.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Having My Cake And Eating It ~ That Would Be Gluten Free Lemon Zucchini Cake

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This year I seem to have started off the zucchini aka courgette season with a glut. I anyway usually slice them into spaghetti strips or noodles to use, seasoned, sprinkled with fresh chopped oregano or coriander, and warmed through with a little oil or butter, instead of pasta. They go well with either tomato or meat based sauces.

But then as the harvest began to multiply beyond the sensible, including exceeding neighbour capacity, my mind wended towards cake. I remembered having a delicious slice of lemon courgette cake last year in a museum cafe.  So I did a trawl of recipes on the internet, and adapted a gluten free flour one found at The Pink Rose Bakery into a ground almond-polenta version. In fact I’ve been using ground almonds (and or polenta flour) in most of my cake recipes these days. They give much lighter, moister results.

So this is what I did:

Lemon Zucchini Cake

20 cm/8” deep cake tin, oiled

oven 180 C/160 C fan/350 F

Ingredients

250 gm/ good 8 oz of coarsely grated zucchini/courgette placed in sieve over sink to drain

2 large eggs

125ml/4 fl oz vegetable oil. I used groundnut

150gm/5 oz sugar. I used coconut flower sugar for its slight toffee flavour

112 gm/4 oz polenta flour

112 gm/4oz ground almonds

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

3/4 teaspoon vanilla essence

zest of one unwaxed lemon, though zest of two would not hurt if you like lemon

Method

1. In large bowl beat eggs, oil and sugar together until smooth;

2. Stir into the batter all the other ingredients except the zucchini;

3. Gently squeeze any excess moisture from zucchini and add to the mix, distributing well;

4. Pour into tin and bake for around 45 mins until lightly browned and firm to the touch. I was using a fan oven. Probably wise to check after 30  mins.

5. Cool in tin for 10 mins. Turn out onto rack and sprinkle with coconut flower sugar.

Options: You could drizzle it with icing made with lemon juice and icing sugar, or maybe add a carrot cake topping, although we found the cake sweet enough without. I’m also thinking you could swap the lemon zest for orange zest, and use half a teaspoon of cinnamon in place of the vanilla essence. And I think the cake would be good served with fresh raspberries and creme fraiche. Unfortunately we have now eaten it before I could try out this last suggestion. But never mind. There are plenty more essential ingredients growing at the allotment.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

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Daily Post Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

Storm Poppies

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Last Saturday I somehow lost track of five whole hours. There is so much to do up at the allotment – weeding, picking peas, strawberries and raspberries, digging up the new potatoes, tying up the tomatoes in the polytunnel, watering, feeding, turning the compost heap, sowing more peas, constructing pigeon defence systems, wandering about neighbours’ plots, taking a few snaps.

But one of the nice things about having the polytunnel is that when a storm strikes, I can potter around in there until the downpour  passes.  As you can see from the sky, we were in for a deluge, and I caught these poppies just as it was arriving. There was something malignant, I thought, about their stance. Something a little predatory about those seed capsules. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time in the garden.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Still Life at the Allotment

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Mid October and the marigolds are still blooming up at the allotment. I love the way they simply grow themselves amongst my vegetables. In a mild winter they may flower into December.  It was also good to see this bee out and gathering pollen. These days, every bee is precious. Once we have killed them all with agri-chemicals, we can expect to starve. It’s as simple as that. My allotment empire has recently expanded – more of which in the next post – so I’m intending to grow more varieties of late and early flowering plants on my plot. Or maybe I should simply stick to marigolds, and let them grow EVERYWHERE. The flower petals are lovely in salads, and a herbal tea of marigold flowers is good for warding off flu. Simply looking at them makes you feel better. All that orange straight into the brain, lighting up the little grey cells as the days darken.

‘Happy Autumn’ northern dwellers.

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For more vibrant treats visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Strawberry & Rhubarb Cordial

 

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This photo did not involve much travel on my part, only a tramp across the field to my allotment where the juicy, chin dribbling strawberry season has just begun.  Nor am I being very original since I posted this recipe this time last year. But on the basis that many of you may have missed it, or forgotten it – here it is again. Also since the previous posting I have indeed tested it (several times) with prosecco  and can thus confirm that it does beat a bellini hands down. I froze some of the cordial too, and it was still just as delicious in our Christmas cocktails. I also think you could churn it in an ice cream maker and make a delicious sorbet, or turn it into ice lollies or lovely pink ice cubes to drop into champagne. Here it is then:

 

Strawberry and Rhubarb Cordial

4 sticks of rhubarb chopped

300 gm/10 oz ripe strawberries, hulled and cut in half

320gm/11oz caster sugar

1 litre/1.75 water

juice of 2 lemons

Place the fruit in a heavy based pan, add sugar and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until the fruit begins to soften.  Add water and increase the heat slightly. Cook gently for a further 15 minutes until the fruit is completely soft.

