Harvest Monday August and Winter/Spring garden update

I’ve already written a post about my 2015 winter garden. I guess this is part 2 (in Australia, Winter is classified as June/July/August).

Snow peas. I’ve harvested three times, about a handful each time. Tonight’s harvest I counted 11 snow peas. I have no idea about weight.

Winter harvest

The broccoli didn’t form a cohesive head, it started getting taller and the florette components got more coarse rather than small and compact which is what I prefer. So I chopped it into broccolini-like shoots, and ate it. It was delicious.

La Orange:

La orange

About 4 skinny minnie asparagus spears.

And that’s kind of it for my lazy persons harvest from the lazy person garden.

I was really inspired by my friend Ashlee’s garden, and I was rather jealous of all the lovely growing things they had. And I thought of my winter plot, which took two days worth of hard work to move; which I subsequently ignored after the frost which killed the pumpkin.

Planted

From seed: rocket, carrot, dwarf peas, xing gua. Some parsnips too, because I saw a recipe for parsnip wine, and wanted to make some.

I also purchased, after much dithering (a month’s worth), a double graft low chill cherry tree – Minnie Royal and Royal Lee. This one is a guaranteed low chill. This “bare root tree” was already in bud and flower when I picked it up from the Dural area: compare this to my starkrimson tree, which is still dormant.

What does the garden look like?

Honestly, it looks much the same as it did last month.

Oh, here is a picture of the anonymous citrus flowers, now dubbed the orange tree:

Orange blossoms

I wish I had smell-o-vision, it really smells that glorious. I am surprised that the bees aren’t foraging on the orange tree, but they like to travel kilometres, not metres.

The bees are bringing in plenty of pollen, which makes me very happy. I feel blessed that I live in the Sydney basin, with a temperature climate that allows for year round foraging. Times were a bit tough early in the year – due to the monsoonal weather that we experienced from October to February, a lot of colonies that got started late in the season have not survived winter. I know of three colonies that did not survive winter because they had already eaten all of their stores during what was supposed to be “the good months” (Jan/Feb), but really were the tough months. Some bees were even observed to be harvesting rust spores from the underside of weeds. My bees are suffering a bit from chalkbrood as a result of condensation – every morning I visit them, they’re “skating” on the bottom board – I’m not sure if they’re “sweeping” the floor, or just unable to move properly because of the amount of condensation that has built up overnight.

Bees:

Winter Bees

I was trying to capture a shot of the beehive’s “rush hour” in this photo. It’s like all the bees decided to return at a specific time in order to have a bit of a gossip and a coffee. It’s probably because they’re all flying the same distance away, it takes the same amount of time to stuff your saddlebags, and then the same amount of time to fly back.

What’s that in the background? I hear you ask.

Well, it’s a bee colony that moved into a sugar glider box over summer, and I collected in Autumn. I call it the “bat box” because it is easier to say. I have rescued the bat box bees, but I can’t move them out until spring. *How* am I going to move them out? I’m not quite sure yet …

Garlic in a pot:

Container garlic//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I don’t think I showed you a picture last time.

Planned:

I have already saved some capsicum seeds (store bought capsicum), and papaya seeds to see if I can get them to grow. Papaya from seed says that the papaya seeds will work.
My kipfler seed potatoes have already started to sprout roots – so although the tag says to plant in late spring/early summer, I think they need to go in now. This year I’m going to try a tomato grow bag. I’m a bit doubtful over the use of stacking tyres for the growing of potatoes.
I still need to dig out the grapevine. It may just go into a pot (the ground is as hard as a rock, since we haven’t had any rain for 24 days).
Move the bat box bees out of the bat box.
Plant the frangipani already.

An hour in Ashlee’s Garden

I visited my friend Ashlee to swap beehive boxes. A colleague had picked up a bee swarm in January, which I had donated to Ashlee. For a brief 24 hours I was the custodian of three beehives. Unfortunately, in the hail storms that hit Sydney in late April/May, all the trees had lost their flowers, and her bees which were living day to day ended up dying. So it was time to swap our bee boxes back so we each had our own matching set.

I was keen to see her garden, which was really productive after a years’ worth of hard work.

The (front) yard is north facing, and slightly terraced so they have replaced the grassed area with four garden beds edged with treated pine.

Garden Inspiration

From memory, there was: sage, parsley, thyme, spring onions, chard, broccoli, rocket, fennel, onions and various kinds of lettuce. Wild european honey bees were foraging on the rocket (arugula) that had bolted to seed. Her trick for not weeding? Plant everything in close quarters so that there is no space for weeds to take hold. A trellis (right hand side) had been built out of bamboo and pvc wiring, which supported the broad beans. The proper walk-in green house (top left hand corner) had been a Christmas present, and was much more successful in getting seedlings started than the little plastic greenhouse that you usually find in gardening shops and hardware stores.

