These are competitive times my friends. The autumn harvest is arriving in our kitchen thick and fast, and Soph’s cooking skills are putting me to shame. Continue reading “Beetroot-tastic!”
On a cold, wet, gloomy weekend morning, when most people are cosying up in front of the fire with a cuppa, admiring their Christmas tree and enjoying the comforts of home, where am I? On a desolate plot of land, soaked to the bone, trekking barrows of well rotted horse manure to and fro. But you won’t hear me complaining, a week on the London treadmill and I’m screaming for this, it’s my therapy. In recent weeks, our local stables have been delivering free manure to the allotment, and like bees around a honeypot, the allotment old boys have been there on cue, whisking it away before anyone else can get a look-in. It’s like some secret society, they’re in on it and they’re not sharing delivery times with anyone. But that’s OK, because I’ve noticed something. It seems everyone wants the freshly-delivered manure and are ignoring the blackening heap at the back. It’s like black gold waiting to be discovered. So, I’ve been biding my time for a good few months as this heap has been rotting down, untouched, unwanted.. until now.
I don’t know why people are taken with the sparkle and glamour of fresh manure, but to me, it’s asking for trouble. It’s only when it has been well rotted down do we get the results. Fresh manure can bring a host of problems from burning tender shoots to hosting parasites and other unwanted pests. The one thing I’ve learnt as a gardener is, take your time – gardening can’t be rushed, and the best results are always worth a wait.
And so, planting my flag firmly in this mountain of blackened sludge, I claimed it as the property of Agents of Field. Then quickly I set about whisking it onto my beds before the allotment freemasons got a whiff of it.
This year I’ve opted for green manure on a lot of my beds, but I’ve left a couple purposely for horse manure. Why? Call it an experiment; I want to see if there’s any difference in my crops next year when using these two manure types. I’m a gardener, I always want to learn more, so why not?
Other jobs this weekend included lifting the last of my beetroot. We’ve had great success with our three varieties this year, Boltardy, Golden Globe and Chioggia. From roasting to pickling to Agent Soph’s delicious home-made borscht, beetroot in our household is a must, so I decided this remaining crop would spend their final days swimming in pickle until a cold meat buffet calls upon their services.
Finally, and I know I keep going on about it, but my Christmas Day goal this year is to have all the veg on the big day grown from our allotment. So imagine my excitement when I got to the plot this weekend to find tiny purple-headed ‘Rudolph’ broccoli blowing in the breeze, proudly displaying their vibrant colour!
‘Soph?.. Soph!.. Soopphh?’.. Silence. It would appear Soph’s out, which means, the kitchen’s mine! MUHAHAHA!
Unfortunately, Agent Soph had to work at the weekend, so I took the opportunity to down the garden tools and pick up the kitchen utensils. With my four varieties of beetroot, Boltardy, Pablo, Golden Globe and Chioggia, bursting out of their beds I thought I’d lift some of the Chioggia variety and see how they taste pickled.
Although Soph rules the kitchen with an iron spatula, conjuring up majestic meals to bathe your tastebuds in an unrestrained orgy of taste and satisfaction (brownie points for me, I think), when it comes to pickling, that’s where I come in. In the last few years I’ve tinkered, sprinkled and constantly refined my recipe in order to obtain the ultimate pickling liquor. But it wasn’t until last year that my dabbling into the vinegar dark arts finally paid off. With the liquor cracked and the recipe safely locked away in the Agents of Field vault (not even Soph knows my secret), this year, it’s all about finding the perfect beetroot.
I’ve always used the faithful and tasty Boltardy, but now with a larger allotment I’m trying different varieties of crops and breaking away from the usual suspects. So first up, the Chioggia Beetroot. Unlike the brooding Boltardy, this camp little fella is about colour. With orange-pink skins and a red and white ringed interior, this root wants to be seen. So how could he not look good in a pickling jar?
A couple of hours in the kitchen and my first batch of the year were cooling in their sterilised jars. Although the ring effect may have gone, I still think they look pretty good. How they’ll taste, only time will tell. Now to tidy the kitchen before Soph gets home. ‘Shhh! You haven’t seen me, right?’