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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Low maintenance sustainability

Due to the school holidays, the garden has been left pretty much to it's own devices for the past few weeks. Apart from regular harvesting and occasional watering (due to all the rain we've been having), I've hardly spent any time outside. Last weekend we spent a good couple of hours weeding, clearing, mulching and re-sowing. I discovered a self-seeded cherry tomato (from last year), a self-seeded cucumber and a couple of dwarf bean plants that appear to have regrown from last year. I also have two capsicum plants that are producing well having survived from last year (capsicums are usually treated as an annual) and a self-seeded capsicum in a pot. I have no idea how that got there!

This is what we harvested during the sort-out:

Onions, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini and the yellow thing is a cucumber that I possibly harvested too soon. (Not sure why some cucumbers are going green and others aren't.) Some of this was used to make spaghetti bolognese. Last night we had chicken wraps with cos lettuce, tomato, grated carrot and fried onions - all from the garden.

Growing your own vegetables doesn't have to be time consuming - once it's established it pretty much grows itself.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pioneer Woman

The Pioneer Woman is my new favourite website for recipes. It's an American site so some conversion and substitution is necessary but the recipes are easy - and fun! - to follow with plenty of images. The other day I made this grilled chicken with lemon and basil pasta using, of course, lemons and basil from the garden. The gorgeous smell in my kitchen from the lemon juice and chopped basil alone was worth the effort.

Another 'simple living' website I've recently discovered is Down to Earth which has heaps of ideas and a forum for like-minded individuals on living sustainably.

Yesterday I picked the first apple from our Ballerina apple tree. Everyone was keen to have a taste. I thought it was a little tart - good for cooking - but the kids happily ate their slices. There's several more on the tree close to being ready for harvesting so apples are one thing we can cross off the grocery list this week.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Roasted beets

As a family, we consume a lot of beetroot. We usually buy several tins of sliced beetroot each shopping trip and it will be added to sandwiches, wraps, burgers etc. My 5yo is a huge fan and often asks for 'beetroot sandwiches without the bread'.

I haven't had much success growing my own (though interestingly beets grown from seed have done better than store-bought seedlings) - it just doesn't get big enough. Recently though, I harvested a couple of golf-ball sized beets. Because we eat so much of the canned stuff, I thought I'd try something different. I used some to make a beetroot salad - finely chopped raw beetroot added to grated carrots and a few other ingredients for a zesty side dish.

Another beet got added to our weekly roast. Par-boiling then peeling the skin is probably the most time-consuming and messy part (some people wear gloves to prevent staining) but then it just got bunged in the oven with the rest of the veggies. The flavour was rich and earthy - very different to the tinned stuff. I think next time I'll add an onion to balance it with the rest of the meal.

Beets, carrots, potatoes and parsnips with garlic and rosemary - all from the garden - ready for roasting.

Roma wasn't grown in a day

My Black Russian tomatoes, while delicious, are proving not in the least pest resistant. Reluctant to use sprays, I'm still using the stocking method but this is quite time consuming. Consequently, I'm only harvesting a small amount of the total fruit. The rich taste is worth it though, especially for Italian red sauce such as spaghetti bolognese.

Fortunately the Roma and Tiny Tom varieties are doing well and need little pest control. I would highly recommend Tiny Tom tomatoes if you need a low maintenance plant. I've also got another cherry tomato growing that must have self-seeded from last year. The Roma tomatoes are plentiful and, while smaller than those you'd find in a store, taste delicious and are a perfect topping for cheese on toast.