Growing Mushrooms Week 10

Blog readers will remember that 10 weeks ago I sowed a box full of rotted manure with mushroom spawn. Everything was done as the packet instructed, and mushrooms were to be expected after 10-12 weeks. After 2 or 3 weeks there were definite signs of white mould underneath the top soil...
Sadly after 10 weeks there is no sign of anything, not a dicky bird. I am thinking perhaps the garage might be a bit cool, but it is right up against the house wall. I think I will find a place indoors and bring the temperature up a bit. Any advice anyone?

Finally, I have been impressed with the lovely green vigour of my Winter salad leaves, spinach and Swiss Chard. Behind my back however, someone has been giving them an extra nitrogen feed... thanks Buddy!

Dividing Rhubarb

This is the time of year when you can divide your rhubarb crowns. It is a good thing to do to your rhubarb anyway about every 5 years or so. The crowns can get a bit overcrowded and lacking in vigour. Just dig up the dormant crowns at this time of year and slice them into pieces of about 4 or 5" across, making sure you have a bud at the top of each. Re-plant these crowns with plenty of well rotted manure. Most people put manure on their rhubarb, I do not.... I prefer custard!

Many thanks to Scarecrow who emailed me last week to let me know that my veggie blog was included in a 'Top of the Blogs' feature in The Grauniad last week. Thanks must also go to my blog readers who inspire me every day. When I started this blog I really didn't think I had much to say!!

Sweet Things

There are a whole range of sweet tasting products which you can use to sweeten your food besides sugar. For centuries people have been tapping the sap of birch trees, yes! birch trees for a sugary water which is boiled down to make birch syrup.
And our old favourite maple syrup. The sap of the maple tree is tapped to bring us this wonderfully woody, sweet nectar. You can also find maple sugar some places, particularly in Canada where the industry is vibrant. I prefer to use a spoonful of maple sugar rather than real sugar if I have the opportunity. The fruit sugar fructose has a longer molecule structure than ordinary sugar which makes it a healthy alternative for people who are watching their glycaemic index - or following a GI diet.

This was a product I bring home from Madeira when I get the chance. It is just plain ordinary sugar cane molasses, or here in England we refer to it as treacle.

We cannot forget our old favourite, honey. I grew up on an allotment and one of my hobbies as a child was beekeeping. In fact, I was the only girl guide in Hanwell to have her beekeepers badge! (I am so proud). Did you know that folklore has it that if you eat honey which was made from bees which live near to you, it can lessen the effects of hay fever? Apparently it innoculates you with a dose of pollen from the nearby flowers. Is that true?

Matron is Back!

Matron is back from her trip to Seattle. Funny people those Americans! they even have drive-thru espresso huts. What a brilliant idea for tired drivers. As you can see from the sign, I took advantage of the 'Special Sticky Bun Latte' 16oz. Doesn't taste remotely like coffee, more like a sickly sweet milkshake.

Buddy was thrilled to see me back! He was trembling all over, and gave my glasses a good clean in the process.
Whilst in the Western part of Washington State, it was my extreme pleasure to make contact with a fellow garden blogger Petunia. We met up and I was able to have a look at her pumpkin patch. Here we are together admiring one of her spectacular pumpkins, Rouge vif d'Etamps. Generously, and in time-honoured gardening tradition - she gave me some seeds to plant in my garden next year. Thank you. By the way, she looks nothing like the picture on her profile!

Going Away

I'm going to the USA tomorrow for a short break. Staying with a good friend in Tacoma, Washington. - You know ? the place with the wobbly bridge? Buddy will be fine with Mum, I have arranged for him to be taken for walkies and I have left him one of my old, smelly Tshirts to sleep with !!

Home grown salad in November

I ate some home grown salad today! I have been ripening the last of my heritage tomatoes 'Jubilee' on a windowsill for a couple of weeks along with my last two greenhouse cucumbers. Blogging is a great way to measure important dates in the gardening year, I ate my first ripe tomato on June 18th this year. That almost makes for a full 6 months of eating tomatoes fresh from the garden! Now it will just be the ghastly, tasteless supermarket tomatoes for the next 6 months.

More about Sugar Beet

I was driving down a country lane in Lincolnshire a couple of days ago, I spotted a huge pile of several tons of sugar beet beside the road and in true Matron fashion I liberated one for scientific reasons..... As a result of some wonderful comments in a previous post in my quest to find out all about sugar beet, a strange coincidence occured this morning. Here you can see the texture of the inside is very similar to beetroot.
I am currently studying for a change of career, and I am going to work as a dog behaviourist when I am qualified. My current area of study is in nutrition and stress in dogs. I have been going through the ingredients labels of several brands of complete dog food. Lo and behold this morning, several times I came across "derivatives of vegetable origin" marked on the ingredient list. One of the brands of complete dog food actually labelled this as "dried beet pulp". Many previous comments have referred to their use as animal fodder, and here it is a bi-product of the sugar refining industry and is sold to pet food companies as a filler for fido-food.

Jerusalem Artichokes

These were some of my Jerusalem artichokes a couple of weeks ago. I haven't dug any up yet, the foliage has just about died down now, but I think it is better to wait till after they have had a frost on them. Like parsnips, the sugar level and the taste generally is much better after a frost. I just love them! But they have a very complex carbohydrate structure which makes them an excellent food source, but they are famous for giving you wind!
Here was one of my last cucumbers in the greenhouse just before I cut back all the growth. These were from a second sowing of seed in about August, just when the first crop were at their best. I must grow some small varieties next year in the greenhouse, I think there is one called 'Pepita' or something like that. Can anyone recommend a smooth skinned, mini greenhouse cucumber variety?

Eating Dandelion Leaves!

I've been gadding about all over the place over the last few days! Earlier this week I took a day-trip to France to do some supermarket shopping. I just love the variety and quality of the products on display there, and not just the superb veggies for sale. I just had to take a photo (above) of the blanched dandelion leaves for sale. I didn't buy any, and I'm kicking myself now, I love to try new things. Has anyone eaten dandelion leaves? blanched or not?
Another delight always on sale in any French supermarket is what they call "Pot au Feu" a large bag full of vegetables in order to make soups, stocks and stews. Probably about 5 or 6 pounds of Winter vegetables along with a fresh bouquet garni. Nothing illustrates my idea of kitchen heaven in Winter as making a lovely thick vegetable soup!

Above picture was taken in a field in Lincolnshire yesterday. 3 guesses?
It's sugar beet. I visit relatives in Lincolnshire on a regular basis and always see trucks full of these going along the country roads this time of year. Sugar beet is a relative of the swede (I think Americans call them rutabaga?). Commercially grown to manufacture down and refine into sugar. Has anyone ever eaten one? How do you prepare them? are they edible? Can I grow one? where do I get seeds? Matron wants to know!