Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hosta and garlic bulbils

Sorry for not updating this blog for a few days. With the nice weather we have been having lately I have been out till dark working and I just don't want to bother updating when I get in tired. I might have to start doing it when I come in for a break during the day.

 I have bought a few hosta plants to see if they are worth growing as a vegetable. I am impressed with my first taste today. The shoot was very tender and tasted like a cross between green bean and asparagus.
You should pick the shoots when they are young and still furled because they go a bit bitter when they are more mature. I think they will be nice in a leafy green salad.

Apparently they can also be cooked. When I have a few spare shoots (the plants are still small) I will try them steamed with my other vegetables.
I have noticed that where I grew chufa last year there are a few shoots coming up from tubers that were left in the ground. I was under the impression that they don't survive winters but that must be for places with harsh winters because I already have a half dozen up.

I will have to keep an eye on that because even though they don't flower and aren't as much of a weed as nutgrass, they could still be a potential problem if not controlled. I will keep you informed.

All that I have read online and in books about garlic bulbils is that they don't start to produce cloves for two or three years but these Monaro Purple bulbils that I threw in a tub in the autumn are producing cloves already.
Of course the ones that are crowded where I just threw the head in the ground only have the outside ones big enough to do this but the individual ones are bigger.

Just another reason to love this variety. With this advantage I will be able to build up my stocks quickly.

Sorry, no article today, I am just too tired and I have a meeting to get ready for.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Garlic again, mouse melons, and why you should grow kohlrabi

After a bit of searching I finally found the term for my top sprouting garlic. It is called 'Witch Brooming'. Now that I know the term I can find lots of discussion on it. Most sites say that it is caused by low temperatures in storage but my experiments show that mine is caused by getting too wet in winter. At least I know what it is now and that it is quite common, and some varieties, like my 'Monaro Purple' are especially prone to it.

After the Hamilton market I popped over to the Gray St fair to see how my jams went in the competition. I didn't win anything but was amazed at how great the fair was. It was much bigger than I imagined for a small school in a small town and there was so much going on. They did a marvelous job.

 My mouse melons (Melothria scabra, also called Mexican sour gherkin) are sprouting everywhere. I love these little cucumbers and everyone who tastes them also like them.
They are slow to germinate and start growing which is why I prefer to let them self seed rather than sow them in pots, but when they get to a certain size they really take off and are very productive.

My garlic is not far from being ready to harvest because of the early hot weather. This hasn't given them enough time to grow to a good size and all the varieties are less than half their normal size. It is a bit disappointing but hopefully next year will be better.

Why you should grow kohlrabi

I love kohlrabi, it has to be one of the most useful veg you can grow.
Not only is it easy to grow but the taste is mild and most people like it. It tastes a bit like broccoli.

It can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat raw just peel and either slice very thin and sprinkle with salt, or grate and use instead of cabbage in a kohlslaw.

Cooked it can be roasted, boiled or steamed just like potatoes or any other solid vegetable, or you can pickle it or make it into many other preserves.

I like to sow the seeds in mid spring but I also put some in through summer for continuous cropping. It needs a well manured soil like other brassicas but seems to cope with most soils and conditions. Keep up the water in dry times and pick when the 'bulbs' are fist sized or a little bigger.
When they put up their thick flower stems these can also be peeled and eaten, they are mild and tender.

The variety I grow 'Gigante' will grow much bigger without going woody and my market customers like it, but because of the size it does take longer to grow. You can also buy seeds of a nice purple one in the shops.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Todays stuff and 'edimentals for your garden'

I'm already sick of this unusually hot weather and it isn't even summer yet. I have had to start watering every two days now rather than twice a week as everything is drying out so fast. At least the weather means that everything is growing well and the earth mite seem to have left for the summer.

