Kitchen Garden Guides

Monday, February 28, 2011

Snippets from the slow lane

I think someone has increased the speed in the slow lane; one minute its 6am and I am having coffee in bed, with all the long day stretching ahead, next thing its 7pm and the feeling of slow did not resemble anything in my day! Don't let anyone fool you with connotations like Sleepy Cygnet or Every Day is a Holiday in the Huon. There is more I would like to participate in around here than I could fit into 3 life times.

If there is one thing I would like to spend more time doing, than anything else, it is helping with the Cygnet Community Garden. It needs direction and bringing the threads together. This is something I would dearly love to get my teeth into, so to speak.

image Last week there seemed to be children everywhere in the garden and it was so delightful. They picked beans, had snail races, played with Pickle and even did a bit of gardening! School has gone back now so, sadly, most of them won't be there for a while.






Memories of my Adelaide garden in late summer.... compared to the miserable crop of 4 tiny eggplants, dozens of green tomatoes, 2 dead cucumber plants and no capsicums that I have this year! It has been the coldest, wettest summer anyone can remember, here!




The Hobart Wooden Boats Festival was wonderful..... workmanship of the highest standard graced the shores of Hobart for 4 days.... the old, the restored, the replica and the modern in every size, colour and shape of floating, wooden craft.... beautiful Tasmanian and other timbers.... and so much to do and talks to hear. Everyone was running their hands over some of the most exquisite boats I have ever seen. Just looking was not enough, you just had to feel them.... I so, so, so wanted to buy "Squirrel" - a rowing/sailing boat to take your breath away. This is it, in these 2 photos....










image Here, you can see my luffa growing very happily in my little hothouse but I have no male flowers! This Hillbilly tomato is ripening but the rest are stubbornly green... and snow is forecast for Tuesday and Thursday! Oh lalalala!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Educated Unrest

Its a very descriptive word, unrest, but for some reason it conjures up fighting, at least in my mind. So often we hear of unrest in the Middle East and how one group of people is fighting against another, often over something I do not understand, that happened sometimes hundreds of years ago. It is all a bit of a blur to me, which country hates which this week and the USA stepping in to say let's try to sort this out but of course no-one ever can.

This current unrest though is entirely different and is something I can understand. This could be the start of a whole different Middle East and maybe even beyond. Never before have I seen families gathered together in such huge numbers as we have seen in Egypt, mostly peacefully demanding change. And never before have I been so moved by their plight, every night glued to the TV news to hear from their own mouths that all they want is a chance for a normal life, like most of us who read gardening blogs take for granted.

For once, this is not based on religion or power. It is not an uneducated, extremist group taking to the streets with ridiculous demands. What is extraordinary and ground breaking is that intelligent, educated people have used the internet to communicate to one another, gathering ordinary families and people of all walks of life together to demand a chance for a better life.

Mobile phone footage uploaded onto the internet has sent out into the rest of the world true life scenes from every corner of the Middle East. Thus there is no denying, by any government, that people are following Egypt's lead to oust dictators and bring some chance of peace where for so long there has been unrest and isolation. It is horrifying to see the extreme violence against such a movement. No-one knows what will happen in the weeks, months and years ahead but I wish them luck; I truly hope this is the beginning of a change in the image I carry of the Middle East.

Even more than all this, I can see the freedom of information and the sharing of lives that we bloggers have come to enjoy so, so much, as a stepping stone to a united humanity. The earth is a tiny dot in a space so big our brains cannot comprehend it. Surely it is time that the human population, educated and informed as so many of us are now, can see the futility of fighting against one another. I do truly believe that blogs, making millions and millions of connections between ordinary people living in every corner of the world, has helped bring hope and understanding where once there was a closed door. Facebook has suddenly become more than just a social networking site just for fun, it has become a site for social justice.

Ignore the power of communication at your own peril.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


On Sunday, Feb 6th, 15 of us launched a new seedsavers group. It was inspiring and so satisfying to watch each person arrive with something to share with the others.... seeds, produce, plants, afternoon tea goodies etc. Most of us had never met before, but everyone introduced themselves and we had a jolly time on my lawn, in the lovely warm sunshine.

This group had a completely different feel to the Home Gardeners Group, who had been invited as our first get together for 2011, but sadly only a couple of the 42 on my email list came.

image I made some sourdough bread, put some seeds into little packets and brought out some plants. I was a bit nervous that no-one would come or that no-one would bring anything to share but I need not have worried. It was fabulous.

Thanks goes to everyone who came and especially to Erika, who appeared from my kitchen carrying teapot, cups and milk just when I was thinking I really should start making tea and coffee.

If any readers would like to join, please leave a comment or send me an email. Its free and get togethers will be held monthly, in conjunction with the Home Gardeners Group for now. I plan on sending a weekly email to members. The emphasis of the group is on seed saving but it seems to me that everything comes down to saving seeds.... so the possibilities are endless.

