Tuesday Treasures – Day 28 NaBloPoMo 2017

I was absolutely thrilled today – because I had to go to work šŸ™‚

It’s a wonderful thing to look forward so much to something that too many people consider a chore – but the crew I work with are fantastic, and this time of year is pretty awesome. We’ve got the Oak Food Garden up to a point where we’re starting to harvest a lot of food!

Today, we harvested the rest of the broad beans and they’re going to be (mostly) blanched and frozen for use by the Wednesday Cooking crew in the next few months. We also pulled our experimental garlic crop, one of the first things planted back in February and they’re now hanging inside to cure. This was grown from a head I provided – the same garlic that more or less failed for me this year. It’s given me some clues as to why mine didn’t do well this season, my soil is just that much heavier and holds a lot more moisture.

Beautiful huge heads of garlic – note the $1 coin for size reference!

Although they’re a bit late to be going in, we planted a lot of tomatoes today, that we hope we’ll make into Passata come autumn. The Wednesday Cooking group are making healthier lunch options and have been making pizza and salads. We harvested a lot of salad greens for them today, Cos lettuce, endive, tiny white celery flowers (absolutely delicious in salad!), silverbeet and red orach.

This is the first pick of the orach, which we planted fairly thickly from seedlings I raised only a couple of months ago. While we were picking, I discovered a volunteer tomato, looking very happy. I thought it might have come from someone’s lunch tomato that could’ve ended up in the bed (we’ve only reclaimed the area in recent months), but further along the row, I discovered more healthy tomatoes! Every one up against an orach plant!

Red Orach and sneaky Volunteer Tomato

Then the penny dropped.

Two years ago, my friend Sara gave me some Roma tomato seedlings she had no room for. I had a great crop and dried most of them, the seeds ending up in the worm farm. The following winter, I must have used that tray of compost in one of my wicking barrel dwarf apples – and got a bonus crop of tomatoes last summer!

I dried some of those too and would’ve put the seeds in the worm farm – I hate wasting anything. And of course, I used some worm compost in my potting mix when I grew on the orach seedlings a month or so ago. So, the interlopers will be cossetted and cared for, eventually overwhelming the orach, and I hope they crop as well as they have for me the last two years šŸ™‚

 

 

Tis the Season

It’s Boxing Day here in Australia, which for me means the true start of summer holiday reading, grazing on leftovers, warm weather (usually) and the start of the Sydney/Hobart yacht race, which I usually don’t watch – living in Hobart I’m usually more interested in the finish!

But surpassing all these things, it’s the first day of the Melbourne Boxing Day test match. This year Australia are playing Pakistan and I’m enthralled already. Two of my friends are at the game and I think one year I’ll have to fork out the money and go myself, though I’m loath to give up my comfortable couch and grazing rights for a hard plastic seat and overpriced snacks!

The yard has been very productive too, there’s been loads of potatoes (and more to come) plus raspberries, strawberries, beans, the start of the cucumbers, the first of the basilĀ and the mandatory salad greens that always grow in my garden. Interestingly, I’ve had some “volunteers” that have done very well the last few weeks.

img_20161226_110031

These Roma tomatoes came from seeds in the worm farm and ended up as fertiliser/soil conditioner when I was planting out the dwarf apples back in late winter. I’ve repotted a few that are flowering but it’s astonishing how well this batch hasĀ fared – and with no help at all from me!

The raspberries have been quite wonderful and there’s been a lot of lusciousĀ desserts this summer as well as just enjoying them fresh, straight off the bush ā¤ We’re not a big jam-loving household but I think it’s worth experimenting and make a little sometimes just to add some variety. So, for something a little different (for me) I decided to make a few jars from the excess. Raspberries are a good source of pectin so jam making is pretty straightforward althoughĀ there’s loads of warming the sugar before cooking tips and tricks. I’m too lazy for that! Here’s my basic recipe.

Lazy Woman’s Raspberry Jam (Makes about 3 x 300 ml jars)

500 g (1.1 lb) clean, whole raspberries

500 g (1.1 lb) white sugar

1 tab lemon juice

a small knob of butter

Pick over the berries and make sure they’re clean. I find this works best with a mix of very ripe and slightly under ripeĀ fruit. Ā Put in a large, heavy based saucepan. Gently pour over the sugar and shake the pan to make sure the sugar covers and coats all the fruit. Cover and leave overnight.

The next day, wash glass jars and screw top lids (the “pop-top” kind) in warm, soapy water, rinse in hot clean water. Because we don’t eat a lot of jam, I tend to use small jars for this, nothing over 300 ml. Sterilise the jars in a cool oven and put the clean lids in a small saucepan of simmering water. This jam is fast to make, so I find it best to get the jars and lids done before I cook the jam.