 I was going to plant my chufa in Novenber this year but as the weather was so warm I planted them three weeks ago and they are starting to pop up now.
I grew chufa for the first time last summer and I really liked the taste so I am growing two beds this year. They produce so well that I only need two beds for seed and for myself. If I was confident of being able to sell them as produce I would grow more but I think that might take another year or so to convince my customers.

My white alpine strawberry bed is also showing life. They are even ripening their fruits. I love the taste of white alpines but it is a pity they are too soft to take to market. Oh well, I will just have to eat them all myself. What a hardship, lol.

It has been a month now since I started trying geo mat as weedmat and I am very pleased with it so far.
Although it lets in a little light it is not enough to let germinated weeds seeds get a start so I am happy with its performance.
It is not so great with strong weeds like running grasses (couch etc) but that just means that I have to have my beds well prepared before laying it down.

It is so nice to work with that I will never go back to 'normal' weed mat.

Edimentals for your garden

An 'edimental' is an Edible Ornamental. These are plants that people usually grow for flowers or other ornamental uses, and usually gardeners don't know they are edible.

Here is a list that I am growing. If you search for edible flowers you will find more on Google.

  • Daylily: Both the open flowers and unopened flower buds are edible raw and in stir fries. The flower petals are surprisingly sweet.
  • Hosta: The still curled new leaves are edible raw or cooked, especially fried.
  • Brodiaea: The bulbs are edible raw and cooked
  • Viola: Viola and pansy flowers look great in salads
  • Pineapple guava: The flower sepals are edible and many people don't know how great the fruit is.
  • Kangaroo paw: The fleshy roots can be cooked and eaten. They are a bit fibrous but certainly edible.
  • Canna lily: As with the kangaroo paw.
  • Jockeys cap lily: The bulbs can be eaten cooked only
  • Fuschia: The ripe fruits can be made into jams but are not outstanding fresh.
  • Dahlia: The tubers of dahlias are edible but some are better than others. Some can be bitter.

Always keep in mind that some garden plants, especially bulbs are very poisonous so don't experiment with plants you don't know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Baby goat and what edibles to plant in shady places

Since I forgot to take the camera out today I thought I would share a couple of photos of my sisters baby goat.

 You will recall a couple of weeks ago me talking about my sisters doe having her kids under the house. Since the offspring of this goat tend to be flighty, nervous buggers my sister decided to take the female kid and hand feed it to try and make it friendlier.

Of course they had to bring it with them when they came to visit so I took a couple of pictures. The baby goats name is Sage.

This is my little niece feeding Sage.

With all the bad luck they have had with the offspring of that doe, I really hope this one turns out ok. The Doe 'Babette' is the most loving and highest milking goat I have ever seen so they need another female to take over just an case anything ever happened to her.

Edibles to plant in the shade

I often hear people say that their garden has a shady area that they can't grow vegetables in, because veggies need full sun as the books tell them.
That is mainly true in the Northern hemisphere but here where the summer sun will fry anything that shows its face many actually prefer a bit of shade, especially in the afternoon.

As many of you know by now, much of my veg are grown under shadecloth in the summer now but there are a heap of fruit and veg that will love the south side of your house, or between the fence and your house or shed. The shade should not be too deep but dappled or through the afternoon at least.
Here are a few I can think of right now.

Lettuce and most quick growing leafy veg: These prefer afternoon sun, especially lettuce which will go bitter if they get too hot.

Chilean Guava: This bush produces tiny, delicious berries and needs shade.

Alpine strawberries: a cool, moist spots suits these little clumpers perfectly.

Oca: a tuberous vegetable from South America

Yacon: Another tuberous vegetable from South America that produces sweet tubers that are eaten raw.

Cucumbers: Prefer afternoon sun as both the fruit and the plants fry easily.

Rhubarb: Loves a cool, moist spot with afternoon shade.

Hardy Kiwifruit: These vines will love a shady fence to grow on.

Hazelnuts: Prefer afternoon shade

Finger lime: Love dappled shade

American Pawpaw: An unusual fruit tree that prefers a bit of shade, especially when young.

