We had some very welcome rain towards the end of December and early January. Everything benefited, including the weeds. The sweet oranges have swollen nicely. They will be ripe about mid January.
During the last month I have sown Chantonay Carrots and planted rows of Leeks, Cabbage and Romanescu. We have also been clearing rows. The cabbage and sweet potato have finished as have the sprouts. We had the last of them at Christmas and very nice they were too. Aubergines are coming to an end, they have lasted well this year and my super hot chilli, Habaneros, has had its last pod.
The first week of the new year also saw the first pickings of Broad Beans – The Sutton, sown on the 18th September, and Peas – Ambassador, sown on the 11th October. Both have come on rapidly due to the very mild autumn and, to date, a no show winter. Last year I tried a sowing of peas and beans in late January but they did not do well, the beans had black fly before the flowers set and so I will give them a miss this year and sow French Beans and Haricot Beans in early March.
Along with the peas and beans we are picking the lettuce I planted on the 24th October, again they have come on fast due to the mild weather. The lettuce are an Iceberg type, very crisp and tasty, similar to the old Webbs Wonderful we used to get in the UK.
The leeks planted on the flat on the 13th September (see Down the Allotment 7th September to 4th October) have done well. I am digging the first out to eat as baby leeks but the blanched bit is a little short so I have modified my planting method and gone back to creating high rows so that I have a greater depth of good soil beneath each plant. I still make a hole with my rake handle to drop the young plants into. I am also going to try the other way round, making a hole at the bottom of a trench and filling in until the earth is level. I suspect that will work better in the summer when you need to collect as much water as possible. We shall see.
In the herb garden just about everything is enjoying the cooler, slightly wetter, weather. The French Tarragon is again dying back for the winter. I will be giving it a top dress of compost this month. There is plenty to do here as well. I have English Chive plants to split and move to a new position and Chinese Chives to sow.
The horseradish, planted in January 2013, is ready for harvesting. The roots will go down at least two metres so there is no chance of me digging every bit out. Once I have what I want I will mix compost with the earth I return to the hole and the bits of root left in will start to show in spring as new growth. Horseradish is grown from root cuttings, just a small piece of root, a couple of inches long, will produce a huge plant with roots ready to harvest in the second and third years. Horseradish roots can be frozen just as they are.
I have an old recipe for horseradish sauce. Once you have tried it you will be spoilt for the pre made stuff.
Make up 2 teaspoonfuls of English mustard using mustard powder and beer.
Grate the horseradish root very fine, about 4 tablespoons full and mix together to a thick paste. Now add sugar and salt, about 1 teaspoon of each.
Just add a few drops of vinegar to make it a creamy consistency. That is the basic sauce to use with beef, fish and so on.
If you add 3 tablespoons of cream it is magnificent.
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