Saturday, 15 July 2017

Coloured Beets

T'is that time of year when the vegetable garden racks up the quantity and variety of its produce. I should probably grow more beetroot than I actually do. I like their sweetness when roasted and a shredded beetroot adds colour to a summer salad. 

Thinking back to my childhood I have memories of my mum pickling beetroot for winter usuage. She would also preserve boiled beets by cutting them into cubes and placing them in jelly along with several cloves to add flavour. I have to concede that I didn't like jellied beetroot. It must be nearly fifty years since I dissected cubes of purple beetroot from their clammy gelatin coating. The memory still makes me feel slightly queasy.

The archetypal beetroot is purple in colour and global in shape but there are cultivars which are white, orange, pink, yellow or striped and many beets are cylindrical in shape. I sowed a packet of mixed coloured beet seed for my first sowing of beetroot this year. Today provided me with my first meal with beetroot as the principal vegetable.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Monumental Death

My maternal grandfather was one of four children. His eldest brother died at the age of fourteen years in 1909. His sister died in 1944 when aged thirty eight. It was however the death of his brother that resonated down the generations. I suspect that it was his young age that impacted on the family so much particularly upon his father who was already sixty five years of age when his son passed away. The bereft father erected an imposing monumental stone at the head of the grave near the entrance to their family church. As well as detailing the date of the youth's death the enscription includes a  biblical passage,"He has left us only left us for a brighter world above. And they shall see his face ; And his name shall be in their foreheads."

Growing older, appreciating that you are only a crumbly brick in the family wall. It is disconcerting, worrying and inevitably irrelevant.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


For the past few years I have grown a small fruiting aubergine in the greenhouse in addition to the usual tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. If I am honest I don't really know whether I like the taste of the eggplant's fruit so this year I decided to replace the aubergine with an alternative indoor crop.

The plant that I selected was the cucamelon which is also known as the Mexican sour gherkin. Germination was practically one hundred percent successful and occurred within ten days of sowing. This left me with more plants than I probably needed. Not wanting to consign any of the young vines to the compost heap I planted two per ring, so sixteen plants. I expect that I have over planted by fifty percent but if so my error is not obvious as yet.

The mature fruit are described as being grape size. So far there are plenty of small yellow flowers but the fruit have not yet begun to swell. The books tell me that the fruits taste like cucumber with a tinge of sourness. Not a very appetising description! One feature of the cucamelon which does appeal to me is that it doesn't have to be grown as an annual. The roots can be lifted in the autumn in the same way as dahlias and over wintered before replanting them in spring.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pea Green

I sowed my second batch of peas of the year yesterday.. Unlike the first batch I sowed them directly in the position that they will crop in, - hopefully at the beginning or middle of September. The first sowing of pea seeds took place in the greenhouse in March. They were sown in modular root trainers. I suppose that I ended up with about one hundred plants. These were planted out on either side of a stretch of netting wire in May.

In between today's heavy showers I was able to pull the first pods of the year. Their contents have now been consumed. Fresh peas from the garden are so much sweeter than their supermarket cousins which almost invariably have started on the downward slope to starchiness.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Grave Visitations

Over the past month I have accompanied my father to two church graveyards. On the first occasion he wanted to visit the grave of paternal great grandparents who had died in the middle of the nineteenth century. The headstone is made of Welsh slate and originally rested on four squat stone legs. The two at the front of the grave have been removed or disintegrated with the result that the stone now lies at a slight angle. The term for this style of headstone is I think, "table."

Neither great grandparent lived to a great age passing away when aged thirty seven years and forty two years respectively. Their daughter and only child Anne, (my father's grandmother) and who was born in 1842 was made a ward of court and was subsequently brought up by a distant relative who resided in the vicinity of Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. Family history would have it that her guardian somehow managed to get her funds mixed up with his funds but that any unpleasantness was resolved by a house being built for her and her husband.

Our second cemetery outing was to St Columb's Parish Church, Moville, (Moville Lower).This time my father wished to visit the grave of a youth by the name of Jack Bennett who had died on 1st August 1941 aged fifteen as the result of a swimming accident. His father William Bennett was the local chemist. My father had attended the funeral almost seventy six years ago. He and Jack were both pupils at Foyle, Jack a boarder and my father, two years his junior, a day boy.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Edible Thistle

It is over fifty years since I first saw globe artichokes being cultivated. They appeared to be very exotic to a young school boy, tall and strange. It was in the kitchen garden of Aberfoyle, (formerly know as Richmond), that I espied this member of the thistle family. It would be four or five years after that when I had my first opportunity to taste this vegetable which is just at home in the herbaceous border as the vegetable patch.

Two years ago I determined to grow on my own specimens. Although five of the seeds germinated and the resultant plants were planted out in the raised border surrounding the yard four of them succumbed to the local slug and snail population. The sole survivor should provide me with at least three or four flower heads for cropping this year. Not a big cropper.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tales from the Discorectangle

Training did not stop for Easter. In so far as it it is enjoyable to push your body towards the extremes of its ability I enjoyed Tuesday's session. The usual ten minute warm up run was followed by dynamic stretching and running up eighteen flights of steps. That completed the main course of the session ensued, 5 X 300m with three minutes recovery between and thereafter 6 X 120m with a walk back recovery.

The 300m efforts were to be run at 800m pace or better. For me that is now a rather depressing 51 seconds. Thirty years ago that would have been 44 seconds. Tempus Fugit but not me! It's strange how decades of training enables one's body clock to select the right pace. My first effort resulted in a 51.3 timing. Thereafter the times became progressively quicker ending up with a 47 second result. The 120m efforts were really strides helping to get rid of the lactic acid that had built up as a consequence of the 300m runs.

Although he didn't succumb to the joys of the 300m efforts we were joined at the track by Malcolm East one the UK's best ever marathon runners. A near contemporary of my self he has a 1981 pb for the distance of 2 hrs 11mins 36 secs. That is serious running.