Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amaranth, hairy cucumbers and a glorious vegetable forest

My garden is expectedly quite unruly because, just like they say, “as is the gardener, such is the garden”! However, unruly gardens (and people) can have delicious surprises, shine out in bright colours from hidden corners and conjure up a wild yet peaceful scene reminiscent of the tangle of an English meadow at the end of a rainbow.

Amaranth, to me, is the pinnacle of beauty in a summer food garden. From the first sign of the brilliant red leaves at germination to the gorgeous, long tresses of flowers tumbling from the roof of the tall adult amaranth plant, months later, I am smitten! Looking from below up through the towering spire to the sunlight shining through the strong, sunset-like leaves brings from me a gasp and a dash for my camera.

It has been a 4 year struggle to get them growing tall and strong, here in southern Tasmania but at last there is success from a few that are self-sown in my green house. I am eating some of the leaves everyday and they just keep coming and keep growing. The small leaves go into my salad; the large, older leaves are chopped and mixed into whatever I am having for dinner, at the end of the cooking time.

image image
image image

I find that basil grows best here in 30cm pots, filled with a rich potting mix. My favourite basil in this cooler climate is lettuce-leaf, which sounds flavourless but is actually fabulously tasty. The leaves are big, providing huge solar panels for making more leaves which, after all, is what basil is all about; leaves.

It is also the year of success with the Bari cucumber. Dozens of tiny, hairy little cucumbers are forming on all the plants, which will mature into juicy, pretty cucumbers originating in Bari, Italy.

image image

Bees are seeking new grounds for collecting nectar to make enough honey to get them through the cold of winter. In my garden the best place to find bees is on the fennel flowers and the leek flowers, both of which are abundant in my vegetable forest (that is, all manner of vegetables which have grown tall and set seeds).

image
Fennel flowers make the bees and me smile; so bright, so cheerful, so delicious and so full of nectar for bees.
image
Fennel seeds are wonderful picked when green then allowed to dry indoors or simply eaten straight off the plant
image
Leek lollipops nod in the breeze.
image
And bees love them.
image
Red cabbage seeds are ready to collect.
image
These lettuce seeds are going to just fall where they will and germinate when they are ready.
image
A variety of late garlic is shedding its flower coat and revealing the beauty beneath
image
Some point up, some down, some to the side; making a bed of little swords.

1 comment:

africanaussie said...

Beautiful tour of your garden Kate. I love those garlic flowers. Quite a few years ago now you sent me some amaranth seeds, and they are still going strong and popping up all over the garden. I am not sure that they would grow that big here, or maybe it is because I keep chopping them down as sooon as they are big enough to grace a salad.