Thursday, 27 August 2009

100% pure fruit homemade sweets

Or alternatively known as fruit leather. So the rosehip puree I made was made into the rosehip syrup, and some was put aside in the dehydrator to make a fruit leather, and here it is

rosehip leather
from this puree (below)

It's absolutely lovely, sweet and good for you. Rosehips are full of vitamin C so a small piece of this each day, or some of the syrup made earlier will help keep our immunity boosted against the colds that will inevitably be around later in the year.

Fruit leathers can be made with any fruit puree I would imagine, and the next one on my list to try is hawthorn berry leather as they are abundant at the moment and have been perfectly ripe for while now, so off picking we go next time we're out. Haws are great for your heart and circulation, so a small piece of this leather each day will help keep those functions healthy too.

I have seen dried fruit strips rolled up in supermarkets (can't remember the brand), but no doubt they are full of preservatives and other things, whereas my fruit leathers are just pure fruit and a little water.

We do have a dehydrator that makes this easier, it gets used a lot to preserve food and dried foods store well. So far this year we have dried fruit (all sorts), tomatoes, garlic, onion, beetroot (unbelievably moreish), and probably more but my mind has gone blank. One of our favourites is dried Kiwi fruit - it just tastes like the sherbet dips powder I used to love as a child, except it's 100% fruit. Anyway, fruit leathers can also be made using a tray in an oven at a low temperature if you haven't got a dehydrator.

Our dehydrator wasn't expensive - we didn't want to spend a lot on it in case it sat being unused, but it gets used a lot and we wouldn't hesitate in buying one again if it ever breaks down (hopefully it won't).

Marrow chutney update

So the first batch of marrow chutney is all in jars, sealed and ready for storing. Now to get my way through the other marrow! Maybe a job for the weekend when I can pick more green tomatoes to go into it and some fruit too.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

At the gardens, Imogen found a fantastic Tree House and had great fun playing on it. There was also lots of running about and peeping around and over the pieces of art.

I love the expression on her face here
going down the slide

There were also these pieces - these are just a couple of them and I really liked the way they look and were placed around the gardens. There was a great one under a tree which I took a (lost) picture of with Imogen sitting in the same pose - one to re-create next visit!

A great day out at a fantastic gardens, finished off with a lovely New Forest Ice Cream, I can thoroughly recommend the Pistachio flavour - yum.

Weekend adventures and grrrr camera memory cards

I guess we've been lucky not to have a problem with memory cards failing, but it has annoyed me that it has happened this week. We had a lovely day out on Saturday to the Harold Hillier Gardens, a place we haven't been to for a couple of years and it was great to go back to. I took some lovely pictures, some of which I can upload but unfortunately some were on a memory card that has failed me! Not too much of a problem, we can always go back again and re-take the lost shots ... well most of them anyway. However, the few photos I am annoyed at losing were of a lovely woodpecker pecking away on a Eucalyptus tree, a sight you don't get to see that often let alone photograph. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was a lovely sight.

Anyway the day was filled with sunshine and fun in the gardens, looking and searching for the many pieces of "Art in the Garden". Hilliers are great at bringing art into their gardens and here are a few examples, unfortunately I lost a few other really good ones but will go back and photograph them another time. Their website has a link to a flickr group of photos which is lovely - past and present exhibitions, etc. The spinning guild I belong to are attending Hilliers at the moment on Wednesday afternoons, introducing woolcrafts, spinning and weaving to children throughout August and making friendship bracelets, etc. Unfortunately I couldn't get to any of them this year, but maybe next year as it's something they do every year.

Fabulous real size horse and foal made with chicken wire

Peacocks, again made with chicken wire so effective

Ceramic ware sheep


Seat spreading through the tree - plumbers plastic piping!

Tree hangings - looking lovely when the sun shone through them

Signs of Autumn approaching
as the leaves begin to turn

Allotment updates

(note: lack of pictures due to camera memory card
not playing nicely)

Another triangular bed created, and Cavalo Nero and Kale plants transplanted, watered and mulched. More netting covering these to protect from butterflies and pigeons.

