Recycling your spring onions

Do you know how to give your spring onions a new lease on life?

Just recycle them.

I first heard this tip from Annette McFarlane who is a well known gardener, author and broadcaster in Brisbane. She is also a wonderful educator. I have attended lots of her gardening workshops put on by Brisbane City Council in libraries around town.

When you buy a bunch of spring onions just keep the roots and about 3 centimetres of the white part, plant them in the ground, and they’ll grow again. In fact you can see them sprouting green again in just a few days.

Have a look at these that I planted about four days ago. They’ll just grow like Topsy now and I can cut away at the green part ad-infinitum. Brilliant. No good of course if you want to use the white part too, but hey – how good is it to have the green parts to snip at to sprinkle over your salads, soups and stir fries.

Spring onions re-growing

Spring onions recycled

Check out this link to Fusian Living to learn more on the subject.

I was entertained by this blog The Art of Doing Stuff  and her Great Onion Experiment. Which proves that you don’t need to go to all that trouble. Just stick ’em in the ground and they’ll grow, we don’t need to get too precious about it. It works.

Nigel, I did this post for you – just to prove that I have other things going round my head besides sweet potatoes and chokos!

Jenny and Steve, thanks for the spring onions. They live again!

Happy gardening.

A harvest to share

I have mentioned before that at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment volunteers and allotment holders alike work in the community garden every Wednesday morning.

At the end of their labours the harvest is shared and at the moment the community garden is bursting with veggies.

I took this photo today of the ‘share’ table holding a variety of Asian greens, pumpkin, cauliflower, limes, lettuce, passion fruit and macadamia nuts.

The share table

The share table

What you cannot see is the huge bucket of limes sitting on the ground, plus a shopping bag full of them. Volunteers also packed one of the wheelbarrows to the top with more greens and John, one of our maintenance guys, turned up with a great mound of chokos from his own garden which were welcomed with gusto by the three of us there who are ‘choko lovers’.

With my share of chokos and limes I will be to making my favourite choko, lime and ginger marmalade and I’ll be making a big pot of choko, onion and curry soup to feed the freezer.

Happy gardening.

Panning for gold – sweet potatoes

I love growing sweet potatoes. Tell me I “don’t get out enough” if you please, but it’s a bit like panning for gold once you get in amongst the sweet potato bed. It’s only when you start digging that you find out if there is anything worth eating growing beneath the greenery

Sweet potato bed

my sweet potato bed, lots of green tops

I fancied sweet potato for dinner yesterday so had a little dig around. And this was the pathetic result. Mmm, not ready yet thought I.

a little toddler

a little tiddler of a sweet potato

Not ready to give up easily  (I planted the original tubers last October and I’d dug up a few decent sized tubers in April so there must be something there) I tried the other side of the bed and hit the mother lode. I found two tubers this size, but I have already roasted the other one!  It was delicious, and there’s plenty left.

Sweet potato - that's more like it

Sweet potato – that’s more like it

So now I’m really puzzled. When is the right time to harvest your sweet potatoes?

While I was pondering this important question Liz, the community garden co-ordinator, arrived at the farm  and told me that you know they are ready when the green tops die down. So there you have it.

My green tops are alive and well so I’ll leave them another month or two and then I reckon I’ll have buckets full.

Happy gardening.

A time of abundance

This has got to be the best growing season for veggies in Brisbane. The community garden at the farm is looking fantastic and it’s a treat going over to my allotment. We are in winter now so we are not so plagued with pests which is good. The mornings are a bit nippy but we are having lovely dry sunny days.

I have been harvesting heaps of veggies over the past few weeks, in fact some have already ‘done their dash’ and today I’ve cleared the ground to plant new seedlings of silver beet and seeds of peas and beans.

But there is still plenty more to cut at in the allotment. I took these photographs this morning. It was in a funny light, shade and sunshine. But I snapped away anyway.

Brassica

Broccoli

Parsley

A row of parsley

Silverbeet

Silverbeet

Alyssum

Alyssum

Sweet basil

Sweet basil

Spinach

English spinach

Kale

Curly kale

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Lettuce

Tatsoi and Lettuce

Brassica

Broccoli

Lettuce

Lettuce – garlic at the top of the photo

Beans

Garlic and lettuce

Beans

Bush beans

?

Row of lettuce

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My sweet potato bed with a patch of swede at the back

Hardly any weeding needed. Just watering and then filling my bucket with lovely fresh vegetables. Today I harvested beans, sweet potato, English spinach, kale, silver beet, beetroot and herbs parsley and basil.

Happy gardening.

Beneficial flowers down at the allotment

I am trying to learn more about the beneficial effects of planting flowers amongst my vegetables down at the allotment, both to attract beneficial insects, and deter pests. The flowers look pretty too.

With a total of 16 square metres over two allotments space is at a premium but I’ve started to introduce a few flowers to attract good bugs, and repel bad.

