Picking and Cooking Sweetcorn

A corncob

Success with growing Sweetcorn
2020 has been a very good year for sweetcorn. It is now mid September and we have been eating fresh sweetcorn regularly since the start of July and we should be eating fresh sweetcorn until at least mid October.

How to grow sweetcorn.
It is now possible to buy super sweet varieties of Sweetcorn seeds at any seed shop. I plant my seeds in a big flower pot or just any container which has soil at least 10cm deep. I put the seeds about 1cm down and about 5 centimeters apart.  I plant them out when the little plants are  about 12 cm high. Sweetcorn does not like the cold so it is best if the average temperature is over 14C when they are planted out. I doubt if they would survive a frost.

This year I made extra effort to fertilize them well using only organic fertilizer. Under each plant I have put a 3 double hand fulls of cow manure and one double handful of chicken manure. I prepared the ground using a small fork. Once they started growing well I put a thick mulch of leaves to suppress the weeds. Sweetcorn grows best in a group of plants rather than a line  so I have planted rectangular groups of about 20 plants.

To be able to harvest sweetcorn over a long periods of time I grow 3 or 4 patches. When one clump of sweetcorn gets well established I plant some more seeds. This year, eating sweetcorn every couple of days for months on end has been heavenly.

When to pick sweetcorn.
Each sweetcorn plant grows 2 or 3 corncobs.  People say that you should  open up a corncob and push your thumbnail into into a kernel. If you see a milky liquid it means they are ready. What happens if they are not ready? You have just ruined a corncob. The best indicator of being ready is when the beards go brown. Each corncob has a lot of strands coming out of the end they eventually turn brown. When almost all of the beard is brown they are ready.

How to cook sweetcorn.
The big problem with sweetcorn is that the fibrous kernels get stuck in your teeth. This problem gets worse as you get older because as you get older there are more gaps in between your teeth. This year we seem to have solved this problem. Either after cooking or before we cut the corncobs into bite sized pieces. The incisors at the front of your mouth cut the kernels of  the corncob without getting stuck in your teeth.

To cook sweetcorn put it in cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for between 10 and 15 minutes. Leave in a water for 5 minutes. We are at 1300 metres high here so water boils at 95C, your cooking time might be less. 

How to store sweetcorn.
If you don’t manage to eat all your sweetcorn fresh then you can leave it to go dry. Just pick the corncobs, take off the outer coverings and put them in a dry airy place. The best way to use dried corn kernels is to make sweetcorn fritters or maize fritters. There are loads of recipes on internet. The other way to store them is by canning/bottling them and the result is the same as canned sweetcorn that you buy in the supermarket. You will need a pressure cooker to get the temperature very high because sweetcorn does not have much natural acid. There are lots of instructional videos on internet.

Sweetcorn cut into pieces

Here is a video of one of our sweetcorn patches.

Is our olive oil organic?

Nonnie Picking Olives

Nonnie Picking Olives

For people who can’t be bothered to read this page.  Just read this one line.
Is your olive oil organic? Yes, it is probably the most organic oil you will ever taste.

Why  our olive oil is not officially organic.

Products which are organic generally have a higher price because being organic has higher costs. We decided it would be a good idea to get organic certification so that we could sell our olive oil at a higher price. We paid our 160 euros for the first year to the certification entity. Around 5 months later the man who came to inspect the land came to visit us in a big gas guzzling Land Rover. He said it was not necessary to even look over our land. He said that he would never come unexpectedly to our farm, he would never jump over the fence to take a soil sample. He could give no advice about organic fertilizers and where to obtain certifies organic fertilizer. Basically as long I as I keep paying the fees I will get organic certification. 
To me this is a system open to fraud and the organic certification does not certify anything. If you buy organic produce you just have to trust the producer.  For this reason I gave up the idea of becoming certified as officially organic.

Why  our olive oil is actually organic

Our olive oil is actually super organic we are vastly more organic than most organic olive oil. Here are the reasons why: 

Non mechanical  picking. 

