Monday, December 28, 2009

A bountiful Harvest and new seedlings

I had to rip out two salad vegetables as they were tasting rather bitter when they should not be and this is a sure sign that they are at the end of their season.

This has been the wettest Christmas Season and it has been great for planting of new seedlings which I bought on Boxing Day. Yes, while most people venture into the dry air-conditioning comfort of the shopping centres to score themselves bargains. I was at the local nursery taking my own sweet time in selecting seedlings to add to our Kitchen Garden. Of course, I did my homework before hand...all thanks to Stephanie Alexander!

Before I share with you what those seedlings were, please enjoy the progress of my Kitchen Garden to date + the prolific eggplant growers ... I'm looking forward to making Baba Ganoush!

These eggplants were seedlings a mere 4 weeks ago! They love the sun and does not require too much TLC and I have not had any trouble with pests with them either (touch wood!).

So what seedlings have I introduced to my Kitchen Garden Family?

(from Left to Right: 6 seedlings of Radicchio - love the colour, crunchiness and slight bitter taste and 1 Capsicum - if you look closer, you may have already spotted a small green one!) 

(from Left to Right: 6 seedlings of Cos Lettuce, 6 seedlings of Rocket, 6 seedlings of tomatoes)

Why 6 seedlings of each, I hear you ask? Well, that's because that's the number of seedlings one gets at the local nursery that I frequent!

I look forward to harvesting some of them in the next three weeks!!!! Bring on more rain, I say...

The best Christmas Gift

I was gifted the perfect Christmas present this year by my husband. The latest Gardening / Recipe Book by one of Australia's most well-respected culinary experts, Stephanie Alexander.

This is the bible for all who enjoy digging, planting, watering, growing, harvesting, chopping and cooking one's fresh produce!

In fact, I have been referring to this 'bible' on a daily basis. What to plant, when to plant, what not to plant it with, how to cook with it, etc. It's such an inspiring read.

All the plants are categorised alphabetically and the recipes are catergorised according to the produce! It's very clever and oh-so-logical. I cannot wait to try some of those recipes and am on the market for a Food Processor!

I spent Boxing Day at our local Nursery picking our new seedlings to add to our existing Kitchen Garden at home. It was very fun, to state the least.

As I still have not mastered how to place the SD card back into our digital camera (it's been over 3 years since we've had the camera)...I shall wait for the husband to do it for me and will post some photos of the latest developments in my Kitchen Garden.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Food for 2: Summer Greek Salad (my way)

If you love the flavours and textures of fetta cheese and olives, you will love what we had for dinner tonight. This is Summer Greek Salad (my way).

This is how it's put together. First, grab yourself a basket for harvesting. Then with your trusty clean gardening scissors, start snipping away!

With your basket of fresh produce, head back into your kitchen for the assembly plus a few key ingredients.

Yes, these ingredients are not from the garden and instead from the supermarket.

This delightfully fresh and flavoursome salad is ideal on its own with proscuitto on top or as an accompaniment to a main meal such as chargrilled steak, pan fried Tasmanian Salmon, pan fried chicken in lemon & thyme. Let your imagination and taste buds take over!

16 small vine ripened cherry tomatoes (or 1 punnet of store bought)
4 handfuls of salad leaves
10 basil leaves, torn up to release its aroma
4 sprigs of oregano leaves
3 snow peas, sliced into strips
1/4 red spanish onion, sliced thinly
Olives (kalamata, green olives)
50g fetta cheese, broken up

4 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 part Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Bon Appetit!

10 weeks later ...

With daily watering, weekly dose of a seaweed based liquid fertiliser and vigilant supervision / 'decapitation' of caterpillars & other undesirables, our Kitchen Garden has rewarded us with fresh and juicy produce such as these:

Presenting from left to right: Lebanese Eggplants, Cherry Tomatoes and Snowpeas. They are incredibly crunchy and sweet. Again, fresh is certainly the best and they don't require much space to grow especially, the cherry tomatoes and snowpeas!

In the last week, I have witnessed the prolific growth on all our plants and this is due to the rising temperature. It is afterall, summer here in Australia. It has certainly given me extra incentive to harvest from my garden every evening.

Check out the photo on the right! It's filled to the brim with vine ripened cherry tomatoes and an assortment of salad vegetables!

Three Lessons We Have Learnt:

Water the Kitchen Garden either in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation and you must do it daily, especially in summer.

It is essential that  your garden or pots are mulched to reduce evaporation as water is such an important commodity.

Harvest from your Kitchen Garden regularly if not daily to promote more growth.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The beginnings of a Kitchen Garden

It's inevitable. Yes, even a rite of passage that I should have a Kitchen Garden since I derive immense pleasure from shopping for ingredients, experimenting them based on my own imagination and hoping that it tastes as good as I have imagined / remembered it to be.

It can be as elaborate as a farm or as simple as a few deep pots perched on one's balcony or windowsill. Let your lifestyle, space and needs determine what it should be.

Like most Aussies, I am very bless to have a block of land which my house sits on. It gets ample sunshine and a few years ago, we (husband and I) put in a rainwater tank (thanks to an initiative by our local council) to water the plants in the frontyard.

This year, we decided to start our own Kitchen Garden. For starters, we needed to locate a suitable site which gets ample sunshine and close to a water source - in this case, the rainwater tank is ideal!

Then we had to decide whether to have a Kitchen Garden in the ground or above the ground. To be honest, this was an easy decision for us because we have clay soil and those of you with the same will understand how tough it is to dig! Therefore, above ground it is for us and decided on practical and cheap besser blocks as the framework. After the framework was completed, we rang the local landscape suppliers to deliver top quality gardening soil and mulch.

After all the soil had been added to the framework, the fun part of planting begins. How does one determine which vegetables to grow? If in doubt, look in the crisper compartment of your fridge!

We started with a selection of salad vegetables, cherry tomatoes, long beans, snow peas, basil, thyme, rosemary, chives and oregano.

Three Lessons We Have Learnt:
Choose a site that has ample sunshine, close to water source and is convenient for you so that will ensure that you visit your Kitchen Garden everyday (which we have done!).

Always warm up your body and joints before you start shoveling dirt into your wheelbarrow. Never fill your wheelbarrow to the brim because it gets very heavy!

It is essential that you work on your Kitchen Garden either early in the morning or early in the evening when it is cooler or else you will get a headache!