Does this count as gleaning?...

30 December, 2012

Louise at Garden Glut has been blogging about gleaning fruits from the roadside. As (unfortunately) around the suburban area where I live there are no roadside fruit trees weighed down with fruit and waiting to be harvested, I had resigned myself to not being able to follow her lead however much I love both taking advantage of what nature offers and putting good food on the table or in the cupboard for little (dollar) cost.

But then this morning at the supermarket I came across these.

Two massive bags of cherries marked down to $3.00 each, which ended up being just over 6kg of cherries. What a bargain.

So I decided to do a little preserving. I love canned cherries and have wonderful memories of eating these when I was little at my grandmothers house. We would have bowls of bulla ice-cream with the canned cherries on top and the juice poured over which ran into the rivets in the ice-cream and formed little cherry juice icicles of delight. Homemade canned cherries here I come.

So I washed and sorted the cherries. Only a few weren't worthy of being bottled, while everything to be preserved was put into the collanders ready for de-pipping.

Once the cherries were de-pipped they went into my large preserving saucepan, just covered with water and brought to the boil, then immediately taken off the heat.

I want them softened, so that I can pack them down into the jars, but not so soft they become mush. Specially as they will get heated further in the preserving.

I then filled my mason jars (I find them the best for preserving - so easy to use and so pretty).

I then added sugar and lemon juice to the remaining cherry juices and heated it until the sugar was dissolved. This was then poured over the cherries, leaving about a 1cm headspace, and then the lids put on.

Then out came the Fowlers Vacola unit.

I love how 70s and kitsch it is. It was my mums, but she never preserves anything anymore. So I borrowed it and have not given it back. Heaven forbid she decides to start preserving again!

Everything was set up and in went the jars to be boiled for 10mins, then I switched off the unit and left them in there to cool.

I still had some cherry juices left so I decided to boil it down to a thick syrup (I'm thinking pomegranate molasses like, but we'll see...) and bottled that too.

So in the end there was cherries and syrup.

But most of all I'm looking forward to the cherries.

Now I just need to make some ice-cream...

Eating the ornamentals...

27 December, 2012

Now while I do like to mix the edible and ornamental plants in my garden, I had very firm lines around what was for eating and what was for looking pretty.

Note the 'had' in that sentence.

'Cos today I crossed the boundary. I ate from the non-edibles. Don't get me wrong. I haven't started chewing down on the agapanthus or taking bites out of the magnolia. I've been nibbling on nigella. (My god that sounds so wrong. Nigella seeds! Seeds!)

A little while back I posted a pic of some garden produce in which I had lovingly placed a few sprigs of nigella flowers, but had made a note they were strictly for prettyfication and I was not planning on eating them. Oh how wrong I was. Both Louise and Tracy commented that nigella seeds were edible, and I thereby made a note-to-self to harvest some seeds for the kitchen.

So that's what I did today.

I picked myself a nice basketful of dried nigella seedheads from the garden.

They looked nice and full of seeds.

Then I crushed them to smithereens in my thermomix. (So many uses!)

Although quite a few had fallen out of their own accord.

I then roughly sifted the seedhead bits and seeds with a collander to get out the biggest bits.

And was left with this. Not exactly what I had in mind for the kitchen.

So I winnowed the seeds. Thank goodness for a nice soft breeze outside. (I tried to get an action shot of me pouring from one bowl into the other with the non-seed bits floating delicately off in the breeze, but photographing with one hand and pouring with the other is beyond my capabilities.)

But I ended up with a nice lot of pure seed to use for kitchen-y things. And so I just had to make some bread so that I could top it with nigella seeds. (Bread also courtesy of the thermomix. The non-nigella'd ones have bits of rosemary through it; so gorgeous!)

So there you have it. One jar of nigella seeds.

Thanks Louise and Tracy for the tips! I love getting something new out of the garden.

Autumn fruiting raspberries...