Harvested more apples that were used in the chutney, more tomatoes - mostly red ones for eating, and some for drying and storing, more Chard, Spinach, Lettuce, Endive, French Beans and Runner Beans.

Alex also dug up some of the potatoes, these are Arran Victory potatoes and they have a fantastic taste, and store well. They have a lovely purple skin, best seen when wet. We experimented this year with something we had read about with potatoes. As well as doing some in the ground we did two tyre stacks of potatoes. In one stack were chitted seed potatoes, and in the other tyre stack were just the shoots taken from chitted potatoes (potato discarded) which is apparently quite a common way to grow potatoes in America. This proved to be quite an interesting experiment and we got approximately twice the amount of potatoes from the seed potatoes compared to the shoots, so I think we will stick with this usual method, but maybe experiment again sometime. Both stacks produced lovely potatoes that are now in potato sacks.

Our fantastic squash fruits really coming along - we planted seed collected from last year and these are the Blue Kuri squash which are very tasty. I'll post a picture next week when I take more photos.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Rose Hip syrup for the winter months

The rose hips foraged the other day have been turned into rose hip syrup mainly and some of the puree is also drying in the dehydrator as fruit leather. Both are excellent sources of vitamin C to be consumed over the next few months to ward off colds and influenza.

Here is a picture of the puree, which was lovely just on it's own - very sweet, and what a beautiful colour.

rose hip puree

Here is the bottled syrup, stored and ready to use

rose hip syrup

Anyone for chutney?

Well, the green tomato chutney is in jars and will now be left for awhile before consuming, ideally at least 2 months to let the flavours mature. We had a little taste test and it is lovely as usual. Here it is
Green tomato chutney

The marrow chutney is also ready to go in the jars. That seemed like more of a mammoth task than usual, having said that it was a large batch - barely contained in my largest pan! Again this has passed the taste test and will now be left to mature. I did take some pictures of if before cooking but the memory card isn't playing nicely with the computer so just the finished product in the pan.

Marrow chutney

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Making chutneys and more

It's right what they say about August being a busy time for harvesting and preserving foods. Over the weekend I have made a batch of Green Tomato chutney with some green tomatoes from plants pulled up at the allotment as the plants were showing signs of distress and rather than lose the crop, we thought it better to use the good batch of tomatoes on them whilst green - we had almost a kilo, so that's cooling in the jars now and will be left for a couple of months before eating it, time enough for us to finish eating the last batch we still have that we made last Autumn. I will make more at the end of the season when the remaining green tomatoes are past the point of ripening.

We also have a couple of large marrows inherited from the allotment show last weekend (Alex is part of the committee so they shared out some things amongst them) - we ended up bringing back a few other bits too where people just didn't take there entries back home with them. So we are now going to do a batch of marrow chutney using this recipe with what we can find to put in.

I also still have the rose hips to use, and Friday Imogen and I picked some wild sweet cherries so looking to use them too, and yesterday we picked some quince from a huge tree, I've never seen a quince tree grow so large and be so full of fruit, I think we will revisit it again sometime. In the meantime quince jam is on the horizon.

Off to the allotment this afternoon for a bit of planting, weeding and lots more harvesting. We will be bringing back more apples and blackberries for certain so it will be a busy time in the kitchen later.
Pictures to follow.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Seeking goodness from the hedgerow

Many, many blackberries for picking, but also haws, sloes, elderberries and rose hips are ready ... some of them are early really but they are ready.

So I'm now busy looking through recipes for what to do with them. Have been picking and using them recently although I haven't picked them all yet, will post on what I have done when I do. Today whilst out we picked rose hips as they were just perfect for picking, already softening so no need to wait until after frosts, you can pick early anyway and freeze them which does the same as the frosts.

So what to make ... syrup, cordial or rose hip leather? Decisions, decisions. Will pick more another day to make all three eventually.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

In the newspaper

If you saw my earlier post, you'll have noticed that Imogen won a few prizes at our allotment show, including 1st prize and a trophy for best children's exhibit for her planted boot seen here

Well, she is also in the local newspaper too, the cameraman at the show was keen to have a picture of a young "green fingered" person to advertise the show and Imogen obliged, here she is.

