Friday, January 14, 2011

Keeping up with currant events

It's been wet everywhere, and in the face of such  tragic destruction elsewhere it seems a trifle to worry about my berries, but for anyone with ripening fruit, this damp weather is rather ill timed. So, despite the warm drizzle, and the fact that all hell was breaking loose with the garden fairies jumping naked into their water-filled sandpit, I shut out all of the distractions and got stuck into picking the currants.

Right now we have red and black ones, along with a few young white currant plants producing only enough to be nibbled in the garden. From about square meter of neglected garden I've harvested almost 4 kilos of black currants from 4 plants. We got 5 kilos from the same area last year, so I think a good weed, prune and mulch is in order. Some of these will probably be frozen whole for making a medicinal brew, we simmer the currants with ginger, sage, thyme and fenugreek seeds and then add a little honey and lemon juice to chase away Winter colds. The rest will be turned into a syrup, for which I am still trying to find a recipe that I like....You can make a gorgeous jelly from them, kids love them straight from the garden, and I have heard of sorbet made with an infusion of blackcurrant leaves.

The rewards of neglect. This untended part of the garden has ample cover for our little pest controllers. Frogs are largely carnivorous and will clean up loads of garden nasties. The surfactant in some herbicide preparations, that is designed to help the poison penetrate the weed plant leaves, may also break down the skin of frogs.

Then the red currants. The blackbirds found these and there aren't many, so I think a bit of red currant ice cream for the garden fairies will be lovely. If I had more, I'd love to make a red currant jelly, which is so useful in the kitchen. My mum glazes scrumptious strawberry shortcakes with it, my pet chef (husband) deglazes pans with red wine, after cooking duck, wallaby or venison, then adds a generous dollop of the jewel like jelly. The kids and I slather it on hot toast. And I love to have a sprig or two of the stunningly beautiful, translucent berries to drape over the Christmas pudding. We have plans to move the plants into a netted garden this Winter where they will be protected from feathered thieves.

Currantly (sorry!) we have red and black currant plants ready for sale. Get them in now and they'll put on some good growth ready to produce a modest first crop next Summer. They are easy to grow. and they get to about a meter and a half high. Space plants around 1m apart if planting in rows. They do best in a well composted and mulched garden bed, with some protection from the hottest afternoon sun in warmer areas. Pruning is important, but the thing to remember is that red and white currants fruit on 2 or 3 year old wood, they need to be pruned so as to preserve older wood while encouraging lateral growth and maintaining an open branch structure.

Black currants generally fruit on 1 year old wood, so old fruiting canes can be pruned, leaving  the current years new growth, and making room for the next years growth. Having said this, we haven't pruned ours for a number of years, and they are cropping ok. 

In a months time there will also be plants of the divine Silvan berry ready to plant. This one is like a perfect, giant blackberry with a rich, winey, tangy flavour. Mmmmm! So find a corner for this one, it needs plenty of room and support, and heavy pruning at the end of each season, but it will produce fruit over a couple of months from mid December. And yesterday I divided 30 little white fraise des bois, which I find even more delicious than their red cousins. These should be ready in a month or two.

We'll be down at Tas Farm Gate with currant plants, and many others on Sunday the 23rd of January. Hope to see you there!!
Our most exciting current event is the hatching of 5 little chicks. 3 Barnervelder and 2 Rhode Island Red cross Barnevelder. So cute!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lots of new plants!

I need an excuse to get in out of the sun. It's 28 degrees out there, and the garden fairies are playing in a tub of water. It's just too hot to linger on the nursery gravel getting out plants. So while I cool down, I'll write you a list of what plants are coming to market tomorrow. I'm not sure yet what fresh produce I'll gather, I'm waiting for the promised South-Westerly change before I harvest, but you'll find mint, chives, thyme, lemon verbena (great for infusing into icecreams..), kaffir lime leaves, wild rocket and many more tasty treats for you kitchen on our table.

Garden fairy with her dinner.

Some of these plants are available in limited numbers, so please let me know if you'd like something put aside for you.

Food plants:
Red and black currants

Alpine strawberries

'Temptation' strawberry Fragaria x ananassa An almost runnerless variety, said to bear tasty, heart shaped fruit all Summer, through to the first frost. You might even get an Autumn crop if you get these babies planted soon!

Angelica archangelica. This is the Angelica for culinary purposes. A few stems cooked with rhubarb reduces the amount of sugar you need and adds a lovely grassy, floral flavour. Biennial, produces a big crown the first year, and a huge halo of wonderful green, beneficial-insect-supporting flowers in the second.

