23 Jul 2013

The beans, the cherries and the plague of ants

Beans and cherries

On Sunday evening I went to pick a few broad beans, as you do. 30 degrees of daily sunshine and enough water to stop the plants keeling over has given the beans a big boost and, in one week, they've gone from smallish pods to fat beans.  In short, they needed harvesting and I picked about 2 lbs (almost a kilo) of pods - more than I need so they'll be blanched and frozen. The plants are attracting a lot of blackfly now (despite being underplanted with nasturtiums) so I won't be sorry when the last few pods have ripened and I can clear the bed for winter veg.

Cherries ripe
Plenty left to ripen (or get eaten by birds) after I'd filled my basket.
It's the same story with the Morello cherries.  There are more cherries on the tree than in previous years. Yesterday evening I noticed that quite a lot were looking very tasty.  They had turned a lovely deep shade of lipstick red and I can't believe that the birds haven't stripped the trees already.  There's been a fair amount of maintenance work being done on the flats at the moment so perhaps the increase in busy-ness has kept them away.  Whatever the reason, I've seized the opportunity to start gathering the ripest ones and came away with 2.5 lbs of cherries yesterday.  I added these to the basket and left it on top of the border wall while I went back and forth with the watering can for an hour.

Basket of cherries

I thought that was it for the day, bar washing and bagging my haul but fate had one more trick in store for me.

Back indoors again, I put the basket down and noticed an ant creep out from underneath.  I squished it. Then another appeared ... then several. I lifted the basket - there was about 70 ants scuttling underneath!  I put the basket down and slapped at the ants with my hands, lifted it and slapped at the next plague of ants, and so on. A bit pointless to keep putting the basket down so finally my brain engaged and I put the basket in the sink and filled it with water.  As the ants struggled up to the top of the basket I was able to squish 'em.  So that whiled away the hour that I should have been podding my beans.  I can't bear ants indoors (or on me) so I had to give the kitchen (and basket) a good clean when I was sure I'd got them all; there must have been over 200 ants so I can only assume that I put the basket down near an ants' nest in the garden.  I've learned my lesson - gather the harvest and come straight home with it!!

Now I have to decide what to use my cherries for: a clafouti, jam or some cherry and almond muffins.  They're Morello cherries so quite sharp.  It'll probably be jam or compote, giving a taste of summer in the middle of winter and enough over to give a taste to neighbours.


31 comments:

  1. I hate ants too, always keep finding nests of them at this time of year when I am weeding - or just padding about on the patio. Wonderful harvest though, seems to have been a good year for berries all round, even our baby blackcurrants had a nice crop, which we promptly scoffed. Must pick the rest of our broad beans too, and decide what to plant in their place. Decisions, decisions...

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    1. I'm planting cavolo nero and romanesco caulis in place of the beans - the nutrients left behind in the soil will be perfect for brassicas. On the other hand, there's still time for dwarf french beans! Decisions, indeed!! Let us know what you decide!!

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  2. Perhaps the birds only like the sweet cherries, not the Morello ones? I have been watching a frustrated Blackbird flying repeatedly into the netting which now covers my Blueberries, and thinking "Thank goodness I protected them, otherwise they would all have been stolen by now."

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    1. In the past, they've gone for the Morellos. Perhaps they've learned that the fruit isn't sweet! I'll take your advice on the blueberries though - they're only baby bushes but in future years I hope they'll be fruit to protect! Hope you've managed to get some blueberries for yourself!

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  3. Cherry & almond muffins sound wonderful, I have a Morello cherry in the garden, I am hoping it will fruit next year.

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    1. The trees here fruited quite quickly but sparsely in their first years. This year is the best crop I've had - I hope you'll have lots to look forward to in the future! I'm going to try the cherry muffins (I lost the recipe and have just found it again) - my mum used to make cherry and almond cake, it was my favourite!!

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  4. Don't laugh but one ant once strayed up my trouser leg and bit me all the way up. My whole leg first stung and them itched like mad for ages. I now don't feel guilty when I dig up a nest and send them scurrying!

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    1. Good grief! I'm not laughing but gasping in horror! Ant bites are horrendous! As a child, I unknowingly stood on an ants' nest; I didn't get bitten but had the sensation of wearing long socks and needing to pull up the short sock. Then I saw I was wearing short socks and the "long sock" was ants crawling over my leg up to the knee!!!! That memory has stayed with me for over fifty years!! If I could find an effective way of annihilating ants' nests, I'd use it.

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  5. There's lots of ants around in this weather! I picked and shelled all my broad beans yesterday then composted the plants as they were covered in blackfly.
    It's been a good year for cherries, and I've been given several lots. Flighty xx

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    1. Ooh, lucky you, Flighty! Sweet eating cherries, I hope! I've put my bean pods on the compost - the slug trails the next day over the pods are a reminder that my compost needs turning, not a job I'm looking forward to! Do you freeze your beans, I wonder? or eat them fresh? I like to keep a few for later in the year, but I cooked bacon and beans yesterday - it was so delicious that my beans might not last long this year!

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    2. I don't bother turning my compost heap. I tend to eat beans, and indeed most things, fresh rather than freeze them. Flighty xx

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  6. Those cherries look so lovely! At least you were able to kill all the ants before any got away.