Soft leaved herbs

Monday, October 20, 2014

Garlic again and why 'heirlooms' may not be right for you

Well, we are back to 'normal' today after the hectic but wonderful few days of my sisters family visiting. I love having them visit and we are always sorry that they can't stay longer but it does mean that I don't get any work done.

 This year I planted my garlic in three of my blocks just to test out a theory that my problems with the cloves shooting out the top of the mother plant before the plants die down is because they are too wet in the winter. It seems to be correct because the only ones this time which are doing it are the bed that was in the wettest part of the garden.
For some reason it doesn't seem to affect the quality of the whole bulbs when they die down, it just looks strange.
You might remember my wondering about it last year at this time.

After waiting a month and just about to reseed my kurrajong seeds are starting to germinate. I was getting a bit worried but I can see a few just about to pop above the soil.
I really should have planted a couple more beds but I have run out of room, all the beds are full now.
I did tell myself that I wasn't going to put as many different veggies in this spring but I just can't help myself.

I just look at my seeds and decide that I need to fill up the containers more so I plant and plant, I love planting as big a range as I can.

Why "heirlooms' may not be right for you

I hate the word 'Heirloom' as food gardeners use it. Think about what an heirloom is, it is something that is passed down from parents to children over generations. As soon as people elsewhere start planting them they are no longer Heirlooms. It is much better to call old varieties 'Heritage' varieties, which is what I call them.

So why may they not be right for you?
Heritage varieties are old varieties that have been so inbred that they have lost most of their genetic diversity, the diversity that allows living things to adapt to changing conditions. Many people complain that their 'Heirlooms' did very poorly and they will never grow them again, but then other will say that their 'Heirlooms' outdid all the new varieties in their garden.

The reason is that since these old heritage types were grown in a specific place, with a specific climate and soil for generations, all the while with any 'off' types being culled so they are all more or less clones, they don't have the diversity to adapt to other climates and soils etc. If your conditions are similar to what they were originally adapted for they should perform wonderfully, but the opposite is true if you live in a different climate.

If you want to only grow heritage vegetables you should put in the time to research where they originally come from and mostly plant those with similar needs to what your garden provides.

If you really want to grow heritage varieties from all areas you can try developing a landrace. A landrace (vegetable, fruit, flower or animal) is a variety that has been developed to suit a particular place, climate and other conditions. It is still the same variety but it has been grown and the best producers with the best genes for your area have been picked out and grown on.

Basically you can grow a bed of this variety, then collect seeds from those that thrive. Generally although I said that heritage varieties usually have little diversity, random mutations are happening all the time. Maybe you planted 10 plants of 'Aunt Rubys Green' tomato and they did so badly, and got so many diseases that only two plants survived, not great but lived to produce a couple of fruit. Obviously those two plants have just enough diversity to have genes that will cope to some extent in your garden.

Keep seeds from those plants and grow them next year. You will find that more of those ten plants will survive, and one might even do well. If you keep saving seeds from the best doers you will eventually have after a few years a landrace of 'Aunt Rubys Green' that does exceptionally well for you, but may still do badly for your friend in the next town. See what I am saying?

After saying what I have there are some heritage varieties of veg that do well in most gardens. These have been grown around the world for so long that they have had some diversity reintroduced, just enough to make them do well in most places. Some very popular 'Heirlooms'  like Black Russian tomato come to mind.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quick update

Sorry I haven't posted. my sister and here family have been visiting for a few days. I will make my usual post tomorrow night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jam competition and mixed mutterings

Today was the long awaited day when it was time to take in my entries for the Great Victorian Jam and Chutney challenge. I couldn't pass this one up because the prize money is good.
I made two jams - Hawaiian Sunrise (banana, pineapple and coconut jam) and rhubarb jam, a kohlrabi chutney and a sweet apple sauce. I am really only happy with the Hawaiian Sunrise jam but I am prepared to be surprised with the others. It is judged on Saturday Oct 25. Wish me well.