Salad burnett, a great little green. Use the slightly astringent, cucumbery new leaves in salads or yoghurt dips.

Garlic chives


Perennial Spring onion. This Spring onion forms a clump which you can pull individual stems from as needed. I also collect the seed from it and grow baby Spring onions from them, or use the flower buds in a salad.
Variegated society garlic. Garlic flavour without the bad breath! Very ornamental, and lovely pink edible flowers too.
Roman chamomile This article is wonderful!
Dianthus, edible petals. Hardy, pretty perrenial. Remove the white end of the petal before adding to salads, cakes, drinks....

White borage, gorgeous edible flowers, and young foliage edible too. Self seeding annual, great bee plant.

Oregano, common and Golden Curly oregano. Greek on the way soon....


Italian parsley

Sea celery. A Tassie native, more reminiscent of parsley than celery, wonderful anywhere you'd use parsley, but perhaps a little saltier and earthier.


Culantro, Mexican coriander/ saw leaf coriander/ Thai parsley. Annual. Grow this one in shade for lush growth. Used in curries or larp in Asia, or in salsas in Mexico.

Lemon balm, variegated form.

Sage, Common and Purple.
Warrigal greens.

French sorrel, wonderful Spring green, should be in every garden to add a lemony punch to salads, soups and sauces. Easy to grow, may die back in Winter when it can be divided and replanted.

Red shiso, self seeding annual, used to colour Japanese pickles, tiny new leaves and flowers in salads.

Laksa/Vietnamese mint


Mints-All mints can become invasive. Plant them in a well composted garden or a good quality potting mix and either let them have their head and enjoy their rampant nature, or confine them in pots. You can cut the bottom from a good sized pot or bucket and bury this in the garden to keep them tame. Or a well watered pot in sun or part shade will do nicely!

Pineapple mint

Moroccan spearmint


Variegated ginger mint

Apple mint

Basil mint


Globe artichoke, French Purple


Pineapple sage

Cossack pineapple. Low growing hardy annual, producing sweet, pineappley fruit that are covered in a papery husk. Great garden lolly for the little kids, or dinner party exotica for the big kids.

Tomatillo, purple Last chance to get these in. Tomato like plants produce copious amounts of savoury fruits for South American inspired salads and sauces.

Potted strawberries, Red Gauntlet and Fraise des Bois-Alexandria variety, with fruit on if I can keep the kids away!

Tassie plants:
Lemon bottle brush  Callistemon pallidus
White dogwood Pomaderris apetala
Bluebottle daisy Lagenophora stipitata
White flag iris Diplarrena moraea
Blanket leaf Bedfordia salicina
Creeping everlasting Helichrysum scorpioides
Silver Banksia Banksia marginata
Yellow everlasting, Ozothamnus obcordatus
Sagg, Lomandra longifolia

I'm sure that I've missed a few, and there are even more delicious plants in the works. And if there's anything you want please let me know, I love finding new plants and, when possible, would be happy to try and track down and propagate any edibles you might wish for!

We'll be at the Tas Farm Gate from 9 till 1 this Sunday, the 9th of January.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We really love food

Here, as you may have noticed, we love eating what we grow. 

And so, it seems, do other people. Some of our Cranberry Red and Sapphire potatoes, purple podded peas, edible flowers, Massey peas, broad beans, Warrigal greens and orach, found their way onto some beautiful plates on New Years Eve, prepared so wonderfully, I have to say I feel more than a little chuffed! (Click on the green words to see great photos from Food Tourist)

To find and grow these treasures, then hand them over to be treated so elegantly is truly inspiring and rewarding. To have the chef that is to prepare them come to the garden to see how they are grown. To sample different varieties of peas, and admire edible blooms with him, seems to me be a beautiful closed loop. Grower, chef, diner, with nothing in between. Produce plucked from the earth the day before it is to be cooked. 


......well almost. 

It would have been even better if we'd been there to eat it!

And now we are weeding, brushcutting and mulching madly here, in preparation for a Friday morning visit.

By a super fancy chef from the big smoke! 

What will we give him for morning tea? 

Can we speak with more than a stammer when faced with the prospect of telling our story to a man we admire so? 

We will write more on Friday if we get through it without falling into a swoon! 

Otherwise, we'll be down at the Tas Farm Gate market on the corner of Melville and Elizabeth Streets, this Sunday from 9 till 1 and we'd love to see you!