Posted in : Home made
This meal was inspired by the popper thread on the chillisgalore forums ( @chilliesgalore.co.uk : popper thread ). I'd like to thank Davetaylor for posting it
I've had to wait ages to try this recipe since I first saw it on the chillisgalore forums, and I mean ages! As with all good meals it started with a compromise, the problem was that I didn't have any chillis that were big enough to stuff so I had to use a pepper instead and add chilli to the stuffing. Other than that I pretty much followed the original recipe.
The Chicken Poppers
You can find a few more images in the gallery
Posted in : Home made
I can't begin to describe the feeling you get when you can grab a load of veg that you've grown yourself, slap it in a pan with a few other bits and bobs and then sit down and eat it, all in a matter of hours after the veg was in the ground/on a plant. If you haven't experienced it yourself then I heartily recommend that you do. Anyway, this weekend I brought some veggies home from the field and I was in the mood for a curry so I decided to throw one together.
Feeds as many people as you throw ingredients in for
Feel free to adapt this workflow to suit your own needs, but this is what I did :
Posted in : In the field
Damn these buggers grow fast! Less than a week after we put the tubers on the benches and they'd already started to throw off new shoots so it was time for Barry to get his scalpel out. Different people grow dahlias in different ways. Some, like The Mighty V, just leave the tubers in the ground and let them regrow ( if they survive ) the next year, but the plants start looking crap by the third year, so I'm always replacing them with fresh ones. Others, mainly the yanks I believe, split the tubers into individual "chicken legs" and then plant each of them up, which allows them to get about 1/2 dozen or so off each parent plant. We just throw the whole tuber into a tray, water it and then take cuttings .... lots of cuttings ... from the first flush off about a dozen Trelyn tubers we've already taken 70+ cuttings, which is about all we need for this year, but we could easily get a couple of hundred more if we needed them.
When you take cuttings it's really important to to make the cut directly below a leaf joint as this is where next years cuttings will come from, assuming you want to take cuttings next year of course but we always do. They're easy enough to root up, if you have some rooting powder then just dip them in that and them slap them in some seed compost. If you haven't got any rooting powder then just slap them in some seed compost. If you haven't got any seed compost then just slap them in some compost ... as I said, it's real easy ... then stand welllllllllllllll back, because these buggers grow like there's no tomorrow.
The large greenhouse is now cleared, so during this week I'll be rotovating it ready for sterilising the beds next week. Then I'll be doing the same in the small greenhouse which means that I need to get all my seedlings hardened off ready to move into the top end of the large greenhouse so that they don't get killed as well. It's taking me a fair tad longer this year than normal as I've been a smidge ill for the last few weeks and haven't really had the energy needed, but we seem to be winning so far. I'll also be dropping the sides on the large greenhouse to help keep the warmth in and the wind out as the sterilising agent needs the soil to be over 10°C before it's active ... cool, I'll be in my shorts in no time
Posted in : In the field
We finally got round to sparking off the dahlia tubers this week although, like everything else to do with the dahlias this year, we're a fair tad behind as some of them should have been started a month ago. Unlike growing veg, or non-show flowers, this may come back to bite us on the arse as everything about their life cycle is strictly timed and we may have just irreparably screwed up that timetable, it pretty much comes down to how fast they start to throw cuttings. With a tad of luck everything will work itself out in the long run but if it doesn't then it's not the end of the world as we're less interested in showing this year due to other time constraints, so it's mainly about preserving our varieties. The fact that this is also our last year as world champions, and we have no hope of defending our title as they're being held in Canada this year, doesn't really help I guess.
I've been around dahlias for years, so I *know* how much they can change from day to day .. hell, sometimes you feel that if you sat there quietly enough then you could actually watch them grow ..... but the speed that the tubers have started throwing shoots is pretty impressive to say the least! We've only had the tubers on the beds for a week and already the majority of them are throwing shoots, even the mary's and bryn's which are normally a tad on the lethargic side when it comes to recognising that it's a new year.
Posted in : The veg patch
As I mentioned in my previous post I'm having a go to see if I can get tomatoes to fruit by the end of May beginning of June by starting them off this month, although I'm only going to spark off half the plants I want just in case it all goes tits up. The rest will be sparked off around the end of March, which is the normal time to do these things. After deciding that it wasn't worth switching the heated beds on early, they'll be switched on in a couple of weeks for the dahlias, in the potting shed for the small area of it that I'll need I had to come up with another solution.
