I was just looking in the polytunnel to make sure that the slug hadn’t been having another go at everything when I noticed we’ve got the first tomato set.
Tiny Tim, one we’ve grown before but which I decided we would grow to boost the number of small cherry tomatoes that can be put in the polytunnel on the bench and (I hoped) give us some early tomatoes has lived up to its “early” timing. Its planted in a really small pot at the moment and I guess I’ll have to transplant it into a larger one to give the plant a decent chance.
Last year I gave up my allotment. It was too far away and not doing what I wanted (unlike many allotments, despite the fact there are over 100 plots, rarely are there any people about. Everybody seems to go on a Sunday morning when I can’t make it so there’s nobody to see when I do go). However, what this means is that I’m spending more time in the garden and I’m getting more things growing there.
Starting with the polytunnel. My aim in the tunnel is to grow enough french beans, lettuce and cucumbers to keep us fed through the summer. Here you can see what’s planted now (except for the cucumber hidden on the left). The bench will eventually have most of the determinate tomatoes but at the moment its got random collections of various things.
Tomatoes: I’ve potted up all the indeterminate tomatoes into their final buckets and, over the next few weeks I’ll position them around the edges of the greenhouses and string them up to the supports which are already in place. So what you can see here is the tomatoes in their buckets with the strings tied though the bottom of the buckets draped in the pot ready to be tied.
Raspberries: One thing I’m happy about is my raspberries. I think that autumn fruited raspberries are the easiest fruit to grow and produce the best tasing raspberries. I brought 12 canes back from the allotment and squeezed them in between the greenhouse and the fence. They didn’t grow much last year but I fed them and this year it looks like we’re going to get a reasonable amount of fruit. They’re just beginning to flower so I expect to have ripe fruit starting in July/early August. Hopefully the squirrels won’t bother them.
Bluetits: I’m pleased to see that the Bluetits are back. We had them in the birdbox earlier in the year after we’d had a warm spell but they seemed to go away. However, they’re back. Getting a picture of them coming out is hard work (or too hard for me) so here’s a picture of one of the pair going in. I’ve seen them coming out with something in their mouth so hopefully this means that they’ve already got young. Now all we have to do is hope that the Greater Spotted Woodpecker doesn’t find them. In previous years, the woodpecker has predated the nest but this year the box is in a different place.
Finally the ducks. Now this is a bit strange. Last year we took out our pond. Its under the trees, fills up with leaves and last year killed all the tadpoles and snails. So we decided that the pond was best got rid of. However, the ducks obviously didn’t know that so they’ve turned up and are wandering around where the pond used to be. I just hope the fox doesn’t get them.
That’s it I’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening as it goes.
Harvesting some Swiss Chard for tea last night, I came across these. A neatly laid cluster of insect eggs. After a search around the internet, we concluded they are Green Shieldbug eggs. (Could well be wrong and if you think differently please let us know). Fortunately we were able to get rid of them before cooking (although they would have done us no harm I suspect). Anyway, they’re relatively harmless so I left them hidden away at the bottom of the Swiss Chard plants.
Not so with the other eggs, small white eggs which I suspect are leaf miners which will spoil the Swiss Chard so I went and squashed as many of those as I could find (sorry to the hardworking leaf miners but I’m growing crops for us to eat).
Whilst this calls itself a salad, its really roasted vegetables with couscous. Its simple to make and the Halloumi cheese adds flavour and texture.
Being wheat intolerant, we used a gluten-free couscous and the quantity of couscous should be whatever the couscous reckons is the right quantity for the number of people you are cooking for.
As ever, the ingredients in italics are from our garden.
Ingredients (for two)
80g Gluten Free Couscous
125 ml vegetable stock
200g (1/2 tin) chickpeas
1 red pepper
150g cherry tomatoes
125g Halloumi cheese
juice of 1 lime
2tbsp finely chopped mint
1/2 tsp sugar
Couscous & Halloumi Cheese Salad
Heat your oven to about 200C
Slice up the courgettes and pepper, halve the tomatoes and put everything on a roasting tin and spray with vegetable or olive oil and put them in the oven, roasting them until they are well cooked
Slice the Halloumi into 1/2 cm slices and put it on the roasting tin with a bit more oil in the oven alongside the vegetables
Make the couscous according to the instructions on the packet and then mix in the chickpeas. (We made the couscous in a pan so that we could keep it warm whilst everything else cooked. We also added a nob of butter and some freshly ground pepper to add flavour).
Juice the lime. Make a dressing with the lime juice, 2-3 times as much extra virgin olive oil as lime juice, mint and sugar.
Put the couscous & chickpeas on a plate, pile the vegetables & Halloumi cheese on top, drizzle with the dressing.
There you are. It takes about 25 minutes altogether.
You can add other vegetables (we've done it with French Beans & Carrots ut anything that will oven roast sensibly would do).
As ever at this time of year, the Blue Tits are working their way around the garden looking in and inhabiting the bird boxes. We usually get a brood hatched but over the last couple of years, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have found the nest and reached in taking the nestlings before they’re able to fledge. I don’t know whether to feel good or bad about this. It would be nice to have a family of Blue Tits but, Woodpeckers need to feed their family as well.
Follow the links and there are descriptions of them (where I've grown them before) and the various pages will get updated as the year progresses.
As ever, my plan is to grow those that I know I like, try others and refresh the seed store. The last is the most difficult thing to do, there's little point in growing a cultivar which I've grown before and didn't like but seeds have a finite lifetime so if I don't grow them, I won't be able to grow them again in the future (and I've only got limited space altogether). Anyway, that adds to the fun.
To make the filling, slice the sweetcorn, mushrooms, onions, cabbage and carrots through the fine slicer on your food processor;
Heat 2 tbsps of oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the chopped vegetables with the soy sauce a 1.5 tsp sugar for about five minutes, then tip them onto a plate to keep warm;
Whilst stir frying, beat together the eggs, fish sauce remaining sugar and pepper;
Heat half the remaining oil in the pan and pour in half the beaten egg mixture. Swirl it around to make a thin coating in the frying pan. When cooked put half the vegetable mixture onto one side of the omelette and flip the other half over the top. Slide the omelette onto a plate and repeat with the rest of the eggs & vegetable mix.
You might have more vegetable mix than will comfortably fit onto the omelette but don't worry, just spoon it on top of the omelette.
We serve it with a salad and bread.
There you are, it takes about 20 minutes altogether.