Sunday, 27 July 2008
Saturday, 26 July 2008
Friday, 25 July 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
After watching Jimmy's Farming Heroes and seeing his visit to the Pea farm in East Anglia i realised why my sugar snaps taste so much sweeter than those bought from a shop, not just a supermarket but markets and farm shops too. The Pea Co-opperative (a group of farmers who all work together for the harvest) have just 2 hours to pick, shell, wash, blanch and freeze their peas to keep the flavour and also the vitamins to a high enough standard. When i buy sugar snaps from a shop, who know how long they've been there yet last night i picked my peas at about 6.30pm, steamed them for literally a minute as i like them very crisp, about 7pm and had finished eating them by 7.30pm! You can get fresher than that.
However with limited space in the garden, which is pushed to the limits as it is, there are certain things i don't have room for and certain crops that you need a fair amount of plants in order to get a decent yield and crop. With soft fruit and sweetcorn being the main 2 of these, this is where PYO farms play a key role in food freshness for me (and potatoes too but i don't know a PYO that does potatoes!)
I'm lucky enough to have a PYO within 10 minutes driving distance from me, and having visited 2 others in essex i've realised how good my local farm really is, so i'll save the best review until last! The other 2 i've visited are both about a 40 minute drive however they had different fruit that i wanted to try. The 3 Farms are Cammas Hall Fruit Farm, Grace's Farm Shop (brief details here) and Lathcoat's Farm.
Lathcoat's - from their website i could see that this farm was fairly large, with a farm shop on the site too. When i eventually found the place, after giving myself a tour of the out skirts of chelmsford (it is easy to find i just forgot to print the map). They had a blackboard by the little hut which had details of what was currently ripe, or too ripe and how much was left and which patch to pick. When i went, in season were strawberries, raspberries, there were a few redcurrants, the gooseberries were extremely ripe (too ripe for my taste), the boysenberries were starting to ripen, as were the blackcurrants and the first line of plum trees were ready and finally the cherries were pretty much finished.
I was looking for the boysenberries, as i hadn't tried them before, but decided to pick up some plums for mum, as i know she loves them, and some strawberries to keep me going on the long journey home.....
After looking at their map, i set off in search and managed to find what i was looking for quite easily. The boysenberries didn't really wow me, but then thats not the farm's fault - that's just my expectations! What i was amazed at thought was the amount of fruit ripe and ready for picking but not only that the amount that was going to waste. There just seemed to be a distinct lack of organisation and timing. All the varieties of strawberries were ripe at the same time and there seemed to be no rules as to where you should specifically pick. The strawberries were on tables which normally means that they don't go as moudly as when they are on the floor because the ripening berries can hang over the sides. However here there were so many ripe strawberries there were more than people could pick. They also didn't appear to have a team of pickers here to pick for the farm to then sell on to shops and businesses.
They also do a rent-a-tree scheme here with 4 apple varieties but even tho they guarentee you a quantity, there's no guarentee over the quality....
Overall verdict - Too much fruit and not enough people to pick it. Prices were reasonable but seeing all the moudly fruit made feel a little sad that there was so much waste.
Grace's Fruit Farm - turns out they only have 4 fruits for PYO here although they sell more in the shop but you can't PYO. Fruits available for PYO are strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and loganberries. I went here to try loganberries, and although i could certainly taste a different flavour (unlike the boysenberries which just tasted like giant blackberries to me), it still didn't capture my tastebuds enough for me to want to specifically get them again.
The canes were on a 2 hillsides with loganberries and blackberries in one field and strawberries and raspberries in another next to a wild flower field (i presume to help with pollination), The rows were a little untidy, with thistles and weeds growing well in between, which made it rather difficult to get to the canes. There also seemed to be large gaps in the canes, especially in the raspberries which seemed to just trail off and fade out towards the end of the rows. The other thing that put me off here was that the strawberries were on the ground which meant a lot of moudly ones with the damp weather we've had - in fact more moudly than ripe i think! The overripe fruit was not just an issue on the strawberries but also the logan berries too.
It made me realise how much easier strawberries on table are to pick and how used to it i have become. The last time i picked from the floor i just have been about 8 when i was closer to the ground myself! Not only that, but i also thought the rows were extremely close together, meaning there was no room to step in between because the strawberries were hanging down into the furrows were you are supposed to step, so unless you pick from the outside row - which of course most people have already done - you are treading on mouldy mush and trying not to squash any decent strawberries.
overall verdict - lack of organisation, more of a side line business to the farm shop which had more nick nacks than food at any rate. not somewhere i'd rush back to.
and now saving the best until last.....
Cammas Hall Fruit Farm
To get to the fruit you have to enter through the barn where they have the tills and scales and also a supply of ready picked fruit in case you don't have the time (or energy) to PYO. There is local apple juice, last year there were local plums when in season and this year they have also had their own homemade jam. Cammas Hall has both fruit and vegetables for PYO, increasing their different produce each year. The only item that is only available ready picked and not PYO is the blueberries which are under cages. The strawberries are divided into section with about 3/4 rows of tables per section, and they normally have one section set for picking at one time, which gives the other sections chance to replenish and means there is little waste - however it can also mean that supply can be low when the weather is sunny or when the conditions mean they aren't ripening as quickly.
The same strategy applies to the raspberries, however there never seems to be a lack of crop with them. There are a couple of rows of blackberries, blackcurrant, half a dozen rows of gooseberries, a field of sweetcorn, half a field of broad beans and this year they have introduced onions and also french beans.
