The Garden Blog @ leonienorrington.com
I know! But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating from the garden – it just means that I haven’t written about it. TRUE STORY.
But I must admit that the reason I haven’t written about what I’ve been eating, is that all my recipes have turned out disgusting. Not really disgusting! But, defiantly not worth writing about.
And I’ve come to realise that it is not the ingredients fault – it is because I’m a-very-inventive-but-not-very-knowledgable-and-far-too-lazy-cook.
Things I have learnt about cooking this week are:
- It is not possible to make a nice cucumber soup no matter how many cucumbers you have.
- You have, yes absolutely have, to take the basil leaves off the stalks before putting them in the blender to make pesto.
- Green paw paw skin is bitter and disgusting – peel it off.
I learnt to peel cassava the easy way. Run a knife around it to make a spiral cut. Start peeling at the top and the skin comes away like a apple skin spring.
Oh and how to make cassava flour - which smelt beautiful – but proved harder to use that I anticipated.
This time of year I’m digging up all the cassava patches that have gone mad over the wet, replanting cutting in new areas (to fool the termites) and planting where the cassava was, with dry season veggies.
So I end up with heaps of cassava - a whole basketful. It has to be dealt with because it will only last a week or so in the fridge. Normally I would wash it peel it and put it in the freezer. But as I’m doing this ‘eat from the garden thing’ I thought I would try and make cassava flour.
I washed them, peeled them, threw them in the food processor on the ‘chopping vegetable into tiny pieces setting.’ Then I dried the pieces on a piece of shade cloth in the sun. When it was dry, it smelt delicious – like fresh bread. I throw some in the bread that day – not too much – one cup cassava flour to two cups of wheat flour and it worked!
Over excited I made a banana cake using all cassava flour and it turned into a banana flan? or pudding? Anyway it looked pretty bad. I had to put ice cream all over it and even then, most of it was left in the bottom of the plate when it was time to wash up.
I’m too scared to go out and look if the chooks ate their share.
But today I sifted the remaining flour and used some of the fine sifted cassava flour (one cup of wheat flour to one cup of cassava flour) to make scones. I did initially want to just have them plain so I could taste the cassava flour but then when I was getting the wheat flour out of the fridge, there was some dried mango right there. So I chopped some up and put it in the scones too – absolutely delicious. Really, truly delicious. So tonight I’ve used the cassava flour (half in half) to make a delicious shortbread pie base.
I’ve got some recipes to use the coarser part of the cassava flour but haven’t tried them yet. Still reeling over my small successes – or is it glowing. I must look in the mirror.
Oh and last night’s dinner was a success – so I’ll tell you about that. We have an abundance of cassava, all the sweet potatoes, green paw paw, eggplant, celyon spinach so we made a veggie bake.
The only things not taken from the garden were the onions, cheese and milk
Burnoff Veggie bake.
Cassava, white sweet potato, purple sweet potato, eggplant, orange sweet potato, onions, green pawpaw all cut snake beans in 50mm lengths, Celyon spinach leaves chopped, eggs, milk, salt, pepper, small piece of three in one herb.
Cut the veggies into 5mm slices and put them in layers to fill a baking tray. I used a glass baking tray about 80mm high. And I think it’s necessary but I put in one layer of each root vegetable, so that we could taste the difference between them.
Finish the tray with onion and top with cheese. Mix one egg for every cup of milk and one for the pot – two if it is a big pot. Beat in salt and pepper, some chopped very fine three in one herb, and a handful of chopped greens. This makes it look lovely and green, but you do need the extra egg because greens hold a lot of water. Pour the mixture over the layers of veggies. Add more cheese and bake in the oven till it is all brown and a knife goes straight through the veggies without a murmur.
We ate it with fresh bread (using only one cup of cassava flour per two cups of wheat flour) and a green salad of Mizuna Brassica napa nipposinica on its own. Mizuna this is the most delicious green, so light and crunchy and not the slightest bit bitter. I cut a handful, tore them up and sprinkled them with tarragon vinegar (I made tarragon vinegar last year with the bountiful crop of winter tarragon). Luckily because this year I’m having a hard time getting the winter tarragon cuttings to take so there is no abundance on this horizon.
self sufficient eating
Self-sufficient eating in the tropics
I’ve had this fantastic idea.
