Wednesday 25 September 2013

Beer Pickled Beans

I have become a lottie-aphobe. I couldn't be dragged there by a wild pony or chased by a gaggle of gnomes; for me the lottie is not somewhere I wish to step foot, like that game you played when you were a kid and the floor was made of lava, I'm jumping from place to place, project to project in order to stay away. Sad isn't it?

Clearing out my study yesterday I came across the scrapbook I had started when we first got our plot. It's just silly photos of 'our soil' and newspaper clippings about the council releasing land etc. There are a few photos of us (both as taken by me and the press) in there and goodness we look so much younger, so much more alive....I guess they were the salad years (excuse the pun) before we realised just how much blasted hard work goes into an allotment. God we look old now ;)

Anyway I wanted to praise my darling one for still fighting the pests, the weather and lack of interest on my side. The hubby has been there and comes home with excellent carrots, scallions, squash, turnips and chard etc. He makes me so proud.

I will get back into it again I swear. I will be his under-gardener and document taker; I will have a naughty beer or a comforting coffee (weather dependant) with him, held with mucky hands and a smile on our red cheeked faces. But for now...
We grew the best french beans in the history of french bean growing on 24a this summer. I am pretty sure they were called 'Blue Lake', at least we had a pack of those in the shed.. We had a glut and as much as we adore eating them, as much as it reminds of of our holidays in France, there truly is only so many times you can have them with dinner, or give them to family (without them rolling their eyes) and so other uses needed to be sought. Of course they freeze which is fabulous but Andrew bought himself a book a wee while ago about pickling and preserving and so....on to a new adventure!

The book, if you are interested is Alys Fowlers' Abundance, though there are many other great books out there and I would also recommend the River Cottage series. This one really caught Andrew's eye because it's so down to earth, had recipes you actually would eat and was a good price.

Andrew loves pickles, Andrew loves french beans, Andrew loves spices, Andrew loves beer = Beer Pickled French Beans = JOY, lol...  I can't give you Alys' recipe, that truly would be unfair; I can show you part of the process, which is surprisingly easy if you don't mind the stink of vinegar (which I do and which had my eyes watering for about an hour!)

The Prep..
washed jars, the ingredients A. used (inc. Belfast Ale!) and sterilised jars

The Making of..
adding spices etc to vinegar and beer mixture, a good steep, filling the jars

The Finished Item...

Since this first attempt more has been made (they don't last long in this house or when friends come over) and the jars have been more tightly packed and most recently the beans have been chopped up; to make the eating of them a little more civilised :) It has been a triumph, they are so crunchy I can hear Andrew having a sneaky fridge raid and I look forward to seeing what else we can preserve.

Namaste dear readers and remember, it's BULB buying time (see already thinking of spring!)

Saturday 7 September 2013

Okay, the truth

I hope I have made it really clear that I try to do my gardening as a form of therapy (which I call allotmentherapy and my Dr's have started calling it that too; next stop the Oxford English Dictionary! hehehe); it's a way in which to connect with nature and overcome my depression and anxiety even for a little while. However it is not a panacea! and hasn't been working for me at all recently.

That's why on this blog, you don't get an awful lot of super useful advice about when and how to do this or that, and what varieties of fruit or vegetables are the best (I think that would be very impertinent of me anyway, as you're soil and climate conditions would be different to mine). The joy is finding out what works for you and sharing our trials and tribulations and indeed our successes!

Well the last time I wrote I indicated that I was having problems and since then those problems have gotten worse. Our allotment gardens are so neglected, so huge, wind swept and honestly, just depressing. That is, they are to me and have been for a few good weeks or, let's be truly honest here...months. I haven't even been reading other blogs on gardening never mind thinking about this one for which I have so much love. Andrew has been the one going and trying to stay on top of harvest gluts and bolting veg whilst also trying to guide me through this deeper period of depression. Poor guy.

So today I went. It was damp and empty and we just about got some jobs done before the sky starting crying (lol). Harvesting, composting the sweetcorn, now finished, and a general tidy up. I think that hour was enough for me and I could not cope being on 14b, the sooner we move things out of there and just train our focus on one half plot, the better.

Super quick update
Our kidney bean shaped bench had been stolen :( But the Green Beans are still going strong (I'll talk about them in another post), the parsnips look really healthy, the amount of squashes is smashing, we are getting blueberries (praise be to Zeus, finally) and raspberries and our apples, plums and pears are all....weird (like secret underground layer genetic experiment kind of weird!) Everything else is just ticking along super-ly apart from some of the chard which is bolting but c'est la vie....

I really need to take many more photos but, I guess it will take time...

I've been through these periods many times before and I bounce back so I hope you will stay around and maybe even say hello. A huge thank you to those of you who have sent private emails too! I have been waiting for the right things to say but as each day goes by and I still don't feel quite myself, I fear I have become rude...

Namaste friends and may you be having a better time than me and fond memories of the summer just passed.