Here’s a few flowers growing in my ‘lottie’.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium

The extra benefit of growing nasturtium is that you can eat the leaves and the flowers. The leaves have a peppery taste and the flowers add a bit of the exotic to a salad.

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Alyssum

I like to see alyssum growing in a border. My alyssum plants were bought from Bunnings nursery but I also planted a row of seeds to give me a little border. That was some weeks ago and the seeds have refused to germinate so far. Looks like Bunnings are going to make a few more dollars out of me as I buy another punnet.

Marigolds help deter root-eating nematodes in the soil, and add a nice bit of colour.

Marigolds

Marigolds

The community garden at the farm is scattered with flowers.  Here is a view taken recently across the community garden.

Flowers in the community garden

Flowers in the community garden

Liz, the co-ordinator in the community garden planted a whole bed of sunflowers. It’s great watching the bees going berserk on the flower heads, and the birds have a field day too on the seeds of the flower.

Sunflowers with bee ( in the top corner of the left flower)

Sunflowers

Cosmos flowers pop up, self seeded, all over the place.

Cosmos

Cosmos

I took this photograph of a flower border on the edge of the farm, near to the allotments and the community garden. We all feel the benefit of these flowers both in the pollination of our vegetables, and just for the pleasure of looking at them.

A flower border at the farm

A flower border at the farm

Happy gardening.

Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens

I took time out yesterday to visit Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens at Toowong and spent a delightful hour wandering the pathways. Here are a few of the pics I took in my travels.

Home for the native bees

Home for the native bees

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A lovely shaded walk

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The next four photographs were taken in the Japanese garden.

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There is a fun Children’s Trail with lots of interesting things for them to discover.
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Cute forest animals

Cute forest animals on the Children’s Trail

After you have left the gardens it’s well worth the short drive to the summit of Mt Coot-tha for the magnificent view over Brisbane seen from the advantage point outside the Kuta Cafe. Whilst there you can treat yourself to refreshments. When I arrived a coach had just disgorged the passengers and they all made straight for the ice cream stand. Their cones were enormous and looked pretty good to me.  Very tempting, but I settled for a Devonshire Tea.

If you find yourself in Brisbane and have an hour or two to spare Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens and the Summit is a lovely way to get “Far From The Madding Crowd”.

One allotment – just eight square metres

It never ceases to amaze me how much food you can grow in just eight square metres.

I have two allotments that size, but one is given over to sweet potato and swedes. This is what I grow in the other one and it supplies me with all the greens, beans and beetroot, I can eat.

I harvest this small bed of silverbeet once a week then give it a good liquid feed. My reward is another harvest a week later. By growing the leaves this fast it seems to beat the caterpillars. You can see how healthy the leaves are.

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Silverbeet

Flat leaf parsley seems to be fashionable these days but I still prefer the curly leaf. I think it has a stronger flavour. And I grow lots of it. Can’t do without it when I’m cooking. I like to keep a jar of these lovely green leaves sitting on the kitchen window sill too. I think a jar of freshly picked herbs really livens the place up.

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Curly parsley

I’m picking this curly kale in the same way as I harvest my silverbeet. Harvest once a week and then give it a liquid feed. More ready for the pot a week later. I don’t want to speak too soon, but by picking the leaves quickly, and nice and young, they don’t seem to be troubled by caterpillars.

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Curly kale

Asian greens do really well in Brisbane and I like to keep a few plants of Tatsoi for stir fry, or the young leaves do well in a salad. Such a pretty plant.

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Tatsoi

Just a small bed of beetroot (below) but I still managed to pick two at the weekend. I like them pickled. It wasn’t worth going all out with the pickling for just two beet which I intend to eat within the week so while they were boiling up in the pot I heated up a small jug of vinegar and pickling spices in the microwave and added the cooked beets to that. They soon absorbed the vinegar and I tried them a few hours later with my salad. Nice and tasty. You can see there’s a bit of damage to the leaves, but that didn’t affect the beet itself.

Incidentally, you can see in this shot just how close I grow my veggies and that’s why I have to keep the soil well fed and topped up with liquid feed during the growing season.

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Beetroot

Four different varieties of young lettuce in this shot, next to my tiny garlic bed to the right of the picture. I planted about 20 cloves in April. They should be ok to harvest in October/November.  The white alyssum flower is to attract the good bugs.

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Young lettuces

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More pretty lettuce leaves

You can just see the marigolds to the left of this pic. I grow them for the good bugs.

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Still MORE lettuce

I’m dabbling in brassicas a bit this year, despite the challenge with caterpillars this seems to bring. This is one of my four broccoli plants surrounded by nasturtium and alyssum. Not sure if that will help. As a back-up I’ll use an organic spray but for now we are doing fine.

