The arrival of the school holidays also marks the start of harvesting crops from the allotment more. On Friday morning, the children and I headed to the allotment bright and early, armed with a full petrol can for me to put in the lawn mower and a few tubs to collect harvested items in.
I spent the best part of an hour and a half mowing the edges of the plot and the areas which we are currently not growing anything on. This was a very well times tidying up session as the allotments were being inspected as I was doing it (I didn’t know until later, when my neighbour told me!) A few of the allotment holders are on final warnings now because they aren’t doing anything to their plots, which is a shame. Luckily a few weeds here and there doesn’t mean you get issued with a ‘special letter’ as long as it’s obvious you are tending to your plot. Ours looks much better now it’s been mown!
Once I’d done that (and little Miss C had stopped crying about the noise of the mower), we are to work weeding raised beds. I set my 5 year old onto weeding his pumpkin bed since it was his idea, and he proudly counted how many buckets he filled with weeds! I looked after the other areas, and, upon tending to the beetroot bed, I noticed that a few were ready for harvesting. I went through the whole bed, thinning out those which had grown very close together and pulling up any which looked large enough to harvest. Some of the thinnings were substantial enough to be used so I kept them and the others went to our (rather delighted) chickens.
By lunch time the plot was looking a lot more loved, so we went home for a rest. Whilst the children recovered from their strenuous morning of weeding, I trimmed the stems on the beetroot and sorted them roughly by size. (Learning from last year’s mistake of putting them all in the same pan and ending up with some very overcooked smaller beets!) I ended up with three pans boiling-enormous beetroot, middle sized ones and small ones. Whilst they boiled (for varying amounts of time from 20-45 minutes) I prepared the jars, which I had saved from last year. We picked up some Kilner jars cheaply when a local Homebase closed, but we’ve also saved other jars as we knew we would be doing quite a lot of preserving. After washing them in hot soapy water, I sterilized them in the oven at 150° for 15 minutes, leaving them in the oven until required.
Once the smallest beet were cooked I gently heated some pickling vinegar and began to skin the beet. My hands were a mess after, but the boiling process followed by plunging them in cold water makes the skins literally pop off. Honestly, it’s a really satisfying feeling when the beet pops put leaving the skin whole! (You just need to be careful that you don’t shoot beetroot at light coloured surfaces and leave your kitchen looking like a blood bath.)
I pickled the smallest beet whole and sliced the others into the jars, adding the warm vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar to each (a tip from my Nanny, who always had one of the large glass Quality Streets jars full of pickled beet in the bottom of her pantry!) Overall we got three jars full just from the first harvest (and they went from the ground to a jar in less than 5 hours!) I think there will be loads more ready in 3-4 weeks and those may be pickled too, or perhaps added to some chutney as there’s an apple tree at Mr C’s parents’ house where I can get free apples, and we are bound to have some green tomatoes left. Lots of preserving possibilities! I can’t wait to sample the pickled beetroot in a few weeks or so, I love it in salads.