September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.

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Wild hedgerow blackberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My apple tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First pickings. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.

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Freshly dug carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Box of tatties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.

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Second-time-around rose, and lupin in third flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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September carnations. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.

Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.

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Runner beans 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.

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Fresh basil pesto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.

Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.

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Preparing and cooking runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.

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Fritters and pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 50g polenta
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
  • 120ml dairy-free milk
  • 75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
  • 225g cooked runner beans
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  1. Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. 
  2. Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
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    Preparing fritter batter and flax egg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered. Adding_homemade_pesto_and_whisked_aqua_fava_to_fritter_batter
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    Adding pesto, whisked aqua fava and the beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180¬ļC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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    Cooking the fritters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.

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    Fritters with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.

    Until next time, take care and best wishes ūüôā

Lemon and cucumber cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lemon and cucumber cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!

Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.

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Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.

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Greenhouse Mini Munch cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.

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Home-grown cucumber harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 18cm cake

Ingredients

  • 90g dairy-free margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
  • 125g grated cucumber
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • 125g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC, 160¬įC fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.

3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Lemon and cucumber cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.

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Baked cake ready for icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Drizzling fresh lemon icing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.

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Decoration of cucumber flowers, orange scented geranium leaves and lemon rind. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you ūüôā

Birds, bees, flowers and fruit

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Morello cherries just picked today. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well and enjoying some fine weather. It’s been a busy few days since my last post. The garden is thriving thanks to a mixture of sunshine and showers. There’s lots to do, and at last the soft fruit is ripe. I picked these cherries from the small espalier tree in the garden today. Just under 800g. Not bad at all ūüôā

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Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The raspberries have been coming thick and fast since my last post too, and there are still lots more to come. As well as the cherries and berries, my runner beans and potatoes are coming along nicely.

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Runner beans and my tub of tatties. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the flower borders, there is a predominance of yellow interspersed with shades of pink and lilac. The lavender season is in full swing here at the moment. I love the yellow cotton lavender with its silvery foliage which grows alongside the purple and lilac varieties. This is a very fragrant part of the garden.

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The lavenders. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The palest coloured lavender is at the front of the house. It is full of blooms this year and the bees love it. This pale pink Campanula has just come out this past week. It was new in the garden last year and I am very pleased to see that it is blooming again and seems to have doubled in size.

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Lavender and Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

More splashes of vibrant colour from the Lysimachia which has run a bit wild down one border but it does provide colour for several weeks; and the delightfully named “Banana Cream” Leusanthemum which sounds good enough to eat!

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Lysimachia and Leusanthemum. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy to see so many bees in the garden again this year. My recent gardening activity has been accompanied by the sound of gentle buzzing; they are always busy gathering pollen and enjoying the summer flowers no matter which part of the garden I am in.

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Busy bees on Scabious, Salvia and Geranium flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As well as the bees, the garden attracts many feathered friends too. Blackbirds and robins are by far the friendliest and really do seem to make themselves at home in amongst the plants and flowers.

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Baby blackbird and robin, and a sunbathing adult blackbird. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed the post and pictures. I will be back in the kitchen before the end of the month. See you then. Best wishes and take care ūüôā

 

Grow your own salad

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May salad of homegrown herbs, flowers and leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.

My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but¬† 2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.

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Easy to grow, pea shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ¬Ĺ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.

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Homegrown rocket. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.

I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny,  it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.

Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.

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Seasonal salad herbs and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.

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Sweet berry vinegar and thyme dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.

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Homegrown salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.

This weird spring

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Chionodoxa, Spring’s little gem. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. The weather has turned fine these past few days since my last post and it has been a joy to be able to escape into the garden. Whilst the world is in shut-down, Mother Nature is carrying on as usual.

This very week, 16 years ago, I moved to Scotland and took over a much neglected garden. There was not much in flower back in April 2004, but by the following spring, with a little TLC, the first Chionodoxa magically appeared (I didn’t plant them) and have been coming up each spring ever since. They love the sunny flowerbeds and paths and are poking through everywhere at the moment. In contrast, their relation, Scilla, prefer the cooler, damper, shadier part of the garden. In the low light, their bluish-lilac flowers seem to glow with a luminous quality.