Please don’t cringe! My husband nearly died when I told him.
Well his eyes glazed over when I said, ‘I’ve had an idea.’ But when I said, ‘I reckon three nights a week we should eat entirely out of the garden and hunted food,’ he suddenly became very interested – if interest can be described as frothing at the mouth and yelling hysterically.
‘Three nights a week! Don’t be stupid there’s nothing in the garden. Nothing fruiting!’
I must admit with all this rain we have had a lot of trouble getting our dry season veggies growing – all the chewing bugs are having a ball. Tomatoes are still a month away, beetroot are still tiny babies, corn is struggling through the toddler stage. Snow peas are only 20cm high. But still I reckon we can do it.
‘There is so!’ I yelled back assembling as much indignation as I could muster. ‘There’s sweet potato (white), sweet potato (purple), sweet potato (orange).
I’m not living on sweet potato!’
‘There’s cassava, taro, green pawpaw, banana and passionfruit. There’s Chinese greens, celyon spinach, ginger, basil, tumeric, lemon grass, rocket and pepper leaves. I was on a roll. There’s. . .
‘You can’t just go out and pick leaves off the tree and cook them! Anyway what about meat? My ancestors didn’t fight for 100.000 years to get to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables!’
Well I did have to admit the freezer is a bit empty. We’ve run entirely out of wallaby. But we can go and get some. We have about seven pigeons (bought from a friend who keeps pigeons in pine creek). Three or four pork fillets (courtesy of my son who loves to hunt pig) 100 kg of mango, lime, banana (I can claim them). A few kilos of barra fillet (those too I can claim and did so).
Which made him so furious that he decided to go fishing. When he came back with a good eskie full of snapper, and a new found liking for my idea.
So last night we had our first, almost entirely self-suffient meal (excluding the oil, corn flour, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce). It started as a recipe from the Red Lantern, Pauline Nguyen’s recipe book but we didn’t have potato starch so I used corn flour and I made the paw paw she used as a garnish into the salad.
Crispy skin snapper – takes about half an hour.
three tablespoons fish sauce
three tablespoons rice vinegar
25 ml water
two tablespoons sugar
Chuck the fish sauce, vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until just before it comes to the boil (you know when it just starts to shimmer on the surface but isn’t actually moving – boiling this makes it bitter) - then let it cool.
While the sauce is cooling prepare the fish
Scale, wash and dry a whole fish. I use a tea towel to make sure it is really dry - if the fish is wet when you cook it, it steams too much and the flesh goes weirdly tough. I have a friend who puts her fish in a low oven for a while to dry it out and another who lets it sit on a cake tray till it is dry. Then make three cuts either side in the thickest flesh to allow the heat to get right in.
Mix the white off one egg and two tablespoons of cornflour to make a batter and cover the fish with a thin layer all over.
Heat about four cm of oil in a wok.
Pauline says get it hot enough that when you toss in a small square of bread it browns in 15 seconds. I did this and it worked so I reckon this must be the best way of gauging temperatures of deep frying oil – so simple I love it.
Slide the fish into the wok of hot oil. It takes a good five minutes to cook – a bit more if the fish is thicker. The skin should be crispy and golden and the flesh spongy to touch. I always get the fork into one of the cuts and peek down to the bone – it does ruin the presentation a bit but I like to be sure.
Because, the first time I cooked this dish. We had visitors so I was showing off. The fish came out to the table beautifully golden, on a bed of rice with paw paw and chives sprinkled on top and the sauce filling the room with deliciousness. Everyone was impressed till we realised the fish wasn’t cooked. It had to go back into the pan, fell apart, got tough because it was damp and ended up a very tasty but disgusting looking mess.
Putting it all together
While the fish is cooking, grate a whole paw paw – I used one that was just catching a bit of colour – pale yellow inside. If you don’t have a proper paw paw salad graters – you can use a normal grater – but try and buy one they are brilliant. You want enough grated paw paw to cover the bottom of the fish plate – this is the equilivant to your rice or potato – so quite a lot.