Just before starting on this post I had to go out and cover up as many frost tender seedlings as I could because they are predicting a severe frost tonight, just when all the melons, tomatoes and corn are coming up *sigh*. Luckily I had cut up my geo fabric roll into bed-sized lengths to put on some of the seedlings, and I am hoping that the shadecloth covers will also give a degree or two of protection. We will see.
I am pleasantly surprised every year when we get a late frost how the seedlings cope well with it. I suppose they can cope with a single frost but wouldn't cope with more than one in a row.
I got a babaco plant  in the mail yesterday but I can't put it outside because of the couple of cold nights this week. I bought it because we will have our new hothouse next winter. I have tried growing them before but just couldn't keep them alive through the winter.

Tomorrow I will be seeding my last empty beds so all that will need to be done for the next three months is weeding and watering. I will put in another bed or two of carrots, because you can never have enough carrots, as well as some celtuce since the earth mites polished off the last lot, and some beets. I must remember to keep a bed free for my bambara beans which will go in next month.

I noticed yesterday that the garlic is starting to put out scapes so at least I will have something interesting for the market. I won't have much else, just broad beans and seeds but at least I will have a presence there. It will be December before I will have full tables again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Geo fabric as weedmat, and funny vegetable personality quiz

Today I received a 50 metre roll of 140gsm geo fabric. I have to tell you that I HATE weedmat, it is so hard to handle and frays everywhere.
A few weeks ago I bought a few metres of this geo fabric to see how it would go as weed mat. It is normally used to stop erosion on building sites, roadways and irrigation trenches. I is so nice to feel, almost like real fabric and lets air and water through much better than 'normal' weed mat.

It does let in a little more light but not much and mostly stops weed growth, and although it is just as light as weed mat it doesn't seem to blow around as much. I made some wire pegs to hold it down and they are going well. In a few months I will be able to judge whether it is good enough to put on most of my beds.

 A week or two ago I told you how I am having trouble keeping my hardy kiwi plants alive in the summer.
I ended up planting them next to my parents shadehouse and they have really taken off. They are looking better than I had hoped and growing so fast now that I will have to put up something for them to climb on in the next few days.

Now I just hope they survive the winter as this area gets waterlogged in winter and spring.

My bed of walking onions is taking off as well. They are so crowded and dividing so rampantly that I will have to put them into a bigger bed next year.
They are just starting to put out their second tier.

What is your fruit/vegetable personality
Choose your favourite superhero (or someone you most admire), this will show your personality type. Does the name of your choice start with:

