Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Paw Paws and winter plans

Sorry, forgot to go and get some pics today.

Well, today is the last day of my sowing season - any later and the cold of winter will slow or stop growth and any veg will not be mature before they bolt in spring. With a few showers of rain yesterday I decided it was a good chance to get some more seed in the ground so I threw some Hamburg parsley and white alpine strawberries in a couple of empty beds.
There is still time to plant broad beans and snow peas but they will be finished in the next week.

From now on I will have less and less to do as winter nears. Just some weeding mainly. Since it is still dry I will be watering but with the cooler weather upon us I am only doing that twice a week

Time to plan my winter visiting of friends and family, and I will have to finish cleaning seeds and dig tubers later to take up to my seed buyers in June. I suppose it will be a bit busier this yer, especially as I am committed to a couple of markets per month now.

Yesterday with the showery weather I decided to plant out the poor potted American Paw Paws (Asimina triloba) that have been sitting in my shadehouse for the past few years. I haven't had any where to plant them where they would get afternoon shade as they were growing but there are a couple of big, old pear trees on the seed block so I planted them under those.
I really hope they grow as I am so looking forward to tasting them. These are a cool climate relative of tropical paw paws that are deciduous and can cope with very cold winters. They need shade as they are growing, and I guess with our summers here they would probably need shade as adult trees here too.

I hope that with a bit of care they will survive but I had to give them a go anyway. I have 8 seedling trees so I have a couple to spare if I lose some.

I checked the three month agricultural forcast this morning and they say that El Nino is still hanging around a bit but there is a chance of a normal to slightly wetter winter this year, I certainly hope so. I am really sick of struggling with the drought.

Today I went to Bunnings and bought some supplies to make a simple seed cleaner. It is made just with PVC pipe and mounted on a simple stand, with a hair drier to blow off the chaff.
I am sick of the time consuming ways I have been doing it so far and this will make the seed a lot cleaner and take less time. I need to have my seed a lot cleaner before I offer it to my buyers. When it is built I will show you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ulluco and pumpkin taste test results

The last couple of days have been warm and beautiful, around 27c. I have got a lot of work done - weeding, digging, putting seeds in packets. Our first frosts are due but so far there are no signs of them on the forecast.

 The ulluco is growing strongly. I am so happy to have some of these tuberous plants that are so rare, especially in Australia.
The weather has been very good to them and they are loving the autumn so far.

The plants are starting to grow out stolons which head down into the grown to produce tubers. I am so looking forward to the pretty tubers, and this year I will have enough to eat a couple.

It will be a race against the frost but I have shadecloth to cover them when we do get a cold night to give them time to grow tubers.

The leaves of this plant can be eaten as greens as well as the little potato-like tubers.

This year I grew four pumpkins - Luxury Winter Pie (bottom pic), Violina (top pic), Strawberry crown, and Oregon Homestead Sweetmeat.

I gave away samples of each to many people with a survey to see which people preferred. Unfortunately less than half the people returned their surveys but here is the results.

The top two by far were these two - Violina (C. moschata) and Luxury Pie (C. pepo). They are both delicious and meaty cooked in all ways.
The only downside to the Luxury pie pumpkin is that the flesh is not a great colour when cooked.

The other two varieties most people found to be bland and stringy. One person liked Oregon Sweetmeat in a pumpkin cake, and others liked them both roasted but not cooked in any other way.

I will be growing the top two again and trialling a couple of other ones next year. Eventually I will end up with only the best liked varieties, but I have a lot to get through until then, lol.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Popping corn on the cob experiment and Caigua

I have not got all my broad beans planted and some are germinating, carrots and brassicas are in and all I have left to plant for the autumn is some radishes. The only serious work I have left to do now is some weeding and to spray all my seedlings tomorrow for earth mite, which are making an appearance now.

After seeing it done on Facebook I thought I would try popping some mini popcorn on the cob in the microwave. It was a bit of a fizzer.

The mini blue corn burnt before all the kernels popped but the mini reds popped ok, well the middle kernels anyway.

I am really not impressed as it is unsatisfying picking off, or chewing the popped corn off the cobs compared to scooping them out of a bowl.

Oh well, it had to be experimented with :)

The thing I love about the mini corn is that there are no hard bits in the popped corn that get in your teeth.

Today I was surprised to see that one of my seed grown figs has a fruit on it.

I bought two varieties of fig seed four or so years ago, one was 'Pink Patlican' but I forget the other. Due to a mishap while I was away the seedlings got mixed up and the labels lost so I have no idea which this one is.

I bought some Caigua (Cyclanthera pedata) seeds from two different countries last year as the one I had was too small fruited for my liking.
I only had a few seeds of one of the new varieties and the snails ate them off as soon as they germinated so I was left with this one. The fruit is nearly twice the size of my original and even though they don't seem to bear quite as well I will replace my original seeds with this one.

I am not a fan of eating them but as one of the 'Lost Crops of the Incas' that grows well here I will grow a few each year for seed, to keep my collection up to date.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oooops, forgot to post before the weekend

I knew I was going away for the weekend and still forgot to post on Friday morning before I went, sorry.

I went over to the Ballerat area to do a couple of markets over the weekend. It is a 600km round trip so I had to do two to make it pay.
The Creswick market was ok but very crowded and did not seem to attract the kind of people who were interested in the seeds I had to offer. I thought this was a bit strange as it is a big 'new age' area.

