Outside!

DSC01281My goodness it’s a long while since I wrote anything here – I guess that happens over the winter, there’s not a lot happening growing wise when all said and done. Actually we’ve been pretty busy with PXI – Space to Grow in the past few months, and more is planned as we slowly but surely move closer to Springtime.

So here’s a few highlights of our recent activities:

The Chutney and Jam making sessions in October / November were really popular, a number of people joined including people who’d never made them before in their lives. We experimented with Quince, and Hedgerow jams, as well as with a number of varieties of Chutneys (Ploughmans, Windfall chutney, and Green and Red Tomato) all delicious. The sessions took place at Cross at Yew Lane Quiet Garden and were led by Diane Cocker (LEAF) assisted by Charlie Hill (local artist).

As well as the Chutney and Jam making, we’ve also worked with Charlie (using a grant from CDF for groups in Southey ward) to organise mini beast hunts in Parson Cross Park and a willow weaving session this last Saturday. This took place again at Yew Lane and we joined by adults and children who helped construct upright willow structures 1506275_274456372709334_1633333516_othat we’ll be using to support planting this year.

The sessions have gone so well we’re already looking forward to the spring and what else we might do but already we’re thinking of a Using Seasonal Food series of events, as well as family activities at Plot107, and more creative sessions at yew Lane, Mount Tabor and the Learning Zone. So watch this space for more news.

We’re Jammin

How quickly the seasons come and go – it’s a while since I last updated the Space to Grow blog and in that time, summer has changed into autumn. Its been a busy few weeks, which is an excuse rather than a reason for not updating you all as much as I’d hoped, with various harvest festivals in the local churches I’m part of – but also with the actual task of harvesting and deciding what to do with the produce that is now gathered in.

Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF
Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF

As part of the whole emergency food parcel / food bank provision that PXI offers from Mount Tabor we’ve been able over the past few weeks to offer some fresh food alongside the usual tinned and dried products – and today we’ll be holding our second monthly community meal out of “Share” the Friday drop In that we run.

Now our minds have turned to preserving some of the last fruit and parts of the harvest and so we are starting to look at jam and chutney recipes. We’ve been blessed with a small grant from Community Development Foundation to work with local artist Charlie Hill and other local partners including LEAF and Yewlands School to do a series of seasonal events from walking and creative writing to willow weaving and jam making. So next week on Thursday (24th October) and on 7th November we’ll be doing jams and chutneys at The Cross at Yew Lane. Sadly much of the soft fruit has gone over now so they’ll be no local blackberry jams this year – but instead we’re trying our hands at Quince Jelly and variations of apple chutneys all using locally harvested produce.

For those interested here’s a page all about quince: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quince_jelly/

Meanwhile we’re expanding the “green” stuff we are doing in PXI with Peter our Community Youth Worker now helping with gardening groups in a number of local schools including Yewlands and St Thomas More schools, as well as celebrating harvest with new friends at Wooley Wood school. In the past week we’ve also been chatting to other growers in other parts of Sheffield including a project at the Methodist Church in Hollinshead – its good to see more and more people reconnecting with growing food, and with the spiritual dimensions of relating to seasonal changes, and becoming re- grounded in the earth and creation.

Just a few sleeps to go ….

OK … my children and the sign in the supermarket keep reminding me that it is now only 6 sleeps until Christmas day! So I thought it was about time to get all festive on the Space to Grow blog, our friends at LEAF have been busy recently with chutney making and candle making and we’ve got Cake and Carols all lined for Sunday 23rd. In case you didn’t see the details last time,it starts at 6pm on the LEAF plot (Norwood Allotments, Herries Road) and we’ll be gathered round the fire for warmth, there’ll be mince pies and it sounds like Garys Mum may have baked us a cake too.

All this writing about mince pies and Christmas cake has made me hungry, so what will you all be having for Christmas dinner I wonder? Whether its the traditional turkey, or something more exotic or vegetarian, one item on the Christmas plate is always the source of debate and disagreement – the Brussels Sprout! Now I have to admit being a fan, the key for me is them not being overcooked, but they really are one of my favourites. Sad news therefore that (according to the Brassica Growers Association) the crop yield of Brussels this year is 30% down on an average year …. in turn this has driven the supermarket price up.

