More Fresh Fruit

You should have seen my suitcase on the way back from holiday (for you American folks - that's a 'vacation'!) Never mind, you should go to the DEFRA website and look up your personal allowances of which sort of food you can bring back to the UK and which you cannot. Generally speaking the EU is one big happy family.

Anyway, back to the photo. I wish to take you on a journey to the Azores. These are a group of small volcanic islands way down into the mid Atlantic. It is my intention to visit there within the next few years, to walk the volcanic mountains and to visit the pineapple plantations. Here you can see a ripe Azores pineapple which was for sale in Madeira. It would only be a few days after picking, hence it was picked RIPE. It has now been eaten! It was heavenly.

Five a Day!

One of the things I look forward to doing when I visit Madeira is eating really ripe, locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Here is the self-assembled fruit bowl in my hotel room last week. The difference between this sort of produce, and that which has been picked unripe, refrigerated for months, flown to a foreign country.. and sold in a supermarket, is vast! If you have ever smelled the perfume of a really ripe guava, or a ripe passion fruit you will know what I mean.

How do we expect young people, and adults to eat their five fruit and veg per day when we sell such crap in our supermarkets! Any sort of fresh produce if it is just picked and perfectly ripe is a heavenly treat. I was reminded of this when, on Christmas day I went down to the allotment and dug up the leeks and parsnips for Christmas dinner. I could smell these vegetables as I was digging them out of the ground!

By the way, the green fruit that looks like a pine cone is a delicious fruit from the plant Monsteria - known as 'Swiss cheese plant'. It tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a banana. I have forgotten the name of this fruit - can anyone help?

Pointsettia Trees

Now back to gloomy old England after a couple of warm sunny days on the island of Madeira. Here the pointsettia plants grow as trees! I am hoping to dig my own parsnips, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes for Christmas lunch. The turkey is marinading in Nigella's special mix out in the garage. God bless us every one!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Seasons greetings to all my blog readers! I've just returned from a short break in the sunshine. This morning I was lying out in the sun next to a swimming pool! This evening... well.. I'm back here. Buddy was pleased to see me, here he is getting into the festive spirit!

On the Twelfth day of Christmas ..

On the twelfth day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. Twelve pages thumbing ..
Eleven pipes a lagging ..
Ten loads of leafmould ..
Nine Morris dancing ..
Eight spades a sharpening ..
Seven songs a swinging ..
Six leeks a laying ..
Five purple beans
Four growing herbs ..
Three French pommes ..
Two dirty gloves ..
and a
Moth trap in a plum tree!

Hope you've enjoyed this last few days of fun Down on the Allotment! Seems like it's just a pile of dead leaves all over the place at the moment, so little daylight to do anything out there. Anyway, I'm flying off to the sunny island of Madeira later today for a few days of bright sunshine! Baxoon!

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas ..

On the Eleventh day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. ***Eleven pipes a freezing!***

At this time of year it is a wise precaution to empty and store your hosepipes and protect your outdoor water taps. I have used some pipe lagging left over from the plumber, but you can add some protection to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting.

On the Tenth day of Christmas ..

On the Tenth day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. Ten Loads of Leafmould!

Is it me, or are there more leaves about this year than usual? Fallen leaves can be a problem as far as making compost is concerned. When you make good compost it should be a mixture of fresh green nitrogenous matter, and dead, brown matter which contains carbon. Just dead leaves on their own will take about 2 years to rot down into useable leafmould. I can't wait that long! A good tip would be to lay the dead leaves over your lawn and run the lawnmower over them. You will then have a mixture of green and brown - and it helps that the mower has chewed up the leaves a bit, this will speed up the process!

On the Ninth day of Christmas ..

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. Nine Morris Dancing!

Oh gosh! I'm really struggling for rhymes! As I have lots of blog readers all over the world I thought I would introduce you to an ancient English tradition - that of Morris Dancing. A 'side' of Morris men get together during the English Summer (usually outside the local pub) and dance old traditional English dances. One member of the side traditionally has a dried inflated balloon made of a pig's bladder (you with me so far?) and he acts 'the fool'. After dancing (with bells on their legs) they retire inside the pub where they sing bawdy old English folk songs. The more beer you buy them ... er.. the more traditional the songs become. Pictured here are the Ampthill Morris men from Bedfordshire, dancing last year outside their local pub. Cheers boys!

On the Eighth day of Christmas ..

On the Eighth day of Christmas my allotment gave to me ... Eight spades a sharpening!

Take advantage of a lull in the growing period to look after your equipment! I always admire a gardener who has lovely shiny equipment... You must keep all your tools in good working order.. Sharpen your hoes, your spades and your scythes. Are your tools in good working order?

Well, you try to find something that rhymes with milking !!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas..

On the Seventh day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. Seven songs a swinging !

Gosh! I had to think hard before making this one up! it's getting more difficult! Anyway - there are so many of these free music and film CDs given away in newspapers that these are not hard to come by. They make excellent bird scarers! Tied up in the garden over your precious brassicas over winter will frighten the pigeons away!

On the Sixth Day of Christmas ..

On the Sixth day of Christmas my allotment gave to me .. Six Leeks a laying.

Leeks are one of the few veggies that I am digging right now. My old reliable crop. Only people who grow their own veggies can understand the wonderful aroma of fresh leeks dug from the ground! This year I placed loo rolls over the stem to blanch just an extra few inches, and it has made all the difference. The leeks are much cleaner and do not have so much soil in between the leaves that makes cleaning them so much easier. Last night I had a big hearty bowl full of cock-a-leekie soup! Winter is not all bad, but I could do with some more daylight please.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas..

On the Fifth day of Christmas my allotment gave to me ..
Five Purple Beans!

These Purple Hyacinth Beans were much better than expected this year. I took some seeds from my Sister's house in Virginia last Autumn, they were growing outside up some steps to the front door. They produce stunning purple flowers and these vivid purple pods in the Autumn. I beleive they are edible but have not tried them.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas..

On the fourth day of Christmas my Allotment gave to me...

Four Growing Herbs!..
Even this time of year there are still fresh herbs to be had from the garden. I find that my rosemary, thyme and parsley are hardy throughout the Winter. The potted basil was planted at the end of Summer in the greenhouse. It hasn't grown much but is still very much alive on the kitchen windowsill.

On the Third Day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas my Allotment gave to me... Three French Pommes!

These were some of the wonderful varieties of Apples I found at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent. These were an old French variety called 'Pomme Noir' Well worth a day visit during the fruit season, thousands of old English Apple varieties some of which are unique to each English county.

On the Second Day of Christmas

On the Second day of Christmas, my allotment gave to me... Two Dirty Gloves!

These have been some of the best gardening gloves I have ever owned! As you can see they are a little past their best, I need a new pair. These are chamois leather, they are hard wearing and extremely comfortable and flexible. I suppose it would be a fitting end for them if they were to end up on the compost heap. Farewell old friends.

On the First Day of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas my allotment gave to me....... A MOTH TRAP IN A PLUM TREE!

What an excellent gadget this was. An environmentally friendly gizmo that stops you getting maggots in your plums and apples. Hang one of these in your fruit tree and you will really see (and taste) the difference.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for Matron's Twelve Days of Christmas!