Archive for the ‘growing food’ Category

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Herbal remedies?

August 5, 2009

parsley seedlingOkay, so contrary to all sensible advice I have planted my herb seedlings too early, and now they’re in the garden – surviving, but still looking decidedly peaky.

I separated all the weeny dicotyledons (love saying that) and planted them in the new herb bed a few centimetres apart. But at this time of the year, until the sun gets a little higher and reaches over the studio roof all day instead of for only three or so hours, the bed just ain’t getting quite enough sun I guess.

The thyme, planted in a long row right along the cement edge of the bed (as advised by Jamie here), is looking just fine, nice and deep green. But the parsley, basil and coriander all seem to be wearing this rather wan shade of green that doesn’t quite convince.

I’ve been watering every couple of days, very gently with a watering can (from our new rainwater tank – so satisfying), and have given them one slurp of seaweed food and one of diluted worm juice. Is this too much, or not enough, do you think?

The basil in particular (the fat-leafed baby at the back of this pic) seems to have completely stalled, though looks quite upstanding still, so I’m thinking from Jamie’s earlier advice that despite our current average daily maximums of 19 and 20 degrees C,  it’s perhaps still just too cold for this summer herb?

I’m hoping the main issue is warmth and sunshine, which will gradually improve as we move towards spring.

But bring on the advice! Do let me know if I’m doing anything else wrong, specially with the food and beverages?

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Cate Kennedy’s new shoots

July 21, 2009

garliccateAs I’ve said before, Cate Kennedy has a new book coming out soon. It’s a novel, and I keep hearing from advance readers (those folks who get to snaffle up the advance copies of books that are sent out to bookshops, media and so on before they are actually in the shops) that it is a right cracker. Cate is well known as a short story writer of particular note, and her collection Dark Roots was widely acclaimed a couple of years back.

So I can’t wait to read this novel of hers, called The World Beneath, but I, like you, will  have to wait till September to do so.

(Incidentally, Cate’s publisher is one of the great Oz independents – Scribe, which is doing excellent things with Australian fiction and particularly short fiction. Another of Scribe’s books to get your mitts on very soon is newcomer Patrick Cullen’s short story collection, What Came Between, out in August. He has been well published in anthologies for years, but this is Patrick’s first solo collection, and it’s bound to be good.)

But back to Cate. Apart from her writing (did I mention her amazing story for our Brothers & Sisters story collection, out in November?) she is a primary producer of another sort – garlic. A few weeks ago I got the lovely surprise of a heap of baby garlic in the post, sent by Cate after reading of my garlic-growing anxiety here ( I killed the other one, by the way).

Since then I’ve potted the bub bulbs into these peat pots, and as soon as the painters finish the frame of the bathroom window, directly above my new herb bed, these will go into the bed too. It’s the only spot in the garden that gets year-round sun, although only for a few hours a day in winter. Come summer though, that spot will be hot hot hot and perfect for herbs and, I hope, the garlic. So here’s to Cate, her Dark Roots and her New Shoots.

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Emerging herbs….

July 4, 2009
Basil, thyme, parsley day 21

Basil, thyme, parsley day 21

Why is growing things from seed so very satisfying?

Here are my newborn herbs, powering along on day 21. As Jamie predicted, the parsley has now sprouted and seems to be doing just fine.

As long as I can keep the baby basil alive, all looks good for starting my actual new herb garden in a few weeks when all the painting’s done… or maybe I should actually wait till August for the sun to come a little higher and warm the soil a bit more before I stick ’em in the ground?

Stay tuned for Cate Kennedy‘s garlic …

Parsley, in front; thyme at back - day 21

Parsley (front) & thyme, day 21

Basil, day 21

Basil, day 21

Coriander & mint, day 1

Coriander & mint, day 1

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21st century honesty system

June 29, 2009

thingsontoastWe had a swift overnight trip to Dungog, in the  Barrington Tops area of the Hunter Valley last week. The reason for our drive was very sad (vale Valerie, and may you rest peacefully), but the countryside was absolutely gorgeous.

Dungog itself is a really beautiful little town, and unlike most country towns I know of, has a perfectly architecturally preserved main street without yet having succumbed to the chintzification that afflicts other such ‘historic’  towns. (Dungog also, I hear, has a brilliant Australian film festival each year which draws thousands of folk to town.)

Anyway, on our drive home we took a slight detour to the award-winning produce growers, Johnson’s Farmgate at the hamlet of Glen William. We’ve heard a great deal over the years about Johnson’s Farmgate, as our friends J&B return from their Gog weekends with boxes full of lovely veg.

So we stopped in and filled our car boot with locally-grown goodies.

Love the vibe of this place. It’s a little wooden shed at the farm gate (surprise) on the side of the road, stuffed with either produce from the farm itself, or grown by other local or regional producers (with the possible exception of Eumundi Smokehouse snags & bacon, which, as ES is just  up the road from us here in the inner west of Sydney, we left alone!).

Inside the shed are a couple of fridges and lots of baskets and boxes of beautiful-looking grub. No sign of actual people, but a very convienent honesty system based on a set of scales, a calculator, a notepad & pen and a cash box.

This seems to work perfectly, perhaps partly because of the sizable closed-circuit television screen in the corner of the shed!

As Senor remarked, however, that must be more for appearance’s sake than anything because it would be pretty difficult if not impossible for the telly-monitor elsewhere to see if one were cheating at any point of the transaction including the cashbox that you stuff your moola into.

It was all luscious-looking stuff. We came home with three beautiful eggplants, with which I made baba ganoush next day; two bags of divinely ripe tomatoes (Romas and small garden toms – I slow-roasted the Romas, seen here on toast with a slathering of the Dungog baba and some avo -mmm, best lunch); a couple of hefty bulbs of garlic; two pristine leeks; a bag of silky salad greens; some sweet green baby beans; a good thick bunch of rosemary; a massive bunch of beetroots which I’m either going to roast or make a beetroot dip once I prise the empress’s recipe from her fingers; and a jar of fig jam.

That set us back about thirty bucks. I don’t know if that’s cheap or not, but the freshness and quality of the food and pure pleasure of the experience made  it a complete bargain to us. So, viva the farm gate and the honesty system, and long may it prosper well into the 21st Century…

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Herb troubleshooting – help!

June 27, 2009

garlic2 day 14 june 27So here is my garlic-in-progress, beginning with Ricardo’s special housewarming garlic, of which I took one clove and planted it.

By day 5, all was well; new growth was peeping out of the potting mix. Day 8, it was up and at ’em and lovely bright green.

But we’re at day 14 now, and I am a bit worried about it – it’s taller, but it is looking rather wan – pale and washed out.

Any advice?? Am I overwatering? Not enough sun? Need food already?? It did rain a lot in the last couple of weeks…

Luckily, if this one doesn’t make it I have a plan B – thanks to the fabulous Cate Kennedy, she of the stunning short story collection Dark Roots (as well as a new novel in the works and, I am proud to say, being a contributor to our new anthology Brothers & Sisters, out in November – her story is a killer).

I arrived home yesterday to a little packet in my letterbox. When I opened it, I was thrilled to find a little plastic zip-lock bag full of baby garlic plants! This package was accompanied by a card from Cate saying she’d read my blather here about Oz garlic being hard to find, and yanked these out of her Victorian lawn.

How good is that?? Have planted those babies today and you’ll see them appearing here very soon I hope!

In the meantime, I’ve also herbs day 14begun planning my herb garden, which will go under the bathroom window as soon as the window frame is painted.

Am raising some thyme, basil and parsley from seed.

At least, I’m raising some basil and thyme, as you can see – but what’s gone on with the damn parsley?? Not a peep. Two weeks in, and nutting doing.

Once again (Jamie, are you out there?), I need help! Will it come up? Dud seed packet? too cold? What have I done wrong?

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Best kitchen-warming gift in the world

June 7, 2009

Last night we christened our finished new kitchen with dinner for eight [plus four kids, who spent the evening rushing between playing Abba records on the turntable in the studio and bashing away on musical instruments in the spare room, which is still piled almost to the ceiling – literally – with crap, outdoor furniture, washing machine etc. Two of them spent several hours perched precariously atop piles of junk, sitting in a washing basket playing the xylophone and maraccas while Senor made very sure their parents didn’t see.

dicky garlic1dicky garlicAnyway – our friend Ricardo, the Lunging Latino, showed up with the most beautiful present. This is one of the first bulbs of his home-grown organic garlic, grown in a pot in Balmain. It’s too beautiful, almost, to use. But of course we will. I’m going to save one of the little cloves to try to grow some myself.

Thankyou Dicky! And while we’re on the topic, can someone tell me the best way to store garlic? In the fridge or out? Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quince prince

April 17, 2009

gardenamateurFenella’s food feature has led me in a roundabout way to her friend Jamie’s garden blog, Garden Amateur – well worth checking out right this minute for his beautiful quince photos and prep & cooking tips.

Sean and I picked some quinces in Bathurst on the weekend, in the garden of a friend, and the weekend will see S doing some quincy magic with them, I hope – specifically, an orange cake with quinces that Steph alerted us to, from Jared Ingersoll’s book, I think?

Will show you the results, if they happen …