Three cheers for SeedSaveUs!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Scuplit, scupitin or grisolon

image I have written about this Italian plant once before on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog and, although I have now grown it in my garden in Tasmania, I am not much further advanced in using it or understanding it. I sowed it last autumn and over winter it did not amount to much at all. In fact I thought I had lost it as there was supposed to be a whole row of them. Eventually I discovered I had one tiny plant growing.

From time to time I picked a couple of leaves to add to a salad and then it went to seed in late spring (that part is tied up in the blue string). I thought it was an annual.... but then it started to grow again and now is quite a nice, fine-leafed "bush" and seems to be flowering once more! One or both of us is very confused.

image Information about it is quite sketchy, some sites saying it is an annual and some a perennial. Info I have read online says that it is only grown in Italy but I have surprise for them..... Liz has it in her garden here in Cygnet but did not know it was edible and calls it something different..... which I now cannot remember. You can see its little bonnet flowers in this photo and you can see that it has some dry seed heads at the same time as new flowers.

I chopped up a good handful of stems and leaves tonight and put it in my soup. It is very mild and the stems are crisp and not at all stringy. I have now saved some seed from tiny little spherical "pills" inside the brown seed heads. It is ever so dainty and would make a lovely informal edge to a garden bed.

Thanks to Emma's comment, here is some further information which may be the reason I did not find many seeds, and may mean my seeds are not viable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A meadow in a vase

I asked what I could bring... she hesitated then said "Flowers.... from your garden, please".

So, while the dew was still holding on and the morning air crisp with a touch of autumn, I took my flower-picking basket and the secateurs out into the garden.

The first thing I saw through my flower eyes was a stand of tall leek stalks, in full bloom. Snip, snip, snip as 3 of the balls fell into my hand. Next, the vivid blue of chicory flowers, on long, waving stems. More snips. Out through the Pickle gate to the long, narrow bed next to my window.... lavenders, 3 or 4 kinds, all looking magnificent for a basket of tall stemmed flowers.

image Then I had to make a decision.... was this going to be a rainbow of yellows and reds and blues and pinks or would a more natural, autumnal feel be better? I glanced around and realised that the rainbow flowers all had short stems and I was doing long stems.... it would have to be the natural look of the meadow, highlighted with the lavenders and such..... I think it turned out beautifully.


Into my mind sprang a comment made by a visitor yesterday "You have let parts of this garden get away from you." I was shocked, dismayed and a little annoyed "No! I have let parts of this garden come to me." I replied. And come it has. In France it is common to let a patch of your land relax and become a meadow, cutting it only once the seeds have dropped and the old life finished. Look at these photos, see what I saw this morning and tell me if you think it would look better as a flat, green, mown canvas or as this painting of life and haven for insects, birds..... and Pickle's lost ball!


My seat by the pond.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Easy organic potassium fertiliser

I found this useful hint on Barbara's blog, Postcards from Paris. Well, actually the whole blog is called something else but I have a link to the Postcards from Paris section in my side bar, so that has become my name for the whole blog....but now I see I should be calling it Paris Postcard! Oh dear, sorry Barbara if this is confusing!

Potassium is an element not that easy to come by in commercial organic fertilisers.

If you have a wood stove or fireplace, you can prepare an excellent potassium-rich liquid fertiliser with minimal effort.

Mix about 2 pounds of wood ash into a bucket containing 2.5 gallons of water.

Stir vigorously, leave to infuse for half an hour, then stir again. Leave the mixture to settle thoroughly.

Then skim off the floating debris and either decant the liquid from the solids at the bottom, or filter through a strainer or cloth.

This liquid will contain about 10 grams of potassium per quart (although actual concentrations can vary). It can be stored indefinitely in a plastic jug.

Use it undiluted at the rate of 1 quart per square yard to fertilise vegetables and flowers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cyclone Yasi

I was just listening to a reporter on the radio explaining the monumental destruction caused by the biggest cyclone ever recorded in Australia. She could barely keep the tremor from her voice as she tried to paint a picture for those of us standing at the sink washing the dishes or going about other business, far away from all the pain. I don't think you need pictures to help you imagine some of these images.

  1. the torrential rain is so heavy you can't open your eyes. 500mm in 1 day
  2. in places, the wind gusts reached 300km/hour
  3. people are 4 wheel driving through the main street of one town as the road is missing
  4. the beach is inside dozens of homes and the furniture has been swept away
  5. dozens of large sailing and motor boats are piled up on the deck of a house
  6. trees 1m across were tossed aside
  7. 4,000 army personnel are on their way, by ship and helicopter
  8. 2,000 tons of food is arriving by ship tomorrow as the roads are closed because most of them no longer exist
  9. overwhelming destruction
  10. One 22 year old died because he had a generator going, in the lounge room. Poor lad.... he just didn't know.
  11. no electricity, water, food, shelter, sewerage in many areas
  12. thousands of people have nowhere to go, nothing to eat and no home to go back to, but can't get out and no-one can get in yet
  13. 2,000 people slept in a shopping mall
  14. flash flooding is now heading west and south
  15. Victoria is being flooded again

