Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spuds U Like

Sunday was 'Potato Day' in our neck of the woods, and I've splashed out on what will be next year's crop. 'Ulster Sceptre' for the earlies, 'Charlotte' for second early salad, and 'Roseval','Remarka' and 'Pink Fir Apple' for the main crop. There were about 85 varieties on offer at our South London Seedy Sunday. But nothing as exotic (or poetic) as these Andean potatoes - a few of the thousands of varieties from whence they all originated.

A.Yana qhachun waqachi Black one that makes the daughter in law weep
B.quwi sullu Guinea pig's fetus
C.Yuraq pina White pineapple
D.Allqa rihra Like a two coloured shoulder
E.Kurqa sillun Clod of earth the shape of a fingernail
F.Kuntur warmi Like a woman with the colours of a condor's neck

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blowin' in the Wind

Today my rain collector blew over so the last 5 days precipitation will go unrecorded. The last couple of months have been the windiest that I can remember. Many a night I lie awake listening to it, wondering when one of our trees will blow down. Maybe because it keeps me awake, I think that I am starting to become slightly unhinged by it, like those nuns in 'The Black Narcissus'. I hope I don't end up filling the allotment with flowers instead of vegetables this year, as the deranged Sister Philipa did.
Here's how they created the wind for the 'Himalayan' set somewhere in west London.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


We have made one resolution for this year - the queen must die. Against the advice of the old pros in the LBKA, we didn't kill HRH last year. She had come to us the year before as a virgin (we named her Bess) and the thought of squashing her didn't appeal. One year on things feel different. We seem to have very swarmy bees and our original monarch decamped with half the colony while we weren't looking. We had been dutifully destroying queen cells as we found them, but one must have escaped notice, and then another. I think the new queens are poor layers - perhaps they weren't fed royal jelly from the start? Anyway we are going to order 2 new sovereigns in the spring, all spunked up and ready to lay eggs. The real difficulty is going to be in finding the old ones. We searched several times unsuccessfully over the summer - another reason I think they are runts - so they are still unmarked. Meanwhile I've got a pamphlet on mead making and I'm going to have a go with some of this year's taking.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

King of the Bean

I've just cooked up the last of these beautiful 'Magpie' beans. This is a classic East coast Saturday supper dish 'Fundy Baked Beans' - guaranteed to put hair on your chest. I haven't been back to Canada since last spring, so had to substitute molasses for the maple syrup. Soak 4 cups beans overnight in 12 cups water. Boil next day with a bay leaf and an onion pierced with 4 or 5 cloves. If you've grown them yourself this won't take long (30 minutes or so), otherwise a couple of hours. As soon as the skin lifts off when you blow on it they're ready. Line the bottom of an ovenproof casserole pot with about a pound of smoked bacon. Put the beans on top. Get a fresh onion, roll it in 1 teaspoon dry mustard and bury it in the beans. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons coarse salt. Pour 1 cup of maple syrup over top and add about 6 cups of the reserved (I should have mentioned that before you drained them) bean cooking water. Cover and put in a slow oven (gas mark 3/ 325° F) for about 5 hours. Keep checking to see that it doesn't dry out.
Here are the other beans I grew this year -