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!

 

 

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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.

“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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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.
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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.

The community tool shed

Down at the allotments we have a community tool shed which we open Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Today it was my turn to open up the shed.

Allotments in the UK tend to be rather large, but at Beelarong community farm each plot is eight square metres. No room to put a shed on that pocket handkerchief – hence the community shed, where tools and equipment are made available for any allotment holder to use.

Most of us keep our own gardening tools in the boot, but not many of us can fit a wheelbarrow in the back seat!  That’s where the community shed comes into it’s own.

Once I’d opened up the shed I checked on my allotment. The ground was lovely, thanks to some recent rain, and it was a pleasure to just admire my veggies – and pick them.  The silver beet (chard) has done really well this year, and the Cavalo Nero kale is looking wonderful, no caterpillar damage which I’m very happy about. One year the cabbage moth devastated the whole lot.  I picked more broccolini from my broccoli plants – just turned my back for a few days – those plants can’t help themselves.

The flat leafed parsley seems to be fashionable now but I prefer to grow the curly parsley – I love the rich green of the leaves – and I don’t know what it’s roots are sitting in but whatever it is, that parsley is revelling in it. So I just keep hacking away at it and pass a bunch of it on to anybody who wants some.

Curly parsley

Curly parsley.

I picked a couple of Kohlrabi to chop up and put in the savoury mince I cooked when I got home. (A whole lot of veggies went into the pot, I tend to get carried away, so if the army turn up on my doorstep I’ll be able to feed them all.)

I digress.  I had some time to kill before it was time for me to lock the shed up so I took the camera out. I bought a really nice camera ages ago but haven’t used it much because I haven’t mastered it.  So today I took the instruction book with me and practised with the macro lens.

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This lovely little lettuce is no more. I enjoyed it with my lunchtime salad.

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A daisy to attract the bees

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This is my Cavalo Nero kale, you can tell just by looking at it that it’s full of minerals. These leaves were chopped up and added to my savoury mince in the last few minutes of cooking. I’ll have muscles like Popeye.

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I thought this was pretty. It’s one of my spring onions gone to seed.

I’ve got a way to go with the camera. But you have to start somewhere. I really could use a few lessons.

The real reason behind my dusting off the camera is reading Mr Tootlepedal’s blog – his photos of birds and flowers are amazing. I’ll never reach those dizzy heights.

Happy gardening.

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Writing about all things thrifty, home cooking, fun on a budget and living between Cornwall and Huelgoat in Brittany.

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Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate

The Power of Thrift

and other ramblings

Nourishing Traditions

The Blog that Challenges Policitally Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

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