Garlic

garlic

I love garlic so I decided to grow my own last year. I got some great tips from a friend who grows about half a ton each year to supply some of the local organic shops. First I had to work out how much we eat each year. We eat at least one bulb a week and thought we could  grow extra to give some to family as gifts. Also grow extra to have plenty of seed (cloves) for next years planting.

I thought 80 should be enough. To get 80 plants I needed 80 cloves. For better results it’s important to start with organic bulbs. The non organic bulbs have usually been treated with a sprout inhibitor which will stunt the growth. Garlic gets planted on the Adelaide plains at Easter and is harvested at Christmas.

I prepared the soil well by adding heaps of compost, manure, and gypsum for my heavy clay soil. I planted the cloves in rows 15 cm apart, pointy side up and twice as deep as the clove. Then I watered in. After they sprouted I laid lucerne hay between the rows to stop the weeds coming up. I didn’t water much as they can rot. We get plenty of winter rains on the Adelaide plains but I did water a few times as the weather warmed up.

The garlic is ready to harvest when the stalks start to die back. I used a small garden fork to gently pry them out of the ground. Keep the dry stalks intact to use for plaiting them for storage. Hang in a place in the house with good ventilation and no direct sunlight as it will keep longer.

Keep the best bulbs aside as your seed stock for next year.

Tomatoes

This year had a very long winter and my tomatoes have been very slow going. I really hope the tomato season gets going soon. In previous years the tomatoes have been pumping at this time of year starting at the beginning of December and finishing up around March.

tomatoes

Previously, I grew these cherry tomatoes on a simple tent like bamboo structure which worked well. The only downside was the ones growing on the inside needed specialist picking, luckily I had the perfect person with keen eyes to find them. The six plants were very prolific and supplied us with plenty of tomatoes.

tomato-harvest

Later in the season at the end of March I bought two big boxes of South Australian sauce tomatoes from the local fruit shop to make into tomato passata. There are lots of ways to make it and everyone who does make it seems to have their own special way to do it. A few of the ways to do it ask for the skin and seeds to be removed. I much prefer the idea of using all the fruit so that’s what I did. Also, I read that there is a spike in hospital admissions of people that have had sauce bottles explode in their face and burn them so I took that into account when experimenting with my first rather small batch of 20 kilos. I tried a couple of ways to do it and settled on a recipe I was happy with.

Twenty kilos sounds like a lot but it was so good we used the passata in everything. The flavour really was pretty amazing and I can see now why people devote a whole weekend to preserving this beautiful fruit. To work out how much our family uses in a year I have been saving all our passata jars to get an idea of exactly how much of this we actually eat. I will recycle these jars and use them to preserve the following years supply.

Passata recipe

passata

1 kg of tomatoes will make around 750 ml passata

Wash the tomatoes well and cut of any bad bits. Slice tomatoes in big chunks eg – four to six pieces, and place in big pot. Put pot on stove on medium heat. The juices should start being released from the tomatoes. Once they have released enough tomato juice get a stick blender and puree. Simmer the tomato puree until fragrant, 15 – 20 mins or so. Put puree into pre-washed and sterilised jars and seal lids. I used a combo of fowlers jars and supermarket passata bottles, you can also use beer bottles.

Get a preserving unit. I used an old one I picked up off Gumtree that has a built in thermometer. Our next door neighbour uses a large drum over a fire. Use whatever you have. Put a towel at the bottom of the unit and then start stacking the bottles in with tea towels, cloth, rags, newspaper (whatever you have on hand) to separate the bottles so they don’t break when the water is boiling. Fill the drum with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. I heated up my unit on the BBQ. Using the BBQ kept the kitchen cool and meant that I didn’t have to move it when hot to use my stove. Make sure the water boils for at least 30 mins and then turn the heat off.

Don’t try to remove the bottles at this stage as you might end up in hospital. Leave the bottles in the unit overnight and remove when cold the next morning. Store bottles somewhere dark until ready to eat. Enjoy.

Christmas harvest

christmas

Late December 2014, I gathered up this harvest from the garden to take away with us on our week away down the coast. I don’t normally pick this much at once as I prefer to pick it on day I eat it so its at its freshest.

The little bounty included eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, kale, oregano, basil, parsley, four varieties of lettuce, pak choy, cherry tomatoes and eggs. Fast forward to Christmas 2016, spring was late and it has been particularly cold and wet with a couple of heat waves thrown in to confuse the plants. My eggplants and tomatoes are very late to fruit and my basil has not been happy either. I’ve only just had a couple of tomatoes ripen in the last few days.

