I have been on caterpillar patrol at my allotments for weeks now and must have cut hundreds in half with my scissors. Gruesome thoughts I know, but last year they reduced my Purple Sprouting Broccoli to lace before the plants had even started growing! The bold black and yellow larvae of the Large White Butterfly are easy to spot, but the green ones, which are the larvae of the Small White Butterflies, are well camouflaged against the leaves! I try to spray my vegetables as little as possible and physical removal is one of the best ways to deal with these voracious eaters! What with the local pigeons and the few caterpillars that escaped my scissors for a while, some of my sprout plants look a little tattered and one or two of the broccoli as well. But with a good feed of pelleted chicken manure and hoeing to keep the weeds at bay, they are strong enough to stand the winter now.
As well as my brassicas, including some plants of Cavolo nero or black Kale, that the caterpillars were not so keen on, I have two rows of parsnips and lots of leeks. All these vegetables are perfectly hardy and will stay in the ground through the winter so that they can be lifted as we need them. Ideal if we get cut off in our village again by snow! At least we can always make some soup and homemade bread to warm us up!
My potatoes for store have all been lifted now and are in boxes in the garage. ‘Sarpo Mira’ was my choice of main crop potato. These are a red skinned, blight resistant variety. I cut the top growth off at the end of August to prevent the tubers from getting starchy and lifted them during September on a dry sunny day so as not to take too much earth with them! Blight resistant they may be but the slugs were onto them and a few had been hollowed out to shells. Mrs McGregor spent quite a bit of time sorting through them to use any damaged ones first, only storing the perfect specimens which should last us until after Christmas. By not washing them and storing them in the dark, potatoes will keep well until next spring when they begin to shoot again.
The strong winds that we have had recently have almost finished off the runner beans and they are starting to go stringy. However, there are still enough to make a few jars of spiced runner bean pickle, which was a winner last year. The last of the courgettes are coming in as well but they have been disappointing this year –I don’t really know why. Mrs McGregor loves to make courgette and walnut chutney for Christmas presents but we have only managed two small batches this year.
Now it is a battle with the weather to hoe off the weeds on vacant areas and around the winter crops as well as starting winter digging when time and soil conditions allow.
RECIPES TO TRY
Beetroot in Jelly
Big bunch of medium sized beetroot
1 Raspberry jelly
1 teaspoon sugar
Gently wash the beetroot and twist off the tops. Boil in water until tender and allow to cool. Slip off the skins and cut the beets into small dice. Melt the jelly in the vinegar over a low heat and add the sugar. Stir until everything has dissolved. Pack the diced beetroot into sterilized jars and pour in enough jelly mixture to cover. Set in fridge. Once set, label and store in a cupboard for use through winter.
This recipe has been passed down from my grandmother.
Courgette and Walnut Chutney
1 ½ lb courgettes, sliced
1 ½ tablespoons salt
8oz ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
4oz onions, chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely grated orange rind (or lemon)
1lb sugar (Demerara is good!)
12 fl oz spiced vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3oz walnuts, chopped
Put the courgettes in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Leave for 2 hours then rinse and dry. Put in a pan with the remaining ingredients except the walnuts and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer until thickened and then stir in the walnuts. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
Makes about 3lb.
Adapted from the book preserves and pickles by Heather Lambert.