Turning up the heat

This year was year two of the chilli trial.  Last year I sowed five varieties and had two complete failures. The so-called hot variety I grew also turned out to be cool enough to munch off the plant – and I don’t like very hot chillies  – goodness knows why I’m growing them.

Then (I know I mentioned this in an earlier posting) I read in James Wong’s book that chillies get hotter if they’re a bit stressed and so this year I haven’t mollycoddled them at all. This has certainly worked well in the Scoville heat rating department.  Last year’s munchers have become the new chancers, and for the first time two even hotter chillies have set fruit including one that clocks in at 1,000,000 Scovile Units.  Needless to say I shan’t be trying that one without a medical team on hand.

We were discussing what to do with them this year and we agreed this morning that some of the hotter ones can be dried and kept for the winter.  We made a great chilli sauce last year and we can do that again. Then in the preserving department we started the first lot of gherkin half sours on their fermentation as well as sowing the last 2 varieties of French beans and some autumn carrots. The blue varieties of french bean and peas are so much easier to spot amongst the vines.  I also harvested the first of the heritage beetroot varieties – some Rouge Crapaudine and cooked them this evening, but as soon as I took them out I realized I’d cooked them too long – so that’s a lesson for the next batch.  Beetroots vary enormously in the amount of cooking they need – some are as tough as old boots and others – especially the very sweet ones – just need a quick wave in the steam. The flavour, however was very good – very sweet but full of that earthy flavour that good beetroot has.

We set two plants of Tromba d’Albegna, (which can’t make up its mind whether it’s a courgette or a squash) behind the greenhouse and they really like it there.  So much so that I discovered today that one of them had penetrated the greenhouse via the ventilator and lifted two of the louvre panes right out of their housings.

That’s two posts today – so thanks for joining us at the Potwell Inn, and if you like it here please tell your friends, it’s good to share.

First pickings of 2019!

Of course it’s cheating because these are the winter pickings of last season’s sowings, but it was nice to be able to take these off on the first day of the new year.  We took the last of the beetroot partly because I was reconfiguring the patch it was growing in as a raised bed this morning, but also because the weather forecast is predicting some severe weather with temperatures some way below freezing. There’s even some suggestion that this winter might exceed last winter in severity, so we dug these and they’re cooked already.

The other green vegetable aside from the savoys which are doing well this year is the cima di rapa – turnip tops with a college education. We read about them in the late summer and sowed a few just to see what they were like.  The leaves, eaten raw,  are quite mild with just a hint of horseradish like heat.  They’re most often used in a pasta dish and are apparently much liked in Italy but sadly Anna del Conte, one of my favourite writers says she doesn’t like them at all.  Still, we mustn’t be slaves to fashion. It’s rermarkable that they’ve grown steadily through the diminishing days and are just coming into flower. Once they’ve done that they don’t last long before breaking into flower.

The other main job of the day was covering any growing crops with fleece to stop them from checking when the temperature goes down to -3 or -4C.

Where the allotment and the kitchen join together

 

Here’s an idea stolen shamelessly from the Harvest Meal at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.  My only spin is to add a slice of goats cheese. Oatmeal biscuit with a slice of goat’s cheese and on that some ordinary beetroot mashed with black pepper and salt and a teaspoon of horseradish sauce. Then some diced super sweet beetroot on top. It looks even better if you use yellow beets, but we used what we’ve grown.