Category Archives: home-grown food

Food #gardening in mini greenhouses

The weather here in Melbourne is bleak and blustery, but we had a few minutes of sunshine earlier on so I raced out with my trusty phone to take these:

The pictures show the mini greenhouses I bought from Bunnings. They come in a flat pack -shiver- but everything fits together quite easily for a change, including the clear plastic ‘cover’ that fits over the frame. The covers go all the way to the floor [but do not ‘seal’ completely]. Access to the inside is via heavy duty zips.

I was skeptical, at first, but I quickly noticed that the interior of the greenhouses is noticeably warmer than the outside air, and visibility is usually low due to condensation on the plastic. I’m not sure how the plants will go in summer conditions, but at the moment I’m only watering a tiny bit, once every 2 weeks or so.

Wind is a bit of a problem here, but by positioning the mini greenhouses up against the wall, and anchoring them with big, earth filled ‘tubs’ [see below], both structures have survived the north winds we get up here, so far at least.

I don’t usually do product endorsements, but I liked the first mini greenhouse so much, I went back and bought a second one. The original contains some very happy lettuce and continental parsley while the new one contains BokChoy [?] also grown from seed.

If anyone is interested in growing some winter vegetables, here are the salient facts:

Position:

North facing deck, up against the brick wall of the house for both extra warmth and protection from the wind.

Supplier:

Bunnings in Eltham

Form:

Flat pack. No issues with putting it together.

Cost:

I think each mini greenhouse was around $29, so they were very cheap.

Tubs:

I found some ordinary, plastic storage tubs, the kind you can buy at the supermarket, and drilled holes through the bottom of each one. Then I placed the tubs on top of their own lids to catch excess water and provide a ‘well’ of water to draw on.

Cost:

The tubs were on special and again, at roughly $10 per tub, they were much cheaper than an equivalent plant pot. Another important point was that they fit very neatly inside the bottom of each mini greenhouse, thereby acting as a kind of ‘anchor’ against the wind.

I know the tubs won’t last for very long because of the UV etc, but when they disintegrate, I’ll simply buy new ones. In the meantime, I have lovely, lush lettuce almost ready to harvest and some Chinese vegetables coming on. Colour me happy. πŸ˜€

cheers

Meeks

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#Feijoa bounty! Updated April 16, 2016

Just have a look at my harvest of feijoa!

feijoua bounty

And the trees are still groaning with fruit:

feijoua tree1

feijoua tree2

The two trees shown above are about seven years old, but this year is the first time we’ve had a crop. And it’s all due to mushroom compost! I fed the two trees in early spring, and I’ve watered them over most of the summer and it’s insane how much fruit they’ve given back.

The Offspring and I have been eating them for two weeks now, and I’ve given bagfuls to the neighbours, but I think I’ll have to put some out by the front gate tomorrow with a sign that reads – FREE to a good stomach.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. some of you may know the feijoa as the pineapple guava. πŸ™‚

p.p.s. and this is what they look like on the inside [you scoop them out with a spoon]:

feijoa on the inside 003

 


Size does matter…

You see before you a tale of two onions. They sprang from the same brown onion. They sprouted in the same pot. But one was transplanted while the other remained safely at home.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Can you tell which is which?

cheers

Meeks


Flowering #cactus – anyone know its name?

cacti and lettuce 4

There’s a story behind this ugly-duckling beauty. Back when I was a kid, this cactus sat on a sort of plinth, outside our front door. It got a lot of sun and little else. Yet it flowered every single year.

When Mum died and Dad came to live with us in Warrandyte, the Daughter and I closed up their old house. One of the precious things we brought to our much smaller house was this cactus. I put it in a bigger pot. I gave it fresh new soil. I watered it. And the damn thing languished out in the garden with not a flower in sight. Sulking?

Then, as a last ditch effort I decided to bring the cactus up to the north-facing deck. I plonked it against the wall and pretty much forgot about it. Now this:

cacti and lettuce 1

Isn’t it lovely?

I’m over the moon to have the damn thing flowering so beautifully, but I have no idea what I finally did right. That’s why I need to find its name; so I can look it up. If any of you know, please, please, PLEASE tell me in comments!!!

And now, just to round out this post, here are a couple of pics of something I know how to get right – lettuce.

cacti and lettuce 2

cacti and lettuce 3

All these lovelies grew from seeds I harvested last year. The two onion plants grew from a tenacious brown onion that sprouted in my cupboard.

-hugs to all-

Meeks

p.s. If you know how to propogate cacti I’d love to know that too. I’ve tried cutting off a bit and sticking it in the ground, but it didn’t work. :/


Ah haz QUINCES!

quince sauce my quincesOkay, that may have been a little misleading – I have two quinces. See them there, next to the apple [on the counter I cleaned just for you]?

