The time on plot 31 is Winter past Autumn precisely. A perfect circle of ice compliments of the monster’s rain barrel…
Crisp, clean and crystal clear, and conjured from unobstructed air the first frost of this winter season greeted all worm catchers yesterday morning. Cool and bright and star-shiny sheer the winter’s first offering of season’s secret ministry glossed most low lying grassy areas and hardened exposed shallow pools. Though our met service had forecast frost, this was no sharp event and certainly no f# affair with much of the crystalline magic dissipating with the first rays of early sun. The cool air exposed all al fresco breaths in bamboozled bewilderment, and as though having seen it all before car windscreens glared with vague subfusc opalescence, awaiting intervention with kettle or pot to clear their view to the chill.
Last winter’s first frost did not occur till quite late in the season; with November and December both recording above LTA (Long Term Average) temperatures the first frost of last winter did not settle till 5th January this year. So, we’ve had the first frost of last winter and the first frost of this winter ten months apart and in the same calendar year. This year it seems winter is settling in early: we’ve covered and cleared what we needed to, and we’ve started to harvest and use the autumn and winter stocks of swedes, parsnips and kale. We’ve greased the bolts and oiled the latches, and we’ve stacked and stored the planters and pots. And while still trafficable and feasible to do so we turned sod on that area where we had scattered wildflower seed last spring and summer in the hope that exposure to the harsher elements of the coming season may just tame its unwieldy clumped lumpiness. The constancy of Mrs Dirtdigger’s deadheading drill together with the relatively mild October weather meant we still had some blooms to brighten the monster’s visage on our recent visits, but, we thinks the creeping crystal carpet may have put an end to this.
Still, it’s good to feel this early seasonal chill, and ideally our wish would be that this first frost is but a precursor to a winter of some sustained wintry weather; maybe not too much though (mindful to be careful of what one wishes for), but, as most gardeners should have learned, the earthen canvas in which we cultivate our dream performs best after a period of vernalization: rhubarb stools and gooseberry bushes; blackcurrant, apples and pears all benefit from a measured stretch in Mother Nature’s chilling cabinet, and much the same can be said of the early spring bulbs and flowering perennials.
So, just as we here at monsterinthecorner prepare to cover and muffle and wrap our bodies up against the elements of the coming season, our hope would be that the monster itself stays quite cold. And safe in the knowledge that most gardens invariably survive the wintriest of storms, our wish is that our little plot keeps cold, and does not get too warm, for once tender shoots have been top-dressed and strawed, spring’s cheery show creeps best from chilled sod…
So, stay chilled, keep cold.
Happy Halloween from monsterinthecorner…
Sprawled squarely and perceptibly on the horizon, winter looms unequivocally large now. Although still registering daytime temperatures of 63 degrees (17 Celsius)- which by all accounts is extremely mild for the time of year– as we enter the last week of October the sense of foreboding that always accompanies Samhain is curiously palpable once again. Summer is definitely fled, and try as it may autumn can no longer camouflage that it too is rapidly losing its grip on seasonal affairs; the sun takes longer to get out of bed each morning, soil saturation levels are back to saturated, and leaf fall speed has increased significantly as we steadily yet unmistakably slide toward first frost.
Last week’s weather heralded a once in a lifetime occurrence on this our little green isle, as a bona fide hurricane swept across our country. News and media outlets played it for all its worth with live on the spot updates and saturation reportage from correspondents right across the country. Ophelia was a category 3 hurricane, downgraded to category 2 before being designated extra-tropical and eventually an ex-tropical storm. Ophelia was also the easternmost major Atlantic hurricane on record, and though sadly lives were lost, thanks to our own met service who tracked this all the way over the previous 5 days, things could have been a whole lot worse. The storm resulted in wide-scale damage and destruction to property over large swathes of the country and, as mentioned, sadly some deaths too as a result of the high impact weather event.
Having lost most of its destructive power coursing the cooler waters north of the Azores and subsequently along our own western Atlantic coastline Ophelia nonetheless retained enough potency to bring most of our public services to a standstill, before drifting toward Scotland making landfall in Sweden and eventually dissipating over Finland and eastern Russia. However, 5 days after Ophelia left through the backdoor, Brian blew in the front door. A hurricane and North Atlantic Storm all in the same week! We’re a hardy bunch us Irish; a well-weathered people; a wintered people: Hibernians, literally.
