Kitchen Garden Guides

Friday, December 31, 2010

There's beetroot and then there's yellow eckendorf!

Last autumn I sowed 5 different types of beetroot. (This time I will sow them much earlier because they did very little until spring.... but that's another interesting story.) There was an outstanding winner in the taste and resistance to bolting test and that was Yellow Eckendorf. At first glance it looked quite pretty too, having skin and leaf stems of a bright yellow and large, brilliant green leaves. The roots were also large but once cut I saw they were an insipid cream colour and did not hold much hope for a taste sensation.



However, I was so surprised at the first mouthful, after cooking them Jamie Oliver style. This was better than any other beetroot I'd ever had! The cooked colour is worse even than the fresh but every day that they sit in the fridge the flavour gets better and better. I do not want to eat the last piece and have to wait so long for more!


These photos are not mine; I copied them from Google Images. Sadly one of the websites where I found them was suggesting this to be animal fodder! Yes, and I know which animal is going to get my next crop!

I am going to go right now and find that packet of seeds and put it on my kitchen table to remind me to sow them soon, here in Tasmania. Anywhere hotter and I would suggest you wait until March.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The meaning of giving

Some would say that making a new life in a small, rural town, way down at the bottom of the world, far, far away from "everything",  is running away, becoming self-focused and almost a hermit. I might have even been one of those know-alls once upon a time. Small communities can be suffocating, insular, backward and treat newcomers like aliens. I understand there are such undercurrents in Tasmania and even here in Cygnet.

However my experience over the last 9 months is one I never would have expected nor dared hope for. As I sit here in my lounge, all around me are momentos of the people who have shared so generously with me and invited me into their lives. Next to my laptop is one of a whole stack of French cookbooks and vegetable gardening books, lent to me to read over the holidays by Jan of Woodbridge. Behind me are 2 big, comfortable lounge chairs given to me by Liz shortly after I arrived in Cygnet, hand-me-ons from a dear old friend of hers. Next to them is my Christmas tree, cut from Liz's block, then brought back here and decorated with tinsel passed on to me by her Bob. In the kitchen is a hand made coffee tamper and a dibber made by Rod for me as a trial before he started making them to sell. imageOn the floor beside me Pickle is playing with a ball on a rope, given to him for Christmas by my new American gardening friends Ally and Steve who are house-sitting my friend Helen's house in Hobart. Beside the front door is a boule set lent to me for our after Christmas lunch lawn game.....on the lawn that Laura kindly came and mowed for me on Christmas morning.... and so it goes on. I cannot mention them all !

In the garden, just visible from where I am sitting, bloom the dark red, heaven-scented sweet peas which have grown from seeds given to me by Frances. Happily dotted throughout my whole acre are plants people have grown from cuttings or seeds and shared with me. I love that image of a person handing over something living, given with such care, each and every one of them with a little story to tell of how or why they are giving it to the other. In the Christmas bonbons that I made I placed some sunflower seeds which I had saved from the flowers in my garden, soon after I moved into my house. I added a little note, asking the recipient of the bonbon to take one of the seeds and plant it in my garden for me, then to be sure to return often and watch it grow with me. I hope they germinate!

Pride of place is taken by this wonderful sign which all of you who visit will see welcoming you to my Garden Shed business. Erica is a wife, mother and nurse and yet found the time to design and make this for me for Christmas..... look closely and you will even see Pickle standing in the doorway of the shed!

Thanks to the internet and blogs, on my bedside table is a delightful book Pattie  (USA) sent me and close by is a little book of poems written by Teleri (France). I have a dvd about gardening in the tropics, from Wilson (Singapore) and I now make seed packets based on the template shared with me by Laura (France).... the list is awesome.

I do not feel at all that I have escaped from anything, but I do feel I have arrived somewhere I belong, where giving includes time, thought and sharing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cygnet Christmas Parade

It was such fun, such a happy occasion and such a lovely evening with no rain (evidently rain is usually a feature of the parade!). Cygnet has a population of 800 and I reckon that everyone of them was out lining the streets.


Me, visiting neighbours on the way to Liz's to decorate the wheelbarrows.

Alicia, Emily, Alex and Charlie getting into the swing of it at Liz's.

image image
image image
There was every kind of vehicle from little kids on little motor bikes to scout floats, a vintage car, utes and trucks, fire engines and this cute little racing car....

Oh... why were we in it? We were representing the community garden and next year we'll have a banner and seeds to throw to people......

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make your own Christmas Bonbons

From the BBC News

From my kitchen.....











