A tale of two squash

There is just no telling what plants will and will not grow and thrive in your garden. Take these two squash plants.


Both were grown from the same batch of seeds, planted at the same time, in the same seedling mix and transplanted into the garden bed on the same day. Who knows why this happens? The one on the left is constantly under attack by snails and slugs and the other one has suffered no where near the same amount of damage.

BIG OOPS hereWe have subsequently found out that the fruit shown below are NOT ‘Wrinkled from friuli’  as I had thought, but some odd ‘changeling’ squash which has originated from heavens knows where

 Out in the back garden, in yet another bed, plants from the same batch of seedlings are galloping away, as only squash can.


We’ve already started picking the fruit of these plants. These fruits are very young and we’ve been treating them like young zucchini.


The real ‘Wrinkled from Friuli’ (Zuchetta rugosa friulana) seed can be purchased from the Italian Gardener. It looks just like this, just like the packet said it would.


Drink it all in

Homemade brews are frequently considered suss, but there is no need to be embarassed in making and serving drinks these drinks made from your garden.

This year I’ve had lots of red roses flowering so I’m  making Sally Wise’s Sparkling Rose Petal drink, from her book A Year in a Bottle. Nothing challenging about it really – apart from finding 300gms of rose petals, but if there aren’t enough petals I just make up the amounts proportional to the petals I have available. Here is how it looks when its being made, sugar dissolved in hot water, two lemons cut up and the rose petals along with two tablespoons of vinegar and some more cold water:


This is the day its made, all waiting to go. Two days later after steeping at room temperature under the cover of a clean tea towel the mix is ready to be strained and bottled.


Yes the pink colour of the roses does stay in the finished drink. A few days of fermentation (PET bottles are recommended to avoid unpleasant explosions) and you are ready to go.

I made the sparkling rose with lemons from our friend’s tree. Given that I still had another bag of lemons left I thought I’d have a go at making some lemonade. Of course Sally has a recipe for that as well. Just before the lemonade recipe in the book is one for Minted Lemon Syrup, so putting the two together I’ve now made minted lemonade which is just fantastic. I added two cups worth of chopped mint to Sally’s recipe – no other changes necessary.

Here’s cheers!


Changes at Gardening Australia

I know it must be true ’cause I read it in the newspaper (and I did check on the ABC website), that Costa Georgiadis (Costa’s Garden Odessey SBS ) is on the move and he’s moving to host Gardening Australia on the ABC!

That should be a bit of a shock for Aunty. From what I’ve read in the Sydney Morning Herald there is some speculation that some of Costa’s more interesting segments, such as ‘Pimp my Plant’ and ‘Zen Shed’ may make the transition as well.Hm, we’ll wait and see.

The two drawbacks I can see from this are: there will be one less good gardening show on our airwaves; and the new series of Gardening Australia won’t start until 24 March 2012!

Sunday Lunch

At this time of the year there are plenty of ‘social’ events happening out there, but to my mind catching up with family and close friends is the best. This weekend my cousins’ family came over for lunch.

TB wanted to concentrate on using our own garden produce so with that in mind we started looking at what was to hand. At first it seemed that there wasn’t much to offer (unless you wanted to eat broad beans!), so TB started on different veggie ideas. We also took into account what was in our freezer so a blackberry pie using the last of this year’s crop was an easy choice.

The freezer also yielded spinach for creamed spinach and some horseradish.The latter was used, along with some cooked apple to make a tasty sauce for our corned meat, which had come from my sister’s beef cattle.

We had garlic that was picked during the week so that went into the roasting pan.


We were thinking about other sides to go with the meat and and with a quick ‘bandicoot’ into some of our styrofoam boxes we came up with some new season Dutch Creams and Pink Eyes.


Rather than roast them we decided to make a potato salad with wilted sorrel, just about my favourite easy salad recipe courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. TB also made an onion tart, using up the last of our Yondover goats cheese as part of an entree platter.


However his greatest stroke of genius came when he remembered all those zucchinis flowering away in the back garden.


Stuffed with some mince and herbs and then deep-fried they made a great contribution to the platter for starters.


Well as you might imagine we were all rather full by the time we ate all of of this. While the adults rested with a drink in the shady part of the garden, the youngest family member found some yummy raspberries to eat and was distracted by looking around the garden to find where the cat was sleeping.

All in all an excellent day was had by us all – and we didn’t need to eat for a long time afterwards!