Go back to the cooled sauce and mix in two finely chopped garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger, chilli to taste and two tablespoons lime juice (one icecube of lime). Taste this everyone has their own preference – I like mine sour and tangy.
When the fish is cooked place it on top of the grated paw paw.
Sprinkle some paw paw and finely chopped chives over the top
Pour over the sauce so it dribbles down over the paw paw.
Serve with a huge bed of wilted greens (the heated with a splash of oil kind of wilt - rather than the picked in the middle of the day and left on the bench kind of wilted)
A whole snapper
2 tablespoons of potato startch (I used corn flour)
One egg white
Oil for deep frying
three tablespoons fish sauce
three tablespoons rice vinegar
25 ml water
two tablespoons sugar
two garlic cloves
chilli to taste
two tablespoons lime juice (one icecube of lime)
two teaspoons of finely chopped ginger
Green pawpaw or green mango (when they are ripe) and heaps of greens.
burn off is here!
I’m so excited – it didn’t rain last night and this morning it is bright and light and dry! I think the dry is coming – although I have thought that each couple of weeks for the last few months – but this time it is real!
The wind is blowing the washing has dried in three seconds.
It’s just after 11.30 and I have only just come in out of the garden and not sweating!
The yam beans are still flowering – so not ready to pick yet – trim them back – I cut the vine right back – taking the flowers and seeds off – so that makes more energy go into the tuber – which is really what we want.
This morning I harvested the last of the limes and already there are three beautiful little white with purple centre – flowers to start the new crop.
Have you seen the price of limes at the supermarket? Do they send them down to Adelaide and then buy them back. Perhaps they send them to Japan and buy them back. Anyway you have got to grow you own.
You can't do without them.
They are the most productive, hardy useful food tree you are ever likely to encounter. Not to mention how pretty they are when they are in flower and fruit. And they are tough.
The fruit is good for you. A lime squeezed into a glass of water first thing in the morning – gets your whole metabolism working.
So, every garden needs a lime tree.
It was one of the first fruit trees we planted. My Grandma Eve gave us a seedling (begrudginely as she thought everything including me – her impulsive granddaughter - would never survive in the bush.)
It thrived and because I found it hard to prune in those days (so filled with earth mother nurturing was I) it grew into a huge tree.
It survived the pigs, the cows - even the goats getting out and scoffing everything green.
Eventually it was so full of white ants that we contemplated filling it with concrete to give it some strength.
But we procrastinated and eventually it fell over.
We had a wake.
It was so sad.
But a new tree has grown up from beside the tortured stump and now it is fruiting.
I am older now and like to have more control so it is pruned each year. Which means that it doesn’t produce the tons of fruit it's parent produced – which was enough for all our neighbours, friends and every fruit fly in the district - but plenty enough for us, the store cupboard and the freezer.
Liimes are so useful - in the tropics everything calls for a squeeze of lime from fish to sweets and all the way to gin and tonic. (It is not a coincidence that at exactly the time when limes are in abundance it ‘runoff’ time for fishing.)
Sprinkle cut banana with lime juice to stop it going brown when it feels the air.
Sprinkle it over any fruit to make wonderful fruit salads it really brings the flavour out.
Lime goes especially well dragon fruit.
Mix avocado pulp with garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper to make a scrumptious dip.
Make lime icing for your banana or black sapote cakes and you will be known as the best cake cooker in the north. Just put the juice from a lime instead of the normal water or milk/butter into the icing sugar. It is lovely with passionfruit and lime actually.
To make a wonderful dressing mix lime juice, equal amount of olive oil and as much garlic as you like - throw some crushed nuts into the salad with this dressing and it is delectable.
Or for the best thing in the world make Numas.
Take a firm fleshed fish like skinny or mackerel. Cut it into thin strips and totally cover the flesh with lime or lemon juice. Leave it sit till the fish is 'cooked' (white and has the texture of cooked fish). Add chilli and ginger or garlic
Or - Cook a finely chopped onion or shallot in a little glee or butter. Add chilli to taste and lots of chopped up greens (sweet leaf, Kang kong, amaranth, whatever you have in the garden) and enough coconut milk to make a nice paste. Add the strained 'cooked' fish and serve as a fish salad or with rice.