Inside is a joke, a little native Australian animal and a tiny packet of sunflower seeds. On the packet of seeds I stuck a label I printed saying.... Here are some seeds collected by me from my garden last autumn. Please go outside and sow one now. Then come back and visit me often and watch it grow. Tomorrow morning I will pick some flowers and put one with each bonbon, instead of a paper hat.

Joyeux Noel.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to plant a garden in the snow..... and know when your garlic is ready to harvest

By Roger Doiron and family.


Thanks Roger, I love them!

And, if any readers were wondering, son Alex did get home. His plane left Heathrow on time, with him on it. Just plain lucky and oh so grateful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

White Christmas for gardeners?

This photo was taken in NZ in June, and I think I have put it on here before, but I can just dream about having a white Christmas.... I found the photo on Ooooby (Out of our own back yards). All the snow in the UK and Europe ..... and son Alex trying to catch a plane from Heathrow today, to get back to an Australian Christmas on the beach!

Sue of a previous garden-shed-envy blog piece sent me this very funny, clever and entertaining Christmas Story snippet:

.... and hot off the email press is this recipe from my nearly-ancient friend, Sally


• * 2 cups flour
• * 1 stick of butter
• * 1 cup of water
• * 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of brown sugar
• * lemon juice
• * 4 large eggs
* nuts
* 2 bottles of sherry
* 2 cups dried fruit

Sample the sherry to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the
sherry again, and to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level
cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of
butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
At this point it is best to check the sherry again. Try another cup just
in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl
and chuck in dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit off the floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried
druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the sherry again to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of
salt, or something. Sheck the cherry.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add
a spoon of sugar, or some fink whatever you can find. Greash the
oven. Turn on the cake tin 360 o and try not to fall over. Don’t forget
to beat off the turner. Finally throw the bowl through the window
and wipe the counter with the cat. Finish the sherry and take a taxi to
Woollies to buy cake. Bingle Jells!!

As they say at Wilson's.....

Eat, think and be merry!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vasili and Gavin..... Maresi!

If you missed Gavin on the TV show Vasili's Garden, back in November, you are in for a treat! Grab a cuppa, get everyone round the screen and sit back for a really fun and informative 3/4 hour or so.

I started reading Gavin's blog when it was brand new, back in about 2007. It has not all been smooth sailing for Gavin and his family, as they have had various health problems etc but nothing has stopped Gavin pursuing his desire to turn from a regular, petrol-guzzling consumer, to a model of green living, after watching "An Inconvenient Truth".

Now I am proud to call him a friend after a visit I made to his house on my Voyage of the Vegetable Vagabond, in 2008, and all the comments we have thrown at each other's blogs since.

Maresi, Gavin.... oh, and maresi Vasili too!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let's do the time warp again.....

Did you see Gavin on TV last night? If not, then the footage is here , oops, no I mean here at Greening of Gavin.

I missed it.... sort of. Well I had written myself a reminder and put it next to my laptop but it got covered with my diary during the day.... and I forgot about dear Gavin completely. That evening I was, instead, chatting merrily away on skype with Maggie.

Next thing..... Maggie's phone is ringing and its a mutual friend reminding Maggie about Gavin being on..... because Maggie is in SA and that is 1/2 behind my time zone!

Maggie turned on the tv, eventually found channel 10 that neither she nor I ever watch, turned her computer screen around, with me on it, and together she and I watched Gavin! He did a great job on a very poor show which I promise I will never watch again.

What fun it was though and Gavin did us all proud, wherever he was and you are and so on.....


Just time for a quick snooze on the seat, in the sun..... while Kate goes to get a coffee. As if I'd run away.......

No-one said I wasn't allowed in the wood box!

Another day, another sunny place for  a dog nap. Ahhhh.... bliss!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fresh herbs....a basic human need


image The formal herb garden in the Hobart Botanic Gardens is delightful this time of year. We had our Home Gardeners Group picnic there last week.
image Then we moved on to Pete's vegie patch which is also home to a huge variety of fruit trees, vines and bushes. This is Sue....
image ....whose hand is spread across this enormous artichoke!

Coming here is like going to heaven and the gardens are so convenient to get to and its easy to park.
image(We all had shed envy when we went to Sue's recently. Her little extension is much nicer than a plastic poly tunnel.) image
image The curved, bamboo
teepees are much stronger than mine and have survived the winter pea harvest and look set for summer beans. You can see the food theme has leaked out from Pete's Patch into much more of the Botanic Gardens now..... hooray!

I never cease to be amazed at.... well.... stuff! This time though, its herbs, or the total lack of them, in people's lives. In place of the wonderful flavours herbs give a meal, people's cupboards and fridge (and sometimes fridges, plural!) are full of tins, packets and jars of flavoured sauces, mixed, dried seasonings and ready to go "Italian" meals..... as if any Italian in their right mind would eat that rubbish!

