Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Fruit and flowers

No more about mulberries for now, let's just say that even more dropped after the last post,  we almost ran out of space and on Sunday we pressed most of the brews.  So far, we have  90 litres clearing with another 30 or so to do soon.

The pear tree in the front garden has started to drop its fruit, much to the delight of Monty and Pip,  as they both like to eat the pears.   I'm not so impressed as we have flowers growing underneath.  More importantly we also have some large sage plants and  chives there which don't really need dogs trampling on them on their way to retrieve the fruit.  So this evening I picked all the fruit from the tree,  18lbs of small pears, some ready to eat, some for keeping and the bruised/over ripe ones I'm going to try making cider with.

Another plant that grows here is the cardoon, it's most spectacular when in flower although it's supposed to be for eating - the leaves that is, not the flower - although I don't know anyone who does eat it.  It looks tough, but maybe we should try it, possibly it'd be ok in soups or stews?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Any ideas?

 We  have a pear tree in the front garden, but have no idea what type of pear it is.  I only know the sort  the supermarket sells, usually Conference and  (possibly)  Comice?   But this tree produces very small, bite sized pears, they are ripening now, sweet and juicy but still with crunch - a bit like an apple I suppose.  The closest I have come to finding what type we have is here  because ours look very similar.    Ask the neighbours I hear you say,  tried that,  they look at you and say "Well, it's a pear!   What else could it be?"

More mulberries!

Rolled up the nets on Monday - another 24lbs.  Did it again on Wednesday - this time 41lbs had dropped!!!!   And if you watch the tree,  you can see the  fruit falling off.  When the birds go in to eat the fruit or the breeze blows, even more comes down.

So far we have 95 lbs brewing which should produce about 50/60 litres of wine.  I hope it's nice!

Maybe we should start drying them now  and adding them to muesli, cakes and puddings later in the year.  Or even selling them - just look at the price!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Todays harvest....

Went out to shake the tree this morning only to find lots of mulberries had fallen without any need to shake.  Rolled up the nets, took the fruit indoors and weighed it....19lbs or nearly 9 kgs.
So another 20 ltrs of wine on the go, the nets back down and we'll see what drops overnight.

The dwarf Borlotto beans are 'beaning'  - we have 4 beds on the go  and these are the first ones to produce.  We are planning on eating and freezing to start with and if they produce faster than we need, we'll leave them to go to seed and keep either for soups/stews etc in the winter or next years planting.   The same will then happen for the next beds....or so we hope! (we have 80+ plants in each bed so they should produce far faster than we need and we expect to have a surplus of dried beans for the next few years planting and / or eating)

The cucumbers, courgettes, melon and water melons are all in flower,  the tomatoes are fruiting well as are  the strawberries, although the toms aren't yet ripe.  Spinach and mustard are being picked for salad leaves, although the mustard is also for seeds.  There are 25 sweet corn up  and they are about 2 ft tall - this is a much better result than last year when they just disappeared!

The red cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts are all in 'cages' to  protect against cabbage white butterflies and so far that seems to be working, although the dreaded aphids have got onto some of the cauliflowers.  We now know to put problem plants  in lots of different places,  hoping to fool the insects and apart from that one group of cauliflowers, everything else is ok.

Peanuts and sweet potatoes are a new thing this year, and  we're quite impressed so far, over half the nuts have grown and 8 out of 10 sweet potato slips.   The nuts we'll keep as seeds for next year  and so we should be able to increase our stock, eventually having enough to roast!

A while back I mentioned how to increase stock by a) planting out the side shoots from tomatoes and b) planting the cut-off base of an onion.... yes, it all works and in fact I think the onions are stronger than the sets we bought and planted!!   Each base seems to make at least 2 if not 3 new ones, once strong and  rooted can be cut up and replanted.  At first I didn't think the tomatoes would take, but they have and are looking very healthy so give it a try!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Most of us remember the nursery rhyme about going round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning, but this 'bush' is about 8 metres  high with a diameter of about 12 metres.  Our olive nets are 8m by 5m and had to be moved to catch the  fruit as it fell off.                            

We collected 5 kgs today  which we have started brewing, that should give us about 10 litres of mulberry wine and the nets are back down underneath to see what drops overnight.  The golden orioles are nesting in the tree and they eat the fruit, along with many other birds.  We can only reach the lower branches, even with a hooked stick to shake the branches with.  We don't want to scare the birds off,  just get some of the fruit!   They're welcome to the top of the tree - it's far too high for us anyway.

Thanks to J for the photo.  I couldn't get all the tree in on my camera, his has a wider lens than mine.

It's that time of the year...

end of year paperwork, always takes ages longer than you imagine, this time we went to 4 offices in 2 towns, 1 of the offices we had to go back to, to complete the final stage of the process, but we managed it all in 3 hours.

Spain, or the Spanish system, is a great lover of paperwork. Everything has to be in duplicate, an original has to be available for the man at the desk to see, quite often a photo is needed and the most important thing is to get the paperwork stamped! If you've got the stamp, then it's all ok.

After having done that, and we expected it to take more than one day, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch out on the beach at SalobreƱa. It's a restaurant we've taken family and friends to before and it never disappoints us. No, I'm not on commission - but it's called Chiringuito Casa Emilio.

We decided to share a house salad for starter, luckily we only ordered 1 as it was huge! A fruit salad on a bed of lettuce, consisting of apples, pears, grapes, melon, water melon, strawberries, peaches, oranges, kiwi, pomegranate, banana, papaya, passion fruit and star fruit.

This is the view we had of the beach - hardly anyone around.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The last planting before the summer?