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In the shade of a tree, Scilla flowers blooming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another shade lover, is the primrose. There are 2 varieties in the garden at the moment. The bushy yellow one flowers just for spring whilst the paler variety is in bloom and and off for several months of the year. There are several primrose clumps now; they seed themselves and multiply every year, and really do brighten up a dark corner.

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Scottish primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were a few tasks to get on with at the weekend. One of which was to prune the bay tree-bush which has got a bit wild. I ended up with a huge trug full of bay leaves – they will keep me going for a very long time!

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Springtime bay pruning. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the first tasks I can remember tackling in the garden that first spring, was to dead-head the Hydrangeas. The papery flower heads act as a natural frost protector for the buds and leaves forming on the stem below. This is one of my most enjoyable annual tasks in the garden mainly because it doesn’t involve too much bending ūüôā

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Bucket of dry Hydrangea flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Ribes Sanguineum or the flowering currant bush. It has been looking a bit sad for the past couple of years, but after a rigorous pruning last Autumn, it has come back to full flower and is looking much healthier. I love the blackcurrant aroma that the flowers have.

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Flowering currant bush. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. Enjoy the outdoors if you are able, and keep safe. Until next time, take care.

 

Spring rhubarb harvest, roasted and poached

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This year’s first and second stems of spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping safe and well. Over the past couple of weeks, with the growing limitations on social interaction and movement, I have felt more grateful than ever before to have my own outside space. Not only are there cheery spring flowers everywhere and the joyful sounds of birds singing, I have been able to pick the first of this year’s home-grown produce.

At the beginning of the month, I had my first taste of this year’s bright pinkish-red, tender stems of forced rhubarb which I covered in early February. The stems weren’t very long because the pot I used wasn’t that tall and it made the stems¬† grow a bit wonky and squat. However, the colour was intensely vibrant and the flavour was fruity and¬† tangy.

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My home-grown forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With more undeveloped stems peaking through, I re-covered the clump and was able to pick a second harvest a fortnight later. I have left the remaining stems to grow naturally. I have covered up another clump which will (hopefully) yield a few more stems ready for another harvest next month.

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Freshly picked and prepared, forced rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I didn’t do anything fancy with the rhubarb this year. I roasted the first batch with vanilla (recipe below), and the second harvest of stems got poached in the juice of my last blood orange of the season (sob) and some of last summer’s frozen raspberries (recipe below). Both very simple serving suggestions, but utterly delicious.

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Roast rhubarb with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Roast vanilla rhubarb – I used 200g prepared spring rhubarb stems cut into even thickness pieces, about 8cm long. Put the rhubarb in a small roasting tin and sprinkle with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar and 3 tbsp water. Add a split vanilla pod and bake at 200¬įC, 180¬įC fan oven, gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until just tender. Serve warm or cold.

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Spring rhubarb with orange and raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb with raspberries and orange: I used 250g prepared rhubarb stems, cut into 5cm lengths. Put the rhubarb in a frying pan with 300g frozen raspberries and the juice and rind of 1 orange. Sprinkle over 5 tbsp granulated sugar. Heat gently until steaming, then put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender and cooked through. Stand for 10 minutes before serving hot, or allow to cool completely. Discard the orange peel before serving.

I do enjoy eating rhubarb with a crumble topping but I find that spring rhubarb overcooks under a a crust of any kind. I came up with an idea which means you can cook a crumble topping separately and sprinkle it over fruit just before serving.

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Preparing oaty crumble topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Oaty crumble topping (serves 4): in a saucepan, melt 110g dairy-free margarine with 25g golden syrup and 25g Demerara sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 150g gluten-free jumbo oats and 50g gluten-free plain flour blend. Spread out thinly over a lined baking tray and bake at 190¬įC, 170¬įC fan oven, gas 5 for about 15 minutes until merged together. Break up the mixture into clusters and return to the oven to bake for a further 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold. Once cold, the mixture will keep in an air-tight container for several days, and it freezes well too.