A - You're an Asparagus. You pop up early when things need to be done, putting all your effort into it then burning out.
B - Broccoli. Your head is so full of ideas you feel like exploding.
C - Crabapple. People find it hard to like you until they get to know you better, but they always need to be careful not to antagonise you.
D - Daylily. You are bright and beautiful, always with a happy face and demeanor. 
E - Eggplant. Oh so funny, you always have people in tears of laughter. Keep it coming and you will be surrounded by friends, but you should still let them know if you have problems that are no laughing matter.
F - Finger lime. Exotic and interesting, you are full of surprises.
G - Grape. You are a social climber but be careful not to smother others on your way up. Give generously and people will help you up the ladder.
H - Horseradish. With a hot and fire personality people need to always be on their toes around you, but you area challenge that brings out the best (or worst) in people.
I - Iceberg lettuce. Mild mannered and cool headed, you are a great stabilising force for all the people around you.
J - Jaboticaba.  Wow, people think you are a plain Jane but watch their faces when you put your mind to a project. They never expected that!
K - Kohlrabi. You might be rough outside but you always have friends because you are so versitile, you can do almost anything.
L - lemon. With an acid tongue, you have to watch what you say at all times. Even so, your friends love you anyway.
M - Mangelwurzel. Big, and hairy (well you would be if you let yourself go), you are the hillbilly of vegetables. Always fun to be around and down to earth.
N - Nectarine. You are so sweet that people think they can take advantage of you. Just smile and let them think they can until you fulfil your plan.
O - Onion. Multi-layerd, no-one really ever knows what is going on inside your head, and you like it that way.
P - Pumpkin. Solid and reliable, you are always there when anyone needs you.
Q - Quince. You tend to leap to judgement but try to hold off before talking.
R - Radish. You have a quick mind and tend to rush things without thinking them through. 
S - Strawberry. So sweet, everyone loves you. 
T - Tomato.  You are a homebody, and know that the pretenders are never as good as those who put their heart into life.
U - Ugni. You like to keep to the shadows but have a lot to offer, if only people would ask. Try to let people know of your valuable skills, they are not mind readers.
V - Vanilla. People think you are a normal, everyday person but they don't know you at all. Climb those poles or trees and show off once in a while.
W - Watermelon.  You love people but try not to overwhelm people with your personality - you might get your juicyness all over them and they will have to leave to clean up.
X - Xanthosoma.  You are majestic and put it all out there, but no-one can see through that to get to your heart. 
Y - Yam. Your roots are your stabilising influence but it might be nice to ignore your past to grow in the future.
Z - Zucchini. You give so generously that you risk burning out. Make sure you have a long rest every year to rebuild your strength.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My planned open day, and 'The easiest veg to grow for black thumbs'

Today was a pretty busy day with having to water all my blocks, then after a conversation with a Facebook permaculture friend, deciding to have an open day on the 7th December. I have been thinking of doing it for a while and trying to decide on the best date to show my blocks at their best. So... I was busy putting a couple of hundred assorted plants in pots to sell on the day, as well as having some for the Hamilton Nursery.

Here are some of the plants I have been potting up. I will do a heap more tomorrow also. I might have to buy another carton of pots as well.

I really hope the plants sell well, it will be a good top up to the bank balance, especially as I am planning to replace my current polyhouse with a polycarbonate one in the Autumn next year. It will look much neater and I am getting sick of buying new plastic covers when they rip in the wind.

I will start advertising the open day soon.

My little American Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seedlings are starting to come out now. Now that they are shooting out I will put them into individual pots. It is best to transplant these when they start coming into leaf.

I have a few of last years seedlings in larger pots but they are so slow growing when young that I will keep them in their pots for another year.

BTW, those are some pepino cuttings in the background, just ignore them.

All my beans are coming up today. These are some bush purple snake beans but I also have in climbing snake beans and blue speckled tepary beans.
I think I will sow another bed of snake beans tomorrow. They sell really well at markets and are stringless and tasty.
I have to keep wire netting on them at this stage to keep the starlings from pulling them up.

The easiest vegetables to grow

Here is a list of the most foolproof vegetables that almost anyone can grow, as long as you look after them and have the right climate. They are fairly pest and disease resistant and can cope with a bit of neglect. Of course, the better you look after them the better they will produce, but these will smile on you even if you have a black thumb.

Asparagus: These plants can cope with a bit of drought and have hardly any pests or problems in my garden. As long as you can keep them free of weeds they will hang on and produce spears for decades with little fuss.

Potatoes: Just throw them in the ground and forget about them, except for the occasional watering in summer they will just sit there until you go digging around for spuds. Tough and hearty plants that will get some pest problems but will usually outgrow them if you ignore it.

Garlic: is another plant that you can just set and forget. They are so tough that you can often find it growing where houses have been pulled down years ago.

Tomatoes: You might laugh but if you throw a rotten tomato on a bit of rough ground or in the vegetable patch you will have tough little plants popping up every year. Just give them the occasional water in summer and you are set. Cherry tomatoes seem to be the toughest.

Silverbeet: This is a tough plant that just keeps going and going. It will put up with all sorts of abuse.

Radishes: Although they get nibbled by a few pests they are so fast growing that they will often be ready to pick before they get over-run with weeds. Great for if you don't have a great attention span, and you don't weed often enough.

