Autumn is always a time of great satisfaction for the gardeners at CAT, after a summer of hard work comes to fruit. We have been happily harvesting a variety of annual vegetables, salads, perennial herbs, feasting on apples, and collecting up lots of leaves for leaf mold.
This week the time came for our eagerly anticipated grape harvest from our vines (Vitis vinifera “Black Hamburg”) in the polytunnel, which gave over 5kg of deep ruby red grapes ready for wine making. The blackbirds had sneakily gobbled up a lot of the grapes before us, so we have been experimenting with putting paper bags over the bunches of grapes to protect them. This worked successfully and even seemed to speed up the ripening of those bunches of grapes.
A protein rich crop for Wales?
This year we grew our first trial crop of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain-like crop originally from South America. Quinoa is a very good source of nutrients, and contains essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorous and iron. So, the potential for Quinoa to provide a protein rich bulk crop in Wales is an enticing prospect, and we wanted to find out how well it would grow here. As quinoa was originally grown in high-altitude environments in South America, we were unsure how well it would fare in wet Wales.
Having received some quinoa seed from another local grower at a seed swap in Newton last Spring, we knew that it could be grown in Wales, but we were still unsure about the yield and quality. By harvesting time in September, we were surprised and satisfied with the crop, and harvested a good crop from just a1m2 bed in the Whole Home garden at CAT. Similar success stories have been found in trials run by Garden Organic. Next year we plan to grow a larger trial crop using our own seed, and hope to encourage other local growers to grow quinoa too.
We have also been busy squirreling away our own seeds ready for next year. So far we have successfully dried, threshed and winnowed a good range of seeds including calendular, nasturtium, morning glory, feverfew, coriander, kale, and more. We’re also running a few seed saving experiments with tomatoes (varieties “Yellow Perfection”, “Yellow Pear” and “Gardener’s Delight”).
Tomato seeds need to be processed slightly differently as they are coated in a jelly which inhibits the germination process. You can get rid of this jelly by leaving the seeds in a jar of water for two or three days until a layer of mold has developed. Next, rinse the seeds in a sieve and leave to dry, then store the seeds somewhere cool and dark until next year.
Roger’s top tips for seed saving are: leave the seeds on the plant for as long as possible to get all the goodness from the plant, and make sure to store them out of reach from the mice! For more top tips and information on saving the seeds from different types of vegetables visit the Dyfi Valley Seed Savers.
Finally, now is the time to get your winter salads in for a splash of green in the dark winter months. Good hardy salads include Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mibuna, Mustard greens and Rucola.