Chilli jam for chilly days!

The weather has certainly changed since a few weeks ago and you can definitely feel you are in Autumn. The allotment beds need clearing of the spent produce and plans for preparation for next year are in full flow. The greenhouse with their supplies of chillies and red peppers have now also come to an end. Most of the chillies that have ripened are now hanging in order to allow them to dry for use later on during the year, but what do you do with the surplus unripe chillies and peppers that have failed to ripen in the sunshine?

One of my favourite things to do on a damp wet autumnal evening is to make my collections of chilli jams. I first started making chilli jam using only red chillies and red peppers but then I often ended up with a surplus of green peppers and chillies and did not know what to do with them. I am not a big lover of green peppers as I don’t really like taste so I wouldn’t cook with them. I often gave them away to family and friends who were grateful for them and would make use of them in their culinary dishes. That was until I came across the green chilli jam recipe. I have followed the recipes listed below from previous posts that I have written and they are a big success with all that have tried them. They make ideal Christmas presents, store fantastically well and make mealtimes that little bit spicier.

Sweet Chilli Jam

8 red peppers , deseeded and roughly chopped
10 red chillies , roughly chopped
Finger-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves , peeled
400g tin plum tomatoes
750g caster sugar
250ml red wine vinegar

Tip the peppers, chillies (with seeds), ginger and garlic into a food processor, then whizz until very finely chopped. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 mins, stirring occasionally.

Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t catch and burn. It should now look like thick, bubbling lava. Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely. Keeps for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard – refrigerate once opened.

I also scoured the Internet and came across this recipe from the following web address that uses the green peppers and green chillies.

Tracklements’ Chilli Jam (makes 8 jars)

500ml Cider Vinegar
1.5kg Raw Cane Sugar
120ml Lemon Juice
30g Garlic, crushed
400g Onions, peeled and roughly chopped
Heaped tablespoon of salt
750g Green or Red Chilli Peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
750g Green or Red Peppers, roughly chopped

Whizz the onion, pepper and garlic with a hand held blender for 10 seconds.
Warm the vinegar in your pan, and add the sugar stirring until it has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and stir in.
Add the rest of the ingredients and then bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Keep at a rolling boil for between 30-40 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to a good consistency.
Pour straight into sterilized jars and lid.

Happy Diggin’


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What to do in November – 2

November seems to have snuck up on me without me looking.  You wouldn’t be able to tell by the weather that we are in November as it has, so far, been relatively mild for the end of Autumn. I just hope that the mild weather continues for as long as possible.

November for me always signifies the big tidy up and prepare for the upcoming Spring months that are just around the corner.  The dark nights prevent much evening work so my weekends are always busy and fully booked.  I do like a tidy plot though and without all of the annual weeds growing back quickly as soon as I have removed them, I have a fighting chance! There are still lots that can be done and the list below will hopefully give you an idea of some of the jobs that you can be doing this month to stay organised and in control.

Jobs to do………in November

  • Continue to water winter crops if needed
  • Add the remaining vegetation to the compost heap
  • Continue to collect leaves and add to the leaf mould heap. They will need at least 12-18 months to rot down before they can be used effectively. Alternatively, add leaves to black bags that have a few holes cut into them add a little water and leave in a secluded area for about 12-18 months
  • Continue to check over crops that you have stored from previous months, to ensure that they will last you through the winter months
  • Cover late crop vegetables that are not winter hardy such as salads and oriental leaves
  • Check brassicas for whitefly
  • Continue to hoe all weeds where possible
  • Dismantle supports that were used for climbing beans and peas
  • Remove dead leaves from winter brassicas
  • Dig over the soil and add a thick layer of well rotted manure. Don’t worry too much about big clods of earth as the frost will break these down
  • Gather and store the remaining apples and pears
  • If you haven’t already done so, dig trenches for next spring
  • Give the greenhouse a good clean making sure that you clean your plant pots and seed trays for next spring
  • Continue to lift and store main crop carrots and turnips
  • Pick autumn raspberries
  • Prune fruit trees such as pears and apples while they are still dormant.
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes. Branches that have borne fruit should be pruned to soil level
  • Plant garlic cloves if not already done so
  • Harvest any remaining herbs to dry and store
  • Protect clay pots with fleece or bubble wrap or placing in a greenhouse or shed.
  • Protect brassicas with net from damage by birds

What to sow………Indoors

  • Sow broad beans and overwintering peas
  • Sow sweet peas in a cold greenhouse

What to sow………Outdoors

  • Green manures
  • Broad beans
  • Hardy peas
  • Garlic
  • Autumn onion sets

What to plant………in November

  • Spring cabbages
  • Winter salad crops – protected by some sort of cloche
  • Plant rhubarb sets
  • Fruit bushes are best planted now
  • Bare-root, container-grown trees and bare-root roses while they are still dormant
  • Spring flowering bulbs

Crops in season now

Broccoli (Sprouting)
Brussels sprouts (tops)
French Beans (for drying)
Kohl Rabi
Jerusalem Artichokes
Swiss chard
Winter Radish

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Hidden Bean Gems!

imageThis time of year, most of us allotment growers have an abundance of runner beans that are now passed their best to be eaten as whole beans, but are we missing a trick when it comes to the swollen beans inside?

