when life gives you green tomatoes … make relish

green tomaotes

1 kg green tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 green apple, quartered and cored
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground mixed spice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup malt vinegar

green tomato relish jars

Use a processor to chop ingredients. Then, simmer all ingredients in a large saucepan for 60 minutes. Stir regularly.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

Thermomix:
Add ingredients to the bowl, blend speed 6 for 5 sec. You may need to add half, blend and then add the rest so as to not overfill the bowl.
Set to 45 mins, ‘spoon’, 100c.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

summer brought me sunshine

We have had some pretty silly weather. At the beginning of summer it was so hot that we thought it would be a fire season. Then it started raining.  And it kept raining. We’ve had so much rain that people walk around looking soggy. At first, you could almost hear the seedlings in my garden sigh with relief when the rain began. But now their little faces, turned to the hidden sun, are bloated and blotchy. Like the people I pass in the street.

But who am I to complain. Summer brought me sunshine in the form of this dwarf sunflower that burst open to display 15 flowers from the one woody stalk. I just had to share this glorious gardening moment with you.

dwarf sunflower

garlic and retrospect

If I had been better organised lately I could have done a really nice little Halloween post about dirt and garlic and vampires. There would have been blood and a skeletal figure rising from a soil-filled box (that reminds me, I really need to plant out those potatoes withering in the pantry and do some fertilising) … In events far less dramatic than wielding knives and wooden crosses (although there may have been some wooden stakes near by), I got some dirt in my hair. Anything is possible, I’ve learnt that about gardening. But, no, that’s not it, the real life experience was … was the real life experience of harvesting my first home grown garlic!

fresh garlic

How to grow garlic:
In Autumn, go to the local co-op or organic fruit and veg shop and buy a few bulbs of garlic (don’t use imported garlic, it’s likely to be treated and may contain contaminants that may affect your soil).
Separate the cloves without damaging them.
Plant your cloves into the garden (or a pot) in a sunny, well drained spot about 15 cm apart.
Mulch, water and keep the weeds away.
Wait until Spring/Summer when the bulb foliage dies down to harvest.

Storing: Hang the whole plant in bunches and leave to dry undercover for 2 to 3 weeks. Store in a spot with good air circulation. Vampires be gone from my garage!

Cooking: Fresh young garlic has a beautiful mild flavour. It’s worth growing just to get some.

weedless and rambling directionless

I’m very proud to inform you that my plan to eradicate weeds using chemical free methods was a huge success. Combining the awesome power of my purchased helper with black plastic sheeting, a highly visible section of the yard has turned from a wild weed infested tangle of mangled vine, to this, a blank canvas.

raised garden bed

Now I just have the battle of decision making.

As a commitaphobe, I’ve learnt to live with myself. Drifting from one whimsy to the next. But when it comes to the garden I need a better approach. Plants seem to struggle with my inconsistent approach to their maintenance. That said, I have big dreams. Big unrealistic dreams. In my mind, the garden tells a story. In these dreams, I walk through my garden enjoying a flow of spaces and symmetries. I pick a leaf and eat it as I pass into the shaded cool of the secret garden. There’s flowers, bees and the faint laughter of children (preferably coming from the kids down the street). I might have brought a pot of tea with a cup and a saucer on a tray into the garden. Although, that would have made picking that leaf a few minutes ago quite awkward. But nothing is clumsy in my head. And nothing is overgrown, weedy or browning. There’s nothing plonked. Then I open my eyes to my surroundings and see the reality – a very large garden, battered by recent storms, and far from my vision.

Perhaps in five or ten years, I will walk through that garden. But until then and in preparation for that time, at the very least, I want my garden to look considered.

So here are my current thoughts for this blank canvas. I thought it might be fun to run a poll to determine what the favourites are. And please leave a comment if you have some more ideas. To put you in context, I live in a cold climate, the garden includes both ornamental and edible, and has a oriental theme (ie. azaleas, japanese maples, rhodos, bamboo). So, tell me, what will it be?

rye toast with tahini and tea cup alfalfa

Oh so humble, the alfalfa sprout will grow in just about anything if given some water.

A sweet idea that I saw somewhere, sometime, on the web, was growing alfalfa in tea cups. Totally cute and easy to do – even for the brownest of thumbs*. Having clumsily smashed my glass jar sprouter just last week, I couldn’t resist giving it a go…

tea cup alfalfa sprouts

And then made one of my favourite healthy snacks … Rye bread toast with tahini and alfalfa.

alfalfa tahini on rye

* How to: Put a cotton ball in the bottom of a tea cup and sprinkle in some alfalfa seeds. Leave on the bench top in a light spot, but not in direct sun. Give your seeds tiny amounts of water once or twice a day and in 3-4 days – voila! – a cup of alfalfa.

weed control (at all costs)

weeds

Step 1: Buy black plastic (or collect a lot of newspapers if you’re someone who still reads them… who does that?!)
Step 2: Cover all the weeds so no light gets to them
Step 3: Wait for the weeds to suffocate to death
Step 4: Employ someone to weed for you

