Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Fruit Bushes from James McIntyre 2020

I bought a few fruiting bushes for Laura as although she had a go at flowers and a few peas, beans and tomatoes last year she has never grown fruit. I searched online and found a company called James McIntyre and Sons operating in Perthshire in Scotland. Delivery was prompt, plants were well packed and in good condition. They have been over wintered in the garden and we are just now potting on and planning where they will live in the garden. I would definitely use this grower again. Their product is excellent.

Rubus Idaeus Raspberry – Tulameen

Raspberry Tulameen was bred in Canada. It is a summer (July and August) fruiting variety, and is sold as an excellent variety for growing in pots. It is supposed to be disease resistant and have fruit with a sweet aromatic flavour. Instructions for pruning says remove the canes that have fruited and train in new canes for next year. The cane will probably need the support of a post. Soil must be kept moist during fruiting time. The cane will probably grow to five feet. Apply a high potash feed in February each year.

Vaccinium Corymbosum Blueberry Chandler

Blueberry Chandler

Chandler blueberries could have been designed for amateur growing. The taste is outstanding, the berries are large and fruit for a long season from August to September. Blueberries are a superfood with high levels of anti-oxidants and anti-cancer agents. Chandler is an upright plant growing to 4ft and is easy to cultivate. All blueberries need moist, free-draining ericaceous acidic soil. This healthy looking plant has been repotted today in a large pot of fresh ericaceous compost. We already have three other older Blueberry bushes in the garden and these fruit, whilst being self fertile do fruit better with cross pollinators nearby. Apparently they are members of the heather family and need the same conditions as any other heather. That’s news to me. Very interesting.

Green Gooseberry Hannonmaki

This is a variety of gooseberry, Hannonmaki Green, that I have grown before at the allotment. It was very rewarding large juicy fruit with a sweet taste. It is a traditional variety producing an abundance of green-yellow fruit with a fresh and tangy flavour. The hardy bushes reach a height of about three feet with attractive bushy foliage. The fruit is ready from June to July and is useful fresh or in pies, jams and crumbles. As I remember this bush looked after itself requiring a little pruning back in the winter for the following year. I have missed having fruit in the garden and look forward to the gooseberries even though only one plant I think it will provide enough for us.

Red Gooseberry Hannonmaki

Hannonmaki Red

This traditional variety has a good resistance to disease and produces a heavy crop of fruit. The ruby-red, medium-sized gooseberries are sweet when ripe in July.

Pink Currant Gloire de Sablons

pink currant Gloire de Sablons

The Pink Currant is another old favourite that I grew at the allotment. This particular variety is new to me though. It is sold as a heavy cropping variety fruiting in July. It is a beautiful bush visually when the fruit is hanging like jewels and the jam I used to make from them was amazing.

Red Currant Rosetta

Red Currant

Red Currant Rosetta is also a new variety to me but my memories of the ones I grew on the allotment are vibrant and luckily I brought back a good cutting from one of my very established bushes which has really grown well in the garden. These shrubs are very easy to propagate so when they are a couple of years old I shall take cutting from the new ones. Once planted a mulch of well-rotted manure every spring as well as a nitrogen and potassium fertiliser will help to increase the fruit production. Make sure the plant is watered in dry weather. In the first year prune back to one bud above soil level in winter. After that prune out weak branches only. The plants I bought are already two to three years old so should be ok left alone.

Apparently Jhonkeer is a parent of this new Dutch variety. I am looking forward to cooking with it and cant wait to see the large fruit hanging in glowing red clusters.

Ribes Nigrum – Blackcurrant Big Ben

Blackcurrant Big Ben

Blackcurrants have always been a favourite of mine and I just love jam made from these fruits. This variety, Big Ben, has been bred by The Scottish Crop Institute. It is an early season variety producing, as its name suggests, larger than average sized fruit. It is self-fertile, cropping in July and is disease resistant.

Gojiberry

Goji Berry

Goji berries are also known as Lycium barbarum. The goji berry is native to Asia where it has been used for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal herb and food supplement. Goji berries are widely available to purchase in health food shops and online. This is a completely new fruit to me. I have read quite a bit about it and I bought it because of its reputation as a super fruit with health giving properties.

Lycium barbarum was introduced to the United Kingdom in the 1730s by the Duke Of Argyll but the plant was mostly used for hedges and decorative gardening.