Put the sugar and berries on a low heat and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Shake the pan gently until the gorgeous raspberry juice starts to show through and increase the heat. Then stir occasionally to ensure the jam doesn’t stick. Bring it up to a simmer and continue to stir. Let it boil for a minute or two and toss in a small knob of butter. (This is a very old trick to eliminate the scum that sometimes forms on boiling jam – and it works with any and every jam!) Test for a set by putting a little on a saucer and letting it cool.

Once setting point is reached take the jam off the boil and put it on a heat-proof surface somewhere convenient and safe to pot up. Bring the sterilised lids in their saucepan to the same spot, a pair of tongs, oven-proof gloves or a tough tea towel handy to grab hot things and a heat proof board to put the filled jars!

With an oven mit or tea towel, get a hot, sterilised jar out of the oven. Carefully fill with the hot jam, which should pour quite easily. I use a small clean china cup for this, but be careful – jam scalds are not fun! Grab a lid with the tongs, shaking excess water off and very carefully screw it on the jar. Put on a heat-proof board or similar to cool slowly. Continue until all the jam is done.

As the jars cool on the board, press the center of the lid to ensure a seal. If the center won’t stay down (which happens occasionally) put this jar aside and use it first. Clean the outside of the jars with a clean damp cloth and label them clearly with name and date. This will store unopened in a cupboard for a couple of years but in my experience it usually gets eaten within a few months. Raspberry Jam will darken as it ages too, taking on a deep ruby hue.

img_20161211_185005

In the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the compliments of the season. It’s been quite the “annus horribilus” for me and many others but as with all things in life, it’s really what you make it and there’s been some truly wondrous things among Ā the moments of sadness. Thank you to so many for offering comments and kindness throughout this year, it’s very much appreciated.

Personally, I’m not a religious person but I respect the power of positive thought flowing through to positive deeds. So whatever you believe, be kind to each other. That way we can’t go wrong šŸ˜€ ā¤

img_20161225_105311

kunanyi/Mt Wellington, Hobart 25th December 2016

Volunteers and Patience – Day 22 NaBloPoMo

Hi everyone,

I spent a lovely day out in the yard today – no uni work to do. Woo hoo!Ā So I had a chance to actually pay attention to a few things.

Like the worm farms. I’ve got two of them I bought a few years ago forĀ converting all the kitchen waste that my chickens can’t have, (tea leaves, coffee grounds, potato peelings and so on) into lovely rich compost. I haven’t really taken a lot of notice of them since I emptied the bottom trays some months ago and put the compost out for the potato beds and wicking barrel fruit trees.

Well, imagine my surprise when I looked closely at the plants coming up in the gap between the trays today.

img_20161122_104758

In the picture aboveĀ are mostly Roma bush tomatoes that I driedĀ back in autumn, and after saving what I thought was the best of the seed, put in the rest in the compost bucket. Note a tiny potato plant in the right half of the photo – that has come up from a peeling! I’m planning to pot the strongest tomatoesĀ up and let them do their thing. I’ve found Roma is a great variety for growing in tubs.

Volunteers are actually really common in my garden beds. At the moment, I’m picking from several Golden and Ruby Silverbeet (Rainbow Chard) and Curly Endives that have popped up in quite unlikely places and every autumn I have Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta) and of course, there’s the potatoes.

It’s really hard to find all the potatoes at harvest time and it only takes one to see a new plant sneak up in the middle of whatever’s in the bed next. Usually, I pull these out as they are like weeds – unwanted interlopers! On the other hand, in spring, I always findĀ new plants of the perennial Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) that has made a home in front of the asparagus bed that I like to transplant or put in pots.

This is theĀ asparagus I grew from seed last spring and planted out in autumn. Despite needing a thorough weeding, it’s doing really well – much better than first year crowns should – but I did spent quite a few months preparing the bed with copious amounts of sheep manure, seaweed and spent straw from the rabbit hutches. Also, I haven’t seen any berries yetĀ (which identifies female plants) but with the slow start we had to spring, they might not appear until next month. The biggest stem was about pencil thickness so I might take a stem or two next spring but I won’t start cropping properly for another couple of years.

Most of the food I grow is fast to produce and cropĀ – gone in a season. Apart from the fruit trees, asparagus is the only really long term food project I have, but I know it will be worth it. After weeding, I’ll be piling more manure and seaweed over it – and wait.

Patience is a virtue šŸ˜€

Speaking of which, this young fellow has no patience! This is Bernard Black charging in to eat ALLĀ the food this morning, giving me the “get out of my way woman!” look on the way ā¤

img_20161122_104506