Archive for 'Food'
waterlilies in bloom

Flowers, Fragrance and Fruit

Posted 28 December 2012 | By | Categories: Flowers, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Spirit | Comments Off on Flowers, Fragrance and Fruit
waterlilies in bloom

waterlilies in bloom

Reclining Buddha enjoying the scent of jasmine.

Reclining Buddha enjoying the scent of jasmine.

meyer lemon and italian parsley

meyer lemon and italian parsley

 

Discovered the blackberries were starting to ripen this evening when neighbor girls asked if they could pick some from the bramble around my yard. Still a bit tart, but delightful. Happy to have an abundance of fruit to share.

Lavender and blackbird

Summer in the Seagarden

Posted 23 December 2012 | By | Categories: Flowers, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Summer in the Seagarden

It’s a glorious summer in the Seagarden. The strawberries are in full swing; blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and NZ cranberries (Myrtus ugni) are ripening. The espaliered tree has revealed itself to be some sort of green apple, and both the sweetie and braeburn apple trees are full of fruit. Fig brown turkey fruited before there were many leaves, but they all disappeared. Now there are lots of leaves but no fruit. And the tamarillos that were planted in 2010 seem to have blazed through their life cycle already.  Jasmine’s grown in around the front and courtyard doors, filling the entrances with heavenly scent, just as I’d dreamed. A couple of days ago, we harvested masses of spring onions which ended up in a giant Korean pancake-inspired frittata.

With my focus on growing a baby and business, the garden’s been mostly left to grow its own way this season. Even though I haven’t been actively planting or managing, I’ve delighted in the symphony of birds, bees and butterflies it attracts while exploring what’s new and changing. (Thank you Marisa Schuler for helping maintain this little patch of paradise.)

Finally, Fungi

Posted 20 April 2012 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, fungi, Gardening, Growing Food, Seagarden | Comments Off on Finally, Fungi

Having a blast with mushrooms, grown from Parkvale’s GYObuckets. Amazed at how they went from fuzzy white mycelium to tiny pin-head fruiting bodies to mushrooms as big as my hands in just a few days. They are just delicious, enjoyed so far sauteed, scrambled with eggs and as the star of mushroom fried rice (alongside the last of the peppers).

Looking forward to mycologist Alison Stringer’s Fungal Foray through the Otari-Wilton Bush on Sunday, 22 April. Hope to learn what will flourish on the floor of the fernery.

Here are some other mushroom resources:

Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Posted 07 April 2012 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

 

Juiced, wilted, braised or super slow cooked? All of these and more!

 

 

Sweet as Wheatgrass

Posted 01 April 2012 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Sweet as Wheatgrass

For months, I looked for wheatgrass seeds among the seed packets and the bags of seeds-for-sprouting at the organic grocer. I started to suspect they were not stocking the seeds in order to promote the expensive flats of already growing wheatgrass. Eventually, I asked the woman at checkout why they didn’t stock them, and she looked at me incredulously: “Wheatgrass is just the baby stage of wheat, which you can find whole in the bulk section.” Of course! I had no idea.

What a delicious paradox that wheat, which gets blamed for a vast array of ills, is the very same plant that in grass form is touted as the elixir of all health and life. In any case, it’s incredibly easy to grow outside and well suited to vertical planters. Spread a dense mat of organic whole wheat seeds across the soil and just cover with a little more soil. Water extensively, then daily, and watch as it sprouts in a couple of days and is ready for harvest in eight.

Tamarillo Ripening Tip

Tamarillo Ripening Tip

Posted 14 May 2011 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants | Comments Off on Tamarillo Ripening Tip
Tamarillos Ripening in the Seagarden

Tamarillos ripening in the Seagarden

QUESTION from a Garden.Geek.NZ reader:

I wonder if you have any suggestions for ripening windfall tamarillos? We had some extremely strong winds recently here in New Plymouth NZ and so many of our fruit fell to the ground and are still very green. Any suggestions would be appreciated.  —Lyn

Dear Lyn,

Tamarillos are sensitive to ethylene gas, so storing them with other fruit can help them ripen. However, if the skin is still very green, they won’t ripen to optimal tastiness. Best wishes with the rest of the fruit!
Here’s some interesting technical info:

And when the rest of mine ripen, I’m looking forward to making these mulled tamarillos!

Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Posted 01 May 2011 | By | Categories: Animals, Culture, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Pest control | Comments Off on Royal Weddings and Marriages of Convenience

Bees in the Nepeta with Dew (NYC Skygarden)

While the world has been distracted all weekend by the spectacle of England’s royal wedding, I can’t stop thinking about the other royal wedding I learned about this week in the fabulous must-see movie Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us.

For sheer entertainment values of sex, violence and drama, the royal wedding of the honeybee far outshines that of the Windsors. First, the emergent virgin queen kills all her rivals, stinging them through their cells. Then she embarks on her glorious marriage flight, mating with 12-15 drones mid-air, and storing their sperm in her spermatheca. A spermatheca! What a brilliant family planning device. Last seen (by me) in the snail.

Once the drone has performed his task of a lifetime, his lifetime ends quickly, as the in-flight mating rips out his penis and abdominal tissues. The queen goes on to lay around 2,000 eggs per day — more than her own bodyweight. Meanwhile, worker bees attend to her every need, feeding her and cleaning up after her. The queen can choose to fertilize the eggs using sperm from her spermatheca as the egg passes through her oviduct. Fertilized eggs become female workers (or queens) and unfertilized eggs become male drones.

Like coverage of the other royal wedding, Queen of the Sun is filled with eccentric characters and beautiful scenery. And though there is a lot of discussion about the troubles facing both monarchal systems, no one questions the relevance of the honeybees. They are in trouble, and we would do well to revere, honor and serve them as we will not last long without them.

Takeaway advice for gardeners who want to support the bees that support them:

  1. Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard.
  2. Cherish your weeds (or at least don’t get all obsessive about removing them), as they can be havens for honeybees.
  3. Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden. No. Not even Roundup! Especially not Roundup (or any other brand of glyphosate). I was horrified to attend an organic kitchen gardening course here a couple of years ago where Roundup was used “just around the edges” to keep things tidy. The neonicotinoid class of insectisides has been implicated in colony collapse disorder. Here are the members and their brand names so you can be sure to avoid:
    • Clothianidin: Poncho, Titan, Clutch, Belay, Arena.
    • Imidacloprid: Admire, Advantage, Confidor, Gaucho, Marathon, Merit, Premeir, Provado, Bayer Advanced, Rose Defense, Kohinor, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, and Winner.
    • Thiamethoxam: Actara, Crusier, Platinum, Helix, Centric
    • Acetamiprid: Assail, Intruder, Adjust
    • Thiacloprid: Calypso
    • Nitenpyram: Capstar
  4. Buy local, raw honey. This is a joy in New Zealand! I am currently loving both J. Friend & Co’s range and Earthbound Honey’s raw organic manuka honey.
  5. Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home.
  6. Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know. Choose organic food whenever possible.
  7. Learn how to be a beekeeper using sustainable practices. (National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand, Wellington Beekeepers Association)
  8. Understand that honeybees aren’t out to get you – they’re interested in pollen.
  9. Share solutions with others in your community.
  10. Let your government — and business— know what you think by both speaking out and supporting bee-friendly bee-friendly people and products.

Marriages of Convenience

Did you know that besides being the date of the Royal Wedding, Friday, April 29, 2011 was also World Immunology Day? Just as the garden is an ecosystem, so is the body. We humans are extremely chimeric — over 10% other species by weight. I celebrated by attending a fascinating presentation at the Malaghan Institute called “A Marriage of Convenience: partnering with microbes for better health.” Joanna Kirman spoke about mycobacteria and cancer. Graham Le Gros explored mycobacteria and asthma and Anne La Flamme gave a tour of our old friends, parasitic worms — currently being used in treatment of multiple sclerosis (and inflammatory bowel disease, among other chronic inflammatory disorders). If this stuff turns you on too, you can listen along and read my notes at right.

Meanwhile, in the Seagarden…

I just enjoyed the first sweet juicy tamarillo (Ted’s Red) of the season and first ever from my own trees. What a treat! The juice tasted almost like pomegranate. I wonder if it’s because they’re planted next to each other and have been sharing trade secrets?