Anyway, the Tabot market has a good rep so that was on Sunday. WOW, this is a little town of 200 residents in the middle of nowhere - they have a pub, a post office, a hall and a tiny shop, surrounded buy streets and houses. I little forgotten and dying town like many scattered around the country.

I had heard that the town stops for the monthly market but until I got there it didn't really compute, lol
It is amazing to see that every street is covered on both sides with stalls of all sorts - it is amazing to see such a huge market covering a whole town.

The locals don't seem to mind having there driveways blocked for a few hours each month and even get into the spirit buy selling things in their own yards - from plants to bric-a-brak

People come from Melbourne as well as other local towns and cities to buy at this market. It is a great day out I suppose and the range of stuff is amazing. It really goes to show the range of skills, produce and interests you get in an area.
The picture shows people setting up their stalls on the morning, by the time they finished there were no cars to be seen and no empty spots. I was too busy to go out and take a better and busier picture but it was crowded by 10am.. I will definitely keep going and I will have to ramp up my seed packeting, though I guess it will not be so busy over the winter.

And... here is a picture of Malabar spinach, since I don't have anything else to talk about at the moment.
This is a summer growing spinache substitute with fleshy leaves and a mild taste. It doesn't have the sourness that 'normal' spinach has.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Water chestnut, lotus root and Pusa Asita carrot

Autumn is in full swing now with most of the summer vegetables dying down now. Most of the pumpkins and melons are finished and I am redigging those beds, and I am just waiting another couple of weeks before planting the broad beans.

The water chestnuts are dying down and I have started pulling up a few on the ends of this bath. I did not get all the tubers out of the bathtubs last year so they were too crowded to grow large, but they are numerous.

If you allow them to die completely down the tubers break off too easily and they are harder to harvest so I pull them up at this stage when they still have a tinge of green about them.

Last spring a few water chestnut plants in pots didn't get sold or planted so they have been sitting with my other potted plants, not in water.

After a while I got curious to see what they would do since they were not grown in water. Well, now that they have died down I pulled them out of the pots and was surprised to find that they have produced tubers, not a lot since they were in small 10cm pots but it goes to show that maybe they don't need to be grown in water after all.
I might try a couple in large pots out of water next season.

I pulled up the lotus plant which has died down to inspect the tubers. As I expected, the tubers are not large, but still maybe large enough to eat. I am still pretty annoyed that I was sent a small variety but at least I know they produce well here in bathtubs. Before next spring I will buy a tuber from a large variety.

The whole bottom of the tub is filled with tuberous roots so I will have some to eat as well as sell.

I have been bringing in some Pusa Asita carrots to the kitchen. They are very black right through and stain your hands dark purple when you are working with them. They look great with other colourful veg on the plate.

Although some sites say they are sweet, I don't think they are particularly sweet, but they are still tasty and very carrotty.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rhubarb and garlic

It was a lovely showery night last night and a few showers today, not enough to soak into the ground but enough to brighten everything up. Now that the temperatures are going down and rain will (hopefully) be on the way in another month or so I have been planting out a few potbound shrubs and trees onto the seed block.
I am planting three rows of flowering and fruiting trees, shrubs and groundcovers down the middle of the whole block as pollinating and predatory insect and bird habitat. It will look fantastic in a couple of years.

 All the garlic beds are up now and growing nicely. Most of the garlic beds aren't irrigated but I suppose they think we will get enough rain soon - well I hope so anyway. I love it that garlic is so tough.

These beds are going to be very weedy so I won't get a good harvest but it is going to take a couple of years to get the weeds and dormant weed seeds under control so I will just have to battle through it.

This morning I dug up, divided and replanted on the seed block three rows of rhubarb.
I wanted another fresh crop besides my garlic as a back up and went to see a friend of mine who is a commercial rhubarb grower to see if it would be worth it to put in an acre of it.
He said that rhubarb is not something to grow on spec as it is only popular when cooks on TV are using it so I should not grow it as reliable money earner. I will have to look for something else I think.

I think people need to come up with more rhubarb recipes both sweet and savoury to make it a more useable crop. Most people are stuck in a rut of only cooking it one way.

Anyway I have planted enough to supply the local shops, or perhaps to sell at market stalls with my seeds.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Loving the weather and Purple Congo potatoes

The weather has been lovely lately with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. I have been getting a lot of digging done and planting seed and seedlings.
Some of the seed and seedlings I have planted in the past few days has been: Green Mountain potato onion, Emperor Tainong heading mustard, Hamburg parsley, Mini Dwarf Choi, Purple Peacock broccoli, sugar beet and coloured silverbeet. I still have a heaps of beds to fill so I will have to have a good look through my seed cupboard.
The garlic is coming up strongly as well as the shallots and broad beans will be going in at the end of the month.

I have been digging up some Purple Congo potatoes. These are a dry potato so not good for roasting but they are great when boiled and as potato salad. I love the colour.

The great thing about this potato is that it has very little dormancy. This is not great for people who like to store them between planting but as I keep mine in the ground it works for me.

I am getting quite a collections of snake bean varieties now. These are 'Black Seeded' but I also have 'White Galaxy', 'Dwarf Red' (my favourite), 'Dwarf Green' and '3 Feet Plus' which has longer beans and bi-colour seeds.

Snake beans grow much better in our summer heat than other types of green beans and look spectacular as well. They didn't do too well this year but I put that down to the drought.

Snake beans are best steamed or fried as they lose flavour if boiled.