Last nights dinner – A growers feast

A few weeks back I posted about Grow it Local and their local growers feast.  Well I got tickets.  A very big YAY!  And the feast was fab.  There were: great speakers like Costa from Gardening Australia.  Deano brought some fabulous Kombucha.  (It was my first time trying Kombucha and I have spent much of today googling it to work out exactly how its made).  The venue was fun, everything was beautifully presented and the food was great.

Check out the menu:

20150301_182050I can dutifully report that everything I tried was absolutely lovely.  Sadly though I didn’t get to try everything.

The tomatoes and figs had both pretty much gone in the seconds it took me to move from my seat to the buffet.

Is it wrong to hope the woman with the plate piled high with broken figs found a least one half caterpillar in it? (Actually it’s probably a very sad indictment that I can’t even enjoy a beautiful night, with beautiful food without a slight feeling of resentment….)

For me the highlights were; the Eggplant dip – beautifully smooth, slightly smoky and lovely and rich, and the Rhubarb & Berry tarts.  But really everything was lovely and to pick favourites is probably not being fair to the rest of the menu.

All that’s left now is to plot how to get tickets to next year’s event and to wonder; who ate my cucumbers, and what happened to my purple congo potatoes (probably not much as the more I eat them, the more I really don’t rate them at all….).

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Monday Harvest – 23rd Feb 2015

Warning: This post contains gratuitous images that may distress those whose tomato crop has failed.

Yay for a good tomato season is all I can say.  Few eaten by rodents, the plants fruiting well, or reasonably well, and loads of laden baskets:

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This basket is mainly Black Cherry with a few Broad Ripple Currant and a couple of Tigerella thrown in.  It also contains the first of my apple cucumber crop.

DSC_0195 (1280x849)Well I think they are apple cucumbers.  My next door neighbour had a couple of seedlings left in a ‘mixed cucumbers’ punnet so I stuck them in this is what they produced.  My kids are fans so I’m happy.

Personally I find them a little seedy and of this style I think I prefer the lemon ones (mainly for aesthetic reasons).

Best of all though I like the Lebanese cucumbers and my vines are doing really well at the moment giving 2-3 fruits each day.

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The tomatoes in this basket are mainly a unidentified self seeded one.  Not sure what the variety is but it makes a nice fresh tomato sauce for pasta.

And some more tomatoes below – this photo highlighting the Tigerellas:

Basket of tomatoes

But it isn’t all tomatoes, I also have other solanaceae family crops:

Purple Congo potatoesLike these Purple Congo potatoes.  Although they have novelty value, I’m not a big fan.  They taste OK but they are a pain to harvest – purple looks a lot like dirt – and they tend to resprout quickly meaning you often harvest sprouting potatoes, as you can see above.  At least they are purple inside as well as out, which is fun for the kids if nothing else….

DSC_0009 (1280x636)Jalapeno chillies, on the other hand, I love, and this is my first harvest for the season:

I used the chilli in some Vietnamese style noodle soup along with these aromatic herbs.  Thai Basil, Vietnamese mint and mint.

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Less exotic are my carrot crops.  DSC_0179 (848x1280)

They are growing in a fairly shaded area which means that their rate of growth is slow.  But it also means they aren’t getting the bitterness carrots sometimes get in hot weather.

An excellent size for snacking.

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Much like those tomatoes.  Interestingly the one on the left is a self seeded black cherry and the ones on the right are intentionally grown.   My parents had a black cherry self seed last year that also produced bigger, apricot sized fruit.  Co-incidence?

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More tomatoes just for the hell of it.

A figAnd finally I hear you say, something different, something new.  The first of the figs.  I photographed it, turned my head and the next thing I knew it was gone.  Into the mouth of an eight year old.  She said it was “yum”, and given I’ve gotten to eat a few since I would have to agree with her.

Before I leave you with more images of tomatoes I should really tell you what else I’ve been picking.  Lots of silver beet, basil, kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, thyme, parsley, mint, oregano and loads of beans.  Here is today’s bagful:

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And that’s about it except for tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes.

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DSC_0162 (1280x848)Sick of the sight of them?

Be grateful I limited it to 7 tomato shots, I have many, many more…… and then head over to Daphne’s for Harvest Monday.  You never know, someone might even be growing something else…….



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Displays of veg, ‘Woolly Pockets’, and Melbourne’s Sustainability Festival

The Sustainable Living Festival is on in Melbourne at the moment (  and a friend and I thought we’d check out a couple of the things going on as part of the festival.

This trip into Melbourne’s CBD was in part motivated by a marketer who made contact with me to see if I’d be interested in checking out some of her clients products.  These products – Woolly Pockets, were a feature of a carbon positive house which is on display in Melbourne’s city square.

I have to admit that the older I get, the more interested I get in good functional design. So the idea of a carbon positive house with ‘woolly pockets’ on its exterior was rather intriguing.  And this is it:

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The woolly pockets look like felt but are actually made from recycled plastics.  Designed for creating wall gardens, they are flexible pots with a wicking type watering system.  Aside from looking pretty they can also create a cooling effect inside a house if used, as above, on a sliding door.  Breeze on the wet pots cools the area inside.  Cool eh?

