It’s harvest time!

Well, it is officially Autumn…not that it feels like it today at 33 degrees!  I love autumn…it is a time of reflection, grounding and harvesting lots from the garden!  Below is a sample of my pickings the other day: necterines, hazelnuts, zucchini, apples (4 varieties), bush beans, scarlet runner beans, chilies, cucumbers, kale (2 varieties), tomatoes (at least 3 varieties) and plums.

IMG_0086While I love the bounty in the garden, how can one household of 1.5 people get through it all?!?  By sharing the fresh produce (my bike basket was overflowing with zucchini’s for my work colleagues this morning); cooking feasts and inviting friends over to share it; and preserving (& fermenting) it!

IMG_0134I have gotten quite into homebrewing this year with Cherry Stout, Rhubarb Ginger Beer and Cherry Mead earlier in the season and yesterday, I racked some Blueberry Wine and Necterine Mead.  The only problem with the wines and meads is that they have to age for up to 2 years before I can drink them…the ultimate exercise of my patience….

The most recent Tassievore event was a flurry of preserving activity at the Sally Wise Cooking School in Molesworth. A half day workshop in which we made: raspberry jam; piccalilly; tomato relish; apricot and raspberry tea cake; hawthorn and mixed berry cordial; plum sauce; preserved plums; apple and rhubarb shortbread; spelt bread and labne.  It was amazing!  you can see lots of photos of the workshop on our facebook page, but here is a couple to whet your appetite

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I will share one of Sally’s recipe’s with you.  It is for Piccalilli, which is great, because basically you can make it with whatever you are feeling overwhelmed with from the garden 🙂

Ingredients:

1kg diced veggies (beans, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, etc)

2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
¼ cup salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups Tassie apple cider vinegar
2tsp mustard powder
2tsp turmeric
2tsp cornflour
2 tbls apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Place the vegetables, onions and capsicum in a bowl, add salt and mix well. Leave to stand for at least 1 hour. Drain well.
  2. Combine sugar, vinegar, mustard powder and turmeric in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add veggies adn bring back to boil and cook approximately 25 minutes.
  3. If the mixture is too thin, mix cornflour to a paste with extra vinegar and stir through. Cook two or three minutes more.
  4. Spoon into warm sterilised bottles and seal. Eat immediately or store for up to 1 year.

Sally also made a yummy dip by combining this with sour cream or cream cheese (the only Tassie cream cheese that I know of is from Red Cow Dairy in the NW, but there are several Tassie sour creams available) that we got to dip the warm spelt bread into…yum!

If you are feeling sad that you missed out on this fantastic workshop, don’t worry, there are still several more Tassievore events coming up, including the Tassievore cook-off this weekend in Moonah!  Learn how to use all sorts of Tassie ingredients and try 9 different Tassievore dishes made while you watch and ask questions.  It will be lots of fun and there are still tickets available, so please get your ticket now!

The Living Local Feast is also coming up (13 April).  A gourmet 3-course fundraising dinner for Sustainable Living Tasmania, featuring 100% Tasmanian ingredients.  Below are some photos from the last 2 years feasts.  It is pretty amazing and there are still tickets available, but they are going quick!  Don’t miss out!

57 42 Main course dessert

We are also planning workshops in the South, North and North West in May to share some of our tips and tricks for incorporating more Tassie goodness into your daily life.  These workshops have been made possible by an Earn Your Stars Grant that we recieved from the Tasmanian Climate Change Office. Details to be confirmed over the coming weeks.  We also got funding to collate a “where to get it” resource to help finding Tasmanian food easier for people.  Do you have a local shop or market that has a great range of Tassie goods? if so, please let us know about it by commenting below or email lissa@slt.org.au

I hope you are enjoying the challenge!

 

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The (unlikely) tale of ‘Ninja’ the workplace Ginger

Ninja the Ginger

A Team Tassievore member (who shall remain nameless) recently noticed that a piece of ginger she had left sitting on her desk at work was sprouting a small but enthusiastic green stem.

Knowing very little about the needs and desires of a baby tropical plant, she made the unorthodox decision to stick it in a pot of soil and leave it in the care of yours truly. I’m not saying this was a bad idea, I’m just saying that it was me who wrote the post a couple of months ago about killing mint which was in a pot on my balcony.

So you will understand my surprise, dear readers, that I was given the (unofficial) role of godmother to our ginger baby. After in-depth research into the needs of tropical plants (i.e. spending 5 minutes on google)  I found out that Ninja the workplace ginger will need a warm, humid atmosphere and good drainage. Instead he gets the arctic chill of an overenthusiastic air conditioner, and no drainage whatsoever. I have no idea how Ninja  is still going, but each morning as I come in to work I find him looking taller and happier – he even unfurled his first leaf this morning!

