Our good friend and close neighbour Mick regularly supplies us with fresh vegetables grown on his allotment located across the road from us.
Mick has had his allotment for over fifty years, planting vegetables and even fruit trees.
One of my favourite vegetables he grows for harvesting each autumn time is beetroot. Mick grows a popular type called ‘Boltardty AGM’. Boltardy seeds can be sown at various times during the growing year and in most types of soil. It does not have excessive ‘bolting, a gardening term, which means premature sprouting of stalks flowering stem(s). Excessive bolting can divert resources & nutriment from the beetroot and reduce its quality.
All Photos By PH Morton
After harvesting, Mick then produces jars of delicious slightly sweet pickled beetroot for his family and us. We save a jar for Christmas time. Beetroot is perfect to accompany Christmas meals. This year, Mick invited me to harvest some of his beetroot. He then showed us how to make his ‘signature’ pickled beetroot. I took various photos from harvesting to our jars filled with delicious picked beetroot. Under Mick’s tutelage and help, Jean & I enjoyed producing our own jars of this delicious vegetable. Making pickled beetroot is quite simple & straightforward. 🙂
If using homegrown beetroots from garden or allotment etc., a good time to harvest is from 50 to 70 days after planting. Avoid letting the beetroot get too big. A hand or tennis ball size is ideal. Do not let the stalks/stems bolt or grow above 6 inches (15cms). Dig around the beetroot and pick up avoiding breaking the stalk/greens from the beetroot.
Thoroughly clean & wash the dirt off and trim the stalks/stems short. Again do not pull out the stems, as water can get into the beetroot and damage it when boiling prior to pickling.
Harvested fresh beetroot can be stored in a refrigerator for about seven days.
Depending how many beetroots you are pickling, you will require:-
Pickling /preserve jars with airtight lids. The normal size is around 500ml, or as large as you want. Most hardware stores will supply.
Pickling vinegar, which comes in 1.4 litre size. Most larger supermarkets etc supply.
Brown or white sugar granules to sweeten the vinegar taste to your choice.
Place the beetroots in a suitably sized saucepan(s) and cover with water.
Boil for two hours.
Carefully strain off the water and either allow air cooling or running cold water over the beetroots then dry.
Completely remove remaining stalks/roots etc.
The boiled soft skin of the beetroot does not need to be peeled with a knife as can be easily removed by hand.
Cut or slice the beetroot to whatever size you prefer.
Pour in small amount sugar, then add a small measure of the pickling vinegar, enough to cover the first layer of the slices of beetroot into the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar (to taste) then add another layer, pour pickling vinegar, then another layer, sugar, pickling vinegar until it reaches the top of the jar.
Close the jar, gently shake it then turn it upside down and leave for about 30 minutes. This will allow the vinegar and sugar to seep through the beetroot. Top up with the pickling vinegar if needed to completely cover the sliced beetroot in the jar.
If you want you can label the jar with day & month of pickling.
Home made pickled beetroot can be kept for 6 weeks to 3 months, refrigerated.
In practice, it can be longer.
But if you store them beyond 3 months and you’re worried, check for signs of spoilage (rising bubbles, cloudy liquid, unnatural colour) and don’t eat or taste.
The words timber and lumber are often interchanged in their usage.
I have to admit I sometimes forget the difference. So I used a visual memory by remembering Hollywood films, where the lumberjacks would shout ‘TIMBER’ as a tree which just been cut from the bottom would fall.
Timber is the tree trunk, while a lumber is a long wood material sawn from the timber.
When I think of lumber, it always remind me of the Monty Python I am a Lumberjack ditty. 🙂 🙂 🙂
By the way you can tell the age of a tree by counting the growth rings.
Parakeet in Childshill, London, photo by PH Morton
Rise of Parakeets
More and more wild parakeets are seen freely flying and nesting all around London. I first saw parakeets on top of a tree at Hyde Park four years ago. I thought they were not really a natural bird for cold UK.
As much as they are so lovely to look at, there are some negative implications to our local birds.
