In Season : broad beans & peas

A lot more plants are starting to produce including two favourites of mine – broad beans and purple podded peas. Along with those two key ingredients I also have in my bowl some Sicilian broccoli from my friend M’s garden and a bunch of tarragon.


With these I was able to make a lovely side dish, the idea for which came from Rohan Anderson’s Whole Larder Love book. If you’ve not heard of Rohan before you might like to wander past his blog.


Anyway Rohan suggests blanching broadbeans and then dressing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and chopped tarragon and topping the lot with shavings of permesan. As this was our first pick of broadbeans I decided to supplement it with the peas and broccoli.


Added to that some home-made beef sausages and we had one very tasty dinner!

Recent photos

Here are three recent photos to share  – but be warned, the last one is an ‘indulgent pet photo’ in case you need to avert your eyes.

This morning I peered out the window to see this pee wee (or magpie lark if you grew up somewhere different to me), helping themself to some mud in the top of my waterlily bowl. He was collecting mud, with the help of his mate (I’m assuming) to make their nest. Pee wees make beautiful mud bowl nests on horizontal branches that, preferably, hang over a large enough void to deter predators. Sadly this particular nest is not being built in our garden. My favourite sighting of a pair of pee wees building a nest was on the corner of National Circuit and Kings Ave in Barton. The branch they selected to nest on reached right out over the middle of that busy road. Clearly the traffic was of no concern to them!


Next is another visitor to our garden, although definitely not a native or deliberately planted. This poppy has grown and flowered all on its own volition in our herb bed. I believe it is a Rough Poppy, (Papaver hybridum). I love the contrast between the stunning red petals and the blue stamens.


Here’s the indulgent pet photo … you were warned … sometimes life is just too much to bear.


Ha-ogen home

Our polyhouse is mainly used as a safe haven for plants over the winter and early spring months. Come summer it’s pretty deserted as it gets too hot for most plants to cope with. So this year we are trying an experiment by planting some of our more tender tropical crops in the polyhouse to see if we can find a better use for it.

These are our ha-ogen melon seeds, just sprouting at the very end of September. Thankfully they have survived better than the first seeds I sprouted back in 2010.


Ha-ogen seedlings, 29 September 2012

They are now reaching a size where thy can be planted out. Given our relatively short growing season, sandwiched between late spring and autumn frosts, it’s a challenge to get these melons to fruit in Canberra. So this time around we’ve decided to plant two of them, one at each end, in the polyhouse.

You can see from the photo that TB has used the idea of growing them in a mesh enclosure rather than a pot.


Ha-ogen seedling planted out 16 October 2012

Given that the plants will not survive past the first cold spells (even in the polyhouse) we are OK with them putting roots down into the polyhouse’s soil floor. What is yet to go in is a sturdy trellis for the vines to grow up.

We are also going to try growing our lemongrass inside the polyhouse in a similar container. Hopefully the more humid atmosphere will encourage the development of thicker stems that we’ve managed to grow when the lemngrass has been planted out in the garden. Fingers crossed.

Podding along

Things are moving very quickly in the garden at present. I’ve been ignoring my front garden patch, running around looking after all our seedlings. When I finally checked it out yesterday I discovered that my favourite purple-podded peas are doing their thing and I already have quite a few pods developing.


The broad beans next to them are also starting to pod up. Must be all that warm weather we are experiencing.


What a mother!

The morning/afternoon after a big party you may be thinking what can I do with all those little bits of wine left over in those bottles strewn around the dining room? As the tradies say ‘too easy’, don’t toss them down the sink, or your throat, make some vinegar from them! As far as home production goes this is one of the most straightforward things you can do and the results are not only tasty but very useful in the kitchen.

Step 1 – put your wine, (you can even use a bottle or two you’ve bought for the purpose), into a large bottle, such as a demijohn from your local brew shop.

Step 2 cover the opening with some cheesecloth artfully held in place with a rubber band to allow the liquid to be exposed to the air while keeping those pesky vinegarflies out of your vinegar (you know those tiny ones that annoyingly breed in your indoor plants).

The aceto-bacteria that will convert your wine into vinegar are naturally occuring in the air. If you can’t convince yourself that this will happen then you can get some non-pasteurised vinegar and whack that in along with the wine to act as a starter, just like you do with yoghurt. You’ll most readily find un-pasteurised vinegar at your health food or organic food shop rather than your supermarket – check the label before you buy.


Red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar happily developing away

Step 3 leave for about three months, hey presto! vinegar. *Time of production can vary depending on how the temperature varies – faster in warm weather and slower in cold.

Please don’t panic when you see this next photo, it’s not something unmentionable from a B-grade sci-fi movie, its a vinegar mother!


Vinegar mother, see not so scary after all

This is what will develop in your vinegar over time – don’t panic, it’s a good sign, really. Your aceto-bacteria are happily living on this cellulose raft, all you need to do is strain it off when you are decanting your vinegar into bottles for keeping. You can save some of the mother to start off future batches of vinegar. Excess vinegar mother will keep in the fridge for some time, I’m not sure about how it likes being frozen, but it could be worth experimenting with this.

All of the above also applies to making cider vinegar. As we made quite a bit of apple cider this year we have been able to put quite a lot aside for cider vinegar production.

In Season – Asparagus

My favourite spring offering from the garden is our asparagus.


Now that our aspapragus plants are well established we can look forward to eating the freshest, fattest spears around. Freshly-picked asparargus has a sweetness that is hard to believe. If you have some growing in your garden I would suggest that you leave it to the last possible minute to cut your spears before cooking them. The longer the spears are out of the ground the more they lose their sweetness.


Our spring lunch used our asparagus with a poached egg from our chickens and a salad of lettuce and new radishes with some home-made camenbert, hard to beat!

Last week I also enjoyed a meal with TB and friends at The Water’s Edge restaurant. Dinner came in four courses and for my second course I chose ‘Spring asparagus textures with truffle emulsion & hazelnut crumbed quail egg’. The name was certainly a mouthful – the dish itself was a completely delicious mouthful. This is the best vegetarian course I’ve had in quite a while. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this artfully presented dish. 


It’s too late to be planting aspragus crowns now (winter is the time to find them in the nursery), but TB and I have had good success in raising them from seed – just plant some of the red berries that develop on the plants by the end of summer.


Of course you will then need to wait several years for the plant to grow big enough for you to pick your first harvest. At least it will be worth the wait!

Joint Effort

Last year TB found the legs of a sturdy cafe table tossed out behind a restaurant in Woden. When I bought my box of hand-painted Mexican tiles at Tiny’s Green Shed a few weeks ago we did a rough calculation and discovered that there were enough to make a table top that fitted those old legs with no need to make any cuts to the tiles.


Table legs after painting

After a quick clean down and paint TB added some wooden slats and a piece of left over wet-area fibroboard from our bathroom rennovation to make the top.


Then it was my turn to do the tiling and grouting. We are both pleased with the result.


The finished product

The table is now in the garden and we’ve already put it to good use, relaxing with a cup of tea and a good book.


Close up of the tiles and a Wagtail mug