Allotment blog: Slugs, swaps and dandelions

Tasty wares from the spring food swap
29 May 2013 @ 10.49 am
| Food & Drink

Tasty wares from the spring food swap
Tasty wares from the spring food swap
The battle against one of nature’s most persistent pests occupies the minds of Sue Jewitt & Vicky Swift this month

Finally, finally our food and flowers have started to grow. The potatoes are coming through, tomatoes are stretching upwards and seedlings are slowly, slowly peeping through. And with them, lamentably, the slug wars begin.

As we write they’ve already decimated four or five of our basil plants. Coffee granules, eggs shells, horse hair, beer – what is the answer to stem this onslaught? Last year was a shocker for our mollusc friends – or an absolute party, from their point of view. The damp conditions and endless rainfall provided them with the perfect conditions to proliferate and get busy on our allotments.

We even found them burrowed into our broad beans! Depressing, especially as we’re organically-inclined and not normally drawn to the toxic blue pellets that underpin many a pristine garden or allotment plot. However, towards the back end of 2012, slug pellets became more and more appealing.

Is it better to use some pesticides and allow yourself some harvest, than to remain organic and end up with nothing? At least you know what pesticides you’ve applied, in what quantities. Surely home-grown with blue pellets is better than non-organic supermarket-bought? These were the dilemmas that we faced last year, and we’re wondering whether 2013 will prove similar.

One idea we’re drawn to is to create a small pond. A pond, the theory goes, will attract frogs, and frogs like eating slugs: everyone’s a winner (except the dastardly slug). With offers of tadpoles from a neighbour’s pond (rapidly becoming frogs) we’ll need to get a move on…

For other permaculture methods of slug control, the fabulous Permaculture Magazine has a wonderful round-up (geddit? Roundup? Never mind).

 

Spring Food Swap a success

From slugs to swaps. Our Spring Food Swap was a welcome start to this year’s growing season – the sun came out and swappers old and new were happily able to exchange their wares in Ambience’s garden on Gillygate. Again a variety of produce was on display – from tomato plants, fresh rhubarb and horseradish to an array of dried fruit painstakingly dehydrated over a wood burning stove, amazing loaves of sourdough, fennel & Guinness rolls, and walnut & stilton pate to name but a few.

We all came away satisfied with our incredible hauls of produce. All in all, another good do! With 3 swaps underway this year here at Apples For Eggs we’ve been reflecting on exactly what it is that makes food swapping such a satisfying and rewarding activity. We’ve come up with this: that there’s something incredibly connecting about exchanging home-made food with the person standing in front of you – there’s eye contact and chat which resonates in the weeks and months following as you enjoy that food, a sense of shared trust and respect for the products you’ve exchanged and the efforts that went into producing them.

And the Food Swap is just the beginning, as we’re starting to see food being exchanged via Facebook and Twitter between swap attendees that have met at one of our events. It’s all good.

Finally, and with our optimistic hats on, we haven’t failed to notice the abundant dandelion crop that has sprung up in recent weeks – seen by some as a sign of a hot summer to come. Maybe. But regardless of what the weather throws at us in 2013, we’ve decided we should be making use of all that presents itself to us this year, and with that in mind we’re going to give this Dandelion Bread recipe a go.

Before we steam ahead here’s a few notes on harvesting your dandelion flowers: they’re best harvested in the morning before the flowers have opened; Be sure to pick them away from roads; Make sure they are not from an area that has been sprayed (either by chemical-wielding humans or dogs!). To remove the flower head twist it at the base to pull away from the stem.

 

Recipe: Dandelion Bread

Not a weed, but a tasty ingredient…
Not a weed, but a tasty ingredient…

Adapted from a recipe on Imperfectly Delicious BlogSpot

Ingredients

240g unbleached flour
2tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
About 25g (about a cup’s worth) dandelion petals, discarding any greenery
60ml sunflower oil
4 tbsp honey
1 egg
350ml milk

Method

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and dandelion petals together in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the oil, honey, egg and milk together. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until you have a wet and lumpy batter. Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake at 200C / 400F / gas mark 6 for 25-45 minutes. After 25 minutes check the loaf – see if a toothpick comes out clean. If it’s still moist inside, lower the oven temperature and continue to bake checking every 5 minutes. It should be a nice golden brown on the outside when it’s done.

And for those of you who still have some rhubarb left on the allotment here’s a delicious and foolproof rhubarb recipe tried and tested at Apples For Eggs many times: rhubarb sour cream squares.

 

Events

Saturday, June 1 – Wild Food Walk. Meet 10.30am under Skeldergate Bridge, near St George’s car park. More details at the Wild Harvest website.

Thursday, June 20 – YWT Dig In medicinal herb workshops. With Michaela Scott at the Groves Secret Garden. Also Thursday June 27 at Glen Gardens, Heworth. Booking essential, on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website.

Fulford Community Orchard is featured as one of the groups supported by the green token scheme at Waitrose throughout May. Still time to take part!

 

Next York Food Swap

The next York Food Swap takes place on Saturday, July 13 from 6-8pm at Ambience cafe bar. To register for a free place go to the Apples For Eggs website.