Just as with the rest of the country monsterinthecorner took it all in her stride. A quick drive-by visit next morning to assess damage and casualty revealed a fairly shaken and stirred allotment site, but, not too much mayhem. The last of the sunflowers, cosmos and hollyhocks were well and truly obliterated as Ophelia deadheaded in a way that no gardener ever could; miles of green windbreak fencing was shredded and fluttered in furious surrender, wheelbarrows and compost bins had been relocated to neighbouring plots, a shed or two had transferred to neighbouring farmer’s field and even a polytunnel had stripped totally bare, its skeletal remains framing the shambolic misfortune of feeling the sting from Ophelia’s tail.
The last storm of summer meets the first storm of winter. High impact selfie weather events and yet we are still turning down the auto home and office heating settings.
Where the summer’s months saw us acquaint ourselves with and try to adapt to a growing medium with the consistency of set concrete, the last two weeks have revealed that the monster’s autumn terra is yielding to soft to say the least, the recent weather events highlighting spot areas that will require attention over the autumn/winter season with pooling of excess water, thankfully not too much though. This being our first year at the monster’s new location we are still learning how it acts and interacts with nature as we uncover some of our new allotment’s unique peculiarities and anomalies.
We have begun clearing out the beds, and as they empty we’ll leave them rest. We are now harvesting swede turnips, parsnips and kale, and last weekend we set out some Solent Wight, Vallalado and Iberian garlic. And just as we did at our previous location we’ve also planted some daffodil and allium bulbs that will, hopefully, add a splash of colour and interest early next spring. Compliments of storms Ophelia and Brian we had to undertake some running repairs over the last couple of visits, but we’ll dig and chip away at those other long-fingered tasks over the off season; constructing our planned wooden perimeter fence, finishing the monster’s pathway, perhaps a weeping run-off drain for the wet corner whilst not forgetting to compost, cover and mulch…and in so saying to do realise that we are fast approaching the end of our first year on our new plot.
Yes, the verdant greens at our new location are a distancing memory, and the remaining gold’s and ochre’s are being stripped at lightning speed from the beds and branches. 17 degrees and holding. But casting an eye to the horizon the monster sees winter’s merciless march already begun: time to pinpoint the battens and place them near the hatches…
September is a most conspicuous month, parading nature’s catwalk in ostentatious seasonal apparel, flaunting its gold and vermillion treasures. In the September garden nothing is concealed and every detail of the allotment plot is revealed as once again we are invited to the annual show of pomp and pageantry wherein the garden displays its spring and summer efforts in autumn’s showcase collection: large blousy dahlia blooms together with bright white cosmos and smouldering tithonias; sedums, rudbeckias, anemones and echinaceas; late autumn sunflowers with second flush roses; boughs laden with ripening full blushed apples and pears, and all embellished with the first touches of gold and yellows now clearly discernible in the leaves of the horse chestnut trees and the berries of the rowans.
September, if we’re lucky, is not only summer’s parting gesture it is also the garden’s glorious swansong; an envoi to the gardener’s due diligence throughout the growing year.
And there is no hiding place in the September garden. Midst the mellowing magnificence there is often a murky mess and beneath the splendour there can be spoiling, for at the heart of the every garden’s golden grandeur there is -de rigueur- decay, and underlying September’s radiance there is often a raggedness not immediately obvious to the untrained eye.
The pea and bean crops have finished, and unpicked pods mildew and blacken on unkempt poles and frames; the summer cabbages left in bed at this late stage begin to look forlorn, and any remaining lettuces and wild rocket bolt; early chards, spinach and beetroot go over in the blink of an eye, and even late planted onions begin to break their own necks and lay themselves down. Pumpkins may be ripening fast, but, as with the courgettes the vines are brittle, grey and spent, while the outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers noticeably slow in ripening and betray the inability to cope with the overnight light loss and fluctuating temperatures by splitting spontaneously. The annual herbs such as coriander and dill have set seed as has the fennel, while the flowering thyme(s) and sage(s) bloom is withering fast. The rhubarb stools are done for the year and for the first time since April their crowns are visible, now sitting proud in their own patch, hemmed by a sprawling carpet of dying yellow leaves.
