Parsley pursuits

I mentioned in my last post that I had dug a lot of parsley out of the garden bed where I have now planted carrots. Parsley is definitely a crop I’d suggest to any beginner grower, it is easy to grow, prolific and pretty tough. All the parsley currently growing in our garden has self-seeded. In Canberra parsley does die back over winter but in the warmer, frost-free parts of the country I’m sure you’d keep it growing through winter as well.

Digging up the parsley was the easy bit, working out what to do with it was a bit harder. It’s here that I have to confess that our ‘home-grower’ halo sometimes gets a bit tarnished. You see we don’t always use up everything we grow in our garden. Excess and dodgy plants are generally given as extra food to the chickens who eat up the good bits and then turn the  rest into lovely eggs and equally useful compostable chook poo. Unfortunately chickens don’t like parsley (or at least our girls don’t).

After picking I had two main parts I could use, the leaves and the roots
After picking I had two main parts I could use, the leaves and the roots

I decided that I wanted to do more than just dry the leaves – we have more than enough dried parsley for our needs. I decided to make pesto with the leaves. Instead of pine nuts I used raw cashews in the recipe. Apart from that I followed a standard pesto recipe (see below). They key thing was that I prepared the pesto with the nuts, garlic and oil, but without the cheese, so I could freeze it for when I wanted to use it later.

Pre-made pesto  ready to go in the freezer, minus the cheese
Pre-made pesto ready to go in the freezer, minus the cheese

The roots were a trickier proposition. We have an easy test for the edibility of root vegetables at Chez Fork. If you can’t slice it with a knife, then your teeth won’t cut it either so ditch the root. I also tried the simple technique of snapping the roots and it was immediately clear that the larger roots had a tough woody core that no amount of cooking would soften. I thought that I might just get away with using the thinner roots. My plan was to make a mash of the roots, but as I’d had to give up on the larger tough roots I now had to bulk out the small amount I had left.

Luckily we did have some potatoes and the chooks had managed to dig up a fair number of this years Jerusalem Artichokes, so I steamed all of the veggies (not including the chooks) together before turning them into what I hoped would be mashed yumminess. Sadly it turned out that the cores of the smaller parsley roots were also too woody to cook to softness. The one saving grace was that the outer part of the parsley root easily came away from the core so I could still include a small amount of it in my mash. In the end there wasn’t enough parsley root to be detected in the mash, though you could taste the Jerusalem artichokes. This is probably one experiment that no-one else needs to replicate, unless you are truly needing every last bit of vegetable for a meal.

This weekend we did get to try the pesto and I can definitely recommend it. We had a small , very light lunch of it (having pigged out big time the previous evening).

Parsley and cashew pesto on oricchette pasta
Parsley and cashew pesto on oricchette pasta

Parsley and cashew pasta sauce 

(yields approx. 450grams of pesto sauce)

(This recipe is based on proportions so you can use whatever your amount of leaves you have as the basis for working out the amount of the other key ingredients. That is  1 portion of leaves by cup measure, to 1/2 a portion of nuts, to 1/4 a portion of oil).

2 cups of parsley leaves picked over and washed, (remove any tough stems)
1 cup of raw unsalted cashew nuts (or whatever nuts you prefer)
1/2 a cup of olive oil (or oil of your preference)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 a cup of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (you can modify the amount to suit your taste preference)

Place leaves, nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse to start cutting the mix together. Slowly add oil and continue to process until the required consistency is reached. I would suggest that you add the oil in small amounts as you may not need the full amount to reach your preferred consistency.

If you are freezing the mix: Place the mix as it is into a suitable container or freezer bag and freeze until needed. Once the pesto has been frozen it should still be easy to cut off a smaller amount if you don’t want to use it all at once.

After de-frosting add the grated cheese to your pesto and then toss through freshly cooked pasta.

If you are using the pesto straightaway: add the cheese into the food processor, pulse to incorporate it then toss the pesto through freshly cooked pasta.pasta.

Suggestions: The pesto can also be spread on toast, or used to flavour chicken or other meats and vegetables.

Small surprises

I’ve been making inroads into the many small jobs that need to be done in the garden.  On the way I have found a few surprising things.

Firstly a tomato plant growing under the protection of one of our gum trees, the delightfully named Eucalyptus neglecta, commonly known as the Omeo mallee. I’m quite astounded that this tomato plant has grown and survived winter so far, even with the tree cover. However there is a lot of winter still to come so we will have to see whether it survives.

Self-sown tomato - will it make it to the end of winter?
Self-sown tomato – will it make it to the end of winter?

Nearby I found a seedling loquat, growing from a seed I assume a bird carried from our back neighbour’s tree. I’ve potted this plant up, rather than let it establish itself where it fell.

Seedling loquat, the seed is still visible, potted up.
Seedling loquat, the seed is still visible, potted up.

As I continued to weed around my pots of bulbs I came across some sad specimens, onions and a kale plant, that had been planted in seed trays before we went on holidays in April. Alas they had lain unfound ever since.

Some neglected onions seedlings and a small kale plant.
Some neglected onions seedlings and a small kale plant.

I found a spot for the onions in the front garden bed, after I did a clean out of the left over bean plants and several large parsley plants.

Parsley in the front garden bed.
Parsley in the front garden bed.

TB has dried all the parsley and all the onions have now found a home arrayed around my scarlet runner bean, sitting in the middle of the plot waiting to see if it will re-shoot this summer. The real question is whether the onions will actually produce bulbs or  just run to seed come spring.

Onions with a home at last.
Onions with a home at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

A Frosty Start

Well it was -4??C this morning so no surprises that there was a good frost over the garden.

From our back garden, both yesterday and today we have seen the remains of the snow that fell on Wednesday on the Tidbinbilla range. Despite risking life and limb trying to get a photo for you from the back garden I wasn’t very successful. So you’ll just have to make do with some frosty images instead.

BirdbathFrostsorrelFrostparsley