Time for Peas

I’ve been a little slack in getting the allotment back online after its winter break, so as the weather warms up and there are glimpses of spring-like weather its about time I got something in the ground. One of the pleasures of having an allotment is the fact that you can grow your own beans and peas. There is little in life better than shelling a basket of home grown peas (perhaps eating them pod as you pick them I suppose), and with this thought in mind I have set about preparing ground for this year’s peas, as well as sowing some in trays in the greenhouse.Pea Pods shelled of peasPeas sing of freshness and, as mentioned, there is nothing better than eating them super fresh from the pod on the allotment. However, this is not possible all year, and here we can rely on frozen peas. Frozen peas are frozen within a few hours of picking, so will almost always be sweeter than those bought in the grocers, as the sugars in the peas start to turn to starch as soon as they have been picked.

With a longing for the freshness of peas, and a reminder of why I was planting out the shrivelled peas on a cold day at the allotment, a pea soup was required. Pea soup on its own is a lovely thing, but for me pea and ham is a superior combination.

pea and ham soup title

You will need
knob of butter
2 spring onions, finely chopped
500g frozen peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable, but for the best pea and ham soup, ham or pork stock is best)
Small handful of fresh mint
300g ham, sliced and diced

Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan and as it starts to froth add the spring onions. Slowly cook the onions until they turn translucent and release their sweet allium flavour, before adding the frozen peas. Stir, and cook for a few minutes, before pouring in the stock and bringing to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the mint and blitz until smooth. To achieve a truly silken soup, I like to sieve the pureed soup once it is a little cooler. Once you’ve achieved the texture you want, add the ham and season accordingly.

March at Plot 4

So much for the fresh hope for better weather, it seems to have been particularly wet over the last few weeks, culminating in the wettest day ever for the last 24 hours of February. The allotment is as a result undiggable and pretty much untouched in the a couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had decent days, but now I have work commitments again they have nearly always coincided in a meeting or a need to bake some loaves. Oh well, these things happen, and at least I spent the first morning of March at the allotment, with the kids, tidying the shed (oh, and having hot chocolate made on the woodfired stove).

I think March is perhaps the worst of the ‘Hungry Gap’ months, as the overwintered crops dwindle and there is little to harvest. There’s still Swiss Chard going, and the Jerusalem artichokes are lying in the ground awaiting harvesting. I find that they’re best kept safe in the soil, only digging what I need. Although, in the next few weeks they will begin to sprout and it will be time to harvest the remaining tubers before they start growing into hundreds of plants!

It’s definitely time to start sowing. I’ve been a little slow in getting going on this, but with a bit of spring sunshine around its time to really start. The seed catalogue has been studied and varieties ordered. Over the next few weeks I’ll get sowing more celeriac, cucumbers, the first tomatoes, and some salad leaves in the greenhouse, to take advantage of the spring sunlight. Outside it will be time to sow some broad beans and peas (which I missed sowing in the autumn). I’ve also got some carrot seeds ready to go into a large container. The soil at the allotment is not favourable to carrots, using containers with a sandy, free draining soil, enables us to have fresh (well shaped) carrots.

The jobs on the plot start to really add up this month with cleaning out of sheds, greenhouses and other areas of the allotment. Hopefully the soil will dry out a bit, enabling a good amount of diggning to be done and potatoes to be planted.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

March at Plot 4

February has been a pretty rough month here on the south coast. It seems its rained for most of the month and the allotment is wetter than ever. Still, the last week of the month has brought glimmers of spring and I’m writing this sat in my light filled kitchen with thoughts of seed sowing and the spring preparations in my head.

We are well and truly into the ‘hungry gap’ and I’ve only been able to harvest a bit of produce from the plot. The Swiss chard continues to be a stalwart and has provided us with many a meal over the last few weeks. The rocket and other salads have also been gracing our plates, recently teamed with a rather delicious tartiflette made by my wife. We still have some Jerusalem artichokes in the ground and they need to be eaten before they begin to sprout and start growing again. However hard you try you can never get all the tubers out of the soil, so you’re guaranteed a crop next year. Many of the artichokes have gone into a beautifully creamy puree to accompany fish or grilled meats.

Hopefully we have had the last of the winter storms and the weather will be warming a little; I’ve rebuilt or reglazed the greenhouse too many times this winter, and the greenhouse is bound to fill up this month as sowing starts with earnest. I’ll be sowing tomatoes in the greenhouse, bought from the fabulous Franchi Seeds (a little more pricey than some seed companies, but the packets are always packed with seeds and they have a great range of varieties so justify the few extra pennies). Like the celeriac of last month, the parsnips need a good length of growing, so I’ll be pre-germinating some seeds this month before sowing in plugs in the greenhouse.

Last month’s rain has meant that many of the jobs I wanted to get completed in February have not been finished. I potted up some strawberry runners at the end of last year and have been gifted some strawberry plants too. So, I need to prepare a new strawberry bed by digging in some manure and compost to give the plants the best start possible. Strawberries are such a good crop to grow, as they cost a bomb in shops, and are pretty simple to grow. Apart from protecting them from the birds later in the year, the only problem is managing to get them home to use in meals, rather than being picked and eaten there and then. Its not just beds for strawberries that need preparation, once the wet soil drains a little I need to dig in compost and manure and prepare the whole plot for the growing season. In particular, I’ll be piling manure onto the squash patch, so when I plant squash out later in the year they will have an abundant source of organic matter to gorge themselves on.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.