Olives, three ways

Olives! Available as a crop to swap. I got about 1kg (and then another 1.3kg later) from one crop swapper of mostly black olives. I swapped a hairy winter melon cross, about 1.7kg.

My dream olive is a green sicilian olive from Darling Mills Farm; or a smoked olive picked up from the Orange Grove market.

I tried three ways of preparing my olives.

1. heavy salt brine
(1 litre water, 1 cup liquid)
To tell the correct amount of salt, you float an egg in it. The first egg chosen was a little long in the tooth, so I then used a slightly younger egg (3 weeks old). Then I read up at skillcult, how to make a Sicilian style olive, but more importantly, proportions of salt to water was given.

2. A dry salt pack

This I got from milkwood permaculture. You put a layer of olives in your jar, then cover with salt. Repeat.

I was at a little loss as to what to do with the olives that had slightly bruised or bad bits. My source of the olives said to throw them out, because they turned mushy. My maltese neighbour told me that she put them all in , warts & all. I made a slight compromise, chopped the bad bits off, but then I fermented them separately in a heavy salt brine. I figured that with the extra exposed surface area, they would take less time to ferment.

Here they are (left to right, as above):

Olives, two ways

I’m already having trouble from stopping my olives from floating to the surface, and my weights are obviously not weighing them down.

I also notice the bubbles of the fermentation process coming to the top. About a week in, I tried one of the olives. When I cracked open the lid, I noticed the aroma was starting to smell like the familiar ‘olive’ type smell, but it was still quite bitter. I also noticed that the colour actually starts leaching a little out from the partially green and black olives, so they turn more green.

With a later batch of green olives (swapped for a pumpkin, which I swapped previously), even though I know that they weren’t the Sevillano type, I thought that I should ferment them the skill cult way.

3. Skillcult way
One litre water. 1/4 cup salt. 1/4 white vinegar. I chucked an orange leaf in to add a little tannin, to follow in the steps of my neighbour.

I can’t wait to try the finished products!

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Harvest Monday & Garden Update, April 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

Yes, I know it’s May. I’ve been working on this post for a while. Life has been a bit manic.

Harvested.

6 x Hairy/Winter Melon cross, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.3, 0.466, 0.868 kg each. That’s 8.03kg kg so far.

A hairy melon is normally hairy and long; A winter melon is normally short and squat. I think that my random curcubit is a Hairy Winter Melon:

Hairy melon

Handsome, no?

I’m not quite sure how this happened, because the seeds that I planted came from a winter melon purchased from the shops. I think that this also means that the seeds from these fruit won’t be viable because of the cross pollination. Oh dear.

Anyway, I gave one melon away;
Turned the second one into soup;
And then swapped the third for 640g of Boston Marrow through the crop and swap.

I was a little slow on the uptake, but it turns out there are lots of little ‘hairs’ on the leaves, stalks and of course *fruit*, if you’re not paying attention they stick to you and make you very itchy. So eventually I worked out that I had to wear long sleeves and gloves when admiring my fruit hanging on the vine, and checking them out. I think that it is time to harvest the remaining 6 or so fruit, ranging from baseball sized to basketball, as the vine has started to die back.

Two strawberries.

One Marigold flower – added to a salad. There have been more marigolds, but as is their intention, the ants and aphids have moved in.

Swapped.


Kombucha scoby
! Does this count as a harvest? Someone put out a call for a scoby because they had managed to kill their current one. I swapped the scoby, and got in return some fresh picked kale, fresh genovese basil, 3 limes, some bay tree cuttings, 2 chillies, oregano and thyme.

Butternut pumpkin! I didn’t grow this, but I orchestrated a three way swap. One lady had pumpkins. One lady had fresh picked saffron milkcaps, cooked with thyme and oil and snap frozen. I had just-made plum jam. I swapped my plum jam for three pumpkins and genovese basil. Pumpkin lady got some jam and a serve of saffron milkcaps. Mushroom lady got a pumpkin. I then used one butternut pumpkin to swap for 2 alpine strawberry plants (one white, one red) and one rubus moluccanus:

The last one had *grown from a single raspberry picked up from a roadside rest area*. Now that’s patience. My new swap friend then told me that my earlier native raspberry was not a moluccanus, but some other variety. Huh.

Malabar spinach:

Malabar spinach

Someone was ripping out their entire lot of malabar spinach. The cuttings from one plant went to about 20 houses all over Sydney. I offered to go and pick up the remainder, and take it to the next crop swap meeting. I cut the stems into sections and placed in water until it grew roots. I also planted two stems in the ground for myself.

I had resisted in the past planting the cuttings of the warrigal greens that I get, because they are high in oxalic acid, and you have to cook it first before eating. No such worries with the malabar spinach.

Planted.

This is the first year *ever* that I have planted seeds, and not gone off and bought seedlings.
Clockwise from top left:
Snowpeas, Kohlrabi, carrot, dwarf pea

Winter seeds

snowpeas – 50% germination
kohlrabi – germination appears to be 50%, seeds picked up from the crop and swap seed bank.
carrot – 20% germination. These were seeds saved by another crop swapper
dwarf pea – 20% germination

Others that I have planted, but not taken a photo of:

red rosso onion – 0% germination. Well, the seeds were slightly out of date (Aug 2015)

Beetroot – 60% germination. These have now been planted in the ground.

I have got some more (brown) onion seeds from a crop swapper, so I’ll try these and hopefully get a little more germination.

Banana update:

Banana plant

My bananas (second bunch) are still going underneath their little banana bag. Not yet yellow, hopefully I’ll catch these before the snails do.

Banana fruit, round 2

I also planted my “Horta” patch. Have you heard of this? It was described in my book as “Greek food for Olympians”, wild growing greens that you plant one ‘square’ (out of the square foot) method of gardening. My horta seed mix consisted of seeds I use for cooking – cumin, coriander, caraway, yellow mustard, nigella seeds, fennel seeds; then augmented with my garden seed mix: rocket, pak choy, radish, english spinach, silver beet, butter lettuce, garlic chives. Some of those seeds are a little out of date, but I can see little seed heads popping up now, so who knows what I have grown?!

HCB Comparo, 2017 Edition

I wasn’t planning on doing this, honest. But since Easter was such a long way away from the indulgence fest known as Christmas, and the supermarkets just happened to start baking these pretty much on Boxing Day… I ended up eating just a few. Then of course, I had to take a photo, and after that I might as well keep looking for my favourite bun of all time.

Sonoma Not Cross Buns:

Sonoma not cross bun

Love this. By not putting a cross on the bun, all and sundry from all religious denominations can eat it. First bun I ate cold, I couldn’t stop raving about it. OK, so the ‘s’ was a bit tough to eat, but the aroma, I couldn’t stop inhaling it. I think it was the orange glaze. The fruit had been soaked in possibly earl grey tea. The second bun I ate warm after heating in the microwave. There was a very intense cinnamon aroma. The bread had a ‘dough-y’ texture. Fruit mix included orange peel.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Sonoma Bakery Cafes @ Alexandria, Bondi, Glebe, Paddington, Rosebay, Waterloo, Woollahra.

Stoneground Bakery:

Stoneground bakery HCB

Available in blueberry (slightly blue cross), raspberry and white chocolate (pink-ish cross), and “normal” fruit. I bought the latter, and probably didn’t eat it at its best. Overnight in my fridge turned it rock hard. Even after microwaving it, the bun was just ‘meh’. I couldn’t remember any fruit apart from the sultanas.

$2.20 each, $9 for six.
Stoneground Bakery in Annandale and Hunters Hill.

Zumbo’s Fruit HCB:

Zumbo HCB

I had to check my records (blog) to work out if I had tried the Zumbo HCB in the past. Turns out no, I had only tried the chocolate version. This was heated up in the microwave. I got a slightly odd scent above the cinnamon note that I couldn’t quite place. Too much yeast?

This year I tried again the chocolate version, it seem less intense that four years ago; more of a ‘cocoa HCB’ rather than a dense chocolate mudcake.

$2.20 Each, $12.50 for six.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City).

Boon HCB:

Boon HCB courtersy of Boon Cafe

Photo courtesy of Boon Cafe Instagram. I’ve been here several times checking out the baked goods, and suddenly there was a hot cross bun. Buttery flavour with a sweet glaze. The cross has a nice chew texture. Made with spelt flour!
Boon Cafe, 425 Pitt Street Haymarket.

Campos Coffee HCB:

Campos coffee HCB

I couldn’t resist, the buns were so enormous and a glossy dark chocolate brown with the glaze. The cross marked ontop was a bit tough to eat. High on the cinnamon factor. We spied a little orange peel and a little red cranberry (or possibly currant). Very buttery flavour.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Campos Coffee, 193 Missendon Road, Newtown 2042.

So for 2017, I have to say that the Sonoma HCB with lots of glaze, eaten cold was my favourite. I could not stop inhaling that lovely scent, or gobbling up the buns.

Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

I had the opportunity to go to a work conference in the city, so I went to bed early, and caught an early train into central station. Devon Cafe was the destination, and I had a mere 40 minutes to order, consume, and then walk to Hyde Park. Truffle cheese toasties are only available when in season, and only on the weekend. Darn it! Worker Bees need truffle toasties too!