Last Wednesday we had what will probably be our last major planting day of this season's vegetables before it gets too hot for seeds to germinate and survive the hot sun.

Out came the rotavator, J dug 4 new beds which were then watered and dug again, each time the soil got finer and finer. They are all on terraces that we have never used, have only had olive leaves dropping on and rotting down into and one of them also used to have the compost heaps on, so that has produced lovely rich looking soil. After raking out the stones and making raised beds, we planted up 2 of them with globe carrots, kohlrabi, beetroot, swede and radish. We have never had much success with carrots, a lot of the soil seems quite good when damp but forms a crust when dry and the poor little seeds struggle to get through! Even when they do manage, the carrot seems to struggle to grow down. Last year we had what we called 'designer carrots' - small but perfectly formed. Last week though we received some seeds from my parents that we hadn't been able to find locally and took advantage of a few cooler days to get them in.

Another bed has potatoes in - don't know whether they are earlies, early lates, late earlies or what. Basically, if they start to produce shoots before we get round to eating them, then they get planted! We don't grow enough for the whole year and tend to eat them when still small. We still have a large bed not yet filled - it'll probably be left now till the autumn.

We were given this book the Christmas we moved here, and with the exception of a few things such as olives, sweet potatoes, capers and peanuts, almost everything we grow is in the book. It's got notes, bits of paper and seed packets tucked inside and even after almost 7 years, it's still looked at on a regular basis. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


For the Amazon newbies, some information! This includes me, as I have only just found out how all this works. If you want to buy anything from Amazon, just click on any link I have put up such as this and you'll go to their home page. Whatever you buy generates some revenue for us, be it a camera, book, dvd, food or toys...........the list is pretty much endless.

Pod wine

Started to sterilize bottles and rack off the wines tonight, went to get the hydrometer to check the alcohol/has it stopped fermenting yet, only to find - or not as the case may be, the hydrometer has vanished! Now, the brewing area is not huge, we quite often misplace tools as they get used and put down and then forgotten about, but a hydrometer only gets used for wine making so where is it???

As you can see from my new link, they are available to buy so that's probably our next purchase if it doesn't turn up.

Anything you buy from Amazon via this site generates revenue for us, but doesn't cost you any more.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Stocking up.

The shelves in the kitchen are beginning to be refilled with jars of in-season freebies. Over the last week or so, the capers have begun budding and so our morning walk has started going via the caper bushes. We only pick a couple of times a week and you only pick the small green unripened flower bud at first. Later on, after the remaining buds have flowered, they put out a seed from the centre and when that becomes the size of an olive, it too can be picked and brined. Aren't the flowers pretty?

Although these appear to be expensive, capers don't produce much in the first few years and really don't have their best years until they are much older. They also have to be hand picked, and what you can't see are the sharp spikes on the stems!! There are many types of caper, from tiny French ones to the larger more prized Spanish varieties, and the price reflects the size and country. Amazon have cheaper versions, these are the most local ones they have.

Yesterday I picked 42 walnuts, pricked them, put them in brine and after 3 days they will go out in the sun till black, then get pickled in vinegar. They have to be green and soft when picked so are quite small - the end result is quite unlike a walnut, but delicious in casseroles - and maybe in other dishes as well if anyone has any suggestions? But why do walnuts stain your fingers?

The mulberry trees at the Ermita are fruiting - the ground is covered in black and white squashed mulberries and anyone you see near there tends to have stained fingers, me included. What with the walnuts and moras, my hands are quite colourful!

Dug up the first small potatoes to have with dinner last night and had strawberries and cream afterwards. The strawberries are producing about 300 grams, twice a week at the moment.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Weird or what?

We have sweet potatoes growing for the very first time, friends gave us cuttings but they are very tender - the cuttings, not the friends! and don't like the cold and so didn't survive the winter. I bought 10 cuttings in Cadiar at the almacen (seed store) and so far 8 are going strong.

To make sure they had the best possible start in life I googled what they needed and came across a site with lots of other interesting plants, amongst them cashews which are lovely and tasty but very expensive compared to peanuts.

And this is why......

Friday, 4 June 2010

Habas for every occasion

When we came here there were habas - silent h please - (broad beans) growing on our veg plot but we didn't do much about them and eventually they took the hint and stopped self seeding. I think they might have bought back memories of school dinners or something like that - large, dry beans, not very tasty, best not bothered with.

But they are eaten a lot here, so you get them on the bar as tapas to pod and eat fresh, stir fried with garlic and jamon, all sorts of ways, plus I'm told but have never tried, battered and deep fried when they are very tiny, pod and all.

So over the last couple of years we have grown more and more habas. Some we keep for next years seeds, we pick and cook the very small pods whole like you do french beans, small podded ones are cooked very quickly, served with a slosh of olive oil (garlic oil quite often) larger ones are double podded and cooked the same way and just last weekend we slow roasted the large ones in a little oil till they were dried out but still green and ate them as tapas. They have a very nutty taste - delicious salted. If there had been any spare we did think about grinding them down to a flour as it can be added to bread flour and batter for a richer flavour.

Unfortunately they have come to the end of their season although we have lots frozen until they come around again. The roots are still in the ground releasing nitrogen for the cabbages and sprouts which are following on, the plants I stood up in the empty compost till the leaves dried and dropped off and then the dry fibrous stalks have gone into the wood pile for fire starters.

Is there anything this plant can't do??

Oh yes, I forgot, the pods also make wine. Whether it's good wine or not we don't yet know but as they were off to the compost anyway, 10 litres of wine as a by-product seems worthwhile.