Wednesday 26 December 2012

The odd tuber

Peruvian Tubers of Old Normandie

I've been watching the harvests of other more dedicated growers of Peruvian root crops as they publish their results throughout the autumn with some anxiety and anticipation for the outcome of my own lackadaisical efforts to keep a minimal stock in hand for next year.

Finally the moment has come and I've emptied the small pots of my hopes and counted the yields. The photo is above.

For scale the smallest ulluco pictured, the tubers to the right of the screen, are about baked bean size (that's a navy or haricot bean if you're unfamiliar with the term). There were a few rice sized tubers as well which I didn't photograph and a few chewed ones which might grow but didn't look very pretty. Overall I have to say that my total worth of ulluco is no greater than it was when I first obtained some tubers from Realseeds some years ago and the diversity has reduced. They sent me 3 or 4 varieties and I seem to have only the one, admittedly pretty pink spotted, sort left.

The mashua, labelled, is the one left of the several sent to me by Rhizowen earlier this year. I'm glad to have brought it through but there's nothing to be proud of there and nothing to eat either!

And so to the oca. Over the years I had accumulated five varieties, two which I obtained from New Zealand via Waitrose, a white one from Realseeds and two fairly similar pinky white ones from a kind swapper who's name escapes me for the moment (but I'll look it up when I can). It seems I only managed to put one of these into a pot last spring but we've had a mild autumn here and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to find volunteers in amongst the detritus of the vegetation which was last year's failed crops.

By the way, there's no way of assessing the quantity of the crops from this exercise as the pots and culture for each example were all different; similar only in the lack of attention given to them.

Other roots, the hopniss, tuberous rooted peas, chinese and jerusalem artichokes await closer investigations although I was reasonably confident that I had enough propagation material of these in October. Unfortunately while we were away we've had a plague of mice and all bets are off.

So once again, I've scraped through, holding on to these novelties for another year. I'm still not convinced that as they stand they're worth growing for anything other than eccentric interest and I'm definitely not dedicated enough to contribute much to the very laudable efforts of others to breed adaptations better suited to European environments but my options are still open.

Thursday 20 December 2012

The End of the World


The shortest day and the end of the Mayan world, at least according to popular internet memes unsupported by rigorous academic study. Whatever, for this little weasel the time has come.

I'm really surprised a cat managed to bring this evasive small predator in and wonder if it was already ill or had been discarded by some other hunting animal. They didn't want to eat it but left it with the post on the mat, identifying where many other unsolicited offerings are made.

We had never seen such a creature so closely before, they move so quickly in the wild and are very shy. You can never be sure quite what you've seen, just a flash of rusty brown that might be weasel, stoat or even a red squirrel in a hurry although the preferred habitats are not very similar. To find one on the edge of a built up area seems very unusual but I suppose this was hunting the same small rodents the cats do.

You can read more about weasels here, including the worst joke in the world.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The wheel turns

sweet dumplings on a windowsill

 And another year is nearly completed.

Today I received, chose, completed and returned my Heritage Seed Library catalogue and order form. As usual the selection came down to picking through the back stories and trying to establish which were most plausible but I was pleased to find a French bean with connections to Caen (so local to us)  and another which will be good for Caribbean cookery.

Getting back my bread making mojo

On a housekeeping note, I've closed the Stripey Cat food blog, ostensibly so I can organise the recipes into book form but more accurately because I've become very depressed and disheartened with life and couldn't find enough cheerful things to write about.

Even so, from time to time I still have small cooking successes I'd like to share so they're going to be appearing here when they happen.

I have a new sourdough baby and together we're revisiting the skills needed for bread making. The loaf above is one of the first successful constructions to have come from this and I hope, with a little more experimentation, to have a foolproof base recipe that will happily take additions and variations in the near future.

There are also some pictures to come from my only pop-up restaurant date this year but I have to talk Paul into downloading them from his camera before I can see if they're worth publishing. Hope to be back with them soon!