Celeriac being a moisture loving plant that needs fertile, moisture retentive soil I thought it might perform well hydroponically. Our celeriac was grown from seed (rather than the recommended plugs) in 8cm pots. When roots were showing, the pots were then placed in a small NFT system. These have overwintered in a small greenhouse without heat and are doing well. Progress is very slow though.
The Watercress trial has been interesting. In the wild, watercress grows partially submerged in running water in moderately cool climates. We trialled it in both an aquaponic system and an ebb & flood tank situated near each other outdoors.
The above photos speak for themselves (both of which were taken on the same day). Whilst the aquaponic system best mimics a running stream I suspect the nutrient levels are too high and the watercress is struggling. By contrast, the ebb and flood (sometimes called an ebb and flow or flood and drain system) tank filled with nothing more than inert clay balls and rainwater provided a great crop.
Any Hazel wood we remove from our coppice that cannot be used for walking stick shanks or other woodland crafts gets cut up into ‘Wood Chunks‘ which get used in smokers and BBQ’s for flavouring meats, fish and cheeses.
All our hazel is coppiced with a hand saw so has not been contaminated with chainsaw oil. It is processed through a ‘chunker’ where two blades come together and crimp the wood into short lengths. The bins of wood chunks are then tipped out and spread in large plastic trays. The trays allow for really good air circulation even when stacked high.
Along with most nut woods (The fruit of the Hazel (Corylus) is the hazelnut, also known as cobnut or filbert nut), Hazel is a favourite wood used for smoking food as it produces a strong, fragrant smoke.
It is often used in the UK as an alternative when a recipe calls for Hickory. We sell our Hazel wood chunks direct from the farm gate or mail order via www.WoodChunks.co.uk
At the end of the last season, a friend kindly posted to us a few seeds from a giant pepper with a view of us having a go at growing a big one. He advised us to get them planted early January which seems incredibly early but he is the expert so today half of them got planted along with a selection of our usual chilli and sweet pepper varieties. I will plant the rest towards end March as per normal and compare the results.
The consensus on germination temperatures for peppers seems to be 80-85 degrees F so the propagator has been set to 28 degrees C.
The annual arrival of our red mushrooms with white spots heralds the onset of Autumn. I did buy a book to identify safe mushrooms to eat but, having read it, decided against it as being ‘almost certain’ just isn’t good enough.
However, in this instance being ‘nearly sure’ IS good enough; I am almost certain that these are Amanita Muscaria which are classified as deadly.
I think of these as the classic fairy toadstool and a welcomed arrival to the woodland floor. The source of the image of fairies dancing around them might not be that far fetched as, apparently, they have psychedelic properties “if prepared properly”.
“Preparing properly” hmmm. A quick search uncovers a range of drying techniques for varying times whilst held at various angles. Perhaps the best one was the ancient shaman preparation of letting reindeer eat them and then drink their pee.
On fields eerily shrouded in mist, the 2016 Giant Pumpkin harvest has begun. All the giant pumpkins that have not been sold in advance will be listed for sale on www.bigpumpkins.co.uk/pumpkins-for-sale/
They make perfect autumnal table decorations for restaurants, events and weddings either as they are (they are very tactile) or can be used hollowed out as tea light candle holders. We have even sold them for use as soup bowls.
We are harvesting them to order at the moment at just £1 each.
Our making a table tea light tutorial can be found here
Our little Wood Chunks website has been selling our home grown wood for some time now to the point where our regular customers kindly bring samples of their fare which is very much appreciated (hint, hint) .
Food smoking is an art and from my experience, each ‘artist’ likes to understandably select the materials that they have found gives the best results for them.
Some want small wood chips, others want large lumps or even big logs. Then there is the debate about whether the bark should be on or off and the difference branchwood or heartwood makes to the flavour of the food.
To supplement our home produced wood chunks we have today added a range of wood chips which come in 2ltr re-sealable packs.
Graded to a size between 6mm and 12mm chip size, Apple, Alder, Cherry and Oak chips are now in stock.
Along with all our speciality wood chunks they are available to collect (by appointment – we don’t have a shop) from Hesketh Bank (PR4 6) in West Lancashire but these packs are especially suitable for mail order so it will be interesting to see how this develops.
A very busy day making the most of the sunshine to get caught up with all the field and footpath mowing but the highlight was cutting our first pumpkins of the season. It usually gets to September before the PR people remember to think about Halloween but quite a few have been making enquiries already.
The first order was just for a few pumpkins and quite on odd mix but ours is not to reason why. I look forward to seeing the finished piece.
We always grow a few pumpkins under glass so they are ready for sale that bit sooner. Due to the poor weather, the outdoor pumpkins are only just beginning to set but hopefully they will be ready for the mid October harvest.
As we hit ‘peak tomato’ in the polytunnel we try and prepare as many portions of our favourite soup; freezing portions of our delicious roast tomato and pepper soup for a hearty warming meal later in the autumn.
In fact every time the oven goes on, a tray of roughly chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions will be in the bottom.
Ingredients (Makes 3 big bowls) :
1kg of ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
4 green or red peppers
6 peeled whole cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
600 millilitres vegetable stock
Worcestershire (three shakes)
Tabasco (two shakes)
Preheat the oven to 200C
Cut up larger tomatoes to the size of a whole cherry tomato. Deseed the peppers and then cut up the peppers and onion to a similar size as the tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic into a roasting dish or baking tray and season with salt and pepper.
Pour on the olive oil then vigorously mix all the ingredients by hand to ensure that the oil has coated everything.
Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the tomatoes and peppers are just beginning to char.
Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and add the Worcestershire and tabasco sauce. Add the roasted vegetables and puree using a hand blender to the texture you prefer.
Allow to cool then freeze in portions. Ideal for a warm welcome on a winters evening. The quantities will make three big bowls of hearty, homemade soup.
Three big bowls will serve 1 – 2 Lancashire farmers or at least 6 southern jessies.