Monday, 28 September 2009

Harvest Roundup

This year I have been weighing and recording every time I picked anything off the allotment with a view to doing a roundup together with a price list showing how much the same quantity would have cost me from a supermarket.

I've decided to post the results now because, although I still have some Desiree spuds, carrots, beetroot and all the brassicas still in the ground, I can't be arsed to keep writing it all down (plus I keep forgetting to do it), so it seems that now is as good a time as any.

I can't seem to work out how to add a table or spreadsheet to this - at least, not easily, I think I have to get involved with coding which is a huge pain, so I'll just have to do a list. There are some things I've grown but haven't bothered weighing, or I've not finished harvesting them yet, so they won't appear - things like most of the brassicas and the Desiree Maincrop potatoes. Other things, like Pattypan Squash and Crystal Lemon Cucumbers you can't buy in the shops so I couldn't get a comparable retail price for them. Also some things are sold on a price-per-item basis (i.e., organic cucumbers at £1 each) which doesn't work for me as I've just weighed them in bulk rather than as individual items. So I've mainly gone for the bog-standard veggies that you can get from a shop here.

I've taken today's prices from Sainsbury's Organic range where possible (as I grow as organically as I can) or, if there isn't an organic option, their 'Taste the Difference' range. And, remember, this is the total amount picked over several months:

Maris Peer Potatoes - 4.141kg x £0.86/kg = £3.56

Climbing French Beans - 11.56kg x £5.96/kg = £68.91 (!)

Courgettes - 6.66kg x £1.84/kg = £12.26

Strawberries - 2.77kg x £9.97/kg= £27.69

Blueberries - 114g x £9.95/kg= £1.13

Mange Tout - 646g x £7.50/kg = £4.84

Carrots - 1.016kg (so far) x £1.28/kg = £1.30 [still harvesting]

Kale - 329g (so far) x £4.95/kg = £1.62 [still harvesting]

Onions - 4.32kg (at least) x £1/kg = £4.32

Broccoli - 169g x £3.50/kg = £0.59

This all totals £132.48, a not insignificant sum. And this list doesn't include sweetcorn, dwarf yellow beans, pattypan squash, cucumbers, gherkins, garlic, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, brussel sprouts or Desiree potatoes, so I think I can confidently say that, if they were all included, I'd probably be looking at something nearer £200!

Some of the figures are laughably low - in the case of the blueberries, the plants had only been in the ground for a few months so this was their first season. I'm expecting them to do better next year. But broccoli was disappointing - I'm not sure I'll bother again next year. Last year I grew purple sprouting which was okay but nothing to write home about and not especially prolific, so this year I grew Calabrese, which is what is labelled as broccoli in the shops. Mine matured early, bolted and flowered all before I could get to it. But just compare it with the Cobra Climbing French Beans!

This has definitely been a worthwhile experiment and for those of you reading this who grow your own, I would recommend you have a go yourself next year and see how much it would have cost you to buy in the shops what you can grow yourself.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Pictures, as promised, again

So before the sad pictures of the allotment, I thought I'd show you the fruits of my labours:

Onions in a net, hopefully they'll last several months. I still have about another 100 drying in the shed at the allotment but they are really quite weeny, not much bigger than pickled onion size but, hey, they're better than nothing.

These are the jars of sweet pickled beetroot, sweet pickled dill pickles and jam.

Blackberry Vodka

I am, though, really looking forward to sampling some of these but, unfortunately, not for at least another year. Blackberry vodka is pathetically easy to make but you have to remember to shake the bottles once a week to ensure something-or-other (that the sugar's dissolved properly or summink...) and after three months you have to filter out the blackberries. Apparently they develop a woody taste if you leave them in whereas raspberries can be left in. Whatever. The worst part is that you then have to leave it for a further year to mature! What torture!

So, then, now let's head off to the allotment - I'll warn you, it's not a pretty sight. Everything's now gone over and is looking very shabby indeed.

Cucumber/Gherkin Wigwam

This is one of my three cucumber/gherkin wigwams. I am now totally cucumber/gherkinned out, we've eaten as much as we want and I've preserved all that I'm going to so these are just going to go into the compost bin. I've had absolutely no problem growing them outside so will continue to do so.

Crystal Lemon Cucumber

This year I tried growing Crystal Lemon cucumbers. They were difficult to germinate and I only managed to get about 3 plants after planting many more seeds. So far the three plants have only produced one round yellow cucumber (see above). It's now in my fridge waiting to be consumed. Whether I grow any next year will depend on what it tastes like, but I'll keep you posted on that.