Last week’s extreme winds savaged the wind-protective covers of my vegetable patches and blew all the feijoas right off the trees, regardless of their readiness. I removed the last of the spent tomato plants, harvested the rest of the tomatillos (which are also lovely in fresh raw juice) and planted an assortment of exciting new seedlings, including: cos/romaine lettuce, lolla rossa lettuce, miner’s lettuce, wild arugula, rocket aka arugula, pineapple sage, feverfew and lemongrass. And last but not least, Lhamo, a rescue of a rescue kitteh, is surveying the Seagarden this weekend. Will she stay? It’s looking likely.

Tomatillo Time

Tomatillo Time

Posted 17 April 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments

tomatillos grow like lanterns

Initially I didn’t have high expectations for Tomatillo Grande Verde (Botanical name: Physalis philadelphica, from the Solanaceae family, a.k.a. husktomato, jamberry, ground cherry; tomate de cascara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, tomate verde, miltomate; sourced from Kings Seeds organic), sown September 10, 2010, since I associated tomatillos with Mexican food, and therefore a sunny, warm climate. But the tomatillo’s been surprising in so many ways, proving itself hardier than all the tomatoes I planted this year and even thriving in the challenging Seagarden environment.

I planted out the seedlings at the same time as the tomatoes (gardeners delight and brandywine) and watched the tomatillo flower profusely with bright yellow blossoms, yet fruit didn’t set until much later. It turns out, they are not self-fertile— you need at least two plants to set fruit. I planted at least 4, but in different places around the garden. Happy to see at least two plants fruiting exuberantly. Thanks, bees!

Snail on Tomatillo

All types of creatures seem to like tomatillos. I loved seeing all the rigid and mis-shapen parts of the protective husks – visible reactions to threats and predators.

Todays Harvest

Yet within the husk, the fruits of my most recent harvest all looked entirely untouched. They feel sticky when you peel off the husk, but that rinses right off.

Naked Tomatillos

Alas, except for that big shiny one in the middle, I did it wrong. You’re supposed to wait until the fruit bursts through the hull — but not so long that they lose their bright green colour. Luckily, I didn’t pick them all, so I’ll wait until the rest are bursting through. My harvest was on the small and young side, but considering the delicious results of the slow cooked spicy Oaxacan Lamb stew I made with them, using Moreish organic lamb shanks from Urban Harvest and Mark Bittman’s sear it afterwards tip, you wouldn’t know I missed a trick.

Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Posted 31 March 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Inspirations, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments Off on Garden Harvest Lentil Salad

Todays harvest 31 March 2011

Behold, today’s bountiful harvest! Featuring cavolo nero, meyer lemon, parsley, roma tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, hungarian wax pepper, mint and oregano. This purple flowering oregano preceeded me in the seagarden. When I first arrived (and mistook it for marjoram), it established one half of the strawberry patch as its domain. We cut it out entirely, I thought, but tall stroppy strands of pungent leaves and purple petals continue to pop up where it once ruled. Since I’m resigned to never be rid of it, I’m always looking for new ways to use it. Thus, I was excited to discover a recipe featuring fresh oregano, “Greek-Style Lentil Salad” in one of my favorite cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Bioitalia lentilsWhere Jaffrey’s salad features green lentils and cucumbers, my version that she inspired features canned lentils and all the vegetables just harvested above. I was a purist about cooking with dried lentils (since they didn’t need pre-soaking) until I read Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body. He’s got a good point that it’s better to eat canned beans than to not eat beans at all because you don’t have time to cook them. Discovering Bioitalia canned beans that come out of the can looking perfect rather than sorry and soggy upped my enthusiasm. And considering the recent run of natural disasters around the world, it’s comforting to see a stock of legumes at the ready each time I open the cupboard.

1 (14oz/398ml) can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 chopped red onion
1/2 c diced tomatoes
1/2 c cavolo nero leaves, torn from stem
1/4 c chopped parsley
2 seeded and diced peppers (I had a jalapeño and Hungarian wax, but use bell pepper or other capsicum too if you have on hand)
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 fresh lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients and enjoy!

Gardenharvestlentilsalad

This was delicious on its own, and it would also welcome feta cheese. It also makes a lovely base for simply grilled fish. Hope you enjoy!

