A visit to Green Harvest

Yesterday I made a visit to Green Harvest, the organic seed producers, by accident.

I was visiting Maleny on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, driving along the Maleny/ Kenilworth road and just came across it. What a lovely surprise.

If you live in South East Queensland, and you want to purchase organic seeds – Green Harvest is the place. For one thing, because it’s local you know that if they can grow it, so can you. (In theory!)

At Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment we practice our own seed-saving. However, if you want to try something new – and they have a wonderful selection of seeds – you get them from (you guessed it) G.H.

I have very little growing in my allotment over these hot summer months – the reason my blogging has tapered off. I have one cucumber plant that is trying to take over Brisbane (I swear you can hear it growing); a few snake bean plants which enjoy sub-tropical conditions; and various herbs carrying on heroically.

That doesn’t leave much for the dinner plate.

However, after chatting to the staff at G.H. I found a couple of interesting plants that will (should!) keep me in green leaves throughout the summer.

This Surinam Spinach Talinum triangulare,  (and I quote) a leafy green; self-sowing annual; use raw or cooked.

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Surinam Spinach

And this – Mushroom plant Rungia klossii – perennial low-growing leaf vegetable, use raw or cooked.

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Mushroom plant

So, dear readers, I shall not starve this summer!

Happy gardening.

Preserving your veggies, and pretty labels

One of my pleasures in preserving veggies straight from the garden is the finished result. Complete with label made on my computer.

Love to see the jars lined up. Very satisfying.

photoHappy gardening (and pickling).

Spicy eggplant & capsicum chutney

Growing your own food is sometimes the easy part, what to do with the glut is quite another matter. In this case it’s eggplants.

This is not going to turn into a cooking blog as other folk do a much better job of it.  It’s more about my attempt to find ways of utilising the vegetables that land in my lap as manna from heaven (or in this case, from the community garden where I have my allotment).

Today’s recipe is Spicy eggplant & capsicum chutney. Here is the link.

It’s a new recipe so I’ll try it out by just doing half quantity, see if I like it. Everything lined up on the kitchen table and we’re ready to go. Incidentally, it’s not that the eggplant is small – it’s more a case of the capsicum being huge. I only need half that amount – I’ll be eating it for the rest of the week!

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Whichever way you point the camera at it – diced eggplant doesn’t have a ‘good side’, so I’ll chain myself to the stove now and the next pic will be the finished result. Hopefully.

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I’m back again.

WOW. Just had a taste of the finished result. What can I say except that it will clear out your sinuses! The heat will depend of course on the heat of the chilli you are using and how ‘hot’ you like your food. In this case I used one level teaspoon of chilli powder as I didn’t have a fresh one.

It will be interesting to see how the taste matures as the recipe suggests you leave the chutney for a month before using it. Should be perfect for Christmas to go with cold meats and cheese or as the recipe suggests, with Indian curries.

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This is the amount I made using half of the recipe – four x 250 ml jars. I’m very happy with that result, especially considering that the only thing I had to buy was the red capsicum and a few fresh dates. The rest of the ingredients were out of my pantry staples.

And that’s more of my eggplant stash used up.

Happy gardening.

Eggplants can be a bit scary!

Why? Because they sit there on the kitchen table, looking at me, and I don’t know what to do with them.

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We have an abundance of eggplants over at the farm at the moment and they need to be used.

This week there were some that had missed the eagle eyes of the volunteer gardeners who were harvesting them that morning and were still on the plant, large and heavy, and in need of picking or go to waste. So I picked. And then I took them home.

That is when I made the earth shattering decision to ‘face the fear’ and learn all there is to know about cooking with eggplants/aubergines.

Thank goodness for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame. I will start with him. The veggie is well covered in his “Veg Everyday” cook book.  I will work my way through each and every recipe.

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Starting today with the classic Sicilian vegetable stew Caponata.  Eggplant is the star of the show and is well supported by a chorus of olive oil, tomato, garlic, celery, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, sultanas, capers, green olives, and CHOCOLATE!

Ta da!

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It might not look as pretty as the photograph in the book – here is a link to the recipe – but it tastes delicious and I will do as Hughie says and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days (with the occasional little taste!) and let the flavour develop to it’s full potential.

This is a good opportunity to take the finished dish back to the farm for a taste test with the other gardeners. They’ll all be grabbing the eggplants then!

I have tomorrow’s recipe all sorted. Watch this space.