Rhubarb: Give this plant a moist but drained area (like near a tap or tank overflow) and it will sit there producing heaps of stems to cook, you rarely need to even check on it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seedlings, and My 10 top tasting fruit and vegetables

There was nothing out of the ordinary to tell you about today, I just mowed the lawn and planted a few potted trees.

 As I went on my morning inspections I noticed that my first seedling oca that I grew last season have started to shoot from their tubers. I hope I get some good ones.
I have ordered some more seed but it hasn't arrived yet and I hope it hasn't been confiscated by customs. As long as I haven't got one of their 'love letters' I can still hope they will get here.

It will be the year for tomatoes I think. I am having self seeded seedlings popping up everywhere, and since I also have heaps in trays to plant out I am going to be over-run. Oh well, you can never have too many tomatoes.
A lot of the ones in trays I will pot up to sell through the nursery that takes my plants.
I am not getting as many melons popping up in the beds this year. I think it is because I didn't grow many last year so there were not many melons left to rot on the ground.

My top tasting fruits and vegetables to grow.

This list is entirely based on my own preferences, and other people will choose different plants. I am a sweet tooth who likes my food to be mild tasting and really doesn't like bitter foods so that is where I am coming from.
This list is based in fruit and veg that can be grown here so I have left out tropical fruits.

Melons:  I LOVE sweet melons. I am already salivating at the thought of picking ripe, juicy and sweet melons after Christmas. I can't give you the names of my favourites as there are so many, in fact I can probably only name a few that I don't like. I am growing about 40 varieties this year, well down on the over 50 varieties I grew a couple of years ago.
I suppose that if I have to name a few best ones that immediately come to mind I would have to go with Orangeglo watermelon, Crane, Nior Des Carmes and Sweet Passion. If you want to know more about just about any melon you can get go to my melon website:

Tomatoes:  Home grown tomatoes are so much better than shop bought ones that they are almost a different fruit. The sweetness as well as the versatility of tomatoes has to put them at the top of any list. There are so many great ones that it is hard to name the best but I will place Black Krim, Yellow Brandywine and Wild Current at the top of mine.

Scorzonera:  This little known vegetable tastes a lot like artichoke hearts, and is so weird looking ( it looks a bit like black sticks) that it always causes a sensation at markets. It is easy to cook and eat and is one of the few vegetables that I will eat anytime.

Golden Raspberries:  After you try Golden Raspberries you will not want to go back to the normal red ones again. They are really sweet and delicious.

Corn:  There are few people who wouldn't put freshly picked sweetcorn on their list of top ten veg.

Potatoes:  Although they are a bit bland in taste, I love potatoes because they are so versatile and filling. I can't imagine going more than a few meals without potatoes. They can be used in sweet as well as savoury dishes and you can really cause a stir with your family if you use a few different colours of spuds in a dish, especially a potato salad.

Muntries:  This hardly known little Australian native berry deserves a lot more attention. The plants grow in almost any soil and bear prolifically. They taste like dried apple and almost everyone likes them at first taste.

Kurrajong: Another native of Australia. The seeds are delicious fried or roasted like you would with nuts but I specially love the raw taproots of seedlings which taste like coconut.

Celtuce: Celtuce is a type of lettuce grown for its fat, juicy stems rather than its leaves. It is delicious and I have to eat the lot when I have some prepared.
I can't describe the taste as it is a taste all its own. I eat it raw (after peeling) but you can also add it to stir fries.

Amaranth:  I don't eat a lot of leafy veg but I do like amaranth as it is mild in taste and not bitter. It tastes like a cross between artichoke hearts and silverbeet but without the silverbeet bitterness. It is also easy and fast to grow.

