grow your own christmas pudding, edible gardens

Could You Grow Your Own Christmas Pudding?

Why a blog entitled “Could You Grow Your Own Christmas Pudding”?

Well, I thought, if you like growing some of your own food, why not explore the possibility? If nothing else, it may increase your awareness of the range of food that you could grow, with and without the protection of a greenhouse or polytunnel. And that’s certainly a mindset I like to encourage with my gardening lesson clients. And not just in the Edible Gardening lessons either!

What sparked this idea was the arrival of Stir-up Sunday at the end of November. This is the traditional day to make your Christmas pudding, roughly one month before Christmas. Many people, myself included, have family recipes and favourite recipes. The original source for this dish dates back to the Middle Ages and a plum pottage. (A pottage is a thick, soupy dish containing variously meat, vegetables, fruit and herbs.)

From the 16th Century, the dish began to resemble the sweeter, firmer dish we know today. But it was the Victorians who turned it into a feature of the Christmas dinner table. Did you know that the pudding had to contain 13 ingredients, to represent Jesus and the twelve disciples?

As I’m discussing how you could grow your own Christmas pudding, I’ve picked out 13 ingredients, most of which could be grown or sourced in the UK. Some would require a lot of resources and effort from you. Others are easy.

 

Could You Grow Your Own Christmas Pudding – the Ingredients

Any ingredients list is not going to please everyone or be definitive. I’ve chosen the following as giving you a flavour for some of the effort required to grow your own Christmas pudding. Many of these ingredients require larger kitchen gardens than most of us have. But it is certainly possible to grow some of them. And how satisfying to have even some home-grown ingredients in your Christmas pudding!

  • Apples
  • Beer
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Citrus peel – orange, lemon
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Salt
  • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
  • Suet
  • Sugar
  • Walnuts

 

Could You Grow Your Own Christmas Pudding – Fruit, Nuts

Apples

Growing apple trees in your garden is something many of us do. We may have inherited the tree or planted it. The apples will need to be cookers or dual purpose. The best cooking apples are more acidic when raw, which gives a better flavour when cooked.
I always stew my apples before adding as this prevents secondary fermentation. Adding apples to the Christmas pudding helps to make it moist.

Citrus peel – orange, lemon

The southern areas of the UK and those with greenhouses, glasshouse and conservatories in colder areas can all grow lemon trees and orange trees. In most situations they will need protection overwinter.

On a positive note, it’s easy to make candied peel for your Christmas pudding from your own oranges and lemons.

 

Figs

The Christmas carol ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ has 2 verses devoted to figgy pudding. If you haven’t tried them, figs are a rich tasty addition to your Christmas pudding. We sometimes have figgy pudding rather than a Christmas pudding with many different fruits.

The fig tree is hardy in most of the UK, although some varieties need frost protection. Fig trees produce and ripen their fruit differently to apples and plums, effectively taking 2 years to do so. The small embryonic figs that successfully overwinter, need a warm summer to mature and ripen. If you’re growing your fig tree in a greenhouse that shouldn’t be an issue. for those grown outside, choose a sunny spot.
Figs are easy to dry in an airing cupboard or similar warm space.

fig tree, RHS kitchen garden 2017

Plums

In Medieval times, ‘plums’ referred to any dried fruit, so a ‘plum pudding’ eaten at Christmas would contain other fruits. Nevertheless, a plum tree or two is something most people could fit into their garden. Like apples trees, plum trees are available as trained forms, cordons and fans which can be grown against a fence and so take up little room if space is tight.

 

Raisins

Raisins are dried Moscatel grapes. Thompson seedless is the variety generally used, particularly in the USA. If you have a greenhouse, then growing a grape vine is possible in most parts of Britain. You’ll harvest sweet juicy grapes for eating. The main issue with growing grapes to turn into tasty raisins is going to be the sun-drying part of the process!

 

Spices – allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

These would all require heat and protection over winter. As some of them are tall trees, it probably isn’t practical to grow your own.

Allspice, Pimenta dioica, is a dried berry. Cloves, Eugenia caryophyllus, are dried flower buds. Both are from the West Indies.

Cinnamon is the bark of trees from the Cinnamomum genus, which are native to the Indian sub-continent

Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, is a nut from Indonesia.

christmas pudding spices, edible gardens

Walnuts

Juglans regia, the common walnut has probably been around since Roman times. All the Walnut trees grow very large, reaching 75 – 150 foot when mature, depending on variety. This makes them too large for most gardens but worthwhile growing if you have the space a they’re reliable croppers. There may be an issue growing certain other plants nearby as the Walnut gives out juglone, which suppresses their growth.

 

 

Could You Grow Your Own Christmas Pudding – Other Ingredients

Beer

You’ll need to grow your own hops and barley and brew the beer. If you are growing wheat, then you could substitute that for the barley. Although it requires effort, it can be fun to at least have a go at growing hops and barley and brewing your own beer.
Hops are climbers and the system of poles and supports can be made over the winter months. They could be grown as a tunnel to provide shade so could be integrated into a larger kitchen garden this way. Remember, they need room to dry out once harvested.
Like hops, barley is ornamental to look at when growing. It likes plenty of sun, and a neutral soil. You could get plenty from a 10-foot square bed to make some homebrew. Malting small amounts is achievable at home.

 

Breadcrumbs

By which I’m referring to a stale loaf crumbled up, not a packet of breadcrumb to coat rissoles. Your bread is most likely made from wheat flour. Wheat is the most important cereal grain crop worldwide. You’ll need a reasonable amount of space to make it worthwhile growing, so unless you do have a couple of acres for wheat, you’re not going to be self-sufficient in flour. But you could grow enough for special occasion baking. Wheat grows best in a free draining, fertile soil; rainfall is more critical in the early growth stages. Then there’s all the fun of harvest time, threshing and more. On a practical note, you’ve got the stalks to make use of elsewhere, for example, animal bedding.

corn field, poppies, Photo by Guillaume Flandre on Unsplash

Photo by Guillaume Flandre

Eggs

Of course, you don’t grow the eggs, but your chickens can produce them for you!

vegetable beds, walled kitchen garden, scotney castle, marie shallcross, kent, national trust garden

Sugar

There is a choice here between cane sugar and sugar beet. Sugar beet grows in the UK so is the obvious choice. A rough guide to processing it (which I haven’t tried myself) involves the beets being peeled, washed and boiled; then squeezed through a press like a cider press. Dried out in a flat dish. If, like with the wheat you only wanted to grow enough for special occasions, sugar beet doesn’t take up too much land. For example, a ¼ acre would feed a family for a year. Warning – this does not taste like bought sugar which goes through more processing!

 

Salt

You don’t exactly grow your own salt. It’s either taken from the sea or quarried.

 

Suet

The word ‘suet’ comes from an old French word “su” which meant hard animal fat or tallow. This is the traditional suet. Animal fat suet has to be rendered, ie prepared. Vegetable suet is made from vegetable or palm oil and wheat or rice flour.

 

Christmas Tree Decoration - berry ball

For a history of the Christmas pudding, read English Heritage’s well researched blog on the topic. As for exploring whether you could grow your own Christmas pudding, why not get in touch? Plews offers Gardening Lessons where your garden is your classroom, Garden Design and Garden Consultancy. And there are Gardening Gift Vouchers you can use for all our services – now there’s something to add to your Christmas list!

And for those of you who like Christmas – why not download our eBook “Christmas and Yule in Your Garden“? Based on the seasonal blogs it has additional content and photos.

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