It is an abundant time of year. It is a joy to cook in July! There are so many fresh ingredients to choose from. I wander from garden to poly tunnel with my basket picking courgette, beans, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, rosemary, parsley.Also in season potatoes, carrots, beetroot, kale.
I have been making lots of jam this month. Bottled redcurrants, blackcurrants and black currant jam. It is easy to preserve fruit without sugar. You just need to pasteurize it. For example when i make bottled fruit i just put the berries in sterilised jars, pour boiling water over them, close lids and pasteurise in a massive pan of water. You know the jars have sealed when the little disks make a popping sound as the vacuum is created. In my opinion the amount of sugar needed to make proper jam is quite mad and you end up losing the flavour of the fruit. So you can just add sugar to your taste then pasteurise afterwards. The fruit will still keep at least a year from my experience. Although i wouldn’t recommend the sugar free method for rhubarb or gooseberries!
Me and Sophia have been seed saving from parsnips, crimson clover and phacelia. The picture above shows parsnip seeds being harvested from the umbels (seed heads). The main umbels (the largest and central)provide the most vigorous seed so we took the seed from these. We also collected seeds from secondary umbels, these will be kept separate as a back up! The seeds will be dried further to make sure they keep through the winter. We only need enough for the coming spring as parsnip seeds rarely last more than a year. So we will do the same process again: at least 30 of the biggest and most healthy parsnips are left in the ground. It is best to grow as many as you can for genetic diversity as parsnips are outbreeders. The rest are harvested and eaten in the autumn. The plants still in the ground are left until the following summer when they send up flower heads which are pollinated by insects. Different varieties of parsnips need to be separated or they are likely to cross. Unless you want to experiment with this! By late July the seeds should be ready. They will be dry and brown on dry brown stems. Harvest during dry weather for nice dry seed.
I am pleased with the 125kg potato haul from my small garden. Straight in afterwards is tobacco, another experiment. It is another Solanacae (nightshade family) so it was not so great to put it in after potato. It will only be in a month or so, we should have planted it months ago, but food was obviously a priority. We will see what happens, I understand it is complicated to process, you need somewhere dry to dry it, which can be tricky in England. Although this year has been exceptionally dry, at least it has here in the South West.
We sadly lost our Dexter calf this month. We don’t know why she died. Poor rhubarb was calling mournfully for a few days. Lady and Luna are happy and healthy. We are getting 10 litres a day on average and still making lots of butter and cheese. Now the calf is weaned there are no more problems with her holding back milk and she willingly walks to the shelter. What a relief after the first couple of months being quite challenging when we were training her to be milked.
We did our first sawing with the new band saw and it went really well. There is still some tinkering needed but it was a good day. We have enough boards now to renew the kitchen roof. Woop woop no more drips in the kitchen. It is great to get the horses logging again as they need to be regularly worked and during the summer we are away more and we aren’t always able to work them.
In other menagerie news we have a new lurcher puppy and a Harris hawk called Maya. Yes there will be pictures. Try getting a puppy to sit still, or a hawk…