Tuesday 23 February 2010

Weather or not

I'm having to dredge the archives to find pictures for each post, it's been so dull and cold and wintery for so long now there is nothing current that's attractive enough to share. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, this is a shot taken on a trip to Siena ages ago showing lovely vegetable plots in a valley within the town.

In desperation I planted garlic in pots today. I've been waiting and waiting for a moment when the ground will thaw for long enough for me to get the cloves into the garden and the moment still hasn't come. I don't like having a lot of potted plants to tote around the place but there seems to be no alternative if we're to have reasonable sized bulbs this year.

I'm also fretting about the Martock. In the end nearly all of the seeds, even the mouldy ones germinated so I have 25 little plants getting leggy and etiolated on the bedroom windowsill at the mercy of the cats because it's been too cold to put them in a greenhouse economically.

By now I would be expecting to keep the glass frost free with a minimal amount of heat overnight but as the outside temperatures are barely coming above zero even in the daytime it would be a bill too far. I've already lost nearly everything in there and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for what's left.

And I've no room to start anything else indoors, nursing as I am the peppers and aubergines on the bathroom windowsill.

I do wish this awful winter would end.

Friday 19 February 2010

I never saw one the size of that before...

celeriac from the Farmers' Market
A celeriac with 4 person teapot for scale

Went down to the Farmers' Market in Newport Pagnell today and found this monster, along with her equally enormous siblings, for a mere £1.50. Celeriac is one of those vegetables that you seem to really need a knack for, I've never grown one half the size of this, although the tennis balls that have grown have been tasty it hardly seems worth the effort of keeping them weeded and cared for over a long season.

I told the stallholder but he seemed unimpressed by his work and said he often grew them like that. He didn't seem disposed to share his secret either.

So although I'm fairly sure I'm too late to start this year does anyone have any hints or tips that would help me grow better celeriac? I'd love to hear from you if you do.

NP Farmers Market

Monday 15 February 2010


summer 03

Don't you just wish it was summer again?

Good old Alan Romans. I was about to complain about the non-arrival of my potato order and he mailed me this evening to say it's on its way. Well, when I say he mailed me, I don't really mean the man in person though who would know, but an official automated email was despatched to me along with the spuds.

This year, and I wasn't going to tell you until now in case there was a sudden flattering rush of imitations and my order couldn't be filled we're expecting;

Ambo -1kg, Arran Victory -1kg, British Queen -1kg, International Kidney -1kg, Mayan Queen -1kg, Pink Fir Apple -1kg and Stroma -1kg. Not as many as last year, we had such a good crop that I think a lot will be wasted so I'm going to try and match supply a little more closely to demand this year. Also I'm flirting with the idea of using a few of our own Sarpo Mira from last year. We really didn't have any blight and they are keeping well. We'd probably get away with it.

Nothing very unusual in the selection, the only novelty items are the Mayan Queens, described by Alan as a Solanum phureja hybrid, not long keeping but with good texture and flavour. The Phurejas are just one of several potato species that have been cultivated in the Andes for generations and have resistance to some forms of blight. They have not been widely available in Europe until breeders started to use them in programmes to improve blight resistance. It will be interesting to see how they do.

Now wasn't that exciting! What potatoes will you be planting this year?

Friday 5 February 2010

Martock Beans


Alleged to have been with us since the 12C, the Martock bean is a really just a primitive broad bean, a common field bean, used for human and stock food and as a soil improver and green manure.

The name comes from the village of Martock and they have an information page about it here which is worth a read. However, my usual cynicism has kicked in and I wonder whether the much transcribed and repeated history of these seeds can possibly relate to the current seed stocks. Nonetheless, I did take a packet from the HSL over 10 years ago now and grew them out on the allotment. Then I packed the beans up in envelopes and forgot about them.

This year, I was hoping to grow Egyptian ful. I haven't been able to source any named ful seed and remembering the marked similarity between the Martock and the dried ful available at the grocers' I hoped I would be able to get some fresh seed from the HSL again, but this year they are not offering them. So I went to my seed saving drawer, took out a packet of 10 year old seed and without much hope popped them into a tray of compost. The results are above! You can see a bit of mould where a few didn't make it but for seed that old and not particularly well stored it's a pretty good result.

So I'll be growing them this year, damping off permitting, and comparing them to the plants I also intend to grow from dried ful that I bought from the grocer. The seeds themselves are slightly smaller even than the ful, so there isn't any exact match. It should be interesting.

I have a concern that the saved seed were grown on the allotment and I made no particular precautions to keep the seed pure at that time but I'll see how it goes and rogue out anything that looks too aberrant. The same goes for the retail food crop ful - I've no idea what the provenance of that is although it's unlikely to be F1 and should be fairly pure as it will have been grown in field conditions.

Just as well we love our beans.