Waste not, want not

  
For the last 5 years or so, I’ve taken great delight in pumpkin carving at Halloween. The whole process really gets my jets all fired up! You know…picking out the perfect pumpkin, deciding what to carve, being thankful it’s not a turnip like our parents had to hollow out when we were children! Then, the moment of magic arrives, you set about scooping and carving your spooky creation. 

Epic. 

  
  
  
  
Up until last year, I’d been quite happily scooping and binning the insides of the pumpkins… that was until I saw a post on Instagram about saving the seeds and roasting them at home. 

It was like a lightbulb moment! I immediately decided that I’d never waste pumpkin seeds again. Quick as a flash I had them in the oven, and delicious snacks of pumpkin goodness were born. 

  
Making your own delicious pumpkin seed snacks is super easy.

1. Separate the seeds from the fleshy pulp you scoop out from inside the pumpkin. 

2. Place the seeds into a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Pat the seeds dry with kitchen paper, or leave spread out on a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel over night. 

3. Pre heat your oven to 160 degrees C

4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the seeds and add whatever you want as extra flavour. I’ve done half salted, and the other half smoked paprika. 

5. Pop in the oven for 20 min or so, stirring occasionally to make sure they’re all roasted evenly. When they’re looking golden and toasted, remove from the oven. (Try and them cool before diving in!)

  
  
  

  
Delicious! 

Autumn Treasure

  
There’s something about the change in season, from Summer to Autumn that I just love. The crispness in the air, the last remnants of warm sunshine on your face, the magnificent colour changes in the leaves, bumper crops of apples and the rich pickings of blackberries in hedgerows… what’s not to like?! 

Something I absolutely love to do at this time of year is to go out for nature walks. To soak up the season change, marvel at the rich colour tones of the leaves and forage for nature treasure to make Christmas decorations from. I did this last year, well, I found loads of treasure but didn’t actually get round to making the decorations.

Doh! 

This year, not only did my squad of magnificent treasure hunters gather in loads of items, I found 10 minutes today to try a little experiment…

  
A mini acorn (not quite sure if they’re acorns) garland to hang  on the tree! 

  
I’ve got bags of them along with pine cones, cinnamon sticks and mini sleigh bells.. I think the hot glue gun is going to get quite an outing! 

Happy Autumn everyone 🍁

  

Big Decisions 

  
I think it was Ferris Beuller who said “Time moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” 

It seems that life has been moving fast, perhaps too fast as I’ve sadly neglected my allotment (and the blog) for much longer than I’d thought! It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about the plot and yearning to get my wellies muddy, but with work and family I seem to have let the year fly by without getting my green fingers in gear. 

Now it’s autumn and I’m left with a dilemma… should I accept that I’m probably not going to be able to carve out the time the allotment really needs and give it up…. or can I get my wellies back in action and turn the plot into a really productive little patch. 

In my heart of hearts I don’t want to give it up, I really don’t. I’m filled with thoughts of planting garlic, renovating the pond and nature area, getting some spring bulbs in and just pulling out everything old and having a blank canvas to start up again in the spring. 

The alternative would be to grow in pots at home as I only have a back yard so wouldn’t be able to grow tonnes…

But then the wild gardener part of me says “do both”! 

As I’m writing, I can feel my excitement building up with thoughts about how much I could accomplish at the allotment in the next 12 months, what seeds catalogs I’ll be pouring over in the winter months and waiting for the first signs of the seedlings popping through the compost. 

 
Actually, I think I’ve made my decision. 

Wellies at the ready

Confessions of an allotment holder

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Ok. There’s no sugar coating this folks…I’ve been a very bad allotment holder. I’ve been busy and I’ve not spent the time I should’ve at the plot. There…I’ve said it…I’ve failed in my duty to keep on top of the weeds, and I’ve not looked after the veggies as well as I could’ve. In my defence, most of the vegetables have been harvested already, and the ones I’ve left at the allotment should’ve been OK for a while.

Did you see the “should’ve” there?

