Tag Archives: grow your own

Pink Onions – finding Rosanna at another local market

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I’d never heard of pink onions but as part of my quest to ‘shop locally’ I visited another market in Leeds last weekend and made the discovery. Slightly different to The farmers market at Horsforth, Kirkstall Abbey deli market is actually set in the grounds of a 12th century Cistercian abbey and the stalls include everything from crafts to cheese.

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There was a large selection of produce based loosely around the local theme. I was happy to see Thistlemist Farm who I met at Horsforth last time and I restocked on their amazing soups! They use a combination of home grown and locally sourced farm veg and the soups are made in Leeds, which for me can’t get any more local.

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I was disappointed there were no vegetables for sale? Perhaps a deli market isn’t the place for veg even though the sign for the market kind of indicates there would be some? Never mind, I went to Horsforth market yesterday and did my ‘big shop’ there!  I’ll definitely be going back to Kirkstall though because markets are clearly the way forward and especially in such a lovely setting. Plus, if I visit Headlingley market next weekend that that will be 3 weeks in a row that I’ve managed a weekly shop at a market instead of a supermarket – result!

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One stall that immediately grabbed my attention was the Kirkstall allotment society. I took half a dozen ‘Rosanna’ onion seedlings. I was sold on the fact that they’re ‘not white, not red, they’re pink’. It was enough for me to become interested and then I googled Rosanna for more information when I got home.

Key’s of Lincolnshire describe the pink onion as having, “delicate pink-coloured outer skin and beautiful pink flesh and is exclusive to Key’s of Lincolnshire”. Then Tesco announced last year that they were the exclusive suppliers of this onion that had been grown in the Stour Valley on the Essex/Sussex border by Stourgarden. Exclusive hey, well not anymore.

They are still fairly elusive though with the only seed supplier I’ve found for Rosanna being Thompson & Morgan. I wish I’d bought more seedlings now and I’m very excited to see how they grow and taste. I’m keeping them in my greenhouse until they get considerably larger and will plant them out only when we’re frost free.

kirkstall_deli_market_5Loving the hop box bar!

Speaking of onions, I was hoping to plant my onion sets and potatoes out last weekend, the sun was shining but the ground was far too cold. It wouldn’t have damaged my veggies but they wouldn’t have started to grow, so instead I pottered around and I got my plastic poly tunnels out to start warming up the ground.

As I hoped, this weekend was just brilliant! The ground is warmer and I planted all my onion sets, one row of potatoes, some new perennials from my favourite local nursery B.Whiteley and continued sowing. Two full days of gardening right into the evenings and I’m feeling a few aches! As the saying goes, I’ll sleep tonight!

Have you planted your onions or potatoes out yet? How are your seedlings getting on? Have you had some spring-like weather?

Growing and going local – the journey begins

horsforth_honeyHorsforth Blossom Honey. Bill described his honey as being made by bees in his ‘own garden’.

A few weeks ago, disgruntled with not having my own crops to eat I set myself a challenge to buy more local produce. I want to be able to trace the source of my food. With my own harvest incredibly low at the minute I’m keen to buy veg from local suppliers who’ve put the effort in to grow their own.

Well, I’ve found it. Not just vegetables, I’ve found the lot. You name it, it’s being sold at a market about 2 miles away from me!

b_whitely_stall_horsforth_marketeggs_horsforth_marketAmazing eggs from Church View Farm

Running since October 2012 Horsforth farmers market takes place on the first Saturday of each month and it’s brilliant! All the sellers are local to Yorkshire and some are local to Horsforth itself.

I discovered that Leeds has a few farmers markets and to help me remember the dates I’ve popped a recurring ‘appointment’ into my outlook calendar.

I thought my challenge was going to be really tough. First off, I thought it would be difficult to source local suppliers and secondly, I thought it would be hard to fit the gathering of the local produce into my busy life, but it’s not.

oragnic_pantry_horsforth_market‘Proper fresh veg’ from The Organic Pantry

When I was growing up I enjoyed shopping on a Saturday morning in town with my mum. We’d visit the butchers, the bakers and the veg shop and she would chat to tons of people along the way. Now I’m the one chatting to the locals and having a great time. A morning at the market beats doing ‘a big shop’ at the supermarket hands down.

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The market also has a fair trade stall run by a really friendly bunch of people and I bought myself a Traidcraft version of nutella. Ok, so it might not be made in Yorkshire but I still know where it’s from and I know that my money goes to the people who made it.

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I was thrilled to meet Vicky from B. Whiteley Farm Shop who had a stall selling plants and veg. The farm is about 2 miles from my house in the opposite direction but I never knew they were there. They grow and sell veg, have their own hen eggs and also run a plant nursery.

I purchased my first rhubarb plant from Vicky’s stall and she gave me some top tips about not harvesting it for a couple of years and to plant it into some well fertilised soil. She also advised me against forcing the rhubarb because it weakens the plant, it’s better to just let it grow naturally and do its thing.

rhubarb_horsforth_marketraspberry_canes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketseed_potatoes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketGreat selection of plants and veg from Vicky at B. Whiteley Farm, she only brings the veg she’s grown herself.

I got some top tips from the apple juice stall about what I can mix with my apples and how to make an elder flower syrup and freeze it until I need it. My two favourite hobbies, gardening and eating are combined at the market.

apple_juice_horsforth_marketApple juices from Yorkshire Orchard

I read a cool article recently where the writer claims that Leeds has some great organic shops but they’re all rather ‘top secret’. I think this sums up how I feel about all that I’ve newly discovered, it’s been right on my doorstep all along but I just never knew about it.

I found all the produce at the market very reasonably priced and I just hope I’m in Leeds for the next one in April so I can go back for a natter and a re-stock.

Do you shop for local products? Do you find that it fits into your lifestyle?

Snooping around allotments in February

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The weekend was rather sunny and at my parents’ allotments things were starting to stir.

I was staying with my parents last weekend and I took the opportunity to have a good old snoop around their allotments yet again! I last visited their plot properly in November and established that being a nosey gardener is in my nature.

There was a lot of activity, people barrowing compost and wood chippings, constructing paths and building structures. Jobs like that are very popular at this time of year with allotmenters and gardeners alike because there’s so many bare areas that you can tend to, unlike in the summer where they could be overgrown with foliage, flowers and weeds.

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kale_february

There was still an abundance of kale and it’s looking like the stuff at RHS Harlow Carr with the pickings gone from the bottom leaving young leaves at the top of long stalks. It is still my No.1 favourite veg that I have never grown!! Can’t wait to start sowing it soon.
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A rare sighting of me, still obsessed with kale!

I also made a beeline for last year’s allotment winner, lots of neat bare beds but I was impressed by the quality of the veg she’s still got growing and looking so healthy.

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The cabbage man has eaten the majority of his giant crop but a few remain, still looking impressive.

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I also noticed a huge net box! Plus, one that is still covering carrots from last year and I spied some seedlings in a greenhouse – could they be monster leeks and onions!

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It was nice to spend time at my folks allotments and I sensed a really good vibe among the allotmenteers. I’m looking forward to visiting again and seeing what happens over the next few months.

This weekend has been grey and slightly snowy so far and I’ve had to dig the indoors today! I’ve finally been able to catch up Monty Don’s French Gardens series that Wellywoman reminded me of in her recent post. The Gourmet Garden episode was of particular interest to me because it covers the topic of my latest challenge, which is to more carefully buy food products that I can trace the source of.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend and have had better weather than me. Have you been spending more time outside in your gardens lately?


How do your products grow?

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During my trip to Amsterdam last year I visited the Botanical Gardens and took some photos of a display in their main greenhouse. It was probably created for children and I didn’t think too much about it at the time, other than how cool the plants looked in the colourful packaging. Now though, I’m really beginning to think more and more about the food I eat and I feel it’s not what I eat that’s important, it’s about where my food comes from.

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During the summer (and for as long as I can make my growing season last) I love the fact that I’m eating my own veg. However, I don’t think I’ve fully understood why I love it so much, until now.

Is it the satisfaction I feel from the actual growing act itself, is it the superior flavour, is it the money saving, is it the convenience of having food to hand and not needing to go to the shop, is it the environmental benefits such as providing a haven for bees and other wildlife, or is it all of these things?

It’s definitely all of these things but the biggest thing for me right now is that I know the origin of that food.

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I can’t grow everything I eat though and I’m becoming more and more into the idea of changing my buying habits and choosing food and products that I can trace back to a source that I feel happy about. This will mean cutting down on trips to the supermarket in favour of local producers. It will also affect where I choose to eat out, so cafés and restaurants will have to be carefully selected. This will be a big shift for me as eating out is one of my favourite pastimes and I don’t have a local high street with small retailers.

I’m excited about changing my buying habits but this is going to be a massive challenge.

growing_food
Don’t get me wrong, I do try to consciously buy good food from local sellers and markets already but I wouldn’t say that accounts for even 30% of my weekly shopping in the months that I don’t have a big harvest of my own. So, I’m busy googling local farm shops and researching like mad in the hope that I’ll be able to change and support the people who grow food for the same reasons that I do. I’m also working out how I can have a lot more crops available all year round.

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This weekend whilst walking in North Yorkshire I noticed a pub in Malham offering ‘money off vouchers’ in exchange for any surplus home grown produce. I don’t think there’s a shortage of veg and flowers in this area so I can only assume that being able to tell customers that their products have been locally sourced is a big plus point.

Do you choose to buy food from local producers because you want to know where it originates from? Do you ‘grow your own’ for any of these reasons?

