Garlic, potatoes and shallots…

I spent some of my winter ‘hibernation’ as always dreaming of the garden and planning what I’d like to grow.  As this is my 4th year with this vegetable patch, I mostly just check last years planing list (organised by month) and edit or add according to how the recent harvest has gone.  I don’t like to plant things we don’t end up eating or that have failed in such a way I feel no desire to try again (although some things I’ll attempt more than once, I’m determined to grow Kai Lan this year!) and ideally I like to add new varieties, if not new vegetables, otherwise I get a bit bored.

I’ve ordered the first installment of  seeds, potatoes and shallot sets, all from Thompson & Morgan.  They had an offer I couldn’t refuse on potatoes, 3 new planters plus 15 (5 of each) seed potatoes all second earlies and including my favourite Charlottes.  In their own words, here’s what I’m getting:

Gourmet Potato Collection

Solanum tuberosum

Colin Randel, Chairman of the RHS Vegetable Trials Committee has tried and tested hundreds of potatoes over the years. With his specialist knowledge he has picked three tasty potato varieties as his top rated for flavour. Grow this special selection in our effortless patio planters for a taste sensation. The perfect potato dish simply doesn’t get any easier than this!

  • Collection comprises:
  • Potato ‘Charlotte’ – Second early. Sweet, earthy, long oval tubers with pale yellow, waxy flesh. This superb salad variety produces heavy crops with plenty flavour whether it is eaten as a new potato, hot or cold.
  • Potato ‘Inca Bella’ – Second early/ early maincrop. From ‘Mayan Gold’ parentage, with a pink-blushed cream coloured skin and golden coloured flesh. The distinctive nutty flavour makes this variety a superb salad potato, or harvest later as an early maincrop if larger tubers are required. Cooks approximately 30% quicker than your usual potato.

  • Potato ‘Piccolo Star’ – Second early. Very high numbers of mouthwatering, oval baby new potatoes, with a firm waxy texture and bright, creamy skin and flesh. Absolutely superb as a boiled ‘new potato’ or left to cool as a salad potato.

Sounds good huh?! Here is the link and all for the price of £14.99.  Now, if I was prepared to give up some of the raised bed space I could buy much cheaper and larger amounts of seed potatoes but I really enjoy growing them in sacks/planters, so this works for me.  In addition I have ordered some Anya variety and a number of individual (cheap) bag planters that will have 1 tuber planted in each.  Last year I put any extra chitted potatoes into black buckets and it worked so well to tip out a single  bucket full for a meal that I’d like to repeat this method.

I’ve also ordered my shallots, again I’ve gone for Longor, I did think about changing variety but I do love these and haven’t bought shallots for 3 years now so figured I’d stick with the same.  Again (this is kind of cheating isn’t it? – Oh well!) in their own words:

Shallot French ‘Longor’

Allium cepa (Aggregatum Group)

This French version of ‘Jersey Long’ has been awarded an RHS Award of garden merit for its extremely long bulbs and robust flavour. Shallots have a much sweeter flavour than onions and can be used in stews and casseroles for a more delicate taste. This variety is a particular favourite with exhibition growers, and can be stored over a long period.

I found one milder day over Christmas to get my garlic in, I just looked back at old posts and see this was my first post on garlic from June 2009 when I harvested the first batch, outlining what I’d opted to grow.  Gosh didn’t I include some nice photos back then?….must try harder ;).  Then after declaring Albigensian Wight and Solent Wight as the winners, these were my choice for last year’s planting, they worked so well I’ve been rather boring and opted for the same again, ordered from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.

They have been planted, as always, in rows 30cm apart with 15cm between the individual cloves with about 3cm earth on top.  They are in raised Bed 1 and will be replaced with Brassicas (probably purple sprouting broccoli) later in the year, the smaller inner cloves have been put into 2 of my massive containers, I am thinking of planting the squash in the beds this year and using the containers for other things, either way I can move them when the weather warms up a bit.

Now, if you’re thinking all these photos are familiar, yes they are, I had planned to pop out in the garden before publishing this post (written a few days ago), but quite frankly it’s pissing it down and shows no sign of letting up so I was looking up past relevant images, I do love this one of the garlic drying out on our spare bed.

And finally,  it cheered me to find this photo, taken in April 2009 and a reminder of what’s to come 🙂

Waking up…

I feel like I’ve been in hibernation and have just woken up.  We had a lovely Christmas and it was made extra special by having both my mother and brother down (he left the farm for a couple of days which is always very difficult for him to do).  The Christmas meal was a success, we were lucky that the booked Ocado delivery arrived between snow and ice (for the past 2 years it has been cancelled at the last minute).  The only obvious mistakes were a slightly thick gravy and despite reading every possible recipe for Goose and cooking times a slightly overcooked Goose.  The legs were perfect but the breast a little over, the timings printed on the goose said  3 hrs but in fact it was taken out after 2, it still tasted delicious which I think is the bonus of Goose over Turkey as once that’s overcooked there’s not a lot to save.

I made a few presents to give this year the above was for my sister, she has moved to a new house with the most amazing garden, I imagine her swanning around like lady of the Manor picking roses.  For those who normally read my other blog, I usually make work with my own designs but this is from the fabulous book ‘Home Sweet Sewn‘ by Alice Butcher & Ginny Farquhar.

I also received some wonderful gifts including new cookery books and gadgets  (the scissors are the multi-bladed, kitchen craft herb scissors, I have yet to try them but they look fun).  The Donna Hay ‘Seasons’ book is great, lots of good simple recipes with wonderfully styled photos, I am looking forward to trying out many of them, my mouth was watering just glancing through.

I’ve also been on-line bargain shopping and stopped off at the Jme sale after the success of crackers bought last year, this time I treated myself to some fancy loose tea amongst other things.

The Ingrid beaker is by Donna Wilson (non-sale) and the teapot is the Stump Teapot by ForLife which I bought here, also both new.  I am one of those typical people who feel the need to clean up my act in the New Year so I’m trying to drink plenty of herbal tea instead of the dreaded (but addictive) diet coke.  I love fresh mint tea from the garden in the summer and this pot with it’s built in infuser is the perfect size.

We have woken to perfect weather today, overnight we had torrential rain and it was much needed to wash the grit and dirt off the roads and for once the car looks quite clean!  We lost a couple of tiles off the roof with the wind but it’s now quite bright and sunny, the first blue skies we’ve seen for a while.  It makes me want to clean and tidy and write lists but for now, I’m going to make apple pie and a pumpkin and mushroom quiche (from this month’s Country Living magazine) to use up some of the fridge food then spend the afternoon playing at Playmobil school with C who keeps leaving little still life set-ups around the house (the above arrived in the middle of the kitchen floor as I was writing this post).  I’ve plenty to write about my new planting lists and seeds but I’ll save that for another post.

Oh, yes, wishing you all a Happy New Year! 🙂