Pomme pommes

Finally the apples are ripe! 

This is our espaliered Braeburn Apple tree. It’s the third year in our garden, trained against a west-facing fence.    

This is the first season we’ve had a decent crop, of about 20 fruits. A few are tiddlers but most are a really good size, and they’re a beautiful colour. 

 Like shop-bought Braeburns they are really crisp, with a clean and refreshing flavour. Just my kind of apple. 

It hasn’t all been plain-sailing; a few apples fell victim to wasps. But actually, even these are fine beyond the obvious injury. 

 

The opposite side of the garden tells a different tale. Our ironically-named cooking apple ‘Bountiful’ has no fruit! However it’s only year 1 for the Braeburn’s pollination partner, so we won’t panic. 

To be fair, Bountiful did sport a decent-sized apple earlier in the year. It was knocked clean off by a tennis ball thrown with accidental pinpoint accuracy by a neighbour during a evening involving too much wine! He felt terrible, but it was hilarious at the time.

Next year perhaps both Braeburn and Bountiful will be brilliant. 

Pick of the Week

I write this sitting on Miss MBaF’s sickbed (sofa). She’s curled up in her cosy little nest of cushions and blanket, sleeping off a horrid sicky-achey virus, while her restorative film of choice (Finding Nemo) plays at low-volume.

Hopefully her recovery will be as speedy as it set in. On Friday afternoon she was full of beans, asking if we could go to the allotment and pick blackcurrants! This is a job that needed to get done, so I jumped at the suggestion.

My special helper

After digging up and ditching one bush this winter, due to evidence of ‘big bud’, we’re left with two well-established blackcurrant bushes. The tallest branches have flopped over this year, which Mum suggested may be due to lack of water. This could make sense as they’re surrounded by weedproof matting now, and I wonder if they’re not getting as much of the rainfall as before.

An aside: Mr MBaF asked if I’d put the matting the right way up. I have no idea! Are they ‘one-way’? I need to investigate this further.

Anyway, we lost a couple of branches – which shrivelled up and died, fruit and all – but the rest were heavy with shiny black jewels, and they’d got super-ripe.

It seems I could add blackcurrant harvesting to my miniseries of Toddler-Friendly Allotment Jobs. Dressed in dark colours and non-best items, Miss MBaF got stuck in – and was suitably gentle with the easily-squished overripe fruit. She really seemed to enjoy it, even though she couldn’t enjoy the rewards straight away – unlike during the strawberry harvest!

Dog on cat watch. Toddler getting stuck in.

In total, over two pickings and two bushes, the yield was about 6.5 lbs. And some of the currants were the largest I’ve ever seen. I wonder if this is due to the fact that we started watering the bushes at their base when we noticed them flopping??

Washed and bagged-up for the freezer

I’ve frozen 2.5lbs for later inspiration and used 2lbs in a batch of jam. One of my proudest horticultural/culinary moments was winning a rosette (yellow, for 3rd place) for my blackcurrant jam at the village show a couple of years ago. I’m not tempted to enter this year though, the fruit was so ripe that it was difficult to keep any intact during the jam-making process.

I’ve also made two batches (2x 1lb of fruit) of blackcurrant ice cream, using an easy and delicious recipe my Mum sent me. Miss MBaF tried it for the first time recently, when we went to stay with the grandparentals. I’m guessing that explains her enthusiasm to get picking!

The first tempting batch of blackcurrant ice cream

What’s been good on your plot? Join in with Pick of the Week by adding a comment about your best/favourite harvest since last weekend, or a link to your PoTW blog post.

First bite to the birds

Beating the rain to the allotment this morning, I spied the first ripe strawberry of the season!

Plump, shiny and scarlet…

….but on the flipside, totally ravaged by my feathered friends.  

Last year was the first season for our new strawberry plants, and the harvest was very small so I didn’t bother with much bird protection.

But the yield on the established plants (I have also added some new ones) is looking much healthier this year, so I definitely want to keep those pesky beaks away!


This morning I took delivery of bird netting, to complete my super-duper ‘Strawberry Shield’.

Made with some scrap wood, bamboos and bean poles – all lashed together with garden twine.


I’m rather chuffed with it, and it looks very secure now the netting is on.


Fingers crossed for some sunny weather in June, to give us a strawberry -filled summer.

The spring windowsill 

The kitchen windowsill got its early spring makeover today. 

Off popped the blender and …do you know what I can’t even remember what other crap I had to move! 

For a month my washing-up garden view will be through chilli and fuchsia babies. 

The tomatoes and Naga chillis are in the home-office window. And everything else will just have to wait til it warms up cos we got no more room. 

Springiness

Lovely sunshiney morning here in the Cotswolds. A post-breakfast survey of the estate (!) revealed much to be excited about. 



Apple-crate planter full of daffs and tulips for cutting





Beautiful delicate detail of iris reticulata



A promising abundance of spurs on our espaliered Braeburn apple – last year we only got one apple!



My apple- crate seedbed hiding its first entry of the year. Hispi cabbage, to be transplanted to the allotment when big enough.





Last but not least Mr MBaF’s fab new little greenhouse on our decked suntrap – hopefully the ideal conditions for bumper chilli crops.



UK gardeners, the countdown is on!

Tomorrow I’ll be buying a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc and working out my menu. 

Because on Friday at 8.30 the 2015 gardening season officially kicks off when the new season of Gardeners World begins!!

I am RIDICULOUSLY excited about this, hence my careful menu and beverage planning for the perfect evening. 

Who else will be watching, and what’s the equivalent overseas??