At first I was considering putting them under my computer desk, where they could keep the 77 chilli pepper seeds company, as this seems to be pretty successful so far at being warm enough to germinate seeds, but there's only so much room and lots of seeds. Then Gary had a bit of a brainwave! As you may or may not know Barry ( that'd be Gary's dad ) runs an aquatics business which has a pretty big tropical & marine fish room which is kept at a constant 22+°C and the excess heat is vented down a storage corridor and then pumped outside ... so, the corridor should be about 22° as well, and my seedlings need a heated area, and it's the off season so there's a fair few empty shelves, and my seedlings need a heated area, and they'll easily fit in the empty bits, can you see where this is going? ... so, now the corridor has become a propagator. Hopefully, by the time the seedlings germinate the heated beds will be switched on so I can move the plants in there and put them in one of the light tents otherwise my computer room is going to become very full very fast and I'll be getting a tan as I sit here pretending to work.
The other problem I'm going to have to overcome is at planting out time. As I'm starting them off this early they're really going to be to big for the light tents come March and will need to be put into the small greenhouse which is unheated, but it is near the outlet vent for the corridor so I'm going to see if I can find a way of redirecting the warm air into the small greenhouse to help keep the temperature a few degrees higher, especially at night. IF it works then bonus, if not then I have the other half of the seeds and I'll just have to wait until later in the year for my first crop, but if you don't try you can't fail huh?
I've also sparked off about 300 onion seeds, half of them are Ailsha Craigs and the other half are Red Baron, the good news is with these is that they'll be happy enough in the potting shed under the lights without needing to turn on the heated beds, and by the time they're ready to be hardened off the small greenhouse should be warm enough for them to be happy. We'll have to see how that goes I guess.
Being the dumb blonde that I am I managed to misread the date for sowing leeks, so now I've got the best part of 200 of them starting to germinate, which will be interesting as they're faaaaaaar to early and I won't have the space for them in the beds until about June, oops. Rather than try to shove the seedling back into the seed I've decided to grow them on and then just use them as baby leeks when they're big enough, so at least they won't go to waste. It'll be interesting to see how long they take to get to baby leek size, as we like leeks and I'm considering successional sowing specifically for baby leeks.
Due to the fact that the chilli pepper seeds germinated a lot faster than I expected I now have another problem! They should have taken a couple of weeks before they poked their noses out of the seeds, by which time the heated beds would have been on and I could have moved them out from under my computer desk and into one of the light tents in the potting shed ... ahhh well, time for plan 2 ... unfortunately I didn't have a plan 2 so some rapid thinking was required. What I needed was a warm place with plenty of daylight.
The "warm place" bit was easy, it's more than warm enough under my computer desk, unfortunately it's a smidge lacking in daylight under there, mind you it's a smidge lacking in daylight outside as well. So, I needed some daylight, and I was stood in an aquatics shop that's full of bulbs specifically designed for growing aquatic plants. Time for another chat with Gary ... Half an hour later I was wending my way home with a four foot light setup which was going to be the start of my home made grow box.
As well as the light I also managed to acquire some 2 inch thick sheets of polystyrene that were big enough to do the job. After spending 10 minutes with a tape measure and an old knife I'd reduced them to the sizes I needed. I then ransacked the kitchen cupboards for some tinfoil and sellotape and proceeded to cover both panels with the tinfoil. Hopefully between the tinfoil and the light there should be enough daylight available to the seedlings for them to grow without stretching. At the same time I also raised the seed trays up so that they were about a foot below the lights, as the seedlings grow I'll gradually lower the tray so that the tops stay about the same distance from the lights.
So all that's left to do now is to wait and keep my eye on how things go ... and hope it doesn't all go tits up, even if it does though I have plenty more seeds I can sow at the right time, I'd just have to wait for my first crop of tomatoes
Posted in : The veg patch
After getting bitch slapped for having the most un-profound New Years post on the internet, I thought I should defend myself .... mainly because I can't afford a solicitor .... soooo, here's my shiny new New Years post ... pretend you read it days ago.
So, my New Year kicked off months ago when I found out I had a smidge more room to grow in next year ( which is now this year ) than I normally do. No more playing around with a couple of small beds and just bringing to the table the successful bits, this year I've got to be FAR more serious .... and I'm not renowned for being shit-hot at serious ... Anyway, I was daft enough to ask, so the least I can do is make sure it all happens close enough to a game plan to declare a technical draw ... With this in mind I instantly went out and bought enough seeds to sink a small tectonic plate by several inches ... and in true blonde fashion I charged them to Barrys credit card ( must remember to pay him back ) .... and all of this happened before my holiday ... in october .... and so my new year began.
