Saturday, 27 December 2008

Moon Planting

Some people believe plants grow best if they are planted according to the phase of the moon. There are some books and charts that explain why this might be so. Anyway, I decided to take part in a trial for the early planting of tomatoes, which according to the charts are best planted today or tomorrow as they are fruiting plants. I have planted 3 seeds each of Tigrella, Sunburst, Green Tiger and French Black. They are currently sitting in the heated propagator on the windowsill.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

More Chilli Jam (Recipe included)

The weather is pretty mild today, and dry too, but I can't get outside so instead I decided as I didn't have any home grown tomatoes I would try the jam recipe with tomato juice. To save work I just cut the stalks off the chillies, put them into the tomato juice, quartered the apples and stewed the lot together. It means the jam hasn't got individual bits of chilli in, but it still tastes good. I think this lot is hotter still, but the chillies might have been dried a bit, so 100g may have been more fruits than last time. The jam itself is darker red, but this is because the tomato juice is darker than the home grown, probably from plum tomatoes. Buying the juice worked out cheaper than buying tomatoes this time of year, so it cuts the cost of the pressies. I decided to give my brother and his wife a selection of cheeses and a jar of the jam. She likes cheese, he likes the jam, so they will both be happy.
Recipe for Chilli Jam
  • 1.5kg tomatoes stewed, sieved and the juice made up to 3 pints, or 3 pints bought tomato juice
  • 100g chillies (stalks removed, easiest done with scissors)
  • 1kg bramley apples (cut into pieces, with skin and core included)
  • 500g (1lb) of sugar to 500ml (1 pint) juice, do not mix the measures!
For jam with bits of chilli, using gloves, remove the pith and seeds and chop the flesh. The pith and seeds or the whole chillies should be stewed with the apples and tomato juice until the chillies are soft and the apple breaks down. Then sieve to remove apple cores, skins and seeds. If you want to make a clearer jelly, put the juice into a jelly bag and allow it to drip through without pressing. This will look good, but gives less yield.
Measure the juice and add the required amount of sugar, sorry for the mix of imperial and metric measures. Add the chilli bits if you saved some. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached, and put into jars.
Takae was fascinated yesterday when I was putting the soaked mung beans in the sprouter. I explained I was planning on chow mein on Monday, so by then they should have grown enough to use. It will be interesting to see her reaction today when she sees they have already got tiny roots showing.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Christmas is coming!

Another week and it will all be over. I trimmed the chillies off the stems today, and found I have just 100g, so I feel another chilli jam batch in the making. I'll have to buy the tomatoes for this lot, but I still reckon some jars will make good Christmas pressies.
Talking of Christmas pressies, our gardening club had a wonderful seasonal get together at Nicola's. She went to a lot of trouble to give us a wonderful time. We all took along a secret santa pressie, then lucky dipped from the bag. I was lucky enough to get a card book, with address and date organiser.
We were pleased to be eating some of our own produce. Nicolas roasted some celeriac chips, grown by Amanda from plants provided by me. We also had my chilli jam, Amanda's chutney and Nicola's beetroot relish. Everything was delicious, and we felt a real sense of pride. Next year, onwards and upwards!
We will be digging up the parsnips in the next couple of days, hopefully we will achieve Dans' wish of home grown roast parsnip for Christmas Day. I will also serve some of the frozen beans, and use the last of the beetroot for salad later in the day.
Once we get to this time of year my fingers get itchy and I feel as if I have to plant. This year I've already got some broad beens in to overwinter in the greenhouse. I bought some Aquadulce Claudia, the hardiest one which can be planted directly out side in Novemeber, but due to a spell of ill health they stayed in the packet. Not to be deterred, I soaked 12 beans in water overnight and sprouted them in the seed sprouter, They took around 5 days to show root, then I potted them up, 3 to a 6 inch pot, and stood them in the cold greenhouse. Yesterday I noticed 4 are showing above ground. I will grow them on ondercover and plant out when they are a good size and conditions are reasonable.
There is a trial going on by some of the members of the Grapevine Forum, planting tomatoes on 27th Dec, a good day if you plant by the moon. Obviously a challenge to keep the plants stocky and healthy, athough as I usually plant 2 weeks into Jan, hopefully I will manage the extra couple of weeks.
I noticed today when I got out the car that my garlic is finally shooting. It has taken it's time, but hopefully has been busy underground producing a strong root system. The are a number of self sown calendual (pot marigolds) growing in the same place, so I think I will thin these, but leave enough to provide colour in the spring. I really want to grow enough to make Sarah Raven's Calendula Hand Ceam!
I am dying to prune the grapevine and have a tidy up, but I need to take things easy as a recent fall at work serious jolted my neck and aggravated my osteo-arthritis. I am following the physiotherapists advice in the hope I am fit enough for a good growing year next year.
In case I do not post again before the day, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Successful New Year.