Gone to seed

Hi! It’s been a long while since I last posted because we were traveling overseas. Since we’ve been away spring and even an early dose of summer have seen most of our veggie garden leap from edibility to seediness.

Gone to seed, Red Mustard, sorrel, carrots etc, November 2014
Gone to seed, Red Mustard, sorrel, carrots etc, November 2014

The asparagus has yielded it’s last spears, at least our house sitter got the benefit of most of them.  The peas are producing lots of pods, but it’s not obvious whether we can encourage further podding or will have to make do with the current yield.

The peas are podding beautifully.
The peas are podding beautifully.

The strawberries have struggled with the early hot weather and the berries have literally dried on the plants. At least with this past weekend’s rain I’m sure they will come good again.
We have been pleasantly surprised to find that both our perennial mountain yams that we put in last year have actually done what they should have and are re-sprouting. One had started growing before we went away and it’s already making it’s way into the lower branches of a nearby wattle tree.

Mountain yams, off their support and into the tree.
Mountain yams, off their support and into the tree.

The other has only started re-growing in our absence, but I’m thinking that we may need to provide an even higher support for it to climb on. Hopefully this means we might get some useable tubers this year.
So now we look forward to some major pulling out of old plants and planting summer crops of tomatoes, beans and corn.

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Asparagus season

One of the things I like most about spring is harvesting asparagus. Having passed the ‘leave it for two years for the plants to grow before you can harvest’ phase, we are now rewarded with plump spears pushing their way rapidly out of the ground.

New season's asparagus leaping out of the ground.
New season’s asparagus leaping out of the ground.

Like ‘they’ say when it’s this fresh you need only to quickly cook the spears for the best flavour.

My hot tip is to leave picking your asparagus until immediately before you are about to cook. This is because some of the sweetest flavours quickly disappear the longer the asparagus is out of the ground.

 

On the cutting board and ready to go.
On the cutting board and ready to go.

For our first asparagus lunch of the year we quickly sauteed the sliced asparagus along with some of TB’s home-cured prosciutto …

Sauteeing the asparagus and prosciutto.
Sauteeing the asparagus and prosciutto.

We then stirred this through some cooked orichette pasta and served with some parmesan cheese. Simple and really sweet to taste.

A tasty lunch that was quick to prepare.
A tasty lunch that was quick to prepare.

 

Early one morning

Today I enjoyed walking in the rain-soaked garden.

Water for all!
Water for all!

After several months of virtually no rain the 50 millimetres we’ve received over the past two days is more than welcome.

Seeds developing on our asparagus plants.
Seeds developing on our asparagus plants.

Subsoil moisture will be restored improving growing conditions for all our plants.

Seed heads on our dill plants.
Seed heads on our dill plants.

Ladies (and gentlemen) who harvest their lunch

Last week it was time for all the seedlings we’ve been growing to be collected by our friend Bish for the St Michael’s School Kaleen Fete (Friday 25 October from 5 to 8 pm). So what better time to have her and our other gardening friends over for lunch.

Almost all of the seedlings for the fete.
Almost all of the seedlings for the fete.

We ate a very tasty quiche of asparagus and home cured bacon, with some tasty cheese added and six of our ‘girls’ glorious eggs. There was a leafy cos lettuce, rocket, parsley and tarragon salad with an Asian dressing; Hugh F-W’s always reliable potato salad with wilted sorrel and this time extra spring peas; and J bought along a radish salad from her plot and a lovely bouquet of Lady Huntingfield roses for the table. (Lady Huntingfield, named after the wife of a Governor of Victoria, is an Alister Clark rose).

Lunch is served!
Lunch is served!

And just when you thought you’d had enough TB brought out his lime flan that was made with our Red Centre Desert Lime/Mandarin cross. The pineapple, kiwi fruit and mandarin are all ‘ring ins’, not from a Canberra garden alas.

Dessert featuring Desert Lime flan with fruit (none of which came from our garden).
Dessert featuring Desert Lime flan with fruit (none of which came from our garden).

For post-lunch sport we played pack Bish’s car full of plants. She certainly had the latest in mobile nurseries for her drive home!

Eat your greens

Green vegetables definitely make up the central ‘spine’ of our garden. They grow all year round and even through our Canberra winter, but … we don’t always use them as much as we should.

How good are these red mustard greens, lush and full of goodness, ready to eat.
How good are these red mustard greens, lush and full of goodness, ready to eat.

We can easily justify growing all these greens because even if we don’t eat them our chooks do, especially anything from the brassica family. So it is with a somewhat guilty feeling that I’ve decided to have a real go at eating more of our greens. Thankfully several articles about how to best use these vegetables have turned up int the last few days.

The first recipe that I have used is from issue 125 of Fine Cooking magazine, where Maryellen Driscoll gives a series of recipes for kales, collards and mustard greens, all members of the brassica family. As we grow all of these greens at Chez Fork it’s wonderful to get some new takes on how to use them. I made Mustard Greens with Chorizo and white beans (all the recipes from this article can be found on the Fine Cooking website). Not only did I have those red mustard greens growing beautifully in the front garden, but TB was also able to contribute a chorizo that he had made last year.

Mustard greens and chorizo, ready for lunch.
Mustard greens and chorizo, ready for lunch.

