Leek Week

  
Last week it was all about the leeks. After months of holding their rightful place as the longest vegetable standing, it was time to pull them. They’re often the last vegetable I harvest mainly because they can stand in the ground over winter and they give me a little of my gardening mojo back just when I need it! 

I have grown leeks in the past but unfortunately they have had quite a few spots of leek rust, so last year I ditched the fancy varieties and stuck with a tried and tested reliable variety: Musselburgh. 

  
To my delight, not a single leek has any rust! 

Not one! 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, they aren’t going to win any country shows for size but, skinny as they are, I’m delighted they’ve made it through the winter unscathed! 

  
  
Washed and trimmed within a few hours of pulling, they were transformed into a hearty Leek and Potato soup and the remaining leeks were treated to being part of a leek and cheese tart. Just from this trugful, I managed to get 4 portions of soup and 6 portions of leek tart! 

  
That definitely makes the Leeks the stars of last week! 

The first harvest

  
Well, I’m not sure if this actually counts as a harvest but it’s the first veggie to make it home with me from the allotment. It’s also the first spring onion I’ve ever grown so I’m really pleased it’s survived when countless others have not! 

Had a quick assessment of the allotment after work today and everything seems ok, although there’s no signs of the potatoes yet but by my calculations they’ve got about another week before I’d expect to see them so I’m hoping they’re doing their thing underground just as they should. There’s also no sign of the second sowing of broadbeans I made about 3 weeks ago. The weather has been just awful these last few weeks so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll pop up soon as we seem to be having a nice spell of warmer weather. 

Checking the fruit, there’s some lovely new growth on the strawberry plants I got last year. I’m hoping this years crop will be a bumper one. I’ve got my mind set on making loads of strawberry and elderflower jam, we’ve just finished the batch I made last year and it’s my absolute favourite, summer in a jar! 

 
I don’t know about anyone else but I never tire of seeing the rhubarb growing. I just love how the leaves start out all small and wrinkly then expand into the biggest monster leaves ever seen! 

   
 This week I’ll be getting the peas sown (at last) and starting off the squash and courgettes. The sweet peas and sunflowers can start to be hardened off and I might just get some winter cabbages started. I can’t wait to see all the vegetable beds full, let’s hope the nice weather is here for a while! 

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!