Tonight’s tasks

Tonight is exactly the sort of night you just don’t want to finish. It is a completely still, sunny night with mist gently rolling in to slowly bring this glorious day to an end. After an hour in the garden (I’m writing this at 9.25pm) the sun is still out but hidden behind a curtain of mist and looking out of the window everything looks golden sort of milky…

Anyway, seated comfortably at the kithen table, listening to Enigma and sipping a refreshing cup of Earl Grey with lemon I’m just going to write briefly about tonight’s tasks in the garden. Before I start let me say that this year I decided to be orgaised and keep on top of weeding by spending a little time in the garden every day, even if the weather isn’t good. This should make everything much easier and I shouldn’t be faced with weeding through a jungle every so often which can be a very daunting task.

So the start to this resolution tonight’s tasks were weeding around the raspberry canes, red and black currant bushes and strawberries, putting some fruit fertiliser down and mulching around the bushes with bark and straw.

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Raspberry canes mulched with straw – this should help to supress the weeds and keep moisture in.

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Black currant berries to be…

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These gooseberries turn dark red when they are ripe and taste like honey. Can’t wait for them and just love the feeling when they burst in your mouth…

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After pruning the black and red currant, I put some organic fruit fertiliser down and mulched around the bushes with bark. The bushes look really lovely and happy now.

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Strawberries with fresh bed of straw.

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Supervised by the neighbour in the park next door… we even use grass clippings to mulch around tatties which saves having to earth them up and keeps those pesky weeds out.

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The perfect night for weeding and actually enjoying the garden.

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Beautiful chives flowers about to open – they lovely in the house too, instead of expensive cut flowers.

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In the polytunnel – hoping for some beetroots this year as last year the crop wasn’t great…

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Delicious, sweet-tasting peas time soon!

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And after all this enjoyment, fresh air and sunshine it is time to turn in, make a cup of tea and relax.

 

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Polytunnel

I love our polytunnel. In fact it is called a solar tunnel as it is more sturdy than standard polytunnels and the plastic cover is double-layered with mesh reinforcement which is perfect for Shetland conditions. The benefit of having a solar tunnel is that it allowed us to extend the growing season by several months and if you are organised and plan well you could have a supply of greens throughout the winter. m_DSC_1698

Very pleased with the end of April pickings – delicious flat leaf parsley and juicy radishes.

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I think strawberries from the polytunnel don’t taste as nice as those grown outside but they ripen much earlier.

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End of May – peas are looking good and so is garlic. Unfortunately not much success with carrots or beetroots yet as something seems to be eating the young seedlings and I still haven’t found out what it is… Will keep trying though!

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Can’t get enough of these delicious salad leaves. A little tip – instead of growing salad from seed, which can be time consuming and not always successful, I buy ‘growing salad’ from Coop which costs approximately £1.00 and you get a huge number of young plants. After carefully separating them I plant them in a tray or straigh in the ground and after a week or two all you need to do is cut the leaves and wait for more to grow – simples!

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Someting for the eyes, the nose and the bees too… and delicious with lamb – rosemary – one of my favourite herbs. In fact I’m addicted on rosemary essential oil and I use it on my skin or to perfume the house. Just add a couple of drops in a bucket of water to wash the floors and you’ll be amazed with the result.

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Can’t wait for some delicious sweet peas! In fact I don’t think I’ll get a chance to enjoy many as my son Jan loves them and pretty much devours the lot.

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And lastly – some of today’s pickings – sage. The plan is to dry the leaves and use them in my own herbal tea blend – but more about that another time.

 

So if you have a small space in your garden I’d thoroughly recommend getting yourself a solar tunnel or even the Polycrub – the Shetland version of a polytunnel developped by Nortenergy Ltd

Rhubarb, ginger and orange jam

Last week Marian Armitage, who is currently writing a Shetland cook book, came to the office to speak about her ideas for A Taste of Shetland blog since she is one of the contributors. Marian is a Shetland but funnily I met her in London last May, at A Shetland Night in London. And since then we’ve kept in touch.

One of Marian’s posts on A Taste of Shetland was about making the best of the glut of rhubarb at this time of year and making Rhubarb, Ginger and Orange Jam which sounded delicious. The great thing was that Marian brought a jar of her jam with her so I had a chance to taste it. Orange peel makes a lovely addition to the preserve and since there is still plenty rhubarb in the garden and I like the idea of ‘free’ food I decided to make my own batch.

Unfortunately I didn’t have stem ginger which the recipe calls for so I decided to use fresh ginger. I think I should have cooked the jam for longer than just 20 minutes as it turned out quite runny and hasn’t set properly but it tastes delicious and it will be perfect for using in puddings or eating with youghurt. Will keep trying though as practice makes perfect…

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Makes 10 Jars

Ingredients:

  • 2kg rhubarb, 1cm chunks

  • 2kg granulated sugar

  • inch long piece of root ginger, peeled and  julienned

  • zest of one orange, thin strips

  • vanilla powder (optional)

Method:

  1. Tip the rhubarb pieces into a large bowl, along with the sugar, ginger and vanilla powder.

  2. Leaving the mixture sit for 2 hours, turning with a spoon every 30 minutes.

  3. Once most of the sugar has dissolved, tip the contents of the mixing bowl into a large sauce pan and bring to a brisk boil.

  4. Boil the orange peel in a small amount of water for 20 minutes, strain and add to the rhubarb mixture.
  5. Turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down.

  6. Transfer the jam into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. Store in a cool dark place, once open in the fridge.

 

Pickled Rhubarb

My rhubarb plant.

My rhubarb plant.

I love experimenting with rhubarb as it is very versatile. When I was going through some cook books whilst enjoying a cup of tea and some sunshine I came across an interesting pickled rhubarb recipe in one of my favourite books about food preserving called ‘Salt Sugar Smoke’ by Diana Henry. The book is absolutely stunning and really inspiring so I decided to try the recipe out.

Researching recipes at the back step and soaking up some sunrays.

Researching recipes at the back step and soaking up some sunrays.

Here’s the recipe (which I slighly adjusted):

4 stalks of rhubarb (preferably forced as the stalks are more tender and really pink), 600 ml white wine vinegar (I used red as that was all I had), 1,100g granulated sugar, 1 small cinnamon stick, 4 whole cloves (since I really like cloves I used 10).

1. Heat the vinegar, sugar and spices in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves.

2. Cut rhubarb into pieces and poach briefly (approximately 2 minutes but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t become too soft which can happen very quickly).

3. Spoon the rhubarb into sterilised jars and cover. Wait until the vinegar sirup cools down and pour it in the jars. Seal and store in a cool dark place.

DSC_1973Pickled rhubarb is apparently delicious with mackerel, pâté or pork. I’ll leave it to mature for a week or so before trying it out. Perhaps with grilled goats cheese and toasted sourdough bread… yummy!