Author: annahandknits

Allotment – June 14th 2015

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This is what happens if you don’t get a chance to go to your allotment for nearly 2 weeks…..

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Weeds invade! They invade EVERYWHERE! and take over EVERYTHING!  There is nothing more soul destroying, it made me so sad.  It was one of those days where i didn’t even know where to start.  Most of my autumn garlic had rotted and died – I presume this is because the last few weeks have been really wet and really warm.  A bit survives so I really hope I’ll get a few bulbs.

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I did manage to get quite a lot cleared.  I had to rip out all my sweet peas because they were being swamped and choked by bind weed, and none of of my parsnip seeds that I had had sown under fleece have germinated so I dug out all the weeds from there too.

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I also managed to plant out my surprise Cucurbitales plants.  I had a horrid greenhouse disaster which left me with the patio covered with identical seedlings no longer with their appropriate plant tags. So, now I have squash, pumpkin, cucumber and snake gourds all muddled up and am playing the waiting game to find out what survived!  IMAG1875[1]I did manage to get all the compost from the old composters relocated though and finally tidied up the piles of leaf litter in to the grey bins.  Wasn’t quite so down in the dumps by the time I left…. hopefully it won’t get too weedy again over then next few days!!!

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Preserving – What can you do with Rhubarb?

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Spring time! The rhubarb emerging at the plot

It’s coming towards the end of the rhubarb season now.  My mum always told me you shouldn’t pull rhubarb beyond the end of June.  Having done further research there isn’t a specific date but you should definitely give your plants enough time to recover and store energy before winter.

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this year’s first harvest

My plants at the allotment stopped putting out big, thick stalks about May and are now mainly made up of lots of thinner ones so I am happy for them to rest as you need to take so much more when they get skinnier and it makes me feel bad.  I have a conscience for my rhubarb plant’s well being.

A colleague at work brought her last pull in to work and as no one took any of it I’ve acquired my final bag of the season and need to decide what to do with it.  It got me thinking that it would be interesting to do a post on what you can do with rhubarb -so here it is!

Rhubarb Gin:

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2nd batch of rhubarb gin under way

If you like sloe gin, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’ll love rhubarb gin too!  It’s so easy to drink.

It took a little time to get the sugar balance right, but once it’s there it’s just beautiful.

We used the recipe from Scarlet Pyjamas and you can find it here.

The pinker your rhubarb the pinker your gin will be.

Rhubarb Compote:

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Before roasting

I got this recipe from Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint book, so I can’t give you the exact recipe here, but having just stalked her blog I can give you the link to her Honey Sweetened Rhubarb Compote with Ginger recipe which looks equally yummy and will be going on my to do list!

Rhubarb and Rosemary Jelly:

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My first even batch of rhubarb and rosemary jelly

I am in love with having this jelly on toasted crumpets.  It’s more subtle in taste and texture than the stronger rhubarb flavoured recipes above, but the subtly is it’s beauty.  It’s divine and such a pretty colour.  I got braver with the second batch I made and left the rosemary sprigs in longer and it made such a difference (in a good way!).

Again, the recipe was out of the Preserving by the Pint book, but you could give the Rhubarb and Rosemary Jam recipe a go instead! Alternatively, just buy the book.  It’s such a good investment and I recommend it to everyone.

Rhubarb Syrup:

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The start of a double batch of rhubarb syrup

I use this with lemonade or prosecco, it’s super yummy.  Word of advice though…. always add the syrup last, otherwise you just have a big glass of froth.  Learnt that the hard way…. not as appetizing as a rhubarb bellini believe me!

This recipe is in my notebook of preserving recipes but has no source, so I apologise if I’ve stolen your recipe – let me know and I’ll credit you here! In the meantime:

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Method:

1) Put the rhubarb in a saucepan and add in the sugar.  Give it a good mix and leave it for around 10 minutes so that the juices start to leach out.

2) Add the water, stir together and then bring to the boil

3) Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.  By this point the rhubarb should be completely broken down.

4) Strain the juice through a cheese cloth, leave it hanging for a good couple of hours to allow all the liquid to drip out.  I remember reading that you shouldn’t squeeze the liquid out or it’ll make the final product cloudy, however, I made 2 batches, one I squeezed and the other I didn’t and there is no difference in their colouring.

5) You can bottle the syrup now and keep refridgerate or if you would like a thicker syrup…

6) Return to a clean saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer until it starts to reduce

7) Pour in to clean bottles or jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes – then store in a cool dry place until opened.

Rhubarb Chutney:

Whilst finding recipes to link in this blog post today I came across this Rhubarb Chutney recipe on the Food in Jars blog. I’m going to give it a go this weekend so watch this space!

I’d love to hear about what you’ve been making with rhubarb, so please leave me a comment below! I’m always on the look out for new ideas!

