Categories
Tomato

Tomatoes: Homegrown vs. Store-bought

There’s always that old adage that reads, homegrown is better than shop bought. So for a bit of fun, I thought I’d do a taste test between homegrown cherry and plum tomatoes versus shop bought cherry and plum tomatoes, and see how they compare in real time.

For this I brought in the camera lady, because I’m clearly over biased towards my very own homegrown produce.

The plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are of no particular variety – when I purchased the seeds, I literally went into Wilkinsons and picked up a packet of each. I wasn’t too focused on variety this year because it’s been a good couple of years since I’ve grown produce properly.

So how do the two compare?

Homegrown

  • The cherry tomatoes have a nice full smell, and it really stands out.
  • These tomatoes look a bit more pale in comparison.
  • The cherry tomatoes are rich, have flavoursome taste and they taste like cherry tomatoes.
  • The plum tomatoes taste ripe, the flesh is full and if feels like there’s a lot there.
  • The smell and taste go together with this set of tomatoes, even if they don’t look as nice or as perfect as the shop bought tomatoes.

Store-bought

  • Not that much of a smell in comparison. There’s no tomato smell that you would normally have.
  • These look more appealing, the colour is fully and more red.
  • The cherry tomatoes are sweet, but they’re a little bit on the watery side.
  • The plum tomatoes don’t look as ripe, and they look watery, a bit more pale.
  • The plum tomatoes would need seasoning, like salt to make it taste like a tomato.

Of course, in this particular instance, there’s no comparison between the two – the homegrown tomatoes, although don’t look as appealing, triumph because of their superior flavour, texture and smell.

What varieties of tomatoes have you grown this year and what would you recommend over shop-bought tomatoes? I’d love to know in the comments below 🙂

Categories
Allotment Diary

An Allotment Summer 2020

This time of year always amazes me – wherever you look there’ll be a job that needs completing.

A patch of weeding here, a hoeing there, tying up of plants, harvesting, maintaining areas and the list goes on. This year, has felt easier mainly because there’s been a bit more time on our hands – for obvious reasons, that which must not be named.

On top of the allotment, I’ve also been helping with The Vincent Hazel Project – which is a story for another day, but this has taken up a decent chunk of time.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve actively grown anything, because I was rebuilding the beds and trying my hardest to eradicate (or mildly disrupt) mares tail and bindweed, and during that time I took the decision to not do too much growing. Now that I’m growing again – I can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed watching things grow and progress. It truly is a gratifying feeling, especially when you walk away with a trug filled with produce at the end of a visit.

Enjoying the summer at the allotment has been great this year and it’s been great to pick produce each week.

Note to self… You only need about two to four courgette plants…

I created a long raised bed / slash a compost bin and I filled it with a whole manner of green waste consisting on grass cuttings, weeds, and other cuttings and this has made for a great bed for the courgettes.

They’ve been producing consistently each week, to the point where, dare I say it, they’re beginning to lose their lustre – don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining really, I’m secretly always grateful for produce.

We’ve got to the point where we’re making courgette loaves to shift them.

I’ve grown the cucumbers up against old pallet wood, I’ve seen this method through various scrolls on instagram and I have to say that this is a really great idea. Not only does this provide support for the plants, but it also keeps the cucumbers off of the ground, which helps to keep them away from the slugs.

These too have been producing steadily throughout the last few weeks – we’re picking these off and eating them like sweets! Can’t get fresher than that.

The brassicas which currently consist of kale, broccoli, sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower are doing very well at the moment.

We’ve been picking kale each week, and I’ve been coming up with different ways to use it, including creating kale chips. Hopefully, when I’ve perfected this, this will be an upcoming recipe.

There’s been some signs of cabbage fly here and there, and this has resulted in discolouring and shrivelling of leaves. We’ve picked the first of the broccoli and also a couple of heads of cauliflower, which has been a nice treat. 2 cauliflower heads, did sadly become dinner for the slugs. Everyone’s got to eat though right?

The runner beans have subject to a ghastly black fly infestation, which means the growth has become stunted. The leaves are sticky with sap as well. I’ve only managed to pick a handful of beans so far and I don’t hold much hope for the future, but I’m still watering them and I’m hoping for the best ultimately.

I planted these beans in the ground, and next year, I’ve decided I’m going to try and grow them in in pots to help give them a head start to help with any aphidgeddons that may come my way – same with the French beans too.

The onions are doing well too. At first I though they weren’t going to swell, so I’d be a liar if I were to say I wasn’t disheartened at one point.

However – I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the transition of small to large as the tops die off and the bulbs begin to mature.

I’ll need to dig these out at some point and dry these in the shed.

I love the smell of onions drying – it’s a weird thing to like, but I think it’s something unique. It reminds me of autumn.

The root veg has consisted of radishes, carrots and beetroot this year. The radishes were great, so much so they were eaten so quickly that I’ve got no pictures available to show you.

