The Pineapple Jam Workshop

Allotment neighbour Bernice and I had a grand group of folk turn up for the jam workshop at Beelarong on Saturday. This was a free workshop as part of Brisbane City Council’s GOLD program.

It was a hands-on workshop, the best way to learn I believe is to get involved and join in with the preparation, cooking and bottling. Although I hand out an information sheet it’s easier to remember if you’ve actually done it. You get the feel of the mixture as you stir, and the smell, and the look of it.

The pineapples I bought for the workshop were so wonderful and juicy that I straight away cut back on the amount of water in the recipe we were using. Seems I could have cut back even more. We ended up with the most delicious pineapple jam – but it could also be used as a sauce over ice cream, or a spread to go over your baked ham before you roast it.

Here are the happy band of jam makers.  (Don’t you just love my preserving pots, the pot you can just about see sitting behind the bbq to the right of the picture is just as big and shiny as the one on the table in the foreground.)

Pineapple jam workshop

Pineapple jam workshop

We are lucky to have this kitchen area at our community garden. Tables, chairs, and that big bbq have all been gifted one way or another.  Beat’s the stuff going into landfill. Win, win as they say.

We make our own electricity using solar power at Beelarong as we are not on the grid. The bbq is run on bottles of calor gas,  and that’s what we used to cook the jam.

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We had a fantastic downpour of rain in Brisbane yesterday, can hardly wait to get over to the allotment – my poor little rain starved seedlings will (hopefully) be growing like Topsy.

Happy Gardening

 

 

 

Sunshine captured in jars

Pineapples are not growing in my allotment, but they are growing just up the road. One of the first places visited when we emigrated to Australia many years ago was the “Pineapple Plantation” just north of Brisbane – that whole area grows the most wonderful pineapples.

I am running a jam making workshop at Beelarong this weekend and, as I always do, I did a dummy run in my own kitchen this morning, just to make sure that my old recipes are still working just fine.

They are!   Well, this one is anyway.

First catch your pineapple.  In this case I found a nice big juicy one at my local fruitier for the fine price of $4.  And from that investment, + sugar and lemons I already had, I ended up with all this.

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And that is why I’m addicted to preserving.

(My kitchen table in the photo should be Heritage Listed.  I cook the old fashioned way, on the table where I can spread out.)

Here is the recipe I use from the reliable non-nonsense Australian Women’s Weekly.  In this case I halved the recipe which gave me these six small jars and the little taster.

Looking forward to the workshop on Saturday. Watch this space!

 

 

Trombone Zucchini

My allotment neighbour, Alex, added this unusual vegetable to the Share Table today – Trombone Zucchini.  Or if you want it’s more official title Tromboncino Rampicante.  In fact it’s really a member of the squash family. So it answers to many names.

The magic thing about this vegetable is that it doesn’t seem to be attacked by the pests and diseases our zucchini get bothered with, not at Beelarong anyway.  If left, they can grow enormous – and I’ve seen some very strange looking ones when I pressed the ‘google’ button,  but Alex likes to pick them young and tender.

He tends to slice them and stir fry with garlic, but advises that you ‘treat them like you would a zucchini’. So there, you heard it from the master!

Trombone Zucchini Tromboncino Rampicante

Trombone Zucchini (Tromboncino Rampicante)

If you are living in South East Queensland and fancy trying this veggie for yourself you can get these organic seeds from Green Harvest.

Happy Gardening

A ramp to the Windy Loo

We are building a ramp to the Windy Loo at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment.

This will allow wheelchair access.

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See, I wasn’t kidding, check it out – that is the name of the company that built our ‘facilities’ many years ago.

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But it’s heavy work and we threw ourselves into the landscaping at a working bee last week.

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I managed to persuade the team to rest on their picks and shovels for a photograph.

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Was I slacking?  Not likely, I was working with the team that kept the food coming!

Happy gardening.

Turmeric Gold

I don’t usually welcome watching the leaves of my plants turning brown but turmeric is the exception.  These dying leaves tell me that before too long it will be ready to harvest once again.

Turmeric has so many health benefits and it has got to be one of the easiest plants I have ever grown. An allotment neighbour gave me a tiny rhizome, the size of my little finger. I popped it into the ground and had a huge harvest from it last season.  And this year it’s going gangbusters again.

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Dwarfed by my turmeric plant this morning

I call it Turmeric Gold because as well as the wonderful rich golden colour of the rhizome, it saves me heaps  ($49 a kilo in the shops) by growing it myself.  And it’s guaranteed organic.  Even the colour when I grate the fresh turmeric makes me feel better!

turmeric-roots-and-a-jar-of-turmeric-powder

For such little effort, this is well worth growing in your garden, and reap the health benefits.  I grate a little each day in soups, stews, over salads, stir fries, in smoothies. And you can check out this link to learn more seven ways to eat (and drink) turmeric.

Happy Gardening.

Are your seeds still in the shoe box?

If they are – then liberate them!

It’s very tempting to keep your seeds in a favourite shoe box, or similar, and enjoy going through them. I do that too.

However, the magic only happens once you put them in the ground.

Just a little effort can change this ….

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into … this

Version 2

And that’s the joy of it.