The vegetables I’m referring to are the leeks and main crop potatoes. I’d thought that by keeping the main crop potatoes in the ground until I needed them (at least until the weather got colder) it would be the best way to store them and keep them fresh.  Today, the allotment told me different. At first I thought the potatoes were OK, then I brushed the mud off them and spotted loads of holes where little white grubs had burrowed their way inside. I hoped that only a few of the potatoes would have been feasted upon, I’m ok with sharing a some of the crops with the little critters that live at the allotment, but no, every single potato I dug up had been eaten. The best I can do is to learn from this and next year I’ll either lift the potatoes earlier or I’ll just stick with earlies and second earlies.

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Grub infested potatoes

Moving along the plot I spotted the leeks. Now, I was under the impression that leeks are a low maintenance vegetable and would be totally fine to do their thing with hardly any supervision. After all, leeks can stay in the ground for months over winter, easy peasey. Well, I’m sure they can but no one told me that there was a chance of the leeks bolting before winter arrives. Checking my little leek patch,  about half of them have bolted.

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Flower head on the leeks

I’m not sure how or why it’s happened, but it’s happened. Determined to find the silver lining, I’ve decided to leave the bolted leeks to flower and the birds can enjoy the seeds. I’ll dig up the remaining leeks over the next few weeks and enjoy them before any more get the urge to produce flower heads.

After a quick rake up of the leaves it was time to go. I’ve not left the plot empty handed for ages and it didn’t feel right to do so today. So I dug up my first non-bolted leek, and it’s a beaut!

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Ready for pulling

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My first leek

Bringing the outside in

  
I love the idea of having beautiful flowers and plants all around the house. Nothing brightens up a room more than a lovely vase of freshly cut flowers, arranged just as you’d see on the cover of a magazine. Unfortunately I lack (quite severely) the skill of flower arranging and each time I’ve tried to make an arrangement it looks as if I’ve just dumped the flowers directly into the vase without any thought or care. Due to the ugliness of the arrangement it’s more often than not that the flowers are put to one side of the room in shame and forgotten about until all the petals have fallen off and they make their inevitable journey to the bin. I have also failed miserably at keeping a bonsai tree. The poor thing lasted about 3 months before it shrivelled up, the leaves turned brown, then made its inevitable journey to the bin. 

To say I’ve not had much success as an indoor gardener would be a fair statement to make. 

But I still yearn for house plants. 

While browsing Pinterest recently I came across something that might just be the solution to all my houseplanty problems..

A Terrarium. A lovely little plant world inside a glass. 

Today I’m giving indoor gardening one final whirl and if I can’t keep a Terrarium I’ll resolve myself to only out door gardening. 

To start making the terrarium I picked up a couple of glass bowls, some stones, a selection of alpine plants and cactus potting soil. 

  
Alpine plants like free draining soil, so to help with the drainage I placed a selection of stones in the bottom of each bowl. I then filled the bowls about 2/3 full with the soil then arranged the alpine plants into the bowls. Once in their positions I added more soil around the plants and topped off with some decorative stones and pebbles. 

  
   
 How easy was that?! 

I’m really pleased with the end result, the only thing left to do is to find a sunny spot for them. 

  

Green tomato chutney

After picking all my tomatoes yesterday I was keen to transform them into a delicious chutney.

Confession time. I’ve never made a chutney before. I’ve never even tasted a green tomato chutney either.

I resolved myself weeks ago to the fact that my tomatoes were unlikely to ripen but I was determined that they wouldn’t go to waste or be forgotten about on a windowsill. The search for a chutney recipe began. My main aim was to be able to use all home-grown produce (vinegar aside) so I needed to find a recipe to suit. Eventually I found the one I was looking for, tweaked it slightly (I don’t like raisins or sultanas so I substituted those with apples and added a little extra spice with some fresh ginger)

Here’s how it went down…

1Kg green tomatoes

200g onion

400ml malt vinegar

200g soft brown sugar

100g apples

Thumb size portion of fresh ginger

Method

Wash and chop the tomatoes. You can make the chunks as big or as small as you like, if you like chunky chutney keep them big, if you want it less rustic looking, chop them smaller.


