26 October 2010

An obsession...?

So what do you do the day after finding out what your apples are? Go and pick some apples of course!

So accompanied by my crack apple picking team (aka the kids) we set off for the plot, via the local fruit and veg shop to pick up some more plastic trays. I grabbed five trays, thinking I'd stock up on some whilst there were some there. We get to the plot and I ask the team how many should we take to fill up - "all of them of course!"

Unfortunately it was another cold day and it wasn't long before we were regretting leaving the gloves at home.

"Dad, I'm cold"

The kids worked on a system where the oldest picked them and the youngest put them in the trays for him, which worked quite well until they were both too cold to pick apples.

I'm copying these teeth when we do the pumpkin carving!

Fortunately by this stage we'd picked the 5 trays of apples - about 150 ish apples - so it was time to leave. With plenty of apples still left on the trees.

At home, Mrs D was busy peeling and coring as many apples as she could fit into out largest saucepan for another batch of apples sauce destined for the freezer, from the 'ugly' pile - those that weren't likely to keep. I started giving the 'good' apples a quick wipe and the kids set to work wrapping them in newspaper so they could go into storage.

After they were placed in their various boxes I then took them to the 'store room'. One of the advantages to living in an old terraced house is the old outhouse (aka outside toilet). Having removed the toilet a number of years back now (thanks Dad!) it functions as our general store room which at the moment is over run with apples (over 250 now), couple of sacks of potatoes and a couple of nets of onions.
That bike's not coming out any time soon!
The pumpkins Mum and Dad grew for us are arriving this week too. Despite pointing out the price of the Crown Prince in Waitrose there are few takers so I said we'd have what ever is left. I may regret this...

Blog changes
Some of you may have noticed a few changes with the layout to the blog. I've just been playing with a few things, adding and taking away different things. Hopefully all for the better. Now I just have to go and index all my previous posts... Hard to believe I spend most of my days playing with metadata and indexing isn't it!

23 October 2010

And the answer is....

... Belle de Boskoop! Probably.

For those of you wondering what I'm on about, I took the family to RHS Harlow Carr today for their Taste of Autumn event. On what proved to be the coldest day of the autumn so far (aka bloody freezing!), the kids were amused by the monster trail and seemed not to notice the cold, whilst Mrs D and I found a sheltered spot and drank hot soup.

The monster trail just happened to take us via the apple identification greenhouse being carried out by the Northern Fruit Group. After filling in some paperwork to let them know everything I knew about the apple - it didn't take long to fill in! - the first suggestion was Belle de Boskoop. After various consultations with books and a comparison with the ones on display it was agreed that this was what it probably was. Despite the fact it didn't look much like the one they had on display, mine being far redder.

Northern Fruit Group version
My version of Belle de Boskoop

Still they seemed impressed with my apples and said it would be good to graft some trees from them as mine are very red and appeared to be a good apple, so place your orders now!

After a bit of searching once I got home, apparently they're somewhat sort after and much more common in mainland Europe, having originated in Holland. They also make a very good apple pie - which I will selflessly be making and eating, purely in the interests of research of course - store very well, mellowing around Christmas time to make them edible as an 'eater'. Which is what I was hoping for and well worth looking after those in storage!

The apple display was good, with a wonderful smell and they even had some apples for sale - we declined.

After the kids finished the monster trail we headed for Betty's Tea Shop (the branch at the Gardens), took one look at the queue, bought a couple of cakes to keep the kids happy and headed home, with the heater on to defrost. Sadly there seemed to be far more people in the Tea Shop than the Gardens.

21 October 2010

It's an allotment blog, what were you expecting?

You just can't beat picture of soil!
This is where my strawberries used to be and has now been properly dug over with some leaves, the remains of a bag of manure and the remains of a bag of rockdust added to the soil - as seen above! Now just have to decide what to put here...?

Confused Strawberries

Over at the freshly weeded (honestly!) new strawberry bed - OK I still need to sort the runners out - they're happily flowering away??? So I moved a bit closer to get a photo and was a little surprised to see strawberries!

Can't see them ripening up now though - LOL.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen...

The apple challenge continues - the challenge being to use as many apples as possible in as many different meals as possible. Apples crumble was a big hit - although it would have been better with toffee as well (according to my son's friend) - but sausage and bean casserole (with sneaky bits of apple), not so good. But that was more to do with the sausages to be honest. Slabs of apples sauce are in the freezer - it doesn't take much cooking for them to turn to sauce - but the biggest hit to date (with the kids) has been apple fruit leather.

After a quick cook on the hob, followed by a quick blitz with the blender, it only needed the 20 hours or so in the oven...

I'm thinking maybe the mixture was a bit too liquid when it went in the oven? But it turned out OK in the end and the kids both took some into school to show their respective classes and give some away. The remaining 'sheet' rolls up quite nicely and should store in the fridge for a while yet - certainly longer than it's going to last!