Add lime juice to all your fruit juices to add some zing.
Add a little lime juice to your mango and banana smoothies and icecream.
Oh and what about lime cheesecake - brilliant.
Make cordial by bring the lime juice to a simmer with equal amount of sugar. Keep it in the fridge and dilute with water to make the most refreshing drink you could ever imagine. Talked to a bloke the other day who makes alcoholic limeade - he reckons it's lovely and really works. Haven't got the recipe or had a taste yet.
Lime juice makes wonderful cheese. The lady who gave me this recipe makes the cheese with goat's milk but cows milk works just as well. You can even make this with long life milk if you have some to spare. All you do is heat the milk in a big pot. It's important to just bring it to scalding point - you don't want it to boil - just heat until you see it moving and turn it off. Add lime juice and it will instantly start to curdle and separate. Let it sit for a while so it all curdles. Then pour it into a bowl lined with muslin (clean chux doubled does a good job). And then just let it sit to drain. It is beautiful on toast with marmalade, to make dips or on sandwiches. Gaye tends to pour and splash her ingredients with the confidence of a good cook – but I just make a mess and waste the ingredients when I try to do that so I have to measure - use about Two and a half cups of milk to a tbsp of lime juice.
Of course you can make lime pickle, and salted limes – I have a bottle in my cupboard that is nearly 10 years old a all golden – it is the most delicious accumpliment to curries you will have taste.
And for ‘ron’ squeeze the limes make them into icecubes – when I first started doing lime ice cubes I just squeezed the lime into the icecube trays, seeds and all. I love seeds in the bottom of my glass because it makes it look like it has just come from the tree – even when it hasn’t.
However, drinking lime ice cube juice at more organised people’s places who take the seeds out – it does actually taste better. Not sure why.
Also, another friend adds water to her lime juice – half in half – before she pours it into the trays. She reckons that the water helps them freeze more solid and therefore they last longer and taste better even a year after you have first frozen them.
please tell me if this is too long
Hasn’t this been a wild Wet – I can remember when we used to go camping at easter and it was cold! Now it’s still wet and humid. No complaining though. The tanks are full.
We put in some swales this year under the mango trees to capture more water. Luckily where they are growing, the ground is full of really water absorbent rock and the soil between is pure compost so it holds water really well. Fingers crossed – and high expectations – we want to see if we can only water the mangoes and citrus twice – once in August and again in September. I know it is cruel. But carting water does make you cruel.
With all this rain over such a long season ferns have gone mad – and the moss. Actually, I slipped over on slush growing on my new clay brick path (it looks good but not the best path for the tropics) the other day and nearly broke my neck. Have you ever looked at moss closely - it’s like hundreds of tiny pine trees. (no this is not another aside). You see as my legs went forward, my head collided with some moss covered rocks, so I was able to contemplate the moss for quite a while.
Mould is another fascinating plant I’ve had the opportunity to study this week - especially on towels. Isn’t it interesting the way the towels rot so quickly when left wet on the bedroom floor for a couple of weeks. (I have got to stay home more often – or find someone to help me clean up before I go). I always thought mould was flat dark stuff, but you know if the conditions are right, it can grow into a beautiful lacy fur. Don’t we get over indulged - half the year clear blue skys and the other half, overcast, cool and plenty of rain - it’s a hard life - but we try.
There is plenty to do around the garden. Now while it is till raining the garden beds need to be made. I’m one of those people who is full of passion and vigour at the beginning of a project but is hopeless at the day to day maintenance. So every year I’m clawing at the hoe to get out there and start the vegie garden, slaughter a Wet season’s worth of weeds and restore order in neat rows of mulched plants and compost. (When it’s time to fertilise, squash bugs and mow, I can’t drag my self out of back door let alone through the gate.) But now I love it!!!
