The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: July 2009

Currants – Black, Red and Pink

The currants have done really well this year and I have frozen quite a lot ready to use in the winter months. Last night I made jam with red, black and pink and although the jars are an assortment of previously used ones it all looks very colourful and tastes wonderful. I think I shall make an effort next year and get some nice jars from Wares of Knutsford especially for the job.

currants

This is the first year that I have made red and pink currant jelly and I am very pleased with the taste of both. Last year was the first year of the bushes and we only had enough for mixed fruit and ice cream a couple of times. They are both very pretty bushes and looked beautiful hung with multiple strings of bright jewel like fruit.

 

 

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When the fruit first turns red or white it is not yet fully ripe, so harvest only once it has sweetened. It is simplest to cut the bunches of fruit, called strigs, using scissors. The fruit can be stored in the fridge for a week or two after picking. Alternatively, freeze the fruit or preserve it.

Gooseberry Jam

Last night we went to the plots and while Rob laid a wood chip path in the fruit tunnel I picked the rest of the fruit. The gooseberries are past their best now really. We have already picked and frozen a lot of the red so I decided to pick some green ones and make some jam.

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Put the gooseberries and a little water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the skins are soft . They will not soften after the sugar has been added. I always sieve the cooked fruit in the case of berries and currants. This also means that you can leave stems on as they will be left behind in the sieve.  After sieving put the pulp/juice back into the pan and add the sugar. Use fruit and sugar in equal amounts. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved completely. If you boil the jam before the sugar crystals have dissolved you will get crystallisation during storage. Bring the jam to a rapid but steady rolling boil, stirring continually in a figure of eight movement to keep the jam from sticking. Do not leave unattended. It should take about fifteen minutes to reach setting point. Pour the jam into the heat proof jars using a jam funnel. I always stand the jars in the sink just in case of spillage or breakage. Enjoy.

Cabbage Frostie

cabbage frostieWay back in the season I sowed a few seeds given to me by Debs, our Sean’s girl, and wasn’t quite sure what would grow as I could only find a Kale called Frosty. However, what has grown is a lovely pointed cabbage. I think I shall be buying seeds of my own next year and maybe I’ll share them with Deb and Sean. Frosty produces small, solid heads of fine flavour and texture. Early to mature, it can be planted very close for early harvest of spring greens.

Indian Runner Ducks

Yesterday we took our black Silkie bantam cockerel to a new home. The chap had all sorts of chickens, loads of large white ducks and some Indian Runner Ducks. I have often looked at pictures of the runner duck and seen them in the flesh and thought them to be comical but have never considered getting any. However, when we were ready to leave the chap gave us six eggs for the incubator and there they sit now. With the prospect of little ducklings in twenty eight days I thought I had best read up on these strange members of the duck family. Apparently the ducks are prolific layers of large eggs and can lay all year round. The eggs he gave us are enormous and it is hard to believe that the outcome of the hatch will be the slim, elegant, penguin like birds in his field. Well elegant until they start to run.

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Indian Runners are a very special breed of domestic duck. When they were first imported into Europe nearly two hundred years ago they attracted attention because of their tall, upright bodies and their incredible reputation for egg-laying. They had been found in the East Indies, from which they get their present name, but were referred to as penguin ducks by Dutch explorers. Information from The Indian Runner Duck Association.

Reaping the Rewards

currant-harvest-300x224.jpgIt has been good growing weather just lately. Warm and wet. The plants have loved it and we had a near miss from the Blight according to Blight watch which is wonderful. We popped to the plots this morning and dug up a good harvest of Kestrel Potatoes. We have already dug up and eaten some Swift and some Vivaldi, both of which were very good. Today we ate one of the cabbage Kilaxy and it too was a success. The soft fruit has been great this year. We have eaten loads, given loads away and the freezer is full too. The strawberries have been producing like mad as have the red currants, red and green gooseberries, black currants and rhubarb. I have found recipes for redcurrant tart and redcurrant jelly and am planning to have a try at them next week.

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We brought home the first of the courgette, a few more red and white onions, peas, broad beans,  pak choi, spring onions, carrots and red lettuce. The difficult thing is keeping up with the eating.

Clematis From Lidl – Hagley Hybrid and Rouge Cardinal

clematis hagley hybridI treated myself to two Clematis today from Lidl. Only £4.99 each and both beautiful sturdy plants with loads of flower buds. One is called Clematis Hagley Hybrid and was raised  in 1945 by the head gardener at Hagley Hall. It is also known as Pink Chiffon. I have planted this one on the trellis at the opposite end to Miss Christine.I treated myself to two Clematis today from Lidl. Only £4.99 each and both beautiful sturdy plants with loads of flower buds. One is called Clematis Hagley Hybrid and was raised  in 1945 by the head gardener at Hagley Hall. It is also known as Pink Chiffon. I have planted this one on the trellis at the opposite end to Miss Christine.

 

 

 

 

Clematis Rouge Cardinal

The other is called Clematis Rouge Cardinal and I have planted that one in the side garden. Clematis Rouge Cardinal raised by Giraultin from Orleans in France in 1968. A stunning flower colour of velvety crimson, with a satin sheen to the sepal surface, fading as the flower ages. A full rounded 4″ wide flower. Brownish red anthers. Very free flowering habit. It flowers mid summer to early Autumn.