The Mayan "Stone of the Sun"
The Mayan “Stone of the Sun”

Of course we’ve first got the Winter Solstice on the 21st December when the earth turns to its northern pole furthest from the sun – this year of course the solstice also co-incides with the “end of the world” stories that have somehow become linked with the Mayan calendar – which didn’t really predict such things at all. Of course one day the world will end …. will it be this week, I really don’t don’t know and no-one else does either, as Jesus is reported to say in Matthews Gospel (ch24.36): “No one knows about that day or hour, [of the worlds end] not even the angels in heaven … but only the Father.” So let’s not worry too much about it and just give thanks for the changing of the seasons and the wonders of all the universe.

Meanwhile, wrap up tight to stay warm, and enjoy your sleeps ….. however many there are left.

It’s chutney time!

It’s that time of year when we start to think about what we might do with some of the excess of our fruit harvest in order for it to last us through the winter – one of my favourite ways of doing this is through chutney making. Last year PXI-Space to Grow ran a number of days in the pavillion at Parson Cross park and at Mount Tabor where a few of us got together to make some lovely chutneys. If you’ve never made chutney before or if you want to try a new recipe here’s a video from June Bingham who lives locally showing us how to make a lovely Pear & Walnut Chutney …. enjoy!

 

June uses Fairtrade products alongside local produce to make tasty foods to enjoy, you can watch more of Junes Fairtrade recipe videos on YouTube.

Chutney in the Park

A group of us had some fun this morning up at the pavilion making chutney from the Abundance recipe. We made around six jars of Apple Chutney using the apples we harvested a few weeks ago and six jars of Apple & Pear Chutney ….. it has to be said they both tasted lovely. We were all commenting about how much food that grows around us is still left to waste,and the joys (apart from when there are wasps nests) of going out to pick blackberries, bilberries and yes even apples and pears.

In case you want to experiment at home, here’s the recipe.

Abundance Chutney Recipe

This recipe makes about 1.8kg (4lbs) of Apple Chutney, which should fill 6 medium jars.

Ingredients

900g (2lb) local cooking apples (after coring and peeling)

225g (8oz) onions (again after peeling and chopping)

560ml to 840ml (1 pint – 1.5 pints) vinegar (start with a pint, you may need less)

350g (12oz) brown sugar (again, see how sweet the apples are, use less if necessary)

56g (2oz) mixed pickling spice (in a spice bag/tied up tea towel, bashed a bit) OR 1-2 tsp powdered spice (straight into the mixture)

225g (8oz) raisins or sultanas

14g (1/2oz) salt

2 tsp ground ginger

Method

1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Put into a pan with the vinegar (a pint to start with). Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

2. Meanwhile, peel, core and finely chop the apples.

3. Add the apples to the onions and vinegar, bring back to the boil, and simmer, mixing well, so that the fruit starts to soften.

4. Add all the other ingredients and the spices. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently to avoid the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan.

5. Keep going until the chutney is thick and brown. Lovely!

6. Pour into hot, clean, sterilised jars immediately, and seal.

7. Label with contents once fully cooled.

Sterilising Jars

To sterilise your jars, wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse with hot water, then dry with a clean tea towel. Place on a baking tray, and put in a low oven (100C/gas mark 1) for 10 minutes. The jars will be hot: be careful, and don’t put them on a cold surface. Alternatively, run the jars through the hot cycle on a dishwasher.

Add the chutney to the jars while they’re still hot. As the chutney cools down, it will contract, pulling down the tamper button in the lids. Et voila. Perfect jars of sustainable chutney, that will only get better with age.

Abundance and Foraging

Today there’s been talk around the allotments of Abundance and the whole foraging idea. Here’s a link to a bit on You Tube from Alys Fowler explaining a little more.

We’re going out after more apples this Thursday afternoon and later this month PXI-Plot17 will be leading a workshop on chutney making, and we’ll be making our own chutney. I tried this earlier this year with LEAF, so hopefully I’ve not forgotten the recipe!

Blake making chutney at Mount Tabor, in January.

One of the things (apart from just the pleasure of enjoying food that would have otherwise just been wasted) that I love about foraging and Abundance is how it also sometimes gives you clues and insights into the past. For example there are some pear trees in Hillsborough in the woodland near Leppings Lane roundabout that are really old and must date fro the time it was all farms in the area, and the number of places on the estate where people still have fruit trees, and rhubarbs patches that may well have been planted at the time the estate was built or soon after, as a result of various Dig for Victory appeals and the effects of post war rationing. So next time you pick a blackberry or an apple from a tree or bush you find, just have a think about how it got there…… and enjoy it!