The first days of August saw possible showers come to nought after many exquisite blue sky days, frosty nights and a mid-July full, golden moon hang low in the sky to the east. Birds are pesky, and the nets are out as we hurtle seemingly towards an early spring…
There was no point shouting “hold onto your hats” during the windy week…there was simply no point putting them on at all! Oh but it was icy..and much as we would have preferred to be inside by the fire; instead we were out in the elements, getting on with jobs that could be delayed no longer!
Like taking out this long spent Agave flower spike for a start!
They say it takes fifteen years for an Agave americana to flower…well…roughly. We brought the originals in from the drive of a local historic property in 2001, when they were about the size of these new babies (below) that sprouted from the base of this mother plant. We’ve had two earlier spikes so far from those original plants, and expect a few yet to emerge from those now fully mature specimens in front of the verandah. I just hope they don’t all flower at once!
In this spot…the third of four clumps, we’re right back to where we started from…such is the nature of gardening! I feel quite excited at having the space clear and clean…it won’t last long…these beautiful beasts are really quite fast growers.
If you’d like to see the chaos of that afternoon unfold, I kept it as a ‘highlight’ on instagram…although annoyingly the clips got very out of order! We have poor coverage and videos have a habit of uploading themselves out of sync…but you’ll get the picture…
While the wind howled all around, I could only hope the broad beans would survive inside their box structures. It’s in that kind of weather that you realise the effort put in at the beginning of the season is so worthwhile. The stems are tall now, and although they look strong and sturdy on a still day; with hollow stems, they can easily snap. The ones around the outside are still vulnerable, but mostly they support each other inside the frame and I only lost three stems in total. To see the frame in action in a mild breeze, take a sneak peek here.
You can see how the front runners have popped up now through the top horizontal rung; so it’s time to pinch out their tips and crunch! Just make sure there’s still enough growth popping out the top, so that with the next wind gusts, the top rung will still ‘catch’ them as they blow around.
In the meantime, the bees are busy at work and once the afternoon temperatures warm…so not quite yet, the perfume from these quite exquisite broad bean flowers, (once you begin to look at each individual in detail) with their distinctive black blotch; will be quite intoxicating.
The radicchio / beetroot partnership! It took awhile to evolve, but I was happy to wait!
Especially for this one…the finest specimen of them all!
The colour of radicchio’s vibrant hearts is sure to lift any winter leaf salad! Not to mention the bitter crunch.
By the way, I give all leaves a good soak for an hour or so…plunging them into a bowl of water; not just to be sure of rinsing away any soil particles and dust, but to make sure they’re well hydrated, before spinning and laying them out on a tea towel to dry.
If there’s a real chill to the late afternoon air and a frost feels likely, I toss a net over the butter and mignonette lettuces for protection, and take it off next morning once the danger’s past.
If you compare this image to the one in the episode ten notes, you’ll see just how much the new leaves of the Australian Yellow Leaf lettuce have grown in their two rows, since I scattered the seed. There are so many spares, I’m transplanting them to any spot I can find, in order to grow them on and fill what is otherwise very likely to be a ‘hungry gap’ on the lettuce front….(as we’ll eat our way through the butter and mignonette lettuce that are hearting up now, during the next month or so; and as I haven’t planted any more of those since the onset of winter, there will be none to follow).
After experimenting over a number of years, I discovered that baby ‘hearting’ lettuce sown too late in the season to get established, never make it through; whereas the Australian Yellow is a ‘loose leaf’ variety that seems to cope well with the cold; even when tiny.
Oh those pea flowers! I don’t know how many images I’ve snapped of them over the years, but combined with their tendrils and fat buds, I just think they’re delicious!
Here are the very first tiny Purple Podded Dutch peas to emerge this season. Although they’ve grown into long pods now and I can just make out tiny peas inside, they need to plump up a bit more before they’re ready to pick. In the meantime, there are plenty more flowers of this variety at varying stages….