I love this Manet-like impressionism photo at Hampstead Heath by PH Morton
Forest Bathing @ Hampstead Heath
Forest bathing has become an accepted form of relaxation and stress management in Japan. It was started in the mid-80s.
But what is forest bathing?
It involves going into a woody land or forest, a green space, and hike leisurely; relax and breathe in all the freshness and negative ions, the so-called air-borned vitamins’, given off by the surrounding trees and plants.
Let all the stress of the day melt in the comparative embraces of the forest.
In London, there is a woodland called Hampstead Heath, a 320 hectares of open, green space perfect for forest bathing, among other things. It is a place for a great family bonding. There are numbers of ponds, there is even a ‘secret garden’ which is architecturally excellent. It also covers a natural swimming pool for ladies and also for men, there are the Parliament Hill, the Kenwood House, Highgate pond, etc.
Be astounded at how great Hampstead Heath is, when it is just 6 kilometres away from the very busy bustling city centre of London, the Trafalgar Square.
It is a place for biodiversity: human meets natures and wildlife in a capsule of forested heath.
So Londoners, now the weather outside is no longer frightful, put on your walking shoes and have a forest bath!
When we were both still gainfully employed, 😉 it was hard to maintain our fairly long back garden, where the lawn must be mowed, the bushes regularly trimmed, the pond life fed, the garden furniture repaired, etc., the list went on. We, therefore, paved over parts of it, but still kept some smaller flower& plant beds and a good size lawn.
A good idea in any size garden is to use plant pots or troughs to grow plants, flowers and vegetables.
Some of the larger pots are fitted with small wheels (like castors) on the base.
This means that we can easily move large plants, such as the tomato plants, to follow the sun as it moves, to maximise exposure to the light and heat.
This spring, and as in previous years, Jean & I decided to try and grow some tomato plants in three of our large pots. Tomatoes are quite inexpensive and plentifully sold in shops and supermarket during the summer, but growing your own has its own reward. You can be sure of the freshness and they seem to taste better 🙂
This year’s weather has been mixed in London & SE England.
A rarely frozen and wet winter was followed by rain alternating with hot sunny days in summer, extending well into September. This combination has resulted in a nice crop of tomatoes. some have ripened and hopefully the others will soon as well.
Our two potted small apple trees have produced their ripe fruit nearly a month early this year.
They are ‘Jonagold’ apples, which are sweet and a little bitter to taste but simply delicious.
We found that If you have two potted apple trees, keep them near each other in order to get at least one good crop, this helps cross fertilisation from the bees etc.
We find each year that one tree produces more apples than the other.
However, this year both tree have a lot of apples, thanks to the weather.
We have one potted Conference variety pear tree, near the end of the garden, and as with the apple trees we also need to get another one as this lonely tree only produces a pair of pears each year.
Our wild blackberry bush has also produce a bounty of berries this year too!
We wonder if this year’s winter will be cold and wet again. Snow has not fallen to settle on the ground here in nearly the last two years, much to our grandson’s disappointment who is wishing of building a snowman in the garden!
London city hall recycled water., Photo by JMorton
Peter and I recently visited the City Hall of London. It has a fantastic view of the Thames and the many buildings of various shapes and sizes, which are wowing locals and tourists alike. (I have never seen so many people taking selfies at any given time.)
Whilst inside the building, we used the toilet after having had lunch at the ground floor cafeteria, where we had a brief encounter with Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, which is another story! LOL
I digress, anyway, at first, I was really annoyed that the previous user of the toilet bowl seemed to not have bothered to flush the toilet as the water is rather yellow, in a urine-yellow way.
So I flushed it but it remained yellow. It was only afterwards that I noticed a sign confirming that the water was from a recycled source.
Apparently recycled water or reclaimed water comes from sewage water, which has been treated to remove the solid bits as well as impurities. In some cases, recycled water is purified that it is suitable to for drinking. 🙁
Though it was rather off-putting to see yellow water in toilets (takes getting used to, I must say), at least the idea behind it is, of course, admirable. Recycling promotes sustainability and water conservation in our ecosystem. GRRREATT! 😉