My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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Pean ~ a heritage vegetable

In October, a friend gave me six vegetable seedlings. She described them as a cross between a Pea and a Bean, a heritage vegetable brought to New Zealand by Dalmatian people who settled in this country more than 100 years ago.

The seedlings have flourished and are growing skywards on the bean frame next to my scarlet runner beans. We pick young Peans and enjoy eating them raw. It is hard to say whether the Pean is a cross or whether it is a distinctive vegetable in its own right. I’ll let some pods grow large and see what eventuates.

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Young Pean, pod and seed, is nice to eat raw

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Pean: leafy plant, young pods and delicate white flowers

As is the way in summer, we now have a proliferation of beans. Tired and hot at the end of a busy week, I had no idea what dish I might create as I picked the green, butter and runner beans, Peans and green chilli for dinner tonight.

However, a recipe evolved and Friday night dinner happened for three adults, and three grandkids who must have sausages and sauce. Kids and vegetables – that is another story.

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Colourful medley of vegetables including Peans

  1. Slice 1 onion and saute in olive oil until soft
  2. Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and 1 green chilli finely chopped
  3. Slice 1 red pepper (normally I would char-grill beforehand and peel) and saute with the onion
  4. Add 1 450g tin of chopped tomatoes. Stir and simmer.
  5. Top and tail and cut the beans and Peans.  Add to tomato mixture.
  6. Simmer gently until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  7. Season to taste.

I added some leftover black Kalamata olives that had been marinated in a chilli and red capsicum dressing and then served  this dish with crusty ciabatta bread.

As an after thought – I could have added some crumbled feta cheese. But – next time.

The Pean has earned its place in my vegetable garden and kitchen.


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Apples ~ a crisp and crunchy heritage

When we were kids and if we were hungry, my brothers, sister and I would venture down the paddock and into a large old orchard at the site of the original farm homestead, planted by the settler-owner at about the start of the 20th century, more than fifty years before our family lived on the farm. People grew and preserved their own food back then. What was remarkable about this old overgrown orchard was the range of varieties. Local old folk spoke of the deep interest by the original owners, who had had no children, had in gardening.

Large untended trees still produced some fruit in season of a variety of plums, white fleshed, crimson-skinned nectarines, large golden peaches (we referred to them as the ‘million dollar peach’ – I’ve not seen this variety since. Mum said it was easy to preserve because it was freestone), black grapes, Chinese Gooseberries (now called Kiwi fruit), Yellow Banana Passionfruit, lemons,  navel oranges, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples. We climbed high into those old trees to pick the fruit.

No, I’m not imaging or idealising the unique qualities of those fruits.  I have it straight from the horse’s mouth about the deliciousness of apples. Once when eating a Golden delicious apple, I turned to see Queenie our horse trot up behind me on the other side of the fence, reach over and snatch the apple out of my hand. We didn’t know it then how spoiled we were to have access to these organically grown heirloom fruits.

Post-WWII pastoral farming practices commanded the efficient use of arable land. Grass was king. Cows grazed grass that converted into income earning creamy milk to make what New Zealand became so good at doing, churning out butter, cheese and milk powder.  Dad cleared the old orchard and a newly grassed paddock meant extra grazing for more cows. A new orchard was planted next to our house. Queenie could no longer reach over the fence from the horse paddock to munch an apple.

In 2001, I ordered and planted heirloom fruit trees, grafted onto rootstock from parent trees certified as being true to label. I selected Northern Spy apple tree rootstock which meant I could expect a vigorous tree that would tolerate our poor clay soil. We transformed a disused commercial nursery site into the sheltered orchard we have today. I pick-axed through a deep layer of scoria down to the clay base. Dolomite was applied to help break down the clay. Compost was used to build up each planting area. A windbreak border of medium height flaxes continues to protect the fruit trees from prevailing westerly wind. Comfrey was under-planted to act as a living mulch. Pelletised sheep manure gave the trees a good start.  Chickens now scratch away at the weeds and apply  the fertiliser.

Fifteen years later, our apple trees have grown true to description. Again, our family is snacking on heritage fruit picked from our own trees, preserving  and popping apples into the grandkids’ school lunchboxes.

Red Delicious which is a good pollen donor and crops more heavily when grown with other apples, ripens in March, has dark red apples with deep striping on the skin and is juicy and aromatic. We prefer to eat this apple fresh. it holds its shape when cooked. Golden Delicious crops best when grown with Red Delicious, ripens in mid-March has a golden colour, is thin skinned, and is a crisp, juicy, sweet, taste treat when left to ripen on the tree. This apple cooks well without sugar. Another disease resistant apple we grow and just love is Captain Kidd. It ripens earlier, is very crisp, juicy, sweet and is a good all-round keeping, eating and cooking fruit.

 

 


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ANZAC Day 25 April, “We will remember them”

Flanders poppies grow among the graves of soldiers who were killed in northern France. Grandson learned about 100 years of ANZAC history and in 2015, applied his knowledge to create a poppy remembrance garden for a school agricultural project.

Grandson knows 25 April is New Zealand’s national day to remember those fought and who died serving New Zealand during times of war. He knows his great-Grandfather fought in WWII and his ancestors fought in WWI.  He knows that in 1915, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey, the site of New Zealand’s first major battle of World War One with the loss of over 2,700 New Zealand soldiers. He knows that since the first commemorative services in 1916,  Kiwis attend ANZAC services across the world, from dawn until dusk.

 

My childhood ANZAC commemoration memories are of services held over the years in the local rural community hall, of the silent stillness of the local people watching, moved by the drummer’s tapping accompanied by the tramp, tramp of the veterans’ feet  as they  marched in formation down the road past my grandfather’s house. I see the New Zealand flag fluttering at half-mast in the breeze. I hear the collective voice of my family, my neighbours, my community as we uttered in unison the words, “we will remember them”.  I hear the bugle sound the Last Post  at the close of our lament for the dead.

After the service, people linger. 25th April is a day to be together, to share, to retell stories.

I see my grandfather standing in silent respect, and later in conversation, he would tell that as a married man with children, he was a reservist and he managed his younger brothers’ farms while they, keen to “do their bit for King and country”, enlisted early in 1915, one of whom was ‘never the same’ after returning home from gas and trench warfare.

I see my great-Aunt, church organist and community stalwart, widowed in the early 1930s, childless and never remarried, after her husband, a WWI veteran turned to alcohol to fight his traumas and to die by his own hand.

I see my mother among a group of other war-brides, chatting about their families ‘back home’, recalling the bombing raids and rationing in wartime England, and I know that her Uncle lies in a marked grave in northern France.

I see Dad standing with an older local couple talking about his mate, their son who in WWII  was a prisoner of war with Dad, and who was shot in a camp. In 1992 at Dad’s funeral, the youngest of the three brothers in that family, delivered the eulogy. In part, he said

After my brother was killed, Ken arranged his funeral and then reclaimed his personal possessions. He carried them with him on that infamous forced march into Germany, and as soon as he arrived back in Walton he gave some of them to my parents. Years later when he felt, the time was right he gave the rest to me. I asked him why he had not thrown them away when he was enduring such extreme hardship himself. He replied, “I looked at them sometimes and thought I’ll do that tomorrow. Tomorrow never came.” Ken proved to our family that he was a true and loyal friend.

No-one ever forgets.

Over time in college, at university and as a teacher, I thought further about the pointlessness and horror of war through the words of poets like Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est.

The Kiwi voice heard in the poem An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier written by James K. Baxter, son of conscientious objector Archibald Baxter, tells the story of a young nation sending antipodean troops to a theatre of war in a distant country, of painful personal realisations and of the futility of war.

An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier

There was a time when I would magnify
His ending; scatter words as if I wept
Tears not by own but man’s; there was a time.
But not now so. He died of a common sickness.

Nor did any new star shine
Upon the day when he came crying out
Of fleshy darkness to a world of pain,
And waxed eyelids let the daylight enter.

So felt and tasted, found earth good enough.
Later he played with stones and wondered
If there was land beyond the dark sea rim
And where the road led out of the farthest paddock.

Awkward at school, he could not master sums.
Could you expect him then to understand
The miracle and menace of his body
That grew as mushrooms grow from dusk to dawn?

He had the weight, though, for a football scrum,
And thought it fine to listen to the cheering
And drink beer with the boys, telling them tall
Stories of girls that he had never known.

So when the War came he was glad and sorry,
But soon enlisted. Then his mother cried
A little, and his father boasted how
He’d let him go, though needed for the farm.

Likely in Egypt he would find out something
About himself, if flies and drunkenness
And deadly heat could tell him much – until
In his first battle a shell splinter caught him.

So crown him with memorial bronze among
The older dead, child of a mountainous island.
Wings of a tarnished victory shadow him
Who born of silence has burned back to silence.

by James K. Baxter


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Watermelon eater

Grandson has been watching these grow for ages, now he gets to try them !! Perfect juicy, summery, yummy dessert.

He is becoming quite the gardener and has had a hand in planting and growing most of the veggies in the colander.

Big excitement also was younger brother’s Brown Shaver chicken, Strawberry, is now a big girl and is laying eggs. Nice for breakfast.


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Aubergine and Harissa

Call for immediate action was required when I stumbled on the link to this recipe for Aubergine and Harissa Dip while reading a post written by  insidekelskitchen  With a diabetic in the household, I am always keen to try new flavours and easy-to-prepare food using in-season garden fresh vegetables.

The aubergines and a red bell pepper chargrilled while I picked and prepared tomatoes that were slow roasted. Ciabatta bread from the freezer was thawed before being warmed in the oven.

As I have no Harissa Paste in the pantry and have not used Harissa  before, a quick google search was in order to fast learn how to make this spicy paste. I used a recipe by New Zealand cook, Annabel Langbein , the ingredients being

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 hot chillies
  • 1 tsp flaky salt
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tsp rosewater or a pinch of sugar

To assemble the ‘dip’, I rough mashed the vegetable ingredients  using a fork and stirred the spice paste and seasonings to taste through the mixture.

Verdict. Ticked the boxes. Delicious for lunch served warm on crusty bread garnished with goatmilk feta cheese.! Packed with flavour. There are no leftovers. I can imagine this ‘dip’ combining well with chickpeas. But that’s another meal.

 

 


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Chutney ~ relishing food with a zing

“Is chutney a savoury jam, or is jam a sweet chutney?”

The answer according to New Zealand foodwriter, the late Digby Law on page 11 of his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook (reprinted in 1992), my go-to recipe book for many years, is that chutney is a savoury jam. Chutneys, cooked or uncooked, savoury or sweet, add great flavour bursts to many dishes.

Earlier this morning, while it was still cool enough to work in the kitchen, I processed  ripe tomatoes picked last night to make Tomato Chutney using a tried and true recipe. Himself thinks it “smells good”. When preparing tomatoes, I always scald the fruit with boiling water and remove the skins. I used white sugar, which gives the chutney a lighter colour, simply because I had no brown sugar in my pantry.

Overnight it seemed, the cucumbers became my new garden triffids, too big to make dill pickles.  Flip to page 30 of Law’s cookbook and I note I can use 3kg of peeled cucumbers to make a light, refreshing chutney. Vegetables are now salted and standing in a glass bowl until tomorrow.

Cucumber Chutney recipe

Meanwhile, back in the garden, the Mangere Pole beans were soaking up the morning sunshine after drinking up lots of rain yesterday. About midday, I picked one bucket load. Back in the kitchen, the beans were topped ‘n tailed, sliced, blanched in boiling water, drained, plunged into cold water, drained, dried, sealed in large, labelled ziplock plastic bags then put into the freezer 30 minutes after being picked.

How fresh is this?

 

 

 

 


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‘Teach the People’ ~ quote challenge

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. – Confucius

Some years ago when I began blogging on WordPress, I was in awe of the creative, the witty, the informative, the insightful posts by writers the world over. I was challenged by my son to extend my writing, to set up a blog, to expand my garden diary scribblings. Never did I think scratching and grubbing in my garden dirt would germinate words of reflection, thoughts about life lived as I know it. My garden is where I lose myself, or as Himself likes to tell others, where I lose either my coffee mug or wine glass. Well at least I do put them on a gate or fence post so they are easily found. It is not as if I drop them in the long grass. Truth is, I need two hands to attend to a garden task. There is always a weed to pull, an insect to watch, a tree to hug, a tomato to taste, beans to pick, a flower to enjoy.

At least it is my words that are being posted these days. Since writing those earlier posts, I feel a certain sense of amazement how my blogging horizon is expanding.  Writing is an art and like my garden plants that grow in happy companionships,  choices of words craft ideas that grow the writer’s voice.  WordPress bloggers are wonderful writers, inspiring to read, witty, sharing, encouraging, causing pause for thought. Learning is ongoing.

And, there is much to learn. My grandsons feature in some posts. As we work and talk, generational garden lore and cooking knowledge is passed on. In a previous life, my framed qualifications show the world I was a secondary school English teacher. A four-walled classroom and a whiteboard is an artificial construct. When thirty or so teenagers with diverse learning needs filled the space, the more I listened, the more I observed my students, the more I learned. They had stories to tell, to write of things that interested them. Shakespeare and poetry had to be made relevant to their lives. Luckily for me we embarked on journeys of discovery and learned together. By the time I left education nearly thirty years later, I felt I might just know a few things about effective teaching practice. From experience comes the lesson.

Thank you Carol  for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at  https://cookingforthetimechallenged.wordpress.com

In the fun spirit of voluntary participation of the challenge, nominees may choose to

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 Please check out my nominees’ wonderful blogs:

Ruth’s Reflections 

NavasolaNature

Chef in Disguise