Gilbert Grape Alive?

Having remodelled a corner of my garden last summer I was keen to see how my  various plants survived their move after quite a harsh winter. We had snow on the ground for so long that when it did eventually thaw the grass was yellowing due to a lack of sunlight. Below is a shot of my grape vine in its new position having previously been established for 10 years by the fence. Before then I had uprooted him (Gilbert) after two years in he ground at our old house.

Snow Jan 2013 - 01Spring finally arrived and I would inspect the rehoused plants to check for new growth. The roses were coming along nicely however the Bamboo looked like (and still does) it needed extra care and attention. The one plant that I cared about the most however was Gilbert. He was a gift from a good friend who had been on holiday in France and returned with him as a sapling for me. I started by scraping away the surface of the outer twigs looking for any sign of green life. No joy. I went down to the base of the plant, almost at soil level, and repeated the test. Again no joy; Gilbert had died. :0(

This is what greeted me on a daily basis.

Dead as a Dodo

Dead as a Dodo

Gilber Grape - 6Spring is now fully underway and my son and I decide that we would spruce up the flower pots, plant some strawberries and buy a new grape vine (I had mounted a wall trellis for Gilbert which would have been wasted). Having potted all the petunias, lobelias and dug over the beds, in which we planted strawberries, carrots, peas, courgettes and sweet peas, my son begged to plant the new vine.

I told him to get started by digging Gilbert out. He didn’t seem too sure how to approach the task so I went over and reached down to just yank him out. Well he was dead so pulling out cleanly would be easy. As I gripped the thick stem my brain registered a feeling that did not match with a dried up spent plant. In fact it was quite the opposite.

Imagine my delight at seeing the slightest glimpse of life grasping its way out of the gnarled and cracking bark.

He lives!

He lives!

I was ecstatic! If I could have done a back flip I would have. Instead my son and I settled for a high five chest bump kind of hurrah! Gilbert has astounded me with his will to survive and continues to grow more inches.

Gilber Grape - 9I shall now go and build a security fence around him to safeguard against the probable boisterous behaviour brewing between my boys. Who knows? Perhaps one day I will be blogging about some of my Gilbert wine. Salut!


Black & Blue (Berry) Jam

Autumn, one of the most bountiful seasons in our calendar, is upon us. Driving home from university yesterday (with a head crammed with data and to do) I found myself getting increasingly excited at the prospect of crunching through the overgrowth gathering berries. I try and get at least one batch in annually and this year I am pleased to say that the Blackberry pickings have been excellent (all that rain and warmth).

Unfortunately I have been otherwise engaged (Uni & school) and have obviously missed the glut as the easy to reach brambles had been picked clean. Not to be denied I donned my Indiana Jones chaps and lassoed my whip and began going off piste. 2 hours later…. I emerge triumphant with booty a plenty. I then pillaged my newly acquired blueberry bush to add an extra dimension. Both low in pectin though.

I used:

  • 1.4 kg blackberries
  • 0.6 kg blueberries
  • 200g white grapes (good source of pectin)
  • 1 Lemon (juice & peel – also good for pectin)
  • 2 kg white sugar (yikes!)

I put all the fruit & lemon in a heavy bottomed pan.


I toyed with the idea of adding water but decided against it as the blackberries were very plump and juicy and I didn’t want to be boiling for days. I brought the fruit to a gentle boil and mashed everything with a potato masher to squeeze out all the juice. I then added the sugar which I think is perhaps a bit too much. i might be tempted to ease it back to about 1.5 kg next time as the fruit was quite ripe.


I let the sugar dissolve slowly then turned up the heat and got it boiling on medium to high for about 30 minutes stirring every 5 mins or so. I did the old plate in freezer test a blob till it wrinkles test then forgot about it and winged it (as usual). A knob of butter to settle the foam was helpful.

In the end I managed to get about 7 jars (454g ea.) out of it and a teenie tiny taster jar as well.

Next on the agenda is some apple and chilli jam. Bon apetit.