Saturday, 14 March 2009

Happiness = Cook + Gardener

The cook has returned to Australia (her Mum in Germany is on the road to recovery) to inspect the gardener’s work, and so summer crops are being harvesting while winter plantings continue. Here’s a few things that the garden has rewarded us with: -


Eggplants get so heavy on the bush that the plants need to be supported by strips of old cotton sheets back to a horizontal bamboo frame supported on star droppers. These eggplants will be pickled or roasted for dips, casseroles and antipasto.


Beans filled several boxes, and some of these have been pickled in jars of salty water for eating during winter. This is only the ‘bush bean’ crop, consisting of ‘Gourmet’s Delight’, ‘Redland Pioneer’, ‘Windsor Long-Pod’ (did poorly in the heat) and ‘Strike’.

‘Lazy Wife’ climbing beans crop for longer and are eaten fresh; they are yet to be harvested.

‘Beet Kvass’ is made by ‘lacto-fermenting’ cut-up ‘Bulls-Blood’ beetroot in bottles of salt, whey and water. This makes a healthy pre-meal drink the colour of raspberry cordial. Beetroot leaves are fed to the chooks or used in salads while young.


Not all beans are harvested by the cook; the gardener marks off some plants for drying and seed collection; these are ‘Low’s Champion Bush Bean’ seeds.


‘Purple Congo Potatoes’ can be boiled then fried to make colourful ‘chips’ (Australian for ‘fries’). Once you’ve got these in the garden, they grow like weeds from tubers missed during previous harvests. These ones are the progeny of a small handful of tubers received at a Seed Savers meeting over a decade ago.


Carrots are easy to grow once established, but are tricky to start. I use the ‘Peter Bennet’ method, where the fine tilth of the seed bed is covered with ‘underfelt’ for the first week until the seeds germinate; one can then just water the top surface of the underfelt with a watering can without washing the seeds away. The small carrot seeds don’t dry out this way.

This is a shorter carrot variety called ‘Nantes’ suitable for our heavy clay soils. Poorly dug soil or too much nitrogen cause ‘forking’. We use the carrot tops with broccoli and chicken stock in a delicious soup.


‘Tommy Toe’ cherry tomatoes have been awarded the ‘tastiest’ tomato prize in a Digger’s Club taste-a-thon, and we’ve found them easy to grow in our Adelaide climate. Cherry tomatoes (both red and yellow) seem less prone to disease and heat stress than larger varieties. They look good in salads (cut in half) and on omelettes.


‘Green Cos’ lettuce (left and right) bolts to seed too quickly in summer conditions; I’ll switch this variety back to autumn and winter lettuce crops where it is reasonably frost-hardy. ‘Royal Oak-Leaf’ lettuce (centre) is a better summer lettuce, and is more delicate in flavour and texture. ‘Red Cos’ lettuces (below) fall midway between the two, but are the most splendid of the lettuce family to look at.


So here’s a ‘Red Cos’ lettuce (bottom right) for the humans in front of ‘Rainbow Chard’ (top centre) used mainly for chook food.


‘Purple-Top Turnips’ did surprisingly well over summer. Now we’re going to have to search the recipe book to figure out how to eat them!


Bill Hankin gave us the white squashes from his kitchen garden; he can’t remember what they’re called, but does recall buying the seed from The Digger’s Club. Anyone know?


‘Lebanese cucumbers’ are a popular Australian home-garden favourite; they go well in salads. These ones are grown on a galvanised-steel mesh held up on star-droppers. They are rather poor at hooking onto the mesh, so more cotton strips are used to support them. The yellow flowers are pretty and attract bees.


And finally, here again are those bees who’ve been doing such a great job of pollinating the veggie garden, photographed on the flowers of the ‘common mint’. We use the young leaves of the mint in cooking, but a sprig in black tea also makes a refreshing ‘Moroccan Tea’. Letting the mint run to seed benefits the bees, but mint generally spreads by root extension and budding rather than by seed fall.


chaiselongue said...

What a wonderful harvest for the cook to return to! I'm especially envious of the aubergines - something I really miss in winter because I love them so much. Occasionally, like today, I buy one grown under glass in southern Spain, but it's not the same.

Maggie said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your garden with us.It has encouraged me to start getting excited about my garden again as it has felt more like a chore and less like a pleasure lately!
The rain has now come and I can't wait to play in it once more,
great post Andrew,
thank you,

Anonymous said...

Those squash look like what we call "pattypan" squash. You can slice them thinly and cook with some sauteed onion. They tend to be a bit bitter. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Very inspirational.
can you tell me the best way to treat powdery mildew on Cucumbers and Rockmellon in Adelaide. I know Prevention is better than cure but a spate of humidity is taking it's toll. thank you Tony