Allotment – 8th and 9th July 2015

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The best bit about being on leave is that I can go to the allotment during the day pretty much as often as I like.  The other good thing is that going frequently means I get a chance to actually get the whole plot under control.  So having tackled the right hand side (looking from my shed) of the plot I was also able to have a clear out, re-organise and plant of the left hand side.
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Lots of the garden centers have their vegetable plants on offer at the moment – I guess because it’s getting late in the season, but with how the weather has been I think we’re in for a funny year anyway, so I’ve been merrily planting some extra bits and pieces in the hope I’ll be lucky!
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My recent additions included some beef tomatoes (because I didn’t have enough already…), a couple more chilli plants, cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage, purple basil, pineapple sage and leeks.
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I’ve stripped one of the planters out and that has now been sown with some salads – hopefully we’ll get some later summer lettuce and radishes.
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The best addition though has to be the rather smart anti-butterfly cage my other half managed to make using scrap from behind the shed.
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We are now the proud owners of every thunderbug on the allotment, but hopefully it’ll be enough to stop the cabbages being eaten!
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Preserving – Lavender Syrup and Lavender Sugar

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I have a lovely lavender plant at my allotment, although I have no idea what variety it is, and it obviously quite likes where it’s planted because this year I have had a crazy number of flower stalks.
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I decided to cut it earlier in the week because it had spread so much and was covering the path between mine and my neighbor’s plots and was starting to get trampled.  However once it was cut and I saw quite how much I had i realised I had no idea what I could even do with it.

Thank goodness for Pinterest…. (the link will take you to a search for Fresh Lavender Recipes)

The first thing I tried was Lavender Syrup.  I found the recipe here on The View From Great Island blog.  As I had a lot of lavender I doubled the recipe up and ended up with these 2 bottles of syrup.
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It’s super easy to make but mine did need the food colouring to changing it from slightly murky grey to a more appealing lilac shade.

The syrup has a strange more-ish taste, it’s obviously quite sweet, and definitely tastes of lavender, but leaves you with a slightly antiseptic taste at the end – which bizarrely is the bit that makes you want more.  The serving suggestion was with ice cream, but I think it would also work well in lemonade or Prosecco.

There was still lots lavender left so I started looking for other recipes too, and found this one for Lavender Sugar.  It doesn’t say if the lavender should be dried or fresh, so I’ve tried it with fresh and if that doesn’t work I’ll try again with dried!  Further research is suggesting I should have waited for the flowers to dry but we’ll see what happens.

I also now have 2 massive bunches of lavender drying in the cellar for future use…

Allotment – 7th July

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I’ve been down here a bit over the last few weeks, but only to pull a few weeds and dig over. Finally though I have had a chance to spend some real time at my plot and get some plants from home planted out.

I’ve been growing loads of chilli plants and having completely taken over all available space at home I decided to take the plunge and get them planted out.

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I’ve also been given some tomato planted by my parents – my Grandpa got a bit over excited when sowing the seeds a few months back so there are tonnes. Guess I’m going to be making lots of chutney and ketchup!

There’s some celery and corn mixed in the rows too and I plan to fill the gaps with some quick turn around crops – lettuce, radishes, spring onions etc.

At least half of it now looks presentable! Just the other half to retame now!

Preserving – Rhubarb Syrup

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This year I have been lucky enough to have a complete glut of rhubarb.  Lots of rhubarb means lots of preserving! In fact, we haven’t had rhubarb crumble once yet! It’s looking like we won’t get it either, the last batch of rhubarb I picked was pinched by the other half and is currently marinating in a jar of gin….

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Rhubarb syrup is quite simply one of the best things ever – it’s great with lemonade or prosecco – just remember put the syrup in second! Because I’m presuming that you probably won’t enjoy drinking a glass of rhubarb bubbles as much as you’d enjoy a rhubarb Bellini…..IMG_20150516_151318[1]I am wondering if I can justify one of those straining stands now though…. although the upright in the cupboard and string works pretty well for now! Look at that syruppy goodness….. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

If you fancy making you’re own – why don’t you give this recipe a go: Rhubeena

Allotment – 4th May 2015

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I am officially an incredibly lucky girl.  I say this because my rather lovely BF broke up and then reconstructed a pile of pallets my Mum and Dad had been saving for me into a wonderful composter for my allotment.  It took most of the afternoon, and quite a bit of swearing and sweating but he managed to get it done and I am a very happy lady.

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You’ll see that our site monitor kept a close eye on proceedings to make sure he did it properly. She likes to make sure that she knows exactly what’s going on.
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I also really enjoy having company while I’m at the allotment.  It’s a lovely place to go and I really love it there, but sometimes it’s a bit lonely and if you’re having a bad weed day it can all be a little soul destroying.  At least I now have somewhere smart to put all those weeds!

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It ended up being really late by the time he finished, and the midges were out in full biting force. Definitely worth it though! 🙂