All of this on top of the worst floods ever recorded. It is hard to go about your day, knowing your fellow Australians are suffering so much.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Maggie's spinach and spring onion pie, in a busy kitchen


image  As I was watering some things in my garden the other day I realised how many different leaves I have; some in quite small amounts as several of the plants are going to seed. As well, just around the corner, I noticed that the spring onions are dividing and the shallots are ready to dig. In my mind, while I was enjoying standing there with my hose, gazing across the outdoor food pantry, I was unconsciously thinking about what to make for dinner.... Quite suddenly my thoughts gelled and I had a vision of Maggie's sunflower seed-topped pie in my mind's eye.

"Righto" I said to Pickle "That's what we'll have for dinner tonight." I left the hose trickling on the tomatoes and went in to check the recipe.... all I needed to buy was some fetta. (I wish I could get the Island Pure sheep's fetta from Kangaroo Island, SA but I did find some other sheep's fetta, later, in the shop that would do.)

You might think it odd that I would offer this to Pickle for dinner too, but he is a funny dog, and just loves fruit and vegetables, often turning up his nose at the meat, except if it is on a bone.

image The afternoon was spent bottling red and yellow cherry plums. These are pleasant little fruits on trees laden with the red or golden balls the size of large cherries. I sometimes add a dash of cardamon or a clove or piece of cinnamon stick because they need a bit of a flavour boost.



image In the early evening, I took the big tin bowl left here by the previous owners, and off I went, picking this leaf and that until I had enough for the recipe. No need to pick more; it will stay fresher in the garden until I want it. I would have taken my basket but it was still full of cherry plums and peaches!


The multinational collection of leaves I picked contained some of each of the following: chicory, cavolo nero, red Russian kale, nasturtiums, mizuna, beetroot leaves and rainbow chard.

The recipe says wholemeal flour but this time I substituted chickpea flour instead and I think it was even better. What sets this pastry-less pie apart from other leafy pies is the whole cup of sunflower seeds you press into the top, which go crunchy and fill the kitchen with their delicious aroma. (Four Leaf currently have organic Australian sunflower seeds again. Otherwise you are buying Chinese ones .... or not buying any! When sunflowers grow so well in Australia, why oh why are we importing them from China???)

While my dinner was cooking in the oven, I sat in the lounge and had a glass of my home-made limoncello. Oh lalalala. It is excellent. I serve it straight from the freezer in a tiny shot glass. Perfect for a summer's evening.

I have so many red and yellow cherry plums thanks to Alicia, Alex and their 2 gorgeous little girls who came and helped me on Australia day. While Alex cleared blackberries from below the trees, Alicia climbed to the very top to pick the fruit. The girls picked whatever they could reach, and spent hours picking the fruits off some branches we pruned, separating them from the leaves and stalks and putting them into baskets and bags.

imageimage   ...and all done while we listened to JJJ's Hottest 100!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Booko makes buying books online cheaper

Jan of Woodbridge sent me this link to an Australian site, Booko, which will be of such help to everyone who buys books online in Australia. Booko gathers all the prices for the book you want, from about 50 online sites, and displays them in order of cost, including delivery, in Australian dollars.

Jan also showed me a book I just have to have, at her place the other day. Just this moment I have looked it up on Booko..... sadly the table does not copy and paste well ... but I can tell you that I can get it for $29.80 or as much as $74.95. It is interesting to see that it is not always the same sites that have the cheaper books.

The book, by the way, is Nigel Slater's very large, beautifully written and illustrated book called Tender volume ll : A cook's guide to the fruit garden. Volume 1 is the vegetable book which I did not get time to look at, at Jan's. Anyway I want the fruit one as there are fruits here in Tasmania I know nothing about. These books are similar in format to Stephanie Alexander's A Cook's Companion. What I love about this style is that it is far more than a recipe or food growing book. It gives you ideas, by saying what goes with each item, and a list of quick and simple uses to give extra zing to an ordinary meal. It is alphabetical, rather than sorted into sweet or savoury, so it is ever so simple to look in the garden, see you have beans mounting up by the ton, rush inside and find something great to do with beans, since you have been eating them non-stop for a month already and need some inspiration!

Lets take beans.... in The Cook's Companion, Stephanie says fresh green beans go with about 20 things, such as: olive oil, chives, pine nuts, almonds, fetta, walnuts, ham, garlic etc etc. Then, in the side bars (oh... is that just an internet term, side bar? Well you will all know what I mean!) there are ideas like beans with fetta and mint, warm bean salad, and a list of bean dressings. Then of course is plenty of information about beans and some more in-depth recipes. All the recipes have even more ideas within them so don't do what I do, and get so enthralled by all the wonderful information and mouth-watering ideas that before you know it, its dark and too late to get started!

So, check out these books and more on Booko. Where would we be without the internet?