22 December, 2012

... in summer.

Ah well, what are rules for except breaking?

When I first started growing my own there seemed to be so many rules. Don't plant tomatoes in the same place for two years running. (Never mind that my dad has been doing that for the last 20+ years and always has a bumper crop.) Plant onions and carrots together to prevent carrot fly. (Do we even have carrot fly in Australia?) Pull off the fruits that set on fruit trees for the first year or two to strengthen the plant. (But I don't want to!)

Now I'm sure some of these rules in gardening lore really do exist for good reason. Pests can build up in soil and planting the same plant (or plants from the same family) year after year can build them up and who wants to give the bugs a nice convenient lot of plants to eat? Not me. Interplanting does help to reduce plant predators who identify their targets by sight or smell by making plants harder to find. Young plants do benefit by not having a load of fruit to bear, and reducing these allow to plant to put more energy into growing strongly. Though I usually don't totally strip the young trees, and really struggle to rip off any fruit at all.

But now more than ever I am questioning the 'rules' of gardening, and am putting them to the test. And the first one is: always prune autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground after they bear.

I grow both summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, and I never really understood why there was a difference in how I pruned the plants that seemed to grow in pretty much the same way. The theory is that summer fruiting raspberries fruit on old wood, so you grow the canes in the spring of year one, they lose their leaves over winter and then in the spring of year two you get fruit. Some of the summer fruiting raspberries produce a small crop in autumn on their new canes too, which is a nice bonus. Autumn fruiting raspberry canes, however, grow in spring of year one and then fruit in the autumn and then are cut back to the ground. They don't get a second year to fruit.

Which didn't really seem fair to me.

So this year I didn't cut the autumn fruiting raspberries down to the ground as my gardening books dictated. And the heavens didn't fall.

The old canes are the ones that are fruiting now and just like in previous years the new canes are growing strongly.

The new canes are easily distinguishable from the old ones; the new ones are a bright fresh green and the old ones are murky brown. Just like the summer fruiting ones.

So from now on I don't think I'll be treating my autumn fruiting raspberries any different from the summer fruiting ones. I'll just cut out all the old canes in winter with them both. Much easier that trying to remember two different pruning regimes.

But in the meantime, there's this...

...  which I wouldn't have had at all if I'd listened blindly to the 'rules.'

What gardening 'rules' have you debunked or ignored?

Tomato trial update #2...

14 December, 2012

Way back in September I decided to pit 16 varieties of tomato against each other in the Great Tomato Trial 2012/13.

Back in October the strongest seedlings of those that germinated were chosen for the trial (two of each variety) and in late October these were planted out just before the traditional tomato planting (in Melbourne and surrounds) of Melbourne Cup weekend.

And there they stayed until today (yay for ADOs).

Now I don't harden my tomato plants off; instead I use horticultural fleece (wrapped around the plants in a kind of mini-teepee with the bottom weighed down with rocks) to shelter them for a week or so until they can handle the real world. Then I push down the fleece but leave it there just in case a cold spell comes.

It didn't.

So there it has stayed, and the tomatoes have grown, and I've done nothing. So today's job was to tidy up the tomato beds, plant out the basil which I always co-plant with tomatoes, and lay down some mulch.

Tomato bed 1 - before

Tomato bed 2 - before

Now to take a closer look (working from worst to best; I do like to end on a high note).

As you can see the fleece didn't protect some seedlings from animals that like to get in and dig up my seedlings. Both the Beams Yellow Pears and one Earl of Edgecombe were taken, but I do have replacement plants so all is not lost (yet). The Black Krims are looking a bit sad, likewise the Big White Pink Stripes. They are just holding in there, but not growing much.

Beams Yellow Pear
Earl of Edgecombe
Black Krim
Big White Pink Stripe

Moving up to the plants that are growing well, but no flowers as yet.

