This has been the coldest spell we’ve had in several years. Freezing temperatures both night and day, for several weeks. The sky’s have been clear; Blue cloudless days and stunning starry nights. I’m hoping that I haven’t lost many plants, I think the minimum we reached was about -8 degrees Celsius. Everything looks really dessicated, although it’s not been windy, everything is freeze dried. Despite the time of year there have been several wild fires on Skye and the outer isles, leading to road closures in the middle of Skye last week. I don’t know whether they were deliberate (muirburn to regenerate grazing) or accidental fires.
My wasabi has died back, and the luma apiculata’s leaves have dried up. I forgot to wrap the unknown citrus in the polytunnel and that has shrivelled leaves too. Hopefully these will all sprout back in spring, I do hope so. There was a little snow but most of it melted before it froze again. There is snow on the tops of the hills still, which look like Mt. Fuji.
As the ground is frozen, I can’t really get on with planting anything, but I’ve made some progress with coppicing. I’ve cleared a little of the alder copse at the top by the cut through. I cut those between the windbreak and the cut through, so the regrowth should have a bit of shelter.
Some of the birch are getting pretty big now. I have taken out some of the lower branches; singling the stems so they will make straighter logs in time perhaps.
Further down again I singled out more alder along the top of the river bank and in the pond area, also taking out completely one multistemmed tree. I think that’s all I’ll do for this year. I don’t want to overdo things, especially until I know how well the regrowth will do. We won’t have enough to be self sufficient in wood I don’t think, however it’s nice to feel like we’re making a step in that direction, especially with it having been so cold recently.
It was actually a little while ago I harvested the Yacon in the polytunnel, the ones outside were harvested before Xmas. I hadn’t done anything with the tubers ’til now – they have been sitting rather in the way in boxes in the hallway until I got round to finishing off weighing them etc. Some of the tubers have shrivelled slightly, but they otherwise appear fine. Even the one that broke in half when dug from outside still had no mould growing.
I originally had two sources for the Yacon which visually look identical, but have been performing slightly differently (the better one is from real seeds, although they appear to be out of season now). I have been growing them side by side for comparison, and do think that these are slightly more productive for me. I think I will search out some other varieties if they become available (lubera have a couple listed, but are only available later as plants, so are more expensive). Unfortunately the few seedlings I managed to grow from cultivariable seed did not survive the winter last year.
The plants in the polytunnel were basically just replanted in the same spots last year after harvesting – so overwintered in the soil. There were two of each source planted in adjacent beds with a little more compost dug in around them. They were watered when I remembered, but seemed to be thriving. There was a little bit of caterpillar damage to the leaves (those ‘silver y’ moths again) but not enough to be a problem. I think that the plants nearest the polytunnel wall may have suffered from overcrowding or overshading – In both cases that plant was smaller that the other.
Harvested at the start of February 2019, the ‘real seeds’ plants had a total usable tuber weight of 22 Oz, the other had a total weight of 10 1/2 Oz. I did not pull all the tubers off any of the plants. The smallest would have been a bit fiddly and may well give the plants a bit of a start in the ground next year! One of the plants (bottom right) has naturally split into several parts. I may divide the larger clumps as well to give myself more plants this year.
The plants outside were overwintered in pots and grown on till about June, when I had enough room in the tea garden extension to plant them out. They seemed to do pretty well considering they were fairly exposed and I deliberately did not clear the other plants from around them, since they would have been giving them a bit of shelter.
The leaves were a lot smaller and less green and the plants were far more shrubby than the plants under cover. The holes in the leaves shown above I believe is wind damage. The plants were harvested earlier than those inside – being killed off by frosts in mid December. The smaller plant really had no useable tubers, the other (real seeds) had about 6 Oz; which was actually pretty similar to the poorer plants in the polytunnel.
Last year I concluded that the tubers are better considered a fruit rather than a vegetable and we have eaten them in various ways. It made fantastic cake last year (based on a pear crumble cake) and also added to sweet and sour vegetables, and ‘risotto’ (a family chicken recipe actually a bit more like a paella). As I said it can tend to discolour a bit after cooking, but still tastes fine. Raw one could grate it into a coleslaw or dice into another salad to add sweetness.
I have tried another cake recipe this year. I want to see how much I can reduce the sugar content, since the Yacon is so sweet to taste. This cake was based on a parsnip fruit cake recipe by Jennie Rutland in an old magazine (possibly Home Farmer again). The Yacon was substituted for the parsnip and grated coarsely, the sugar content was reduced by about half and it still tastes delicious. S. definitely approved and more was requested!