I'm dragging the rest of the family off to the RHS Harlow Carr 'Taste of Autumn' event this weekend - waiting to see which day looks best on the weather forecast first - to reveal all on the apple tree, with luck. Speaking of which, picked another 50 or so the other day, still plenty left... Currently storing the good ones on top of the wardrobe and in the outhouse, may need to find more room soon!

14 October 2010

Apples, apples, apples

Why do I have two plots on two different sites? It's a question I'm often asked and one I wonder about myself at times. But this is the time of year when I remember why: apples.

It's reached mid-October and I was beginning to worry about my apples on plot no. 2 going 'walkabout'. So I thought I'd pick one or two. Or 150 or so. And after giving another 30+ away I'd say I've probably got as many again still to pick.

They're still a bit reluctant to come away from the tree even this late in the year, but when they get home they undergo careful inspection and are separated into the good and ugly - the bad already having being left on the compost heap.

The Good
 The good I'm giving a quick clean and then wrapping them individually in newspaper and storing them in trays.

The bad are hanging around waiting to be used up in whatever recipes we can find - the 'bad' are those with any blemishes on that probably won't keep so well. We're going to be busy this weekend!

The Ugly

So far on the list of recipes are: oatmeal, apple and cinnamon cookies, spiced apple chutney and apple fruit leather. Any further suggestions gratefully received. This is the point where my planned apple press would have come in handy, but alas finances didn't allow for that this year.

Still none the wiser as to what they are but we're off to Harlow Carr on either 23 or 24 October when (hopefully!) all will be revealed.

Farewell to the strawberries

After 4 years, I decided I'd pushed my luck far enough and dug up my original strawberry plants.

Fortunately I'd used some of last years runners to establish a new bed earlier this year, so it wasn't such a painful task. The only problem is I had two rows of two different varieties of strawberries where I knew which was which. Unfortunately I wasn't so careful when I planted up my runners...

Truth be told I got a little distracted with the usual allotment problem: chatting. As a result it wasn't the comprehensive digging job I'd hoped it was going to be, but in my defence the soil was a bit too heavy to be digging anyway.

There's not an awful lot left on the plot now, due to poor planning and planting on my plant but the Brussels are doing well - better than I've ever grown them before. Unfortantely something appears to be eating them though. It can't be pigeons or pheasants this time though due to enough netting over them to cover half the site and it's well pegged down. The only things I can think is mice?

4 October 2010

What's my apple tree - part 2

Glorious day on Saturday, but sadly I was a bit under the weather and didn't want to stray too far from the house. Feeling much better on Sunday, it proceeded to throw it down with rain all day.

Anyhow, moving on... Some people have their dog blogs but me and the mad cat lady of Sheffield seem to prefer cats, so after months of promising the kids some kittens and a tip off from said mad cat lady we're now the proud owners of two bundles of fur. Besides using the vegetable rack as a climbing frame and knocking the squashes on the floor one of them also seemed to take a liking to the apple I picked from my unknown tree, providing a nice background for a close up of the apple as requested:

Gingerbread (the cat) and ???
I picked this a few days ago (the apple!), but I wouldn't say it came from the tree easily - supposedly one of the signs they're ready. A few days later my guinea pig (the wife) and I had a taste:

It's quite juicy but sharp with it. It's not inedible, but whether it's an eater or a cooker the jury is still out. According to my Dad, brown pips are a sign it's ready though. So still none the wise. I'm looking for a local apple day to take them along to to see if anyone else has any ideas???

I also have another problem: there are a lot of apples on each tree, storing them could be a problem. The outhouse is largely full of potatoes and onions and without a serious clear out it's not going to get many apples in it. There's no heating in our bedroom though and space on top of the wardrobe...

Gratuitous cat picture follows:

Florence (front) and Gingerbread (back) lying on top of the shallots
Squash Review
Now Autumn has definitely arrive I think my squashes are over now. They did OK this year. I grew Defender and Goldie for my courgettes. Defender was its usual prolific self, but Goldie was very disappointing really. It produced lots of smaller courgettes - no bad thing - but with thick bitter skin. Don't think I'll be growing them again.

I grew Gemstore for the first time - this looks a bit like a round courgette but has flesh more like a pumpkin, a light yellow/orange colour. The plant has a kind of restrained, sprawling habit and the fruits are a great size to use up in just one meal and are prolific - 26 off two plants! The skins are also quite thick so I'm assuming they'll store well - they're coping quite well with the cats knocking them over as they clamber up the vegetable rack to get to the table.

I only grew Crown Prince for my large pumpkins this year, which is a bit disappointing as I do like the sight of a bright orange pumpkin on the plot. However, all is not lost there as we have several growing down at my Grandads - by all accounts there's a whole lot of different pumpkins down there that are likely to be coming our way as I don't think the rest of the family eat many. I only managed to get three fruits from two plants, and one of them is quite small, but hopefully the taste will make up for that. All three of them feel quite solid though so hopefully a good amount of flesh of them.

If you look carefully, one of the cats is at the top of the picture trying to get in on the action.