We pick olives by hand  there are no noisy petrol driven picking machines. 

Organic Fertilizers. 
We only use organically certified fertilizers based on animal manure. 

No Pesticides. 
We do not use any pesticide whatsoever.

Bee friendly meadow system. 
We don’t plough around the trees. In the spring the olive grove is ablaze with wild flowers which attract bees and butterflies and many insects. We do not use any weedkiller. 

No burning of prunings  

From time to time you may have to put up with a neighbour burning tree branches after fruit trees are pruned. This releases Co2 into the atmosphere and the smoke is a pollutant. Here we use a wood chipper which creates several tons of mulching material which we use on the vegetable garden.  Most of the carbon is incorporated into the soil. In addition to saving water, improving soil, combating pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a nitrous oxide which is a  greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Several website explain the many advantages of mulching: Link 1 Link 2

Using the Almond dehusker

When almonds are ready to pick some of them have a green casing or husk attached to the almond. Some of the husks are brown and easy to remove and some are more firmly attached. The best way of removing them is with an electric dehusker. The Almonds are poured in the top and the clean almonds come out of the chute into a container.  After dehusking the almonds are  left in the sun for a final drying. The husks can be used as a mulch or even as animal fodder for goats or horses etc. A dehusking machine costs about 800 euros and uses about 750 watts. We usually manage to dehusk the almonds using solar power.

The dehusking machine is quite noisy and the people working closest use ear plugs.  The big thing to remember with a dehusking machine is not to switch it off when there are still nuts inside. You have to wait until you can hear that the nuts have all passed through before switching off. If the machine stops with nuts inside it is difficult to restart. You have to switch the machine off and then  turn the flywheel backwards manually. Then the machine is switched back on again and the flywheel is give an extra push with a foot. This can be quite tricky.  

Kumquat and Lemon Marmalade using a pressure cooker

I have never made marmalade before and have always been put off by the seemingly  never-ending, tedious task of chopping, peeling, shredding, juicing, boiling, testing, etc. But when a friend told me about his method of making kumquat and lemon marmalade by soaking the fruit in sugar for a day, I thought I would give it a go. In his recipe, the kumquats are halved, the pips removed, and then combined in a bowl with lemon juice and sugar for 24 hours before boiling as normal.

My challenge, therefore, was to invent a recipe for a pressure cooker which would be even easier and quicker to prepare. A neighbour’s sister makes quince jelly in a pressure cooker by combining equal parts of fruit and sugar and then cooking for 3 minutes at pressure so I decided to experiment with times to see if this method would be possible for marmalade.

The first attempt was a success (although the cooking times needed tweaking) and I was really pleased with the consistency, texture and taste of the first batch. I had literally thrown everything in together (pips, pith and lemon quarters) but decided that for the second attempt I would tie the pips and lemon pith and skins in muslin to keep them separate.

It was clear that three minutes was far too short and I had to bring the cooker back up to pressure several times. So I decided that for the second attempt I would cook the marmalade for 15 minutes at pressure.

INGREDIENTS
500g kumquats
2 large lemons
400g brown sugar or half the weight of the prepared fruit

METHOD
Cut the kumquats in half, remove the pips and save on a muslin square. Cut the loquats into 2mm slices.
Peel the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler. Shred the rind into 2mm strips.
Put an empty bowl on the scales and weigh in the fruit and lemon juice. Add half the amount of sugar and mix well.
Securely tie up the lemon pith and pips in the muslin square and add toe the bowl of fruit.

Leave for 24 hours, stirring every so often. At the end of that time, the sugar will have completely dissolved and there will be quite a bit more syrup.

Transfer the kumquats and the muslin bag to a pressure cooker. Bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and slow release the pressure.

Open the pressure cooker and transfer immediately into clean glass jars using a jam funnel and a measuring jug. Turn all the jars upside down to sterilise the caps for about half an hour and then turn back the right way and leave to cool completely.