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Roast rhubarb with oaty crumble. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for this month. I look forward to posting in April. Until then, keep well and stay safe ūüôā

 

 

Amaryllis – no one year wonder

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Amaryllis Picotee in spring last year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been compiling this week’s post for a while, and I have been in a bit of a dilemma as to the best time to go public with it.

Often given as Christmas presents, Hippeastrum hybrida, commonly known as Amaryllis, will begin to grow soon into the new year if they have sufficient warmth and light, but where I am in the north of the UK, I find it a challenge to get the bulbs started much before late spring. I do love their big voluptuous blooms, so flamboyant for something that grows in such a confined space. I’ve purchased many a variety over the years but it’s only recently that I have realised that you can keep the bulbs from one year to the next, and have them flower again. So while I wait for mine to start shooting, I thought I would post this week for the benefit of anyone who has been enjoying their Amaryllis already this year and who wants to do so again.

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Amaryllis first and second time around. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I first planted the Amaryllis bulb back in 2017, the following spring, I was delighted to see 2 strong stems of flowers forming, I ended up with 4 blooms on each stem and they lasted in succession for several weeks. Once the flower buds form, move the plant to a cooler spot, still in the light as too much warmth and mean that the flowers will go over quickly.

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When the floral show is over. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When the final flower has faded, cut off the stalk but leave the plant in the light and¬† warmth, and continue to water and feed as usual. You need to encourage the plant to grow foliage so that it can photosynthesize and build itself up for next year. These plants are best left indoors; they are not very robust and can’t tolerate variable climates.

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Green foliage and the dormant season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In late summer, you will notice that the foliage will begin to die back. Stop watering at this point and allow the foliage to dry and shrivel. Store the bulb, still in its pot, in a cool place, unwatered, so that it can become dormant over the Autumn and into winter. Leave it like this for at least 6 weeks, and don’t let the temperature get below 10¬įC.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As the coolness of winter approaches, bring the bulb back into the warm and start watering and feeding again, and soon the shoots will appear. Don’t over-water otherwise the bulb will rot, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. In the second year, my Amaryllis produced one flower stem with five blooms attached.

After the second year of flowering, you might want to re-pot the bulb when the flowers have died down. They don’t like too much space, so only upsize if really necessary and then only transfer to a pot one size up from the original. Take care with the roots, they don’t like root disturbance either.

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A stunning floral display, 2 years running, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It looks like my bulb is a long way from doing anything at the moment. The weather is too cold and dull for it to get it started. But I am looking forward to it’s splendid display in a couple of months time. Until my next post, I wish you well and hope you have a good few days ahead.

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Amaryllis with 5 blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Autumn approaches

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Autumn-flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.

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Grape hyacinth foliage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.

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Pink and white Japanese anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.

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Autumn crocus and Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.

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September greenhouse tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to¬†put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing¬†and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.

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This year’s eating and cooking apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you¬†what ever you are doing ūüôā

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Runner beans, Autumn raspberries and Pink Fir potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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My weekend harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Aronia berry and apple jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Garden berries and apples combined to make a delicious jelly preserve.                            Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog¬†so soon¬†after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but¬†last¬†weekend I¬†made up a new recipe and as the result was a success,¬†I am¬†sharing¬†it with you this week.

I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The shrub¬†is well known in the USA¬†and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries¬†contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”.¬†Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries¬†would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.

I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based¬†my mixture¬†on a cranberry jelly,¬†adding apple to temper the¬†astringency and to help with the set. The¬†final¬†jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour,¬†with a¬†taste that¬†is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This¬†is a great result¬†for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have¬†discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa ūüôā

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries¬†without)
  • 400g whole cooking apples, washed
  • Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
  1. Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
  2. Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool.¬†Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.

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    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
  4. Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
  5. Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
  6. Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point –¬†104¬į-105¬įC-¬†to give the best result.

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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.

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    Aronia berries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins