Friday, December 16, 2016

End of the year

I have been a bit slack with my blog over the past month so I thought I will end it for the year and come back at the start of Jan.

It has been a very trying year, starting with drought, and then over three months of bog during the winter and spring, all meaning that growing vegetables has been very difficult to say the least. I was not able to produce anywhere near the seed I should have been able to and it will be another 10 months before this situation will change, not till next spring when the brassicas start ripening and I harvest the next lot of garlic.

The extremely late start to planting meant that nearly all my frost tolerant plants are a total write off - after the third replanting of the melons, corn, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants and more I have given up as it is too late not to be sure that their seed will be ready to harvest by frost.

Adding to my woes is an explosion of rabbits following the rains and good feed. They have eaten most of my beans that I was testing for heat tolerance so that is a trial that is down the tubes.

 The few melons that are still alive should be big and running all over the place, and flowering heavily but this is how they look right now.

At least I have a few varieties growing, if only with a couple of plants each, to renew seed with.

After the surprisingly good results I had with ulluco last summer in the heat and dry I am trying some of them out in the open just to see how much sun they will stand. I am not expecting much but I put in this row of cuttings just to see.

With so many beds empty of summer crops I have room to experiment with other things.

I usually put in my brassicas after Christmas but I did put in a double row of Bear Necessities kale at the start of the month and they are looking very healthy and loving the mild weather at the moment.

This variety starts off looking like red Russian kale but the leaves get more and more fine and feathery as they mature.
I am so loving this variety that I will put in another couple of rows later.

Because most of the these plants I put in last summer died in the wet conditions of winter I didn't get anywhere near the seed I was expecting.

Another plant which is loving the mild conditions is edible Canna/Achira (Canna edulis). I quite like eating the tuberous roots but I don't go out of my way to cook them. They are a very respectable survival food though.
They could be a tasty staple if needed.

Anyway, I am loving the weather at the moment and have only had to turn on the irrigation once so far for the new seedlings. The ground is still moist and I am expecting a great growing season.

With the drought over now I think the business will pick up greatly. It has been a hard couple of years but at least I learnt a lot and am ready for anything to come.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Perfect weather and mini watermelon

I am so happy with the weather we have been having lately. We will be having a couple of days over 30 degrees from tomorrow but that is to be expected at this time of year. Although many of the frost sensitive plants will be an almost total loss because of the cold and wet spring, I am filling up the beds with other vegetables. Some of my customers won't be getting the seed they ordered but I hope they will be happy with what I will be able to offer.

My first mini watermelon has set a fruit. I had this plant in the hothouse because of the weather and another three outside. Don't want to take chances with these few weeds that I probably won't be able to get again so I separated them to mitigate the risk.

The seeds are so tiny that they are hard to see in the packet. I hope this means that, unlike other small watermelons which tend to be seedy with large seeds, this one will be much more pleasant to eat.

Last year it was too hot for my scorzonera to set seed but they are sending up flower shoots now so if the weather holds up I might get some seed this time.

Scorzonera is so good to eat that it is a shame that it is not more widely known.

I am harvesting broad bean seeds at the moment but not a lot else is happening. Sorry about the short post.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trip to Hollafresh herb farm

Well, I am really enjoying this weather for the last couple of weeks. Although the nights have still been around 2-3C and too cold for many of the veg to grow (we even had a light frost a few nights ago, two months past last frost date) the days have been perfect - hardly any days over 30 degrees.

Praising the weather, that is rare for me, lol.

I spent the day going to Penola to get fertiliser then weeding. With the wetter that normal weather the weeds are getting out of hand.

 On Monday I took a tour with a 11 other people to a hydroponic herb farm (factory) not too far away at Tantanoola in SA. Tantanoola is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere - not the sort of place you would expect to find a facility like this.
This place is massive, and one of the top ten largest hydroponics facilities in Australia, with glasshouses covering over a hectare each. The heating and overheads must be more than the GDP of a small country.

We looked through the glasshouses as well as the packing shed and equipment. All so high tech, makes me ashamed of my little low tech farm. That said, I would not like to farm in that way.

I was very impressed and, although I am not sure that I learned a lot, it was amazingly interesting. The owner was very happy to answer questions and open about all the facets of the hydroponics business.