I grew those beauties! And tonight they become quince compote. I’ll be serving them, Hungarian style, as the accompaniment to home made chicken schnitzel. No rice, no pasta, no potatoes – just schnitzel and quinces. The two flavours and textures compliment each other beautifully.

Okay, now for a mini cooking class, and for once I actually took pics as I prepared the quinces. I don’t know what’s the matter with me, such efficiency is not normal. πŸ˜‰

1. First, peel your quince.

quince sauce peelAs you can see, I’m using a fairly heavy duty peeler.

That’s because raw quince is as hard to peel as pumpkin. Harder, actually, as you can’t afford to chop away half the fruit with the peel.

Do persevere though, and when you’re done, run the fruit under cold water as it browns very quickly once it’s naked.

2. Cutting, my way.

quince sauce in halvesLike a pumpkin, raw quince is very dense, and the core is hard to get out, so this is my way of making life easier on myself.

Cut the quince in half as shown in the photo to the left.

Then cut it into quarters, and finally into eighths.

Again, as you cut, dunk the cut pieces into water.

3. Exit the core.

quince sauce in eighthsThis cutting is like origami in reverse, but when you’re down to eighths, you can quite easily cut that section of core out using a sharp knife held at an angle.

Once the bits of core are out, you should be able to slice the remaining flesh quite easily.

I’m an impatient cook so I tend to slice the quince quite fine as it takes longer to cook than, say, an apple.

4. Into the pot.

Most recipes I found online called for insane amounts of sugar – i.e. 1 cup of sugar per 2 cups of liquid. I like to be able to taste the flavour of the quince, and I admit I don’t have a sweet tooth, so my version calls for about 3 cups of water to 1/2 a cup of sugar.

Using whichever set of ingredients you prefer, combine the sugar and water in a pot large enough to take the quinces and bring to the boil.

Pour the sliced quince into the sugar syrup. Jiggle the pot to get the quince settled into the syrup.

Bring the pot to the boil again, and then turn down to the gentlest simmer. Partially cover the pot with a lid – i.e. so the syrup doesn’t evaporate too quickly but steam can escape. Then simmer gently for about an hour until the quince are tender.

Tah Dah!

quince sauce in pot

Because I didn’t use a lot of sugar, the quince haven’t gone that delicate shade of pink you’re supposed to get, but I think they taste better. πŸ™‚

Serve hot with a meat [pork is lovely too], or allow to cool and have as a dessert with cream or ice-cream.

And now an apology. I know I’ve been slack lately, but I’ve been working hard trying to get myself some paid employment. I hope to have some news on that front later in the week. Until then, have a great weekend. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 

 


My alpaca proof kitchen garden

The sun is shining and I’m not feeling very cerebral so I’m going to show you some pictures of vegies. I know this will be an instant turn-off to some of you but I’m really excited about my odd kitchen garden even if you aren’t. πŸ˜€

First off, let me show you my backyard. And yes, it is huge. I live on 1.6 acres and that amazing view is one reason I love living in this fire-prone fringe suburb. Unfortunately, because this area isΒ fire-prone, one of my top priorities is keeping all that grass nice and short [so that there won’t be much to burn should a fire come through]. To do that I’ve opted for some big, four-legged lawn mowers called alpacas.

Now I know I’ve talked about the alpacas before but I may not have mentioned that alpacas adore lush, green, tasty things… like vegies and roses. In fact they like my precious plants far more than they like all that nice grass so I’ve had to fence off the areas where I’ve planted garden beds. I can get into these fenced off areas but I have to open a small section of fencing to do so and that can be a pain if I have to nip out at night to pick a handful of parsley for dinner.

Being an inventive little person I finally realised that my deck would be the perfect place on which to grow some herbs in pots. That was last year.

As you can see from these photos I’ve been much more ambitious this year. πŸ™‚

Lettuce, glorious lettuce! There’s all sorts of gourmet lettuce in there as well as some ordinary iceberg lettuces right in the middle. They are all still just babies but the beauty of growing lettuce in a big bowl like this is that you can just snip off a few leaves from each individual plant and still have enough for a fresh salad! And of course the plants just keep on growing.

The next photo shows some more iceberg lettuce in a small pot next to spring onions and radishes in the green pot. Radishes are so quick and easy to grow you could probably get a crop by growing them on a windowsill! They are ready to harvest once you can see those lovely red globes start to break the surface. I love small, tender radishes so once these little plants are eaten I’ll plant some fresh seeds.

And finally some of that parsley I was talking about. From left to right we have celery, parsley [and a few extra radishes], green peas and leek.

Once the frosts go away and spring finally decides to stay for more than just a day, I’ll be planting cherry tomatoes, basil and some hot chillies on the deck as well.

I doubt that I’ll harvest enough produce to save me from having to buy any vegies at all but with the artichokes, parsnip, garlic, dill and rosemary I have planted in one of the fenced off areas I’ll have something fresh for most of the year. -dance-

Happy blogging to you all,

-hugs-

Meeks

 


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