December

Make a second batch of gin

If like me you have some leftover gooseberries in the freezer, now is the perfect time to make that second batch of gin. It should be ready just in time for the May bank holidays. There are many recipes online. The one I follow is very simple:

450g frozen gooseberries

200g sugar

1l gin

Method: Get a large jar, put the frozen gooseberries in with the sugar. Shake the jar and leave for 24h, shaking it every now and then. Then get a potato masher (or a wooden spoon) and squash the gooseberries a little bit. Pour the gin in the jar. Shake the jar every day in the first few days and then every week or so. Your gooseberry gin will be ready in about 6 months.

Start off your sweet potatoes slips

Did you know that sweet potatoes are not from the family as regular potatoes? To grow sweet potatoes, you need to plant a “slip”. You can buy slips from online shops but they sell at 5 slips for 10 pounds! If you are looking to save a bit of money, here is how to grow them at home.

To grow a slip, get a sweet potato that is starting to chit – I often find these at the back of my veg cupboard. If you do not have accidentally forgotten sweet potatoes, put a few in the back of your cupboard and leave them there for a few weeks checking on them every now and then.

Once the sweet potatoes start to chit, you have a winner! (Sadly not all shop bought sweet potatoes will chit as sometimes they spray them with “anti-chit”.) Pop the sweet potato in a jar of water so that it is halfway submerged (you can use 4 toothpicks to suspend the potato in the jar). Put it in a light window sill and wait a couple of months.

The chits should develop into “seedlings”. Once the seedlings are about 4-5 inches long, cut them off with a bit of potato and pop them in a glass of water. In a couple more weeks, the seedlings will develop a good root system and you can pop them in the soil!

Remember – sweet potatoes like to be very warm, so don’t put them out until all frosts are gone and consider growing them in a greenhouse/polytunnel.

Sow chillis

Chillis need a long growing season so starting them off now gives them a good start. Make sure to put them in a very bright window sill or use grow lights. I am only doing a couple of seeds of each variety now as I don’t have much space and will do some more in March.