Friday, 16 June 2017

Strawberry Pie

Oh boy, do we have a bumper crop of strawberries!  I am not complaining, honestly.   We have had lots to share with the neighbours, enough to make jam, and plenty to eat with cream or yogurt.  Now it's time to get a bit more adventurous with the berries.  Andy suggested strawberry pie.... 

What a good idea!  Why didn't I think of that?  So, I did some research (that means Googling) and found several recipes for strawberry pie.  I had all ingredients I needed to make this one ... and very good it is, too. 

Here's the recipe as written:

9 inch pie shell - baked and cooled to room temperature*
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries - approximately 
1 cup white sugar (caster sugar)
3 Tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
3/4 water
1/2 cup heavy cream for whipping

Arrange half of the berries in the pie shell and set aside while you make the filling.

Remove the stems and slice the remaining strawberries into a saucepan.  Add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil.  

Combine the water and cornstarch.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually add the water-cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. 

Lower the heat and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is VERY thick.  

Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract... this is my addition to the recipe.  I like the taste of vanilla and strawberries.

Spoon the filling over the berries in the pie crust.  Try to cover each berry with the glaze.  Let the pie cool to room temperature then refrigerate until the pie is 'set'.

The recipe says to serve the pie with the cream whipped.  We just poured it over and tucked in.  I bet a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be great, too. 

* One other thing... I used a sweet pastry crust for the base but a regular short crust will do.  If you don't 'DO' pastry you can still 'DO' this pie. Simply purchase some lovely packaged pastry at the supermarket.  This easy pie really is the taste of an English summer.  Enjoy! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Plum Patch

I am not a 'purple' person.  My taste in flowers runs more towards the pale pinks, blush, and peachy tones mixed with a bit of blue and white. Somehow I seem to have a rather large patch of plum flowers in the garden right now. 

I don't remember intentionally planting this group of flowers in such a coordinated way.  I tend to purchase plants first and figure out where to put them later.

This may have been a fortunate accident... or ... perhaps I did it intuitively.  

Either way, I am enjoying the change.  

Monday, 5 June 2017

A Strawberry's Story

When you are brought up by a family of gardeners and farmers, every plant in your garden will evoke a childhood memory.  Working on our allotment plot gives me time to think of all those who shared their gardens, flowers, and produce with me when I was a child.  Now that strawberry time is here I am reminded of the story my Dad told me about when he was a kid growing up in Tennessee. 

My grandpa was a cotton and strawberry farmer.  My Dad, being the youngest and still at home, and like most farm kids, always helped with the harvest.  He told me how they would pick the berries and put them through a grid to 'size' them.  The best and biggest berries would stay on top of the grid and be sent to market. Times would be good! Well, as good as they could be on a Tennessee farm in the years between the Great Depression and World War II.

The bad times came when all the strawberries were too small to 'size'.  When all the berries slipped through the grid there was no crop to sell.... no money... no prospects until the next summer. These must have been very lean years.  Not much was ever said about those hard times.  I can't image how my grandparents must have felt.  They never complained about anything. They were stoic and kind, really 'good people'.  

You would think that being problematic, my family would have had their fill of strawberries but I still remember the big cut-glass bowls filled with prepared berries on my grandma's sideboard, covered by a pristine white cloth, waiting to be eaten with a slice of homemade cake after lunch. Always the optimist, my Dad would finish the story by saying, 'I didn't mind when we had to eat all those little, rejected berries.  Everyone knows the little ones are the sweetest'.  

Here's to all those sweet little berries, enjoy! 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Plot - May 13, 2017

I haven't abandoned the blog, well, not completely.   Our  allotment plot has been taking A LOT of my time.  I've spent hours sowing seeds, preparing the soil, and planting up.  Finally, things are starting to grow!

As you can see, ours is the plot directly behind our garden fence.  Nice location don't you think?  It wasn't always like this.... 

This is how it all began last year around the fifth of July when we took over the plot.  They say you have to be an optimist to be a gardener but really, this bordered on lunacy! 

Today with the roses covered in little buds and the strawberry beds full of flowers, it all seems worth it.  There is lots more growing to do... watch this space!  

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Pasta Spoon Revelation

Every once in a while you get a 'light bulb' moment.  You know, when you hear or read something that makes you go... 'Of course! Why didn't I see that?'

Now you probably already knew this, but that hole in your pasta spoon is there for a reason.  It measures out one perfect adult portion of pasta.  Of course it does! 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Bean Sticks

The seed peas in the polytunnel have grown into proper little plants complete with tendrils.  It won't be long until they are ready to go out into the garden but before I plant them I need to make some supports for those tiny tendrils to twine around. 

I will probably make traditional bamboo tee pees for the runner beans and climbing peas. 

I like the look of these cane fences for the bush peas and beans.  

I've been doing some 'research' on plant supports and found lots of lovely ideas, for example, this rustic string bean trellis. 

Imagine the scent of sweet peas when you walk under this simple archway made of tied twigs.

I was really impressed with this Gothic arch made from green sticks, not that I have any use it, but it is beautiful.  Do you have a clever way to support your climbing plants?  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Watermelon Story or Sugar Babies

When I started to sow seeds for Sugar Baby watermelons my thoughts immediately turned to my late Uncle Shanny.  He was a brilliant gardener who grew these delicious little melons just for me.  So when I saw the seeds were available in our allotment seed catalogue I knew I had to try to grow some.

Now that the seedlings are up I am reminded of my little brother.  When he was just a tot, we were eating slices of watermelon in our back garden.  He took great delight in spitting the seeds as far as he could, usually to detriment of his little sneakers.  His aim or range wasn't good, anyway.... 

He asked our Dad, 'will these really make watermelons?' Daddy answered in the affirmative but said they must be planted first.  Little brother picked out a sticky seed from his slice of melon and with a podgy, little finger shoved it into the ground.  To make sure he'd properly planted it, he stomped the seed further into the soil with his foot.  'There', he said, 'that will grow'.  Dad and I exchanged knowing looks.  This little seed didn't have a chance.  How wrong you can be! It did grow and produced a proper melon.  I can only hope I am half as lucky with these little seedlings, my first ever crop of Sugar Babies.