It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.
I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September. The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.
The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion plants – Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions). November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.
I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants. I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.
Fresh and spray-free produce from the garden to the pantry. I’ve never been so organised.
I’ll probably serve these pickles with whatever’s on hand – variety of cheeses, cracker biscuits or breads, carrot or celery sticks and the like – not forgetting the drinks.
The cauliflower is cut into small florets, the onions are finely sliced and salt is sprinkled over the vegetables to be left overnight. I have two recipes I use. One includes finely chopped fresh mint leaves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, allspice. The other includes crushed pineapple, dry mustard and curry powder. Both are simmered in white vinegar and then thickened with flour.
I like to add Cointreau when making strawberry jam.
Much later: I got carried away with being pleased with my ‘organised’ efforts in the kitchen that I took my eyes off the saucepan and the jam mixture boiled up and over onto the cooker top. What a mess (or pickle!)! Luckily the jam was cooked and is okay. While it set well, retained its flavour and colour, the boiling sugary spillage continued to bubble turning into a blackened burnt ‘toffee’ that adhered like super-glue to the cooktop surface. It’s taken me nearly an hour to clean the ceramic cooktop. It’s now the cleanest it’s been for ages. Moral of the story – a watched jam pot never boils over. I’ve done enough in the kitchen for this weekend. It’s raining (the garden needs watering so that’s okay), so I’m going to read the Sunday papers, do the Sudoku and Cryptic Crossword, and have a coffee.
As the weather gets muggier and warmer, growth in the garden is rapid and a conflict of interest happens as work gets busier with end-of-year reviewing and forward planning and pre-Christmas socials. The heat is also on in the kitchen. Friend Trish brought some grapefruit picked from her tree for me to make marmalade – just as my thoughts were on making cauliflower pickle. And I keep hearing the retail message that it’s-55-shopping-days-to a jolly Christmas. So, Christmas baking has been added to my To Do list. This year I’m making it easy on myself and like my sister, am using a favourite boiled fruit cake recipe which only needs three eggs and is quick to make. Food prices here have increased of late – but it’s still cheaper to make my own cake.
I sometimes wonder why I say I use a recipe when I nearly always modify it in some way and the end-result is different every time. This time, I substituted organic muscovado sugar for its rich flavour and texture and added brandy. What my sister and I tend to do because we’ve usually cook for large numbers, is to double quantities in such a basic recipe. The texture is lighter and slightly more crumbly than the richer cakes I usually make. Later, I’ll cut the double-sized cake into smaller pieces and then wrap them to be given as gifts.
The marmalade set well, is sharp to taste as we like it and clear so the shredded rind shows.
The cauliflower has been cut into small florets, the onions are finely sliced and salt has been sprinkled over the vegetables to be left overnight. I have two recipes I’m using. One includes finely chopped fresh mint leaves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, allspice. The other includes crushed pineapple, dry mustard and curry powder. Both simmered in white vinegar and then thickened.
Well, it’s Saturday evening. People throughout the country will get together, may be enjoy a barbeque and set off some fireworks to ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes. Fire-fighters don’t ‘celebrate’ – there’s always the idiot factor at work somewhere, I guess. Local councils are doing their best to encourage families to enjoy organised public displays. Sales of fireworks were restricted to about four days and then it’s only over-18 year olds who can buy them. Not the same sense of freedom as when we were kids.