This year’s heroes: #2 – Onion ‘Stuttgarter’

My onion sets shouldn’t have been much use really – they were both cheap and planted pretty late in the year (for onions).   They were stuck in the ground mostly because I had cleared a few areas of the fledgling allotment and was keen to get something planted.  It turns out that the sets I picked up are one of the strongest things known to man or beast.

Once we had a free bit of space on the allotment Danielle went ‘round with around 200 onion sets from Poundland and Wilkinsons – both were labelled as ‘Stuttgarter’ – a variety marketed as “sweet and mild, ideal for salads.”  No way.

Whilst they really weren’t in the ground long enough to reach a good size (only a dozen or more weren’t what you would call a small onion), they are ridiculously packed with flavour.

Sadly, none of the old wives’ tales to stop your eyes from watering when chopping them seem to have any effect whatsoever, so I work blind when I’m wielding a knife, which is reassuring.

I’m curious, following my experiences with these ‘mild’ onions – would they have ended up as  the label described if they had been in the ground longer?  I would have expected the flavour to grow stronger over time.

Or, perhaps more likely, cheap onions are not always actually the variety they are labelled and sold as (though they did have Stuttgarter’s characteristic flat tops).

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This year’s heroes: #1 – Sweetcorn ‘F1 Earlibird’

I had never grown my own sweetcorn (like so many things) before this year – and to be honest wasn’t even sure if it would be possible to grow it during our temperamental – often outright miserable – summers.

After a little research it seemed that, actually, this was a pretty easy crop to get right.  You need a decent amount of sun to get really good results, but I apparently stood a good chance.

I bought fifty seeds from eBay and set about germinating some of them in a plastic takeaway tub using paper towels;  the rest were sown directly into multipurpose compost.  Of course, once I actually started paying attention to what I was doing I started to wonder if fifty seeds would be far too many for our small plot.

As it happened, only about thirty-five grew into viable seedlings and looking back I wouldn’t have minded giving up some space to have a few more.  I planted out into very hard, dry soil (I actually broke a trowel) during the last week of May, spaced about 12” apart in all directions.

And that was it! I gave them a few feeds with comfrey ‘tea’ whilst they were still quite small to see them through cold, dull spells, but other than that I left them to their own devices.

The results were wonderful – it really is true what people say about home-grown sweetcorn being exceptional if eaten immediately after picking.  We have about a third of a freezer full of par-boiled cobs, which it turns out are one of Amelia’s favourites, vying with fresh-from-the-pod Champion of England peas for first place.

I will definitely be growing this variety again next year and would happily recommend them to anyone else.

Amelia takes an interest in the veggies

Fruit, veg and Amelia

It’s not quite related to my allotment adventures, but Amelia recently decided that the fruit and veg baskets at her grandparents’ house most definitely should not contain any vegetables; but should instead contain her, and her alone.

And who were we to stop her?!