Kitchen Garden Guides

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why I am, or was, feeling soooooo hungry!



A quiet walk around Hugh's garden, picking bits for dinner.... a thorough investigation of the contents of his fridge and cupboards and dinner is underway, while I am home alone tonight....





The kitchen fills with the aromas I love so, so much.... while the air conditioner works hard to keep away the reason why they are already ripe in this garden!!






I swear this zucchini tripled in size during the heat today.... and the first, fresh garlic has increased in intensity too.... 







the herbs added zing to the salad.... and I am in heaven! See the watermelon radish? Usually its redder. There's rocket, sorrel, mint, tarragon, Vietnamese mint, garlic chives, lettuce.... and a sliced up falafel. No dressing, just crushed ice.



I wasn't going to eat it all.... I meant to save some for Hugh.... oh dear!!

If ever there's a reason I would leave Tasmania it would be because I cannot either grow or find locally some of the vegetables of the Mediterranean summer that are hard to grow there, without resorting to buying their tasteless cousins from the supermarket.

Later.... I have passed a test here at Hugh's..... unaided use of coffee machine 101.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hugh's Guru Food plus... Adventures in Hugh's Garden

image If you knew Hugh you would not have been wondering why I have written barely a thing since I arrived at his house to stay. There has not been a minute to contemplate the meaning of life. Hugh has started making and marketing what he calls Hughsli Essentials.... food one should never be without .....and I have happily offered myself as packer, sampler, bottle washer and general helper.

As you can see, this is not me in this photo at the Adelaide Central Market, but his marketing helper, Georgina.image








Since I arrived last Friday, I have been eating his gourmet toasted muesli every morning and nibbling away at the off-cuts of the Bar Up muesli bars during the day..... then there's dukkah, 2 incredible mixes of nuts and spices, a seasonal range of preserves including caramelised quince paste, mint and apple jelly as well as lemon and lime curd. Everything is sourced as locally as possible and here he is picking the mint for the mint and apple jelly from my mother's garden....


Hugh's own garden is based around 2 ponds which make this hot, sandy garden seem cool and fresh even when its 37 like today.image





There are advantages to living in a hot, dry place..... you can pick up lounge chairs from hard rubbish collections, put them in your garden for a while and when they fall to bits, put them out and get another..... here is my favourite breakfast couch.....image


If this was in my garden in Cygnet, it would be wet and mouldy all the time!

Or if you prefer to sit under the gazebo....


Hugh's passion for his garden, his own food and his new business are invaluable, enviable and exciting. Hughsli is now stocked in various locations all over Adelaide, from Goodies and Grains in the Central Market, to Viva at Burnside Village and The Corner Store in Semaphore.

Follow Hughsli on Facebook..... and please do click "like"!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sustainable Spencer Gulf King Prawns

South Australia is managing its seafood industries better than most, and about a million times better than Tasmania. Sometimes I am very proud to be South Australian. Now living out of SA I can see that there are very many South Australians doing innovative and wonderful things. Oddly, the media within SA seems to focus on all the bad news of the state. The media needs to take a big look at itself and start supporting  its community instead of trying to destroy it.

.....a remarkably special day for South Australian seafood producers in general, and Spencer Gulf prawn fishermen specifically as it marked the recognition of Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fisherman’s Association (SGWCPFA)as the first prawn fishery in both the Asia Pacific and the world to gain certification for sustainability from the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC is a global program which assesses wild capture fisheries only and sets standards for sustainably managed fish stocks, minimal environmental impact and effective fishery management.

read the rest on Lamb's Ears and Honey.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Salty hair, sandy feet and miles of sunshine....

THIS is what I came to Adelaide seeking and, luckily, have found.... summer by the sea. Hugh lives near the beach... a wide, white gently curving beach in suburban Adelaide. I think I was a mermaid in a previous life because I live the sea..... sun, sand, dazzling light, curling waves, old, wooden jetties, diving into the water and coming up refreshed and free.

