Grow your own herbs and spices

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I pruned this lot of oregano today as it was spreading out into another spot I have reserved for growing vegetables. It’s now in the dehydrator drying to use later. While fresh herbs are lovely in cooking, I’m going to dry some other herbs from the garden like sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and add some dried Adelaide hills porcini I foraged to make my own Italian dried herb mix.

Spices can also be grown in the garden. Right now coriander, dill, celery and mustard have all gone to seed in the garden. When ready some can be used to start next seasons crop and some can be used in the kitchen as spices. All through the hills at the moment wild fennel is growing and the flowers heads are bright yellow. I’ve done a post previously on how to collect the pollen. In time, the fennel flowers left of the plant then transform into fennel seeds which can also be collected and used in the kitchen.

A substitute salt flavour is Old man salt bush (Atriplex nummularia) if you have saline soils. Dry the leaves and grind into powder to use. Dry Mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) is used as a pepper flavour substitute. The history of the spice trade is pretty interesting and at times brutal. Growing your own herbs and spices is a much gentler option.

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Native currant

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At this time of year something really special happens on the coast. I have fallen in love with all the gorgeous edibles that grow over the hot summer months. Muntries, karkalla, boobialla, coastal rosemary and many others are singing a beautiful song right now. This little shrub Leucopogon parviflorus sang out to me, drawing me in to taste its sweet fruit. This one truly is a little gem. Eat when white and pearl like. Plant in sunny spot in sandy soils.

Native cherry

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Native cherry Exocarpos cupressiformis is an elusive little plant. Much has been cleared because its leaves are toxic to stock. It grows as a parasite on host trees and is from the same family as quandongs. While it’s not a huge taste sensation the fruit is very much edible. Don’t eat the little seed that hangs off the fruit, the red part is edible and is ready when you tap it and it falls into your hands.

Wreath making

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Wreath making has been done by many cultures for thousands of years. While the symbolism varies between individuals, for the materials it’s best to use what’s on hand and in season in the garden. This wreath made today symbolises for me the circle of life continuing throughout time. The end of the year is fast approaching with a new year soon to come. The spring growth of the grape vines have a bunch of forming grapes as a promise of the summer harvest to come. The olive leaves were used to symbolise peace with some baby olives as a promise of the autumn harvest and winter pickling to come.

Radish

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Gardening is slow. Really slow. Sometimes it’s so slow I forget what I’ve planted and then discover it later. I put these radish in for a bit of a quick crop. I had expanded out the veggie patch and was thinking I needed something that would crowd out any other little plants coming through. Water well while its growing and eat soon once it’s reached a good size otherwise it gets a bit woody. Radish can be added to salads, sandwiches or baked in the oven as they come through. I also pulled up the rest and pickled them.

Pickled radish

4 bunches of radish

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons raw sugar

1 teaspoon salt

optional, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Top and tail the radish and clean well. Slice each radish in half then place the flat side down and slice into thin semicircles. Place all the radish into sterilised jars. This amount made two small jars. Add flavour of choice to the jars . I added peppercorns to one and coriander to the other.

In a small pot, add the water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Boil for a minute or two to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour over the radish and seal the jars. Store it in the fridge.

Squash and zucchini

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It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve last grown yellow squash. These little fellas transported me back to around 16 years ago when I lived in a gorgeous old farm house on a dairy farm in Northern NSW. I had a really good composting system set up for the household scraps and collected well composted cow poo from under the cattle grate to get the veggie patch started. The vegetables were pretty darn good from that patch. I remember having some very prolific yellow squash plants and the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t remember growing squash since then. Funny how food can trigger memories.

Squash and zucchini are pretty easy to grow and versatile. You can grate them and make zucchini slice, turn them into zoodles as a pasta substitute, cut thinly and bake into chips, add to sauces, soups or curries, and grate into cakes to make them more moist. While there are lots of different ways you can cook with them, my very favourite way to cook zucchini is to grill on the barbeque. Turns out squash is just as good on the barbie. Sounds simple but it is one of those recipes where I do a little happy dance because it tastes sooo good. This little dish tastes greater than the sum of it’s parts, and in this case the parts were pretty good already. I used a flavour packed lemon foraged from a neighbourhood tree, delicious local extra virgin olive oil pressed by my friends grandparents earlier this year and squash and zucchini picked earlier that morning from my garden. A little spoon of my homemade chimichurri on top to serve and I was in heaven. Instead of using salt you can also use porcini salt.

Recipe

Zucchini, cut in half lengthways

Squash, cut in 1 cm discs

Lemon, juice

Olive oil

salt

For the amount in photo above I used the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt. I then gave it a whisk in bowl and then tossed the cut squash and zucchini through to coat it well. Then I cooked it on the barbeque give or take about 5 mins on each side. You should get nice grill marks across the surface and its ready.

 

Coriander

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My little coriander patch has reached maturity and now needs to be pulled up before the early summer heat hits. I’ve been eating a fair bit of it over the last few months but it will bolt to seed soon. I save the seed for growing my next batch of coriander as well to use the seeds as a spice in the kitchen. Before this bolts I’ll be making a batch of my dad’s infamous chimichurri.

Chimichurri recipe

Bunch of coriander
Bunch of parsley
Bunch of spring onions
Fresh chopped chillies (to taste)
1 head of garlic, half crushed, other half sliced finely
30 grams dried Italian herbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Extra virgin olive oil
Chop the coriander, parsley, spring onions and chilli finely with a really sharp kitchen knife. Mix together. Mix in the crushed and sliced garlic. Add just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the mix. Store in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.