There was fresh veg for Christmas | The Voice of the Allotment

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It might be the depths of winter, but there’s still plenty of fresh produce on the allotment to enhance the summer’s harvest stores, says Barry Cuff

Barry Cuff’s colourful winter salad

headlines. In our area it was wet, with more than 43 inches of rain. The driest months of the year were February and June. During the main growing season, the wettest were March, April, July and August, but a mild and very wet autumn and early winter did at least maintain growth.
On the whole it was a good year for most vegetables – only our shelling peas suffered and gave lower yields during the dry spell. We had a constant supply of fresh vegetables throughout December, including ones for our Christmas meals, together with those in store. Here’s what we harvested through the month:

  • Potatoes (sagitta) – a new variety to us. They roast well and are excellent for jackets. Planted on 5th Apr, they were dug and stored in paper sacks 4th Aug. Good size and yield.
  • Parsnips (Palace and Hollow Crown) – both roast well, and are sweet despite very few frosts. Sown direct 30th Apr, started digging mid Nov. We have a row left for next year.
  • Carrots (Early Nantes) – the only variety we grow. No thinning, so a mix of sizes. We sow successionally; those lifted in Dec were sown 6th Jun, later sowings will be dug as needed.
  • Brussels sprouts (Brendan) – a good variety that crops from Dec to Feb. Module-sown 6th Apr, and planted out 15th May (eight plants).
  • Broccoli (Rudolph) – produced some very early spears ready for Christmas. Module-sown 12th May, planted out 30th Jun (five plants)
  • Cauliflower (Cendis) – a reliable F1 variety producing excellent curds. Module-sown 11th May, planted out 25th Jun (15 plants)
  • Leek (Musselburgh) – the only variety we grow.Pot-sown 14th May, and planted out 30th Jul on ground where potatoes were harvested.
  • Winter squash (Butterfly) – an excellent tasting butternut, producing large fruits. Module-sown in greenhouse 1st May, planted out 4th Jun. Harvested and stored 15th Oct.

Winter salads
There was a good selection of veg to go with our Christmas meals, tasting that much better as they were home grown and received no pesticides! To go with our cold meats we also had a good supply of fresh salad plants. With the exception of celeriac, they were sown/planted on the plot that had grown our potatoes, grown under fleece when there was a danger of frost:

  • Lettuce and spring onions – The last for this year, and grown under cloches. These survived because of the lack of frosts.
  • Witloof chicory – Forced blanched chicons. Sown on plot 6th Jun. Lifted, trimmed and planted in compost in the dark 26th Oct. These are cut-and-come-again.
  • Radicchio chicory – sown in modules 12th Jul, and planted out 27th Aug.
  • Various oriental mustards and leaves – all different tastes, shapes and textures. Sown on two dates, 13th and 27th Aug, these are also cut-and-come-again.
  • Autumn radishes – four Chinese varietie; Blue Moon, Red Moon, Daikon and Misato Rose. These make a very colourful addition to salads as well as a great taste. Two sowings, 13th and 27th Aug
  • Wintercress (like watercress) – Sown 12th Jul, it’s cut-and-come-again.
  • Celeriac (Monarch) – A versatile vegetable, it’s good sliced raw, stir-fried or added to soups.Sown in modules 10th May, and planted out 23rd Jun.
  • And finally we have a good supply of onions for cooking or salads.

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