According to RHS the plants begin to fruit after two-to-three years. Berries appear from late summer until the first frosts. Only fully ripe fruit are edible. Fruit can turn black when handled so consider harvesting by shaking the berries gently from the plant onto a sheet placed beneath. Hmmmmm. Not convinced. The advice is it is best to train plants against a wall or fence tying the lax stems onto wires and to wear gloves for protection against spines. This will be an education for us. I’m not sure that I can eat these berries yet.

Cherries – Growing and Cooking

I understand that cherries are a good source of vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, vitamin A and folic acid. They are also well known for their antioxidant properties. I think the birds who visit our garden are also aware of this as they seem to know the minute that the cherries are ready to harvest. I have two trees, a Stella and a Sweetheart, however they are both now too tall to net so we agree that I pick the lower fruit and then birds can have the higher up bounty.

Sweetheart is a popular, self-fertile sweet cherry and the large fruit have a good flavour. Beautiful white blossom in spring is followed by large, sweet dark red cherries (darker than Stella). This is a late-cropping variety, so useful for extending the season. The fruits ripen over a few weeks so you don’t get a glut all at once and you can be picking well into September.

Stella is a smaller tree and is also self fertile.  It is a heavy cropper having good resistance to late frosts. Stella will thrive in most locations and can be grown in a large container. The sweetly flavoured fruit will be ready to pick from mid July.  The lovely blossom which appears from early March will brighten your garden and herald the arrival of spring.

 

We all like to eat the fruit as it comes but another family favourite is Cherry Pie.

Recipe:-

  • A guestimate of cherries, washed and pitted
  • Lemon juice
  • 4oz sugar
  • Almond essence
  • 1 block of Sainsburys Shortcrust pastry

I normally cook the pitted cherries in a little lemon juice and sugar with a dash of almond essence. Set them on one side and line a pie plate with half of the pastry. Pour in the filling and put the pastry lid on. I brush with milk and sprinkle sugar on top then bake in the middle of the oven at 180 for 20 mins.

How to pit cherries. Place the cherry on top of the mouth of an empty bottle. With a chopstick, apply pressure and push the pit into the bottle. 

 

From beautiful blossoms to delicious pie

Aicok Juicer

I have recently treated myself to a juicer. Initially it was to use up all the frozen berries that had accumulated in the freezer because I hadn’t been making jam. However, I am now very keen to try to consume a daily smoothie having read about the health benefits. Apparently its not just fruit that can be used up by juicing but vegetables too. My Aicok Juicer is small and was relatively cheap and is the centrifugal type.

There are two main types of juicer, centrifugal, the most popular and the cheapest and masticating cold press or slow juicers.  Centrifugal machines shred ingredients with their toothed blades on the bottom of a spinning sieve with a force that separates the juice from the pulp. They often have two speeds for hard or soft fruits and veg while pricier ones sometimes enable you to juice particularly soft fruits like berries. Centrifugal juicers generally tend to be smaller than masticating ones and work quickly. Some don’t even require you to chop fruit and veg up first. Masticating or cold press machines crush fruit and veg using slowly rotating augers that press out the juice through a punctured screen. There’s little they can’t juice but be warned, they are slower and often trickier to clean.

The next step is to discover which fruit and vegetables mix well together and which ones taste good. It seems obvious to me that any fruit and veg are healthy but not all go well together. The first experiment was made from what was available in the kitchen on that day. I had two bananas, half a pineapple and a few grapes plus a couple of scoops of Greek yoghurt and a good spoon of honey. This first try taught me something. I put everything that I was using in together through the little funnel to be juiced. Wrong!!! I should have just juiced the fruit and then added the yoghurt and honey to the smoothie afterwards. Made perfect sense after the event. I have since made juice with some frozen red currants, blackberries and raspberries that have been sitting in the freezer since last Autumn. I think I am going to love my new gadget. A few days on and although I have enjoyed quite a few smoothie drinks I am dismayed at the pulp waste which gathers in the bottom of the machine. I have given some to the chickens and composted some but am still shocked at the amount of waste created. I think citrus fruit in particular is still best done by hand in the old fashioned squeezer.