Young families find the shade of the jetty a cool and pleasant place to build sandcastles, stretch out on towels or frolic in the shady shallows, away from the heat of the early afternoon..... An Indian woman, dressed in colourful regalia, watches her husband and children splashing and playing nearby.... a talented young boy rides his skim board back and forth as the incoming tide sends blankets of shallow water onto the shore.... a little girl in pink, frilly bathers, splashes her dad in fits of giggles ...... a group of teenagers throw a variety of balls amongst each other, standing up to their waists in the sea, their voices happy and playful. An elderly woman in a smart pair of bathers wades out through the small waves, a delightful look of pleasure on her face.

Everywhere people are smiling, relaxed and happy. The sea, the beach, the warm sunshine do this to people the world over. I splash through the water as I go for a walk, the sand firm and flat and easy to walk on without watching where you are going. A light sea breeze skims across the water and flutters umbrellas and tents, as well as t-shirts and dresses. The silver light dances and sparkles on the surface, almost glassy, between the breezes.

On a day like today the temperature is perfect for walking in the lightest clothes, wet or dry and I hold my hat in my hand to feel the breeze blow through my damp hair. Glorious is the word that springs to mind, an absolutely glorious day to be alive and at the beach, at this beach, before the Adelaide summer gets too hot but far away from the still cold waters of Tasmania.

Back at Hugh's, we make a mango smoothie. Mangoes..... 3 for $5 at the market yesterday. There are some things that just cannot be beaten for sheer joy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Self-sowing and re-growing my way to laziness....


Another step on the way to Adelaide.... imagethe Naracoorte Caravan park and a lovely cabin nestled in the gum trees which are laden with parrots and other birds..... then collapsing on the couch to read another chapter or two of Pattie's book, Food for my Daughters, stirring memories and thoughts in the cauldron of life.....

Basically I am very lazy but don't tell anyone! I thought of this when reading p.53 of The Book where Pattie says ".... I felt the incredible joy that comes from slowing down, keeping things simple (even if they seem more complicated at first) and savouring the stops along the way on the journey. Even if they involve washing dishes and napkins." Added to this is the fact that I have spent the day driving through town after town on my trip to SA and was disappointed but resigned to seeing how similar they have all become and how useless and alien they feel to me. I swear I will never go to Ballarat again, or was it Horsham or some other town full of the same shops, the same sterile atmosphere and supermarket carparks bigger than the whole of the Cygnet main street!

Simple, to me, does not mean queuing up at the checkout of another supermarket with a trolley load of food in plastic packets or pretty boxes or words proclaiming the goods to be made from real fruit or stupid things like chips that are baked not fried.... or milk that does not even live in the fridge. Simple is going outside my back door and picking food, cooking it (or eating raw...goodness, what a thought...raw fruit that is 100% fruit!) and enjoying the tastes, the story behind its short life, remembering who gave me the seeds and having someone to share it all with.

My idea of simple (and how I can be really lazy but seem very clever) is making my garden do 2 things for me.... self-sow some of everything (so I don't even have to remember when to sow the seeds), and re-grow (ie, have lots of perennial vegetables that come up year after year, like asparagus).

There are lots of other things I am lazy about in this simple life; composting for example, as in the previous post, and letting chaos reign in order to maintain an ecological balance amongst the wildlife in in the garden, as I have written and talked about many times before.

Life is good. Lets try to keep it that way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Food for Pattie's Daughters gives me ideas whilst at sea...

I am sitting at the little desk in my cabin on the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry, in Devonport Harbour, Tasmania. Its been a nice half-day's drive from Cygnet, in the south to Devonport in the north ... Tasmania isn't a very big island! The ferry trip is overnight to Melbourne and as I do not like the public areas of the ferry much I prefer to eat a picnic in my cabin, watch the port drift slowly out of sight before dark and then sit in bed and read or write. These cabins are the perfect way to travel and include power points for me to plug in and write a blog piece on my laptop if I am in the mood.

Sitting by the porthole which is spotted with drizzle, waiting for the ferry to leave port, I opened Pattie's book, Food for my Daughters. It is as if we were both thinking the same things at the same time because the pages I turned to (pages 34 -36) are about two of my favourite topics.... easy soil fertility and eating weeds! (By the way, the ferry is now moving.... I love it when we finally leave the land and head out into Bass Strait).