Facts about our Vineyard

This is just an information sheet to contain the information about our vineyard for internal use.

grape_picking

2013
We start by planting 75 petit verdot on the Era field. There are also a few plants made from cuttings which are white grapes.

2014
Planted 250 new vines on the new field. Half of them Cabernet Sauvignan the other half Bobal.
We did make some wine but it was a mix of our own and some grapes from over the hill.

2015
We made about 40 litres of wine.
The plants were pruned correctly for the first time in October.

2016
We planted 125 Tempranillo and 125 Cabernet Sauvignon

An audit in June by Daniel the Dressing Gown Man states:
There are 660 growing vines.
About 50 did not make it to October.

Harvest:

The harvest happened on the 21st September.
4 crates from new field
3 crates from the Era field
3 crates from down below.
It took about 2 hours with 6 people to do the harvest.

Made about 100 litres of grape must.
About 12% alcohol potential on the light meter.

Pressing:
The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Jordan, Pierre, Jane and Caroline the Belgian girl. The wine was quite dry. I estimate that there were about 65 litres.

Notes: Many of the new vines planted were ripped out by foxes searching for insects.
Maybe the goatshit, leaf mold and earth mix should be aged longer before use.

2017
100 bobal ordered. Arrival date 1st April.
 We planted 1 new line and the rest were used to replace dead vines

This time we used the new petrol auger and it took most of the work out of preparing the holes. In August we put the top wires on all the lines.

Harvest:
The team was Sam, Heather, Alex (skateboarder), Phil Kiwi, Nitsan

The harvest happened on the 15th September.
35 crates in total.
18 crates from new field
11 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 6 people to do the top fields
6 crates from down below this took about 25 minutes

Made about 450 litres of grape must.
About 15% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Sam, Heather She-Wolf,  Phil Dynes. The time before pressing was much shorter and wine was still sweet. I estimate that there were about 280 litres.

2018
We planted 200 bobal in the top half of the Era field .
This was done by Aida and me after Christmas.
It is the first time I have planted the vines early.
All of the holes were done with the petrol auger.

Aida counted all the vines and there were 813.

Harvest:
The team was Jen (australian) Amber kiwi, James.

The harvest happened on the 9th October.
30 crates in total.
21 crates from new field
9 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 4 people to do the new field
4 crates from down below.
These had powdery mildew so they were dried for sultanas rather than wine.

Made about 390 litres of grape must.
About 14% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 9th of November with just Sarah and I.  I estimate that there were about 260 litres.

The harvest was less than the previous year because the table grapes below the house got a bad case of Powdery Mildew

Chemicals for powdery mildew. Contact fungicides work well as preventatives and for early, mild infections, notably potassium bicarbonate compounds and horticultural and neem oils.  Phytotoxicity can be a problem with some plants, however, so care should be used before broad scale application.  Systemic fungicides include triflumizole (e.g., Terraguard), myclobutanil (e.g., Eagle), the strobilurin group (e.g., Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), which is very prone to inducing resistance in pathogens, and thiophanates (e.g., Cleary’s 3336, OHP 6672).

Chemicals for downy mildew. Contact protectants such as mancozeb (e.g., Protect) and copper, alternated or mixed with systemics like mefenoxam (e.g., Subdue MAXX) applied as a drench at the beginning of the season and sprays of dimethomorph (e.g., Stature DM), phosphonates (Aliette), and strobilurins (e.g., Fenstop, Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), have shown good control.  Effectiveness of any given chemical depends on the particular downy mildew pathogen present; what works well for one may give minimal control for others.  Tank mixes of more than one of these agents in a rotation can be useful.

 

2019

Harvest:

The team was Pud, Julie, Rael, Maggie, Helen Tinsel, Sarah

The harvest happened on the 7th September
About 15 crates in total.
It took about 2 and a half  hours. 

The low harvest was maybe due to the fact that we did no irrigation.
The powdery mildew was very successfully controlled. 

We had no tractor until around may so the weed clearance was done with the weed wacker in May.

About 13% alcohol potential on the light meter.