Monday, 2 September 2013

Polytunnel Prolifica

Tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, peppers and beans.
The polytunnel really adds an extra dimension to our food production.

I've got aubergines this year.
The Listada de Gandia are fruiting
much better than the more usual
Black Beauty.

Tigerella and Black Cherry.
Things have moved on quickly in the polytunnel in the last few weeks.
We can now rely on a handful of ripe, tangy tomatoes everyday, red ones, yellow ones, green ones, black(ish) ones, stripy ones, big ones, small ones, round ones, pear-shaped ones. Or, to put it another way... Moneymaker, Sunbaby, Green Zebra, Black Cherry, Black Russian, Tigerella, Marmande, Red Cherry, Gardeners Delight, Ildi, Roma. It's a tad more inspirational than the tomato section of the supermarket!

There's always a slightly longer wait than we'd like for tomatoes and there's a slow build up. The real flood will be another month or so yet, but Sue has already started cooking up sauces and passatas to go in the freezer.

The cucumbers are coming gradually, but are a bit disappointing given the number of plants that I have. Having said that, we're still getting a couple a week, which is plenty. Just not enough to be giving them away or selling them.

Onto more exotic produce and, now that I've stopped the overhead irrigation, the peppers are faring much better. This is very exciting as it's a crop I've never succeeded with before.

Peppers and chillies, mid-August
Then there's the chillies, in their numerous forms and levels of heat. These have all done very well this year, but have left Sue and I with a bit of a puzzle.

Peppers and Chillies, early September
Several years ago, we joined a truck tour of East Africa for the summer holidays. Every day we would call in at a local market to stock up on supplies. I well remember rather brashly volunteering to test a rather small, green chilli for heat. I hesitantly nibbled the end, expecting my head to go volcanic, my lips to swell, my brow to sweat and my tongue to go numb. But not a bit of it. These chillies just tasted like watery peppers. We purchased a small bag full and they were duly added to that evening's concoction... which blew everyone's head off! For those inoffensive chillies had suddenly changed their nature and were fiery as hell.

The point of this little tale is that the same has happened again. We nibbled a little of each and every chilli variety in the polytunnel and, without exception, they all just tasty like rather mild peppers. But the minute Sue chopped one up they completely changed, like Jekyll and Hyde. This was made worse by the fact that Sue carelessly rubbed her eye and got chilli in it.

The Borlottis have all been picked now.
I've picked most of the beans now and saved the seeds either for sowing next year or for winter cassoulets. The chickpea crop has been abandoned after our harvest of one chickpea!

But this has left more space for the Butternut Squash plants to ramble. Other squashes, pumpkins and courgettes have performed disappointingly in the polytunnel. I think they are much happier outside. But getting butternuts to ripen is never easy and they seem happier with the tropical conditions in the tunnel.
It looks as if we'll get at least half a dozen fine specimens and the first is well on its way to being ripe.
I've got my eyes on the Fenland Smallholders produce show for a couple of these.

Butternut Squash coming along nicely.

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