Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Wednesday 29 October 2014

More Pumpkin Recipes!

So if you have followed this blog for a while, you probably realised that there are pumpkin recipes around in October, and at other times, as we really enjoy cooking with this lovely fruit. It tastes great and it's good for you!

Here are some new recipes for you to try. We think you'll like them a lot.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

20oz freshly-baked pumpkin diced
1 large leek, cleaned, white parts chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

½ celeriac, peeled and chopped

2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and chopped

3 ½  good-quality vegetable stock

1 teaspoon crumbled fresh sage (or ½ teaspoon dried sage)
1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Dash of nutmeg

1 cup apple cider

½  cup plain greek yogurt

Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (optional)

1. Gently steam the leeks, onion, celery root, and apples in a large soup pot with ¼ pint of the stock until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add remaining stock and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add sage, thyme, salt, turmeric, nutmeg, and a few grinds of pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
4. Process about half the soup in a blender or with a hand-held blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the cider and yogurt. Soup should be slightly chunky. Gently heat, but do not boil. Sprinkle each bowl of hot soup with a little Cheddar, if using.
Serves 8.

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
8oz flour
6oz sugar

3oz unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½  teaspoons baking powder

1 ½  teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon mixed spice

½ pint buttermilk
/ skimmed milk
1 ½ pints of pumpkin puree
5oz dark brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature

1 large egg white at room temperature

2oz vegetable oil

2oz golden syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 150C / Gas 4 / 350F. Lightly grease a cake ring-pan (sometimes called a Bundt pan).
2. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, mixed spice and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Blend milk, pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Beat in whole egg and egg white. Stir in oil, corn syrup and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
4. Bake the cake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 1 to 1 ¼ hours. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on the rack, about 2 hours.
Makes 16 servings.

Pumpkin Fudge
Unhealthy but delicious!

      1lb 6 oz white sugar
      large can evaporated milk
      2oz golden syrup
      4oz pumpkin puree
      pinch salt
      1 teaspoon mixed spice
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      4oz butter
      3 oz chopped walnuts (optional)

      Butter or grease one 8x8 inch pan.
      In a large, heavy-based saucepan, mix together sugar, milk, syrup, pumpkin and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling. Do not stir.
      When mixture registers 232 degrees F (110 degrees C) on candy thermometer, or forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, remove pan from heat. Stir in mixed spice, vanilla, butter and nuts. Cool to lukewarm (110 degrees F or 43 degrees C on candy thermometer).
Beat mixture until it is very thick and loses some of its gloss. Quickly pour into a greased eight-inch pan. When firm cut into 36 squares.

Pumpkin Pie

175g granulated sugar
½ tsp salt 

1 tsp ground cinnamon 

½ tsp ground ginger 

¼ tsp ground cloves 

2 eggs 

300g pumpkin purée (tinned or fresh) 

350g evaporated milk 

1 unbaked 23cm/9in deep-dish pastry case
(or line a deep 23cm/9in tart tin with shortcrust pastry)


1. Preheat oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl.
3. Beat the eggs lightly in large bowl.
4. Stir the pumpkin purée and sugar-spice mixture into eggs.
5. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk.
6. Pour into the pastry case.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
8. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
9. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.
10. Serve immediately or chill.

Do not freeze (although uncooked pumpkin mixture can be frozen).

Saturday 25 October 2014

Perfect Pumpkin Celebration!

Gorgeous pumpkins from Deborah Garlick and her daughter
We are still on a high after today's fabulous Pumpkin Celebration. We had a ball, and judging by the comments, so did those who attended. We had so much fun, with over 40 carved pumpkins to see, lots of delicious pumpkin foods to taste, even pumpkin spa products! Apart from that, there was apple pressing, 20 different apples to taste, apple bobbing, pin a face on the pumpkin, crafts, a feely box and a well dressing, amongst many other things (including some fairly dreadful pumpkin-themed jokes!). Prizes went to Lynn Taylor, for the largest pumpkin, and to Arpit from NTU, for his Minion 3D pumpkin.

Pumpkins ready for carving

The morning carving workshop gets going

Sharon's masterpiece - a fire-breathing dragon.

Ash gets his teeth into pumpkin carving...

A "Kathy Holmes Special" peeled pumpkin with Autumn leaves

Pumpkins in all directions!

The volunteers were brilliant, mucking in (and out!) to ensure that the event went well. Special thanks to Andrea who brought along her friend Vanessa, and did a grand job cleaning out the polytunnel, despite being full of cold. She also supplied a splendid banner for the day and helped arrange pumpkins in the orchard in a lovely display. Joyce (mistress of all crafts), Hassan (expert pumpkin display maker), Kathy (pumpkin spa and apple tasting expert), Mark (able to carve pumpkins and child wrangle), Jeremy (pancake maker extraordinaire), Ash & Rowan (master apple pressers), Rosy (maid of all works), Dianne (mucking in 1), Derek (mucking in 2) and Brian (good ideas bod) all made a great contribution, and their efforts are also hugely appreciated. Ni Claydon also deserves a mention for providing her famous pumpkin pie filling, which was much enjoyed. Tracey also had a great time carving pumpkins and pretending this was work rather than fun.

