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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Vines And Other Climbing Plants.

Fish Ponds

Books By
Alan J Hartley



Allotment Food Special.

The idea that a food company is promoting of giving up a place at your dining table for a lonely pensioner is not a new one to me. I am sure that a year last autumn someone else was pushing a similar idea and it was about then that I ran with it and an elderly friend started coming to lunch one day a week. When the weather is fine he does a little bit of gardening for me in exchange, which encourages me to get in the garden and do some with him. It was always Momís garden and I still canít get my head round the fact that I have got to do it now, but with a little help from my friend the garden is getting a lot tidier. Anyway, back to the food that mostly comes from my Allotment, apart from the meat and eggs. My friend is not a good cook so enjoys whatever I give him even if I experiment on him a bit! Last week I made a nice little starter using Kale.
First of all I cooked a good handful of leaves before blitzing them in a processor with a couple of slices of ham and a raw egg. Whilst doing this I toasted 2 slices of bread that I halved. Next I pre-cooked the Kale mixture in an oven-proof bowl until it thickened which took about 10 minutes. The 2 slices of toast were then spread with the green paste like mixture and put back in the oven for a few more minutes with some sliced tomato on top, although it would have been best under a grill to finish off as this would cook the tomato better without over cooking the toast. Finally I took it out at the last minute and sprinkled it with grated cheese before popping it back in to melt before serving. As a starter this is almost a meal in itself and makes a really healthy and nutritious snack meal for a late Brunch.

Another starter that I give my friend sometimes involves using Sea Kale. This old fashioned Victorian vegetable is often grown as a border plant in gardens because of its frothy white flowers. However, if the Crowns are covered with upturned buckets, at this time of year, before they start shooting, the leaf stalks will become elongated and pale making them edible and an early alternative to Asparagus. When picked they look like Celery, but do cook and taste like Asparagus. They must be kept in the dark after picking though until the moment they are cooked, as they will green up very quickly in the light. However, like Asparagus, they donít take much cooking and a light steaming, or quick boiling is all that is needed to male them wilt. Then served hot with butter and a bit of salad, like sliced tomato, radish or cucumber, they go down very well. Sometimes I make a sort of butter based sauce with a bit of cornflower and pour it over 4, or 5 stalks to make a bit more of them. You can just use them as a normal vegetable and because I harvest so many from my bed on my allotment every year, I do that as well.

Something else that I have been cooking lately for my friend thatís a bit different is Yacon. This is an early version of the Dahlia that dates back to the Inca civilisation. It grows very much like a Dahlia in as much as it is a bushy, tender plant needing frost protection, but once grown, the tuberous roots can be left in the ground until wanted. Indeed if the crown is covered with some sort of mulch that too will survive the cold until dug up. Consequently I have been harvesting a few roots the last few weeks as most of my root vegetables have finished now except the Jerusalem Artichokes and Parsnips. As the roots have been dug up I have been dissecting out and potting some of the growing buds that make up the Crown on the Yacon plants. They are different to Dahlias in as much as they donít need the fat tubers to grow so all of those can be removed and eaten. The buds do need to be kept frost-free until Spring though once potted and will then grow on to make next seasons plants. The tubers themselves are very similar in size and appearance to Sweet Potatoes, although they are white skinned, or purple for the new variety. The white flesh is crisp and can be eaten raw, but either cooked, or raw it has interesting properties. Apparently the flesh contains an indigestible sugar that makes it sweet to eat, but gives it no calories. This aspect is being researched for diabetic and dieting applications, but the vegetable also contains another chemical that when absorbed helps to break down the harmful internal body fat that builds up around the major organs. This too is being investigated for its incredible health implications.
Back to cooking; - The Yacon tubers are quite versatile as they can be sliced and fried; peeled and boiled, or steamed; or simply roast in their skins. They do take a long time to soften, but as they can be eaten raw it is quite acceptable for them to be a little bit crunchy like carrots. The Yacon tubers certainly add to my list of interesting and unusual vegetables as well as being a good crop for this time of year. 


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