Leave to cool then strain through a sieve, pressing the pulp into the syrup. Add lemon juice and store in the fridge.  For non-alcoholic moments, dilute with chilled sparkling water, and add a sprig of mint.

Enjoy…

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copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

 

Ailsa’s Travel Challenge: Fresh

Apple Blossom Time

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I confess that I posted this photo the other day, along with several other shots taken up at the allotment. But then I thought it deserves to be seen again, and on its own, and without me blethering on. So here you have it: apple blossom ~ what could be more lovely?

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: blossom

 

Related:

Rooti-toot-toot ~ spring at the allotment up close and vegetal

AAA Challenge: A For Allotments

http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/aaa-challenge/

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A is for Allotment, and here is mine.  I inherited the shed from previous allotmenteers. It leans and snails roost in it. Last year I found a 1725 halfpenny in front of the door. The Team Leader has to come at regular intervals, armed with hammer and electric screwdriver, to keep the old place upright. He does the same for the tenant – me that is, not the snails.

When I’m not writing, this is where you’re most likely to find me, so  thank you, Frizz, for your ‘A’ prompt. I’ve been toiling on this plot for around six years now, and when I first started, the soil was as heavy as lead. Gardening on the shores of the Silurian Sea is hard work. In between the layers of soil from a decaying tropical sea (c. 400 million years ago) is bentonite clay. As a substance this may have many useful properties. In the allotment, it is a guaranteed pain in the back. When remotely damp, it clings to the bottom of your wellies until you have giant’s feet. In dry weather, it goes crusty and it’s like digging through bricks.

I have learned recently that this unappealing greyish clag is formed from volcanic ash. Sometime when Much Wenlock was lying down on the Equator, all those aeons ago as our world was shaping itself, there was a volcanic eruption of unimaginable proportions. I now grow my beans and peas its degraded outpourings. Below are some pickings from last year’s crop, so you can see it does work – with effort.

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I grow several varieties of broad bean including the lovely rose coloured ones which go pale mauve when lightly steamed. They don’t seem to mind growing in the heavy soil.

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I’m afraid my plot looks a bit rackety, tidiness being sacrificed to the time needed to dig, weed, and keep the wretched pigeons away. Almost everything has to be netted or covered with enviromesh at some stage during its growing. Recently I have been following ‘Garden of Eve’ and suffering severe poly-tunnel envy.

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To improve the soil, I grow areas of green manure, in this case mustard, but also phaecelia, buckwheat and alfalfa. It can be sown late summer or early spring and then dug in before it goes to seed. The difference in the soil afterwards is truly remarkable.

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Comfrey grows itself all over my plot. I tear it up and use it to protect seedlings or newly planted young plants. I also fill old compost bags with it, cut the corner off the bags seal up the top with a peg, and balance them over buckets lined up inside my leaning shed. As the leaves rot down the resultant brown gunky liquid collects in the bucket. It can then be diluted with water – 15 parts water to 1 part comfrey to make a really good crop feed. Comfrey  also has valuable therapeutic properties, and has been used to mend injuries for centuries, hence the folk name ‘knit bone’. The bees like it too.

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Unlike me, my fellow grower, Phoebe, has a beautifully neat plot. She also kindly mows my path. And that’s one of the wonderful things about allotments, not only can you grow delicious food (pigeons willing) but you meet such lovely, generous and creative souls up there.

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Phoebe has created these simple baskets across her plots at intervals. The uprights are embedded directly in the soil and the sides made with dogwood and hazel whips. Her aim is to use them for the rotting down of pernicious weeds like dandelion and couch grass, and then grow marigolds on top while this is all happening underneath. Gardening artistically.

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This is the allotment’s insect hotel to provide attractive accommodation for over-wintering insects. Also courtesy of Phoebe who begged some pallets from the local timber merchant. When he knew what they were for, he delivered them free to the allotment.

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This is the view from my plot. I can hear the clock of Trinity Church chime as I work, and the mewing of honey buzzards over the fields behind.

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I call this the Garden of Eden tree, also The Tree of Life,  because it has gloriously red apples in September. Phoebe created the wild flower garden in the foreground – lots of pink campion this year.

The bunting makes the raspberries look very festive and sees off the birds.

Below are two blogs that are well worth following for lots of useful gardening advice.

http://gardenofyvonne.wordpress.com/ Garden of Eve

http://peopleexcitedaboutcoexistence.com/ People Excited About Co-Existence

And when you’ve grown the produce, here are two great cooking blogs. ENJOY!

http://fromthebartolinikitchens.com/ From the Bartolini Kitchens

http://nourishingchow.wordpress.com/ Nourishing Chow

http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/aaa-challenge/

© 2013 Tish Farrell