Sunday, 28 June 2009

Chateau 103: The 2009 vintage!!!

Over the weekend we finally got our elderflower champagne attempt started. While the elderflowers around dublin are starting to fade, those up in Roundwood are just hitting their prime as we are that bit higher up and things grow a few weeks behind everywhere else. Cillian and I found some elderflower in the fields nearby plot 103 and collected a good few flower heads. They smelled wonderful with a sweet heady aroma and released clouds of pollen at the slightest touch, great for making elderflower champagne, as the yeast is contained in the pollen so the more the better, but unfortunately bad for me. I suffer from very bad hay fever and have been sneezing and wheezing all evening. Hopefully our first brew will be worth it and we'll get a nice batch of elderflower champagne out of it and a few litres of elderflower cordial. I used the river cottage elderflower champagne recipe, you can find it on the net if you just google river cottage elderflower champagne. Its surprisingly simple and requires no fancy brewing equipment, just a bucket, the flowers, some sugar, white wine vinegar, some muslin cloth, lemons and some sparkling water or fizzy drink bottles I'll pick up in LIDL. I melted the sugar in 4 Litres of hot water, topped it up to 6 litres with cold water, added the juice and zest of 4 lemons and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, added around 20 elderflower heads, a quick stir and covered with some muslin cloth. The brew will now sit for a couple of days after which I hope to see some foam or bubbles to indicate that the yeast in the pollen is doing its job and fermenting. I'll leave it then for another 4 days fermenting, strain through muslin and bottle. The brew will then ferment for another 8 days minimum, (hopefully without exploding with all the gas) at which stage it should be ready to drink. If it all works and we have enough yeast in the pollen we should get something out of it. I believe the brew could possibly come out with maybe 4 or 5% alcohol but as its not a very precise process we'll see what happens.

We spend Saturday working hard on plot 103 weeding and watering all of the plants which seem to be growing well. The potatoes we planted a couple of weeks ago are well up and will need earthing up soon.

The 2 potato seeds given to us by Val, our allotment neighbour back in late april/early may are now beginning to flower. Apparently this means we should soon be ready to harvest the spuds and it might be worth having a 'firkle' over the next few weeks. I first heard this term on the allotments4all forum where people were all talking about how it was time to go and have a firkle.... At first I thought it was some kind of strange perverted ritual vegetable growers might secretly engage in but 'Firkle' I believe is the official term for sticking your hands in the potato mound and having a good feel around to see if the spuds are there, what size they are and if they are ready for harvest....gardeners have the strangest phrases....I hadn't expected potato plant flowers to be quite so pretty but the blooms on ours are quite beautiful, tinted with purple petals surrounding vibrant yellow centres.

Our Chard 'bright lights' is starting to show its colours and stalks are now appearing as vibrant reds or bright yellows.

Our courgette plants are starting to put out their first flowers of the season and are now vigorously growing on our manure filled mound of earth by the pumpkins at the back of plot 103. Hopefully we will begin to harvest courgettes over the next few weeks. According to some books on vegetable growing I've read, 1 courgette plant could provide between 16 and 20 courgettes!!!! we have 3!!!so I'd better start thinking of courgette recipes.

The sweetcorn we planted out is thriving I'd swear is growing centimeters by the day. We planted it out 2 weeks ago and each plant was a single blade, like a blade of grass and now look at them...lets hope it continues. The chickpeas we sowed have also come up and appear to be thriving.

Over the weekend I was thinning out the carrots, again, and found for a nice change, that we have some friendly insects on plot 103. I found 3 ladybird larvae eagerly crawling around the carrot bed which is very promising. Ladybird larvae are certainly a gardeners friend as they are ravenous for green fly, black fly and other aphids, and can be used to control greenfly populations. They can't get enough of them, so this guy may be a little ugly and crawly but leave him be...he'll reward you with helping to keep your plants aphid free before he turns into the more familiar ladybirds we see in the height of the summer.

Of course we couldn't finish a beautiful day like saturday without the obligatory BBQ which was enjoyed by all. Here me Jemma and Eoin are seen stuffing our faces with burgers and hotdogs. On the fishing front, Cillian and Eoin spent a few hours fishing and did catch 2 small brown trout, but as they were so small they were thrown back in, so unfortunately no fresh fish for the BBQ this time round, but theres plenty of summer left...


  1. Hi Sharon, the seaweed extarct is brilliant, I first read about on the Australian blogs and went looking for it. I did find it eventually and have been using it on everything since!I hope the Open day went well and we have some more 'summer' weather too

  2. Hi Peggy, well so far it looks good! we've been lucky that we started this year, if it had been last year I'd say we would have gotten disheartened very quickly with all that rain. Open day was a very low key affair, actually not many there but the place is hard to find. One or two people came down to chat to us as they were thinking of taking on a plot so its good to see theres some interest out there.

  3. Elderflower Cordial is a traditional remedy for hayfever sharonl so maybe all that sneezing will be worth it.

  4. hmmm...didn't know that! very interesting, all the more reason to try and make it work... if anything to cure my hayfever cos nothing else works..thanks ed.

  5. Hope your elderflower champagne works out well. I opened my first bottle a couple of days ago and was so delighted with the result.

    I am excited to read that you are growing chickpeas. My mother grows them in Wales in her back garden, she kept going on to me to plant some. Fresh chickpeas taste so different from the tinned and the dry chickpeas, but silly me forgot to do so. I am looking forward to reading about your progress.

  6. Thanks mangocheeks, so far so good with the champagne,no explosions just yet, can't wait to try it, it smells lovely. Our chickpeas seem to be coming on well so far. We only put a few in, just to try, maybe 15 plants, I love chickpeas and if they work out I'll grow a lot more of them next year and hopefully get a good crop. I tried out your recipe for raspberry oaty bars and they were absolutely gorgeous, keep it coming with the lovely recipes!!

  7. Thank you so much for the kind comments, they are really appreciated.