Saturday, 27 December 2014

Very Berry

This has been a bumper year for holly berries.  Our front garden has a holly hedge and it is really colourfull:
The clusters are really packed

and that goes for the whole length:

Others have commented on ivy (Sue) but it's the holly that has been amazing with us.  Now some people say that lots of berries portends a cold winter. We shall see.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Back to the Straight and Narrow

We are going to be eating our own parsnips for Christmas dinner tomorrow!

Not really surprising if it hadn't been for last year...

...when I had ambitions to grow longer parsnips and the whole thing ended in disappointment.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Kabocha - Crunch Time

It's a few weeks since harvesting 3 Kabocha fruit. This is the first year I have grown this.
These winter squash are very popular in Japan, so much so that they are called Japanese Squash in other countries.

I was relieved to see the flesh was firm and nice and orange...

After scooping out the centre ...

there were plenty of seeds to save for next year.

I sliced and diced one half before freezing. One quarter is in the fridge and the remaining quarter was sliced and roasted for half an hour to go with a roast chicken tonight.  It was really sweet and wonderful. I would say it outdoes butternut squash and would make great soup too.  So there'll be no problem using the other two!

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Once it gets to this time of year it's time to dig up a few horseradish roots and prepare them for winter storage in the refrigerator. Here's the starting point:

and here's the end result:

In between you neet to scrub, trim and peel the roots and then blitz them in a blender or food processor.  Tip the resulting granules into a jar, add a teaspoon of salt and then cover with vinegar.  Keeps it the fridge for months.

When blitzing the root make sure you don't get overcome by the pungent fumes.  They are guaranteed to produce tears. The essential oils are release through the grinding action (maceration). Don't be tempted to take a sniff. You have been warned!!!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cabello d'angello

Here's the "Angels's Hair" jam .  It's really rather good.

You can have it on toast, but if you are making some croissant dough then it makes a great filling!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Adapting a Tradition

There's something a bit different about our Jack o'lantern this year.  It's not a 'neep. It's not a pumpkin...

You've spotted it.  It's a Sharks Fin Melon.  Very effective I would say.

By the way the skin really is very tough. This is the first time I have seen the mature black seeds. Now to get to grips with cooking the flesh...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Black Gold Red Wonder

It's that time of the year again.  The sunflower seeds are ripening

Black and Gold

...and last winter's compost has rotted down ready to be added to the soil. 

Black Gold

I've finally harvested the Canadian Wonder beans:

These dried on the stalk this year (except for a week in a string bag in the kitchen just to be sure).  They are a great crop requiring little attention, and store for ages.  They really are better than shop bought dried beans or tinned ones.  Take my word for it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Edinburgh Allotment Rents II

We made the local rag today:

Newspaper Article

That's me top left brandishing a turnip!

If you feel inclined to sign the on line petition please do so:


Last time I was in the paper in 2012 it was to protest about an agreement between the Council and FEDAGA for rent rises from £30 to £100.   Now that the Council has pushed on for rent rises to £300 FEDAGA have swung around to my point of view. Small comfort.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Edinburgh Allotment Rents - Doing the Maths

 By law City of Edinburgh Council is allowed to set allotment rents at a "fair rent for the purpose" Allotments (Scotland) Act 1950

So how does the current rate of £100 per annum per allotment compare with the Scottish average for agricultural land?

The following link is to the Scottish Government. As they say: "The figures released today were produced by independent statistical staff, free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics."

Scottish Government Statistics

It states that the average rent for agricultural land was £38 per hectare in 2013.

60 standard Edinburgh allotments (of 60ft by 30ft each)  make up one hectare (107,639 square feet).

So the Council is charging Edinburgh Allotment holders at a rate of £6,000 per hectare.  That's a lot more than £38

The proposal to triple the rent will make it even more unreasonable!

Monday, 13 October 2014


Rather outshone by the Shark's Fin Melon, I have managed to grow three Kabocha fruit. I started with 6 seeds of which three germinated and one fell victim to damping off. So I value the fruit from the remaining two.  Also these are more of a known quantity than the Shark's Fin.  We have bought and cooked these before.  They are very popular in the north of Japan where they are an essential element in soup curry.

I think they are rather photogenic, but I am biased!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Twisting My Melons

It's harvest time and pride of place this year has to go to the Shark's Fin Melons (Fig Leaf Gourd).
6 of the best
Each fruit weighs about 7 Kg so I can only harvest two at a time because  that is my carrying capacity!  From 3 plants I have a dozen fruit at the allotment.  The two plants I had over I planted out at home - I just can't bring myself to "waste" healthy plants.  The ones at home were much later (perhaps because I removed the male flowers - see my earlier post) and the fruit  are probably 4-5 Kg each.  A bit more manageable.

A nice pair grown at home
Now the task is to decide how to use them.  So far I've only made the Mexican drink, Chilacayote.  Now I will have to try (mock) Shark's Fin Soup from the Far East and Angel Hair Jam from the Iberian Peninsular.  And the good news is that, while whole, these babies keep for two years or more. In the meantime I'll keep you posted.

p.s.  Yes, I have been offering fruit to all and sundry, although they have to be delivered in person.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Should I Laugh or Cry?

Anyone who remembers my previous Mal's Allotment blog  will know about the battle I waged against Edinburgh Council and our Edinburgh allotment association FEDAGA.  What at first sight was a council attack on allotment holders turned out to be a plan hatched by the allotment association itself.  The committeee representing over 1000 Edinburgh allotmenteers argued that if they volunteered rent increases on behalf of the members then City of Edinburgh Council would be "shamed" into providing more allotments. So they pushed for rents to be raised from £30 a decade ago to £100  this year, claiming (correctly) that this removed any subsidy by the Council.  Even the 50% concession given to those on benefit or of pensionable age is now covered by rents paid by those paying the full whack. Rent inflation has been in excess of  10% every year for a decade.

