Harvest Time

In advance of the Local Harvest Challenge next week, I’ve been thinking a bit about harvesting and celebrating the harvest, something that happens all around the world.

As a child I vividly remember the Harvest Festival service that would be held annually at our church. This was probably more to do with the excitement of going to the greengrocers to select an item of fruit or vegetables to be placed at the church altar, than for any religious fervour on my part. My favourite item was always one of the squash family, button squash or preferably their larger white cousins. I really liked their weird shapes.

I don’t know whether harvest festival is still commonly celebrated in church traditions, but at least I now have an appreciation of what it’s really about. Not only is it time to harvest, but it is also time to preserve, dry, pickle and otherwise prepare our food for the winter ahead. It’s also a time to share with family and friends the bounty of our gardens.

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How will you celebrate this harvest season?

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Mussel work

This week we have had some wonderful meals using mussels that TB smoked at home.

The mussels came from Fishco Downunder at the Belconnen markets, our favourite place to buy seafood in Canberra. First TB steamed the mussels open, then brined them overnight in the fridge. The brine solution was 100gms of salt, 100gms of sugar to one litre of water.

After the brining TB took the mussels out of the brining solution and put them on a rack in the fridge to dry out. Once dry the mussels went into the smoker for three hours. The mussels were ‘cold smoked’, meaning that the smoke only gave flavour to the food, rather than cooking the food. After smoking we stored the mussels in canola oil in the fridge. They will keep for several weeks this way.

The next bit is where I came in. I consulted my favourite Italian cook , Marcella Hazan, and found a simple recipe for mussel and basil pasta sauce (in her book Cucina). We had all the key ingredients, tomatoes, basil, parsley and onions from our garden; with just the oil and chilli powder from our cupboard.

musselbasil pasta

Wow what wonderful flavour! (Oh when will blogs come with smell and taste included?) This recipe surpassed our expectations and will definitely be on the menu again.

Tomato harvest

Last week I picked 5 kilos of tomatoes for our freezer. (This is what I’m reduced to by the end of the season when bottling and chutney making has overwhelmed me). Its so simple, pick tomatoes, wash off the bugs and dirt then stick the tomatoes in bags in the freezer. Come winter you can throw a handful of frozen tomatoes into your stew or curry and away you go. Sorry, but no, you can’t defrost them to slice for your sandwiches.

The other important harvest which also happened at the same time was tomato seed collecting.

my toms

We had lots of tomatoes this year, but the one that I really wanted to save seed from is the small, darkish-looking tomato sitting just above and to the right of the Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes. This tomato appears to be a cross between a Black Russian tomato and an egg tomato. As often happens it was self sown, from seed in our compost. It’s small but boy does it have a great flavour.

My friend E also gave me a selection of her tomatoes to try.

E's tomatoes

I’ve chosen to save some seed from the Tigerella, which we haven’t grown before, and the Black Russian.

To save the seed I let the tomatoes go a bit rotten and then squeezed the seeds into some water to help float some of the pulp off.

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Next I washed the seeds in a sieve, under running water to get rid of the remaining pulp.tomseed2

Finally I put the seeds onto plates to dry, making sure I kept track of each lot of seeds ready to be packed away for next season.

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Put the dried seeds in envelopes for storage.

Just after I’d set them on paper toweling to dry, I heard a gardening commentator say  put the seeds on a plate to dry, no paper needed! This makes the seeds easy to pack away. Oh well live and learn!

Taking the Local Harvest Challenge

It’s on again, the Local Harvest Challenge for 2013.
Monday 1st April – Sunday 7th April 2013

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The idea is to eat as ‘locally’ as possible for one week. There are plenty of ways to participate, whether you have your own garden or not. We participated last year, you can check out our posts on the Local Harvest website. We are also quite excited to see that the photo used to promote the 2012 posts is one of ours!

Tonight’s dinner is a good example of what you can do for the challenge.Image

Here is a plate of zucchini fritters (recipe from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall), which includes our own onions, garlic and eggs, not to mention zucchini; along with a tomato and lettuce salad also from the garden.

You also have the option to buy from local farmers markets or producers and you can also set the level of challenge you want to take. There are plenty of suggestions on the Local Harvest website and if you’re not sure what is in your local area you can enter your postcode and find out.

So are you ready to take the challenge?

 Take the Local Harvest Challenge
Monday 1st April – Sunday 7th April 2013

Put into practice the art of eating locally, supporting local and organic farmers and businesses, and discovering the face behind your food.

  • Versatile, fun and FREE!
  • Choose your challenge – Bite-Sized, Meal-Sized or Feast-Sized
  • Form a team with your friends or neighbours
  • Link up with other people taking the challenge in you locality
  • Organise a ‘local pot-luck’ dinner to celebrate the week
  • Blog your discoveries and experiences (see 2012 blogs)

Use the Local Harvest website to find resources close to you. Enter your postcode to find farmers’ markets, farm-gate produce, local food swaps, community gardens, organic retailers and more.

 

Register for the Challenge at localharvest.org.au/challenge

Support local growers & reclaim your food choices. One week, get involved!

Gang Gang Style

It’s unusual for us to get Gang Gang cockatoos in our garden so we were extremely excited to see a family turn up late last week. GangGangs

Dad is the most obvious with his beautiful red crest. Mum, who has red and yellow bars on her chest was making herself scarce as the kids applied the full weight of their pester power to their father.

nag power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things can get a bit rowdy! The father is being given a particularly hard time here.

I’ll be late for work … Darth Vader’s blocking the road!

Really. We were having a quiet cuppa when all the local dogs started barking. Then we heard the whoosh of hot air balloons passing overhead. Not one but many.

Most were bright and colourful…

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except this one.Image

Then, the dark lord seemed to loose his lofty look,

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Bought down by dire public servants and adept tradies he soon collapsed onto the suburban street.

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Rolled up by the locals.

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And sent packing.Image

I’m going for an ice cream and may be some time!

TB and I went to the Canberra Day Centenary celebrations last Monday (11 March), along with quite a number of other Canberrans.

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Mt Ainslie Great weather and plenty of people out enjoying the offerings of music and food, although they were somewhat widely distributed. It seemed to us that the music was on the north shore and the bulk of the food on the southern shore.

We listened to some music and then caught the ferry across the lake to find some gourmet food. We got some interesting views of the activities,  not to mention the rafts of fireworks set up ready for the night’s display.firework

The lack of entertainment on the southern shore of the lake was odd given that the gourmet food stalls were all located there. And so were the hungry crowds.foodstalls

After eating a truly moreish Mussamun Burger and Sticky Pork with Rice from Morks it was time for some ice cream. I made my way to the Frugli stall and found that lots of other people had the same idea! I’ve subsequently heard from a friend that my 20 minute wait was nothing compared to their 45 minute wait for not so interesting food on the northern side of the lake.

At leaicecreamst our patience was rewarded. On the left is some Lemon Myrtle ice cream and on the right some Dark Cherry gelato.

picnic

I can’t say that I found much ‘roving entertainment’ where we were,apart from these bikes which look challenging to ride. We didn’t stay much longer than mid-afternoon, having concluded that we’d all a good time but there was not enough happening to encourage us to stay longer.

Oh well, at least they have another 100 years of practice to get the bi-centenary right!