Gardeners Delight
Mortgage Lifter
Principe Borghese
Green Zebra
Black Cherry
Ned Kelly
Lemon Drop

 And joy of joys, some are flowering. Lets see which one fruits first.

Rouge De Marmande - plus shadow of me taking the photo
Isis Candy
Garden Peach
Tommy Toe

So now to tidy up. I removed the fleeze, some to be saved and reused, but some falling apart just got tossed. I then planted out the replacements as required, topped up the beds with compost and planted out my basil seedlings which have been living on my kitchen windowsill for way too long.

Tomato bed 1 - nice and neat
Tomato bed 2 - also nice and neat

Then I added sugar cane mulch to help reduce water loss and that inconsistancy of water which apparently causes end rot on tomatoes. I don't know if its true or not, but I want to avoid it if I can.

Tomato bed 1 - finished

Tomato bed 2 - finished


Busy, busy, busy...

10 December, 2012

What is it with this time of year? This last week has been crazy, hence the distinct lack of blogging.

But to catch up, here is a little snapshot of what's been happening in the garden at the moment.

Rechallenge update #1

03 December, 2012

It's now two months into my challenge to grow 80% of my own fruit and veg.

It started off so well at 83% homegrown. But unfortunately I haven't been able to maintain the good start, and over November the tally has dropped to 78%.

I think the lack of variety is getting to me a bit, and the waiting for summer crops has been too much. I've been buying cucumbers and zucchini when mine are still a while away yet. That and the summer stone fruit is just too tempting.

However, the crops from the garden are still pretty good. Main pickings in November included peas, onions, broadbeans, celery, lettuce, perpetual spinach, artichokes, strawberries and raspberries. There were also a couple of mulberries (not white ones though, but I have plans - watch this space!) and one cherry (the rest should be ready later this week I reckon).

I can't really complain when this is an almost daily event, can I?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

01 December, 2012

Around the start of December is when I start planning Christmas gifts. This year I will be doing a lot of hamper type gifts with home-made goodies.

First cab off the rank is raspberry jam. What a great way to use up a raspberry glut.

You may be able to see in the background there my new favourite appliance. Meet my new Thermomix (courtesy of Frogdancer). I've been cooking with it every day since I got it on Tuesday (it was great on when I got home all hot and bothered after the heatwave on Thursday; lemons, sugar, ice into the Thermomix and two minutes later - lemon sorbet!) and today I made jam in it.

I have to say - easiest jam making EVER! No slaving over a hot stove for hours. It was just put the fruit, sugar and pectin in, let it do its thing for 35 minutes, then pour the jam into sterilised jars.

(By the way, why do fruits need preserving in summer? It's just cruel really. Who wants to stand in front of a hot pan of jam or chutney or whatever when it's 40 degrees? I always put to Fowlers Vaccola unit outside but I can't do that with my stove. Pity.)

Summer just got a whole lot better!

Good crop, bad crop...

29 November, 2012

Is this not one of the best berry harvests to be seen?

And is this not one of the worst garlic harvests to be seen?

Ah well. Sometimes you win 'em, sometime you lose 'em.

They're just babies...

27 November, 2012

I am joining Louise from Garden Glut on her zucchini campaign to restore the reputation of this much maligned vegetable.

While her travelling zucchini has been settling in and is already producing flowers, my zukes continue to be immature.

The nursery-bought-and-twice-dug-up-by-bastard-animals zucchini is seeming to find its feet.

However, it isn't that much ahead of the direct sown zucchini.

There are three in there. Now I need to pick which is the strongest and pull out the rest. It will be a tough call. I'm giving them until the weekend for one to assert its dominance.

It's a good thing I can remember that these ones are the variety Costata, as the name tag is no use at all. I wrote the variety on the tag in permanent marker, but it has not lived up to the expectation of permanence. I can barely read it.

Hopefully these will fruit soon and then I can join posts of what to do with the produce. Until then, I'm hoping someone else has some...