Tag Archives: blackcurrants

Garden Update – Fruit

Apples

We planted some new trees two years ago; James Grieve, Egremont Russett and another variety, the label of which has long blown away. We expected some fruit this year and while we do have some very tiny apples we are really disappointed in the size of the trees. One of them has tripled in size but the rest remain the same and the trunks still require some support.

Our two established apple trees (Bramley and Grenadier – both cooking apples) are rewarding us after the hard pruning they had last year.

Our Bramley apples

Our Bramley apples

At the end of last summer a good friend of ours, and fellow cider-maker, was evicted from his allotment. His crime? He dreamed of the old-fashioned allotment experience; the shed as his refuge from the world, sipping ice cold cider from a cool box while he tended his veg, sitting in the sun watching his tatties growing. The reality? Rules and regulations. He let some weeds grow and the committee decided he was undeserving of his sixty square metres and he was promptly evicted.

The irony is, he had just purchased two apple trees so he gave them to us. We plonked them in large pots until we could make space for them and this year they are producing more between them than the whole of last year’s harvest.

The evicted apple trees

The evicted apple trees

Pears

Again we planted two pear trees two years ago, both Conference variety. One suffered a very odd leaf condition each spring and this year, despite both having produced blossom, there is no fruit at all.

Plums

The Victoria Plum tree we planted in 2010 has come into its own this year. It is so laden with fruit that one branch has broken with the weight and Mr Mac has had to fashion a DIY support to stop another branch from snapping. The fruit is just starting to colour so not long now!

Mmmmmmm plum crumble

Mmmmmmm plum crumble

Mr Mac's DIY branch support fashioned from wood and carpet!

Mr Mac’s DIY branch support fashioned from wood and carpet!

Gage

The gage tree we planted beside the plum tree (variety Cambridge) produced four gages in its first year and since then nothing. We had high hopes this year when there was a tiny amount of blossom but there is no fruit at all.

Blueberries

This is my £1 bargain bucket Blueberry Elisabeth plant I rescued in 2011. I brought it home  and planted it in a pot with some ericatious compost and last year it recovered and produced a few blueberries…..not quite enough for a pot of jam though. Maybe if I had not nibbled on them every time I was in the greenhouse……..This year looks more promising.

I must not nibble the blueberries

I must not nibble the blueberries

Strawberries

We originally planted varieties Elsanta, Judibell and Cambridge Favourite but soon realised they were in the wettest part of the garden and strawberries don’t thrive in swamp-like conditions.

This year we bought new plants and put them in a raised bed. However, the badger ate them. We rescued some runners from our old plants and while we did harvest a small crop we only managed three small pots of strawberry jam.

The sum total of the strawberry harvest

The sum total of the strawberry harvest

Raspberries

The rasps have had a great year, even the ones in the swamp that we have not got round to relocating. The variety is Glen Clova and so far we have half a chest freezer full, all ready for the jam pot.

Blackcurrants

Like the rasps we harvested over 20lbs of blackcurrants and, even having given lots away, have produced 48 pots of jam. The variety is Ben Lomond.

There were so many blackcurrants the bush collapsed on to the path!

There were so many blackcurrants the bush collapsed on to the path with the weight!

Gooseberries

Every year, so far, the red and white gooseberry bushes have produced fruit then literally overnight all the foliage would disappear and the fruit would go mouldy. This year we have been pleasantly surprised that this did not happen and a small amount of fruit was harvested.

Needless to say the gooseberry bush growing out of the wall is laden with fruit. I think that bush would survive a nuclear holocaust!

This little bush growing from the wall usually produces about 8lbs of fruit!

This little bush growing from the wall usually produces about 8lbs of fruit!

Redcurrants

Beside the gooseberry bushes, the redcurrants usually suffered the same disappearing foliage fate. I am please to say this year I have picked my first redcurrants. However, I was positive I planted a red and a whitecurrant bush but the bush I though was a whitecurrant is actually a blackcurrant. Very odd.

The redcurrant and gooseberry harvest

The redcurrant and gooseberry harvest

Figs

So far we have two figs left on the tree. They seem quite happy but value for money they are currently the most expensive figs in the universe at £24 each!

The most expensive figs in the universe

The most expensive figs in the universe

Melons

I had two plants which were thriving in the greenhouse then they just went brown and keeled over. When I pulled them out the roots had virtually disappeared. They were in the sunniest part of the greenhouse and oddly enough I think it was too hot for them during the heatwave!

Cherries

We relocated one of the cherry trees to the back wall of the summerhouse which is north facing. All this has done is provide a haven for the birds to eat the cherries undisturbed! Last year we had 5 cherries, this year it looks as if we may be left with 7! Still no cherry pie or cherry jam boo hoo.