What are your favorite ways to use fresh oregano? If you’ve got any recipes or pointers, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy Birthday Orchard

Happy Birthday Orchard

Posted 07 January 2011 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Vegetables | Comments Off on Happy Birthday Orchard
brandywine tomato

Hard to believe it was just one year ago the Seagarden orchard was planted. Especially the magical bean-stalkish tamarillo trees. Almost everything made it through the first year on our extreme coast and quite a few have thrived. Here’s what’s notable in the garden this week, starting with the first ripe tomato. And what a punk fruit it is, with stitches and a hammer and sickle emerging from its ripe red flesh. It was, quite simply, the best tomato I’ve ever tasted, and that’s adjusting for bias because it’s the first one I’ve ever grown from seed to plate. With a name like ‘brandywine’ I thought it would be more explosive on the palette than the palate, but I was happily surprised by the reverse.

Clamalicious Recipe

Clamalicious Recipe

Posted 04 January 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Health, Vegetables | Comments Off on Clamalicious Recipe

clamalicious
Happy New Year! In Chinese New Year celebrations, clams symbolize wealth and prosperity because their shells look like coins. Clams are also rich in an essential nutrient I’ve been seeking out lately, vitamin B12, and New Zealand clams are the best I’ve ever tasted. Growing up far from any ocean, I don’t remember coming across live bivalves, and although I’ve always loved eating them, I was intimidated to cook them for a long time. Turns out there’s nothing simpler…

  1. Choose live clams that close when you touch them. (Ideally Cloudy Bay Clams from Yellow Brick Road at City Market in Wellington, NZ. Pictured above, the also wonderful littleneck clams, aka Austrovenus stutchburyi and tuangi, from Southern Clams Ltd.) If you’re not cooking them immediately, keep them in a well-drained container in the fridge — not in a plastic bag or they’ll suffocate. Savour the sound of their gentle sighs as they open up and let it all hang out.

  2. Cook up a pot of aromatic and delicious things from the garden in wine like: Crazy by Nature shotberry chardonnay with kaffir limescallionsparsleymintcoriandercherry tomatoes and Vietnamese mint olive oil and/or buttergarlic and chile peppers.

  3. Rinse, then kiss and thank your sweet little clams as you place them in the boiling broth.

  4. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes until they all open. Toss any that don’t open.

  5. Have some great bread ready to soak up all the delicious juices. My favorite in Wellington is Simply Paris’s wholemeal, made from just organic rye flour, spring water and salt. Alternately, serve over linguini or spaghetti.

If you try a variation of this, let me know how it turns out. I’d love to learn from your favorite ways to cook with clams too. Wishing you a healthy 2011 abundant with serendipity and delight!

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Posted 16 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

welcome the new class of exotics This week, I am so excited to welcome an infusion of exotic plants (all from Subtropica): inga bean, chocolate gardenia, vanilla passionfruit, Chinese ginger, galangal and a dwarf date palm. I feel a bit like Willy Wonka composing a fantasy garden of candyfloss (inga bean) and nutella mangosteens (chocolate gardenia). Let’s see how they grow!

Ginger Chinese (Zingiber officinale var. sinensis) This is very similar to the ginger you buy in the shops. It has pungent yellow roots and is fairly easily grown outdoors, in a semi shaded position. Non invasive. A great plant for the vege garden.

Ginger Galangal – Red (Alpinia galanga) Also known as Thai ginger, this pretty plant has aromatic roots that are used extensively in Thai cooking. It will grow well outdoors in NZ in a frost-free spot with adequate moisture and semi-shade. The flowers have a red tinge, hence the name.

Inga Bean (Inga Edulis) A highly ornamental tree with huge bean pods up to 15 cm, containing candyfloss-like edible pulp. Leguminous tree. Ripens June-July. Will bear three years from seed. Beautiful white pohutukawa like flowers in January and February.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebellenii) This very attractive small palm has graceful, arching,deep green fronds. In its native Laos it produces small black edible fruits that resemble dates. It may be harder to get it to fruit here, but it will be an attractive addition to any subtropical garden.

