Sunday, 5 July 2009

Strawberry surprise!!

We finally got our first crop of 2009 from plot 103!! its getting exciting watching everything start to look like vegetables and fruit. We arrived down to plot 103 to find a few strawberries and raspberries were ripe for the picking. Beneath the plants were a few succulent fruits dotting the place with bright reds!!

Some had succumbed to mould unfortunately due to the warm, humid and wet conditions over the last week and many of the raspberries had been eaten by the birds but we only put two raspberry plants in this year and weren't expecting a particularly large crop but there were certainly a few tasty morsels. We put squares of weed suppressing membrane around the 12 strawberry plants to act as little mats or collars to prevent the strawberries still forming from resting in the mud and rotting. Heres todays few fruits, granted some of them wouldn't win a beauty contest or quite make the 'tescos finest' uniformity test but they were thoroughly enjoyed with some fresh whipped cream and apple tart this evening. They were much sweeter than the ones we are used to in the shops and weren't quite so sharp.

The heavy rain followed by sunny spells over the week meant everything took a good growth spurt. Some of our first cabbages look like they are starting to form hearts.

The beans have thankfully made a full recovery, looking healthy and green they are even starting to bud with their first flowers.
Even our onions appear to have lost their yellowing tips due I'm sure to both the heavy rain and the feeding with seaweed extract and chicken manure. Pumpkin and courgette plants are really starting to bulk up. Unfortunately as all of our veg have taken a growth spurt, so have the weeds. We decided next year when we prepare the beds we will grow as much as we can through weed suppressing membrane.
Our elderflower champagne experiment continued during the week. After 3 days fermenting in the bucket a very faint fizzing could be heard when you stirred it. After 5 days fermenting in the bucket we bottled it on Friday into some plastic screw top sparkling water bottles. Although the recipe on the river cottage website recommended glass swing top or grolsch type bottles we decided against it. A number of people who had tried the recipe posted up warnings of exploding bottles due to the pressure buildup as once bottled, the brew must ferment for at least a further 8 days. Some exploded with such fervor they were referring to it as WMD brew!!! Others told stories of batches of the champagne exploding in their sheds and glass shards embedding in the roof and walls!!! So for the sake of safety, I decided that plastic bottles was the way to go. At least if it does explode there will hopefully be less fallout! The screw caps also allow some of the gas to be released over the additional fermentation stages. I've been releasing the pressure in the bottles once a day and its very obvious that the wild yeast in the flowers is continuing to do its job happily fermenting the sugar into alcohol and producing all those lovely bubbles as if fizzes with a gorgeous smell when I loosen the caps briefly. I can't wait to try some. We did try some of the elderflower cordial with some sparkling water and it was quite nice if not a little too sweet. Next time I think I'll reduce the sugar content. The cordial is now frozen into ice cube bags for use as needed.


  1. Well done with the brewing experiment, you are definitely more adventurous than we are!It is great to see everything coming on so well after the rain and sunshine but the weeds seem to grow twice as fast.The elderflowers have a lovely old fashioned scent.

  2. Thanks Peggy, hopefully it will taste as nice as it smells, wasn't too impressed with the cordial, just tasted and smelled like sugary water, but this is so far looking more promising. Couldn't believe the weeds!! only hoed everything last week and you'd swear I'd done nothing for months...growing everything through weed suppressing membrane next year, its probably the fact that the site was rotorvated in april, just chopped everything up to grow again.