Autumn in the frugal veg garden

It’s been a while since I updated you on our fruit and vegetable plot, so I thought I’d better hurry up and fill you in before everything dies off! We are barely into September and already there is that crisp autumnal feeling about the garden. The mornings are cold and dewy, the pumpkins and squashes are ripe and their leaves are growing silver and dropping off. If you concentrate hard, I swear you can almost smell November’s bonfires and fireworks.

This year the plot more than doubled in size due to my other half, DJ, building two more raised beds, using homemade compost, and the greenhouse and it has proved highly productive. Over the summer the garden has teemed with produce – too much in fact, that at times we’ve struggled to keep up with it. DJ is the expert vegetable grower in our house and this is my first year of learning to grow veg myself. I wasn’t sure if I’d take to it– and I’m not sure I’ve necessarily been the most attentive gardener – but I have thoroughly enjoyed it and surprised myself with what I’ve managed to grow, under DJ’s guidance.

I was especially pleased with my Ulster chieftain potato crop. I grew these in bags and the potatoes were huge and delicious as wedges, roast potatoes and mash – an all round winner. However, I wasn’t quite as impressed with my Mayan gold potatoes. True, they’re gold and purple and look amazing, plus, according to the internet, chefs get excited about them but I couldn’t find a suitable use for them. They don’t have the right texture for wedges, fall apart too easily as boiled potatoes and don’t make particularly good mash either. But perhaps I haven’t been cooking them correctly.

Growing three courgette plants – my two All Green Bush and DJ’s one Defender plant – was far too much and, to be fair, DJ did warn me. Even the house started to smell of courgettes after a while. I didn’t think courgettes smelt of anything but I’ve since changed my mind! Next year just one or two plants will be more than enough to grow, they are so prolific. We also grew far too many tomatoes and struggled to keep up with them, although they were delicious – especially the beefsteak varieties brandy wine and super marmande. DJ also thinks that three cucumber plants were perhaps too much. I was pleased with my pale greenhouse cucumbers Boothby’s blonde. They are really weird looking – very stubby with spikes – but very tasty in salads. DJ’s Carmen – an all-female plant – was also very prolific.

DJ’s beetroots were great and he made some lovely chutney from them a couple of weeks ago. The only downside is that the beets disagreed with the sweet corn plants which we grew alongside them and which have been pretty poor this year. We harvested two melons grown by DJ in the greenhouse the other week – a Minnesota Midget (great name!) and a Chanterelle. Both were great, although we struggled to taste any difference between them. DJ still has a water melon left to harvest, which I’m curious to try. Peppers have done well in the greenhouse, as have the chillis although, I was embarrassed to tell DJ, that they aren’t in the least bit hot…On the fruit side, we have raspberries and blackberries soon to harvest and black currants but the hens made short work of the blueberries which was very naughty and the gooseberries have been suffering with a pest infestation.

We have mountains of onions and garlic. And last but not least, we tried the first of my winter harlequin squashes at the weekend in a roasted veg dish. It looked so beautiful it seemed churlish to eat it, and the squash seemed to be of the same opinion. The skin was so hard that it was a deadly business to try to peel or cut the thing open. But it was very oniony and tasty in flavour. I can’t wait to try the first of my three enormous pumpkins too, although they look so fabulous growing in the garden it seems a shame to disturb them. I’ll have to eventually, though, otherwise they’ll rot away. Roll on next Spring, I say!

Do you grow your own veg or fruit? How has your plot fared this year?

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6 Responses to Autumn in the frugal veg garden

  1. Vix says:

    Looking good, Alas our pumpkins are turning out to be all mouth and no trousers and the slugs got the best one… booo! Looks like my back up plan of putting a couple of Sainsbugs bought Pumpkins out there for the girls at Samhain will be coming into play to avoid any disappointment on their part. We have had stacks of carrots, beetroot, mange tout and tomatoes though so it isn\’t all doom and gloom! Also potentially have some parsnips too although that remains to be seen.

  2. Christine says:

    There is no such thing as a glut. If you have too many you must preserve, pickle, freeze or bottle the excess for the winter. There are lots of things you can do with cucumbers – pickle when small, make into a refreshing cold soup or what about a chutney – Or cucumber and ginger conserve – Tomatoes make an excellent chutney too. These sort of things make excellent and unusual presents for later in the year.

  3. piper says:

    Shame about the pumpkins, Vix, but sounds like you have done very well in every other department. Parsnips are fab. Cucumbers are pretty much finished now but will try preserving them next year. V. intrigued.

  4. Bill says:

    Sadly, I can only sit & watch you people in your respective gardens & kitchens, oft with envy.On the question of gluts, it is fairly common knowledge that while some appear to live in relative security, comfort & even oppulence, others in the world live way below the breadline due to drought, famine, extreme right politics, greed etc. Swings & roundabouts. There is also the old folklore which tells that such an affluent summer, producing such harvest, is normally followed by an extreme long, hard winter.With this in mind, we should all beware of any waste, pickle & preserve all possible surplus as best we can, in order to survive the winter in the best possible fashion.If I were in possession of simple rural hedgerows, I would pick & clip 50%/annum, selling or freezing all surplus fruit, saving all possible clippings for rooting, potting up, planting out as replacement of old stock, & selling the surplus. The 50% unpicked & therefore unclipped, would serve not only as winter feed for the birds & other wild life, but also as the best possible spring nesting. An extremely simple win- win. We still yet need the birds & other wildlife, even if the world no longer needs, likes, or tolerates skilled technicians, or even ex-technicians.Even I, an ex-technician, am still yet allowed to enjoy the wildlife & nature in general, on a limited basis, as I walk the hills of the National Trust most mornings, oft enjoying a snack of wild berries as I walk. I also sleep out there some nights, either under the stars, or in the rear of my van, at least until the civil service find some means, legal or otherwise, of parting us.

  5. Christine says:

    Piper the internet is a wonderful place for looking up recipes if you have a glut of anything. Just type in courgette recipes or cucumber recipes or marrow recipes and see what appears. Or ask for marrow chutney or marrow jam or cucumber chutney. You eventually get to know various places where there are recipes that will suit you. It\’s not the same as a resource as a solid book which should cover a lot more like using up left overs but it sure does come up with unusual ideas for dealing with the excesses. Trouble is that modern celebrity chefs never have left overs or gluts do they?

  6. Ziz says:

    Hi everyone.Yes grow loads in my garden and growing more and more each year. This year consisted of the followingApples – 2 different types Grieves and Russets.Grapes – 2 different types 1 red & 1 white.Strawberries – was a brilliant year for them.Raspberries – Not as good as they have been in the past but still good.Runner Beans – Excellent American climbing beans – Excellent do give them a try.French climbing beans – Excellent.Mini/baby carrots – 2 varieties in tubs, well reclaimed plastic boxes from a major high street retailer.Gooseberries – Loads and loads and loadsCard – 3 different varieties.Courgette\’s – 2 plants 2 different varieties. Spring onions – ExcellentBaby leeks – Excellent we use them in the same way a spring onions.Loads of various herbs – which is Gai Gai\’s department.Rhubarb – Going past its best but a new crown gone in this year.Khoi Rabbi – OKLettuceWild rocket.Yin Yang beans – OK.Squash – will have to try again with this one.Jerusalem Artichokes.Elderberries.Red Currents.Black Currents.Peppers.Chillies – 2 varietiesTomatoes out doors – all most total loss due to blight.Radish – long varietyand other plants which escape my memory at this moment.Best regards from Ziz

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