I could add some other fruit and veg like yacon, strawberries, brodiaea and snow peas and it was a bit of a struggle to choose what to put in the top ten. Maybe I should have made it a top 20, or even a top 30, lol.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New shoots, and water plants to plant now

Another warm and sunny day means that it is drying out so fast that the earth mites are starting to disappear, thank goodness. I have started to plant some of my melon seeds out in the ground as they now have more of a chance against the mites. The other reason is that I am having trouble keeping the mice out of the seeds in tubes so with planting outside as well as in tubes I should get enough going to grow all the melons I want this year. It looks like I will be planting about 40 varieties this year.
I love growing melons

 My Hopniss (American Groundnuts) are starting to show themselves now. These are such a delicious tuber that I wonder why they are not better known.

I tried to import some seeds of bigger tubered varieties as I haven't been able to get this variety to flower here, but the seller included some dirt in with the seeds so it was confiscated at customs.

I might try again next year.

I am trying moringa trees again this year. The seedlings are just popping up now.
I will look after them a bit better this time and hopefully get them big enough before next winter so that they reshoot from their tuberous taproots after winter kills the tops off.
They call this the 'Miracle tree' because you can eat every part of it, and it is supposed to also have some medicinal qualities, it also grows terribly quickly.

Water edibles to plant now.

No matter how small your garden is you can always grow some edibles in tubs. here in Southern Victoria it is time to put them in for harvest next Autumn/Winter.

I have been growing these plants in flexible plastic tubs which work well but they were getting too hot last summer on those roasting days so I have now got some bigger bathtubs.

Fill then mostly with water, most water edibles only need a few inches of water above the soil, and when the plants are growing well, push in one or two water plant fertiliser tablets to keep them growing well.
Make sure you top up the water in summer to keep it at a constant depth, but as the cooler weather of Autumn hits it is time to let them dry up a bit more to encourage the plants to produce tubers.

Water Chestnuts:
This is a picture of water chestnuts dying down in late Autumn.
As you can see, you only need one or two tubers to make plants that will fill up a tub or bath.

Water chestnuts are a tasty addition to any stir-fry but are a bit of a pain to peel before cooking.

Water Ribbons:
This is a native Australian water plant that grows in ponds, lakes and swamps all over Australia.
It produces small, white tubers that can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a very mild taste.
Mine have very small tubers so when I have time I will try to find some with bigger tubers. They are very variable so I should be able to find some.
Be aware that these plants fill up a tub quickly and make a mass of roots that can be difficult to separate to get out all the tubers.

Although lotus is a tropical plant it will grow down here when established. I have had trouble getting them established up till now but I have one plant growing and I hope it will do well now.
The tubers are one of my favourite foods and can be cooked in many ways, and other parts of the plant are also edible.

I don't grow bulrush as it needs more room that I can provide, and although I have eaten it when living in the bush, I really think it is no more than an emergency food. The young shoots can be eaten but the tuberous roots are the better food and provide a useful source of carbs when prepared. The copious pollen can also be collected and eaten.

There are a few other good water edibles which I don't grow at this time like, rice, watercress, kangkong and wasabi.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to cook any unknown produce

Another warm and beautiful day to weed and dig, that seems to be all I am doing at the moment, well besides sowing the new veg seeds for the season. I have even had to cover up all my seedlings due to it being around 29 C tomorrow. The summer is supposed to be so horrific that I need the soil to retain all the moisture it can. I am so glad I decided to cover so many beds with shadecloth this year.

Before I get to todays article, I will share a couple of random pics I took today.

This poor little sunflower has struggled through frost and winter and is now just opening its first flower. What a trier, lol. I must remember to plant a few more this year as they look so great.
Last year I didn't get much seed as the parrots stripped them but at least they are spectacular when in flower, and they attract all sorts of pollinators.

After going to so much trouble to get all my cucurbits in, as well as a heap for the nursery, yesterday I went out to find that mice had found them. They went from tube to tube taking every seed. They got a shock last night with traps and bait so I hope I am on top of them now.
I have now reseeded and there is still time for them to be ready for the nursery.