 

 

Blueberry Patriot – Vaccinium Corymbosum

I have bought two roots of Blueberry Patriot from Lidl. They were two for £3 so worth a risk. I have a Blueberry bush that is quite a few years old that I think I got from Wilkos for a couple of pounds and it has paid me back over and over with fruit. This early season variety is said to have large berries and be a reliable and heavy cropper. I am going to plant them tomorrow in a large pot with a mix of all purpose and ericaceous compost. I am a bit doubtful about them as they look quite weak but let’s see what a bit of tender care can do. 11th April – there are signs of fresh growth but not looking promising for this year.

Patriot is an early season variety. It has been developed as a cold hardy variety that will bear consistent crops of large sized fruit, fruits can sometimes reach the size of a 10p coin. Cropping is high, ranging between 10 and 20 pounds when the bush is mature. The berries are dark blue and highly flavoured. Patriot is a low growing, spreading bush reaching a height of around 4 feet. It is adaptable to many soil types and will perform better in moist soils than many other varieties. Patriot looks fabulous in the garden with its showy white blooms in the spring, dark green summer foliage, and fiery orange autumn colours.

Senga Sengana Strawberry – Rambling Cascade

Today, 11th March, I have planted ten Strawberry Senga Sengana bought as bare-root plants. I have read good things about this variety of strawberries and look forward to tasting. I am not sure if I should expect fruit in the first year or whether I will have to wait until next year. I live in hope. 21st May and plenty of fruits forming on these plants.

strawberry senga senganaThe flavour of this variety of strawberry is exceptional. The large fruits are sweet and very juicy.  This is the perfect variety of strawberry for growing in hanging baskets or window boxes.  Whilst no strawberry can climb Rambling Cascade can be trained and tied into a trellis. They are of course also suitable for open ground growing and is a fantastic variety for those considering growing in matted rows. Recommended by the RHS to be an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. Senga Sengana is self fertile and can be grown in pots or open ground. Information from Victoriana Nursery.

senga sengana strawberries

Pineberry – White Strawberry

I bought five bare roots of these unusual strawberries and after giving them a drink and a rest I have planted them into a wooden wine box to grow on before finding them a final bed in the garden.

Pineberry is an albino strawberry cultivar with a pineapple-like flavour, white colouring, and red seeds. Pineberry is based on the original strawberry hybrids that arose in cultivation in Europe, with recent selective breeding to improve the plants. It is a hybrid of Fragaria chiloensis, originating in South America, and Fragaria virginiana, originating in North America, the same parentage as the garden strawberry Fragaria × ananassa. The first commercial cultivation occurred in 2010 in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Honeydew Melon – Try Try Try Again

Six chitted seeds from a shop bought Honeydew Melon have been placed into a module tray and covered in polythene. Germination was super quick, they had quite a long shoot emerging after two days.  4th Feb. If I can grow them on into a decently strong plant they can be put into the ground at the allotment. Apparently they need three months of growing time after this point. I have tried many times over the years but always directly into the ground. Second batch sown today 7th Feb.

Pear and Lemon Jam 2011

This was my first attempt at Pear Jam. Its a cobbled together version of the recipe I do for all my jams. I used two pound of pears which had been peeled, cored and cut up into chunks; I large lemon;  one pound of preserving sugar and some water. I put the pears into a pan with a little water and the juice and zest of the lemon. I cooked the pears until they were soft. Then I added the preserving sugar and brought to the boil until the mixture reached setting point. I am now waiting for the verdict from the family. I think that next time I may add a little powdered ginger when cooking the pears.

 

 

Damson Merryweather 2011

The Minarette Damson tree that I bought from Ken Muir has done us proud this year. It was beautiful in the Spring when it was smothered with blossom and I have picked five pounds of fruit this week. We love Damsons and quite a few have been eaten already. I have made four jars of jam today.

 

 

Plum Jam

This morning I made three jars of jam from some of the fruit collected from my Victoria Plum Tree bought from Lidl. They are really tasty straight from the tree but lovely made into jam so that we can have the taste right through the winter too.

I usually cook large stoned fruit quite well in a little water and lemon juice then when the stones are floating on the top I put the whole lot through a seive and combine it with a little preserving sugar. There is pectin in the stones so no need to add more. Stir the fruit pulp and the sugar until the sugar is melted in then turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring until the setting point is reached, not long with plums, and then pour into your jars using a funnel.