The days are really short now and I so enjoy early evenings in the kitchen, surrounded by the day’s harvest, either from my own garden, the community garden, the weekly Cygnet Organic Market, the new organic grocer in the main street or from friends who have dropped in during the day.
The beauty of freshly harvested vegetables is astonishing and invigorating. Many people adore the tomato season but for me, late autumn brings such a variety of colours and tastes that I can hardly decide what to eat.
There is the deep, rich, intricately patterned red cabbage, which, if teamed with slices of apple and slowly stewed, becomes a sensational vegetable accompaniment, even without any other ingredients.
There are freshly dug potatoes, none better in the world than those grown in Tasmania, where the perfect weather and soil produce unbeatable potatoes, in almost every back yard. I have 10kgs of kennebecs from a neighbour; fluffy white inside and with a skin that bakes crisp and full-flavoured. Many people here prefer pink eyes and Dutch creams. I squeeze open a good sized, baked kennebec and top with lashings of home made yoghurt mixed with crushed garlic and a handful each of mint and chopped spring onions. This time I sprinkled on some of my dukkah too.
As winter weather begins to set in someone comes by and gives me something I have been searching for – red capsicums with thick, meaty flesh and a flavour I have not had since leaving Adelaide 2 years ago. Why was I the lucky recipient? I shared some seeds, about a year ago, in the hope that someone would have success and all I asked in return was one red capsicum. Well, I was given 5 and treasured every mouthful; some fresh and eaten like an apple, others cooked, with no other adornments! Needless to say, the seeds sit on my mantle piece drying out….. I am determined to grow these small, pimento-style capsicums successfully myself next season.
Winter salad greens are a joy to behold and mine include the very dainty frilly mustard, self-sown miners’ lettuce, various little chicories (speckled/ broad leafed/ tall and red), French sorrel, chervil, mint, lettuces, bulls blood beetroot leaves, wild rocket, bok choy, mizuna, nasturtiums, red dock etc etc. I love salads in winter, they beautifully complement and lighten a hot meat stew or a toasted cheese sandwich. But its dark now and I didn’t take any photos!
I came home today to find several bean pods by my back door, in a paper bag. They revealed some magnificent jewels, on opening. If ever there was a magnificent collection of vegetables, it would have to be the bean family.
Sadly, most people discard any fat bean pods left on their vines at the end of the season and they are missing out on a display like no other! The names of beans are quite confusing, sometimes named after the colour of the flowers, sometimes after the pods and sometimes after the mature bean seeds found inside those dry old pods you forgot to pick. Interestingly, today, the purple podded bean revealed ordinary white bean seeds while the others, which all had plain, green pods, revealed 3 very different seed colours and sizes, inside. Never count your beans before they hatch!
Lastly in my kitchen this week are some mini muffins made with apples (from the Cygnet community garden) and orange blossom honey, my favourite honey, from a bee keeper whose bees pollinate the orange groves in South Australia. The native trees that form the basis of honey in Tasmania did not flower well this year, except for the Leatherwood, and I decided to fill the gap with this light, sweet, fragrant and lingering honey that makes me smile with delight. I have added it to the burgeoning list of South Australian things I sell at the Cygnet Market and in my little Garden Shed and Pantry business.
As the cows outside my kitchen window chew their cuds, as interested in me as I am in them and the geese merrily mow my clover paths even in the pouring rain; when the frogs croak from every corner of my garden and the chooks start laying well again; when the nights close in early and morning mists linger across the hills, I feel grateful to be alive and glad I am here at the bottom of the world, in paradise.