Two breakfast dishes caught my eye, and after being reassured that it would take ten minutes, I made my choice.

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s ($25):

Breakfast with the Sakuma's

Miso grilled king salmon,smoked eel croquette, 63′ egg, radish petit salad & kewpie mayonnaise. This had a extra unami scattering of seaweed and sesame flakes, plus some brown crunchy stuff that I couldn’t identify. The croquette was mostly rice, and very crunchy on the outside. It came with lots of different elements that kept me interested, all the way to the end. I couldn’t really use the mayonnaise as I found that the salmon was quite rich even without it.

The other dish that piqued my interest *had* been the Eggs Blini – for the mere existence of the blini, but having seen my communal table mate get his serving, I was very happy with my choice.

Ovvio Ginger Zap tea ($6.5):

Ginger Zap Tea

This was nice and tingly ginger flavour. I was surprised that it didn’t come served with honey, but then I didn’t ask. It felt like such a waste to use this loose leaf ‘tea’ tissane only once, so I took the remainder with me in a little container and enjoyed its zippiness for the rest of the day.

Harvest Monday and Garden Update, March 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

February clicked over into March, and our stinking hot summer suddenly turned wet. It has rained and rained and rained. Couldn’t go outside because it was too hot; suddenly became couldn’t go outside because it was too wet. We lurched from an energy crisis (when industrial load had the potential to overlap with domestic “everyone gets home and switches the air-con on” load), to a severe storm and flood crisis.

The advantage of all this rain is that purslane has been popping up in my front lawn/dirt patch. Apparently, purslane grows in highly compacted soils (like mine) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids (this is new to me). Yay! I stir fried this with cabbage, and also added some to a cucumber salsa:

Cucumber salsa

Diced cucumber, pear, random herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon etc), s&p, apple cider vinegar & olive oil. Pretty simple!

I have never really understood the point behind a cucumber. Apart from turning it into a pickle, or eating it in a salad, what is the reason behind its existence? Then I found this salsa recipe in The Cook’s Companion, supposed to be an accompaniment to smoked fish… and I couldn’t stop making it, or eating it.

The armenian cucumber came from the February crop and swap event. I haven’t seen it in the shops before, I liked the taste, so I saved a few seeds to try and grow next season. The marigolds (edible flowers), also came from a crop swap event.

I checked on my bananas earlier in the week, and it appears that I had left them on the tree for too long. They’ve been forming since November, so about three months of ripening. After trimming the hand, clearing off the rotten bits, shooing away the cockroaches and the slugs, and cutting off the slightly nibbled bananas, here we have it.

Roll up, roll up, for the world’s smallest banana harvest!

World's smallest banana harvest

This is 1kg (including skins). Each banana was the size of your little finger, about 5cm or 2 inches long. They were very sweet. I couldn’t eat them all at once, and if I left them in the house unattended for more than a minute, he would throw them out.

Approx 400g tomatoes (no photo). I still have a few more left on the vine, but it is the last gasp of the summer crop. I must not plant tomatoes next year, I really need to give the beds a break.

Approx 10g random curcubit flowers.

The male flowers keep falling off the vine after they’ve done their thing. It seems a waste to let the snails get to them, so I have been adding them to stir fries like zucchini flowers.

Around the garden:

Random curcubit

My random curcubit is still going strong. I originally had three plants pop up in the full sun garden bed, and I transplanted two of the plants to the other two beds. They are taking over where the tomato plants are dying off. I still haven’t identified it, except that it is definitely not a cucumber or a pumpkin.

Random curcubit

I’m thinking winter melon or luffa. Any ideas?

I killed my two cherry trees, which makes me sad. I think over enthusiastic grass trimming killed the roots.

I killed the native raspberry (too much heat when I planted it), but hopefully I have a lead on raspberry or youngberry canes to plant.

I started putting in some seedlings for autumn/winter. I had a bet each way – kohlrabi (cold crop), okra (in case the hot weather continues), and red rosso onion (seeds slightly out of date, hopefully I get some germination).

I am also hoping that this plant:

Papaya?

is the germination of a papaya? There have been guesses for sweet potato, or papaya, but no firm consensus yet. Ignore the red stems, that purslane lurking underneath. What do you think, dear reader?

2016 Reverberating Revoo

I forgot about doing this until I spotted Shauna Reid’s edition. Oh noes! I’ve missed the haze of a post Christmas/New Year lethargy, but if I don’t post now, I never will.

