Photo: Anne Akers

Anne’s Patch: Reaping what I’ve sown

20 August 2019

I know I’ve said this nearly every month, but it’s been a funny old year on the allotment, writes Anne Akers.

Last year at this time, I had made a bumper batch of blackberry jam in time for the village show.

This year, those blackberries are still green. And while it’s good to use under-ripe fruit for jam, green blackberries won’t win me any prizes and would probably give me belly ache!

Photo: Anne Akers

The cold/hot/wet/dry/windy weather has played havoc with the harvest.

Plums have split, or been eaten by wasps, or both, strawberries were a non-event and my potatoes have died off, as have my neighbour’s though some on the allotments report a good crop.

Onions are OK, though shallots have been superb. It always feels better value that you plant one shallot set (a mini shallot) and from that, you get half a dozen.  Plant one onion set and you get one onion.

With the disappointment the of potatoes, I’ve due them all up and planted squash, you can’t go wrong with squash and they store very well.

The best crops this year and indeed every year, are broad beans, beetroot and leeks.

I’ve frozen three batches of broad beans which will see us through until the spring and am currently harvesting four different types of beetroot which are either baked, served in salad, pickled or made into crisps or chutney.

There are claims that beetroot is a superfood, there’s certainly evidence that its high nitrate levels helps reduce blood pressure, increases blood flow and can improve athletic performance.  

The whole lot is edible, though personally I find the leaves a bit earthy tasting. And there is one other thing, it comes out the same colour as it goes in, I’ll say no more, just don’t be concerned if that happens after you eat a lot of it!

Beetroot, like potatoes, leeks and some brassicas, can be overwintered, though I prefer to pick the beets young and small, they are sweeter and tastier.

The only challenge then is what to do with them all. Chutney is always a good solution, it’s just vinegar or wine vinegar, sugar, apples, onions and whatever else you please.

I made spiced beetroot and orange chutney, the smell of cloves, and cinnamon were Christmas in a jar, which is just as well as they will be Christmas presents. I also made cucumber chutney, with the glut from the greenhouse.

It’s showtime in Calverleyt at the end of the month. Allotmenteers will be trimming their onions, measuring their beans, weighing their marrows and polishing their potatoes.

It’s a serious business this showing and there is a good deal of friendly rivalry.

I’ll not be entering any of my produce, unless it’s in the novelty vegetable category. My raspberries may be good enough, but that’s about it.

Of course the chutneys and gooseberry jam will be entered and I may bake a cake. One of the categories is a cake made with a vegetable, and seeing as I have plenty of beetroot, I may well do that.

The 98th Calverley Horticultural Society Show is on Saturday 24 August, 2.30. If you fancy entering any of the 100 or so classes, here’s the link.

Read more Anne’s Patch columns on allotment life in Calverley here.

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