Plot 51: Treasure or Tat

As I’ve already documented, skip day was a success as I managed to rid my plot of all the rubbish that had accumulated over the years by the previous owner. But another upside of skip day was the sharing of what I classed as rubbish with fellow allotmenteers.

An old hose-pipe reel of mine was taken by someone, another asked me if they could have the old guttering and pipes and an old circular sink I had was snapped up too: No one was willing to come forward and ask for the old bath though.


On my last trip to the skip I saw someone throwing away some old trays, the kind that manufacturers use to deliver bread and other produce to shops and supermarkets. As soon as I spotted these I begged them and smiling carried them back to my plot. knowing I shall find many uses for them.


I’m not going to pontificate and say I’ve saved some more plastic from landfill by recycling as that wasn’t my intention, all I was thinking at the time was, I want those and of course, one man’s tat is another man’s treasure.

The Freezer Lottery

I’m normally very organised, I have a ‘to do’ do list. I keep a pencil and notebook close at all times and my music collection is stored in chronological order and cross referenced by genre. So you’d expect my freezer to be the same. Sadly no. 


I’m always saying waste nothing, use everything and freeze for later, but do I mark what I’m storing for ease of recognition at a later date – not always. I did have a period where I used stickers, however today I went to retrieve something and noticed that all the stickers have either fallen off or the writing has disappeared.


So now it’s a bit of a freezer lottery in our house, it’s a case of guess what’s in the pot or the bag and hope for the best.


I can guess that if it’s in the top compartment that it’ll be stock, however guessing if it’s chicken, rabbit or goat will be the challenge.


There are some things that don’t look remotely recognisable, and some that are easily identified, for example the sixty five, one litre bags of homemade passata. However working out if the orange bags contain roasted butternut squash or apricot puree will be interesting if I tip a bag into a stew on the hob.


It’s not all bad though as one bag of apricot puree still has its sticker intact; so at least the cheesecake I’m planning to make will have a fruit rather than veg based topping.


Now added to my list of things to do is a note reminding me to purchase a freezer pen for marking all future deposits.

Ants in Your Plants

It’s been very hot here these past few days, Italy has had a mini heat-wave, but this morning it’s quite cool. I check on the plants growing in my mini orto. There’s some more courgettes, young and tender that need to be picked and a couple of tomatoes have donned their red jackets, so they can come out of the plot, a couple of white onions are a good enough size to harvest . I notice that ants have taken up residence my cayenne plant and as I pick a couple of the orange chillies they dash across my fingers eager to protect. I’m not worried by this, it’s rural Italy and a few ants wont ruin my day. As I walk back to the house the iPod shuffles and the strains of Hungry like the Wolf, by Duran Duran drift out into the Italian countryside.

Back inside the kitchen with my collected bounty I set to, preparing it for storage. I chop it all up and add a couple of garlic cloves, I sweat the onions off and then add the courgettes followed by the chillies and tomatoes, last to hit the pot is the garlic. I add a little water and let it simmer away until the contents of the pan have softened. I don’t season with salt and pepper as I’m going to divide the mixture once cold and freeze it.


Now cold, the mixture is divided up into three portions and popped into the freezer and now I have a sofrito base for three pasta sauces that I can use when the season has ended. A few minutes in the morning will save me a few euros in winter time, and the memory of a summer morning will be released into the saucepan.

The epic search for an egg bowl

On a recent trip into town a search that has been going on for an age ended. I love eggs, they’re wonderful little packages of goodness, and I’m lucky enough to get mine from a friend who keeps chickens, so I know they’re from free range, happy chucks.

Its the storage of these little natural parcels of goodness that poses a problem. I never keep them in a fridge, it’s the manufacturers of fridges that added egg shaped holders, which convinced people to store their eggs in this manner. The shell is permeable and when stored in a fridge it absorbs the smells inside, so if you have fish in there, you’ll taint the eggs with a fishy smell. Also the cold temperature damages the cuticle allowing water vapour into the egg and this in turn breaks the yolk down. Ask yourself this: When you buy your eggs are they in the refrigerators in the supermarket?… No.

So I always make sure my eggs are stored at room temperature, and in summer they are covered to prevent flies landing on them; there’s that pesky permeable shell again. I used to store them in one of those chicken shaped wire baskets, however as it had been crushed in a house move back in February 2012, so it ended up in the recycling and the search for a new receptacle began. Over the past twelve months I’ve scoured kitchen shops for another suitable storage solution, but without luck. Next it was the kitchenware departments of major stores, but I had no joy there. Eventually it was the turn of charity shops to be visited by a wide-eyed-loon searching for… Well, here’s the rub, I wasn’t sure what it was I was looking for. All I knew, was when I found it I’d know.

I was browsing through the window of a charity shop in a small town nearby: A place I’ve only visited once before. I was taken by a picture inside the shop, so went inside. I was looking at the framed print when something on a shelf caught my eye. The picture was soon forgotten and a voice inside my head said, “It’s the egg bowl.” There it was, my twelve month search was over. I 100_5402handed over my £1.49 and left the shop with a smile.

Of course, I can understand that many people would think that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on something that doesn’t really change my life, I’d agree, but when you have odd flashes of OCD, like I do, getting it right means I’m happy.

Heaven forbid, I ever let you see the ordered shelves of my kitchen cupboards, or I told you about the different types of cutlery for different types of meals saga, that plays out regularly in our house.