All I needed to add was a can of white beans which I had in the storage cupboard. This turned out to be a very easy meal which only took a very short period of time to cook, about 15 minutes all up. This made a tasty, if somewhat rustic lunch, perfect for a day when it felt more like winter than spring.

Amazing, it even looksa bit  like it did in the magazine!
Amazing, it even looks a bit like it did in the magazine!

I did try eating this on top of TB’s sourdough bread, but shortly after I took the photo the whole lot toppled into my lap.

Now on the bread, soon to be in my lap.
Now on the bread, soon to be in my lap.

Now that spring is here the chickens are going into full egg production and while we are giving quite a lot of eggs away, we still have plenty for our own use. So tonight we made an omelette stuffed full of red mustard greens, fresh tarragon and flat leaf parsley.

Omlette fixings.
Omelette fixings.

We quickly sauteed the stems of the mustard greens, followed by the leaves. These were then put aside while the eggs were beaten and then cooked with the tarragon and parsley. Just prior to folding the omelette over the sauteed greens were added. Fantastic, another fast, easy and tasty meal on the table.

Mustard green, tarragon and parsley omelette.
Mustard green, tarragon and parsley omelette.

And coming soon to our dinner table, the first asparagus of the season.

The first asparagus of spring makes its appearance.
The first asparagus of spring makes its appearance.

 

Morning Patrol

You never know what you will find when you go on ‘morning patrol’ around the garden.

It seems that our broadbeans, under the influence of lengthening daylight hours, have suddenly put on 20 cms of growth.

We will have to start putting the string around the broadbeans to stop them from blowing over as they grow taller.

But the biggest thrill was to see the first asparagus spears of the season.

Two asparagus spears, the first of the season.
Two asparagus spears, the first of the season.

In Season – Asparagus

My favourite spring offering from the garden is our asparagus.

Aprargus

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.

Homeasp

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. 

We_asparagus

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.

Asparagus

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!

Pop ups

Each day we walk around the garden looking for the signs of new season’s growth. It doesn’t matter how many times you see plants popping above the ground in spring it’s still an amazing feeling.

Jerartichoke

Tiny shoots of the Jerusalem Artichokes – not the lettuce sharing the pot (hence the directional arrows)

Asparagus

Our first asparagus spear …

Psb11

Purple sprouting broccoli, appearing much earlier than they did last year, due in part to earlier planting and a warmer spot in the front garden.

In for the long haul

There has been a bit of a discussion in the work kitchen lately about “what can I plant at this time of the year?” That’s the nice thing about gardening there is always something you can be planting or getting on with. Winter is a great time for putting in some classic perennial plants, that is, plants that grow from year to year without you having to do much with them. Perennial plants will form the backbone of your veggie garden for years to come

In July, that ever reliable saint of Australian gardening, the blessed Peter Cundall recommends suggests planting asparagus, rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes (and yes the latter, are neither from Jerusalem nor are indeed artichokes). These plants are grown from crowns (asparagus and rhubarb) and tubers (Jerusalem artichokes). They are currently available from good nurseries and have even been spotted in a certain large hardware chain store. If you are lucky, you may get some from friends as now is the time for over-large rhubarb and asparagus crowns to be divided and the JA’s to be lifted.

Please think about where you are going to put these plants because they really need to be left undisturbed to get on with growing. I previously stuck my perennial vegs in a back corner of the yard, but I’m now not so sure that this is such a good plan. Its easy to forget these plants while tending to your annual crops. I’ve lost several rhubarb crowns over the years through lack of water and the possums might just get to your asparagus before you do.

We have just re-made our perennial bed, having decided to move it much closer to the front of the garden so we can keep a better eye on it. In addition to housing our asparagus and rhubarb, we have also transplanted our saffron bulbs there. At present I’m also growiing two teepees of purple podded peas at either end as they should be able to grow away before they interfere with the other plants – plus they will add some nitrogen to the soil.

Here are some of my thoughts about growing these plants:

aspraragus: get them into your garden as soon as you can because you really need to leave them to grow for 3 years before you can start regularly harvesting them. The plants need to develop a strong system of roots to produce a good supply of fat spears. I know this is very hard to do as TB has sprung me several times trying out the odd spear in the early years of growing. Thankfully we passed the 3 year stage last spring so we can now eat as much as we can grow.

rhubarb: not to everyone’s taste so don’t grow it if you don’t like it – it is truly scary the number of people who grow veggies they don’t actually eat because they are easy to grow! Biggest hint to new players –  rhubarb stems do not change colour as they grow up! they come in red or green versions that taste the same but are definitely not equal in the looks department. Look carefully at the plant label and check the stem colour of the crowns you are buying. These are not hydrangeas and you do not want to embarasse yourself by asking how do I get my green rhubarb stems to go red? Rhubarb plants are also gross feeders, (how I love that term!), in other words give them lots of manure during the growing season and keep up the water to them in hot weather.

Jerusalem artichokes: a very tasty tuber with a legendary capacity to produce ‘wind’ in the human digestive tract. I love them anyway. Also a bit of a garden thug, prone to taking over large areas of garden if they aren’t contained. We are growing ours in a tub this year, other options are to put them in a bed with very good edging – the tubers will multiply! The extra bonus is that the JA is a member of the sunfower family so  you can expect some lovely flowers in your garden later on in the season.