Place the chopped tomatoes into a bowl and add a good sprinkling of salt. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave over night. The salt will draw out liquid from the tomatoes and help intensify the flavour. Removing liquid from the tomatoes now will help reduce cooking time later.

The next day, when you’re ready to make the chutney, pour the vinegar into a heavy bottomed pan and add the soft brown sugar. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves completely.

While you’re waiting you can chop the onions, and peel, core and chop the apples.

Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to a gentle boil.

Add the chopped onion, stir through, then add the apple.

While this is coming back up to a gentle boil, drain but don’t rinse the tomatoes.

Add the drained tomatoes to the pan and stir the mixture gently.

Peel the ginger and grate straight into the chutney.

That’s the hard work done!

Simmer the chutney gently, so that the liquid slowly reduces. This took me just under 2 hours. It’s worth keeping an eye on the mixture just to make sure it doesn’t catch the bottom of the pan, we don’t want to burn the chutney now!

While the chutney is reducing, prepare the jars. The quantity above made 3 full jars with a small amount left over…just enough for quality testing at the end!

It’s worth mentioning here that the lids on the jars should have a plastic/rubber seal as the vinegar may react with metal lids and spoil the chutney. Most Kilner jar lids have the rubber seals on the inside.


Wash the jars and lids so they are spotlessly clean and place the jars on a baking tray. Put the jars into a cold oven and turn the temperature to 110-120C and leave until your chutney is ready. To sterilise the lids, place then into a pan of boiling water for about 20 minutes.

Once the chutney has reduced and thickened it’s ready to put into jars. You’ll know it’s thick enough when you can drag your wooden spoon through the chutney and you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds.

Carefully, take the jars out of the oven, keeping them on the tray. Spoon the hot chutney mixture straight into the hot jars and screw the lids on tightly: make sure you’re wearing oven gloves though!


That’s it, chutney made.

There was a small amount left over so I had to try it, still warm with cheese on rivita…it was delicious!


Depending on your taste you can eat this straight away or leave it to mature for a couple of weeks…

I’m hoping I’ve still got some left for cheese and biscuits at Christmas!


Here’s the link for the original chutney recipe I found online, I can highly recommend it. You’ll notice the quantities are different. I only had 1kg of tomatoes so I reduced the quantities accordingly.

Autumn jewels

Autumn. It’s such a lovely time of year. You can see the leaves on trees gradually changing from the fresh vibrant green of summer to the rich earthy tones of red and gold. This is my first successful year of Autumn crops at the allotment and I’m delighted with the harvest so far.

I managed a quick harvesting trip this afternoon (I’ve got a week off work soon so I’ll do all the gardening essentials like weeding then!) and came back with another trug full of autumnal delights!

I’m really surprised to see the runner beans still producing massive pods, and there are more flowers coming.

I’ve decided to harvest a few of the Buffy ball pumpkins. Not sure if they’re quite ready yet but I don’t want to get caught out with a surprise frost so I’ve picked most of them today and left a few of the smaller ones on the vine. The picked pumpkins will store in the garage until I can research how to cure them and hopefully I’ll have mini roasted pumpkins for tea on Halloween

The apples this year are fantastic. There’s just so many on the tree I can’t pick them quick enough! I love the colour of the apples, such a lovely rich red, it’s great to be able to pick your own food just at the right time and to taste it, freshly picked is amazing. (The apples are currently being baked in a crumble as I type…the smell is awesome!)

And last but not least the tomatoes. I’d left them on the plants hoping they’d ripen but I think they’re determined to remain green. I’ve picked them all, still on the vine and I’ll make them into chutney using more of the apples and the already harvested onions to enjoy closer to Christmas.

That’s it for now, I can hear the crumble calling out my name… Here’s a quick look at the haul from today, happy harvests everyone!