We'd like to thank all those who contributed the carved pumpkins to this event - those from Gateway to Nature, Nottingham Trent University, Edwalton School and our own Carving Workshop, who contributed carved pumpkins. We are also delighted by the support our local Coops have provided. Strelley Coop supplied pumpkins for the carving workshop, and Aspley Coop helped us with ingredients for the food - we've thanked them both by providing carved pumpkins to display (they seemed thrilled!).

We'll be adding some extra recipes in another post shortly, so keep an eye out for those.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Growing our own popcorn, by accident!

Popcorn isn't something we ever intended to grow at Windmill Community Gardens. What actually happened is typical for many gardeners - we thought we would try to grow "mini corn" - which is harvested as immature cobs that are taken off as soon as the tassels appear. There aren't actually any corn kernels - you are just eating the unfertilised core of the seed head. They taste nice in a stir fry or thai curry.

The popcorn makes it's first appearance at Windmill

This all seemed quite a fun thing to try when we were planning out the planting for the year, so the seeds were put in and the corn appeared. Then came a burst of hot sunny weather that stayed put, so the crops really whooshed into a harvestable state. We harvested some of the mini corn and enjoyed it, but then various folk went on holiday, we got a bit behind on the picking, and the mini-corn was suddenly too big to taste good. Once past the baby stage, it gets a woody core and starts to taste a bit weird and chewy. Fortunately when we stopped harvesting, we left quite a few ears on the plants, because we discovered that a lot of mini corn is actually popcorn.

In many ways, it makes more sense to grow popcorn than mini corn. In terms of food value and crop value, mini corn is a bit of a waste of space - a tiny crop for the area the plants take up. Popcorn on the other hand is expensive to buy popped, and whilst it is cheap enough to buy popping corn, the normal varieties are apparently chosen for their popping quality rather than their taste.

Freshly husked popcorn
So - we were quite excited when we came to harvest and discovered when we peeled back the sheath of the corn that the cobs looked beautiful - full of hard, glossy yellow kernels looking more like precious stones than something to eat. Getting them off was fun but a bit sore on the thumbs - there is a definite art to flipping the kernels into a dish and not firing them across the kitchen! 

So we had the harvest, but then it becomes either an art or a science, as you need to get the kernels to the best moisture level for popping. Not being the types to go for high-tech kit, we went the other way, harvesting the kernels when we could no longer make the cobs deform at all when we tried to twist them. After that, it was a matter of slowly drying the corn and trying small batches of the kernels until they popped reliably. This was initially a bit disappointing as the hot air "duck" popper that we have didn't pop many of the kernels, but we were delighted to find out that popping in hot coconut oil on a stove, we got quite a high % of fluffy popcorn. And the best bit was that it tasted really good!

Monday 20 October 2014

Pumpkin Celebration!

Pumpkin Celebration 

25th October 3 - 6pm

Come and join us for this event celebrating the pumpkin 

and all the delicious and fun things you can do with it!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Birthday Work and Apples!

Today turned out to be Tracey's birthday which was good on 2 counts - happy education worker and... cake! Even more exciting for us was the fact that she managed to pop some of the popcorn we grew this year, and it tastes great - much better than shop bought!

Our own popcorn!
As well as the eating, there was quite a bit of gardening. We started to tidy up all of the beds to prepare for the ending of the growing season and to spruce the place up a bit for our Pumpkin Celebration. This also meant that we realised some of the radish rats were still nice - these are the pods on radishes that have gone to seed. For each radish, you get about 40 - 50 pods, so it's worth letting them seed and getting a bigger crop. Some of us prefer them to the radish.

Hassan tries a radish pod - Joyce isn't so sure

Andrea is quickly proving to be an indispensable member of the team - and got a good morning's work under her belt before we had a lunch of fried green tomatoes with mayonnaise and chopped onion, followed by "the cake". 

Andrea gets stuck in to clear up

Then we had a bit of excitement as we headed off to Lenton Library to harvest their apple tree. We'll be using these to create our apple juice at the Pumpkin Celebration on Saturday 25th, and we're delighted that the Library staff are willing to part with these lovely apples.

Lenton Library's lovely apple tree
We got a nice big crop off the tree, although there are still more if you have a really long handled picker.

Hassan with some of the harvest

Even the telescopic pickers we took weren't tall enough for the tree! Still the team did a great job, and we picked up a bag of windfalls for the neighbour's horse.

Andrea and Amir using the long-handled
apple pickers
Sibel, one of our previous volunteers joined us for the day, and found an apple so perfect that looked like it had been sculpted rather than grown. Hopefully they will all taste as good as the ones we tried on site!