My herb garden is developing well but still I do not have enough of certain herbs to feed even just me. And yet, when I arrived, not a single herb was there in this acre. For 100 years families, gardeners and chefs have moved through this house so how could it be that not one of them has left me even a rosemary bush??

Until we find the solution to this problem, I fear there will never be a commitment to living a green life. This sounds very simplistic (and not a little bit crazy) but herbs are so basic to the enjoyment of food, give such joy to rub between your fingers and sniff as well as doing us so much good. If people are so removed from their food that they do not even expect to pick parsley for their soup, chives for their scrambled eggs or basil for their tomatoes on toast, then how can we ever get them to want to grow anything edible?

When I first came here back in March and had no herbs in my garden, I tried buying some from the local supermarket. Oh dear.... I closed my eyes and tried to conjure up the flavour I was expecting.... it was a disaster. Herbs grown hydroponically have practically no flavour and are a shocking colour. I felt sick from thinking of all the chemicals in and on them and gave them to the chooks who also refused to eat them. (Just like Pickle refusing to eat sausage mince when he was a little puppy. The chooks refused that too!). Luckily soon I found Terry, the man with a vegetable garden with a trillion dollar view, who only opens for 1/2 hour once a week!

Half my herb garden is planted up now and today I am going to weed the other half again (for the 100th time) ready for the basil seedlings I have grown and the oregano I want to shift out of the hothouse, etc, etc, etc! THEN I will take some photos..... I promise!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just when I thought all hope was lost...

Just when the world seemed doomed to destruction....

Along came these three beautiful examples of creative thinking and restored my faith in humanity.....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If you go down to the pond today....

you're in for a nice surprise.

image Some time ago I bought some more of the spent mushroom bags.... I waited and waited and no mushrooms grew. So, I carried them down to the other side of the pond and stuck my fork through the bottom of the plastic bag a few times. Then I dug a little hole in the mixture, put in a handful of garden soil and 2 pumpkin seeds. It was still cold back then so I pegged shut the top of the bag which made it like a little hothouse.

I put them down by the pond so that the roots will find the water later, and they might also help to smother a bit of the grass so I don't have to mow it. It meant also that at the time, I could sow the seeds without preparing the soil and without risking them being overgrown by grass before they got going.

After a while there was suddenly a hot couple of days and I forgot to unpeg the bag... and then I did unpeg it and it turned cold.... then it dried out.... oh what rough life for those pumpkin seeds and its no wonder they refused to appear for ages! One of them was then eaten off by a snail that left its slimy trail.

We have had a week or so of on and off humid, warm, damp weather.... nothing like the floods in NSW and Qld or the storms in SA, just quite pleasant really. In that week all 3 of the pumpkin experiments have taken off but not only the pumpkins.....


Mushrooms.... in summer! I could barely see the pumpkin seedling as the whole bag was brim full of mushrooms. They weighed more than a kilogram and were more than I could carry! Last time I looked there was only the slimy snail trail and the remains of a seedling and definitely no mushrooms!

So, guess what I am having for dinner, with my compulsory serve of broad beans!


Last night I had such a simple, delicious meal of broad beans and here is what I did....not exactly a recipe, more just an idea for you to adjust how you please and it began like this....Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting shelling broad beans and blanching them whilst listening to the ABC 891 Adelaide radio and hearing about the amazing rain and thunder storms which my mother had told me about earlier in the day. It got later and later and I wanted to finish the job..... soon I was hungry, it was 10 to 7 and there was no dinner in sight.... 

Crushed Broad Beans on Toast

.... so I grabbed a handful of hot, blanched broad beans and put them in a bowl. I crushed them coarsely (I had not cooked them much... just blanched) and added a slug of olive oil, some pepper.... all the while thinking about what to do next. I had a lovely, mini foccacia in the freezer made by Cam who sells them at the market here, so I thawed it out and toasted it under the griller. Into the bowl of broad beans I added some semi-dried tomatoes, some seeded olives and some mint leaves. I crushed it all a bit more. I wanted to watch the news at 7 so I did not add anything else, just piled it all on top of the foccacia and took it in the lounge on my tray.

It was so amazingly delicious.... I even told Pickle about it and he cocked his head on one side, as Jack Russells do, and looked at my plate; he'd eaten quite sufficient amounts of broad beans in the garden and then again while I'd been shelling them and dropping the occasional one on the floor in the kitchen. He had no desire for any more!

Bon appetit.