Saturday, 28 July 2012

What's been growing in July.

To date, July has been the hardest month of my challenge of 'eating one home grown thing'. Apart from herbs, the garden has been yielding very little. Last weekend I was very excited to pull up a decent sized carrot! Its my first attempt at carrots in this garden (I have a little sandy corner that I thought might be good for root crops). I have grown a mix of purple and normal and picked them out over the past few months - the poor little purple one is more representative of some of the others I have been harvesting! There are also a few of my 'new' potatoes from the lane. I had a dig in the planter and it is jam packed with spuds, tempting but I think I will leave them just a tad longer.

Japanese radish (daikon) are now an annual fixture in my garden. This plant self seeded and is ready to come out any day. I have another whole row I sowed back in April that will be ready to harvest over the next few months, so my current homework task is to research Japanese pickle making. I am going to need to dust of my Japanese character dictionary and try decipher the pile of Japanese cook books a friend has kindly loaned to help me in my quest.

My asparagus also gave me a surprise 'flush' a few weeks back. To date I have had no luck with asparagus. I think I must have spent around $30 on crowns over the years but I only ever seem to get 2 or 3 spears come up- barely enough to sustain the plant through to the next growing season. I have left these spears in the hope they will serve as good base for the plant that will sprout some more in the spring and give me even just a little taste of home grown asparagus.

Finally I am cautiously optimistic of a healthy crop of snow peas this year. Snowpeas can be hit and miss. On the hit side - peas are cheap and easy to sow (there's always at least one or two pods that get to big- simply dry them and sow the peas the next year). Also on the plus side, buying snowpeas  is expensive for a much poorer quality than you get at home. As far as the misses go, too much damp and they succumb to fungal disease and wilt away. Growing from a single stem means all it takes is a snail or slug chewing through the wrong place or wandering chooks having a scratch, yielding similar effects and all your hard work and anticipation comes to nought.  But this year it seems like it could be a hit.I have eight healthy plants split between the garden and pots with the very first buds showing on my potted plants. This is strange as these plants get less sun than plants growing on the back fence, yet have grown to the same height and flowered first.  Here's waiting for warmer days and  the first hint of spring!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Winter weekend pursuits

As usual I am running behind posting about all the things I am wanting to post about. Partially because I have been busy actually doing all the things I am wanting to post about.  For starters I spent a lazy afternoon in my friend Ruth's kitchen making 'Nam Prik' (Thai chilli paste) from this lovely crop......(from Ruth's first haul in her new garden)

The recipe was largely adapted from a cook book published by the "Blue Lagoon Resort" cooking school- (as thats somewhere in Thailand it created somewhat of an exotic fantasy image on such a torrentially rainy, freezing day in Melbourne). The recipe was kind of followed but adapted to involve most of the chillies in this colander, whatever left over bits of garlic were left in the cupboard (would estimate about a dozen cloves of varying quality), and an equal measure of brown shallots. The garlic and the shallots were peeled and dry roasted in a pan along with the chillies and 1/3 cup dried shrimp. These items were then all chopped up with the bamix chopper attachment and fried up again in the fry pan with some veggie oil. To this we added a few tablespoons of palm sugar and tamarind paste plus 1/4 cup of fish sauce. To this we added more veggie oil to preserve in sterilised jars.  The end result being three potent jars of Thai chilli paste to make a great starter for Thai curries and Pad Thai

In addition to add to Thai cookery Ruth and I also spent another Sunday making Camembert at a CERES cheese making course but I am not sure if that really qualifies for discussion as part of the home grown challenge- not until I manage to find a way to keep my own cow of course!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Citrus Season

Currently there's not much happening in the garden. The weeding and winter plantings are done, the weather is cold and miserable and the girls are on strike. So to keep busy I have been turning to indoor pursuits. The other weekend I got around to preserving a bag of lemons. I put in an order for them when G went off to visit a friend who works in the mines and who's lemons would otherwise fall from the tree and rot.

It reminded me that this year I am very much missing the delicious grapefruits that had always been supplied by old friends from uni. It was always worth the hike across town just to collect a bag of them (and to catch up with them of course!) The tree itself was quite a phenomenon of nature versus nurture (I wouldn't consider K&P as avid gardeners). Without fail each year the tree would be heaving with golden grapefruits- unblemished and perfect. One year there was one the size of a soccer ball.

A few years ago I went through a phase of loving the little San Pellegrino fruit flavoured mineral waters- but somehow it didn't seem sustainable to be shipping little glass bottles all the way across the globe so grapefruits in hand G& I experimented with our own Italian style fruit sodas.

First we tried version 1: (half a grapefruit juiced add equal part of lemonade) but after the empty plastic bottles piled up in the recycle bin we invested in a good old fashioned Soda Stream. Enter Version 2 (half a grapefruit mixed with an equal part of soda water and a dash of sugar syrup to balance the sweetening) Note blood oranges are also great.

(*For the sugar syrup mix 1/2cup sugar with 2/3cups water in a saucepan, heat and dissolve)

Our friends moved late last year and we have been resorting to buying grapefruits for now. But thanks to some handy raspberry cane thinning that provided a welcome housewarming present for a colleague, apparently I can look forward to a new source of home grown grapefruits soon!