Planting Carrots:

Carrots do enjoy a fine tilth so when you prepare your carrot bed if your soil tends to be heavy, incorporate some sand. This will make it easier for those roots to grow down without hindrance and ‘forking’. Give the soil a good rake over to remove as many little stones or obstructions as you can.  Those tiny seeds will love you for it.

Save a handful of that sand for when you sow your carrots. Those seeds are really tiny and by adding the seeds to your handful of sand and then sowing them, the seeds are less likely to ‘clump’ and it cuts down on the job of thinning out the seedlings when they pop up.

Another useful tip I find is incorporating some radish seeds in that handful of sand as well, this will help in two ways.  Radish germinate much quicker than carrots so you will soon be reminded of exactly where those precious carrot seeds were planted.  Secondly, as you harvest the little radishes it will automatically help thin out your row of carrots, thereby saving you some work.

Finally, those tiny seeds sit so close to the surface of the soil that during the first days of sowing, make sure you keep the soil moist, and carrots don’t like to be too crowded so it helps to keep the carrot bed well weeded.

Now, I know you can buy carrots cheap enough in the supermarket. So why bother? Let me tell you that the scent of the carrot as you pull it out of the ground at harvest time cannot be beaten. Smells like a carrot should – and so far you have only pulled it out of the ground!  Just wait until you go home and boil them and add a knob of butter.

Take the first step and get out the shoe box.

“Cooking from scratch”

Our cob oven (pizza oven) at Beelarong Community Farm brings new meaning to the term “cooking from scratch”.  First build your oven.

Mix a bucket full of clay – and continue to do so until you are completely surrounded by buckets of clay.

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Then you throw the clay on the ground and you stamp on it to mix it with straw. Even better if you can find a friend to hang on to.

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Bill decides to go it alone.

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Pat decided to keep her ‘wellies’ on.

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Then it’s back to childhood again as you shape the clay into ‘cobs’, sausage shaped bricks.

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Then you slap it all together and you build an oven. (Well, doesn’t everybody!)

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You congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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And then you wait for three weeks for it to dry out.   Waiting, waiting, waiting ……..

Then every so often you get together and you make pizzas.  Out of the oven and onto your wooden board. Sprinkle with a few Sweet Basil leaves from the community garden.

pizza

Find a few friends.  Start eating.

Neighbour Day photogaph taken by Jon, James' work colleague

No wonder I have a smile on my face. This, folks, is where I have my allotment.

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Happy Gardening.

Using the surplus – Silverbeet

My allotment was bursting with my favourite vegetable last season, Silverbeet (or chard),   so I blanched the excess and popped them into the freezer.  Just a few portions left which I need to use up and this is what Google suggested from taste, my usual go-to website.

Silverbeet and potato gratin

Click on the link for the recipe and this is what it should look like.

 

So I set to work in the kitchen, using my favourite old-fashioned pie dish. The fine grated cheese on the top is a piece of parmesan that I wanted to use up so I put it through the food processor (lazy me) and out came these lovely fine shreds of tasty cheese.

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Baked for 50 minutes and out came my delicious dinner. Just added a side salad made from the gleanings over at the allotment.

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NOTE: I used half the recipe so I don’t have to eat it for the next 3 days. The parmesan on the top layer of thinly sliced potato – immediate potato chips, crunchy and delicious.

Happy Gardening (and cooking) !

 

Lovely Lettuce

It has been very quiet at the allotment over our hot Queensland summer. The weather is suddenly cooler so I am looking forward to getting the allotment planted and producing. And a bit more blogging.

Despite the heat, I have managed to grow a nice few heads of lettuce over the last few weeks, and yesterday I harvested them. Amazing that I managed to do that without them bolting in the heat.  Maybe I’m learning something after all !

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Brazilian Spinach thrives in the Brisbane summer

I put my allotment to bed for our long hot summer under a blanket of horse manure and a thick layer of mulch.

However, a small cutting of Brazilian Spinach (Poor Man’s Spinach) really took off.

This plant was a bit of a cutting gifted by another gardener. I had to give it a chance, so I stuck it into the ground at the beginning of summer – and it has spread and flourished despite the heat, weeks of drought, tropical downpours, and neglect. (It could have tapped into some of that horse manure of course!)

Brazilian Spinach is suitable for tropical and sub-tropical climates only, but it is great to have a member of the spinach family that will keep me in greens during the summer when other varieties have turned up their toes. This is how my plant looked this morning and I have been cutting at it for weeks now. The recent heavy rains gave it a burst of life.

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I noticed that the plant is already putting down fresh roots so if you are a Brisbane gardener and want a root of it – you are welcome. It would need to be collected from the farm. You can also propagate it by putting a cutting in a jar of water and it will sprout roots.

I add this spinach to soups, stir fries and frittata but I also wanted to try it in a pesto and this is a great recipe I found on the Yandina Community Gardens website.

Brazilian Spinach with Macadamia Nut Pesto

Ingredients:

Bunch of brazilian spinach leaves

1 cup basil leaves

3-4 large cloves garlic

½ cup olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups macadamia nuts (I have also used walnut or cashews)

juice of half a lemon

Method:

Combine all ingredients in food processor until smooth.  If mixture is a bit thick, you can add a small amount of water, bit at a time, until it looks right.

Happy Gardening.

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