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    1. Hello Phuong! Thank you and thanks for stopping by to comment! Yes, thankfully, I think I got them all - ants indoors are not welcome!!

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  7. We must pick our fruit, couldn't do it while we had so many visitors, now we can get on with it. Will bear your story in mind and come straight in with it all!

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    1. Haha, yes Pauline! I think this hot weather is somehow increasing the numbers of ants, although I don't know why! I shall have to be super vigilant in future! I'll look forward to reading about your fruit harvests! Good luck with the gathering!

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  8. Lucky you to have so many Cherries. We had six which the birds ate as soon as they were ripe. Lots of Ants about this year...supposed to be the sign of a good Summer.

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    1. Are you growing sweet cherries, Bridget? I'm beginning to wonder now why the birds are leaving my cherries alone! They eat cotoneaster and other winter berries so I'd have thought my cherries would have appealed!! Have just checked and, even after a week of rain and sun (swelling the cherries and ripening nicely), the fruit all appears to still be there!! Lucky me, indeed!!

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  9. I sympathise about the ants. We have them crawling all over our patio at the moment and I need to take action before they move indoors (it's only a matter of time...)

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    1. Ooh yes, definitely time for action!! I have them on my second floor balcony and squish when I see them but don't seem to get them indoors. Good luck in your research, I'm sure you'll come up with something effective!

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  10. I made the mistake of sitting on top of an ant's nest to do some weeding up at the allotment once. I react quite badly to their bites - ouch!

    Looks a grand haul - I love your basket :)

    Oh, and we had flying ants last week!

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    1. Oh!!! my heart goes out to you Michelle! Sitting on an ants nest is not something that can be forgotten quickly! What we have to put up with from garden bugs, eh! Yes it was a good haul and I'm going to get some more soon!! The basket was a bargain from a vintage fair on the Isle of Wight - I try and get there every year as there's usually lots of beautiful buttons and gardening tools, although it IS getting more expensive!
      We had flying ants too!! Luckily I was food shopping so wasn't too affected - I'm glad they're out of the way this week as I have a large garden to clear next week for work so will be outdoors all day!!

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  11. Oh all those cherries. You could preserve some in brandy for a treat in the winter. I've got 2 huge jars of blackcurrant gin in the larder. So many currants I didn't know what to do with them. I don't really drink myself but they'll make great Christmas pressies. I don't mind ants too much although not a great fan of the flying ones and I guess it won't be too long before it's time for them to appear.

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    1. Hi Welly! Funnily enough, I was just looking in my ancient Mrs Beeton's Household Management book as to various uses for cherries - bottling was one of the options that I was drawn to so that I could make up my mind later on, plus I have no room in my freezer! The options are so varied that I could do with a few more cherries now!!
      We had a bout of flying ants last week; I'm rather hoping that will be the end of it! It's one day of the year when I try to stay indoors!

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  12. I rather like watching ants; they are the formation dancers of the bug world. There were some forming an orderly queue across our kitchen wall earlier in the summer and I was very unpopular because all I did was watch them. Someone else must have dealt with them because they are no longer marching up the wall. That said, even one ant can bite and hurt us so I understand you wanting to be rid of them. Those cherries look magnificent! I hope your lovely basket survived all the hoo-hah with the ants.

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    1. I can understand your fascination, Gardening Shoe, as I moved a large lump of upturned turf and found ants eggs underneath. Within minutes an army had appeared to cart the precious eggs off to a darker, safer place. A military operation if ever there was one! I don't mind ants in the garden, everything has its place, but it's the sheer numbers this year - the drier weather suits them, I think! Lovely basket has been washed, dried and survived, thanks!

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  13. I had an ant problem in my kitchen when I got back from a week's holiday last month. I spent about two weeks squashing them every day when they appeared. And they do take some squashing don't they? My next-door neighbour gave me some Morello cherries. They were lovely cooked with some sugar and spooned over Greek yoghurt. Divine in fact. It made the yoghurt taste like cream. Hope you enjoy yours however you do them.

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    1. Hello CJ - thanks for commenting and welcome! My mother had the same problem so I've been doing a bit of squishing in her kitchen! My Morello cherries have been partly made into jam and partly bottled in syrup so that I can use some in the winter months when the price will rocket in the shops once more - I do love cherries!

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  14. Wow how did you get all those cherries? The woodpigeons strip my two trees before they've even formed. They look great!

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    1. Hi Damo! Thanks! I'd love to say it was all my own hard work but I honestly have no idea! They certainly looked tasty and I thought the birds would pounce but, inexplicably, every cherry stayed on the tree - and there are a couple of wood pigeons that stroll around the gardens, eyeing things up! We've had builders on site throughout the summer; their presence must have put the birds off. Nice to hear from you!

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  15. Ants have been excavating my patio all summer. So far I have refrained from treating them, but the slabs are starting to feel a bit wobbly.

    Your cherries look perfect for stewing and pouring over ice-cream.

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    1. Hello B-a-g, lovely to hear from you! As I know the location of at least one large ants' nest, I researched a bit about effective treatment. The only thing that works is to expose the nest and pour boiling water over to kill them. A bit harsh and certainly not very easy for you if you have to lift slabs! Good luck with it, whatever you decide to do! The cherries were delicious, I stewed some, bottled some and made the rest into jam. However just found a recipe for cherries soaked in liqueur and dipped in melted chocolate - how yummy is that!!

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