Happy gardening

The Jacarandas are out in New Farm Park

Yesterday the car was at the mechanics having it’s guts ripped out making it hard for me to get to the farm to do any gardening.

So I walked over to New Farm Park instead to see the jacarandas.  They blossom every October and the trees were a feast to the eyes – I snapped away as I walked around.

Here are just a few pics.

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It was rare to find the park so quiet, it’s usually a hive of activity with folk exercising, kicking a ball around, and kids playing.

We are lucky to have this lovely park as a haven so near to the city.

P.S. Then I sold a kidney to pay for the work – and picked up the car. It’s purring now, and so it should!

A solitary Lebanese Cucumber

Last week I put my allotment to bed for the summer.

This week I weakened.

My allotment neighbour Brian had a small punnet of Lebanese Cucumbers and needed a new home for the last one.

Well Dear Reader what would you have done?

So I planted it. And here it is.

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I found this empty plastic water bottle someone had left behind, cut the bottom off, removed the lid, and stuck it upside down in the ground beside the plant for ease of watering .

This helps in two ways, saves wasting water by taking the water straight to the roots of the plant, but it also saves getting water on the leaves which in our humid summer encourages a mould on the leaves. That’s the theory anyway. If it works I will be patenting it.

This lucky little seedling is sitting in a lovely pile of rotted compost because we had just opened one of the big compost bins, right next to my allotment, and I took advantage of it.

I watered it in with a weak solution of worm juice (wee) and pulled the mulch around it to keep the moisture in.

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I am not sure about pollination as it sits alone, but it’s sitting pretty close to my neighbours seedlings so I’m hoping it won’t be a problem.  This one plant will keep me in cucumbers throughout the summer as they grow prolifically as long as you keep them watered and they get lots of sunshine. Well, the sunshine is guaranteed!

(I’ve just noticed the toe of my rubber gardening shoe in the corner of the pic.)

Happy gardening

I’ve put the allotment to bed

Yesterday morning I went over to water the allotment and the bugs had moved in. Three days. That’s all it took. So I know that even though it’s still spring – summer bugs are here.

Fortunately I had harvested most veggies.  But I still had some kale which the caterpillars were revelling in and fighting amongst themselves to see who could eat the most. I had a couple of kohlrabi still to harvest and they were covered in a heaving mass of little white critters. Fortunately the turnip part of the kohlrabi was ok and I just stuck it under the garden tap and they were as good as new.

I have nothing to complain about because this last season, all through winter, has been my best harvest yet since I took over this allotment three years ago. I’ve frozen some veggies, I’ve pickled others, made chutneys, and I still have some left in the crisper in my fridge. I will not starve Dear Reader.

So I have decided to put the allotment to bed for the summer.

I have been working on it for a week or so, adding manure, used coffee grains, lawn clippings and veggie scraps so yesterday I finished the job off with a sprinkling of rock dust to add the necessary minerals. I gave the whole thing a good drenching with the hose pipe which will (hopefully) start it all breaking down – thanks to the piles of horse poo.

Then I used a bale of sugar cane mulch to cover the whole allotment. All eight square metres of it!

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The farm gets in a load and we can buy a bale for $7. A bargain, and it does encourage us to mulch well during the hot months to conserve water. Some of the allotment holders choose to keep going during the summer and this mulch keeps the ground cooler and at a more even temperature.

This is what it looked like when I finished the job. Nice and snug under the thick layer of mulch and the worms will do the work of breaking it all down over the next few months.

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My allotment, lying fallow for the summer. The one in the foreground, with the flowers, belongs to my neighbour. Looks like he has the same idea.

As a reminder, this is what my little plot looked like just a few weeks ago. Allotment heaven. You can see why I need to rest the soil during the summer – it must be exhausted!

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Fortunately Beelarong Community Farm never closes (a bit like the old Windmill Theatre) so I’ll join the volunteers working in the community garden throughout the summer. I’ll be blogging about the goings on there as we toil like peasants in the field battling the ravages of the tropical storms, plague and pestilence of a Brisbane summer.  (OK. So I’m a bit of a Drama Queen.)

Happy gardening.

Another Wednesday morning at the farm

Today we had our usual Wednesday get together over at the farm where I have my allotment.

I did a bit of work on my allotment. I took the wheelbarrow over to the paddock for another load of horse poo to spread on my plot, grubbed out a couple of old broccoli plants, and then I watered the few remaining veggie plants. Only took about half an hour.