Chocolate Gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzalani) Also known as yellow mangosteen, this Australian native has small, highly scented flowers followed by medium-sized sweet orange fruit, that I am told tastes like Nutella. It comes from the more tropical north, but will grow in a warm sheltered situation here. If the conditions are not warm enough, it won’t fruit but will still produce flowers. Not frost tolerant.

Passionfruit Vanilla (Passiflora antioquiensis) A really special passionfruit, the ripe fruit are long with a yellow skin when ripe and a very sweet, rich aromatic pulp. My favourite. The vines have narrow dark green leaves and a reddish stem. Non-invasive. The flowers are being beautiful large tropical looking scarlet flowers growing to 10-12 cm across and with purple blue centres. Flowers appear Spring and Autumn.

Summer Comes Alive

Summer Comes Alive

Posted 09 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Comments Off on Summer Comes Alive
first tomatoes

Summer has truly come alive. The first tomatoes, brandywine, are plumping up on the vine, and everything’s growing in full and lush.

Loving the fire-like blossoms on the native harakeke (phormium). For the last few days, a new drama has unfolded in the meditation garden outside my office: a blackbird smacks down a large stick insect and proceeds to wrestle it into submission. So far, the blackbird has won every match.

The vertical gardens are a delight this season. The strawberries (chandler, elsanta, gaviota) are doing exceptionally well and sending out runners to the tiers below. I’m still enjoying excellent strawberries from the patch that was planted before I arrived on the scene, but I have read that the plants weaken after a few years and succumb to pests and diseases.

Happy I interspersed lettuce with edible violas in the vertical planters – they’re visually delightful, and the flowers are lovely on salads and dishes. Also happy to see the potatoes planted in the bases are thriving. Will the new nutty celery succeed? Time will tell.

Strawberries and Snails

Strawberries and Snails

Posted 19 November 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons | Comments Off on Strawberries and Snails

one strawberry
Sunday, the universe sent me one strawberry valentine.

fivestrawberries.jpg
By Monday, five glorious fragaria glowed red and ripe.

Now they’re ripening fast and furiously. But I am not the only creature loving this sweet heart of a fruit…

snailstrail.jpg

Enter, the land snail. Enter many snails.
snail in my hand
I picked one up and marvelled at the feeling of its cool wet foot undulating on my hand. It outstretched its tentacles all the way to the end of its eyeballs and then gazed into mine. We sat like that for a while, contemplating each other.

According to Carl Jung, the snail represents ourself in dreams, with the hard shell analagous to the conscious and the insides to the subsconscious. But he also claimed that “No man lives within his own psychic sphere like a snail in its shell, separated from everybody else, but is connected with his fellow-men by his unconscious humanity.” I think he was right about the humans, but clearly he never spent much time watching snails. They’re definitely communing in my garden.

spooning snails in the strawberry bed

What are they doing in there? Well! I’m so glad I asked. A veritable venus in the escargot shell, this well-lubricated gastropod goes through an extensive attraction and courtship dance that can last twenty hours. Most terrestrial snails are hermaphroditic, with an organ system that includes not only a penis and vagina but exciting accessories like love darts and a bursa copulatrix (which I am excited to use in conversation when looking for my “fucking purse”). They can hold onto sperm from multiple partners until it is time to lay eggs, which the snail will place into a hole in the ground when conditions are right.

Helix pomatia reproductive organs illustration by Johannes Meisenheimer

Snail dreams just got a lot more interesting!

Did you come here looking for a way to get rid of them? I’ve come to adore these amorous mollusca and am letting them enjoy what they like of the strawberries this year. There’s plenty for all of us. But if you can’t bear to share, consider harvesting them along with your organic strawberries instead of poisoning them and other animals on down the chain (including yourself). Silver Trails Snails free range snail farm in Hawkes Bay has some intriguing recipes for l’escargot.

Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Posted 31 October 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Pest control, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Vivid tales of parasitic wasps eating mummified aphids from the inside out are but a part of this thought-provoking talk on plant protection using insects and the mass production of benevolent bugs.

A real horror story is that more than 90% of fruits and vegetables examined in NZFSA’s Food Residue Surveillance programme have pesticide residues. This method of natural pest control shown by Shimon Steinberg above could be a part of New Zealand’s strategy to reduce pesticide residues in our produce and soil.