Proud moment for us and our green fingered daughter, and many copies bought and distributed amongst family.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Allotment show, and the winner is ...

So our busy Friday resulted in Imogen entering the "handiwork" category, in which she came 3rd, here is her painting she entered and her rosette.

She also entered the "home made biscuits" category with her vanilla biscuits (and they are yummy), and she came ...2nd, here is her entry and her rosette.

Finally, she entered the "planted article of footwear, using one of Daddy's old boots, and she came ... 1st and also earned the prize of "best Children's exhibit" so won a trophy.

Mommy and Daddy also entered some categories. Unfortunately, at the point at which we filled in our forms, we weren't too confident about putting any of the veg in (even just for fun), so will look to enter those next year. Alex did however enter the plate of fruit and came 2nd.

I entered my lavender flower girl in the "knitted item" category, and came 2nd.

We also entered the photography competition and Alex came 2nd, with mine 3rd in the B&W category and I had highly commended in the colour category (I came 1st last year). All in all a good result, especially for Imogen which is what this years was all about for us, letting her have a go and she had so much fun.
our little prize winner!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Busy Friday

Today we have been mostly making Butternut Squash muffins for the allotment show, to sell at the "tea and cakes" stall. Imogen baked some yummy vanilla biscuits for a baking entry of the show and planted up Daddy's old boot with some flowers and herbs. Pictures to follow soon .... busy Friday. Oh and we're waiting for Nanny and Grandad to come and stay for the weekend, so Imogen is very excited.

Seasonal Corner August

Updated picture of Season Corner for August 2009. Lots of collected items - shells, stones, lichen, lavender, etc. Lots of handmade goodies - carrot and strawberries from season swap, lavender flower girl, knitted bees and ladybirds; and the crafts by Imogen - her painted fish (handing on the tree), dragonflies, butterflies and bat.

Still very much Summer with our rainbow and Summer books by Althea and Brambly Hedge. Although some pine cones, acorns, leaves, etc are starting to be collected, most are being stored on our nature table in the porch where most of our collected goodies on walks go, and we have collected leaves being pressed and dried elsewhere too.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Allotment in pictures August 2009

I thought I'd do a separate post updating the blog on how the plot looks now, things are doing well, and the runner beans are even looking okay now and should give us a late harvest when we thought we had lost the lot. More beds prepared and mulched, and much planning going on for the next few months.

Our fruit trees are really performing this year. We were lucky to inherit them on the plot especially the Fig tree which is quite a luxury, and has been there probably 10 years or more, and has produced many figs so far and more to come. The Pear tree has exceeded my expectations this year. It was our first year on the plot last year and by harvest time there was a grand total of 3 pears to eat! By clearing the weeds from the base and giving it a mulch layer, this year there are loads - I haven't even attempted to count them but there must be more than 100 pears to pick. The apple tree did okay last year but has also benefited from a weeding, clearing out ornamental trees around it, etc and there are far more apples to pick again this year.

Bean Wigwam with little helper
on a mission with the watering can
Beefsteak tomatoes
(these just fit in my hand)
Cherry tomatoes
more tomatoes
Fig tree
Pear Tree (propped up - need to sort that out)
Apple Tree
Plum tomatoes
New bed edged with beer bottles,
mulched and planted with Chard
One of many Pumpkins Pumpkin in a barrel
the herb spiral, now with
little pond
Hedge of blackberries behind

Now to look at what seeds to sow, and order and plan the Autumn/Winter allotment. Oh and it's our Allotment show this Saturday. We are entering a fruit basket category but didn't enter any of the vegetables this year (maybe next year). We are also entering the craft and photography categories. Imogen is entering some things too - some homemade biscuits, artwork and an item of footwear planted up - a job for her this afternoon, we bought the plants the other day and have one of Daddy's old boots. Will post up a picture when I get the chance.