In this month’s newsletter
Summer Picnic, Annual Show, Rubbish, Birds, Neighbours and Blackcurrant Tarts.
The spring site inspection has now been completed and emails have been sent to plot-holders as appropriate. The main concern is that there is a tendency for unused stuff to build up on the site over time, creating dangers such as sharp objects, rusting metal, broken glass, collapsed sheds, and shared paths becoming hazardous or blocked – all of which are in contravention of our rules at Whetstone Stray. We organise and pay for rubbish collections twice a year to make it easier to keep a tidy plot, especially for those of us without a car. Please keep an eye out for the date and use the opportunity to clear unwanted rubbish from your plot. The next rubbish collection will be in the autumn.
Our Summer Picnic in the Communal Orchard on Field 2 will be from 11am on Sunday 14 July. Come and help cut back the grass, (so we have somewhere to sit) and bring food and drink to share – we could fire up a BBQ if you want to bring something to put on it. This year the picnic is also open to the public as a mini-opening ceremony for the launch of London as the first ever City National Park.
Getting on with our Neighbours
Whetstone Stray is a large site with over 140 plots, and plot-holders of all creeds and cultures from all over the world. It is essential that we all do our best to get on with our neighbours – being polite, friendly, helpful, and considerate so that we can all enjoy our plots in peace and safety.
Our Annual Show will be on Sunday 8 September. Marion, Angela, Dorothy and Elspeth met to plan this recently. This year the show has been updated to include more ‘exotic’ vegetables, and cakes and savouries using some ingredients grown onsite. There will be no online entry form or cash prizes – simply turn up at the Trading Hut on the morning with your produce between 11am and 1pm, write your name and plot number on the bottom of a paper plate, and then display your produce in the appropriate place in the hut. If you you have had a plot for three years or less you can enter produce in the Novice section. Please take part and come and help put up gazebos and bunting, set out chairs, bake cakes and savouries, sell raffle tickets, show visitors around the site, serve tea and coffee and clear up afterwards. If you haven’t helped out with any other communal activities at Whetstone Stray this year, this is your opportunity, please contact: email@example.com
More details in the August and September newsletters.
Please remember that power tools should never be used after 12 noon on Sundays. This is greatly appreciated by our neighbours in Ridgeview Road, who enjoy being able to hear birdsong rather than strimmers.
If there is a lot of grass on your plot consider making paths narrower or covering them with compost bags and wood chippings to reduce the amount of cutting necessary in summer. Local tree surgeon, Martin, can deliver free chippings when he has a load, but you need to let him in. Call him on 07717 753 549.
Some of us might love our birds at Whetstone (well… kites, sparrowhawks, wrens, blackbirds and robins perhaps, magpies and pigeons less so) but they really have plenty to eat at this time of year so please don’t leave out food for them as it attracts less popular visitors.
Seasonal Tips for July
Keeping beds weed-free and watered is the priority this month and the two are linked because weeds take valuable water and nutrients from your crops. When watering, soaking once a week is much better than a daily sprinkle. Mulching bare earth or coving it with weed suppressant fabric (available in the shop) will help to retain moisture in the soil.
Once the tiny fruits have started to form you should feed tomato and pepper plants with comfrey tea or other liquid fertiliser each week. ((Not before, which will just encourage more leaf growth.) Pinch out the side shoots and continue to stake the plants so they don’t topple over.
You can start to harvest first early potatoes as the foliage dies down but only lift as many as you are going to use immediately, as they keep much better in the ground than in your kitchen cupboard. Earth up the rest of the crop to stop the light from turning them green and give them a good soaking once a week.
If you were wise enough to net them you should be harvesting black, red and white currants, gooseberries, summer fruiting raspberries, cherries and apricots. (If not the birds will probably have got to them first.)
Lift garlic, shallots and onions and allow them to dry in the sun or under cover.
Sow the last beetroot, French beans, peas and Florence fennel for this year.
Once strawberries have finished fruiting cut off runners and pot them up to make new plants.
When you have taken this year’s harvest, cut back gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants and lightly prune blackcurrants. https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-prune-blackcurrant-plants/
Prune cherry, plum, damson and apricot trees after harvesting. All stone fruits should be pruned in the summer to avoid leaf curl.
Thin our apples and pears to allow the remaining one to grown to a good size.
Tie in new shoots on blackberries rather than cutting them – they are the branches that will produce fruit next year.
Take cuttings from shrubby herbs – thyme, rosemary and sage- which will be welcome at the plant sale next spring.
Seasonal Recipe for July
Blackcurrant almond tart
Blackcurrants, with their delicious combination of sweet and tart, are the most of flavourful of summer fruits. They are so packed with vitamin C that during the Second World War, when importing citrus fruits was impossible, the British government encouraged their cultivation. For many years blackcurrants were rare in shops because the entire UK crop was bought by the NHS to make cordial for the nation’s children. In the USA they were banned for fifty years, until 2008, because of fears spread a rust disease to pine trees that as devastating the timber industry. They are a very easy crop – just needing pruning to let in light and air, and netting in spring to keep off hungry birds.
For the pastry:
caster sugar 100g
egg yolks 2
plain flour 250g
baking powder 1 tsp
water 2 tbsp
for the filling:
ground almonds 200g
icing sugar 200g
plain flour 2 heaped tbsp
egg whites 3
cream to serve
You will also need a 25cm tart tin with a removable base
To make the pastry crust, cream the butter and caster sugar together in a food mixer or by hand until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks. Combine the flour and baking powder, then fold into the batter with the water to give a firm, soft dough. Tip the dough on to a lightly floured work surface, knead gently for less than a minute, then roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can leave it in the fridge overnight if that is convenient.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board and use to line the tart tin, pushing it up the sides and into the corners. Trim overhanging pastry. Leave no holes or tears. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place an empty baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven. When the oven is hot and the tart chilled, bake for 12 minutes till dry to the touch and biscuit coloured. (If you are worried about the sides shrinking, line the tart case with foil and baking beans before baking. But is unusual for chilled pastry to shrink.) Remove the tart case from the oven and lower the temperature to 170C/gas mark 3-4.
To make the filling, mix together the ground almonds, icing sugar and flour. Remove the stalks from the currants. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites till almost stiff. Fold the whites into the almond and sugar mixture with a metal spoon. Stir in the blackcurrants without overmixing.
Spoon the filling into the pastry case and smooth flat. Place the tart on a middle shelf and bake for 50 minutes, covering it with foil if it seems to be colouring too quickly. When the filling is pale gold and lightly firm to the touch, remove and set aside to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve not cold or hot, but warm, with cream on the side.
Recipe by Nigel Slater, The Guardian