As well as the clear white flowers of the Telephone pea and its burgeoning pods.
Look at those tiny peas in silhouette! Hopefully there will soon be plenty of shelling peas for our table, if the birds just leave them alone!
In the meantime; the sugar snaps are getting a move on, but it’s the late-sown ones that are looking strong (these ones, where the sweet potatoes took their time to vacate the wigwams) rather than the first sowing.
Over in the brassica bed; the row of cavolo nero has been prolific.
A mountain made its way into a batch of Tuscan Peasant Soup that was also filled with borlotti beans I’d kept stored in a jar from last year’s crop (while this year’s Speckled Cranberries continue to make an attractive ‘still life’ on the kitchen bench). The recipe’s in The House and Garden at Glenmore and it’s the best soup of all for a hard working winter weekend!
A continuous stream of fine broccoli stems appear on the row of plants on the traditional side…
And while it’s good to pick them early, when their heads are still tight, don’t panic if they begin to flower…they’re still perfectly edible…their stems have a fine texture and are delicious.
While we’re at the pointy end though, of broccoli on the traditional side of the garden; central heads are just beginning to form on the ones planted later, over on the guild side; proving once again that successional sowing is imperative for a continuous supply.
It was a beautiful cauliflower on the traditional side, who’s picking I could delay not a single moment longer. Pegging their leaves is vital…
If you want to keeps their hearts snowy white!
Although not yet quite the complete picture anticipated; the combination of colours and various leaf forms in the brassica bed make a pretty picture. I just hope the early producers don’t expire before the late plantings have time to catch up and do their thing too! Either way, this doesn’t look bad; we’ve eaten heartily and continue to do so. So all in all, I’m pretty happy with the outcome!
The root veg bed is pottering along rather well…I’m excited to see the stock growing on and am looking forward to those highly scented and hopefully fat pale pink flowers! I’m also stealing the odd fine, tiny beetroot leaf for the kitchen.
Calendula flowers in the companion beds flower on, and on, and on….
The very first kitchen garden poppies to flower this year wink and flutter…..going through their whole scintillating routine in just one day, before their petals fall away and another bud opens.
The very first borage flowers are opening, while I hope many more of these plants appear over the coming weeks…its early days yet, for the flower show to begin!
Can you see why I don’t really want to see red in the winter kitchen garden?!! Even a hint just seems so out of place…but how can I pull them out when the capsicums are still producing beauties like these? The flavour is so rich too…so there they shall remain ’til they expire!
And how could I possibly have forgone this beauty for the sake of the garden layout? The very last Black Krim! Yum!
This time I had the good sense though, to save some seed! It’s sown into punnets now, and will hopefully get a wriggle on…to begin the cycle all over again.
As for those delectable cape gooseberries….oh they are so moorish! This time around, they’re so plump; and whether popped raw, straight from their papery lantern or baked ’til they wrinkle and caramelise, they’re utterly addictive.
Now I seem to recall someone saying last year that they make into a fabulous crumble, with cream…mmm…I wonder?!! (More like I wonder if I have enough?)!
The raspberries arrived in the post and I got them all in the ground one warm, sunny afternoon. A combination of Serpells Willamette, Heritage and Autumn Bliss will, I hope, give a spread of fruit throughout the season. But there’ll be none if we don’t get some rain soon!
Down the back, the elders are sending out sturdy new growth from hard-clipped stems.
Pea shoots have just made it to the top of their tunnel…and are sending out their first flowers. Now the shoots are going to grow taller than the tunnels; so I’ll have some interesting tying gymnastics to attempt in the weeks ahead!
From in between, we’ve eaten lots of lettuces and I’m hoping some of those Australian Yellows sprout new leaves on old roots. There are still quite a few mignonettes at the back that are almost ready to eat…I wonder if I might slice off their heads too, to see if I can get a good new whole hearting lettuce? They only do it when the weather is just right and I suspect the nights might still be too cold, but it could be worth an experiment!
This is how a rhubarb flower begins….
And here is where it ends…with a chop at the base! I shouldn’t have let it get so tall, but I took my eye off the ball for a few days and this is the result! Although tempted to bring it inside for the kitchen windowsill, I know it would just drop its little flowers everywhere! So off it went to the compost!
The throwing bed is filled with leaves now of varying size, colour and texture….it’s a mottly lot, much of which is edible and I’m picking from it almost daily. Its real purpose though, ultimately, is to produce a plethora of flowers for the bees…and in turn to set seed so that I can have all the fun of doing it again next year!
Mid-month, I realised we were completely out of cowpats and tea…so off we went with the trailer…up hill and down dale…
To be honest, collecting cowpats is a good excuse for a change of view: from outside the garden looking in, instead of vice versa…oh that there was time to more often look back from the other side of the garden fence!
But it was back to the garden to get the first pats soaking; then 24 hours later, I tossed both soaked pats and the huge tin of tea into the first turn of the new compost heap…now that should give it a good kick-start!
The following weekend, I made tea from a seven day brew, and frothed up can after can with water to pour over all the kitchen garden….including the pea and broad bean foliage which is mostly tall now; so makes for a good workout…especially for the arms!
While we’ve eaten our way through almost all the Meyer lemons now (the way their segments form never ceases to enthral)….
We’ve yet to even begin to pick the Lisbons! Some are heading for more than one Lemon Curd Tart at Angela Palermo’s Spring Italian Cooking day next month!
Warm Clementine segments poached in a little honey have become my go-to winter breakfast these last weeks…they’re simply delicious with yoghurt; and I’m going to miss them when they’re over.
Stringing out the Clementines on the tree ’til August is about as far as they get…they don’t keep either on the tree, or off beyond now…so over the next couple of weeks I must cook what’s left…a big bowl of poached fruit; candied Clementines; jam….perhaps next week’s ‘inThe Kitchen Garden’ workshop participants will enjoy them for dessert? Oh the possibilities!
Unlike the Navel oranges that hang on in for months on end…and they are sweeter than sweet this year. Perfect for our morning juice.
There are still a quantity of Jerusalem artichokes buried underground…there for the taking…so take I do quite regularly! They’re so easy to dig up and many have been the recipients of a haul of these golden nuggets these past couple of months. While the soup is a bit of a fiddle, because it needs to be pushed through a fine mesh sieve at the end…it’s truly worth the effort. The recipe for this one’s also in the book.
But baked whole, or sliced and baked thin, or boiled and mashed (on their own or combined with potato)…they’re simply delicious. Just don’t eat too many at once…two whole ones per person seems to be the limit before you know only too well, the reason for their nickname!
When daily colanders to the kitchen look like this….
Little bouquets of fine leaves and petals are there for the picking, on a whim….
And lettuces need to be collected in a crate….something must be right!
And beyond the garden gate…there are aloes….
‘Til next time…I hope you’re eating well from your garden too, and/or that you’re making copious notes for when you have the opportunity to begin your own. (By the way, I do intend to leave both the audio and the notes up and live, so you can refer back to both in the future!).
|Going, going……||tomatoes surely! And capsicums..both have exceeded expectations this season.|
|Eating….||fennel, broccoli, kale, kohl rabi, carrots, pumpkin, lettuce, coloured chard, beetroot leaves and roots, (tomatoes, capsicum), Jerusalem artichoke, celeriac, cape gooseberry, rhubarb, oranges, lemons clementines, fennel fronds, sorrel, salad burnet, mint, parsley, calendula petals, nasturtium petals, red elk, giant red mustard and rocket seedlings. Always rosemary and thyme.|
|Sowing seed of….||Tomato, capsicum, aubergine into punnets…be sure to protect them from frost.|
|Planting seedlings of…||Australian Yellow Leaf lettuce only….everything else is bedded in and growing on.|