Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Greens

Lemon trees have come up trumps which is an absolute treat.  I expect every household on the property will be enjoying lemon cordial this week. Mine is. Now I have been ruthless on the bushes that haven't performed, they went to the dump, and have kept the others cut back hard to get past them.
I had already granted them a stay of execution anyway, primarily because of their flowering habit which seems to be almost all year round. The glasshouse has a continual party of bumblebees and buzz-pollination and glasshouses are synonomous. I'll reward them each with epsom salts and compost before the winter, and a metre or three of frost cloth each.

Last year I used some sort of chilli garlic spray for the scale and gave them a jolly good wash with warm water. More in the realms of routine maintenance than pampering. They have responded generously.

This bean is Bob's. Frada is dried and all but seed-sorted but Bob is still growing green although some pods are ripening off and changing colour now. From memory its an interesting round brown speckled bean whereas Frada is a creamy lozenge not unlike a glucosomine tablet, for all those over 40. Enormous to swallow whole. Won't be swallowing beans whole.

More beans, this time cannellinni. I bought several  packets of seed a few years ago before I took notice of things like climbing beans and bush beans. I was just looking for cannellinni. When they came up some were bush and some were climbers, some white flowers some pink. I saved seed from the climbers which are more productive and this time have noticed a big difference between the two colours.

For the record, pinks are in the lead and photo is of the different pink bean flowering habit. I think the word is racemes, these rods of beans that it throws out that make them extremely productive. This is where seed saving really comes into its own.

Plodding along, we are chowing through a wealth of brassiccas seeing as the 'Spring crop' has matured early, and that includes lettuces too. Guess I put them in too early. Last year too late. Won't do that again. It means we are snowed in by vegetables what with all the Autumn crops coming in.
Ah yes, those green things are caterpillars, nothing that a pot scrub won't flick off, a soak in salt water and a good clip. What I'm getting too is 'perfectly good.' I guess its a variant of good enough (Marg) except that they are perfectly, good, all they need to be.  Perfect for this Jamie Oliver recipe from his jamie at home book. Cauliflower cannellonni and my fussiest eater was scraping the dish. We'll have that again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The prune tree has only been in for two years and went from 3 fruits last year to laden boughs this year. Sensibly laden, most of them are clustered around the trunk and forearm of the branch so they are well supported and nothing has broken off under the weight or even bowed down. Important for such a young tree. The wind thinned them a few months ago, not so as you'd notice now. I looked up some local research at the time and from memory, the 16th March was the day to pick them, in Central Otago, for maximum sweetness. Give or take a day.

Sure enough, right on the button a few kilos worth suddenly dropped to the ground announcing that they were ready. This is a freestone plum, 'Italian' so I took a minute to stone them before drying and the result, surprise... prunes. The one surprise is that they are yellow inside, I imagined they would be that deep purple all the way through.

The greengage finally produced a crop worth mentioning which enabled me to scupper a few cherished dreams. For some reason I always thought how nice it would be to have enough to bottle. No no no no no. They turn khaki green and the skins crack and they look horrible and taste sickly sweet because they are so sweet.
They deteriorate the minute they are picked and they don't all ripen together, why should they I suppose. Best way to eat them is off the tree as they ripen, and this over a period of quite a few weeks. I'm on the last of them now. Hanging out the washing is never a fruitless task; it has been especially fruitfull this year.

We finally caught a 'working day' at Hayes Engineering in Oturehua which means the factory is cranked up and we got to see the machinery in action. What I didn't expect to find out the back of the restored homestead was this beautiful vegetable garden with a few flowers, snapdragons and old fashioned things to the right, out of view. The whole thing is rabbit fenced and sits in this sheltered corner. The house is made of mudbrick, 2 layers thick and radiates warmth at night. Those are tomatoes over by the windows. It may look dry, that's how it is here, it was very productive. The lady warmed to my enthusiasm and sent me home with a beautiful cabbage. I had to turn everything else down because we already had it.

Never mind taking photos of the kids, this is looking out at the garden from one of the bedrooms. What a lovely sight. What could be more practical. The whole place, his inventions, the factory, the homestead and the running of it all beautifully illustrate Occams Razor in action. That is, the simplest solution is the correct one. Sounds like a good maxim for life.  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In the Wake

We will always remember what we were doing when the earthquake hit. We were all down in the big kitchen preserving peaches and nectarines and everybody immediately said 'Christchurch'. We listened to the radio as we worked and I felt sick.
We've already welcomed new children to the school and Bill is up there today for a funeral. Cancer, this one. Life and death go on.

By way of light relief, sunflowers. They are already in far more spectacular bloom. There's going to be alot of seed, which is apparently good for sprouting. Just as well. Next time I would grow a multi-headed variety that blooms sooner so I won't be keeping it.

By way of even lighter relief, bottled spaghetti. To me it is pure Kiwiana. Never mind that no one in this household has ever really liked canned spaghetti. Nothing was going to stop me making this and more besides. It is delicious, very easy and at 30cents a jar I can't resist making more. Incidentally the family have come to the party and they like it. Recipe to follow.
It's what you make when you've already made pasta sauce, relish, soup, and dried tomatoes and there are still pounds of them to be picked. Oh to be always so blessed.
For the record, Mum had the good taste not to make this for us as children.

Beetroots are enormous this year and I can tell you the drawback. Not that they are tough but they take so long to cook, and it probably didn't help leaving them in the liquid overnight. Means the pickled beetroot doesn't have as much colour as usual. Never mind. I use Digby Law's recipe: to follow. Do we all eat the leaves? They are better than silverbeet.  
This is the brag shot. Third time lucky with the cucumbers. I'm really impressed with these telegraph type. They are very hardy and as of today these babies are ready to eat. (the photos are last week's) The plant is hardly full grown but starts to flower and set as it climbs, as do most beans that I've noticed. We have snow on the hills and temperatures have plummeted. Autumn is here and I expect to see growth slow right down.

Bottled Spaghetti
12 pounds tomatoes
1 pound onions
2 T salt
1 cup sugar
a few cloves garlic
1T mustard
1 1/2 packets vermicelli (750g)
Simmer together the sauce ingredients until soft. Put through the mouli, bring back to the boil, and add the cooked vermicilli. Simmer ten minutes and bottle. Makes 12 one pound jars. Amaze your friends.

Pickled Beetroot
Wash and boil a big pot of beetroot until tender. Cool, peel and slice. Reheat in 2C sugar, 3C cooking water, 4C malt vinegar. Bottle overflow method. Done.