Entries Tagged 'Fruit' ↓

Growing Strawberries

The season for buying English grown strawberries is very short -if you can find them at all. They are often short of flavour, probably because they have been grown under cover and forced to produce fruits rather unnaturally.Any other strawberries are expensive and pretty tasteless – and think of the air miles involved in their transportation.

For all those reasons, it is worth growing a few strawberry plants yourself. Threy are easy to grow and, once established will produce new plants to replenish old stock very freely. There were strawberry plants in my garden when I moved into this house. They grew like weeds – and were equally difucult to get rid of. They produced small fruits and not many of them, so I decided to replace them.

If you do not have room in your garden for strawberries (or don’t want to be bothered with protecting them from the soil, then why not grow them in a planter by the back door (if it is in the sun).  Strawberry planters have greatly improved in looks in the past few years and are no longer  ugly and utilitarian. The problem with the old type planters was getting water to the bottom plants, now with a central watering tube you get water to all your plants

Harrod Horticulture sell three different types of Strawberry Planters.

terracotta strawberry planter

The first is a terracotta strawbery planter made from frost proof Yorkshire clay. I think it is attractive enough to be an ornament on your patio, even if you do not plant it with strawberries. It is 18 inches (46cm high and has a diameter of 13 inches (33cm) so it does not take up to much room.

The third is a very useful and inexpensive planter. In effect it is a bag with pre-cut holes, enough to take 8 strawberry plants. It has handles for ease of movement and is made of polythylene so will last more then one season.

You can buy strawberry plants from almost any plant retailer. However, you should try to buy a named variety from a reputable sales outlet so that you know exactly what to expect. Thompson and Morgan sell strawberry plants as well as seed to grow your own.

Strawberries contain high levels of vitamin C but they also have high sugar levels, they are one of the few fruits not recommended for duiabetes sufferers. That said, a fresh strawberry just picked from the plant and warm from sunshine really is delicious.

Storing and juicing Apples

If you regularly have large crops of apples and you do not know what to do with them, then I may have a solution for you.

Many years ago, I moved into a house which had just one very large and old eating apple tree. They were delicious but there is only so many apples you can eat and store. I used to store them in my very large pantry and they stored well until Christmas when they started to go soft.

We gave them away on the gateway and still had too many! At this stage, I decided to try making cider. This worked very well but I did not have the right equipment and it was hard work.

I recently received a catalogue from Harold and this is what reminded me of this time in my life. I wish I had seen these items then.

The first thing is an Apple rack.

apple rack

It is made of Beech and is very robust. It is made of a planed frame with ten removable shelves. There is room between the shelves to allow airflow making it a very good method of storing apples (or pears come to that, although I have never managed to produce enough pears to store them). It is a very traditional apple storage solution with a modern twist. I wish I had had one of these, I stored my apples wrapped in newspaper and kept in a cardboard box. It worked but was time consuming.

Making cider was an adventure. We made a press from a workmate and tea towels. The Harold catalogue has a Cross-Beam Fruit Press

fruit press

which would do the job so much more efficiently. Not only could you use it to make cider but also to press apples to make juice, jellies, ices or wine.

There are two pieces of equipment, the first is a fruit crusher. It is made of stainless steel  and is a hopper with blades and rollers that rotate with a handle.

The second piece of equiment is the fruit press.This fruit press has a 12 litre capacity. It is a very attractive traditional fruit press with beech straves which have been treated with food-safe varnish, steel hoops and frame. This makes it easy to use. You place the pulp in the press barrel and put the pressure plate in place. Then just turn the pressure bar to lower the pressure plate. The juice then flows into the steel base plate beneath before pouring out of the lip.

You can use this fruit press to treat any fruit. It makes producing real fruit juice easy and quick.

Forcing Rhubarb

What a difference a couple of days sunshine and warmer nights makes. My rhubarb has now poked its head out of the ground and it is time to force it.

Forcing rhubarb is a very old way of making it grow faster so that you get an earlier crop. It means the sticks are thinner and more tender. You can use almost anything to cover the rhubarb crowns as long as it excludes the light, a bucket does very well. However, I feel that if you are doing this, you may as well make it attractive.

To this end, I would recommend rhubarb forcers which look like those the Victorians used.

traditional rhubarb forcer

They are bell shaped and traditionally made of terrcotta. However, you can now get some made of plastic.

rhubarb forcer

The plastic rhubarb forcers are much lighter and therefore easier to move around but it also means that they are more prone to be blown about should you have heavy winds.

People often think that rhubarb is a very limited fruit. Well, actually it is a vegetable. This is because you eat the stem, not the fruit. It is easy to grow and can be harvested and although it is most useful as a dessert, It can be used as an accompaniment to a number of meat dishes. I like mine coked with a little ginger, this seems to take some of the sharpness away and you need to add less sugar. However you eat it, its delicious and a very good provider of fibre as well as vitamins.

Planting Raspberry Canes.

Today I planted 10 new rapsberry canes. They are 5 Glen Lyon which is an early/late summer variety and 5  Polka, an autumn fruiting variety. I have planted them in a line with 18ins between each plant. This will give room for them to grow and for support where necessary.

The summer fruiting variety will need support and I will put a post in each end of the row. This will be 18ins in the ground and 4 ft high. I will put wire between the posts at 18 ins (the first being 1 ft off the ground) so that as the canes grow, they can be tied to them. The canes will be tied at an angle of 45 degrees, all in one direction. This is so that when next years canes start to grow, they will be tied in  the opposite direction, making it easier to prune after they have finished fruiting.

Autumn fruiting varieties do not need support as they are pruned in early spring and fruit on this years canes.

I already have raspberry canes in the garden – they were there when we moved to the house – however, they are in the wrong place, they are very old and getting a bit weak and the fruits are very small. I tried moving a few canes that year and found the roots to be very long and woody, and they did not take. I will leave the old canes in the garden until the new ones start fruiting at which time I will dig them out and dispose of them.

The new fruit canes may not fruit this year but I look forward to large , tasty raspberries in the future throughout summer and autumn.