"Botany and medicine came down the ages hand in hand until the seventeenth century  . . ."
Introduction to "A Modern Herbal" by Mrs M. Grieve

29 July 2015

Have you noticed all the prunus blossoms around? The ornamental ones, and also cherry plums and some japanese plums and nectarines, even almonds are opening their flowers. It looks like Spring in some streets! But a quick glance at the snowy mountain is a reminder that we're still well and truly in winter temperature times. Even so, its always amazing to me, every year, how quickly the season seems to turn towards growth after the winter solstice. Love it!

And even in this cold month or two, we're reminded that our climate here in Tas is pretty mild really. We're harvesting broccoli, brussel sprouts, spring onions, pea shoots, chilli, kale, cabbage, and the tops of broad beans that need pinching out when they're about knee high to a little kid.

And LEMONS! Meyer lemon trees in particular are starting to ripen up fruit like mad at the moment. Its good to pick them when they have just coloured up, and let them sit on the kitchen bench for a few days to get juicier before using. Its good practice to snip them off with secateurs, so you don't pull the stem off and leave a wound which can get allow disease organisms to enter. While you've got the secateurs out, you can cut the branch back a bit from where you picked the fruit. Lemons love a consistent light pruning regime.

Harvesting the volunteers

Another harvest we're making at the moment is chickweed. This is one garden edible that we didn't deliberately plant! But this fast growing winter weed is abundant at the moment. It has a pleasant grassy / astringent taste, and is good in sandwiches and in green smoothies for those of you who indulge in such healthy things. Just make sure that you accurately identify the plant. There are other weeds with small leaves of a similar colour that can make you quite sick - eg petty spurge. A good way to identify chickweed is to look for the tiny little white flowers - they have 5 double petals. The leaves are in opposite pairs, and the stems break easily, and have lots of fine hairs on them. Spurge, which is nasty, has a white latexy sap that oozes from the stem when broken. Don't get this stuff in your eyes, or on sensitive skin.

Fimbarista File:
Kate's place

I can't really claim Kate as a fimbarista - I've only had one visit to her place so far, and we have plans to do some pruning together soon. Her place in North Hobart is STUNNING! The garden which they created from scratch is a masterpiece of great design, careful execution, and diligent maintenance. I love the garden beds she has created in their courtyard.
The area was paved, and a bit drab. So Kate has 'upcycled' the pavers into raised garden beds, stacking the pavers like bricks. This not only creates garden edging that drains well and doesn't need any mortar etc, it also creates a nice edge for sitting on and enjoying the afternoon sun.

Kate's front yard is a beautifully formal arrangement with bay and box hedging, designed around three very large existing trees. We're swapping ideas about how to get more edibles into the space, and think that berries such as blueberries, gooseberries and strawberries will do the trick.

I was a bit gobsmacked when we went into Kate's house, the kitchen is straight out of a magazine photo shoot. Then I remembered she is an interior designer. Check out the gallery on her website HERE  and prepare to be delighted!
Kate's place is cram packed full of niche's to grow and display things. Espaliered fruit trees abound. Vertical surfaces are used everywhere. An incredibly clever 'strawberry wall' has been created in the courtyard, to keep cricket balls away from the kitchen windows and divide the space into useable chunks. It reminds me of the strawberry walls used by Joost Bakker in his inspiring building and pop-up restaurant ventures. You can have a squizz about Joost in this article HERE.

Happy Birthday to us! (Soon)

Its nearly time for another FIMBY birthday - we're about to turn 7 years old! Can you believe it? Some of you who are reading this have been our guinea pigs / friends / clients and fellow garden journeyfolks for a loooong time now! We're going to have a party to celebrate - and here's a little inspiration I pinched from the interwebs for you:
So, here's the lowdown. Our birthday is on 8th August - Juliet and I began the FIMBY journey back on 8th August 2008 (or 08-08-08 just to be auspicious!). What sort of activities would you expect at a FIMBY birthday party? Well, there will be yummy food, featuring garden produce where possible, and perhaps a bit of seed swapping (bring what you have to share). Its also good timing to start planting out tomato seeds to grow inside for the next coupla months. So we'll have all the gear for making soil blocks to plant some tomato seeds in.
Here's Yvette - one of our very first FIMBY guinea pigs, with Steph who has been raised on home grown vegies, planting out tomato seeds last year at our soil blocking day.

When: Sat 8th Aug, 11am - 1pm

Where: Christina's place, South Hobart

What to bring:  food or seeds to share

RSVP to Christina by Thurs 6th Aug.
If someone can put their hand up to organise good weather, that would be great!

Book review

I've had this book on a long term loan from Fin for a while now. And I keep dipping into it - sometimes to find out something about a particular plant, and sometimes just as a random lucky dip. It always delivers! First published in 1931, the book title says what it is: "A Modern Herbal - The medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folklore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs and trees with all their modern scientific uses." Mrs M. Grieve has amassed a huge amount of information for over 1000 common and not so common plants.
Most of the vegies, fruit, berries and weeds that I grow (deliberately or not!) can be found in the book. Opening this book is a refreshing alternative to googling something and seeing the same few articles and vacuous opinion rehashed repeatedly. I'm not sure where Fin found this book, but its the sort of treasure that you're most likely to find while browsing second hand bookshops or market stalls.

Ridiculously rad romanesco

There are lots of (much better) photos of romanesco broccoli on the interwebs. But this one is growing in my garden, so I wanted to share its picture! They are hardy and delicious. A bit variable in their growth rate - out of 10 or so babies that I planted back in March, we've eaten 3, have another couple nearly ready to harvest, had one very scraggy looking aphid infested one that we ruthlessly pulled out and gave to the chooks, and the rest haven't looked like forming heads yet. This sort of variability is good for the home gardener, since we like the harvest to be spread out. Its more frustrating for commercial growers, which is why its not so usual to see these babies for sale in supermarkets.

A really yummy way to eat romanesco, or any type of broccoli, is in a warm salad:

Warm Broccoli salad
  • Break or cut the broccoli up into bite sized florets. Don't discard the smaller stems - these can be peeled and cut into chunks (they're delicious, even better than the florets I reckon!). Drop the florets into boiling water for about 4 minutes, then drain well.
  • Saute some mushrooms in a bit of butter and oil until they give up their juices and are cooked enough for your palate. I like mine properly cooked through.
  • Toast some pine nuts (or other nuts of your choice).
  • Toss the warm broccoli, mushrooms, pine nuts and a good handful of chopped parsley with some oil and vinegar dressing and salt to taste. YUM!
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