Edition 2015
Edition 2014
Edition 2013
There was no Edition 2012.
Edition 2011
Edition 2010

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Changed jobs. This may not sound a big thing to you, but after spending 10 years at the same company (ancient, I know), and then upping sticks for different work environment, that’s HUGE for me. Plus, I had a fondness for the old workplace which was slowly eroding away, as the good things that had made it a wonderful workplace were being eroded away.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
Can’t remember what they were, and thus I can’t remember if I kept them.
More for this year:
mindfulness!
being present in the moment!
Being grateful for the little things.
Stop buying stuff.
Start decluttering.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my friend Clare. Such a gorgeous little thing, sometimes she greets you with a serious look, and then suddenly she smiles. Wow.

4. Did anyone close to you pass away?
Father in law. Friend’s sister.

5. What countries did you visit?
USA. Taiwan. Funeral. Holiday.

6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?
Patience.

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Anzac Day (25 April), we were in our Nation’s capital, we saw a football game, and then on the drive back, the father in law passed away.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making the leap from one job to another. Yes I know, I should define myself more than my work, but you do spend 30% of your time there.

Catching a LOT of swarms – BEEcoming obsessed.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being present in the moment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Gave myself some form of RSI from squeezing honey out of honeycomb using my hands.

11. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

sadder

b) thinner or fatter?

same same. Slightly porkier.
c) richer or poorer?
One year’s salary richer. One year’s spending on vintage tupperware poorer.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Parkrun!
Have you heard about this? Every saturday morning, around 8am (or whatever suits the local council), there is a free, timed 5km running event at various locations.

13. How did you spend Christmas?

With the family. Surprisingly, I didn’t kill them. There’s always next year.

14. Did you fall in love this year?

With my friend Clare’s baby.

Baby

15. What was your favourite TV program?

The Katering Show. I discovered it. Watched two seasons cover to cover in (almost) one sitting, and then started again.

16. What was the best book you read?
I didn’t read that many books in 2016, but I just found out about The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, which has even been made into a film!
How did I miss that?

17. What was your favourite film?

Inside Out. I watched it on the plane.
I also watched Bad Moms 1.5 times, it took me a few days to realise that the plane version had *censored out* the video sex scene. One day the main character had a husband at home, the next day she didn’t.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Didn’t go to work. Old enough to know better.

19. Who did you miss?
Mother in Law. She passed away in early 2015, and not a week goes by that I think “She would’ve known the answer to that!” I wish she was still with us.

Crop and Swap Feb 2017

I haven’t attended a crop and swap in quite a while; one because they’re an 80km round trip for me, and secondly – I’ve run out of honey! I haven’t harvested honey since November 2016. The season has been a bit odd and a lot of colonies have failed around the Sydney basin due to infestation of small hive beetle overcoming them, or not enough pollen/nectar due to the funny weather.

Up until now, I have just been doing one-on-one swaps, and racking up an incredible number of kilometres on the car.

But for the last crop and swap for February 2017, I figured that I would make an effort to head to the proper event in Lane Cove.


Crop and swap – out:

Crop and swap - out

This is what I brought with me to the swap event. Two pots of thyme. Two jars of preserved guava – from 2015. I didn’t think it would be safe to bring or subject anyone else to my jars of unset seville marmalade (5 years ago), or various guava jams and guava jellies, made even longer ago! Two jars of kombucha scoby “jerky”.Two packets of native frangipani seeds, collected from my own tree. Beeswax (of course), some rendered as cupcakes, and some as it had come out of my solar wax extractor.

Crop and swap – in:

Crop and swap Feb 2017 - in

1.5litres of worm wee. Kale. Warrigal greens. Genovese Basil. Armenian cucumber. 2 cloves of garlic. 2 finger limes. 1 lime. Lemon balm (plant). 3 chilli peppers – one of them was a scotch bonnet. I love getting chillies, I love their shape, but I can’t eat them!

I had put in a special request for bee friendly plants, so I ended up with several kinds of salvia cuttings (black knight, hot lips, something with bluish flowers, one with lilac/blue flowers); Fruit salad sage cuttings and indian borage. There was a shopping bag filled with chocolate mint. I was debating whether or not I could try and and get a curry leaf branch to take as a cutting (since I had failed earlier in the month), and then another crop swapper offered me a seedling from her garden, I just had to pop past on my way home.

For the seeds I got some for crookneck squash, kohlrabi, dill, and ‘warpaint watermelon’ – which were a wonderful iridescent blue colour. With a name like that, I thought the watermelon would be similarly coloured, but a search for information on the seeds says not.

My drive home was in a scented lemon-ish, chocolate mint haze.

I then spent the afternoon potting my newly acquired cuttings in the glorious, glorious sprinkling rain, and playing “identify this cutting”.

I stir fried the warrigal greens as a side dish to dinner

I turned the fruit salad leaf cuttings (which I had had taken off to reduce transpiration loss) into a iced tea tissane:

Herb infusion