Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feijoa and zucchini mutterings

It has been perfect weather for working in the gardens, and the veggies are growing well. I have now harvested the last of the broad beans and garlic, and have replanted with all sorts of things from melons to amaranth.
I am still having trouble with things eating off all the seedlings that germinate and have found out that it is mostly sparrows doing it. I can't afford to buy bird netting for all the beds, and the storage trouble when I don't need it, so I am planting more seed than I need in the hope that I can get some crop from missed seedlings.

My seedling feijoas are 4 years old and some have started to flower this year.
As well as being pretty, the sepals of the flowers are edible and great in salads for a bit of colour.

Feijoas are one of my favourite fruits. They are delicious just scooped out with a spoon and eaten. I have never cooked with them but I assume they could be used in the same sort of recipes as apricots.
When my trees are bigger and producing more fruit I will try out some recipes.

If you want to grow your own feijoa remember to wait till the fruit falls, then store it in the kitchen for a few days till the fruity aroma develops, then they are ripe.

Here is a picture of some Gippsland Giant broad bean pods, just for the heck of it. This bean produces large pods containing large seeds which have a slightly better flavour than the common Aquadulce variety which I have usually grown up till now.

As you know if you have been reading this blog, I put in four varieties of broad bean this year and will continue to do so to give my customers a variety of seeds. So far my favourite is Crimson flowered because of the wonderful taste, even for bean haters like me.

A couple of my melons have just started flowering so soon I will be busy every morening with hand pollinating.
Some of the zucchini have also been flowering so I will be run over with them also.

Last year I grew a zuccini that turned out quite ugly so I kept some seeds just to see what the results of planting them would turn out like.
So far it looks like most of the plants will have different shaped and coloured fruits so the grandmother plant was obviously a hybrid. It is very interesting and I will take a pic of all the different fruits together later. I hope at least one is superior in taste.

There are so many zucchini vareities out there and they mostly taste the same to me so this is just an excersize in curiosity rather than a quest for a new and better variety to offer. I will keep you updated.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sorry it has been a few days, the evenings have been so nice that I have been spending them outside instead of in here writing.
It was hot and windy today which dried out everything so much that I had to water all the seedling beds twice, morning and night. Still, everything is looking great for my open day in two weeks.
The day after my open day I have to take a group out on a survival course for four days so I will be very busy. I went to the Mount today to pick up some things for the course.

I got a call a couple of days ago asking if I would like to be the Victorian contract instructor for one of the up and coming survival course companies in Australia. They have a good reputation and I have been keeping up with them on forums for a couple of years now (and they have been keeping an eye on me) so of course I said yes. This will be a nice added income a few times a year. The company is Australian Survival Instructors: https://aussiesurvivalinstructors.com/  just in case you are interested.

For the first time ever I am having a really bad time getting carrots up. Considering that they are my best sellers at markets this is becoming a real problem.

On all my blocks the carrot seedlings are being eaten off as soon as they reach about 1cm tall or so. It is really embarassing that all my carrot beds have only a handful of seedlings in them. I can't find out what is doing it but I suspect something like earwigs though there doesn't seem to be that many around.

I don't want to lay down any poison but I might have to one one bed just to see if it helps.

One of my forum friends sent me some tubers of a potato that is purple inside and out that he grew from true seed.
The plants are growing very well but there doesn't seem to be any tubers under them even though they are starting to flower. These plants are also spreading by underground stems which I haven't seen before. I am very interested in seeing what happens with these plants and if the tubers are just deeper than usual which is why I haven't felt them.
Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chilean guava and Jersey shallots

Apart from a little weeding and watering in the morning I didn't get much done today, though I do have to go out and water again after I finish writing this.
I picked my first cucumber today so I guess that summer is officially here :)  I am so looking forward to picking the summer veg and getting into fresh salads. Making a salad from supermarket bought veg just doesn't taste the same.

My Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) is opening its flowers now. I love the berries on this bush but they are too small to use commercially easily, although the Tasmanians have been trying to get an industry around them going for a few years now. They are trying to sell the brand as Tassie Berries. I hate it when they do that, it is deceiving people in my view.
They are having trouble with using them commercially mainly because the berries are difficult to pick with machinery, and expensive to pick by hand

Chilean guava is a pretty, evergreen, small shrub that loves growing in the shade and is native to Chile (who would have guessed, lol). The red berries are delicious and supposed to be even better in jam, but mine will never make it into the house. This is a perfect childrens berry that they can have fun picking and eating while helping out in the garden.

Last summer I bought some 'Jersey' shallots which are a large, pink and delicious shallot.
lately they have been behaving like walking onions by putting up tiers of topsets. I am not sure this is normal for shallots so I am wondering if I got the variety wrong.

You may remember a long time ago that I was talking about these plants and how delicious they were. I am going to get rid of all my little golden shallots and only grow these I think. They taste better and are bigger, so easier to use.

I was hoping they would have started to die down by now so I could have some to sell at my open day but they are still going strong right now. I might have to cut back the watering, but it will still be too late. My open day is only just over a week away.

It is going to be a very busy week with a market, then the open day and then the day after taking a groups out on a four day survival course in the bush. I am going to be exhausted.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Elephant garlic and turnip cabbage

After a few mils of rain yesterday and a cool day today I decided to have the day off. I just went outside to take some pics for you and then went for a drive to pick out some good spots in the bush to hold a survival course for a group who got in touch to do one soon.