So I have this problem with my neighbour’s jasmine vine. It doesn’t understand that I don’t want it here. When we moved in, it had been left to free-range and had gone beyond manageable. We had to take a tree out because it was so overcome. A year on, the ground is a mat of vine and it still keeps coming through the fence. It’s straggling my treasures. I’d lost all hope for the submerged Camelia. But the moment it touched my Japanese Maple it was war. A war I would win. At all costs. Well, at a very specific cost, a per hour cost. But we’re winning.

suffocating weeds

9 things I moderately dislike about gardening

1. Weeds. I was going to say more about that but I think its pretty much wrapped up in the one word.

2. When little sticks and leaves fall down the gap in the back of your pants and gather in your undies. Please tell me that this happens to other people too…

3. Roundup weed killer on the sole of your gumboot. You’ll only discover this in a few days time when you’re wondering how the lawn got that weird pattern of dead spots.

4. When your gloves start to feel wet on the inside. Usually after some enthusiastic hose use. It just feels yucky, ok?

5. When you pull out a ‘weed’ only to discover that it was a keeper and you desperately shove it back in the ground, only to find it a few days later all limp and browning, making you suffer its slow death as a reminder to how silly you can be.

6. When the phone rings inside and there’s a moment when you frantically try to remove your gumboots while running, before giving up and letting it ring out. I say, ‘letting it ring out’, when I mean, you missed it anyway, you’re probably lying on the ground somewhere.

7. When, later that evening, the phone rings inside the house and you can’t find the handset.

8. Poo-traps, both the dog and chicken kind. Particularly on the occasion that you decide to ‘risk it’ and go inside with your gumboots still on.

9. Other peoples gardens. They fall into two categories: either making me feel inadequate, or leave me thinking they really need to put more effort in. Just don’t say a word about my garden.

a wheelbarrow

gardening is for kids tools

A very generous friend gave my 2 year old a gardening tool set. Obviously intended to be a way to get my Little’un involved in some of my outdoor endeavours. It turned out to be one of the best gardening gifts anyone has ever given me.

It’s true, I’m not very tall. Also true, I’m not very strong. Well, I’m pretty strong but it contradicts to my life force – laziness. So I find that gardening tools from the hardware shop leave me feeling much too tired. I admit it – I can’t raise my arms after a gardening session with a full sized shovel. All my gardening aspirations cease at approximately 30 minutes of strenuous labour. Alright, so 15 minutes.

Enter, the child size garden tool set. Not plastic. Real wood and metal! I have found it to be the perfect size and weight for vegetable garden maintenance. I can easily reach to the centre of the raised veggie bed with my mini-garden-rake, dig a suitably sized hole with my mini-shovel, smooth over the soil with my mini-leaf-rake and collect my veggies in the mini-barrow.

It’s teeny tiny gardening tools for those with teeny tiny constitutions.

gardening tools

covet thy neighbour

One of my neighbours has hydrangea plants that blow my mind. I know what you’re thinking – ‘That’s a granny plant. You’re early thirties, get back to the real world of phallic lilies!’ And perhaps I’m getting old before my time. But there is a allure to the hydrangea that can’t be denied. The soft frilly undies of its flowers, growing, expanding. The papery not-quite-white and not-quite-blue of their frill is charming in its indecisiveness.

Then there’s my neighbour – his bold, vibrant, decisive hydrangea has shouted into the hearing-aid of all those granny plants “look at me, I’m here and I’m a colour!”. The flowers are so dark purple they tease that they might be black. They flicker burgundy. They want to imprint themselves into your eyes. Whatever it is they’ve got, it won’t be mistaken for granny frills.

The other day I passed as my neighbour was pulling into the drive, I skittled across the road and filled him with compliments. And so it was, just like that, perhaps dazzled by my own charm, he revealed his secret, the missing ingredient from all the papery indecisive gardens that surrounded us. He gave it away, freely, openly, kindly. But I will not.

Thou shalt covet my hydrangea now! (Well, and his too)

Hydrangea in vase

when they talk about bumper crops I’m not sure this is what they mean

in the beginning vegetable gardenSo this was it, the first veggie garden. Small, but sufficient. Humble, but practical. Solid, with integrity. Solid, with wood. Solid, with metal posts.

I was feeling confident. Enthusiasm overflowing. The spring breeze in my hair. Anticipation, I could almost feel the fecundity.

I filled it with seeds and seedlings and more seeds, by the handful. I was going to grow things – I was going to Create!

It was all becoming a little bit heady. But as the days passed and spring turned to summer, my little garden bed did grow, and continued to grow. My spinach became fundamentalist in the far end quashing the hopes and dreams of the beets, the tomatoes strangled the smaller low-lying populations of chives and parsley, the endive threw out ballistics in the form of sinewy flowers…

It was a battle. A battle to the death. Who would survive? Who would be evicted? Who would be dispossessed? And, increasingly less importantly, what would we be able to eat?

Needless to say, not very much considering the number of seeds I planted.

So lesson one, the thrill of growing plants should be managed against the logistics of their requirements.

tomato blur