The September garden is one of the gardening calendars great celebrations with its glitzy, showy, razzle-dazzle richness with all accompanying tinted tones, and when taken together with the burgeoning harvest from the vegetable and kitchen garden it is little wonder that September is perhaps the gardeners’ favourite month of the year.
Although with over 3 months still remaining to year’s end, here at monsterinthecorner we can say –and with some quiet confidence-, that 2017 has been one of the best years ever on our allotment. Having completely shaken the dust of our previous allotment from our feet we relocated monsterinthecorner to our new plot at the beginning of January. We spent weeks and months earlier this year clearing and cultivating our newly acquired overgrown eyesore; we raised our beds and set our drills; we composted our leaves and mulched our runs, we laid out pathways and built and stained our shed, and we sowed our seed and we watered and weeded; then we weeded and watered, and watered, and weeded. We’ve had success with practically everything we sowed, and we’ve been enjoying the home-grown fruits of our labours since late April. We made our jams and chutneys; we shared our successes and we’ve jarred the excesses.
The monster’s beds are emptying rapidly, so we’ve collapsed the bean poles and pea frames and stacked and stored them away till next year. There is a creeping bareness about the monster at present, but we’ll be top dressing the bared patches with compost over the coming weeks, and after that we’ll cover-up to protect against the wetter excesses of winter.
We still have dwarf curled Kale and a later sowing of Tuscan Kale Negro on the go. We have the Tweed Swedes and some leeks coming along still, not forgetting the parsnips for later in the season. Our onions are cured and strung, and in the last week we’ve actually set some erysimum cuttings in pots, and sown some lupin and echinacea seeds for next spring. And there, right there is the constancy of the garden and allotment plot.
We faced a serious challenge at the end of last year, but having risen to the task, the dirt-digging Mrs and I have enjoyed ourselves no-end with our new venture. We’ve met some wonderful new acquaintances and have been recipients of many gifted seeds and seedlings throughout the spring and summer form new allotment neighbours. During our allotment site’s annual harvest festival at the end of August our immediate plot neighbours Daniel and Beata were deservedly awarded best large plot. Another neighbouring plot holder Pat won largest beetroot in the largest root competition for her 5lb 2oz specimen, Helen won tallest sunflower (after a good natured stewards enquiry) and Joe the Gardiner Street gardener won longest carrot and having accepted the judge’s decision in the sunflower category (i.e. that a sunflower has to have a full and open bloom to be suitable for inclusion in the category) acknowledged that he had, in fact, a 16 foot 2 inch bloomless green stalk. It was little comfort for Joe that his fabulous specimen actually showed its face 4 days later, and he can take some pride in knowing that he grew the tallest sunflower of the year, just not the tallest flower for the competition. That’s the thing with the garden and gardening; things happen in their own time, and if there was a packet or tin into which all our garden plans could be poured, we’d have to be very careful indeed regarding the packet blurb, for experience has shown that mother nature does not necessarily have to do exactly what we think it should say on the tin. Best small plot category was awarded to George, who keeps a very good allotment on the far side of the allotment site, and unbelievably the best overall plot award 2017 was awarded to the monsterinthecorner, and genuinely there was no one more surprised than Mrs Dirt Digger and myself.
The monster is cropping out, and activity all across the larger allotment site is slowing down. We’ve picked blackberries from the sprawling brambles which fence the allotment site from adjacent fields, and the growing starling numbers are beginning to gorge themselves on the now ripened rowan berries. Autumn is well and truly arrived and the monster has come through its transition in right royal style, we’ve been amply rewarded in every way for our efforts, and are puffed & chuffed that one of the plaudits (we’ve been reliably informed) is that the monster is now considered one of the “must have a look at” plots on site: No bad for 8 months, not too bad at all. However, there is an unfortunate after-effect with our small success in that we’ve now set the standard for ourselves. But, we’ll just enjoy this year’s monster success for what it is, and we’ll leave next year to this year’s winter plan.