Now I know some of you may leave the pods on the plant to dry for saving seed for next years growing season, but then throw the rest of the pods out with the compost!  I realised this error last year and have since made a note to collect all of the unwanted, unloved remaining pods that remain on the bean plants.  (In the case of allotment neighbours’ unwanted beans, permission is always acquired before I harvest the beans in question)!

The idea is to harvest and store the beans inside, but they must be dry.  This can either be done by leaving the pods on the plant to dry naturally, or removing the ripe beans and drying them for a couple of weeks until the shells are hardened.  Once completely dried, they can be frozen for a couple of hours to kill any bacteria or bugs that may be lurking on there, then stored in airtight containers.  If the beans are quite fresh, you can simply pod them, wash them and then place in the freezer until needed.  They store brilliantly this way.  I spent a fantastic afternoon with my young neighbours who were more than willing to help me shell the abundance of beans that I had.

The beans can then be added to casseroles, soups and stews, or in my case used with the West Indian Rice and Peas recipe!  They also look fabulous added to clear storage jars within your kitchen.  Any type of beans such as French, Runner, Borlotti can be treated in the same way.

Lets see how much hidden treasure you can acquire!

Happy harvestin’


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Ripe Autumn Raspberries

imageMy allotment, and garden at home for that matter, is looking a little bit sad where things are beginning to come to an end. However I am pleasantly surprised with my autumn cropping raspberries. I have never really been one to concentrate on fruit, apart from my giant strawberry patch, but these raspberries definitely made me sit up and take notice. The variety is called ‘Joan J’ and gives the deepest red, largest raspberries that I have ever seen.

Now I know some of you may say that size is not everything, but I can assure you that the taste of these are definitely not impeded due to their large size. It seems as if I am picking cupful every day just off at about four plants, that were given to me as transplants last year. Even the birds seem to leave the Autumn fruit alone, after having their fill of the summer cropping fruits!

Any new canes that have appeared as small new plants, will be dug up and moved to a new location. I do not want to overcrowd the raspberries which will make it easier for air to circulate between them and much easier to crop. (They have spiny stems which can cause discomfort when harvesting the fruit if there is no room). As soon as this variety has finished cropping for the year I shall cut the canes back down to the ground where they will then sit dormantly during the Winter months. I will apply a mulch of well rotted manure to the base and leave them to have a well earned rest, ready for producing their fruit again next Autumn. Next year though, I must remember to support them more against my fence as the weight of the fruit sometimes causes the plants to bend and sometimes snap.

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What to do in October – 2

Autumn is here already, but it only seems like yesterday that we were in the middle of Summer. Maybe due to the fact that in my region we hit temperatures in the region of 20°, considerably warmer weather in comparison for September last year. Here’s hoping that October turns out to be relatively mild.

Reading back on my post about October gardening jobs last year, I’m still feeling as sad as I was then knowing that the growing season is coming to an end yet again.  This time however, I am excited about the plans that I can now put into place for my new smaller plot.  Autumn is the perfect time for planning and preparing the ground, and indeed the structures on your plot, ready for the growing year ahead.  However you spend your gardening time this Autumn, below is a list of some of the jobs that you can do to give yourself the best start to the season ahead.

Jobs to do………in October

  • Continue to check all crops that you have stored.  One bad vegetable could ruin the whole crop.
  • Clear away yellowing leaves from winter brassica plants.  This helps to reduce white fly.
  • Collect leaves this Autumn to make into leaf mould for next year.
  • Start to dig over vacant areas of soil ready for the winter.  You can add layers of manure, leaf mould or compost over the soil and leave it until the winter has passed, turning the soil over in Spring.
  • Continue to add compostable waste to your compost heap.  Keep it covered to keep the heat in and help the decomposing process
  • Clean and store tools, pots and containers as these are not generally needed as much during the winter months.
  • Place squashes and pumpkins in a warm place to toughen the skins ready for storing in a cool place.
  • Ripen the last few remaining outdoor tomatoes by placing in a brown paper bag or hanging in the greenhouse alongside a ripe banana.
  • Give the greenhouse a through clean and make any necessary repairs
  • Take hardwood cuttings of currant and gooseberry bushes
  • Harvest herbs and dry or freeze for winter use

What to sow………in October

  • Cress
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Winter lettuce
  • Broad Beans
  • Radish
  • Hardy peas (under cover)

What to plant………in October

  • Rhubarb crowns
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spring cabbages sown last month
  • Asparagus

Crops in season now

  • Apples
  • Aubergines
  • Beetroot
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Early Brussel Sprouts
  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage Summer/Autumn
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Calabrese
  • Cauliflower (Autumn)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chillies
  • Fennel
  • French Beans
  • Garlic
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Marrow
  • Onions
  • Parsnip
  • Peas (late)
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin and Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnip
  • Sweetcorn

Happy harvestin’


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What to do in September – 2

Ok, so my mental note of not sowing and growing too many seeds due to an over abundance of produce went completely out of the window! I harvested loads and loads yet again!  Not that I am complaining,  in a time when the cost of food tends to sky rocket through the roof, I am thankful for the ability to provide food for my family.