One year I got out so early and that I ran out of enthusiasm and seeds before the rains had stopped - pumpkins grew though. My first spark of enthusiasm usually finds me at the local library in the ‘homestead’ section poring over Permaculture, Organic farming, Surviving in the ‘90’s - seeking the secret to that infamous successful vegie garden without maintenance.
I found a book on circle gardens. Fascinating – they are designed to minimise water and fertiliser use. That sounds good. They create micro- ecosystems that concentrate the earths energies, produce bumper crops and best of all, after the initial preparation, there was no work. You just pick from nature’s abundance.
Well it didn’t turn out quite like that. I did have to fertilise and do some weeding but it did reduce the amount of wasted water and fertiliser and what weeds weren’t shaded out, I just covered with newspaper and suffocated.
I don’t have a circle vegie garden every year but sometimes when the enthusiasm is low and the weeds high, for something different, a bit of spice in my life, I make my circle gardens and they look fantastic. They are good for years when the rain doesn’t want to stop and it is very hot and humid and enthusiasm although high – is focused on staying researching in the airconditioned library rather than out in the garden.
The first thing to do is to get rid of the six foot tall weeds. I just drag in a 44 gallon drum and roll them down flat. Then, I mark out the circles with a shovel, about a metre and a half in diameter and pull all the weeds out within the circle space. This usually loosens the soil enough so I only have to hoe around the edge to build up a bank. Then rake the dirt from the centre out to the rim to create a dish effect with a outside wall about 10 cm high. Sprinkle a handful of dolomite over the area and rake it in - water well.
Create as many circles as will fit in your fensed in garden space - leave a path around each circle wide enough to walk through. I usually lay beer cartons along the paths because they are thick and usually last the season but newspapers, old bits of woollen carpet, geotextile, anything that will stop the weeds growing is great.
My garden is big enough to hold three rows of circles so I just run a 3/4 inch poly pipe down each row of circles and plug a micro jet or spinner straight into the pipe in the middle of the circle. We’re running off tank pressure and this works well.
Once the plants are established they create a barrier which stops most of the water getting outside the circle. After a week and three or four showers add your fertiliser. I usually throw a handful of blood and bone or dynamic lifter in the dish and rake it into the top soil then add as much compost as I have and anything that is biodegradable to bring it up to 10 cm above the rim. Mulch the rim thickly with hay to stop weeds growing and reduce water evaporation. This little compost bin should provide the plants with a food and moisture if it is topped regularly. It is best to leave it a week before planting.
Companion planting is perfect for circle gardens because as you have plants confined to a small area they must benefit and compensate for each other. I usually grow basil and tomatoes around the inside of the rim and then a row garlic chives right the way round the lip.
Wrap a circle of pig wire around as a trellis for the tomatoes - it makes them easier to pick. Also, you can plant corn and snow peas around the inside of the rim and a variety of short bean around the lip. Short varieties of beans should be planted around most of the circles as they are a legume and fix a certain amount of nitrogen into the soil naturally. And of course marigolds.
Make a teepee with some fence droppers (anything straight) over any circles and tie them together to make a ladder for climbers like cucumbers, yams and beans. Circles are a bit too small for Queensland blue pumpkins, and massive watermelons but they are perfect for Jap pumpkin and rockemelon – even some smaller varieties of watermelon.
A starpicket with an old umbrella frame tied to the top and covered with an old mossie net is perfect protection for the snow peas.
Limes, kumquats, bananas, the last of the mulberries, pawpaw, sweet potato.
The mulberries – I know you have been tip pruning them all wet because I said you should – but this is their last prune before they stop growing rapidly so it is just to shape them and prepare them for the flowering in October /November.
Limes, kumquats, ruby grapefruit are at the end of their season – you can start pruning as you pick the last fruits. It is such a scratchy prickly job that it is best done over a few days. Never – ever – in the whole entire world – drop citrus cuttings on the ground. If you do, they will lay waiting for years hardening and sharpening their points until one day when they are as hard as steel – they will you in the bare feet, break off, go septic and then you will die of a tropical ulser. Or the broken off bit will travel up one of your veins to your heart and kill you dead (well that what my Grandma told me anyway).