Mrs. Dirt Digger extraordinaire (with the hired help) in receipt of the presentation for best plot 2017
Just a quick update, to say that the monsterinthecorner (AKA plot P31) was awarded best overall plot at our new allotment garden site during today’s Harvest Festival….chuffed to say the very least especially for the dirt-digging missus ….that be her good self, 3rd from left….along with some of the other category winners. Daniel & Bieta, and George on the far right….congratulations all round…
From abandoned and overgrown eyesore to Best in Show in only 239 days. read how we did it in the monster’s earlier postings…
Although the Monster has its own sowing diary page accessible through page link up above, now that we’ve completed most (if not all) of this year’s plan we thought we’d copy and paste and place a copy of this year’s diary as a posting in its own right,
We literally began from scratch at our new plot in January, and since then we’ve been doing this
February 1st 2017 Bedfordshire Champion onion seed
March 1st 2017 Bunyard’s Exhibition broad Beans
March 5th 2017 sowed Cosmos ‘Cosmonaut’
March 5th planted 4 of Lidl’s best bare root Redcurrant
March 4th 2017 Planted Plum tree ‘Opal’, and Peach tree ‘Red Haven’ both from Lidl
March 10th 2017 Ailsa Craig onion seed
March 12th planted replacement rose bush: David Austin Rose, Young Lycidas
March 18th 2017 sowed Basil, Misto Mix and Classic Italian
March 19th 2017 broadcast green-manure mix; phacelia, red clover,
March 28th 2017 sowed dwarf sunflowers ‘Topoline’
April 8th broadcast poppy seeds and cornflower seeds Greenfingers Day
April 21st 2017 sowed Giant Yellow sunflower seeds
April 22nd sowed Moss Curled parsley, and dill seed
April 23rd sowed Bright lights Chard, Fire-bird Spinach, Tuscan black Kale, Italian Giant leaf parsley and Tom Thumb mix nasturtiums
April 26th sowed Wild Rocket seed
April 29th sowed Celeriac ‘Monarch’ and ‘Akito’ ridge cucumbers. Mrs dirt-Digger planted out all of the cosmos, dwarf sunflowers and autumn beauties, plus some marigolds gifted from one of our new allotment neighbours…
April 30th sowed Parsnips ‘Tender and True’, Radish ‘mixed jewels’, Italian giant-leaf basil and mixed lettuce varieties. Also planted up and potted on some fennel seedlings and pepper seedlings gifted from an allotment neighbour.
May 1st sowed Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ & ‘Jack o’Lanterns’ purchased in Toronto in August last year; Beetroot ‘Solo’; planted up Shirley & Moneymaker tomato plants, pepper seedlings and sowed ‘Gold Rush’ courgettes.
May 2nd sowed Grandpa Otts (ipomea; morning glories)
May 13th sowed Northern Blood Reds and White Lisbon spring onions (scallions)
June 1st Longhorn Wax dwarf french beans plus successional sowings of lettuces and radishes
June 3rd Kale, Scotch Green dwarf
July 2nd Spring Cabbage, Durham early
July 5th Swede,Tweed
et voilá. All sowings for this year complete
Airily and imperceptibly it has happened upon us again. Tipping day unfolds ‘ neath oppressive humid skies. A steady drizzle grounds the new flying ants, and a deep slate grey of midsummer’s duvet hints at Thor’s mighty hammer smash in the coming hours.
The gulls and starlings that yesterday spent hours on the wing gorging on summer’s aerial feast, are this morning taking it a little easier along with the rooks, crows and blackbirds who now find the jaded and wet ant-feast crawling at their feet.
For the first time is over 5 weeks, lighting-up time last night was back at 10.00pm, and the majority of Dublin’s street lamps, including the one directly outside our garden wall flickered cool pink at 21.59 precisely.
July 19th; Tipping Day; the 200th day of the year; the first point beyond high summer in Ireland, and though, if we’re lucky we shall still have some days and weeks of pleasant weather ahead, by this day each year there is the unmistakable sense that changes are afoot, and none more so than in the garden.
We arrived at the monster’s gate yesterday evening to find the Bunyards Exhibitors had given up the ghost completely. Although showing signs of stress the last week or so, yesterday they finally surrendered and we arrived to find them almost prostrate. We stripped the last of the pods and we will cut them to ground over the coming days, leaving the nitrogen rich roots in place a while longer. The Sutton Dwarfs are also showing signs of struggle, but we’ll keep these well watered in hope that they will hold for a fortnight yet. The Jumbo peas are cropping and holding up well; we have lifted our onions and set them to cure, and we have also sown our spring cabbages together with successional lettuces, radishes and chard leaves.
