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Weald Allotments has a long history – but now it’s time to focus on our present. We’ve started a blog to share information about allotment growing, and news about Weald allotments. We hope this site will be useful to the more than 400 allotment holders who currently have a plot on Weald.

Where is Weald allotments?

We’re in Hove actually, just off Weald Avenue. A gated allotment community that is one of the best kept secrets in the city of Brighton and Hove, we have a large, thriving allotment site with its own shop, toilets and car park. We also have many charity plots onsite from Grace Eyre to Plot 22 … where groups of people can work together to grow crops and enjoy the pleasures of community gardening.

Weald allotment shop

Our allotment shop is a well kept secret! It’s not just for allotment holders, the general public can come and buy from us too. We stock an excellent range of seeds, high quality compost and lots of specialist allotment equipment. We’re not generalists, like the DIY stores, so we’re not always cheapest, but what we buy is always chosen to be best on the long run: better quality compost, for example, produces better crops. And if you become a member of our Association (open to the general public too!) you get discounts on every purchase.

Weald potato tour – Picasso

Picasso, a hybrid bred out of the popular Cara potato, is a maincrop potato that has two major advantages: it produces a vast number of tubers and those tubers are huge!

The white potatoes are smooth with pink eyes and ideally suited to baking or mashing. It’s comfortable in most soils but does need full sun to be at its most productive.

£4.85 a bag, £4.35 for WAGA members and £3.85 for WAGA members who order and pay before 31 October.

Weald Potato tour – King Edward

Introduced in the year of Edward VII’s coronation (1902), the King Edward has stood the test of time for two reasons: it has an unparalleled flavour and is of above average disease resistance.

There are a couple of downsides to the King Edward: it’s not massively productive, which means that it isn’t going to be the best choice for a large family that’s trying to be self-sufficient from its allotment, and the one weakness in its disease resistance profile is eelworm, to which it succumbs pretty easily.

With a creamy skin and rosy blushes around the red eyes, King Edwards are fluffy and ideal for roasting, baking and wedges. £4.85 per bag, £4.35 for WAGA members and just £3.85 for WAGA members who order and pay before 31 October. And please remember that anybody can join the Weald Allotment Gardeners’ Association and benefit from our community buying policy – you don’t have to have an allotment at the Weald.

Weald potato tour – Desiree

A child of the sixties (it was released for public sale in 1962) this potato has been dubbed ‘the most popular red potato in the world’ by a major seed company. We think that’s a bit excessive, given that South America has over 4,000 varieties of potato – many of them red – but it’s an understandable hyperbole.

Desiree is a good looking potato which makes large tubers as a main crop or smaller ones two or three weeks earlier which is valuable if you need to get your spuds in early, for example if you’re in a high blight risk area. It has pink/red tubers with shallow eyes and is used for boiling, baking, chipping, mashing or roasting. This versatility makes it a great family choice. The only downsides are that it’s not much use for potato salad and it has very low resistance to eelworm.

£4.85 per bag, £4.35 for WAGA members and £3.85 for WAGA members who order and pay for their potatoes before 31 October 2020.

Weald potato tour – Cara

Cara divides people. On the plus side is its very high yield, and attractive appearance with white skin, shallow pink eyes and a clear white flesh. On the minus side, it’s pretty floury which makes it good for chipping and baking but a disappointment when boiling as it often falls apart even when steamed. Again on the plus side, it has high blight resistance and is a pretty good keeper, but on the other hand, it doesn’t do well on clay soils and it’s a tall potato which can lead to wind damage in exposed areas.

At £4.85 a bag, £4.35 to WAGA members and £3.85 to WAGA members who order and pay before 31 October, maybe the answer is to buy some and find out for yourself!

Weald potato tour – Winston

The Winston potato is a first early that bulks up quickly, which makes it popular for people who want their early potatoes as early as possible, and its general resistance to disease is another reason for popularity. It’s a floury rather than waxy potato which some people find watery when cooked which is surprising as it tolerates drought well, which is usually a feature of waxier spuds.

Perhaps what makes Winston so well regarded is its looks – the tubers are regular in size and shape, with an attractive pale brown skin and shallow eyes, making it easy to clean and fantastic for the show bench. You can obtain Winston potatoes in the Weald Allotment Shop for £4.85 per bag, £4.35 for members and just £3.85 for members who order and pay for their potatoes before 31 October. That’s just over a fortnight away and we have nine more potato varieties to share with you, so get ready to make your decisions and place your orders!

Weald recipes: quince

A kind, anonymous donor gave us two bags of quinces for this week’s community fridge. Having added them to our Sunday deliveries, and knowing that there are some left over for Thursday’s fridge session, we thought it would be a good idea to post some recipes for this little known but delicious fruit. First of all – its nutritional qualities.

Quinces are high in vitamin C, zinc, potassium, copper, iron and fibre, making it a heart-healthy addition to your diet.

The easiest way to cook quinces is to poach them. Cut them in half with a large sharp knife. It’s a bit like cutting wood because quinces are tough! Then peel them with a vegetable peeler before cutting out the core with a small sharp knife. Again, take care, as the quinces are really dense to cut through. Drop the slices into water with a splash of lemon juice to stop them discolouring.

Make a syrup with water, sugar and spices. The quantities are up to you, but the syrup should cover the quince quarters. Good spices include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, star anise, vanilla, mace and nutmeg and you can use honey, agave nectar or maple syrup to sweet the syrup if you don’t use sugar. Bring the syrup to a boil, gently add the quince quarters and either cook for 50 minutes to an hour or put in a slow cooker for up to nine hours until the fruit is orange to ruby coloured and tender.