If there was a book it would be saying that april is planting time – get all your southern veggies into the garden. But it is still too wet – keep them in the shadehouse under protection until the rains have finished properly.
The best bet is to transplant the tomato seedlings out of the seedling trays into bigger pots – but keep them in the shade house or somewhere they are not going to get watelogged. When it is still raining the chance of the plant getting the disease tomato leaf roll.
The virus that causes the disease is now known as the Tomato leaf curl virus, Australian strain (TLCV-Au) which is a gemini virus. The virus is transmitted to tomato plants by the sweet potato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci which is quite active in the wet season. So keep them safe a little bit longer.
I just had a paw paw tree die of wet feet – poor bugger – so here are the recipes I’m trying at the moment to use up the green paw paws.
Annabelle’s Green Paw Paw soup
1 moderately large green paw paw (no yellow showing on the skin)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon margarine
3 chicken stock cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups water extra
250 grams light sour cream
Ground black pepper; additional salt if required.
Remove seeds and skin from paw paw and chop flesh into chunks.
Melt margarine in saucepan or microwave bowl and fry onion until transparent.
Add pawpaw, stock and water, and cook (simmer or microwave) only until the pawpaw is transparent.
Cool slightly, then blend in electric blender until all ingredients are smooth.
Add sour cream and ground pepper and blend again until cream is thoroughly mixed through and soup is light and fluffy.
Add additional salt if desired.
Reheat (try not to boil) and serve with crusty bread.
Reduce the amount of cream to make a thinner soup.
Add 3 dessert spoons coconut milk powder to the blender when adding the cream.
Ralph’s Green Paw Paw salad
1 Paw Paw - real green and grated
2-4 cloves garlic
2 birds eye chillies
1 teaspoon - tablespoon sugar sprinkled on top
Good squeeze of lemon
Good squirt of light fish sauce (Good Shit)
Handful of toasted peanuts.
Crush the peanuts, add the chilli and garlic, crush and mix, add the paw paw, sprinkle the sugar on top while still mixing , the good squeeze of lemon during the operation and the light fish sauce which smells disgusting but taste real good.
Other uses for Green Pawpaw
Green Pawpaw is a great tenderiser for meat. Slice strips and put it between the steaks an hour before a barbecue.
Be careful not to leave it too long or it will tenderise the meat until it is disgusting.
It‘s great to cut into cubes and let with the meat for sartees especially .
When you put the meat on the skewers put on some onion, the cubes of pawpaw and some pineapple.
Whole paw paws can be filled with mince or rice combinations of any sort and - if you get the mix firm enough you can slice it like a meat loaf - beautiful
This blog is the result of years of procrastination and fear and a few months of guilty panicks. (once you have a button on your website that says blog you really do have to do something about it)
I’m hoping to write a post – see I’ve got the language - each month for a whole year.
Whoa! That was really hard to say. Because I can’t spell. And I don’t know anything about grammar. Except that dashes seem to work well to hold thoughts apart in a sentence.
And what if I have PMT one day and write something really nasty? Or stupid? Or make something up that is just not true and press the send button before I realise that that happened in my books not my real life? What if I get sad about my corn seed being eaten by those horrid little ginger ants and swear?
Don’t worry, everyone keeps saying, ‘it’s okay.’ People expect blogs to be full on spelling mistakes and uncontrolled, unedited thoughts.’
I hope so.
I’m in Fremantle in WA at the moment running writing workshops with school groups (playing with kids doesn’t sound professional enough does it).
I rang last night to check my veggie garden – and it does not sound good.
Now this is where skype would be very useful – imagine if you could see not have to rely on other people’s descriptions of, ‘yeah I think it’s okay. I haven’t looked today. But I’m sure it’s all good.’
Anyway I shouldn’t have thrown a tantrum because after they did look it was all bad news. My newly planted corn seeds have disappeared. Not all of them – some are big and beautiful – fertiliser them quickly. Put a ring of pig wire around them to stop them getting blown over in the next big storm.
But the bed I thought would be the best - I planted them into the best piece of dirt in the whole veggie garden – the bit that until a week ago had the compost pile on top of it – and not a flicker or green came up – ants? It did rain a lot two days after I planted them – perhaps they got drowned. Or pumbled to death and the poor squashy bits eaten by snails.