The reasonably good summer –which for the most part it has been, to date -has left casualties in its wake right across every garden and allotment site; a lot of the allium and leaf crops have bolted, and we too have had our fair share of losses with the shallots and chard, rocket and lettuce going over very early; but we have made further sowings.
Indicative of the fairly good summer temperatures so far this year, we arrived Monday afternoon to find the Monster and her neighbouring plot under a buzzing cloud of black Irish Honey Bees. Having originally swarmed the day before, they had set to hive in a compost bin on the corner of our neighbours plot, but, being made of black plastic their new home immediately overheated once the temperature rose to the high twenties. This no doubt proved intolerable and once the new combs began to collapse they swarmed again, setting up temporary stop on a sweet pea frame directly beside our plot. Three years in succession at our former allotment site we had been lucky enough to witness this great summer spectacle, and perhaps the only true regret we had in leaving that old site was that we would miss the beehives that were in situ there; and as beehives are not facilitated at this particular site we more than pleased with Monday’s swarm. Getting over their initial fear (as most of the plot holders at this site had not experienced such a sight before) the event proved a great photo opportunity for all the Monster’s plotted neighbours, and thanks to Keith from the Dublin Beekeepers Association who came boxed and smocked with smoker once the rescue call was logged, a lot of the plot holders now know a good deal more about honey bees and the swarming process, and hopefully will have gained a little more appreciation for these wonders of the natural world.
We have made our Blackcurrant and Gooseberry Jams, and once this evening’s final offering of Hinnonmaki Gooseberries are jarred we will have jammed 48-50 jars in total, and given that we uprooted and re-set the stands in the move to our new location we are reasonably happy with this result. We jarred some rhubarb and ginger also, but our Victoria certainly rebelled at the severity of being split and dumped and after an initial helping in late May we’ve since left it to recover the rest of the year…
The rocket was/is peppery and fabulous; the lettuces crisp and fresh. The Solo beetroot has, once again, proven itself a worthy performer, while the Kale Negro and Bright Lights have been used continually as cut-&-come standards for the last 7-8 weeks. The Jack O Lanterns vines have all set fruit and we’ve pinched the tips; the Big Max however is struggling big time.
We have tomatoes aplenty on all our plants and they’ve begun to blush ever so slightly, so here’s hoping for an early harvest of Shirleys, and Marmandes. We are using the Gold Rush courgettes and will most likely have to start passing these on as they look set to glut. The Greenshaft are a few weeks behind but have set at last, as have the first of the Akito cucumbers. The Tender & True parsnips have caught up with the late sowing, and all of Mrs. Dirtdigger’s roses, and gladioli have put out some wonderful seasonal colour and scent, and one of the running commentaries for the last 2 months amongst our new neighbours is the wonderful wildflower area scattered by the self same dirt-digging Missus on that area we intend to erect our polytunnel on early next year.
How quickly things turn; the hand spins a circuit of the face, days come, weeks go, and months and seasons slip past unnoticed.
As much as it galled and upset us at having to vacate our well tended and much toiled former allotment, that sorry saga is, thankfully, a distant memory, and the level of enjoyment and success we’ve experienced in such a short time span on this our new adventure has led us to speculate as to why we had not moved sooner…but, c’est la vie!
We have hares and pheasants and buzzards. Yes, wonderful crying and screeching buzzards. There are tits and finches and thrushes. We have butterflies and bees and we can see the sea in the distance. We have made new acquaintances, and run into some old faces. We were faced with a challenge last December are we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the rising to it. We have been busy; so busy getting re-established we have neglected to write as often as we should, determining at times to Garden instead of writing about Gardening, but perhaps we’ll have a little more time now.
It has been a major success all round. We reached tipping day in better array than in any of the previous 6 years. I would like to be able to say that we’ve had a 100% success rate in every aspect of our new allotment endeavour (which by the way we have) but I can’t. The most we dare say is that we almost had 100% success, because there’s always that one thing that throws the damned lie into sharp relief, or unwittingly undermines the veracity of the unverified statistic.