The cheats guide to cooking any unknown veg

Roots and hard, dense vegTo roast root vegetables, peel them and chop into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces.  Toss the vegetables with melted fat or oil and any seasonings that you like, then roast them in an oven preheated to 220 degrees C for thirty to forty-five minutes as needed, stirring once or twice during the roasting process to prevent burning and promote even cooking.
Just about all of these, from yams to kohlrabi can be roasted till tender, split and served with butter and cheese melted onto them, and maybe with some fried onion on the side.

Leafy greens: Steam until tender and serve with melted garlic butter or a drizzle of white sauce.
Or you can braise them in a heavy frying pan with chopped onion, olive oil and a little water if they have tough stalks and you have to cook a bit longer.
You could also try making a vegetable lasagne with them.
Try these hints with silverbeet to amaranth and beet greens.

Tender salad greens: Toss unusual lettuce, mizuna or other tender greens that can be eaten raw in a home made mayonaise or vinegarette.

Just about any vegetable: Cook in a soup, or chop and cover with cheese, white sauce and breadcrumbs. Bake until tender and the cheese is golden.
Soups are very versatile. I just cook veg till tender then add stock, herbs and bacon pieces. Cook for 20 minutes then allow to cool a bit. Use a hand stick blender to make is smooth. Reheat and serve.
Most things can also be chopped and added to egg dishes like omelettes and frittatas.

Basically, any new veg in my home is first tasted raw, then steamed or microwaved. Then I decide on how it will likely cook in other ways. Usually all veg are just chopped and steamed here because we are lazy.

To be honest, there are few veg that you won't find recipes on the net for, but sometimes you just don't know the name of something you have bought from me so just follow the guide here - or you could just ring me, lol.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Goat problems and broad beans

I have to tell you a little bit about one of my sisters. She and her family like to be as self sufficient as possible, (often with her husband rolling his eyes and sighing) and her life seems to be one continuous drama. I tell you, that family is like a cross between Ma and Pa Kettle and The Beverly Hillbillies. It is fun to see what excitement has been happening every time she rings up.

Anyway... on Tuesday she rings up to tell me that her children informed her that the house was 'Baaaing', which is not something that anyone who knows them would be surprised about. She investigated and found that her milking do, who had been on the brink of giving birth for the last few weeks, had decided that it might be a good idea to crawl under the house, right in the middle of the house, to give birth to her kids.

Ok, so after my sister wriggled her way through dirt and spider webs in the crawlspace to check on her very high producing and valuable goat she thought that there might be something wrong so she came out to ring me for advice. I had to tell her that she had to get that doe out before she could really see what was going on. So back she went into the cobwebs to drag the kids out so the doe would follow.

So, after inserting her hand to make sure there were no more kids, and waiting to make sure the doe was ok everything is good now. We had been joking about how many kids she would have this year as this doe has a habit of giving birth to litters but instead of having 5 or 6 she thought she might try a different tactic and only have three, but three WHOPPERS. How did she push them out I wonder.She is going to have a rest next year. Really, what sort of goat would give birth in the crawl space under a house????

 Anyway, back to my stuff. I had been ignoring a heap of trees that had been sitting in pots in the back block for the last couple of years in the hope they would just go out and plant themselves. Today I decided that I just couldn't keep being cruel to them so I will be planting them out tomorrow. They don't look like much in this photo but these are all deciduous trees which are only starting to bud now, and the pots are filled with weeds.

I'm a bit disappointed that my few Scarlet Cambridge broad beans have started to rot at the base and die, and the beans are not near ripe yet. I hope a couple of plants survive to ripen their beans as these are delicious. I don't like broad beans but I tasted some a few days ago and this variety is delicious. A totally different and fruity taste to other broad beans and I will be growing a lot more of them, as long as I get seeds.

My asparagus is finally starting to pop out of the ground. I am not harvesting this year as the plants were divided earlier in the year. They will be great next spring.