I love the change in seasons. After the toil of the spring and summer, growing and harvesting, it is good to put the garden and allotment to bed for the winter and curl up warm and snug.
We are not quite there yet...the weekend saw us spreading manure on the allotment. This week we have a few more projects to undertake to ensure the plot is ready for next season, like building a compost bin and digging trenches to improve drainage on the site, which is a real problem. There are still carrots to dig up, cabbages, leeks and swedes still growing. Never-the-less we feel the nip in the air and the dark mornings and evenings and our thoughts are turning to warm nourishing foods fit for Autumn and Winter.
So here's a few things we are currently enjoying.
Yes it just has to be chocolate for breakfast - not every day mind, just a weekend treat!
These are so simple.
Recipe for 1 (double/triple as needed)
2 pastured eggs
1 small banana (yellow with brown spots for GAPS)
1 tbls coconut flour
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder
Preheat the skillet and melt a knob of lard (a standard frying pan would do too)
Meanwhile, put all the ingredients in a bowl and use a stick blender to whiz it all together into a smooth batter.
Pour a small amount into the skillet and wait until it begins to lose it's glossy look. Ease a metal spatula underneath and when it will come away easily, lift and flip.
We make double/triple decker layered pancakes, oozing with honey and sour cream!
This didn't sound very appealing, but having some left over cooked squash I though I would try it. When I came to make it I decided I could improve on the original recipe and make it more nutritious. The result astounded me, so much that Son 2 declares it the best porridge he's ever tasted and even the more reserved Son 1 says he will try some!
It is simple to make. You need:
1 oz butter (or just cut a thin section off a block - I rarely measure for something like this as it really doesn't matter.
A quantity of cooked squash - use what you have and adjust, about 1 cup per person is good.
1 egg per person eating the porridge
2 oz creamed coconut
spices - cinnamon/mixed spice/nutmeg (We like lots!)
I cooked my squash first and used a stick blender to mix it to a smooth consistency, then simply added the butter and creamed coconut (it melts once warmed) to melt in the hot squash. . I stirred it all together, then added the eggs and a little boiling water to bring to the right consistency (how you like it really). At this point I put it back on a gentle heat, briefly, to cook the eggs, stirring all the time in case it stuck on the bottom of the pan.
I then added the spices, leaving the nutmeg to sprinkle on top once served.
We then added honey and sour cream.
It was so warming and delicious!
If your squash is already cooked, just put the ingredients in a pan and warm it through. You may need a little more boiling water to help stop it sticking.
Nothing earth shattering here... just that we had tried using creamed coconut to make coconut milk but it was always 'gritty' however much we strained it. but now we have found canned coconut milk from Biona - in BPA free cans, and it is so smooth and creamy...so as an odd treat we make ourselves a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Oh how we had missed it!
1 can coconut milk (free from additives)
1 can cold water (fill the can with cold water)
3 tbls cocoa powder
honey to taste
Put first three ingredients in a pan and heat to boiling.
Stir in the honey.
We are working on marshmallows to add to the experience - watch this space!
I told you I was growing squash for the first time on our allotment. Well I'll certainly be growing them again. We have had a bountiful harvest and I wish I'd grown more varieties, so I will next year. The only thing is that one variety has gone completely mad and covers a good half of my new allotment plot... added to which these particular ones are from plants my mother gave me and she can't remember where she got the seed from, or what variety it is! We thought they were marrows, but they look more like white squash of sorts. We have hundreds of them! The butternuts took a long time to get going and we do have some to harvest but they are not very big. The plot next to mine had a successive crop of courgettes of which I had to resist the temptation to be envious of, so I grew some of my own - albeit rather late in the season. I'll get a few. Next year I'll start them earlier (for lots of chocolate cake!) and throw in some cucumbers too.
I gather the secret to success is to plant them in nutrient rich soil - on a compost heap or with plenty of well rotted manure. All my plants seem to do better with plenty of manure - as long as it's applied at the right time. Some, like carrots don't like being planted in freshly spread manure or they develop forked roots, so you have to check first.
My problem now is what to do with them all! I gather I can store them in nets in a cool place until mid-winter.... that's a lot to store and we'd better start eating them soon. But how? Well apart from the obvious roast butternut squash chips I've been hunting for some more recipes. This is my collection so far. I haven't tried all of them yet, but if they are not GAPS legal as they stand they look easy to adapt.
