Sunday, July 30, 2006

Salad Days

Our first salad bowl of the year – a mixture of fristina, aruba and lollo rossa. Unlike the salad bags I often pick up from the supermarket, these leaves actually have taste. They haven’t been sprayed with anything and were on our plates within an hour from being cut so tasted really fresh. As these are all cut-and-come-again leaves I’m looking forward to more salads over the next few weeks.

Growing lettuce has made me give some real thought to the contents and cost of bagged salads. There have been a number of articles about this in recent years. Last year The Observer investigated the treatment and air miles of an average shopping bag. It discussed how ‘the insecticides acephate and cypermethrin, and the fungicides dicloran and iprodione are routinely used on salad crops’ which are also washed in chlorinated water before being packed and transported. There’s another good article about the contents of bagged salad by Felicity Lawrence on the Ecologist website. Amongst other things she discusses the lower nutritional value of salad leaves that have been picked a number of days before reaching the consumer but which appear ‘fresh’ due to refrigeration and gasses pumped into the plastic ‘pillows’ we buy.

Food for thought indeed…

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Things I didn’t know…

potatoes can grow fruit!

A spot of weeding revealed these two fruits growing on one of the potato stalks. The fruits look like unripened cherry tomatoes and have a similar structure and aroma of tomato when sliced in half. This is true potato seed though I understand that it is not often used for growing. It is much easier and reliable to grow from so-called ‘seed’ potatoes. However tempting they might look the high concentration of solanine in the fruits makes them poisonous. Not all potatoes produce such seed but these developed from an early maincrop variety named Valor.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Here comes the summer

The heat was relentless today. Only managed about an hour and a half and then had to go for some shelter. The heat got a bit too much even for this bumble bee who decided to take the weight off this wings and have a bit of a kip after all that nectar foraging.

Picked our first courgette of the season and pulled up a bunch of beetroot that had been growing in a clump. One of the real rewards from the allotment is the sense of continuity and growth. Watching the cycle of plants as they emerge from seed, take strength and produce. At any point it seems something is poking up its first leaves, another is coming into flower while something else is going to seed. The trick is to work with these cycles and learn how to time sowing so that you don’t end up with a glut or a gap. Can’t say that I have cracked that one yet but I am beginning to get the idea.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Everything is cropping really well just now. Each trip to the plot results in something to take home which is a great motivator. This week we have returned with first earlies, shallots, onions, chard, beetroot, garlic and the last of the early peas. On Friday I picked a pot full of ripe raspberries which were pureed into raspberry water ice following a simple recipe in The Observer. The result was a zingy and refreshing desert – great with a few chopped strawberries and a dollop of cream. You can find the recipe at:,,1808665,00.html

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hot, Hot, Heat

Phew, wot a scorcher! It was far too hot to do any gardening today. Just a quick trip down to the allotment this evening for a spot of watering. The chard and lettuces were looking somewhat tired and emotional with all the sunshine. Picked as many peas as I could find and then took them home to make a risotto with lots of parmesan and a good glug of wine.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A first

I dug up my first potatoes today! These first earlies were planted at the beginning of April. Some of the plants started to yellow last week and I thought that this must be lack of water or pest attack. However my allotment neighbour explained that it probably indicated the potatoes were ready to harvest. He was, of course, right. The variety is Maris Bard.