So, we’ve had a 99% success rate, because there’s always one, isn’t there? Always a fly for the ointment, or a pea for the pillow. Always something which fails to do exactly what it says on the tin. A prima-donna, a wannabe, something with ideas way,way above its station.
There’s always some commoner gardener vegetable that decides it’s having none of this and just opts out…none of this hard outdoorsy living; none of this bush tucker existence; no association with celebrity B list vegetables and C list fruits; stuck with your feet in the muck for months on end and a social profile lower than a didgeridoo’s sharpened bell end…chicken manure for tea and strained nettle and seaweed soup for brekki…no way Jose…Who mentioned ants?….hit the deck quick and get me out of here!
Time to dry-up: like a dead dingo’s doo dah!!!
Yes, we’ve only had 99% success on our new plot… Only 99%. One little thing let us down, and after 4 failed successive sowing we decided to leave it for this year, but we’ll not go into that here…
History abounds with famous and infamous couples alike: Anthony and Cleopatra, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; Bonnie and Clyde even.
The worlds of literature and legend are equally jam-packed with storied accounts of fate bound duos: Adam and Eve, Tristan und Isolde, Robin & Maid Marion and Romeo & Juliet to mention but a few.
Of course one man’s Romeo and Juliet will often be another’s Tarzan & Jane, just as Romulus and Remus beget someone else’s Jacob and Esau, begets another’s Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Truth is, there is no accounting for taste. There will be a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado for every Renee & Renato buff, just as every Holmes & Watson sleuth begets a Batman and Robin junkie, and every Abbot & Costello or Laurel & Hardy fanatic has to contend with the Tom & Jerry, the Bert & Ernie, the Shaggy & Scooby and that’s not forgetting to mention the Mary-Kate & Ashley brigades.
No: there is no accounting for taste, and here we are all about taste, literally.
With that said we will consider some of the other great duos and doublets, especially those taken-for-granted everyday combinations that make one of the basic activities of our inane daily routines a little more worth-the-while.
What would life be without the exquisite gastronomic reference points of Strawberries and Cream say?, or, Bacon and eggs for that matter? Or, how about Maple syrup and Pecan nuts, and Pork Chops in Cider? The mind boggles, and the mouth waters.
Classic combinations acquire classic status because they work. The same can be said of these classic food combos: Cheese & Tomato, Fish & Chips, Bread & Jam, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Chocolate & Orange, and sometimes, when the bread is crusty fresh and the Irish butter is properly chilled, the perfect partnership can be something as simple as plain ol’ Bread & Butter.
Some things just work better, together. In a slight imaginative stretch (and for purposes solely contained herein) let us take for instance that couple, being Irish & Potatoes. I (like every Irish man, woman and child since the mid sixteenth century) have developed a specific genome marker predisposing me to a love of the humble spud. The potato has been a staple of the Irish diet since Sir Walter returned from southern climes and cast his cloak neath those royal pinkies. It has nurtured and sustained countless generations of Hibernians, and sadly, on occasion, was responsible for the demise of millions of them.
The humble spud: boiled, broiled, chipped, fried and roasted. Buttery mash in scooped lumps, golden yellowy paps determining the boundary twix the two veg. and meat of generation gone before us. Then there’s the gratin, and the gnocchi, and the scalloped and hassle-backed. But, throw a few fried pork sausages into the equation and you get one of the all time great taste combos from every Irish child’s childhood, Bangers & Mash. Oh yes, talk about perfect pairings…love and marriage, horse and carriage, and though not necessarily nor fundamentally bound to each other, some things, though good enough in their own right just work better in partnership with something that will accentuate its unique character.
On a summer allotment things are just as tasteful. The advent of summer, especially early summer, sees the first of the gardening year’s gluts and with that comes the need to preserve the excess crop. Jams, chutneys and conserves are made in abundance as every gardener and allotmenteer’s kitchen slips seamlessly into cottage industry mode with the excess early strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries to be jammed.