You can now eat the quince, with the syrup and cream, ice-cream or yoghurt, or you can move onto another recipe such as quince tarte tatin.

For the pastry
300g plain flour
220g butter
100g icing sugar
3 egg yolks


Filling

Poached quinces drained of syrup
100g caster sugar
100g butter

Preheat the oven to 250C and make pastry by rubbing together flour, butter and icing sugar until they resemble breadcrumbs, or using a pastry cutter or food processor. Add the egg yolks and mix with a palette knife until it forms a dough. Wrap in film and put in freezer for 60 minutes

While the pastry is chilling put 85g of sugar in a pan and cook on medium heat, supervising to allow the sugar to caramelise a little and become golden but not to stick or burn. Pour into buttered baking dish and arrange quince slices on top. Sprinkle rest of sugar and butter on top.

Grate the chilled pastry mix with a cheese grater over the quinces until it forms a thick layer, but don’r press it down, instead turn the over down to 220C/Gas 7 and bake for around 20 minutes. Rest for five minutes then invert onto a serving dish.


Weald kitchen (not) open for business!

Since April we’ve been seeking funding and obtaining wonderful goodies for the Weald Allotment kitchen. It’s been a slow process, much complicated by COVID-19, and by trying to keep our food deliveries going and our fridge open.

At last we’re nearly there! We’ve got kitchen units, portable hobs, stock pots and knives, aprons and chopping boards and crockery and cutlery … just in time for Brighton and Hove Council to declare a threat level of amber and limit what we are all able to do.

So, bearing in mind that we want everybody to remain safe so we can continue to open our shop, offer food from our fridge and make deliveries to those in most need, this is the closest that most of you will get to our amazing new community kitchen until COVID-19 is over. However, we will be going ahead with our Soup Sunday on 1 November, so you’ll get to see the products of the kitchen, even if you don’t get to see the kitchen itself!

Thanks to Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation, the Sussex Crisis Fund, the Argus Appeal, the Community Fund, and the Rampion Fund for equipping our amazing new facilities.

October allotment tasks

Harvesting

It’s time to get everything out of the ground to protect it from bad weather. Pumpkins and squashes are the priority, because they have the best potential to feed you through the winter, followed by outdoor tomatoes and main crop potatoes. You can put unripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag to ripen them. And while you’re digging those spuds, it’s time to think about ordering next year’s seed potatoes for chitting. If you place your order before the end of October, and you’re a Weald Allotment Gardeners’ Association member, you get up to 25% off the standard seed potato price. Just call into the Weald Shop any weekend to see the range we have on offer.

Any remaining peas and runner beans should be picked now too.

Early leeks can be dug up now, because they are less hardy than other varieties and may be damaged by winter weather.

You could still be harvesting chard and spinach, lettuce and oriental vegetables and carrots and celeriac.

Lift tender crops and herbs like lemon verbena and scented geraniums and put them in a greenhouse or cold frame over the winter.

Sowing

While you can sow peas and broad beans now, it’s often better to wait until November in Sussex, because they put on less of a growth spurt if planted later and thus are less damaged by winter winds. Rhubarb crowns can be planted now and it’s a good time to divide an established rhubarb to get it to grow more vigorously.

Winter density lettuce can be sown now. Outdoors it will grow slowly and provide a crop early next year but in a greenhouse or cold frame it will be ready in about eight weeks and can be sown monthly to give you lettuce through the winter.

Digging, manuring and improving your soil

Roughly breaking up heavy soil and leaving it in chunks and lumps allows bad weather to break down the soil and improve its quality. Winter green manures, compost and well-rotted manure can all be used to improve your soil over the winter too. Manure laid down now will be taken into the soil by worms, saving you at least part of the work of digging it in.

Preparing for winter

Insulate your greenhouse if you’re keeping crops in it over the winter. You can wrap tender plants in horticultural fleece, bubble wrap or even newspaper.

Be ready to cover winter crops if the weather turns bad (we actually haven’t had a hard winter for about five years at Weald, so we’re overdue some really cold spells) and if you’re overwintering onion sets, you’ll probably need to cover them or net them to keep the pigeons off.

Take down bean poles and store them, and stake your Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli as they are likely to be blown over in bad weather. You can heel in soil around the base of each plant to give them extra support. Stake your asparagus too, to stop it rocking in the wind and weakening the plant roots, but don’t cut it down yet, let it go fully golden before trimming it to ground level ready for next year.

Turn your compost, taking out anything that’s worth using and layering the rest with the last of your green waste, and compost accelerator if you use it, to encourage it to break down during the colder winter months.

Weald Community Fridge changes (again!)

As many of you will already know, Brighton and Hove Council has increased our local COVID-19 threat level to amber. This means we’ve had to look again at how we can provide food safely – because not only do we want to ensure our volunteers and fridge users are kept safe – we want to try and keep our services running throughout this difficult time, and if we end up with a COVID-19 contact notification, we will all have to self-isolate, which could mean closing the fridge to all our potential users.

So … we ARE staying open. Come and see us on Thursday 8 October between 10.00 and 13.00. We ARE welcoming all fridge users, current, past and new to us. We ARE continuing our Sunday deliveries to people who have special reasons not to be able to visit the fridge.

However, from this week we won’t be allowing people to come into the Weald kitchen – instead we’ll be pre-bagging food (if we already know you, and know you have specific dietary needs, we’ll do our very best to tailor a bag to your requirements) and handing you that bag at the door. We hope this means that we’ll be able to stay open every week throughout the winter.

We’re also starting our Soup Sundays on 1 November, but to ensure everybody remains safe, we’ll be serving the soup from our amazing new purple gazebo and asking you to take your soup back to your plot to eat, or at least not to congregate in groups larger than six.