I’ve only attempted to pick a few of the carrots an they’ve not been too big, and they could very pass as baby carrots, some of them are also forked, which isn’t ideal. What I will probably end up doing is, one day I’ll dig them up and either make some sort of soup, roast them or grate them into a salad.

I’ve only had one picking of beetroot thus far, they just look a bit too small at the moment, I’m hoping to get a decent harvest at some point, but I’m prepared that it could be toward the end of the year.

Next year, I think I will look into multisowing to see if this help this is a video about that by Charles Dowding.

The Autumn raspberries are doing ok, but I wish I could say the same for the spring raspberries. With the spring raspberries, there’s gaps and some of the plants look brown and burnt and have shown signs of stunted growth – but I’m not too sure why that could be.

As you’ll see from the pictures below there’s a stark difference between the two rows. If I have time to find out what’s going there, I’ll be sure to let you know what I discover. These plants are just a year old, and I pruned them slightly too early this year, so maybe that early pruning has had something to do with how they’ve started to fail.

We’ve also collected a nice collection of random fruits on our travels which include the usual wild blackberries, red gooseberry bushes, green gooseberry bushes, red and black currant bushes and more recently, we were gifted a set of strawberry plants, an extra gooseberry bush and a grape vine, which is a massive touch – and deserves endless thank yous 🙂 .

A good majority of these are wild, and I really do just leave them to their own devices. Next year, I plan to move the black currents and the currents and focus on getting these plant to produce more fruits over all.

Oh and I mustn’t forget the plum tree – this is doing really well and has some lovely plums that I’m waiting to ripen. I try and keep this pruned so that the energy in the plant goes to the actual fruit rather than to the new growth.

To go with the plum tree, I’m on the lookout for a decent variety of apple that’s good for everyday use as well as cooking – if you know of one, please do feel free to leave a comment below.

So that’s what’s been happening on the plot 🙂 what have you been up to? I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of your labour. 🙂

Categories
Recipes

VIDEO: Tasting Elderflower Gin

Elderflower Gin

  • Servings: 0.75ml
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A gin and tonic with a twist

Summer is just around the corner and this is the quintessential gin and tonic flavour you can put together for those sunny afternoons.

Ingredients

  • 0.75ml London dry gin
  • 2-3 peels of lemon or lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 7-9 elderflower blooms

Directions

  1. Pick seven to nine elderflower blooms and snip off the stems of the buds.
  2. Place them in a bottle or sealable container with the sugar, and gin to steep over night – keep the bottle for re-use.
  3. Use a funnel and two sheets of kitchen roll to filter the mixture back into the bottle of gin.
  4. Serve with tonic, as you would an ordinary G&T – as you like it 🙂

Categories
Allotment Diary

Planting out – a quick how to…

Planting out is great – you’re at that point where you’ve seen your plants grow from seed, to seedling and now they’re big enough to be released into the wild!

I often try to write about planting out your plants – and the you do this is really simple, and it’s more or less the same for every plant you wish to grow, whether it’s cabbages, sprouts, tomatoes…etc.

I’ve grown from seed cauliflower, cabbages, pak choi, broccoli, sprouts, courgettes and cucumbers – and all in all it took me about week to plant everything out in their entirety.

Don’t cast a clout ’til May is out

Old English

Leading up to planting out, there’s one phrase I always tend to keep with me, and that’s “to not cast a clout until May is out.” A ‘clout’ is an old English word for clothing, so this phrase means to not disregard your winter clothing until the end of May, and this is because we still have a risk of frost until the end of May. (Thanks Google!)

Applied in gardening, this means to not plant out your seedlings until the frost is behind us, as our plants run the risk of being subject to frost damage.

Bed preparation

The bed I chose to plant into was the same one I’d built a brassica cage onto – the ground was a little bit compacted after months of rain and walking on top of it, so I gave the bed a light forking to help with drainage.

It was quite a hot day, and even though the ground was forked, there’s no way I could plant into this bed.

I borrowed on to the top of the forked area a healthy layer of compost from the compost bin to plant into.

Not only does this make it easier to plant into, but it’s also a mulch that will help to reduce weed growth and keep moisture into the ground.

Planting out

  1. First you would need to dig a hole, and to help out with how big the hole should be, you can use the base of the pot as a guide. The hole should be big enough bury the plant.

2. Take the plant outside of the pot, and use your fingers to support the plant and the stem of the plant. The more you can handle the plant from the base the better.

3. Bury the plant into the pre-dug hole and neatly cover the base of the plant with the composted material, making sure that the roots are well covered and the plant is well supported into the ground.

Watering and next steps

Planting out can be a bit of a shock to the system for your plants, so I tend to get into the habit of watering a little bit every day for the first couple of weeks to make sure that they can get established.

Within a couple of weeks, you’ll see your plants take root and this will be reflected in the growth above ground.

You’ll also leaving your plants open to slugs and so you’d want to think about how to manage that. This guide here on dealing with slugs has some helpful tips you can employ to reduce slug damage.

What have you planted out recently? How are you getting on as summer gets underway? I’d love to hear in the comments below.