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The best blackcurrant jam

It used to be that Mr Mac made jam and I made chutney. Usually because Mr Mac has a short attention span and when I would still be up at 2am stirring the chutney, patiently waiting for the vinegar to evaporate and a “channel” to form, he would be giving out zzzzz’s, the jam finished hours ago.

However, I’m not sure how it happened but I seem to be the one who makes the blackcurrant jam now (not the gooseberry, raspberry or strawberry though). So despite the awful weather, we picked a bumber crop of blackcurrants at the weekend – just over 6lbs from 2 bushes. Don’t quote me but I have a sneaky feeling blackcurrants have a strong Scottish connection and therefore thrive in the dreich, damp, drizzle!

Anyway, between us we have been making this jam for years. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it and it is so simple and quick to make although I must credit the Goddess that is Delia as the recipe is hers!

ingredients (for approx 9-10lbs)

  • 3lb blackcurrants with the stalks picked off and washed
  • 1.5 pints water
  • 3lb 12oz sugar

method

  1. Put the oven on to a medium heat. Sterilise enough jars for about 10lbs of jam. I put them in the dishwasher and then stick them in the oven.
  2. Measure the sugar and put it in the oven to warm it through.
  3. Put a couple of plates in the freezer (seriously – trust me!).
  4. Put the blackcurrants and water into a large pot and slowly simmer until the fruit is tender. You want to try and keep some of the fruit whole.
  5. Tip in the warm sugar and stir it in gently until it has all dissolved. Coat the back of the spoon and you will be able to see if the sugar has not dissolved.
  6. Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat as high as it will go and boil the jam rapidly for 10 minutes.
  7. Get a plate out of the freezer and spoon some of the jam onto it. When the jam is cool, push it with your finger and if a crinkly skin has formed, it has set. If not, boil again for 5 minutes and keep doing the set test.
  8. Remove jars from the oven (remembering to wear oven gloves – just giving you the benefit of my personal experience) and I use a ladel to fill a measuring jug which makes it easier to pour the jam into the jars.
  9. Tighten the lids and leave to cool. Depending what type of worktop you have place the jars on a wooden chopping board if you have one. Granite, slate or stone might cause the jars to crack.

Two important points to remember. First, scoop some jam into a little ramekin so you can try some on toast or with creamed rice for your supper. Secondly, make sure you keep a Mr Mac (or equivalent) handy so when, in the middle of the night, the lids start to pop, you can send him downstairs to check it is not a burglar!
Enjoy!

A week of firsts

Well after everything being really slow to get growing, the hot sunny weather last week brought everyting out at once. It has totally transformed the garden.

Here is a selection…

My first Livingstone Daisy – and it’s a pink one!

The Cosmos started to flower before I even got them planted in the garden.

Oriental Poppy. I got up one morning, put the kettle on, looked out of the window and there it was! There are lots out now but it is raining today which means they are all falling over because, despite my earlier blog promise, I did not put in supports for them!

We have a small track into our house and the last part is lined with rhodedendron bushes. This is the first one to flower this year. Normally they would have finished flowering by now.

These are allium bulbs we planted in a pot last year. The pot was lying outside the greenhouse and we thought it was empty – so this was a nice surprise. We will definitely plant the bulbs in the ground this year after they have finished flowering.

This clemetis was bought 2 years ago from a discount store and it has never failed to produce giant purple flowers. Not bad for 99p!

Mr Mac’s blackcurrants. We can look forward to lots of blackcurrant jam, provided we can keep the birds and whitefly away!

I was not convinced this courgette plant was still alive but then it produced this flower.

OK I realise this pea flower is not quite open but it will be by tomorrow!

Kermit was hibernating in the lavender of all places.

The brown blob you can see is a 3 week old fawn. Unfortunately my camera could not zoom close enough to pick out the white spots. We knew it had been born but only saw it for the first time at the weekend. It’s mother is just behind the bushes to the left of the picture. They were grazing beside our garden all afternoon.

And finally, a little self-indulgent story. The first time my grandmother came to see our new house the first thing she said when she got out of the car was, “You can plant me a magnolia tree. I’ve always wanted one”.

We had nowhere to put one but she kept asking us and asking us when she could get one so we could plant it for her. Finally, last year we removed a hug laurel bush at the gate and started researching the type of tree that would be best suited for that spot.

Magnolia Susan was the one. Tolerant of cold and wind – this is Scotland remember! The tree was purchased and planted. A few of the giant pink flowers came out and my gran was thrilled when she saw them.

This is the first year the tree has flowered fully and sadly my gran died at Christmas time so she never saw it. Even when she was in hospital she asked if her tree had survived the hurricane we had a few days earlier.

She is no longer with us but I hope she can see her tree from heaven.