 

Month by month – gardening in February

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I always remember back to a job I had years ago when I used to drive up the motorway home every night. I benchmarked February 10th as being light when I hit the slip road. It doesn’t always happen on that date though but in February I basically live in hope of the light! At the end of this month I’ve usually managed to get up to my allotment after work and I start airing and cleaning the BBQ ready for March, when cooking and eating my evening meal up there becomes normal. This month could bring more snow and bad weather though, so we’re not out of the woods yet…

  1. Buy your seed potatoes and start ‘chitting‘ them by standing them up in trays (egg boxes are perfect) on your windowsill or anywhere light so they start sprouting.
  2. Start warming up the ground where you’ll be planting this year. Cover in polythene, mini poly tunnels or net boxes.
  3. Keep protecting pots of bulbs that haven’t come up yet from squirrels and water-logging. Keep them in your greenhouse, cold frame or a sheltered spot.
  4. Divide up any big clumps of bulbs after they have passed their best – snowdrops are the ideal candidates followed by clumps of grape hyacinths and daffodils next month.
  5. Start sowing chilies, peppers and early tomato varieties indoors or in a greenhouse that you can heat if temperatures plummet.
  6. Once they’ve finished flowering, prune winter flowering shrubs.
  7. Carefully prune fruit trees and certain types of clematis – don’t hard prune anything that flowers in spring.
  8. If your ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged you can plant garlic.
  9. As above, sow broad beans and/or plant out any well-established young broad bean plants that you’ve previously sown under cover.
  10. Go shopping for onion and shallot sets ready for next month, if your ground looks good though you could plant shallots in February. I tend to wait. You can also start sowing onion seeds now, although I prefer planting sets.

If it snows, clear it off tree branches and shrubs (Adam finds this hilarious but just shake the shrubs and use a brush if need be to clear it from tree branches) and if all else fails stay inside and do some sowing! My seed sowing list this month is:

  • Chilies – Anaheim, Jalapeno, Cayenne and ‘Hot Thai Culinary’ from World Kitchen
  • Peppers – Californian Wonder and Ingrid sweet pepper varieties
  • Lobelia – String of Pearls
  • Tomato – Black Russian from Seed Parade
  • Cucumber – Beth Alpha
  • Broad beans – I’ll be sowing straight into the ground outside and planting out the ones I started off in December

The important thing to remember about planting out is that the ground must not be frozen or waterlogged. Don’t do any pruning or planting out just before a period of very cold weather – check the weather forecast for the week ahead first.

The most comprehensive guide I’ve seen this month is on Woolly Green. There’s a video on pruning wisteria if you’ve not done that already and some advice about lawns. I know that some bloggers pruned their wisteria before Christmas. Not Just Green Fingers also has a great guide for the kitchen gardener.

Talking of bloggers, Sue from Green Lane Allotments has listed what she’s sown so far and also done a great post about her new seed delivery. Jo from the Good Life has sown her pepper seeds and onion seeds. My complete seed list for the year is here

Please feel free to add your own February tips and advice. What will you be doing this month?

Curly kale & baked kale chips – an appreciation!

When I made baked kale chips for the first time this year I was amazed and it fast became one of my favourite things to eat. My mum has an abundance of it growing in her allotment and it’s the number 1 item on my to-grow list for next year. I made some for Adam and after one taste his exact words were, “wow, it’s a revelation!”  I was so happy this morning when Sue A left a comment on my allotment in December blog post asking me to share the recipe. So I thought I’d post it here as an appreciation for an amazing vegetable and revelation in the way you can eat your greens!

It’s very simple, you just need kale, olive oil and salt.

  • Wash the kale and strip out the stalks.
  • Break it up into bite size pieces and dry it as well as you can.
  • Pop the pieces onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Roll the kale around in the oil and salt. You don’t want too much oil and it might take you a couple of times to get the amount right for your liking.
  • Bake in middle of a hot oven. Around 180 degrees.

It cooks really fast, anything from 5 minutes onwards, so I take the tray out and mix the kale up often so it cooks evenly. It will brown up and crisp up and it’s down to trial and error to work out just how crispy you like it. I cook mine for around 10 minutes now, turning regularly and in the middle of the oven so it doesn’t burn.

It smells rather ‘sprouty’ when cooking but it tastes sooo good! Have you tried cooking this?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8163Thank you curly kale for being totally awesome.

(CLOSED) Giveaway – create your 2013 garden with Seedparade

I’m delighted to bring you a giveaway from the wonderful online seed retailer – Seedparade.

With this giveaway you get to choose £30 of seeds, which will easily create you an entire edible garden for next year or provide you with a mass of flowers for any type of garden.

I’ve been really happy with all the seeds I’ve purchased from Seedparade who choose the finest quality seeds from around the world. I love their organic selection and their wildflowers for various soil types, so I hope that the lucky winner will be pleased. They also have a blog with lots of good ideas.

How to enter
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning £30 of seeds of your choice, is to follow my blog.

  • If you are logged in to WordPress click the black ‘Follow by email’ button on the right hand side of this page (just above the Facebook like widget).
  • If you aren’t logged into WordPress simply enter your email address into the text box above the same black button then click ‘Follow by email’
  • If you already follow me and wish to enter, simply email me at digbean@yahoo.co.uk

T&C’s
Please note, Seedaprade regret that they can not ship outside of the EU, so I apologise to my global readers but this giveaway is just for UK and EU.

Choosing a winner
I’m a professional computer nerd so you can be assured that at the end of the competition I will be able select a winner at random. You are also able to unsubscribe from my emails at any time, but you must be subscribed on the closing date to be in with a chance.

The giveaway is NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who entered. open until December 8th (11.59pm).

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