I think it was me who first told Pattie how I use the paths in my vegetable garden as in-situ compost areas. I throw onto the paths most of the weeds I pull out from the beds. From time to time I put straw or sawdust on the paths to neaten them up and cover the weeds I have discarded. Gradually this layer builds up in the paths then the worms move in, the composting process begins below the surface and by the end of winter the path has turned into a beautiful river of compost, cleverly lined up alongside your garden beds!

All you then need to do is use a spade to scoop it up onto the beds at the beginning of spring and hey presto, no compost heaps, no barrowing heavy loads of compost from distant corners of the garden, leaving more time for sowing and planting and enjoying time in the garden. (At sea now and heading towards Victoria where wild weather is forecast!).

This method is great for dry climates as, in summer, the paths become higher and level with the beds as you fill them with weeds and sawdust etc. Then it all rots down through winter, finally ending with the mounding of it all up onto the beds, allowing for good drainage through spring when the rains come.  I have seen photos of some parts of India where the paths are built higher than the beds to keep the water in and stop run-off.

What I used to find in my garden in Adelaide was that almost everything self-sowed into the paths because, I presume, of the fertility and lack of competition there. Sometimes, like Pattie, I would actually turn the path into the next year's bed, so lush and prolific were the self-sown seedlings! My Tasmanian vegetable garden is not yet at this stage and people reading this having not seen my Adelaide garden will wonder at the audacity I have in speaking of this much order being claimed about my current garden!! Well, come back in 5 years, I say, and I will show you what I mean.

Pattie then goes on to talk about the current star (in the chapter on early spring) of her garden - chickweed..... and there's a delightful story which you will have to read yourself but the gist of the thing is this.... my neighbour Jilli and I are organising another Kitchen Garden Walk and this time the theme is Foraging for Food. (It is on Dec 11th and you can register by sending me an email) and it will be followed by a BYO BBQ at my place, using some of the things we find to make some of our shared lunch..... and Pattie had a great idea.... using chickweed as an ingredient in pesto and I think it would be wonderful in tabbouli, at this time of the year when my parsley is all gone to seed!! Its touch and go if there will be any suitable chickweed by December but if not then we will make some chickweed soup the day before, instead.

I love the way reading blogs and books can take your mind to a similar place on the other side of the world and you can feel like you are having a brain-storming session together, even years after the event..... or am I just crazy?? (No need to answer that one!)

This won't be published until I reach son Hugh's house in Adelaide where I will be online again....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cygnet Community Garden... a garden for us all

We are making a lot of progress with the little garden inside the poly tunnel at the community garden. It is a warm, lush, biodiverse garden in miniature. When the weather is foul, when the weeds outside just get too much to bare, when we need nourishment for our souls and when the grass is taller than little Alfie, we seek solace in the poly tunnel. There, trays of seeds burst into life, holding the beginnings of many future meals; there, lettuces and peas and spring onions and fenugreek and chicory appear to grow inches a day; there, neat rows can be easily maintained in a few minutes and the wind is kept away from plants and people alike.

Come with me and take a peak....

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We have used the frame of the poly tunnel to secure 3 vertical "walls" of bird mesh for the peas. Every 2 weeks we have sown a new row, to ensure a continuous supply.

Most (but importantly not all) of the original beds of fenugreek, mizuna and mustard greens have been chopped and left on the beds, once they began to go to seed, then covered in blood and bone. In a few weeks we will plant our tomato, capsicum and eggplant seedlings into the beautifully enriched soil. Some have been allowed to flower and attract a variety of insects.

Eventually the centre path, which was once a compacted, dead section of clay, covered in horrible, black, slippery weed matting will be a source of in-situ compost as explained in the next post. Why waste valuable space when the path can also be an evolving part of the garden!

The salad I ate today came almost entirely from this tiny space and I could easily have picked enough for a family and still left plenty for tomorrow.

It is too small an area to bother keeping plants long enough to save seeds but it is still important to have many stages of life growing in here at the same time. The doors are open at each end all the time now so insects are free to come and go, keeping each other in check. But they will not do so if it lacks 2 things.... biodiversity and age-diversity.

Soon we will begin to improve the other side, which presently is just bench tops. There are plenty of things that would be happy to be slightly shaded by the plants on the wire shelving and the light in the poly tunnel is very well diffused so everywhere is lovely and light anyway. In a small area we must make use of all space, horizontal and vertical, and think creatively about doing so.