Whilst I am in the process and harvesting, storing and preserving my produce, I still need to keep on top of necessary jobs that need to be undertaken this time of year.  Clearing beds, transplanting new plants, improving the soil condition are just a few jobs that need to be done.  The following information will also outline some other jobs that will help you get more organised this month.

Jobs to do………in September

  • Lift maincrop potatoes and leave to dry in the sun for a few hours to dry the skin. This makes them last longer when being stored.
  • Perform a general tidy up of the plot in preparation for any structural work that needs to be completed during the Autumn and Winter months.
  • Protect squashes and pumpkins that are laying on the ground by placing them on a tile or suchlike. This prevents them from rotting. It may be worthwhile removing some of the leaves around the fruit to gain maximum sun to help with ripening.
  • Keep harvesting your vegetables to encourage production. In some cases, the more you pick the more you get!
  • Remove as many leaves that you can from tomato plants to help maximise the amount of sun that the unripe fruit need.
  • Keep adding contents to the compost bin, ensuring to add an equal amount of brown waste and green. Turn regularly to aid decompostion.
  • If not already done so, make a new strawberry bed with the runners from the existing plants.
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes, removing all the woody growth that has produce the fruit this year.
  • Transplant any spring cabbages that you may have started growing last month.
  • Continue to water all veg – especially in dry weather.
  • Protect delicate crops for colder weather such as lettuces with cloches or mini polythene tunnels.
  • Although you may be over run with beans now, continue to harvest them while they are still tender to prevent the plant from producing tough, stringy beans.
  • After beans and peas have finally finished their production of crops, cut the plant down at root level, leaving the nitrogen rich roots in the soil.
  • Keep an eye out now for blight. At the first sign on potato plant leaves, cut the haulms off and burn immediately. Do not place them on the compost heap as you run the risk of the spores spreading more. The potatoes underneath the earth will still be fine for a few more weeks if the haulms were cut off at the first sign of blight.

What to sow………Indoors and outdoors

  • Autumn and Winter salads
  • Radish
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Pak Choi
  • Kale
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Hardy Lettuce
  • Spring Onion
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Winter radish

What to plant………in September

  • Winter Brassicas
  • Chives
  • Kale
  • Kohl rabi
  • Lettuces
  • Garlic
  • Overwintering Onion sets

Crops in season now

  • Courgettes
  • Cauliflowers
  • Cabbages
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Potatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Lettuces
  • Chard
  • Radish
  • Kale
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes
  • Chillies
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Spinach
  • Autumn Raspberries
  • Marrows
  • Shallots
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Onions

Happy harvestin’


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Onion fly attack

A few weeks ago I harvIMG_1177.JPGested and rescued what I could from my onion and garlic crop due to an attack from the onion fly.  I always tend to plant the majority of my onions and garlic in October to allow them to overwinter and develop a good root network, but I also plant a few rows in March too. Luckily, by the time the onion fly was in full swing I was able to save some of the crops that had overwintered before the damage from the grubs was too bad.  As the overwintered crops had been in the ground for a longer period of time and had managed to get established into decent sized plants, they were able to ward off a more serious attack rather than the newly planted crops that hadn’t yet had time to get established and therefore were more susceptible.

One of the telltale signs to look for is that the foliage will suddenly start to curl and fold rather than standing upright.  When you lift a bulb, you should also see damage to the layers of skin where the grub burrows its way into the centre of the bulb.  The grub looks like a tiny brown grain of rice and is very clearly seen by the human eye.  Normally, there are more than one grub in each plant.  Unfortunately, when the onion fly attacks there is very little that can be done to save the plants unless you spot the signs quickly and remove the plants from the ground.

All of my March sown onions were unusable and had to be removed from the  plot and disposed of in the bin.  I had no intentions of adding these to the compost bin as this would have been the ideal place for the grubs to turn into the adult fly and therefore continue the destructive cycle.  Most of my garlic had to be thoroughly inspected and separated into individual cloves to expose and reveal the grubs that had burrowed into the bulbs.

My advice would be to plant alliums in October and to keep them covered with some fine mesh to prevent the fly from landing and laying their eggs.  Don’t plant them in the same place as any alliums have been grown in the previous year.  This includes leeks too. Crop rotation is also very important as the grubs can survive in the soil for a long period of time.

The link below will give more information on how to deal with the onion fly.

How to deal with the onion fly

Here’s hoping that you are never attacked by these and have a great harvest.

appy Diggin’




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