Autumn round- up – a bumper fruit year

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Blackberries on the allotment

As usual the summer has rushed by and I have not done anything much to the blog .

All in all the year turned out very well for fruit and veg but it was the fruit which did the best, my blackberries are still producing fruit well into October and so are the wonderful Autumn Treasure raspberries which have fruited from June and are still going strong. Black, white and red currents have also done well. The strawberries (both standard and ‘wild’) have been wonderful and I still have some in the freezer to make more jam.

Black currents flourishing

Blackcurrents flourishing

Wild strawberries
Wild strawberries

Talking of Jam, I have made something around 24Kg of jam and jelly. It has been a great pleasure using my French copper jam pan, which spreads the heat wonderfully and reduced the risk of burning. I make juice for jelly in a steam juicer. This save the messing about of using Jelly bag and allowing the juice to drip through over night. The steam extracts the juice and this can be added to the sugar immediately then heated to setting point. Remember to use pectin for those fruits which are low in this essential setting aid.

Summertime on the allotment

Summertime on the allotment

After the very cold spring, I did not have high hopes for the vegetables but I was surprised, the potatoes, Blue Edzell, Mayan Gold and Kestral all did well although the Mayan gold did wither a bit early on as you can see from the foreground of the photo. However the tubers of all the potatoes were fine and should last me the Winter. Slugs did quite a bit of damage just before harvest so I had to cook and mash a few kilos for the freezer. I tend to just use a potato ricer and freeze the resulting fairly dry mash. Then when I want to use it, I defrost and add butter, milk and seasoning. Of all the three varieties  Blue Edzell looks the strangest  as it is very dark purple  and Kestral had the best yield. Mayan gold did poorest but has the best taste.

The cabbages have done well  but I have had to keep them covered all summer to prevent both cabbage white caterpillars and maurading pigeons from taking all the leaves.

Peas and sweet corn

Peas, sweet corn with rainbow chard and seeding sweet cicely, beans in the background

The beans, runner and climbing french, took a long time to get going. I planted them when I thought it was warmer and protected them from the wind with fleece but they took a long time to grow and flower. The crop has been manageable and I have frozen a lot for winter – I slice with a wonderful Australian Krisk bean slicer, blanche in boiling water for 30 secs, then in to cold water, pat dry and freeze.

Rainbow chard is yielding well and should be useful for most of winter. The peas were again attacked by moth larvae but we had several good meals from those  the  moth left.

Onions and garlic all seemed to do well but since harvesting I have noticed that for some reason, the onions are rotting in storage. The garlic is holding up well and so are the shallots and both will  last through the winter . Other successes are the patty pan squash, the round courgettes and finally, I have just cut the Turban squash, one vine has yielded two large squash – I look forward to cooking them later in the winter, roasted, as soup and in a curry.

Turban squash

Turban squash

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And meanwhile in the polytunnel…

I have a small polytunnel where I hoped to sprout  seeds, pot on and take cuttings as well as grow fantastic tomatoes, Chillies and other less hardy veg.

This year has been the first full year of production. Apart from taking off, blowing over a 6 ft fence and landing in my neighbour’s garden the polytunnel has been very well-behaved.

Over the summer it has been full of ripening tomatoes of various shapes and size and some great chillies.

Tomatoes and chillies - still in use in November

I have made a lot of tomato pasta sauce with onions, sweated down in lots of olive oil, garlic and the tomatoes chopped and reduced to a thick sauce with fresh thyme added to some pots for good measure. All this was sealed in hot sterilised jars and should keep for the winter.

The problems have stated in November. When mice got a taste for chillies and have stripped most of the slower plants which were just ripening off. Such a shame.  I am sorry to say  that so far the traps have accounted for 7 of the pests, sorry they cannot go in the pot- they will be highly spicy.

To add to the problems  there are a number of worn patches in the cover and although tape seems to do the trick, it won’t be long before the cover is mostly tape.  One year does not really seem long enough for it to last.

I hope to use the polytunnel over the winter with extra insulation from bubble wrap to bring on some winter veg. Lets hope it does not disintegrate before the spring.