2015-02-09 10.42.34 (1280x848)While I loved that idea, for me the (almost) bigger attraction was that they looked great filled with herbs.  Imagine a whole wall of these things with plants cascading out of them.  Potentially very beautiful.

The same company also make these other more plastic looking wall pots (and yes that is the bedroom on the right of the photo).

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These were inside the carbon positive house.  Now I want a wall full for my kitchen (although I may need a skylight……and a new kitchen first).

The main reason I was so interested in wall pots is for my kid’s school.  There are some unsightly pillars and fences there that I think could do with a bit of living colour, and something like Woolly pockets could work really well.  (Hint, hint woolly pocket people).


The other exhibit we looked at the Sustainable Living Festival was the Town Hall veggie patch.

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2015-02-09 10.52.40 (848x1280)These beautiful displays of veg are growing outside Melbourne’s Town Hall, and all in pots.  Although at first glance you would never realise.

These displays are created by loads of 15-20cm pots crammed together and with wooden edging attached.  This picture shows how they did it:

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Incredibly simple isn’t it?  But really effective.  The thing that amazed me most was the pot with 3 corn growing (and looking really healthy) in it.  I wonder what they use for fertiliser….

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Preserving Summer – Part 1 – Peaches in Fowlers Jars

I’m enjoying preserving at the moment.  Having a little bit of free time helps.  My youngest child has just started school and so I’ve gone from 15 child free hours a week, in which to cram in work, chores and a bit of blogging, to a wonderful 32.5 hours  a week.  Oh the luxury.  I can type that guilt free as, at the moment, he’s loving being a school boy.  Wooohoo!

Of course I should really find a ‘real’ job and have vaguely started looking but in the meantime I have been putting things in jars.

A friend (well actually two different friends) of mine have peach trees, and over the past couple of weeks the fruit has begun to ripen.  There’s no way they can use all the fruit so I have become a very grateful beneficiary.  Some of the fruit have become peach and plum jam (the plums were from my parent’s tree), some has become peach and chilli sauce, and some peach chutney but the best fruit I saved for bottling.

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My kids love bottled peaches, they will a whole jar in a single sitting, which quite frankly is pretty gross to watch.  Because they eat so many at once I want to limit the sugar a bit so I preserve them in either a super light sugar syrup, 1 cup sugar to 2 litres of water or occasionally in plain water.  I used sugar syrup for these as they were ever so slightly under ripe.

DSC_0135 (845x1280)I never peel the peaches I am preserving.  I find the process too time consuming and I don’t think the minimal textural difference  warrants it.  I also find that some peaches hold their shape better if you leave the skin on.  If you really want skin free peaches it generally comes off pretty easily when you take them out of the bottle.

These are freestone peaches, I love the colour and texture of the flesh where the stone has been – very pretty.

I bottle all my fruit in Fowlers bottles.  I bought a kit on eBay a couple of years ago and have really enjoyed using it.

You just put the fruit in jars, top with water, sugar syrup, or brine depending on what you are preserving, put the rubber sealing rings and lids on, clip them in place and into the water bath they go.  They emerge after an hour or two (there is a guide that explains the appropriate temperature and preserving time for each fruit or vegetable) ready for the shelf and the occasional proud glance.

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Now I just have to keep the kids away from them, at least until the fresh peach season is over.

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Monday Harvest – 9th February 2015

The summer is rolling on and my harvests have settled into a pleasant consistency,  with the garden regularly producing  tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, silverbeet and herbs.  As a result I haven’t posted harvest photos every week.  Here are the highlights from the last few:

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The chooks are behaving themselves and are continuing to lay.   1-2 eggs a day between the 3 of them which is enough for our needs and I don’t think is too bad given that they are almost 2 years old.

I am regularly harvesting baby carrots.  They are in a particularly shaded portion of the garden – I suspect with more sun they wouldn’t be ‘baby’ any more but the small size suits me (and the kids) fine.

I’m really enjoying eating basil at the moment, and I’ve put in a few new plants so I can continue to harvest as much as I like from the more mature ones.

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DSC_0085 (1280x848)The cucumbers seem to be producing lots at once and then none for a week, which isn’t so bad as I got to make my first batch of bread and butter pickles.

What is less good is that I have seen signs of rat damage on a few (half eaten one day, gone the next) fruit.

But summer is really all about the tomatoes isn’t it?

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After noticing the rats I’ve started picking the tomatoes a little on the green side, which means they are less photogenic, but after a few days no less edible.

In these photos you can see a big Grosse Lisse with a couple of Tigerella on the right, and a basket of smaller varieties: Black Cherry, Broad Ripple Currant, Principe Borghese and an unidentified cherry/apricot sized red tomato on the left.

All the tomato varieties have done at least reasonably well this year, although a few of the plants are now looking a little worse for wear.  We have had a bit of warmer weather this week and the Broad Ripple Currant and Grosse Lisse in particular seem to have suffered.  Black Cherry remains the healthiest plant and the only one which I (well…actually my father) intentionally grew from seed.  The others were either bought as seedlings or are volunteers.

I’ll finish with another basket of summer goodies, this one containing the first of the dried beans (well actually still a little bit green) that became a chorizo and bean stew.  They worked well and the mixture of varieties made for a nice range of textures.  The best though I think were the purple king and I plan to now grow these every year to use dried.

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For more harvests head over to Daphne’s.

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