There were also ducks and chickens in the backyard, but I forgot to take a photo of them.

There are plans for a pond and an aquaponics system.

She also has native stingless bees which look like little flies. Over winter they haven’t really emerged from their shoebox of a hive, but with the late winter/early spring days warming up over 20 degree C, they have been out and about. Unlike European honey bees which tend to fly a radius of 3km (up to 10km, depending on foraging material), these guys focus on the local – the 100m diet.

I was really impressed, and a little bit jealous. I too could have a garden like this if I only I worked hard at it. I must try harder!

Dae Ga Korean Restaurant, Parramatta

There’s a new restaurant in town, and it’s clearing out the local bottle-o of korean plum wine.

Dae Ga Korean has opened in the shopfront that the Chinese Noodle Bar used to occupy. The dining room has been freshened up with new furniture, and new shiny silver coloured pull down/zip up extractor fans installed over each table. It’s a bit quiet early on, but the room is soon half full with Koreans.

It’s a cold winter’s night, so we opt for spicy hot pot with a side of rice.

This being a korean restaurant, we were looking forward to the banchan side dishes:

Banchan at Dae Ga

Kimchi, Smooshy mashed potato scooped up with an icecream scoop, seaweed/kelp with sesame oil, mung bean sprouts slightly pickled, soy bean ‘skins’ in sesame oil, daikon pickled with vinegar a chlli, gluten ‘skins’ and potato in a sweet sticky sauce. My favourites were the mashed potato and the seaweed.

Seafood Spicy Hot Pot ($43):

Spicy seafood hot pot

I remember enoki mushrooms, octopus (divided head and legs), mung bean sprouts, zucchini, fish balls, cabbage, glutinous sweet potato noodles, carrot and pickled bamboo. The spicy broth wasn’t too spicy despite my trepidation. Perhaps a heat rating of 2 out of 10.

The rice comes in little metal canisters with a lid, possibly to keep it warm. Perhaps it’s so you can carry your lunch to work.

Plum Wine:

Plum liquor

We had actually brought along our own bottle of plum wine, and we were charged $5 corkage. I believe that the restaurant is in the process of obtaining their liquor licence, so very soon you should be able to order alcohol with your meal rather than BYO.

Dae Ga Korean Restaurant
street: 42 George Street, Parramatta 2150
phone: +61-2-9687-4242
Mon-Sat: 1000 – 2200
Sun: 1700 – 2200

Baja Kale Chips, Baja

I borrowed two books on “raw food” from the library. Then I went to the shops and bought some lamb’s fry (liver) because it was there, on impulse. I suppose that that is my random liver moment. I’ve already told you that I’m a disbeliever to the ‘raw food’ movement. I guess I’m craving iron. So it was time to make kale chips again.

There was a recipe for Baja Kale chips (mysteriously filed under ‘B’ for Baja). The sunshine coast daily has kindly put Baja Kale Chips on the internet.

The next day, there was a function and a fruit platter at work, so I took advantage of the free pineapple to try out the recipe.

Flavour Mixture:

Baja kale chips flavouring

The mixture was a lot more wet than I’m used to. After tasting it, I compounded the problem by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and a lot of pepper. I think that the mixture needed a little more acidity.

Once the kale chips are dried, they look much the same as any other kale chips. So I ate them. There is no photo. They were an interesting sweet and sour flavour that I wouldn’t have picked as pineapple, if I hadn’t made them myself. I would probably make them again if I had access to some spare pineapple. I wouldn’t purposely go out and buy a pineapple just to make them.

Winter in the Garden

It has been quite a cold winter in Sydney. We had a coldest july for 20 years with sub-7-degree C temperatures – the average temperature this month has been 7.2 degrees!

Picked:

Pumpkin. The poor pumpkin plant managed to put out one pumpkin before it was killed off with all the frost.

Pumpkin

Guavas. So many guavas. 2015 season was May – July. Three whole months!

Planted:
Seedlings. Kale – Cavalo Nero. Kale – red curly. 1 x beetroot seedling. I bought a set of six from the markets, but I gave half of them to a friend.

I planted snow peas:

Snow peas

… which are starting to form flower heads. They seem quite sheltered from the frost that we have been getting at least twice a week for a month.

This year, rather than risking the garlic getting whipper snippered near the rose bush, I have planted the garlic cloves in a pot. This should also help with harvest.

What does the garden look like?
Broccoli

Broccoli

it’s forming a head! The secondary plant, behind, is also starting to form a head, but it seems to be a bit shaded by the one in front.

The banana plant

Banana plant

is not faring well at all. I have a 4m high frostbitten plant. The chill has reminded the banana that it is growing out of its normal area.

