Picking Champagne Rhubarb

Instagram and Twitter has been awash this bank holiday weekend with photos of people picking rhubarb and making all kinds of lovely sweet treats with it.  Picking rhubarb gives you a real sense that spring has settled in nicely and summer is truly on the way.  I tried earlier this to force my rhubarb in a strange looking frame, which got blown away by the wind the rain – so in the end, I just left it to do what it was supposed to do on its own.  I can’t say that this has done any harm to my crop as I’ve got a glutton of rhubarb to harvest.

It’s not advised that you cut rhubarb stems, the reason being is that once cut, the base of the stem will die and rot into the plant, which is as good as it sounds.   When harvesting rhubarb you want to be sure to pull stems out of the crown of the plant.

Reach as far down along the stem, into the root, as possible and pull a stalk in the same direction in which it’s growing.  You’ll know when you’ve done it right because of the sound – you’ll hear a nice, light, suctioned crunch – if you hear a snap, you may have broken it off at the root (this isn’t the end of the world, and you may accidently do this as I have done on occasion, so try not to lose too much sleep over this!)

You should end up with a nice clean stalk like the one below.

 

I’ve seen people cut rhubarb at differing lengths all over the internet, and I’m sure each variety and each grower has their own personal preference, but personally – I like to cut off the stalk about 2 or 3 inches from the leaf, or when the colour starts to change along the stem.

Can’t wait to make some jam with this and show you the recipe!

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

Allotment recycling is easy, quick and a great thing to do if you have an allotment. Many household items are thrown out needlessly, when they can be reused over and over again.

1. OXO boxes

You’ve come back from the allotment, you’re chopping up a pepper, tomato or a pumpkin and you’d like to store the seeds somewhere. OXO or stock cube boxes are great for this – just be sure to label them so you know what they are!

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

2. Washing tablet box

These types of boxes are made to last and are watertight, useful for storing anything you want keep dry.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

3. Ice cream container

Tea bags, sugar , powdered milk… Or maybe even a few sandwiches? Enough said.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

3. Plastic milk bottles

Most milk bottles have measurement on the side, a good gauge if you’re particular about diluting quantities of tomato feed or other fertilisers.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

4. Old CD’s

for keeping the birds away – old CD’s tied to a piece of string are a good deterrent for birds looking to have a nibble at some of your produce.

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5. Cardboard toilet rolls

You can start your leeks indoors in a greenhouse if you so wish and these come to a great use, as once planted in the ground, these will degrade into the soil.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

6. Glass jars

Thinking of making some preserves or pickles? You’ll need these.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

7. Fruit punnets

All being well, you’ll be picking lots of fruit and vegetables this summer, these are great for carrying things and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll fill these up.  Fruit punnets can also be used for growing seedlings if you find that you’re short of pots or trays.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

8. Vegetable peelings

Makes great compost and reduces landfill.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

9. Spice jars

Be sure not to poke your eye out on any bamboo canes that you’re using at the allotment. Simply pop these on top.

Top 10 items for allotment recycling

10. Plastic bottles are THE item for allotment recycling

Always useful, you can use them as individual propagators or you can cut them in half and fill them beer to catch slugs.

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Borscht – Beetroot Soup

Going down with a cold? Borscht this down the hatch – this beetroot soup is unbelievably good for you (and kind of funky looking!)

Ingredients 

4-5 decent sized beetroot, peeled and grated

2 onions, diced

2 carrots, cut into coins 

5 tomatoes, diced

1.2 litres of vegetable stock

1 knob of butter

3 celery sticks, diced

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon of sugar (optional)

Salt and pepper for seasoning (optional)

 

Method

1. First off melt the butter and fry off the onions until their soft.  Turn to a low heat and then add 2 thirds of the the beetroot, carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring it every so often.

2. Increase the heat to medium – add the garlic, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, sugar and vegetable stock and bring the mixture to the boil.

3. Reduce the heat to simmering and simmer for an 1 hour or until the vegetables are soft.  Add the remaining beetroot and season with salt and pepper.  Leave to cool for around ten minutes.

4. If you’re out to impress presentation wise, serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and a slice of rye bread.

Globe Marrow Bolognese

1 Globe marrow serves two people, a stuffed marrow can often make a great alternative to pasta or spaghetti…

Ingredients 

250g Minced beef

200g Chopped Tomatoes

1 Onion, diced

1 Carrot, diced or grated

4-5 button mushrooms 

Sprinkle of mixed herbs

1 Oxo cube 

1 Bay leaf

1 Globe marrow 

Handful of cheese (any kind, depending on your preference) 

Splash of olive oil

 

Method

1. First cut the globe marrow in 2 and hollow out the seeds, you can either dry these out in the greenhouse or through them away, then pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.

2. To make the bolognese, start frying off the onion, carrot, mushrooms with the olive oil on a medium heat until they’re soft and then add the beef, fry this off until all of the pink has gone.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, bay leaf, Oxo cube and anything else you’d think would add to the bolognese mixture.  I think every household has their own preferred method of making a bolognese sauce, just go with what works for you.  Simmer for around 10mins.

4. Pour the bolognese into the globe marrows and top off with a generous handful of cheese, bake in the oven for around 15 to 20 mins or until golden brown.

Serve with a salad and enjoy!