Bringing in the crops

It’s a good job I like tomatoes. In one of the raised beds there are three Romello plants and four Roma, both being bush varieties rather than climbers. The Romello are a small cherry type and I have to say they’re hugely prolific. Thankfully, although bush tomatoes tend to ripen all at the same time, things have been somewhat staggered across the three plants. In the background the Roma tomatoes are much bigger but still green for now, thank goodness!

Lots of Romello cherry tomatoes, with the larger Roma variety still green on the right

Along with another bed with six Tomatoberry plants, also knocking out lots of cherry toms, this has been a great year for tomatoes and I’m certain it’s related to the technique I used in turning a small fan onto the seedlings every day when they were still under the grow lights early in the year. As a result the plants went into the ground with thick, strong stems capable of drawing up lots of water and nutrition as well as bearing strong branches.

I used the same fan technique with the peppers: in the plastic tents there are several different varieties of pepper growing, both hot and sweet:

  • Chillis: Heatwave, Padron, Fuego, Apache, Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Sweet Peppers: Thor, Astor

Some would question me listing Padron as a chilli; it’s that very mild one that is served as a delicious tapa in Spain, the deep green peppers fried flat with oil and salt. Indeed it was to recreate that snack that I grew two plants from seed this year. So I was surprised when they grew yellow, not green, and have since started turning red. A quick Google revealed that they can indeed go red, at which point they become a lot more fiery than the green version. That’ll be fun.

Padron peppers turning red rather than the usual green.

Less of a surprise but no less pleasing is the Apache chilli plant. I’ve only one and I bought it as a plug plant rather than growing from seed. It’s resplendent with dozens of small upward-pointing chillis, still green for now but they will turn red soon.

A very prolific Apache chilli plant.

Out in the borders, my grape vine is coming back to life now that it’s no longer crowded about by willow trees (now cut down). It’s very leafy, with only a few clumps of grapes this year but I think it’ll improve more and more each year now it’s got some air around it.

Grapes up against the fence. The young grape leaves are great for making Dolmades

Elsewhere in the garden my Oregon blackberry plant has been putting out fruit for the first time, which is a joy. You have to wait until they turn properly black, but once they do they taste just like Ribena 🙂 Their neighbour, a pink blueberry plant, has been busy fruiting too.

Left: Oregon blackberries, Right: Pink blueberries

When returning from holiday a while back, the mangetout (variety Carouby de Maussane) had all filled out to fully grown peas in the heatwave. It was a bit labour-intensive to shell them all but a labour of love and, after blanching them, I ended up with a huge bag of peas in the freezer. Not long after the broad beans got the same treatment: a big flexi-bucket made for 4 kilos (about 8 pounds) of the Sutton variety. Likewise a whole load of Castandel french beans.

Overgrown mangetout, filled out into peas, on the right here after shelling and blanching
Eight pounds of Sutton broad beans, before and after podding.
Topped and tailed Castandel french beans, drying after blanching

The other notable output of the heatwave was some huge courgettes. I’d removed every one before going away, but just two weeks later there were some giants. I tried halving and roasting one and it turned out very nice, especially when sprinkled with a mix of herbs from the herb bed.

Giant ‘Defender’ courgettes. The hand on the left for scale.
It looks like fish fillets, but this is roasted Courgettezilla..

I’m going to enjoy the kale plants while I can. They, and the purple sprouting broccoli plants next to them, had outgrown the mesh cover that I use to keep cabbage white butterflies at bay, so I took it off and they’re growing beautifully. I’ve already had several servings of the frilly kale, but the butterflies are all over them, such that there’s no point trying to shoo them away. There’s little I can do other than get rid of any eggs or caterpillars whenever I see them. I’ve cleared the ground around them so there aren’t any easy hiding places.

Mixed frilly kale leaves, lovely for now but the caterpillars will be arriving for lunch shortly ..

Meanwhile the root crops are mostly lifted now. The turnips were a bit disappointing as they’d been nibbled quite a bit by sub-surface critters. Potatoes have been a mixed bag:

  • A small crop of International Kidney, the variety behind the famous Jersey Royals
  • A small crop of Charlottes – delicious as always
  • A half-decent haul of maincrop Vales Sovereign – a new grow for me.
International Kidney potatoes, most usually sold as Jersey Royals

Today was a carrot-picking day. I think these are the variety Nantes 6, but can’t quite remember. They were certainly nice roasted as part of dinner this evening.

I been me a carrot pickin’

Next time I’ll remember to throw some garlic into the roasting tin. I sowed about twenty cloves of ‘Rose Wight’ back in October, so they had a full winter to thicken up. I probably left them in the ground a little too long (end of July) as they came up nicely grown but their papery outer skins were blown on quite a few. They’ll be fine though, they’re trimmed, fully dried and are in a cloth bag, keeping dark and cool.

Rose Wight garlic, drying in the sun moments after lifting

Finally, a word about cucumbers – mainly a reminder to myself to buy cucumber plug plants rather than sowing from seed. For the second season running, I’ve had great cucumbers, far too many to eat, from a few shop-bought ‘Merlin’ plants in a large pot of fresh compost.

Too many cucumbers is a nice problem to have.

Thanks for reading. More next time ..

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