Monday, August 31, 2009

Free food

This is the time of the year for collecting lots of free food - I'm starting to see ripe elderberries in the hedgerows, and my jam making mother has been on a blackberry collecting mission for the past few weeks. Good crop this year. You might also find crab apples. I think that things are too wet for good field mushrooms - at the end of the last good summer (2006 - remember it?) my brother was presenting me with carrier bags full of mushrooms - wonderful stuff.

If you are picking - try to pick away from a roadside - less dangerous and dirty, and if you are in any doubt as to what you are picking, as an expert.

Here's a sample of what you might do with your pickings...
Elderberry Jam
Elderberry syrup
Blackberry Jam
Crab Apple jelly

OK, now I'm motivated myself - that Elderberry syrup sounds tasty, healthy and easy to make - think I'll have to try it!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Cranberry Marmalade

Not exactly the right season for Marmalade, but my mother had some Seville oranges in her freezer, and I had some cranberries, and I had been hankering to make a marmalade flavoured with cranberries. Here's what we did:

Oranges were boiled till soft, insides removed, and peel sliced small. Looks good already!


At a rolling boil, waiting for it to set...


In the jars - what a colour!

Yum - it tastes as good as it looks!
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Bee


This bumble bee was really enjoying the Artichoke flover - you could see that he was covered in pollen, and you could almost hear his happiness as he stuck his tongue into the flower....
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Upside down Tomatoes - companion planting


The upside down tomatoes are doing well- though not many are ripe yet. Fingers crossed for a bit of sunshine.

The only thing I would do differently next year is to plant modest plants at the top of the bucket - ones which don't get huge and suck up all the tomato's water. In the greedy category are calendula (see above) and nasturtium. Even though it's not hot, I'm having to water the tomatoes daily, and I think there's just too much greenery to support top and bottom.

The good companions are French marigold, Night scented stock (the scent in the evening! Sweet and peppery at the same time - is there a perfume like this?) and Basil. They thrive above the tomato, but don't get so big that they compete.
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jam and Chutney making

This months course is Jam and Chutney making - both on the one day - you can do either or both. I'm very excited to share these skills - especially the chutney - you can make a wide variety of chutneys, once you follow some simple steps, and you will have a great addition to your savoury dishes, and a lovely home made gift.

We'll be making Strawberry Jam in the morning - my mother - who is an award winning Jam maker, will be doing most of the teaching, she's the expert. If you have ever had home made strawberry jam, it's so much better than the shop variety. And you can work with the strawberries which are not so beautiful, so you can buy cheaper fruit from the growers.

Here are the details:

Make your own Jam August 15th 10:00am, to 12:30pm: €35
Make your own Chutney August 15th 2:00pm, to 4:30pm: €35

One course + Lunch: €45, or both courses + Lunch: €75

Location - Mullingar Educate Together National School (Opposite the 'Rathgowan' housing development on the 'C-Link' road - 3rd roundabout after the hospital from the Castlepollard side, 2nd roundabout from the Ballymahon side).

To book your place, email me -

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

August Harvesting

Just to note what is doing well in the garden at the minute, and what we are enjoying at the table.

Potatoes: Lots dug, and waiting to be used, lots more still in pots.
Courgettes: Producing steadily, but not in glut amounts. The round ones are especially good.
Squash - a few uchiki kuri, a crookneck, Anna Hubbard.
Runner beans: Keeping on top of them so far.
Dwarf French: Sharing with the slugs
Lettuce: Bitter and running to seed
Beetroot: Lovely and big - leaves yummy, roots mostly going into chocolate brownies
Onions: mostly harvested, eating lots
Shallotts: I have 1kg in a string bag for storage - don't think they will last too long, though.
Tomatoes:Lots of green ones - just a few ripening.
White turnips - pulled some today for my mother - await her verdict. I fancy them pickled....
Artichokes are still producing a bit, but the novelty has worn off. We are letting a few flower for the beautiful colour, and maybe the seeds will be viable.

Blueberries ripeing, and a few raspberies.

A little sunshine would go a long way...I suspect I might have a glut of something then...

My strategy on the onions and shallotts is to eat away at them,and have leeks and bunching onions for when they are all gone.

I'm trying not to buy any fruit or veg - so that part of the fridge is strangely empty. I think I'll have to crack and buy some carrots - they are miserable this year.

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Garlic harvest

My Garlic has all been harvested, and dried, and I have lots to plant next year, and to eat for as long as it lasts!

If you have been following this blog, you'll know that I got lots of garlic from a generous member (Spade Work) of the seed network. Here's my joyous entry last November.

All the garlic did very well - I'm delighted that I'm one of only a few people in the world growing Gazebo grande. And they all taste great - but I'm smitten with the garlic scape pesto (see bottom of the archive) so I'll be planting as much hardneck garlic as possible.

I have put aside the following to grow again next year - I think this is enough for me - hopefully next year, I'll have some to share.

Marco (softneck) - 7 cloves
Inchellium red(softneck) - 9 cloves
Prim (softneck) - 6 cloves
Gypsy red (hardneck) - 2 cloves
Gazebo (hardneck) - 2 cloves
Susan Delafield (hardneck) - 4 cloves
Misc - grown for supermarket garlic - 1 clove
Unknown hard neck - 3 cloves

Going into the end of last year, I was dismayed that I didn't have a good variety of garlic to sow - that's all changed!

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