I hope I get better at this.
I will send this now before I panic and run back to my little hole. Please ask questions – that would be much easier.
Some knock’em’down tips
- A dab of Caster oil on cotton wool or a band-aid over cuts and infected sores works wonders. Change it twice a day and it will heal in no time.
- Keep all your eggshells and mix them into the potting mix you use for your fragile and finicky ferns. They love it.
- Wear your sunglasses when driving through those big storms, they reduce the glare and you can see much better.
- Use your paper/wax milk and ice coffee cartons to plant cuttings in. By the time the plants have taken the box is ready to decompose.
- Keep your ducklings and chickens in a small movable cage (about 2 m long by 1.5 m wide for eight to less than 5 birds). Move it to give them plenty of green feed. This way they grow quickly and healthily, are kept safe from predators (and they don’t poo on the varandah or lay eggs in the washing basket) and they get fresh food and exercise so are tender and tasty.
- Throw grass cuttings, spear grass or hay into the toilet corner of the pig pen. Every few months collect it and put it in the compost. However, make sure you put a bit of shelter over it or when it rains, it will become the most disgusting fungusy, rotting smelly slop that no one will collect.
- Wild passionfruit leaves and green fruit will relieve bites and stings. Just crush them and rub them on and relief is instant.
Ready feasts for march
Eggplants are dripping with fruit right now but will grow all year round. Don’t plant too many. A couple of plants next to the pig or chook pens will feed you and the pig in the Dry, and keep you pretty sick of eggplant in the Wet.
I usually germinate them in trays but I’ve heard of people who just throw the seeds in prepared soil and off they go. Fertilise the seedlings from about two weeks old with a weak solution of chook poo and feed well with compost.
Plant them out when they’re about 10 to 12 cm high (about six weeks) in the late afternoon or on an overcast day. They don’t need to go into the covered veggie garden. They are pretty tough. Feed them about every three months with a heavy mulching over a good sprinkling of chook poo or blood and bone about 15 cm from the base.
You should be picking fruit within a couple of months and although they go on and off, they’ll fruit for a couple of years. Pick the fruit when it is young - before it stops growing. The earlier you pick them the less seeds you’ll get the skin gets tough and bitter.
I hose aphids off with a strong blast of water and after a while the ants get the message. But, if you have particularly stubborn ants, a solution of a tablespoon of metho and a tablespoon of washing up liquid mixed in a cup of water seems to make the them go dry and still - I think they suffocate.
Like most things that grows really well in our climate, husbands and teenagers don’t like them. And I must admit that recipes that make them taste like chocolate are hard to come by. But! Add some chilli, baste them in olive oil and garlic – make them into pickles and marinade them. (now my mouth is watering.
(Even teenage boys will eat these)
750 g eggplant, peeled and finely chopped, 3 eggs, 2 tbsp. almond, chopped (peanuts are just as good and cheaper), 1 tbsp. sultanas chopped, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 cup breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand for 30 minutes, rinse and drain. In a large bowl, mix eggplant, breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients. Shape mixture into small balls, pressing together firmly to hold shape. Roll in flour. Fry in oil turning frequently until browned and cooked through. Drain and serve with fresh tomato sauce.
Elsie Townsend’s eggplant casserole
(This recipe has never been put in writing before but it’s like a quiche, and very forgiving.)
4 eggplants peeled, sliced and steamed till tender, 1 onion, 5 rashers bacon or ham, 4 slices buttered stale bread, 5 cups milk, 6 eggs, salt, pepper and cheese, savoury biscuits and parsley.
In a shallow casserole dish put steamed eggplants with gently browned diced bacon and sliced onion. Throw on some grated cheese and the cubed bread. Beat the eggs and milk together and pour on. The eggplant etc. shouldn’t be swimming - just covered enough to set. Slice cheese and place over the mixture enough to form a skin and crumble a few handfuls of corn chips or savoury biscuits and spread over cheese. Bake in moderate oven till brown and set and the smell brings everyone in.