I whinged a lot during the year about this and that at the allotment – too much wind, too much rain, not enough rain, not enough sun, too many slugs, an invasion of dandelions and buttercups, too little compost, but even so – yes, even so – I have had a magnificent harvest, and it has made us, along with a few friends and relatives, and many of Graham’s workmates very happy.
Excess runner beans have been recycled into a surprisingly delicious piccalilli-type chutney; cherry tomatoes have become tomato chilli jam, or Chillied Out Tom, as Graham named it when making the labels. I’ve made only a few pots of ordinary jam since we do try not to eat much sugar – raspberry, strawberry, damson, and we have a freezer full of field (fava) beans that I’ve discovered convert into the most delicious bean hummus if, after cooking, you relieve them of their skins, and add lemon juice and garlic.
Today, over half way through October, and I am still picking peas, carrots, beetroot and courgettes, and the last of the summer lettuce. Then there are the winter crops coming on: various kales, leeks, caulis, cabbages and Brussels sprouts. This week, too, I’ve been making a new strawberry bed, planting out Elsanta, and Alice varieties, and ordering a few Flamenco which are ever-bearers – fruiting from spring to the first frosts. Then there were overwintering onions to put in, Radar, being a reliable variety, and also garlic beds to make.
I have routed the tomato jungle from the polytunnel apart from a few plants, and it’s a relief to see some space. While I was doing this I came nose to nose with a large toad, which was very pleasing, once we’d got over being scared of each other. Eat more slugs, please toad. I’ve planted out the tunnel’s raised beds with winter salad stuff including purslane, winter lettuce, bunching onions, chard and lamb’s lettuce. I’ve sown a few seeds in there too, just to see what will happen – some herbs, rocket, and various Chinese leaves and mustards. As it gets cooler I will cover those that emerge with fleece.
Otherwise, it’s been all systems go, tidying the plot. This afternoon I was taking down the runner beans and their canes, and digging over the bed, but I was doing it to the heady scent of sweet peas that are lingering on. I also have some jewel coloured nasturtiums growing in the corner of the polytunnel. They smell delicious whenever I open the door, and of course you can eat every part of them – flowers, leaves and seeds, so I’m hoping they’ll keep going into the winter.
There’s just so much to be grateful for in this extraordinary world of ours, though we’d do well to nurture it a bit more so it can continue to nurture us.