Garden re-boot

It’s harvest time at Chez Fork. The past week has been devoted to picking what’s left of our current crop of peas, beans and garlic.

The purple podded peas are all dried out, way beyond being eaten fresh, so I’ve harvested them to use in soup next winter.


This photo was taken just half way through the podding so I was pleased to ultimately get about 400gms of dried peas. A much better harvest than when I grew them last year.

The broad beans which have been so productive again this year are now in.


The fresher beans, the ones in the right-hand bowl and the right-hand side of the trug will be podded, then blanched and frozen for use throughout the rest of the year. The ones that have already started to dry have been podded and place on racks to dry – again for soup and casseroles.


As you can see from the picture TB has also started harvesting the garlic, which is looking very good.

Well now that the initial rush of spring produce has just about petered out we are contemplating what comes next. Being away those few crucial weeks in October and November meant that we didn’t get our planting continuity happening. So, (oh the shame of it!), we went and bought some seedlings to get our next crops underway. In this case it is Blue Lake climbing beans, next to the stakes and bush beans further along the row.


We were also given a lovely egg-plant plant (if that makes sense) by one of our friends to go with  purchased Lebanese egg-plant seedlings. I did get some seeds underway at the same time I bought the seedlings and it looks like they are catching up already.


On the left are Soldacki Clinbing Tomatoes (Lost Seed Company), a Polish variety which reportedly has a shorter time to fruiting than other tomatoes – and yes I also was tempted as I had never heard of climbing tomatoes before. On the right are Purple Amethyst Climbing Beans (Vilmorin). I bought these seeds while I was in Tassie and they are new varities for me. Now I just need to find that perfect spot to put them.

Having pulled out the broad beans there should be a place for the egg plants and tomatoes at least. Those beans might just find a home where our now very tough and leggy celery plants are being pulled out.




Bruny Island

If you had to pick one place that provided a good cross-section of Tassie in one day then Bruny Island could well be it. Bruny Island is a combination of farmland and national park, along with some tiny settlements. The short ferry ride across the D’Entrecastaux Channel was very relaxing compared to the dissembarkation off the ferry which ressembled the start of the Indie 500.

It was all we could do to get our van safely off the road and into the carpark of our first destination – the Bruny Island Smokehouse, or Bish for short. Thankfully tranquility returned once we were inside. A fine platter of smoked fish, fish pates and chutneys was put out for us to taste. There were also a wider range of smoked products available (but not on the tasting platter), and some additional local products available for purchase. In the end we settled on some smoked Atlantic Salmon, smoked mussels, a smoked  Otto cheese (Bruny Island Cheese Co. makes the cheese Bish smokes it) and a bottle of pomegranate molasses.


By this stage we were desperate for a coffee so we set off for the Bruny Island Cheese Company (you will probably have seen the company’s owner, Nick Haddow, on The Gourmet Farmer on SBS) which is just a bit further down the road and hoped that they had the coffee pot on. We pretty much had the place to ourselves for our cheese tasting which consisted of two platters.The first platter was of several soft and washed rind cheeses and the second a selection of their hard cheeses.The c ulmination of the tasting was their C2 raw milk cheese, which was just wonderful.


We decided to settle back and have a coffee and a bit of cake before we made our final decision on what to buy. We were also lucky that it was a baking day so we were tantalised by the aroma of wood-fired bread coming out of the oven.
There were several books for visitors to browse, including Matthew Evan’s latest book Winter on the Farm (autographed of course). TB went straight for the well-thumbed cheese-making textbook – he knew he was onto a good thing when he noticed that the name written inside the cover was that of one W. Studd, who I understand was a mentor of Nick Haddow’s. In the end there was no going past the C2 and for good measure we also bought several rounds of the OEN cheese which is washed in pinot noir then wrapped in grape leaves to mature.

Cutting the C2 is a serious business – I think we can all agree ‘THAT is a knife!’

OK don’t drool. Bruny Island Cheese can be bought at the Saturday Salamanca Market or you can join the company’s cheese club or order the cheeses online. A few of their freshly baked baguettes made it into the stash and we picked up a loaf of their sourdough later in the day when we were returning to the ferry.

We drove south across the narrow neck between the north and south parts of the island. A rather nice national park campground at the southern end of the neck gave us access to the ocean side of the island. As we walked along the beach we noticed that there was no shortage of pippis in the sand – although they were rather too small for eating (notwithstanding that we were in a National Park).
The next order of the day was more food, of course. We’d taken the precaution of making a reservation at the very aptly named Hothouse Cafe, which is actually housed in a double width polytunnel. We felt right at home! This cafe is run from a private property, which also has accomodation (one for next time I’m thinking!)