I really don't have a lot to write about today so here is a pic of a feijoa flowering. All my young, seedling grown trees are flowering at the moment so I will soon be able to select the best to keep for fruit.

I love feijoas and you can find the trees everywhere so it still surprises me how many people don't know what they are.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Taste testing my broad beans

This season I grew 9 varieties of broad beans. I would have grown more but I didn't have room for them all without risk of cross pollinating. I only had a few seeds of most of the varieties as they are very rare in Aus but even though the winter and spring were so wet and boggy I only lost two types. It is a loss but it could have been worse.

I have a few more new varieties that I will try this coming autumn.

I decided to taste test them this morning to see what sort of flavour range they have. I didn't cook any of the new varieties as immature beans as with the poor weather I couldn't risk even a single seed until I knew I had enough to replant next season.

Last night I placed three dried seeds of each in a muffin tin (separating of course) and covered with boiling water, then set them aside overnight to soften. This morning I cooked them one type at a time and tasted them. I placed the three seeds in a bowl and microwaved them for 1 minute with a few spoons of water. Of course, if you were cooking more you would cook them for longer, but only till just tender and definitely not till they are mushy unless making dip with them.
I then peeled them - I find them easier to peel after cooking than just after soaking. Young, immature beans do not need peeling no matter what websites or books say. If the skin is tough then they have been picked to old, and peeling wastes time, energy and food.

Here is the results, remembering that my taste buds are not very sensitive, and I prefer food on the bland and sweet side:


This has been my favourite variety up until now. It has an unusual fruity flavour quite unlike any other broad bean when eaten raw or cooked.

I love them raw as an immature bean in salads or as they are, and they are also as yummy cooked as an immature or dried bean. The downside is the small size makes them a pain to peel.


New for this year. This broad bean is highly productive and a good grower. It did not suffer from chocolate spot even with the wet weather.

The beans are distinctly yellow in colour and a good size. It has a mild and slightly nutty flavour.


 This bean is a tall grower and produces large beans containing large seeds. It has a very mild, almost bland flavour, good for adding to dishes for bulk without changing the flavour of the dish.

The large beans are a pleasure to peel.


The dried beans are whiter than these in the pic which were photographed before they were totally dried.
This was another new one. The flavour was very bland and the seeds were less starchy in texture than any of the others.
I liked it but it was nothing special.


This plant has big pods like Gippsland Giant but the seeds are smaller.

Another new one for this season. This one was a surprise with an outstanding flavour, nutty and sweet. This was my favourite for flavour. Only three plants survived so I am glad I got some seeds to plant next year.

I know I said that I only grew 9 varieties but I found that some of my Stone Ear variety must have been cross pollinated with a purple variety so I thought I would trial it just if case it had different qualities.

The flavour and texture turned out to be no different than 'normal' stone ear seeds. Mild.


Another new one for this season. Senoritas hat did not grow well for me but even though the plants struggles they did produce enough seeds to grow next year.
The flavour is very mild, almost bland.


This amazing coloured broad bean also struggled but still produced well on the poor little plants.

It has a mild, starchy flavour, similar to otehr broad beans but it is still worth growing just to look at the seeds.


This is a very productive and early broad bean that produces small, dark purple when mature beans.
When immature the beans are a little bitter. People in most countries outside Australia nd the US prefer their broad beans on the bitter side with the extra flavour that comes with it. This is the only bitter variety I grow, though only slightly so.

When cooked and peeled they lose the bitterness but are still too small to be pleasant to peel.


This one is also new this year. I was blown away with the delicious flavour which was mild and nutty. White broad beans do not have the bitterness that darker varieties often have so are preferred in the US particularly.

This is a strong plant but they did suffer from a fungal disease that looks very similar to Bacterial Brown Spot. I had to send a couple of affected beans away to get them tested to make sure.

All in all, my favourites for this season were - Witkiem Manita, Crimson Flowered and Morocco, but none of them were unpleasant to eat.
There are so many great ways of cooking them (and they are very nutritious) that broad beans should be in an food garden over the winter. I have to admit that up till two or three years ago I always assumed I hated them because I hate other beans. When I actually ate some (not overcooked) I realised just how delicious they are both raw and cooked.

They also make great green mulch which adds nitrogen to the soil. Unlike other legumes, broad beans continue producing nitrogen nodules on the roots right up until they die down so they are very good for the garden.