 Yesterday I picked my elephant garlic. Although many people don't like it because it is so mild, I always think that it is impressive and makes anyone growing it feel like a great gardener.

My garlic harvest was pretty pitiful this year as you know but at least I got a few elephant garlic plants that are worth taking photos of.

Elephant garlic is actually a type of leek with a garlic flavour. You grow it just like 'normal' garlic but it has fewer cloves in the bulbs so you have to plant many more bulbs to get a bed full. Usually it is harvested at least a month after other garlic but this year with the funny weather it is ready now.

My neighbour here is holding three plants for this pic.

A while ago I told you I had bought some seeds of a very old and rare vegetable from Italy (seeds available from Baker Creek Seeds) called a turnip cabbage.
They are growing strongly and are now starting to thicken the roots/stems.

This is a true cabbage that is grown for its turnip-like root rather than for its leaves. It is non-hearting and the leaves taste just like normal cabbage to me so you could use it for both purposes.
Apparantly it tastes so tender and sweet that you can eat the root raw like kohlrabi as well as cooked.

I have set aside a few plants to taste myself but the rest will be for seed.

I have noticed some variation. Most of the roots have the purple top as they are supposed to and a couple are all white so far.

Yesterday I judged the produce section of the local show. It was a disappointment with the few entries this year, for the produce as well as for all the other sections such as photography, art etc. Oh well, maybe next year will have more.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cucumbers, yam daisies and shows

Well, tomorrow is the Casterton show and I will be judging the produce section. I wanted to encourage people to get a bit more creative with their vegetable growing so I sponsored the section to give much better prize money, asked for more categories, and offered to be the judge.
Unfortunately the main exhibitor had a medical problem earlier in the year so he probably won't be entering anything this year but I hope the better prize money entices some others to give it a go. I want people to be proud of growing their own food.

 With the earlier warm weatehr this year I have my first cucumber nearly ready already. There are a couple of zucchini flowers about to open also.

Things are going to be looking great for my open day, but there will be a few bare, just seeded beds because I have just pulled out all my garlic and most of the broad beans.
I had hoped the broad beans would last a bit longer but the severe rust problem I had just ruined them. I have cut down one bed so the roots will shoot again though.

So much for trying the yam daisies again this year. The scrawny things are dying already. They do great in pots so I tried giving them similar conditions this year with better soil, more water and shade, just like the potted ones have but it has made no difference. I don't know what to do next.

I really want to be able to grow them in beds so I will just have to keep experimenting. At least some of them grew enough to give me some seed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chufa and turkey rhubarb

With two hot days (tomorrow is expected to be 37 C) I have all the bed covers up and all the plants are happy. Next year I hope to have all the beds under shadecloth but at least I have enough to grow veg throughout the summer.

All the information I have says that chufa (Cyperus esculentus,var. sativus) won't survive the winter but that must be for winters that are not as mild as here.
This is chufa coming up through a kale bed. I will keep growing it in the same beds so it doesn't become a pest.
Luckily chufa doesn't produce seeds and the tubers are held close to the plant so it can become as much of a weed as its close relative Yellow Nutsedge, but I think you would not want it to get started in a lawned area just the same.

I bought a couple of young Turkey rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) plants a couple of weeks ago. This is a giant ornamental rhubarb but it is supposed to be better tasting than 'common' rhubarb.
Although the roots are used for medical purposes I am only interested in the leaf stalks for eating. I guess that because it is a large type that it would not produce as many leaves as the common variety, I am hoping that the size of the stalks will make up for that.At least it will look impressive, lol.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Scarlet Cambridge broad beans

Things are drying out so fast that even the beds with water saving crystals added are soon going to have to be watered every day if they have seedlings in them. I really hope northern Australia gets quite a few cyclones this summer so we get some rain or we might be on water restrictions.

My scarlet Cambridge broad beans are drying now and ready for picking.
Over the last month or so while I have been tasting them I thought I wouldn't grow them again as the immature beans have an unpleasant bitterness to them but now I have tasted a mature bean. The bitterness is completely absent in the mature beans so I will grow them to sell as mature cooking beans.
The mature beans are pleasant to eat and a lovely dark purple colour (not sure yet if the colour stays in cooked beans but will try that after I finish writing this), but they do have the tough skin on them that some other broad beans also have.
All my broadies are drying now so I am going to be busy podding them soon.

So far all my four varieties this year have their good and bad points:

  • Scarlet Cambridge: Bitter when immature, great as a dry bean. Lovely dark purple colour. Beans are small. Average producer.
  • Crimson: Beautiful pink/red flowers. Very high producing. Delicious as a raw green bean. Small pods. Some problem with plants rotting at the base. Beans skins are not tough.
  • Aquadulce: Very popular all rounder. Prone to rust.
  • Gippsland Giant: Big beans. Average producer. Beans skins are not tough, no need to peel.

I always put in a couple of rows of broad beans for one of my block owners but she has trouble picking them as they get so tall and fall over so this year I planted them in late winter instead of Autumn and they are just three feet tall and easy to pick. They are a bit later than the Autumn planted beans but that just extends the season.
Most of my broad beans are finished already because of the early season and a big rust problem so I think I will do this extended planting every year and get a longer picking season. Having smaller plants also means that they are not falling onto neighbouring beds and being a pain in the butt.