We had to wait a bit for lunch, not a problem with a great view all the way back up the neck and on to Mt Wellington. What we were waiting for was this beautiful steak and guinness pie, one of the greatest pies I can ever recall eating. The meat was completely succulent and flavourful and  was delivered straight from the oven of the lady of the house to our table.


BTW that is a dinner plate it is sitting on! so there was no need for anything other than a refreshing drink to go with this meal. I’ve also heard and read good things about the Hothouse Cafe dinners as well. This lunch certainly bodes well for people dining here in the evening.

After lunch we made a dash down to the far end of Bruny Island to see the lighthouse, which was built in 1836. The second oldest in Australia (South Head lighthouse in Sydney claims the honour of being first, built in 1818).


For once I was pleased to see that the lighthouse was surrounded by a heathland that was full of flowering native plants – a far cry from the devastated weed infested paddocks that surround many of our lighthouses.

But we couldn’t linger, well not too long. We had to get back for our final food encounter back on the northern end of the island. Get Shucked oysters may be rustic in appearance but don’t be fooled, these are great oysters at a really good price, a dozen oysters for $12. With an iced bottle of chilli ginger beer to wash them down it was a fitting finale for our Bruny Island food frenzy. Of course I couldn’t leave without getting my own ‘Frequent Shuckers’ card!


At the end of the day we met up with our travelling companions who’d also spent their day at Bruny Island. Unlike us they had donned red plastic wet weather gear and spent the day careening around the island enjoyed the scenery and wildlife on their boat trip. For dinner we had a ‘grazing’ meal that pretty much summed up our days’ adventure (with a bit of help from nearby farms as well):


From the top left: Basil flavoured sheeps curd and just below it Friesland Fog ash-coated cheese (both Grand Ewe Cheeses); baguettes, plain and with cheese topping and sourdough (Bruny Island Cheese Company); OEN pinot-washed soft rind cheese in vine leaves (Bruny Island Cheese Company);and smoked Atlantic salmon (Bruny Island Smokehouse).

Morning in the garden

Walking around the garden first thing in the morning is a pleasure that many of us gardeners share.

This past Saturday I particularly enjoyed…


finding enough ripe strawberries to add to my breakfast yoghurt;

Looking up at the sound of several long “whuuuush-es” to see the RAAF balloon passing overhead;


and finally…


finding the first fruit on my tomato plants!

Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden

When we arrived in Tassie everything was in full flight for the spring season. We had a fantastic visit to the Emu Valley Rhododendron garden. Not normally my cup of tea, however I was won over by what was left of the massed display of rhodos from around the globe, flowering down the length of this steep valley.


While many plants were past their best, the remaining display along with some late flowers was truly spectacular.


I don’t know who designed this garden but they have done a wonderful job. The plants are arranged by their geographic location and with the exception of Europe and Antarctica all continents are represented. Yes, we do have native Vireya rhododendrons in Australia.

The single outstanding display on the day for me was not of rhodos, rather it was a diplay of flowering plum blossom ‘Shirofugen’ set off to perfection against a vermillion Japanese covered bridge.


Enough to inspire a whole slew of plum blossom viewing parties and we had it pretty much to ourselves!

The other plantings in the garden were just as interesting, particularly the stands of huge tree ferns in the Australasian section. New areas of the garden are still being created. The Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden was started in its present form in 1981 by members of the Australian Rhododendron Society, North West Tasmanian Branch (now Emu Valley Rhododendron Society). The garden is a tribute to the work of the volunteers that clearly contribute so much to the success of this enterprise.

But the flowering treats didn’t end there. Along the road to the garden we passed what is the most amazing hedge of NSW waratahs (Telopea speciosissima, meaning ‘most beautiful’) that I have ever seen,


and having grown up on the edge of the sandstone country in outer Sydney I can say that I have seen some spectacular waratahs in my day.


Obviously these plants love their new home.

It was only much later into our visit that I got to see some examples of the endemic Tasmanian waratah (Telopea truncata). It turns out it was fairly early in the season for them to flower so we were lucky to see them at all. We caught some quick flashes of flowering waratahs as we drove through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, but only where it was impossible to stop a vehicle.


Luckily for us this one, at the entrance to one of the hydro-power stations was in full bloom and was attracting the attention of quite a few wattlebirds and smaller honey-eaters.