Sibel found the perfect apple

Thursday 9 October 2014

Preserving - with friends

It was great to welcome our friends from Gateway to Nature again today, for a session on preserving. It also meant an outing for Tracey's fabulous "apple slinky maker". These were first made in the 1880s, (see here for details), but if you want one today, you can just nip down to Lakeland and buy one - pretty much exactly like the original design!

The famous apple slinky maker

Apple slinky!

We love making jams and chutneys at Windmill, as well as drying, fermenting and making cordials, so we like to share the knowledge when we can. Today we covered green tomato chutney, sauerkraut,  plum jam and apple butter. We also did a Mexican themed lunch, to take advantage of all the lovely beans we've just podded at the end of the season. Everyone enjoyed refried beans with fresh tomato salsa and quesadillas (i.e. flour tortillas with melted cheese in between them - to easy to post a recipe!).

Stirring up the chutney

Potting up - a jam funnel really helps

Whilst we were chopping and stirring, Hassan, Chris and Andrea got on with the job of preparing the garden for the end of the season, taking out weeds and removing the last of the Shark's Fin Melons - we've had a huge crop this year, so if anyone would like some, let us know. We were also delighted to be joined by Mac, from Kimberley and by  Brian who managed to come along for a little while to have a think about how he will improve the wood shed. 

Hassan shows why Shark's Fin Melons do so well.
Look at that root!

Shark's Fin Melons from the harvest - these are the small ones!

All the recipes we did are below. We hope you will enjoy making them as much as we did!

Green Tomato Chutney

3lb green tomatoes
1lb onions
2.5lbs apples - peel and chop into 1cm cubes or smaller
1lb demerara sugar (can add a small amount of dark brown sugar to ordinary white to get the same effect more cheaply).
1 pint vinegar (I prefer cider vinegar, but almost any vinegar will work).
½ lb sultanas or raisins (rinse in hot water to remove any taste of rancid oil).
1tsp cayenne (this can be reduced or increased to taste)
1 tsp ground ginger
(can also add coriander seed to add a lemony kick).

Chop tomatoes and onions into roughly 1cm cubes. Sprinkle with salt and leave overnight then drain and rinse in morning. (I usually leave this step out, with good results, but it will make the chutney sweeter if that is what you prefer).

Put in a large preserving pan with a heavy base. Add the chopped apples, sugar, vinegar, raisins and the spices.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours.

Cooking up the chutney - stir regularly to prevent it sticking

Pot up in jars with screw-top lids with a rubber seal, for the longest life, put a wax disk on top of the chutney before sealing it.

Plum or Damson Jam

5lbs damson or plum flesh
5lbs sugar
1/2 pint water
knob of butter

Wash and stone the fruit. Put 1/2 pint of water and fruit into a jam pan or other large heavy-based saucepan.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit breaks up and makes lots of liquid (takes about 1/2 an hour as long as you keep the pot out of the wind!). Don't worry if there are a few lumps left. If you don't have much time or hand problems, it's ok to just boil up the whole fruit, though you will need to skim off the stones. In that case, take off about ½ lb in your calculation of the weight of fruit.

Fishing for stones - actually quite a fun job if you make
it a competition!

Add the sugar and a knob of butter - this helps stop a build up of foam on top of the jam. Stir until you can't feel the sugar on the bottom any more, then taste it, because the fruit can vary a lot in acidity depending on how ripe it is. You can add up to another pound of sugar if necessary. Now bring it back to the boil and boil hard for about 10-15 minutes.

Then test for a set - put a few drops of jam onto a china plate, let it cool slightly then push it with your finger. If the surface forms wrinkles, the jam is ready. Turn off the heat and ladle the jam into sterilized jars. Keep some bread ready to wipe the last scrapings of jam off the pan and make sure to eat it!

NB - If your saucepan is smaller than a jam pan, make sure you don't overload it, or the jam may boil over. The pan shouldn't really be more than 2/3rds full once the fruit and sugar are added. Boiling jam can cause severe burns and should be handled with care.

Refried beans

 1lb / 450g fresh podded beans, 1 mug dried or 2 cans of beans
1 large onion
ground cumin to taste

Prepare the beans as necessary – for fresh, just add water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft. For dried, soak the beans overnight then boil and simmer as above. Or just open the tins and drain the beans.  Once soft, mash the beans with a potato masher.
(NB. Don’t add salt as it makes the skins tough).

Mashing the beans

Finely chop the onion and sweat in around 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add around 2 teaspoons cumin and stir in (you can add more if liked). Add the mashed beans and a little salt to taste. Stir in and heat through.

Tomato Salsa

1lb / 450g tomatoes
1 mild onion
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
Small bunch coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Juice the lemon or lime. Chop all other ingredients and mix. Add juice and salt to taste. Serve with refried beans and cheesy tortillas for a hearty lunch.

Adding lemon juice to taste