It’s been so dry on the allotment that I’ve become an expert in uncoiling and coiling the hosepipe, all 15 metres of it, writes Anne Akers.
The soil that was sodden back in May now has such deep cracks, I’m sure I can see all the way to Australia!
I’ve had to water every day, and when I say water, I mean a good drenching for young plants such as the leeks and mostly-water crops such as potatoes. On the plus side, slugs and weeds aren’t too keen on dry weather, so weeding has been much easier.
With it being holiday time, there’s a lot of good neighbourly behaviour going on. No-one likes to see waste or to think that all the hard work that goes on earlier in the year ends up rotting or over-ripening because you’re sunning yourself on the Costa Brava.
And there is always too much ready at the same time, I collected a carrier bag full of blackberries for my neighbour while she was away and stuck them in my freezer.
On her return she said there were more berries there than anyone could ever eat and gave them to me, so I’ll be getting the jam-making pot out.
We did have to invest in a small chest freezer when we took on the allotment, and August in particular becomes a hive of activity with freezing vegetables.
Broad beans and green beans freeze well, but need to be blanched in boiling water to keep them tasty, bright, get rid of the nasties and seal in vitamins. It’s a bit of a faff, but well worth it, we delight in having our home-grown beans with our Christmas dinner.
Tomatoes are also in plentiful supply, it feels like every time I turn my back, more grow. It’s always nice to give some to friends, who agree that they taste so much better than those bought in the shops, but that still leaves us with lots, and I mean lots.
Some are dried at a low heat in the oven, they keep for ages, others are used to make sauce or passata. The little cherry tomatoes can be frozen whole and then put straight into sauces, stews and casseroles.
Butternut squash, which I have never grown before, are in full flower.
These interesting plants work their way across the ground, I think I may have planted them a little too close together, as they are all merging into one, but looking at the number of flowers, it may be a blessing if they don’t all grow!
They’re an interesting plant, with male and female flowers, it’s only the females that are fertilised to grow fruit. Thank goodness for that!
The Calverley village show is coming up at the end of the month.
Some of my allotment neighbours grow fruit and vegetables just to show. Personally, I grow to eat, though I may make an exception with the cucamelons which I was so keen to grow. They look like mini watermelons and are supposed to taste like cucumbers.
Oh my goodness, they are so bitter, I’ll show them and then use them for chutney where their flavour will be masked by the spices and vinegar!
There is no need to blanch your beans. We also used to indulge in this pointless ritual, until one year we omitted it through lack of time. Our results were greatly improved: tasty, tender beans that kept better than our blanched product. Run a trial if you don’t believe us, and cut the risk of spills and scalding. Commercial growers blanch, but they have air-blast freezers which freeze in seconds. For home use, pick them young and freeze them quickly, but blanching is a waste of time.
Thanks, Doreen and John. I’m always up for taking advice, especially if it saves time! The next batch goes into the freezer unbalanced!