September is here and that means it’s time for the allotment harvest of 2021! I have a complicated relationship with the allotment. I still haven’t decided if I will be keeping it next year; for the full story see: Allotment Update Summer 2021 . When I have the time, and I can get work done without the dog barking, it’s a peaceful and rewarding experience. That being said, it is a lot of hard work, and I have limited free time. I’ve spoken with some of the old fellas at the allotment and they said I did really well for a first year. They also mentioned that the weeds have been horrendous. Keeping on top of the weeds and slugs (or failing to do so) was the biggest challenge. When I finally had time to spend time at the plot in August, it took me about a month to clear all the weeds!
I’m pleased to report that, as of the start of September, the whole plot has been cleared of weeds! I’ve harvested about 3/4 of the potatoes, and I’m still working on the other crops. In this post I’ll show you some of the harvest, and I’ll update you on my plans for next year’s growing, be it at home or at the allotment.
As I mentioned in my last allotment update, the biggest success at the allotment was the beetroot! A third of them were started indoors, and the other two thirds of the seeds were sown directly. All of the beets thrived, and some were massive (bigger than my fist!). The beetroot tastes delicious roasted and pickled, and I’ve given some to colleagues and family to enjoy as well. Even if I don’t keep the allotment next year, beetroot will remain a feature of my vegetable garden.
The potatoes have also done very well. I grew Charlotte, King Edward, and Maris Piper varieties and my favourite is definitely the King Edward, with a kiss of pink on the skin. The little slugs got to some of the potatoes, but most of them are still edible. Again, I’ve given some away to friends and family since I have such a bounty! Top tip given to me by a man at the allotment is to add a bit of ash/soot when you plant your chitted seed potatoes. The ash helps keep the slugs away and I definitely think it helped. Even if I stick to home gardening, potatoes will remain a feature in the veg patch since they also grow well in containers.
A surprise success at the allotment is the perpetual spinach and chard. In my winter veg bed, the kale never came up but the other two leafy greens are giant! Lucy and I have had loads of stir fries with the chard, and the perpetual spinach is good in salad. I made spinach gomae with it the other day, and it was delicious. If you’re a beginner gardener looking for an easy leafy green option, give perpetual spinach a go!
I got no courgettes this year (sad face) but I grew some delicious pumpkins! I made a curried pumpkin soup, and I’ll share the recipe soon. The butternut squashes aren’t ready yet, but they are huge! A neighbour also gave me two giant marrow, and I made a delicious Spanish rice stuffed marrow. Pumpkins spread too much to grow at home, but I’ll give courgettes another go next year.
My biggest surprise at the allotment this year was the mystery fruit. I went up to the plot one morning and found what I thought was a giant watermelon by my runner beans. The vine had climbed the fence from my neighbour’s plot. I’ve never seen my neighbour, so I couldn’t ask him if he wanted the ripe fruit, or what it was. Not wanting to waste the “watermelon”, I took it home and eagerly sliced it open. Not a watermelon.
The thing is, I didn’t know what it was! I posted a photo on the Facebook allotment page asking for thoughts. Most people said marrow, or squash, and some thought hybrid. I knew it wasn’t a standard squash because the leaves were lobed like a watermelon’s. Thankfully an Asian member of the group helpfully pointed out that it is a figleaf gourd, commonly used in Chinese cuisine. This makes sense since I now know that my neighbour likes to grow Asian vegetables.
The best way I can describe this gourd is foamy, with a slight cucumber flavour. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it . These gourds are used to make a mock shark fin soup. Apparently, it is helpful for managing diabetes, and it is also used in Mexican confectionery. Mystery solved!
Although my bush beans were decimated by snails, slugs, and rabbits, the runner beans did okay. I don’t think I’ll keep growing runner beans, because I find them a bit tough to eat. Next year I’d like to try growing yellow beans.
I mentioned in my last update that the flowers were a failure. Considering the number of seeds we planted, it was disappointing that none of the sunflowers survived, no comfrey came up, and very few of the wildflowers grew. However, the borage did really well! The bees love it, and it’s so pretty. I also have some self-seeded hollyhock which add a pop of colour to the plot.
I’ll do a final update on the allotment at some point in the winter to see what sorts of winter crops I get to harvest. Hopefully by that point I’ll have decided if I have the time and desire to take on the allotment for a further year, or if it’s best to pass it on to a new keen gardener.