Shortly after the seeds arrived I came to 2 conclusions .... 1) I'd bought faaaar to many seeds, and 2) It was time to sod off on holiday .... anyway, after I came back, it was time to start planning the new year. Even with all the extra space that we have to grow in this year, the Mighty V and I decided that we need to make more use of our space at home to grow food in, as well as making as good a use of the field as we could. So we decided to slap in a couple of "raised" beds to define what was growing where. Being the total cheapskate that I am, I nicked a few pallets from the field and slapped enough planks together to convince the Mighty V that they were the best thing since sliced bread .... not much of an achievement when you consider the fact that she's blonde as well, but you take your victories where you can huh?
We promptly slapped some garlic and shallots into them, that the Mighty V had bought from somewhere, some of them even have labels, and then we sat for a bit and watched them ... well, we actually watched the cat and decided that it *really* needed to find a new toilet ... so I froze my arse off one day and put a net over them, that pretty much killed any "and last week I was swimming in the sea" mentality that was lingering, vainly, in my mind ... ahh well, at least it wasn't snowing.
It didn't really, that was just to cheer scott up .... it's to bloody cold for snow here ... anyway, a couple of weeks later the first "short 'n' green" bits, that'll eventually turn into summat we put on the table, arrived ... how cool, I can already taste it, even though it's going to be about August before they're ready. Continuing with my "I'm an optimist" / "make a concerted effort" mentality, yesterday I slapped some chilli/pepper seeds in .... I'm convinced they'll grow this early ... but just in case I only planted half of them .... but that's still 77 seeds! 11 each of 7 different varieties, Lemon Drop, Pretty In Purple, Orange Bell, N. Napia and 3 "unknown" ones that someone on the allotment forums sent me. I know 77 sounds a lot for an 8' x 6' greenhouse, but they have a poor germination rate so I'm only expecting about 1/2 of them to make it ... if not then I guess I'll just have to sneak a few into the potting shed.
During the next week or so I'll be trying to spark off some very early tomatoes, which means that I need to remember to turn the heated beds on in the potting shed. If it works then I should be harvesting by the end of May, which is a fair tad ahead of last years which we started harvesting at the end of September. For those of you who are into names and numbers I'm hoping to grow 20 Rose de Berne, 10 Galina and 10 Gold Medal, all of which are vine types ( you can see pictures of them on Real Seed ). After a couple of conversations with an ex-commercial grower I've decided to try and grow them the way they do. Basically it involves growing them up a string and then when they reach the top you *should* have cropped the lower ones, so you undo the string, lower the plant and move it along the bed to where the next one is planted. Then you just tie the string up again and do the same for all the plants which gives them all another foot and a half to grow. It's a technique called layering and is also used by professional/commercial sweet pea growers.
Besides sparking off 77 chilli peppers, 40 tomato plants and a very optimistic basil plant I'm also going to be sparking off a few hundred onion seeds this week. I've never grown onions from seed before so this'll be interesting. The good news is that a member of the allotment forums called vegmandan is pretty good at growing onions and, like the rest of the nutters members, he's happy to share his knowledge if you ask him .... and quite often even when it's not asked for If you follow the link then the observant amongst you will notice that his New Year started in October as well .... so it's not just me that's strange.
Other things that need doing in the next couple of weeks are closing up the small greenhouse so it can be used as a cold frame for storing all the pot tubers that are currently occupying the heated beds. Later on I'll also be using it to harden off the onions before they get slapped in their final bed in the main greenhouse and then, sometime around the end of March / April the tomatoes will go in .... if they've survived that long. I also need to get the main greenhouse cleared up and ready for the dahlia season as well, so that's 500+ tubers to dig up and the stakes to pull out, and it really needs to be all done and dusted before the middle of the month as we'll be sparking off next years plants in February, damn the potting sheds gonna be a smidge crowded! On top of all that, I really need to clear out our own lil greenhouse and give everything a good scrub so it's ready for the new season as well.
Hopefully by the end of the month all of the greenhouses will be ready for the new season and my seedlings should be taking their first glimpses of daylight, although some of the daylight will be coming from bulbs because the suns a smidge crap at making an appearance for more than a few hours a week at this time of year. You can be sure that I'll take lots of pictures for you to be bored by and, if I pull my finger out, I might also get round to finishing coding my seed site which I'm hoping to use to track my progress through the growing year in a way that the blogs probably couldn't cope with. There's still a long way to go with it though, so don't hold your breaths
It's a hard life having to bimble around all summer in my shorts looking after dahlias