Cut the squash into 'chips', pop them into a roasting tin, scatter
knobs of fat (I use lard) over them and bake - I use 180 deg C. and
just cook until done, but often put them in with other foods at
lower/higher temperatures and I adjust as necessary until they are
Butternut Squash Soup
Use a GAPS legal fat rather than heating olive oil in this recipe from Mary Berry
Butternut Squash Pancakes
Not just for the GAPS intro diet. GAPS legal as it stands.
Quick 'How To':
Peel a butternut squash:
The easiest way I find is to first cut off the ends and then use a vegetable peeler to peel longwise down the squash, just finishing off at the top and bottom as necessary at the end. I then cut it in 2 inch chunks. Each chunk I then slice and cut into chip shapes.
Roast a squash:
Don't peel. Cut in half longwise, Then lay face down on a baking tray with a little water. Roast for about 45 min at Gas 4, 350 deg. Having roasted it until the flesh is tender, leave it to cool and then you can scrape the flesh out and puree it. I use it to thicken sauces/soups, or we have it mashed with butter and salt.
It's a good year for beans! They were a bit slow to get going, but now everyone seems to have plenty.
Beans need plenty of water to fatten the crop, so ensure to water at least every other day if there is no rain, or not much.
You must also pick them frequently or they go to seed and stop producing. Look carefully, they hide amongst the leaves and you think you've found them all, but you have only to miss one for that plant to stop production. We all have a turn of looking just to make sure!
If you have a glut then you can freeze them: wash, trim and slice and plunge into a pan of boiling water for a minute. Then plunge into cold water to rapidly cool, then place in bags in the freezer. They cook up from frozen in minutes.
Onions are ready when the tops are brown and bent over. At this point you can gently lift them from the soil and leave them on the surface a few days to dry out before storing them. We use old net bags and hang them in the garage. They store well.
Carrots may be ready now, watch out for them going to seed as then you won't be able to use them as they go very tough. Definitely look over the crop and start thinning them out if you haven't already.
Tomatoes are ripening up nicely now. Hopefully you haven't suffered from blight due to spells of damp weather! Keep watering them as the fruit forms, especially if they are in pots or under cover. The more you water, the better the crop.
If you have a glut, look up GAPs recipes for making tomato sauces that you can freeze.
Keep an eye out on the back of the leaves for clumps of yellow butterfly eggs and remove them before they hatch.
Kale you can pick leaves as you need them and they will keep coming.
Again, there has been a good crop this year. A very versatile plant, good sliced thinly and fried, added to quiches, soups, or even make cakes (like my chocolate cake here!) Keep picking and watering and feed fortnightly as they are very hungry plants.
My squashes haven't done very well at all as they took a bashing in the wet windy weather soon after they were planted, so are only just bearing fruit which won't have time to ripen now. But I will try again next year. I have got marrows coming though.
Once the leeks in the nursery bed are pencil thickness you can plant them on. Make a whole 2 in. across and 6 in. deep and drop the leek into it, having carefully dug it up with a fork. Water it in, but don't back fill the whole. The leek will grow to fill it (well, that's the idea, it's our first time and we are watching what happens!)
Should be ready to pick now as you need them. Take the largest. You don't want to let them get too woody and spoil.
Our apples haven't done well at all, which is a shame as we hoped to use some for juicing. The Bramleys have done a little better. If you have got a good crop, then enjoy, use the fallers too.
Again you could cook and then freeze for use in winter puddings.
Meantime we've enjoyed our crop of strawberries and raspberries, which both did well, and are just picking the last of the blueberries. We had eleven figs on our fig tree (pot contained) which is the most we have ever had. We have planted successional lettuce and spring onions so are enjoying those.
All in all it has really boosted our limited diet and we are starting to feel the lessening on the grocery bill as we don't need to buy so much veg. at the moment, which is great as it's top quality produce, and better than we buy anyway - better than we can afford!
It's been very hard work keeping on top of the allotment and garden, but a little here and a little there gets us by. It's not weed free, but it's certainly not weed infested and we've only done occasional hoeing sessions. Our dig free method has done us proud again!
Most of my crops are now visible, which is great, but they now require a lot of attention.
Growing your own is not the easiest way to ensure fresh, local, produce but it is very rewarding. It does require time and effort though.