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Broccoli

I have just a few dwarf beans. I planted climbing beans earlier this year, a much better idea in a tiny plot, but they did no good at all. Even the dwarf beans struggled but these few plants are doing better.

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Dwarf beans

Happy gardening.

Playing “tourist” around Brisbane

Even in retirement it’s good sometimes to have a day off.

So earlier this week I decided to play tourist in my home town of Brisbane.

It was a lovely dry sunny morning when I strolled the couple of blocks down to the river to catch a City Cat to take me up the Brisbane river, past New Farm Park and under the Story Bridge into town.

City Cat coming in to dock

City Cat coming in to dock

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The City Cat just docking ready for my trip up the river

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I took my morning cup of coffee under one of the yellow umbrellas.
Dirty work, but somebody has to do it!

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Looking back towards the Story bridge I had just cruised under – this is the view from the cafe where I took my morning coffee break

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Still sitting at the coffee shop this is the view in the other direction. The paddle steamer is the “Kookaburra Queen” which takes cruises up the Brisbane River.

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Time to get some exercise and I took a good walk along the river bank heading towards the City Botanic Gardens. You can just see the beginning of the mangroves growing out of the sandy bank.

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Taking the path through the mangroves. So peaceful and miles from anywhere you would think. Wrong. The city is just a few hundred metres away across the park.

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Leaving the river behind I strolled into the City Botanic Gardens and you can see the city in the distance. The weather was so kind I saw a fellow sunning himself with his shirt off. And it’s winter here.

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After emigrating 30 odd years ago Brisbane still feels exotic to me. You just have to look at the flora

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A pretty splash of colour

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Almost in the city now I came across this pretty fountain and the ducks

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I was joined by this cheeky bird

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This rather lovely panel is on the city-side entrance to the gardens

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And this rather grand plaque is on the main gates at the entrance

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Heading into town from the gardens I passed a row of city bikes. You can rent these to get about.

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Then onto our beautifully refurbished city hall where I attended a (free) lunchtime concert put on by Brisbane City Council. I enjoyed a lovely hour of jazz.

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Outside the city hall after I left the concert office workers were sitting around having lunch

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Walking through town I came to Anzac Square which was very pretty in the sunshine and lots of city workers enjoying a respite from their labours

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Anzac Square has an avenue of these amazing Boab trees, sometimes called bottle trees

I couldn’t stop walking once I started and ended up walking most of the way home, through the city and only caught the bus when I reached Fortitude Valley.

A lovely day out.

Rosella jam workshop

Yesterday we held a rosella jam workshop at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment.

Dorothea is the driving force behind the planting and harvesting of the rosella bushes. She also makes the rosella jam which we sell at the farm as a fund-raiser and yesterday morning she took us through the process of rosella jam making. Most enjoyable in our open-air kitchen.

Dorothea had already harvested the rosellas so our first job was to remove the seed pods from the red calyx. It’s the calyx that gives the jam the colour and flavour.

Rosella calyx and seed pod

Rosella calyx and seed pod

It can be a bit tough removing the seed pod from the calyx so John, a volunteer and maintenance man at the farm, has made us a couple of these tools. The wooden handle gives you a good grip and the metal part pushes the seed pod through the calyx.

A handy tool

A handy tool

After removing all the seed pods they are then boiled up to release the pectin.

Seed pods boiling

Seed pods boiling

The seed pods are then strained and the liquid (pectin) is boiled up with the red calyx and sugar to make the jam. Dorothea didn’t take her eyes off the pot once the sugar went in, she kept it moving gently so that it wouldn’t stick.

Boiling up the jam

Boiling up the jam

Time to pour the jam into the sterilised jars. It was good to see some young people enjoying the workshop too. They really threw themselves into the process and were very ‘hands-on’.

The jars are filled

The jars are filled

Finally, with the jam labelled and ‘dressed’, we all took a jar home with us.

Rosella jam

Rosella jam

Here is the recipe for the rosella jam

Wash freshly picked rosellas in cold water and drain.

Separate the red calyx from the seed pods.

Place seed pods in a saucepan, cover with water and gently boil for 5-10 minutes to release the pectin.

Remove from heat, strain, save the liquid (pectin) and discard the seed pods.

Wash the red calyx in cold water.

Pour the liquid pectin back into a large saucepan, add the red calyx and simmer gently until very soft (about 20 minutes) stirring often.

Add sugar at the rate of 1.5 kilos of sugar for 1.5 litres of pulp.

Boil quickly for 15-20 minutes after adding the sugar, stirring occasionally.

Add two tablespoons of jam setta.

Skim off any foam with a slotted spoon.

Bottle the jam into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Enjoy.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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and other ramblings

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The Blog that Challenges Policitally Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

could do worse

adventures in London

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Allotment, garden and daytrips

Pickle Me Too

Nourishing foods for the whole family (including pickles!)

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making what matters

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organic, sustainable and self-sufficient hobby farm in the making

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