Friday, 2 December 2016

Disappointing Oca Harvest

 A couple of days ago (before this heavy cold frost) I had a dig around my Oca (New Zealand yams) bed (this post is in response to Sol asking when to harvest them - in truth it's a guessing game!). 

We had a frost that killed them the earlier in the month so I left them a good three weeks, where the tubers are then meant to swell, the later this happens in the year the better as they only form the tubers as the days get shorter. 
I only dug up half the bed and I was very disappointed by the results, the tubers are all small and very few in number. Compared to last years harvest where I had a couple of buckets worth it's going to be slim pickings with only enough to replant really. 
I'm going to leave the other half in the bed a little longer and see if that makes any difference to the size of the tubers. All i need to worry about is pests and them rotting in the ground so it's a bit of a gamble.
It's a shame as this is a crop with such potential, but it needs some development to make it a predicable crop that produces tubers eariler. 
I've recently joined the Guild Of Oca Breeders to help to try out new varieties in the hope of finding some that crop earlier. I'll do a post about what they get up to another time, I just need to decide how much space I should dedicate to this crop in future - when it's good it's very very good, and when it's bad it's dreadful!
Who else has harvested their yams yet? 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Five Root Vegetable Stew

I was in the garden today getting some veg for tea. I decided I was going to cook a stew with the brace of pheasants I brought home from the shoot on Saturday
I managed to get pretty much all the ingredients from the garden. The veg in the picture above is (left to right) leek, parsnip, black Spanish radish (a cooking radish) salsify, scorzonera and Jerusalem artichokes. I added a bunch of herbs from the garden and some potatoes I've got stored in the shed

I've not tried Salsify or scorzonera before and I was very impressed with how they tasted (I'll do a post on them another time). 

The Black Spanish Radish on the other hand isn't doing very well at winning me over at the moment. It's easy to grow and sowed really late, but tastes very bitter, even when cooked. So far we've tried stewing it and roasting it and both times I've left most of it on my plate and the girls haven't touched it. 

It's a real shame we're not liking the taste as it's so easy to grow and being late in the season means you can grow it when another crop has finished. I was under the impression that it was meant to be fairly mild when cooked and a good bulking vegetable in soups and stews, to me it almost taints the whole dish. 
Does anyone else grow this vegetable? 
What am I doing wrong when I cook it?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Self Seeded Kale

On the shoot on Saturday there was a section in the between two parts of the woods that had been sown with a cover crop. 
In amongst the weeds there were hundreds of kale plants standing about 4ft tall, I'm afraid my picture isn't very good but you can just about see a big kale plant on the end of the row. 

When I asked about this one of the guys who runs the shoot said they cleared this patch of land and sowed some kale five years ago, since then they've left these patches to their own devices. The plants have been growing, flowering and setting seed all by themselves, despite the heavy weed competition and how it's bound to have been predated on by bugs and birds. 

Pretty amazing I though. 

It just shows that if you can find a bare patch of land that's not going to be touched then a guerrilla type gardening style could help to feed you! 

What plants do you have that keep coming back year after year from self set seed?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Shoot

I had a great days shooting today. 
I didn't take many pictures today - this is one from last time! 
Back in the summer I worked on a hotel extension and worked with a cracking group of lads (I've mentioned them before when I went clay shooting a few months back). One friend I made is really keen on his shooting and when he heard that I liked to shoot he invited me along for a days shooting. I jumped at the chance!

This shoot is just the other side of the hill from me and was set in some beautiful countryside and woodland, as always it was just a joy to be outside, watch the dogs work and have some good company, but I did manage to shoot a few pheasants as well.

It's also the first time on a shoot where I've had an offer of marriage! This happened when I brought a full tray of Chelsea buns that I baked this morning with me, covered in icing. To start with they wouldn't believe that I made them, and then, once convinced, people were offering to buy trays from me, before the one guy got very affectionate about my cooking! He wasn't my type anyway! 
They seem quite keen for me to come back on another day, good cake is always a good way to make friends and influence people! 
The bag today, not huge but every bird collected - 12 brace of pheasants, 2 brace of pigeons and a squirrel. 
I came back with a brace of pheasants on my shoulder and a smile on my face, a good way to spend a day. 

I did have a comment on my Facebook blog page asking how I could feel pleased with myself for killing our wildlife, I can understand why people feel like this when not faced with all the facts and it's tricky not to get into an argument where both sides have already made up their minds. Here was my response:

Arguing against someone that is against shooting is generally not worth it as both sides already have their minds made up. All I will say is that although you see the product at the end of a days shooting, what you haven't seen is the weeks of work that have gone into maintaining the woodland where we shot by the people that run it. Today we shot around 30 birds but they breed and put down around 400-500 on this shoot every year to have nine days shooting. Spending time in these woods today I could see countless habitats that have been created because of these shoots, big patches of kale and over cover crops that provide food and shelter for far more than pheasants, areas cleared to let young tree grow, wood left to rot to provide habitat for other wildlife. Even the RSPB has said that well managed shoots benefit other wildlife (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/.../Row-erupts-as-RSPB-claims...). This isn't to go into the economical benefits that shooting brings to the countryside. This isn't me looking for an argument, just stating how I feel about something I feel quite passionately about.

I guess I'm always courting controversy when I post these type of posts but sod it, this is my record of how I live. 

Is anyone else going shooting this year or already been? 

What is your favourite game dish? 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Leftover Porridge Cake

And I give you "leftover porridge cake"

It's impossible to predict how much breakfast my three are going to eat, some days they eat the lot, others they barely touch it. 

Today they just weren't interested but I decided not to waste it. I invented a very stodgy cake instead. 

I mixed up half a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, a cup and bit of self raising flour (I'm really that precise!) a teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 eggs and the left over porridge (and out 2 cups worth i think. Oh and a good handful of currents (they're called yeah yeahs in this house for some reason). Mixed it all up and then split it between two 8 inch cake tins. 

Cooked at 180 until done (about 20 minutes or so) not forgetting to turn your cakes round if your stupid oven cooks more one side than the other like ours does.

Then got them out the oven, put a bit of golden syrup on the bottom one and spread it round before plonking the other on top. 

Tastes pretty good to me!

For bonus points, if you want to up the difficulty level of this cake, try doing it with a ten month old child clinging to your leg and using your trousers to wipe his snotty nose on. Makes it far more fun I can assure you. ..
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