Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The story of the blues

There is something magic about the appearance of bluebells each year. The allotment is rimmed with them; growing in shade and security on the perimeter of the plots. While I thought all bluebells were one and the same, it turns out that in the UK there are commonly three different types of flower.

There are two common species - the native bluebell and the Spanish bluebell as well as a hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) which seems to becoming more common. Some are worried that, with so many hybrid plants around, the native plant will go into decline. There is not enough research yet to prove whether this is happening. The Natural History Museum is asking people to help. By recording what type of bluebells are growing in your area they can build up a national picture of the different plant species.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Heads up

Some of the squash seeds sown a week or so ago are starting to emerge as seedlings. Last year’s weather meant that none of my squash or courgettes made it through so we’ll have to see how this one does. This is a spaghetti squash, whose flesh when cooked resembles thin strands of spaghetti. It can be oven baked and then finished off with some olive oil, salt and pepper. It can also be used in sweet recipes. In Portugal the squash is often made into a jam which can be used to fill cakes. Here’s a recipe for the jam I found on the Food Network site:

2 pounds spaghetti squash
1 pound granulated sugar
2 cups water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Break the squash on the ground (if you use a knife you will discolour the flesh). Wash the squash pieces and remove the seeds from the centre using your hands. Place the squash pieces in the boiling water and cook until the skin comes apart.

Remove from the water and place in an ice bath. Using your hands, separate the skin from the flesh and discard any seeds. Remove the flesh and place in shallow bowl. Again with your fingers, separate the flesh into threads. Rinse the threads under cool water and drain well.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is thick. Add the squash and continue to cook until the entire mixture is thick and most of liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl and cool completely.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Idle chit chat

I've been a bit tardy in buying seed potatoes this year. Traditionally, first earlies are planted on Good Friday but I hadn't even got round to getting my order in. I'm trying Pentland Javelin this year and have just put a couple of dozen tubers out to chit. They are supposed to have a good level of resistance to eel worm which was a bit of a problem on the plot last year. Easter was early this year so perhaps the delay of a few weeks won't harm too much...