Sunday, 24 July 2011

Spuds I like

2.5kg of Rooster potatoes, harvested yesterday
Well, we've harvested four out of our six potato varieties now: Charlotte, Rocket, Kestrel and Rooster. The Arran Pilot and Pink Fir Apple will be coming up fairly soon, but there is still some life in the foliage, particularly for the PFA.

In all we've had just over eight kilos of potatoes so far - which feels like a pretty good haul and is certainly up on last year. This is mainly down to using both the potato bags and one of the beds to grow all of the varieties, so that we could compare quality and quantity of crop.

Although the yields were fairly similar, Charlotte did better in the bags, where they produced a more uniform-sized crop. Rocket, Kestrel and Rooster all did better in the bed - but then they were all more new potatoes rather than salad potatoes like the Charlotte.

Once again we've um-ed and ah-ed about whether to bother with potatoes again next year, particularly in the sacks as they use such a lot of compost and our returns haven't been too good. I do like Charlotte potatoes though, so the answer might be to do a couple of sacks of these and maybe a first early and a maincrop in the beds. By far the best potato so far, in terms of quality and yield has been the Rooster so we'll probably go with these again next year, not least because we've found that red-skinned varieties roast and chip the best and we don't often get them in our organic box (whereas we get week after week of white new potatoes and salad potatoes).

We're also planning to order some second cropping varieties to have potatoes for Christmas, although we will plant these in the sacks so that they can be moved into the greenhouse if necessary.

I wasn't very organised about continuous cropping last year, so once the potatoes came out of their bed, it lay empty for the rest of the season (apart from the weeds). This year, I've dug it over, forked in some leafmould and, once that's settled a bit, will be using it as an overspill for the brassica bed. This has been completely overrun by our cabbages this year, in spite of us already harvesting some of the outer leaves on a number of occasions. This second brassica bed will have the later crop of brussels sprouts and, a new venture for us, calabrese. I had awful trouble getting this to germinate, and then many of the seedlings died off as I potted them on in hot weather. The survivors should get a good start in this bed though, as the soil has been broken up nicely by the potatoes.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Green, green pesto

We planted about four varieties of broad bean this year and today I'm using the first of the crop to make a pesto.

All you need is one cup broad beans, blanched in boiling water for 3 mins and the bigger ones popped out of their skins; one cup chopped basil; one cup grated parmesan; one cup toasted pine nuts; the zest and juice of one lemon, a glug of oil and salt and black pepper to taste. Tip into a food processor and blitz to a paste, adding more oil if necessary.

I've made some changes, as our baby will be trying some too - she can't have too much salt so you aren't meant to add it in cooking, but also her skin is reacting to acidic fruits at the moment. In order to get the lemon flavour without the acid I substituted 1 tbsp of lemon balm.

We'll be enjoying this pesto spread on homemade burgers (minced beef, chopped parsley, chopped red onion, a beaten egg and 2 tsp mustard). The burgers will hopefully be consumed from a toasted English muffin, but I've never made these before and I thought I'd cheat and do the dough in the breadmaker.... will let you know how they turn out!

Broad beans picked from the garden an hour ago - at least two varieties

The finished pesto

Homemade burgers ready to chill in the fridge