So how many more plots have we got?  None.

By contrast Glasgow who had the same rent but have tracked the RPI now charges £34.50 per annum for a full plot. And guess what, they got Commonwealth Games funding for hundreds of new plots!!

To add injury to insult, Edinburgh Council has cottoned on to the supplicant Allotment Association and has now suggested raising rents from £100 to £300 per year!  They just want the money!

Rather late FEDAGA has cottoned on to the error of it's ways and is now appealing to the membership to support it in campaigning for a rent freeze!!!!

Should I laugh or cry?


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Going For Gold

Did you know that one corn cob, on it's own,  provides the daily protein requirement of an adult. We feasted today on our own corn for Sunday lunch

I have read that you have to eat these as fresh as possible as the sugar soon turns to starch after picking. Personally I think this claim  over-egged. Once these myths are released into the ether we all catch the gullibility virus. These cobs were picked this morning one hour before eating.

The yield is not good - one cob per plant. But how can you resist the architecture... and the boast: I'm growing sweetcorn in Scotland !?!?!

By the way they were really really sweet.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

My Currant Obsession

It's raining today, after a long dry September. One result of the extended Summer has been that outdoor tomatoes have pretty much ripened on the vine. Last week I harvested these Goldrush Currant Tomatoes grown from seed: 

Something else I harvested was this Shark's Fin Melon:

It weighed in at 7kg or one stone in old money.

Much much smaller but still gratifying was this mini cucumber, one of a half dozen grown in a grow bag outdoors.

To see these exotics do so well outdoor in Scotland makes me realise how lucky we have been this year.  There were two cold weeks in August but September just went on and on. The nights have started getting cold, but the cold driving westerly winds we normally get in September have yet to arrive. The runner beans are still going fitfully as a result. The French beans are more confused having stopped they are now producing new flowers and curly fruit!  Very coquettish.

Rain permitting I'll be harvesting the melons, carrots, and the rest of the potatoes this weekend. I regret not harvesting the drying beans (Canadian Wonder) before the onset of rain. C'est la vie!

Sunday, 21 September 2014


The cabbages are coming into their own

Believe it or not the cabbage on the right is a "white" cabbage whereas the one on the left is  the heart of green cabbage "Wheeler's Imperial"

The old onion patch was sown with green manure just a month ago and now looks like this:
and here's the proof:

This reminds me of the green water we saw last week in Bath's ancient baths:

While we were away the courgettes turned into marrows:

It must be something in the water!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

When You're Smiling...

The weather has turned and we are getting a last bite at summer. After going into shock in August some plants  are getting a welcome reprieve or a chance to ripen on the vine. 


Sungold has been a a favourite as it even succeeds in Scotland and is ultrasweet.

Sadly we have experienced some "grinning"  for a second year. The books suggest that such skin splitting is due to temperature variations.  And while recent days have been sunny night temperatures have been low.

The only other variety I have grown this year was sold as San Marzano -  I've recently concluded that I was sold a pup. These are not plum tomatoes by any stretch of the imagination. They're not bad, some are ripening now, as you can see, so soon we will see what sort of sauce they make. Some of them have split too.

Others plants benefiting from the respite

Sunflower "Little Dorrit"

Fig Leaf Melon
The warm spell has come too late for the cucumbers...

..but it is tailor made for Autumn Raspberry Joan J.

 Here's some other random pictures.

Our local mob of tree sparrows got a nasty shock the other day when this visitor turned up

 I've had some queries recently about my brick beds. Well they're still going. Here's the late sown salads.

Another subject that I haven't mentioned in a while is baking. Here's a Boston Cake - 7 Cinnamon Buns baked together. A surefire winner.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Beanage - Vivre le Difference?

I'm growing beans in Scotland.  Here's the current state of play: Dwarf Beans...

...and here's how they looked in June:

Early June

This picture shows my climbing beans (with the dwarf beans in the foreground)

and here's another angle. One end is not doing as well as the other. That's the French bean end which is so sparse. The healthy looking end is our stalwart runner beans Painted Lady.  These can be traced back to 1633 when they were imported from the Americas. The flowers are both red and white which purportedly give it the British name "York and Lancaster", being the opposing houses in the War of the Roses.  The only problem with this nomenclature is that the War of the Roses ended in  1488,  one hundred and forty five years earlier.  All the same they are the most resilient, reliable beans you can grow.   By contrast climbing French beans Blue Lake  and Cobra have not reacted well to the Caledonian climate.  Growth has been 'delicate' and pretty well static during the recent cold spell.  There have been some beans but not many, and a lot less than the runners. Their growing habit is also very erratic, wandering here and there In future I would make a point of tying each plant to its pole as they do wander. Having said that I'm not likely to repeat the experiment. On the plus side the beans we have had have been very tasty!

Another experiment has been dwarf French bean Mascotte.  These are very fine/thin, grow quickly and in abundance.  They all crop at once.  Successional sowing would be a good idea. And yes, with that proviso, I would grow these again.

Next to them is another stalwart: drying bean Canadian Wonder: I've arranges string to provide a bit more support as despite the close spacing (see below) some plants were flopping over. I hope that will do the trick.
Canadian Wonder now

Canadian Wonder in June

All in all it has been an interesting bean year.  The stalwarts have done better than the experiments.