Be sure to water regularly according to the plants' needs.
Onions don't require gallons of water, only some now and then if it's really dry, but as they are in the same bed as our carrots, which do need water, they get done anyway!
Some plants need plenty of water though, and they include squash and pumpkins and runner beans. Seedlings of course need to be kept moist.
Raspberries I find can do with a bucket on them every night when it is dry, once they have flowers. Don't forget the strawberries, but be careful not to let them get too wet or the fruit rots - hence they don't love damp spells when the berries are ripening (like at the moment!).
Anything in pots need to be remembered, especially in dry spells.
Don't forget the rhubarb. It performs better when well watered, just don't put the water on the crowns or they will rot, water round them instead.
You will find a multitude of small weeds appearing now, especially with rain to encourage them! Some, like dock and dandelion which have deep roots, which need to be completely removed, can be dug out with a small trowel while they are still small. Other small weeds can be hoed off. When the soil is dry and hard, pull the hoe over the bed taking off the leaves of the plants and these shouldn't re-grow.
By keeping on top of them now, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble later on. Just be careful not to take up your plants with the weeds!
Once your crops show above ground they really need vigilant nurturing.
Slugs and snails can destroy your crop in a day and so I do resort to slug pellets. I try to use environmentally friendly ones and even then only sparsely, but without them my efforts could easily go to waste. Check your plants, especially after rain, for signs of attack
Check the back of brassicas (cabbage/kale/cauliflower/broccoli) regularly for butterfly eggs. They look like a regiment of small yellow dots and you need to either squash them off, or remove the leaf they are on before they hatch.
Last year I kindly denoted them to nature loving Son 2, who reared them into cabbage white butterflies - through the chrysalis stage, which was absolutely fascinating. He was so delighted when his first butterfly emerged.
Put straw under strawberries, so the fruit has something soft to ripen on and to keep them off the wet soil. Then net them, but please make sure birds can't get under the netting and get trapped.
Remove yellow leaves from brassicas.
Continue to plant successional rows of seeds. Things like lettuce and spring onions can be sown through until the end of June and some into July.
Pick herbs regularly to encourage them to grow.
Hopefully we shall have our first taste of home-grown strawberries soon. Lavishly coated in sour cream and honey! Can't wait!
Our new patch - weeds covered with a thick layer of manure, then covered to kill off weeds ready for next season. One strip prepared for sowing this year - using the 'no-dig' method.
We have done this for a year now, and it seems to be working. Last years crop was excellent. It has also been lovely this year to take off our covers to find the soil ready to plant without the labour intensive deep digging that we have done in previous years. Weed growth did seem to be less too last season, an added bonus of only minimally disturbing the soils eco-system. Learning to use a hoe was the best thing we did last year. It made weeding so easy and even pleasurable!
We do try to rotate our crops from year to year too and I keep a diary of what was planted where each year to facilitate planning.
What will you grow? No space, then do what you can. Herbs grow well on windowsills and we are finding we are using far more fresh herbs than ever to flavour our food on the GAPS diet. Tomatoes will grow well on balconies or decking as long as they have plenty of sun. Blueberries will grow happily in containers, as will strawberries. Allotments are great if you can afford one and it is near enough to travel to frequently during the growing season. We seem to be very fortunate to live in an area where the allotments are very cheap (£28 for the year - or £14 for a half plot).
If you are just starting out then grow reliable crops. Onions have always done well for us, as have beetroots and runner beans, without much overseeing, although beans need a lot of watering. Brassicas (the cabbage family) tend to need more care and protection from caterpillars and can just be that bit trickier to succeed with. Grow the things you will eat lots of. Squash, leeks and spring onions are new to us so a bit of an experiment.
We have tried peas, but you need a lot of plants to produce a meals worth! Raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb will just come up every year and just appreciate a bit of manure each season, and clearing/pruning at the end. Of course fruit trees are easy as long as you don't let them get too big and unmanageable.
If you haven't started planting, then don't panic.. there is still time. Choose carefully. It is generally cheaper to grow your own from seed, although if you only want a few plants of each sort, then it may be better to go to a garden centre and buy them ready started as small plants.
Our original patch with some onions already growing well. Three weeks ago this ground was too wet to dig and plant, being heavy clay. Now it is very dry and hard to dig! But clay is good as it retains its nutrients.