Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

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 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.

The flavour of this variety 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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Raspberry Canes

We potted up three raspberry canes yesterday. They were from Lidl so only £2.47 for the three. They look very healthy with a good root system but have no variety on them or any indication as to wether they are Summer or Autumn fruiting. I already have one raspberry plant given to me by my sister. We plan to erect a post and wire row for them all in the Spring.

Raspberries are best in full sun. They produce new canes in the first year and these canes fruit in the second year. First year canes are green and second year canes have a thin brown bark. It is best to prune back the cane after it has fruited. Maybe we will do what we do with the red currants and cut the wood back whilst it is covered in ripe berries. That way you do two jobs in one and the branch can be taken home to remove the fruit then trimmed and used as a cutting for a new plant.