Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Freezing Green Beans

Chances are if you've planted beans in your garden, or know someone who has, you will have more French beans than you can eat or give away.  I can see the neighbours hiding behind their curtains when they see me coming towards their front doors with another basket filled with beans, hoping I can force them to take them off my hands.  At first they are delighted, then polite, then they just try to avoid me.

So, in the hope of preserving friendships and neighbourly relationships, I have decided to freeze some of the many Blue Lake beans harvested from my allotment. 

Freezing fresh produce is SO easy and you will enjoy a little taste of summer once the winter sets in.  All you need are some little freezer bags, a marker pen and these simple instructions: 

1.  Pick and wash your green beans.  Sort them roughly by size, little skinny ones in one pile, medium sized beans in another, and big beans in a third pile.

2.  Top and tail the beans and cut them into bite size pieces.

3.  Fill a large sauce pan with water and bring it to a rolling boil.  Add the first pile of beans and parboil them for the following times:
      BIG BEANS - boil for 4 minutes
      MEDIUM BEANS - boil for 3 minutes
      SKINNY BEANS - boil for 2 minutes

4.  Drain the beans and plunge them into VERY COLD water to cool them down. Drain the beans well.  

5.  Pack the cooled beans into freezer bags, press out as much air as possible and seal.   I like to use a marker pen to label and date the beans.  

6.  Place the bagged beans into the freezer and enjoy within one year.  

Monday, 10 July 2017

Allotment Learning

It's almost the middle of July.  I figure this is the height of the growing season in the allotment. As you know, this is my first year of actually growing vegetables and it has been a real learning experience.  I've made all the expected novice mistakes; bought too many different seeds, put plants in the wrong locations, over planted some things, and planted too few of other vegetables.  Perhaps the most annoying thing I've done is not giving myself enough room between rows to harvest the vegetables comfortably.  It's like a game of Twister when harvesting flowers from the cutting patch - right foot between the cosmos, left foot by the cornflowers. 

It's been lots of work but I have loved every minute.  Things don't seem as frantic now that most of the planting and planning is done.  I've had time to stop and enjoy the garden and evaluate what lessons have been learned in such a short time.  Here's a list, in no particular order, that might be useful if you are a beginner 'plotter' like me:

1.  Sow seeds indoors and plant young seedlings into modules.  Transplant them into the garden once you think they are big enough to stand up to the slugs. 

2.  Use heavy cardboard, landscape fabric, or old carpet to cover any garden beds not in use. This will smother out any weeds and saves you digging it over more than once.  

3.  You can never have TOO much twine... 

4.  You can never have too many bamboo canes, pea sticks, or plant supports. Practically everything taller than ankle height needs staking in our coastal winds.  This is also why you can never have too much twine. 

5.  Grow beans and peas that climb up.  Bush beans are lovely but they are harder to pick and growing vertically gives you more room to plant different things. 

5.  Pick beans, beets, and turnips when they are young and tender.  Most veg is best picked on the small side. Nothing is worse than wooden turnips or stringy string beans.  

6.  Grow some 'No-Fail' plants to encourage you to be brave.  If you don't have room to start plants from seeds you can purchase lots of different veg from garden centers in modules or bare root ready to plant in your garden.

7.  Grow some scary plants, the kind that may or may not make it.  I've got watermelons in the polytunnel.  If I get one melon I'll be happy.  

8.  Always add flowers, the bees will love you and it makes the garden look beautiful.  

9.  Water! Weed! Feed! Then weed again. 

10. The 'Golden Gardening Hours' are VERY early in the morning and that hour between sunset and dusk.  You can catch the slugs and snails unawares and watering is most effective when the sun isn't beating down on the garden. 

11.  Make friends with your allotment neighbours but don't live in their pockets. Do a good deed for them now and then and they will return the favour.  

12.  Dress appropriately; hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and SUNSCREEN. And don't forget to wear the right shoes/wellies/work boots. 

13.  This may be the most important point, research: READ, READ, and READ some more.  The more you learn before you plant the more success you will enjoy. 


Listen to advice but don't necessarily take it, especially from ME!  

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Beans and Flowers for Cutting

Today is the 4th of July - not that it means anything special here in Devon. When I was a kid it was a big deal, Independence Day, one of the few times when my parents would host what we would consider to be a party. They would fire up the Bar-B-Q, make homemade ice cream, slice a big watermelon, and invite the neighbours over to our BIG back garden to watch the fireworks.  As a child, this was almost as good as Christmas... almost.  

I often feel a little nostalgic on the 4th.  It was always a big 'family day' for us. The plants in the allotment also are reminding me of days gone by and family members who are no longer with us. The vegetables remind me of my great-aunt and great-uncle who kept the most immaculate gardens and grew Sugar Baby watermelons just for me!

I planted zinnias in memory of my grandmother Lessie.  She always grew her vegetables in great beds bordered by colourful zinnias.  Most of my family 'gardened' and each plant and flower fuel a memory.  I think it is true of most people's gardens.  So I'll cut sweet peas, collect some beans, and remember all those who shared those special Independence Days with me.  Of course, there won't be any fireworks tonight... not in DEVON!