Commercial jam making is and always will be big business constrained by nothing other than market forces. Product is made to meet the need of supermarket shelves with the overarching and underlying principles being one and the same thing; the bottom line. Orders for the raw fruit material are placed (often years in advance) with commercial growers who have been encouraged to produce one selectively modified cultivar of fruit that can be pulped and macerated on a massive scale, mixed with the cheapest sourced syrup and sugar on the market, only then have all the goodness totally boiled out of it before being jarred, shelved and sold on to the highest bidder in hope of attaining a bigger margin once presented to the eventual retail customer.
That’s the bread and butter of the jam business. That’s the business jam. That every business’s jam.
With the allotmenteer and home-grower however things can be different.
Free from commercial constraints, and limited only by imagination and volume of the treasured harvest from a seasons long effort on their own allotment or small-holding, the final produce of the home Jam and chutney maker is among the finest artisan produce available. Small select batches of organically grown fruits, carefully handpicked, winnowed and cleaned, are then methodically prepared in recipes often handed down from one generation to the next.
And if there is a bottom line to this home and cottage industry it is this: to preserve nature’s hard won prizes for personal use; to help fill the larder for the leaner days of winter and in so doing aid in the remembrance of bright summer days during the coldest and darkest days of the year. Or perhaps it is little more than a personal process to show of nature’s wonderful bounty stored and displayed like jarred trophies along the pantry shelf. Who knows ? Experience has shown us that on many an occasion the bottom line for most genuine home jammers is the simple joy of sharing with a few privileged friends and relatives who truly appreciate all the months of sowing and growing and pruning and feeding that will have gone into the superior jarred product they often find themselves gifted with.
Of course home jammers and cottage conservers are more than just industrious.
At the heart of every jam-making and preserving process (even in the big commercial enterprises) there is a recipe, most likely developed by trial, error and imagination over decades. The ingredients for jam making are simple and the jam-making process is very straight forward; fresh fruit, good sugar and water in varying amounts over a moderately intense heat, et viola! Of course with developments in modern food production science we now have pectin laden sugar which helps the whole process along nicely, but the basics remain the same: for strawberry jam use strawberries, sugar, small amount of water; for raspberry jam use raspberries, sugar and a little less water; and for blackcurrant jam use blackcurrants, plain sugar and slightly more water.
However, home jam makers can take this process to a whole new level, and very often do so with mouth-watering combinations of seasonal fruits: Peach & Blackberry jam, Raspberry & Lime jam, Pear & Lavender jam, Plum and Lemon Verbena jam, Strawberry & roasted Pomegranate jam; and not forgetting a nod to two combinations with which we here on monsterinthecorner are well acquainted, Gooseberry & Elderflower, and Rhubarb& Ginger jam. Yes, rhubarb and ginger. Though in essence jam is a product of boiled fruit with occasional additives, one of our personal favourites (and a renowned fruity and zingy taste of summer both here and across the pond in Great Britain) can be derived from boiled vegetable stalks (Rhubarb) and grated tubers (Ginger).
From mid-summer through to autumn every garden festival and village fete will undoubtedly have a stand at which you will be able to purchase locally grown and prepared homemade jams, and at every farmer’s market and country fair you’ll likely happen on a stall selling locally sourced honey, artisan jams and conserves. These are true seasonal gems. Take some time to see what’s on offer. Pass slowly; ask the questions, and indulge…treat yourself to some of nature’s finest fare, carefully cultivated and personally prepared.
We started jamming many years ago, and long, long before we began growing our own fruit we’d make day0-trips to the city outskirts, children in tow, and spend sunny days picking large punnets of strawberries and raspberries on which all could gorge themselves before heading home to make jam with the remainder:
Our tag has never changed…
Nurtured by Hand
Nourished by Nature
The taste of summer all year long…
Some things just go hand in hand: buckets & spades, and hats & gloves, and sunny summer days in Ireland & 99’s.
Some things perhaps just belong together like John &Yoko; or become synonymous with each other like Ireland & The Eurovision Song Contest; or through birth become inextricably twinned with each other for life and forever like Jimmy & Tommy Swarbrigg; or simply through fond memory will be forever associated with the wide-eyed days of youthful wonder that was the great summer of 1977 & Bob Marley & The Wailers & Jammin’…
Yes we’re Jammin’, Jammin’, Jammin’, Jammin’
Jammin’ till the jam is through….
and suddenly people, Jam is taken to a whole different level.