Kitchen Garden Guides

Saturday, June 10, 2017

May 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

    Late autumn is my favourite time of year in the kitchen garden. The harvesting and preserving pressures are finished, seeds have been collected and stored and the sowing and planting pressures of spring are months away. Now is the time to work on the soil, to reshape beds, to make compost, to prune, to make hugels, to protect tender plants and to sit on the verandah in the sun and watch the light as it changes day by day. Brassicas will be flourishing, Chilean guavas and cape gooseberries can be picked by the handful as you pass by, grape leaves are turning and apples arriving. Life is good.


    Energy is everywhere and now is the time to think about how to make your life attuned to capturing and storing it. In a handful of seeds is the energy to start a whole season’s food. In a bale of hay is the energy from a year’s pasture growth, ready to decompose and feed the microbes in your soil, which in turn feed your food garden. In a jar of fermented pickles are the fruits of a plant’s labour and millions of bacteria all working to provide your gut with life and energy. In a brick fireplace is stored the energy from the heat of firewood; trees that have grown for many years, capturing energy enough to warm us all winter. In water is the energy of life, without which nothing on earth can live.
    Which is the opposite of wasting energy - by driving cars out of your zone to get food, by draining your land instead of harnessing the water, by burning piles of prunings instead of making hugels, by throwing away your food scraps instead of making compost, by buying food brought from other lands, by using up oil reserves (eg in cling film, disposable bags, foam trays) we should be saving for important uses like saving lives.
    We are all worried about climate change. We are all the reason it exists. Therefore, only we can be the solution. By turning our thinking around we can all do it; by catching and storing energy instead of wasting it. Refuse packaged fruit and vegetables. Shop locally, really locally, starting in your backyard and those of your neighbours and friends. Then into your most local market and small, ethical shops. Eat what is there! Read books like The Food Clock by Fast Ed Halmagyi to help bring the joy of the seasons into your kitchen, your life and the future of humanity! It is not an exaggeration, dear reader. No excuse is good enough not to start today. It also brings such a joy of living and relieves so much stress just by changing one’s mindset.


    I think pumpkins must be the most celebrated vegetables in the world because everywhere you travel, there seems to be an autumn pumpkin festival. The shapes, sizes, colours and textures make us laugh with delight and the flavours can vary enormously from the French chestnut flavoured ‘potimarron’ to the sweetest ‘futsu’ and the crazy, knobbly ‘Galeaux d’Eysines’. Competitions for the heaviest pumpkin have brought fame to growers far and wide. I saw some of the most beautiful craft, using pumpkins, in a French pumpkin festival. Check out Victoria’s annual festival at a tiny place with the incredible name of Collector.
    And so I hope to encourage you to plan your pumpkin growing area now, browse seed catalogues, buy seed early and prepare yourselves for entering the fun of next autumn’s Cygnet Pumpkin Festival. Schools, clubs, families, individuals one and all, are invited. Details will emerge and grow, now that the seed of the idea has germinated!

    Weeds and more

    Many people in Europe still forage, not just for mushrooms, but for winter herbs and greens and roots which are native to their lands. Many of them grow wild in our gardens but we silly Australians pull them out, calling them weeds and give them to the chooks, who happily devour them because they are not so prejudiced! There is an excellent Australian book called The Weed Foragers’ Handbook, which I highly recommend. Soon, you will be eating from the garden without planting anything at all!
    Luckily, the cooler weather also heralds the end of the cabbage moth laying eggs on our brassicas. If you have not planted brassicas yet, it is now too late as the plants will not have big enough leaves to grow through winter. When spring comes, they will bolt to seed and you won’t get a crop.
    Autumn is a wonderful time for harvesting mushrooms, kale, French sorrel, salad leaves, early broccoli, rainbow chard, the last of our summer vegetables, the first of the winter weeds and a myriad of fabulous apples, pears and quinces. Many kitchen pantries are now bulging at the seams with preserves. Bring on winter and cosy nights by the fire with some home-made cassis and quince paste served with a delicious, local cheese!


    Tasmania is surrounded by sea and yet we tend not to forage the shores and shallows for food. That is a topic I wrote about in May 2016. Seaweed is wonderful for our food gardens too.
    As autumn and winter storms in the roaring 40’s send high seas crashing onto the shores of Tasmania, kelp and other sea plants are strewn on the beaches. I heard on the radio that we are allowed to collect seaweed from most beaches at the rate of 100kg / day in Tasmania. Seaweed is heavy, so that is not as much as it sounds. I have some great ideas for using it! Seaweed contains trace elements which we often neglect to think about in our food gardens (and our stomachs).
    1. Place tubs or large buckets here and there in your garden. Half fill them with seaweed and fill to the top with water. Cover if you like. Keep a ladle nearby. Whenever you see some plants looking a bit weak or off-colour give them a tonic of 1 part seaweed water to 9 parts water, in a watering can. Pour over the leaves.
    2. Completely cover your asparagus patch with a thick layer of seaweed during winter. Leave the rain and the worms to do the work.
    3. Seaweed is a wonderful addition to mulch under fruit trees.

    Sow in the garden now
    Plant Now
    Broad beans
    Bok Choy
    Mustard greens esp. frilly
    Miners’ lettuce
    Corn salad (mache)
    Shungiku (edible, Japanese Chrysanthemum)
    Salad and spring onions

    Leek bulbils
    Garlic cloves
    Large seedlings of Asian veg.
    Flower bulbs
    Sow in the hothouse to plant out:
    Broccoli raab
    Sow to stay in the hothouse or frost-free area:
    Sugar snap peas

No comments: