My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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.


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


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.

Bean Medley.jpg

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.


Nature Makes Food Delicious ~ quote

“If you do not try to make food delicious, you will find that nature has made it so.”

Tonight at the dinner table as we enjoyed the crispness of tasty steamed green Mangere Pole beans  and flavoursome, vivid blue, heritage Maori potatoes freshly picked from the garden, I realised the truth of Masanobu Fukuoka’s words.

My life is richer for being able to chat over the blogging community garden fences and to swap cooking tips in bloggers’ kitchens as they cook. Anything I know is because others have generously shared their wisdom or resources. Bill Mollison considers that

We’re only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi  With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive


This is my third challenge post. Thank you Carol  for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at

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 these great blogs I follow

Waste-Less Living

Sustainable in Holdfast Bay

Tastes of Life


My Garden ~ handing over the garden trowel to Number 2 Son

Thanks Anymont for reminding me about my blog. As I mentioned back in October, My Garden blog is going on the backburner for a couple of years because Himself and I will live offshore on account of my work. Number 2 Son and his family will look over our place. Today he was out restoring order in the jungle that was once my reasonably orderly vegetable garden. He’s head-gardener now. He’ll make this his patch and do his thing. Don’t expect him to write a blog. Unbelievably for someone who’s stared at a screen for years as an IT web developer, he now prefers such physical pursuits. I have been thinking how best to stay in touch with different groups of people at different levels.  It’s easy enough to set up another blog for the travel aspect. There’s a plethora of web-based communication tools (that I’ve not used) to choose from. I guess I’ll get organised eventually. 

It’s been so dry lately – but, it is summer after all. Things have grown since I last wrote and I have been harvesting the produce. But, we’ve enjoyed the purple cabbages – it should be obligatory for every gardener to have these show-off vegetables in their gardens. The pure richness of the purple and the graceful spread of the large ribbed leaves have been a visual delight. The scarlet-splotched Borlotti Beans and Purple Beans are just as amazing. I love colour in the garden as much as I love colour on the plate. And my new potatoes planted a few months ago – what can I say? Just steam and add freshly picked chopped mint. Savour the taste sensation.

Mindful I won’t see my brothers and sister for a while, we spent a few days on the road before New Year. We stayed a couple of nights with my sister and her husband at Coromandel. We  typically have a barbeque (always others are invited to this) when we stay there. As they live on the coast, B-in-law and my nephews had dredged fresh scallops and gathered rock oysters.  No restaurant anywhere could compete for the freshness and flavour of this food.  The scallops were lightly seared in a touch olive oil with a hint of lemon juice and pepper. The oysters were simply steamed. 

They had also hunted wild pig on the mountain range – the boundary at the back of their hill country farm. We’re used to eating wild pork and prefer the lean meat and its gamey flavour to farmed pork.  The wild pigs come out of the dense bush at dawn to dig for the rhizomous fern roots that grow freely at the margin of the farmed land. These pigs really do make a mess of farm pastures. They are considered to be pests. Other than fresh rosemary or thyme, pepper and olive oil, we do little else when cooking this game meat on a BBQ. B-in-law had also proudly dug the first of his Urenika (blue potaotes) crop from seeds I’d given him a couple of years ago. These Maori potatoes are the perfect accompaniment – oh, and the NZ Pinot we were drinking.

Next on the itinerary was a stop with each of  my brothers in the the Waikato. More food. More wine. Lots of chat. It was the first occasion we’d got together since Mum’s funeral in May. My sister, and Uncle (Mum’s brother) and Aunt, joined us for a special lunch at the farm we grew up on (now owned by my youngest brother) before we scattered Mum’s ashes over the paddock where Dad’s ashes are. No ceremony. No fuss.  This was a happy spot for them. They’re together eternally in a place that also has special memories and meaning for us their four children. Now, that chapter of our lives is over. The closure was as it should be. The important thing is we honour Mum’s wish we stay in touch with each other. For the moment, we must move on.

We agreed we’re all facing significant life changes. My nephews are at various stages of their young adult journeys with girlfriends entering the scene. My brothers and their wives are in a state of flux as they are acutely feeling the redundancy of their parental roles.  My sister and I told them that their ‘boys’ will be back! If not for money and food! But, they’ll be back – for babysitting services. My older five grandchildren are involved with their friends, sports and schoolwork. It chokes me to know I’ll miss the growth of the four-month, one and two year olds though. However, it’s time for their grandfather and I to do our thing.

Mum, before she died, was most interested that I was considering an overseas teaching contract. I accepted the offer and anticipate leaving NZ at the end of this month. There’s been so much to do and to think about.  The qualities and attributes I’ve developed as a gardener in caring for the soil, the plant life and microorganisms, will stand me in good stead in my new work. I’ll need to be curious, flexible, observant, patient,  reflective, resilient, resourceful, receptive to new ideas. It’s a privilege through blogging to have been able to glimpse over others’ backyard fences into their lives. Take a glimpse into  Te Parapara Maori Garden in Hamiton City in the Waikato – my backyard so to speak. Te Ara Whakatauki, the Path of Proverbs, reminds us that as the plants that we eat nourish our bodies, so the words that we hear nourish our souls. In New Zealand, Maori have many sayings that  beautifully illustrate  the range of human experience and knowledge.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi

With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive



Leave a comment

My Garden ~ a frosty lesson in growing potatoes

In June, I boasted about the warmer than usual night-time temperatures. I was intent on getting as much planted and established as quickly as possible – including an early potato crop. Squelchy soils in the paddocks caused by stormy squalls later grabbed my attention. There was no need to cover plants with frost cloth.  The early potatoes were planted in a sunny sheltered situation. The raised bed, made of lots of compost and well rotted organic material,  drains well. Early this week, all of the early potato plants’ shoots had just emerged above their warm blanket of mulch.

On Tuesday this week, Himself and I had our attention diverted  with a stint of caring for grandkids overnight and all day Wednesday. Busy as, we missed the weather forecast and of course we never gave it a thought to put a frost-cover over the plants. The first frost (albeit  a light one) of winter happened on Tuesday night. It dissipated quite quickly next day before mid-morning. At first glance, the larger potato leaves are affected – but I looked more closely and noticed the very small leaves at mulch level seem to be OK. They may have been somewhat sheltered and the soil was not frozen. Tonight, there’s an extra layer – of straw – over the plants. So, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the damage isn’t too bad.

Another thing I noticed was that a few heritage potatoes that had self-seeded in a weed-like manner seem to have resisted the frost.  I re-read my gardening books about recovering frost affected potatoes. Each mentions mulching and mounding. On reflection, I’m not sure what I learned or my options were. (1) Leave Himself in solo charge of the grandkids? (2) Turn TV on and watch the weather while we give the kids their bottles? Work in the garden later – by torchlight if necessary. (3) Every night, think, ‘frost’. (4) Let self-seeded potatoes have their way in the garden. (5) Gardening moral – an ounce of prevention is better than a cure.


My Garden ~ planting and preparing garden beds

My back tells me I’ve shovelled too much compost.  

mesculun-2.JPG chives-and-lettuce.JPG For the last three days, I’ve laboured, clearing garden beds and getting  plants into the soil as well as preparing for later sowings of other vegies . I’m encouraged by the sight of all those wriggly worms, large and small, burrowing and digging for all their worth. I’ve delegated them the task of doing the serious work.  

italian-herbs.JPG strawberry-3.JPG The old strawberry bed has had an overdue tidy-up and the runners now have nice sunny raised beds to grow in. Visions of lots of juicy red strawberries in time for Xmas, and jam-making …..  Still on my To Do List is a make-over of my Italian herbs in the pots.

kowinin-kowiniwini-potato-plot.JPG I’ve mentioned in previous posts I can’t imagine not growing potatoes. I planted Swift as the Xmas new potato. This season, I’m trying Kowiniwini and Maori  potatoes as additions to my small collection of heritage seeds. According to the information I got from the nursery about Kowiniwini is that it’s a good all rounder and keeper, crops well, is purple with white eyes. The Maori is round and large, with no inset eyes,has white flesh and a purple skin. I’ve been trying to get hold of King Edward seed potatoes. My Dad grew these when I was a kid. I’ll also plant Red Rascal later on.

I love to traipse around garden centres to see what’s new, read the labels and so on. Yesterday, I happened on a delightful floribunda rose Betty Boop. It struck a chord because of my mother’s given name and because I recalled her telling us once about similar sounding childhood nickname she was called by her brothers. I searched the history of this rose and found Betty Boop to have been a delightful Paramount pictures cartoon character in the 1930s – the time of Mum’s girlhood in England. I’ll buy this rose for Mum – she needs cheer in her life because of her declining health, and she does love her roses.