They also pick, pack and sell to other companies in large quantities which means less waste. The pickers start at the far end of the rows but due to the length of the rows the pickers and the public never seem to meet! the staff also keep the grass cut, they cut off the runners and generally keep the farm extremely tidy and neat.
Having visited those other 2 recently, i realize how wonderful cammas hall really is. i can only hope they keep growing and increasing the types of produce they have, however the main field is now full but i'm sure they own more of the land around - maybe i should suggest they introduce PYO beetroot!!
Sunday, 20 July 2008
And finally a quick snap shot of some of the harvests so far this year: Carrot, Sugar Snaps, Kale and Brocolli. Using a macro shot of some raspberries (from the PYO not the garden) as the background.
The recipe was pretty straight forwards, and although it looked set after it had had it's baking time of 30 minutes, it just didn't look as golden on top as the picture in the book, but i didn't want to bake it for any longer as it was starting to crack on one edge. So i turned the oven off and left it in there for another 30 minutes as it said.
I was hoping to turn it out after that 30 minutes but when i touched the top of the cake it still felt sticky and would have stuck to my hand. So i left it and had dinner, however by the time i came to cut it, after trying to lift out the slices and failing because of the greaseproof paper that was lining the bottom, i had to turn it out. I did it using a plate, fully expecting the top to stick to the plate, but to my surprise (and delight) once i had peeled off the lining paper and righted the cake there wasn't a mark on the top.
It was set all the way through and tasted lovely, even mum admitted to that! I think because i was a healthier low fat recipe, and the fact that i was eating some too, she thought it would lack on flavour, but not in the slightest.
I'll certainly be using the recipe again, however next time i might try some different fruit - maybe raspberries or gooseberries.
The blueberries. I may get a couple more if they ripen up but i don't think it'll even reach double figures this year. It is partly my fault i think. Firstly i didn't prune it at all at the end of last year and secondly i left that little mesh cage on it and i think so of the berries got too close to the edge and in reach of the birdies. More lessons learnt there!
And i know i say its the flavour not the quantity but i'm not sure i can even convinvce myself of that in this case - but then i haven't tasted them yet.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
But when i was watering and bug spraying yesterday i came across this! - hiding in the cabbages (which also feel like they might be starting to heart up!) - my first ever cauliflower!
Ok, so it's only the size of a golfball right now but it's exciting nevertheless - gives me hope for the other 3 cauliflower plants. I don't know what happened there, i planted lots more seeds than that, however i seemed to end up with lots of cabbage (i'll be eating a lot of coleslaw and balsamic red cabbage then!) and plenty of brocoli.
next year i think i'll sow less cabbage and more caulis! Its a long learning process, veg growing, in fact i don't think you ever stop learning.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
A pretty straightforward recipe, however i had misread it slightly and didn't have quite enough Honey, so i used all the honey i had for the mix and whilst that was baking i popped out to buy some more for the topping.
I also had trouble finding the nibbed sugar for the topping. I could only find it online and even then the first item i ordered wasn't what i was looking for - the grains seemed too small and i may as well have used granulated sugar! so i tried again and managed to get what i was looking for this time.
On slicing it, the loaf seem beautifully moist and with all that banana and honey (even tho it wasn't quite the whole 6 tbsp!)
I think this is another success that i will do again for the show (so long as my tasters think so!).
Which is why from this angle you can see how much it has erupted like a volcano!! Which of course then meant the topping of demerera sugar cracked into pieces.
With 3 other baking classes i may decide not to enter this one, especially as the other 3 recipes were more successful. Although i did manage to do all 4 in about 6 hours, and that includes all the washing up after each one too!
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Many of the main electrical superstores no longer seemed to stock them and those who did weren't cheaper than the independant stores, and i didn't really want to but something like a camera online. With technology i like to have somewhere i can take things back to in i have any trouble. So my choice was this:
Shop 1 - £200 package deal for the camera, a 1GB card and a standard panasonic case
obviously i went for shop number 2 - more storage and a case of my choice. so it's fairwell little Canon Ixus II!
It's served me well for 4 years, but its running out of steam, however despite this i think mum wants to use it as an intro to her first digital camera. I'm not sure how well it will work tho anymore, the screen seems to go purple when you try to take photos.
And hello to my new friend the Panasonic Lumix TZ3!
This side by side comparison shows the LCD screen difference - the Canon screen was about one of the biggest 4 years ago as well!
Friday, 4 July 2008
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
All tomatoes seem to be doing well.
The ones in the front garden had a drip feeder so have grown a bit more than those in the back garden.
Yet actually the first fruit have appeared on the ones on the patio!
The sugar snaps have out grown their wigwam.
Just hope we don't get any more strong winds!
The strawberries from this basket are unbelievably sweet, not sure if its the varieties or the fact it gets more sun than the planter on the patio.
i love just walking past and picking and eating the odd one thats ripe. although there were a few ripe yesterday so i gave them to mum to put on her cereal this morning.
despite being drowned whilst the drip feeder was being set up before we went away (which means i still havenn't need to water it!) one of the new seeds did germinate. i need to put some more compost round them tho and earth them up and stablise them a bit more.
came home to our first decent sized courgette, which mum had half of and i used the rest in a batch of ratouille.
first sowing of beetroot are finally forming roots - maybe i should feed them some worm wee........
Well i did have an almost ripe blueberry - it was huge too - but when i went back the next day it was gone!! it was by the edge of the cage so i can only think a bird got there before me sadly. might have to put the bigger cage on it.
second sowing of beetroot is coming on - might be time to put in the 3rd
Like the strawberries these are extremely sweet and wonderful to just pick the odd one as they ripen. birds got to a couple while i was away tho.