Planned:
I was really inspired by the Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California. Rows and rows of grapes. I really want to put up a trellis/espallier for my grapevine in the front yard, as a sort of living fence. This sprouted from a neighbours’ grapevine, which has unfortunately had to be removed. I’d better do this soon, otherwise winter will be gone!

Preserved Guavas

.. or guavas in syrup.

My usual method of dealing with the guava crop gives you a giant zip lock bag of frozen guavas, and no easy way to use them. Because they haven’t been individually frozen, the only way to get at them is to kind of whack at the bag until bits fall off, and then use it in a fruit smoothie (which I don’t do).

I had such success with the guava pie, that I have also frozen rectangular takeaway containers of guava pieces, already dotted with butter, sugar and cinnamon. I had planned to premake pies, and freeze them for a later day baking, but it was too much effort and time consuming to do so, what with holding down a full time job, studying, and trying to have a life. I then thought that I could use lay out the guava slices in the rectangular takeaway containers, so that I could pick up individual pieces later for cake making and such. That turned out to be much too fiddly and time consuming – not doing that one again.

Then I discovered the Guava Producers’ Association website, and in particular their recipe corner.

Guavas, deseeded

I had already quartered and deseeded a bunch of the better looking fruit, with the vague idea that I would bottle/can it somehow. I guess guavas are a bit of a rare fruit, because it was really hard finding any information on what type of sugar syrup to pair with the guava. Is guava a more acidic fruit, so can I use a light sugar syrup? Or is it less acidic on the ph scale, so I have to use a heavier sugar syrup? At last here was a solution – 250g in 500ml water, to me is equivalent to a medium sugar syrup.

Here, instantly, was a recipe.

I actually ended up using apple juice (Do you know how HARD it is to find actual apple juice that has been produced in Australia at the supermarket?!!) which I had already purchased (10% sugar solution) – 7 cups of which I then added 1/2 cup of sugar. So that’s ~um ~ 15 % solution. Okay. So it ended up being a very light sugar syrup then. Probably not the best if you’re reusing pasta sauce jars for your preserving.

1 x 2 litre ice cream box of guava quarters
1750 mL apple juice (only 1000mL seems to have been used)
100 g sugar
= 4 small bottles of preserved guavas.

These were then hot packed into their jars, and boiled in a water bath.

Preserved Guava

I tried to leave enough headroom in the smaller jars for water bath processing, but the fruit is not fully covered with the syrup. I think that I’m going to have to open these jars, either remove some fruit/add extra sugar solution, and re-process. I’ve had some green tomato relish go nasty because there wasn’t enough liquid in the jar. Although, pickyourown – preserving peaches seems to indicate that not enough water is OK.

“If fruit is not covered by liquid it may darken during storage (but does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, as all fruits will darken somewhat).”

I later on found the Technical Manual of the FAO of the United Nations (whew, what a mouthful!):

“The packaging medium may be constituted by the juice of the guavas, obtained by squeezing the pulp that contained the seeds. Add sugar to the juice to obtain a certain Brix°, according to the final degree of sweetness desired (usually, the syrup should be of about 30-35 Brix°.”

but I had no idea what a brix was. It turns out that it is a fancy way of saying “percent”; so 30-35 brix means a 30-35% sugar solution.

Apparently a guava in syrup is a totally different beast to fresh guava. So I can’t wait to try it!

Pana Chocolate, Alexandria

After visiting Bread and Circus, I also stuck my head into Pana Chocolate, which is just down the hall in the same complex.

I love a good chocolate. Especially the fancy ones that are selected individually and then packed into a fancy pants box and tied up with a ribbon.

But I’m afraid that no matter how raw, organic and handmade your chocolates are; if your shop fit out has exposed metal, and your staff are cleaning the display cabinet with some kind of foul smelling shine-em so much so that I have to hold my breath whilst selecting my fancy pants chocolate – I’m afraid that I won’t be back.

My pana chocolate selection:
Pana Chocolate selection

-Grapefruit heart
-Pink Lemonade.
-Open sesame.
-Sticky Date.
-Chocolate Crackle.

Not too sweet. I like the variety of individual flavours available. I’m not sure how “lemonadey” the pink one was.

Worth a visit if you’re in the area, and the staff aren’t cleaning. See previous comments regarding the cleaning products.

You can also buy some of their chocolate bars at various hippy shops around the place – like whole foods house Waterloo, or IGA Glebe. The bar chocolate generally contains cocao, coconut oil, carob. The wild orange and fig one which I purchased at a later date was very tasty without a heavy hit of “coconut” flavour that coconut oil can sometimes produce.

Pana Chocolate
Street: 21 Fountain Street, Alexandria NSW 2015
Phone: 1300 717 488
M-F: 1000- 1700,
S-S: 1000-1600
Web: http://www.panachocolate.com/

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