We are having the Annual General Meeting at the farm on Sunday and I’ve been asked to organise the catering for the BBQ we will be holding afterwards.  So it was time for a final catch up with the ‘catering team’. We are working on about 40 folk turning up. We have thrashed out the menu, willing helpers are poised and ready to go, and we’ve worked out who will be at the BBQ turning the snags (sausages) and kebabs and frying the onions. There will be no shortage of salad.

While this was happening volunteers were at work harvesting food in the community garden ready to put on the Share Table to be shared out at the end of the morning. Here is just a small selection.

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White mulberries, with the occasional rogue red one

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Curly kale

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Tomatoes harvested by our youngest gardener

And here is the gardener who picked all the tomatoes in the bowl and a good amount of the white mulberries.  He is just making his way through the nasturtium bed, maybe looking for chokos, they share the same area of ground and he managed to find one a couple of weeks ago, even though the season was just about over.

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Our youngest gardener

Then it was time to down tools for morning tea. Alongside the tea and cakes we feasted on mulberries straight from the food forest and and strawberries picked fresh from the community garden.

Happy gardening.

A gardener’s weekend

This is what I got up to at the weekend.

On Saturday morning I found this bush growing beside the road. I’d love to know what it is.

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I picked up this marvellous cabbage from my local greengrocer at Merthyr Village. It was beautifully solid, and weighted four kilos. Perfect for making sauerkraut. So I crossed his palm with silver, hoisted it up under my arm and took it home.

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I started off with the idea of photographing the process as I went along, but there are only so many ways you can photograph a cabbage and still keep your readers!

And in any case, the process using the Nourishing Traditions recipe that I followed has already been beautifully covered by The Family Homestead blog under this link.

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You may be wondering about the blue ceramic crock sitting on the kitchen table ready to take the sauerkraut. I splashed out a year or two ago and bought this one specially made for fermenting vegetables from Green Living Australia. It’s my pride and joy but you can also use glass jars which are easy to come by (and a lot cheaper).

The recipe suggests using whey to start the sauerkraut off. I made some cottage cheese that morning from some organic whole fat milk that needed to be used up and used the whey from that, but you can just as easily get it by draining some yoghurt. It’s explained in the Family Homestead link.

It was a hot day on Saturday so I waited until the cool of the afternoon before I visited the allotment. I harvested a lettuce and a selection of green leaves for a frittata. Finished with a good hosing as the ground was bone dry. Then I got bitten all over with some little midges so I went home and had a good scratch.

Then I made a delicious frittata for tea with my green harvest, a potato, and a couple of special eggs from my friend Tatiana’s chickens. Just look at the colour of that yolk – now THAT’s a free-range egg.

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My home grown frittata

To top off my Saturday nicely I watched “Gardening Australia” on the tele.

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Sunday morning dawned with the promise of another hot day. I was going to spoil myself with spending the day at BOGI Fair. (Brisbane Organic Growers). The place was packed with eager gardeners and plenty to entertain us with heaps of stalls selling seedlings and just about everything a gardener needs or dreams about.

Clair Levander was the key note speaker at the Fair and I was lucky enough to bag a seat near the front, I learned plenty.

Then I did the rounds of the stalls and took a few pics.

This was a planter they were selling,

This was a tiered planter they were selling at one stall, absolutely packed with healthy herbs.

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They were selling these healthy looking seedlings at one stall. Unfortunately my pic doesn’t do them justice.

I liked the way this stall holder had used old tins and milk cartons as containers.

I liked the way this stall holder had used old tins and milk cartons as containers. Again, my photography let me down because I had to ‘lighten’ this pic – but I just wanted to show you that we don’t have to go out and buy expensive pots just to start off our seedlings.

Too much excitement for one day – I went home and had a good lie down.

Happy gardening.

An Arty Potting workshop at the farm

At Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment they held an ‘Arty Potting’ workshop recently as part of the GOLD n’ kids workshops organised by Brisbane City Council for children and grandparents to spend fun time together during the school holidays.

The idea was to decorate/paint a pot, old boots or other small container and then fill with soil and plant seedlings to take home and nurture.

Attached are some photos of the containers the children planted up.

Boots 3

Boots 2

 Marilyn who ran the workshop brought a Japanese student along to help out.
Boots 1
As with all these GOLD n’ kids workshops a tour of the farm is included and that always goes down well. Gives the kids the opportunity to let off steam. 
A good time was had by all.

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