"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."
May Sarton

24 February 2017

Hi there! Can you identify the plant in the image above? I'll give you a minute . . .

Its a pic of part of the umbel of a carrot flower. Beautiful, eh? I've been so happy that my carrots have managed to survive and keep producing even though I haven't kept their bed very well weeded. Actually, not at all weeded. So they are competing with grass and dandelions, sow thistles and wild radish, and a rampaging pumpkin vine from the bed next door. But when I take a trowel and dig around, I'm rewarded with beautiful carrot roots like buried treasure.
One plant at the end of the row, however, has decided to short circuit its usual biennial (2 year) life cycle, and send up a flower stalk early. When this happens, the root usually becomes  woody, and wont grow any bigger. If I was planning to keep seed from this lot, I would cull this plant as an 'early bolter' - not a desireable trait for a root crop. But in my current laisser faire mode, I've let the plant do what it wants. And so it has produced several beautiful flower umbels on tall stalks, and the insects are delighted! Carrot flowers are 'promiscuous', meaning they can be pollinated by a whole range of insects,
from bees to flies to moths to even ants crawling across the many tiny flowers in an umbel. There are lots of culinary plants in the same botanical family, having flowers bunched on little stalks that all spread from a central point, much like the spokes of an umbrella. The botanical name for this family is Apiacaea, and includes parsley, dill, celery, parsnip, chervil, cumin, caraway, lovage, fennel - and they're all very attractive to insects when in flower. A great group of plants to have growing, flowering and self seeding in an orchard or food forest area.

Pumpkin taste-off

Last night Kim and I had our regular No.1 Ladies Wednesday Night Dinner Society dinner. Except it was Thursday, and we had a guest, Peter, who was an honorary lady for the night. So, slightly irregular really. ANYWAY the thing is, we decided to cook stuffed pumpkins, and I had specimens in the garden of two different varieties, well matched in size. Perfect opportunity for a taste comparison.

On the left, Golden Nugget, which is a prolific fruiter, usually a bush plant (although this year a few of them have taken off into vines) and a nice size for a single meal.

On the right, Red Kuri, vigorous vine, attractive medium sized fruit. This is one of the ones that I am growing up a vertical trellis this year - I cut one of the early fruit.

We cut off their tops, scooped out the seeds, and stuffed them with a mix of brown rice and leftover spaghetti sauce from the previous night (wallaby and pork ragu). Put the lids back on, and baked in a moderate oven for about an hour. When they came out, we took off the lids and cut them into pieces for taste testing.
The winner? Red Kuri by a mile. They both had good texture, but the flavour of Red Kuri was far superior. Nutty and delicious. By comparison, the Golden Nugget tasted quite bland.
Once on the plate with the stuffing, braised carrots and beans picked 90 minutes earlier, and our delicious salad of garden tomatoes, the taste difference wasn't so notable. Or maybe the generous glasses of wine blurred the distinction!
We're often asked about how to tell when to harvest pumpkins. Basically you look at the stem that attaches the pumpkin to the vine. It that's still plump and green, you can leave the pumkin there. Once the stem has dried, go for it. We wrote a bit more detail about this in our March 2015 newsletter. Go have a read if you're interested.

Indigo Rose

I've talked about these interesting tomatoes in the last few newsletters. I've never grown them before this season, and have been wondering how to tell when they are ripe, since they are black from almost as soon as they form on the vine. Like the tomato at the bottom of the picture at right. The part not exposed to the sun is green (top right).
Finally this week the first few started to ripen, and I discovered its easy to tell when to pick! The green bit goes red (top left in picture above), just like in many other tomatoes. Too easy! The glossy black skin does make them look a bit intimidating to me, but when sliced for a morning snack they're red inside, and taste pretty much like any other delectable home grown tomato. ie Delicious.

Fun times at Brookfield

Here's some of our happy gang, at Brookfield, Margate, last Sunday, feeling chuffed after our demonstration vertical garden workshop. There were some men too, but they've managed to hide from the photo!

Thanks to Cathy Foreman and (earlier) Zoe Magnus of Sustainable Living in Kingborough for organising the workshop. We upcycled damaged milk crates and used coffee sacks, and odds and ends of irrigation gear, to build a small herb wall in a sunny spot tucked away in a corner. Of course, the main fun of the workshop was to have a bunch of gardeners together for a few hours, with the conversation and info swapping ranging widely from worms to biochar to propagation tricks.

Below is a shot of some nice bums, er, I mean, some people hard at work. I know it looks like they're concentrating on the task at hand, but there was plenty of conversation going on at the same time. Multi-tasking skills!
There's heaps of sustainability activities around Kingborough, with the Love Living Locally festival for 2017 happening on 19th March. Its a packed and amazing program this year - check it out and get along if you can!
Don't forget the KOONYA GARLIC FESTIVAL is on THIS SATURDAY 25th Feb, starting 10am. We've sold all our fresh garlic for this season, so if you're after some interesting seed to plant, head down to Koonya this Saturday.
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