Butternut Squash

These are my two sole Butternut Squashes. I bought two plants at Chiddingfold Festival earlier this year (because I couldn't germinate any of the seeds I bought) and they've grown reasonably well, put out quite a lot of flowers but only two of them developed any further. No matter, it was an experiment - two squashes is enough for us this time round.

Patty Pan Squash

The White Scalloped Summer Squash (a.k.a. Patty Pan Squash) have been really quite successful. We've had about half a dozen from the three plants that I grew from seed. They can grow as large as a dinner plate if you leave them, but this one is about 5 inches/13 cms across so we'll eat it quite soon, stuffed with fried bacon, onions and parmesan, served with baked beans - yummy! There are two more little ones still developing:

There are plenty more flowers still there so I think I'll leave the plants there to keep producing for as long as they want.

The courgettes have, of course, been prolific and we've had plenty of them of various sizes during the summer. There are a couple that I'm leaving to grow into marrows as I'm going to have a go at making Marrow Rum as it sounds quite interesting. Might be disgusting though, but let's experiment, shall we?!?

A very large courgette/small marrow

The Sweetcorn is now looking very sad indeed and I really should do a proper harvest. I didn't grow quite as many plants this year as last as last year I was getting 2 good-sized cobs per plant and we didn't eat them all. Of course, typically enough, this year I grew less but I'm only getting 1 decent cob per plant! Oh well, that's the mystery of Mother Nature....

Sad looking Sweetcorn plants

I'm still digging up Desiree maincrop potatoes. The ones I dug earlier were quite small and pretty badly hit by scab which looks nasty but doesn't affect the eating quality once you've peeled them. The ones I'm harvesting now aren't so badly scabbed and are really big, so I'm quite thrilled. I've still got half a row left in the ground, storing there until I'm ready to use them.

Desiree spuds - these came from just one plant

There are still carrots, beetroot, chard and parsnips in the ground, so there's plenty of stuff still about.

This year I also planted a nectar bar of flowers for the bees in front of the shed. There are lavender, sedum, foxgloves, geranium, asters and cosmos.

But down the side of the shed there grew a self-seeded Thistle plant which I decided to leave for the benefit of the bees:

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Whoops, another month has just slipped through my fingers - admittedly there's been quite a lot going on in my non-allotment life (decorating, illness, The Husband heading off to Rome on business - see here) but mostly bad weather has prevented me from doing much down at the allotment. But that's okay, most of the harvesting has been done and ... tell you what, I'll go take pictures this week and do a proper posting but here's what's been happening with the veggies at home.

The last couple of years I've lost all my tomatoes to blight (as has everyone else) so this year I thought I'd have a go at growing some from seeds taken from a favourite shop-bought tomato variety (Vittoria from the Taste The Difference range at Sainsbury's) in the plastic-house, the idea being that I can at least try and give them some protection from the airborne spores.

And it seems to have worked! I've not eaten any of them yet (is this okay? Is it not a bit late?) but I do have several vines that are now very slowly going red in the sun (once I'd stripped off most of the foliage last week so the rays could hit the fruits and also pulled back the plastic overcoat-thingy that covers the frame).

I'm undecided whether or not to pursue this approach next year - depends on what the tomatoes taste like, I 'spose.

I have two plastic-houses next to each other. The tomatoes are in the left hand one, and the right hand one has my chillies and sweet peppers, which are also coming along very nicely indeed.



Oh, I've also been preserving and bottling like fury and meant to take a picture of my stack of jars in the garage as it's quite impressive (well, for me it is!). There's jars of sweet pickled beetroot; sweet pickled gherkins/cucumbers; Blackberry & Apple Jam; Blackberry, Apple & Vanilla Jam; and four bottles of Blackberry Vodka. The freezer also now has portions of French Climbing Beans, some Sweetcorn still on the cob, bags of ready-made Ratatouille that can be turned into other stuff such as veggie lasagne, spag bol, soup, veg stew, and a large bag of Borscht which was absolutely delicious and made 3 tennis ball sized beetroots, 3 medium sized spuds, a large onion, some crushed garlic, juice of 1 lemon, sugar to taste and 3 pints of water go an extraordinarily long way (it's basically sweet 'n' sour beetroot soup - hence the sugar - and very, very yumksi).

There's potatoes still in the ground and I've got all the winter brassicas to deal with yet, so this year's harvest is far from over (not to forget my autumn fruiting raspberries and loganberries) but I'm pleased to say I've got my act together on the storage and preserving front much more this year than last. Next year we're going to look into home brewing!