"Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." Michael Pollan
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5th November 2013

Wow - I've been away for a few days, only 4 or 5, and things have GROWN alot in that time! Even though the weather has been its usual variable self. Except for my poor little tomato seedlings, which have pretty much just sat there, trying to adjust to their new environment. The snails have mangled a few, but I have spares which will be planted this afternoon in the warmer soil.

Don't forget that this weekend is the Sustainable Living Festival Expo down at Princes Wharf No. 1. I'll be there with a FIMBY and friends stall, with various goodies including spare tomato seedlings, comfrey plants, and a few upcycled feed bags you can use for shopping now that plastic bags are banished (yay). See you there!

Garlic harvest - the watch begins

Harvesting garlic is something that we talk about nearly every year. There are basic instructions from a news post on our FIMBY website from December 2009, and the fashion hasn't changed that much in four years!

Tassie folklore says plant garlic on the shortest day, and harvest on the longest day, which would give you a June to December growing season. But I've always planted my hardneck garlic in April, usually around ANZAC Day, and harvested in late November.

Hardneck garlic produces a seed stalk, and the other main variety, softneck garlic, doesn't. That's the main difference. There are countless varieties of garlic within those two categories that all have slightly different growing seasons and tastes.

This year I planted one batch in early April (around the 7th - my birthday! Ahem.) and a second batch in May. There is a big difference in the size of the two lots, and I think the early planted batch will be ready for harvest in the next few weeks. 

If  you have hardneck garlic, you'll probably see the scapes emerging by now. These are seed stalks that have a wonderfully whimsical curly kind of growth habit, and a little purplish bulge near the tip. Some people snap them off so that the plant's energy goes into the bulb rather than seeds. But don't throw them away - they are gourmet tucker! Garlic scapes are one of those things that you'll rarely get to taste unless you grow your own garlic. There might be some at the farmers market, but you'd better be quick!
I just picked a nice big garlic head from the garden to see what stage its at. This garlic has segmented (you can see the pretty pattern on the cut surface). But the outer leaves that form the sheath around the whole head are still plump and juicy, so no risk of splitting and letting in dirt yet. This garlic's mates can stay in the ground and grow a bit more before harvest. This particular one can be used in the kitchen. I'll roast it whole, and the scape, with pumpkin. DELISH! 

Garlic scapes - eating ideas

Garlic scapes combine their mild garlic taste with the tender snap of asparagus. You can use them in any way that you would use spring onions (they're better!), or add them to soups, stews, curries (especially good in fragrant thai curries) and stir fry combinations. Or roast them (like roasted garlic but creamier), or grill them as you would asparagus.
Garlic scape Pesto is unbelievably good. FInely chop or blitz in a food processor the scapes (remove the seed pod knobby bit first), some almonds or nuts of your choice, then add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and stir in finely grated parmesan or cheese of your choice. Its the freshest, tangiest, most addictive pesto ever. Perfect as a pasta sauce, especially good when added to some sauteed mushrooms.

Fimbarista File: Claire's menagerie

Claire and Gary bought a place out near Campania a few years ago, and proceeded to 'build a farm in 365 days' (as Claire's blog named it). They're still going of course, but you would rarely meet people more prepared to have a go, try things, adapt what's not working, try more things, and produce outstanding results.

They raise pigs which have a wonderful life eating grass and vegetable scraps, playing in the sunshine, having many belly rubs. Lulu their sow (pictured below) is a BIG girl, and pretty placid, but I wouldn't get between her and her babies! The young ones are despatched with minimum stress, and have provided the lucky people on Claire's pork list with beautiful quality grass fed chops, roasts, ham, bacon and (my favorite) sausages. We have to make the sausages ourselves of course. I've also recently been making rillettes (DOUBLE YUM), lard, and lardo (not finished drying yet) from the rich healthy belly fat from these well nourished pigs. Claire has some pork available soon in time for Christmas, so let me know if you'd like to join her list.

Not people to do things by halves, Claire and Gary have 24 raised beds in a fully netted vegetable enclosure, where they grow an abundance of fresh vegies, berries, and cultivate helpful 'weeds' like comfrey and stinging nettle.

They also have cherries, peaches, plums, apples (for eating and cider), apricots, pears, almonds and figs fruiting in enclosed areas. Then there's the flock of free range chooks, sheep that come running when they spot Claire, a few ducks with the most endearing fluffy ducklings right now, the dog, the cats, and lets not forget the two boys. Two calves will be joining the tribe soon too.

So you can see that its quite a menagerie. And takes quite a bit of attention and time to manage. I went out to do some spring vegetable planting with Claire last week, and we managed to weed the garlic bed, and feed the sheep, and tummy rub the piglets, and inspect the fruit trees, and eat cake. Oh, and we planned the next veg planting. So, we're part way there!

Yes, I did mention cake. In true FIMBY style we have attracted another client with excellent cooking skills. I highly recommend Claire's daily blog which you can go to by clicking  HERE. Claire posts lots of recipes, and having owned and run a cafe in a previous incarnation, Claire has heaps of brilliant ideas about organising and storing food, as well as a keen eye for workable and delicious recipes. And while you're there make sure you find her post about doing the washing. Its inspiring, and a little bit scary. You'll understand Claire's formidable organising skills a little more when you read it!

Here are some pics from Claire's place over the years. The top one is from a cheese making workshop we ran at Claire's place in 2010. We did that a few times, with bonus lunch time fresh pasta making and rabbit liver pate tasting thrown in. Its nearly always about the food!

What to plant now?

Its a great time to plant the "three sisters"  of north american indian folklore. They are corn, beans, and squash. We usually interpret 'squash' to be the whole cucurbit tribe of pumpkins, zucchini, squash and cucumber. These three plant families all have complementary habits and feeding needs, and go well together in one bed.

Many books talk about growing climbing beans up the corn stems, but I haven't managed to do this successfully yet! The beans usually rot or succumb to mildew in the humid mulched environment around the corn. But pumpkins or zucchini can ramble happily around the base of the corn, and keep the ground shaded and cool, while enjoying all the manure, mulch, compost and other goodies that you'll be feeding your corn.

Corn is best planted in a block formation (eg 4 rows of 4 plants) rather than a long strung out line. This is because it is wind pollinated, and the pollen is fairly heavy, so doesn't travel that far from the tassels. It has to fall on the silks that stick out of the cobs lower down the plant. Planting in a block increases the chances of good pollination. And you can buttress up the plants with knee high mulch between them all.
We have successfully "adopted" sunflowers into the tribe as well, and climbing beans DO happily climb up sunflower stems. When we plant a teepee or trellis of climbing beans we often put a few sunflowers amongst them, and they cohabit beautifully.

Its also a great time now to plant out capsicum, chilli and basil seedlings, and these are also good companions. Pick the warmest spot you have for these heat lovers, feed them well, be patient, and you can be picking peppers right through till next June.
Plenty of other things can be planted now too. Greens like lettuces, asian greens, silverbeet can be planted where they'll be shaded by tall growing summer tomatoes or climbing beans. Roots like carrots, beetroot, radish and parsnip can go in and will germinate quickly in the warm soil (although parsnips can still take a while). Keep the soil where you have planted root crops damp until they germinate.
Do you reckon you can beat this bean?!
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