The kale I was growing at the time back in 2014 was gettting munched on by the white cabbage moth. On reflection kale is happiest growing in cooler weather and struggles in the heat. I’ve since found out that the best way to grow kale through Adelaide’s hot summer is to grow in a wicking bed so it stays well hydrated and to also place a net over it so the moths don’t get a chance to get to the plant to lay their eggs.

Wild foraged bounty

I went up to the hills in May with a local friend who showed me some old forgotten fruit trees. With permission from the property owners I gathered quinces, apples and giant river walnuts. On the Adelaide plains I collected some oranges from a neglected tree in a public car park. The oranges were just dropping on the ground and rotting so I figured that no one would mind if I collected some. The oranges were very concentrated in flavor. Very tart which is how I like my fruit.

With the quinces I made some stewed quinces in syrup as well as some quince paste (Membrillo). We ate the apples and walnuts fresh as is and shared them around to friends and family. Some of the walnuts I forgot about and left them outside and they sprouted into baby walnut trees. I am nurturing the seedlings and aim to do some guerilla plantings this winter somewhere close to home.

Membrillo -(Adapted river cottage recipe)

Wash the quince. Roughly chop the fruit but don’t peel or core them. Place in a large pan and barely cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft and pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary. Leave to stand for several hours.

Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve or pass through a mouli. Weigh the pulp and return it to the cleaned-out pan, adding an equal weight of sugar. Bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer gently, stirring frequently, for an hour and a bit until really thick and glossy. It may bubble and spit like a volcano, so do take care. The mixture is ready when it is so thick that you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.

When the Membrillo is cooked, pour it into the prepared moulds or jars. To seal open moulds, pour melted food-grade paraffin wax over the hot membrillo. Jars can be sealed with lids. Membrillo set in a shallow tray should be covered with greaseproof paper and kept in the fridge. If you would like it firmer, place in oven on low heat or dehydrator to make it firmer.

For optimum flavour, allow the Membrillo to mature for 4–6 weeks before using. Eat within 12 months.

quinces

Chili

I grew one cayenne lilac chili bush which gave us more than enough chili’s to last for a whole year. To preserve the chili I made a homemade chili paste. First I blended the chili’s below into a paste. Then I fried it gently for 5 mins with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a tablespoon of salt. Then I placed spoonful’s of the paste into a mini muffin silicone moulds and placed in freezer. Once frozen tok the chili cakes out of the moulds and put them into a container in the freezer. I just shave off pieces of chili as required.

chilli

Seed saving

zucchini

Q: What’s wrong with this photo?

A: There are no seeds where they should be.

We need to always have the ability to save our seeds, seeds belong to the global commons, not to a handful of corporations. Best case scenario this was a hybrid, worst case it was genetically modified this way. In the words of Vandana Shiva ‘practice civil disobedience and save your seeds. It’s the difference between scarcity and abundance, war and peace.’

 

 

Mushroom foraging

porcini

Over winter I finally got organised to get myself skilled up for some mushroom foraging. I did a workshop with the incredibly knowledgeable Bev Lane. She covered the principals of mushroom hunting and gave fantastic safety advice. I did some follow up research and brushed up on my plant identification skills and was ready to search out prime mushroom habitat.

I enjoyed having a good excuse to get out for bushwalks in the cold and sometimes drizzly weather. I found and tried Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus), Weeping Boletus (Suillus granulatus), Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus) and Porcini (Boletus edulis). I did catch the Porcini bug once I found them and all I could think and dream about was Porcinis.

There are other varieties of edible mushrooms growing around Adelaide but I am happy with my finds for now. For example, there are plenty of field mushrooms but given they can cross breed with yellow stainers I decided against eating these.

I tried a few different ways to eat my finds but these recipes were the winners. The thing I like most about these recipes is that all the additional ingredients can be grown and sourced from South Australia.

Saffron milk cap pasta (adapted Kylie Kwong recipe)

8 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 red onions, thin sliced
1 tablespoon Murray River salt
750g Saffron milk caps
125g b.d farm butter, roughly chopped
1/2 cup South Australian extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, cracked
1/2 cup Adelaide Hills dry white wine
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Place garlic, onions and salt in a heavy-based pan. Cover with the mushrooms. Top with butter, olive oil and pepper and place, covered over high heat for 5 minutes, without stirring, to allow the flavours of the onions and garlic to penetrate the mushrooms.

Uncover. Add wine and remaining mushrooms, and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are just tender. Stir in parsley.

Serve with L’Abruzzese pasta or on top of a slice of sour dough toast.

Porcini salt

10 grams dried Porcini mushroom

1 tablespoon Murray River salt.

Dry the Porcini mushrooms on string for at least two weeks in a place in the house that doesn’t get too hot or cold. When dry put the mushroom and salt in a high speed blender and turn into dust. Use as seasoning on meat or in pasta dishes.