Please do come and pop in any time but especially on Tuesday mornings from 10am. Give a few minutes of your time and you will gain so much more than you thought. If you want to pick up some great ideas or ask questions about your own garden or try some new vegetables, do come and have a chat while you toil a little with us. It is so much more rewarding to garden and achieve something, while talking, than just to sit and talk!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Multi-cultural morsels in my garden

The years go round and round; seasons come and go; garden pickings wax and wane, as does the moon and slowly I edge towards growing more of the things that make me smile. For some people, growing potatoes is a buzz. For others its English spinach or French radishes with their white tips. There is nothing that makes me smile more when they appear, self-sown in winter, than miners' lettuce and shungiku.

image This year's crop of miners' lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) has been the best I have ever grown.... well, it grew itself; I really had nothing to do with it except the odd sprinkle of water in my little hot house. It is not necessary to grow it indoors here but I will continue to have some indoors as its merry, almost heart-shaped, vivid green leaves were bigger and more succulent than any I have grown previously, anywhere else.


And now, as the leaves change to circular and the delicate flower stalks erupt from the centre of the leaves, it cascades over the brick wall edging in the hot house and looks like fairyland. I am still picking bits and pieces for salads but soon it will be stringy and too coarse to be be nice. I find the seeds too fiddly to find and save so I will let it self-sow and look forward to the first indication of it regenerating next winter.








image Shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) is otherwise called edible chrysanthemum. Popular in Japan, it originates from the Mediterranean and has none of the flavours of many other Asian greens. Rather it is .... well, more delicate, more European in flavour. The pretty, greyish, chrysanthemum leaves can be picked for salads or thrown into hot dishes at the last moment but, although the petals are fine to eat, the whole flowers are shockingly strong!

image Here I found some growing better at a friend's recently, than at my place, and evidently it has been lush and magnificent all winter even in the worst frosts. I will collect the seeds of her's and sow them myself next year and look forward to many months of pickings when most people seem to be living only silver beet and kale. Nice as those are, and I do so love various kales especially, as well as most Asian greens, its nice to have these little treats in your garden; things that you are never quite sure of and which give such delight when they succeed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

James Wong .... you can't go wrong!

I just happened across a new blog and this gorgeous young bloke with a passion for growing stuff to really excite the taste buds and keep your body and the earth in good order. The blurb says " Brought up in Singapore & Malaysia to an English mother and Malaysian father, his research interests include traditional medical systems, underutilised crops species & wild plant conservation." James Wong just happens to be featuring a native Tasmanian plant this week... tasmannia lanceolata or native pepper bush; one of my favourites!!

He is a botanist, gardener, broadcaster & natural remedies obsessive, who's passionate about all things botanical.
.....I'm putting together as an alternative, fresh guide to cool stuff to grow, for committed plant geeks & horticultural virgins alike.
Over the next few months I will be uploading everything I know and everything I do - from recipes for my favourite herbal remedies to my "plant of the week" blog - as well as updates to all my latest TV, books and talks. Come back and watch how it evolves!
Ethnobotanist James Wong is throwing out the tinsel this year in favour of a more organic approach to celebrating the Christmas holiday in style. James demonstrates how traditional Christmas plants can be made into natural remedies, recipes and original hand-made presents to see you through the Christmas season. He reinvents winter classics, with his hot toddy made from Christmas tree, Cranberry mince pies for cystitis and stress busting egg nog made with home-grown saffron – to ease your anxiety when the in-laws arrive. For those with a fondness for over-indulgence, an effervescent rosehip sherbert remedy could do the trick. And, if the after effects of too many sprouts cause embarrassment, children and adults alike are sure to be delighted with a fennel and peppermint slice. As well as turning out our favourite Christmas plants into remedies, indulgent gifts and amazing decorations, James also travels the length and breadth of Britain to seek out the country’s best Christmas tree, Mistletoe and holly growers. To top it all off he serves up festive drinks, snacks and canap├ęs all made from plants around the fire at his Winter garden party.

And for Christmas cooking inspiration try his.... Grow your own drugs for Christmas

imageimage My gorgeous son Hugh could be Australia's version of this bloke and on my next trip to Adelaide in a few weeks time I will be staying with him and writing here about his amazing food and gardening adventure through life.