I’m rather worried about upsetting this tenuous relationship that Ninja and I are developing, so I’m putting out the call to my Team Tassievore friends. Have you grown ginger before? Perhaps you’ve grown some other tropical plant. If you have any handy tips for me, please help!

 

 

Zucchinis…. Zucchinis… Zucchinis… My bittersweet nightmare!

zucchini plant 

Every year, I make the same mistake. I really only need two zucchini plants to feed my household, share some with my neighbours, and delight in the delicacy of stuffed zucchini flowers… Alas, I was lazy this year; I purchased a punnet of seedlings (instead of propagating from seed) which had 5 very healthy looking plants in it.  I couldn’t find anyone to share them with, couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, and so planted the lot… What was I thinking?!?

I also try very hard to maintain my zero produce waste policy in my garden, and so now am overwhelmed with what I have diagnosed as zucchini induced anxiety. I think most backyard gardeners will know where I am coming from!

There is no cure, symptoms will persist until zucchini production slows (probably late march?). 

So far, my strategies for allaying symptoms have been:

  • First and foremost, trying to get out to the garden every day to harvest them, one missed day could mean a huge zucchini, and double the quantity to use= double the anxiety!
  • Zucchini slice (of course), I think I’m up to batch #5
  • Grilled zucchini with melted cheese (a match made in heaven)
  • Steamed zucchini with everything
  • Zucchini and haloumi fritters
  • Zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese and anything else
  • Pan fried garlicky, buttery zucchini goodness
  • Chocolate zucchini cake (using the ‘spice’ cocoa and honey)
  • Zucchini pasta
  • Bringing zucchini into the office for colleagues to take home
  • Visiting neighbours (although, they are more often than not trying to give them away as well…)

 What do you do with excess zucchini?  Posting any ideas you have as a comment would be really, really great – I’m desperate! There is only so much zucchini slice one little tassievore can eat…!!

zucchini flowers choc zucchini cake

Bushfire – a Tassievore’s tale

My start to 2013 included a week long, family holiday in a house near Port Arthur (Tasman Peninsula). It was a much anticipated trip as my brother and his wife and kids were joining us from NSW and some dear friends had leant us a stand-up paddle-board to play with! We certainly didn’t anticipate the way things turned out.

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The paddle board kept the kids highly entertained

After 24 hours enjoying the usual holiday house luxuries such as flushing loos, cold beer and lights at the flick of a switch, the fires burnt out the power lines that supply the Tasman Peninsula and we were suddenly glamping (camping with flywire screens and comfy beds). Along with other visitors and locals we found ourselves having to haul water to flush loos and wash dishes and use torches and candles after dark. Despite the change to our plans we realised how lucky we were to be safe from the fires and comfortable and the kids (mostly) adapted to the loss of their electronic entertainment.

One side of the fire situation that interested me was the issue of food (surprise, surprise). On a personal level, we had brought plenty of fresh supplies to suit the varied dietary requirements of the family (vegan/coeliac/FODMAP intolerant) but clearly, without access to ice/refrigeration, there was a need to use up as much as possible before it became inedible. The last thing we wanted was 10 people dashing to bucket-flushed toilets due to food poisoning.

We swiftly cooked up the frozen veges, left by the shack owners, into a soup that we figured could be left out for a day or two in the manner of our pre-electricity forebears and spread our sole bag of ice into three eskis with salt water to lengthen the shelf life of our milk/yoghurt/cheese and fresh veg.

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my little one helping to cart water for washing up (we carried up a big bucket but at least he felt useful)

The 40 degree temps rapidly sucked away the residual cold from the fridge and it was ceremonially renamed:  ‘the frantry’.

We were fortunate to have arrived with cars stacked with non-perishable foods, and the holiday house cooktop ran on gas, so we only had to buy extra snacks (muesli bars, tinned fruit, UHT custard), UHT/powdered milk and matches to make ourselves pretty comfortable.

After a couple of days the evacuation centres at Nubeena and Port Arthur were heaving with generously donated food and water, and locals with fuel to spare were turning up on our doorstep with mini UHT milks, bread and fruit for the kids.

Some houses were hooked up to generators, which I suspect were safe-guarding their frozen goods and fridge supplies, but many must have had to throw out a large quantity of spoilt food. In addition the growers on the peninsula who rely on pumps to water their crops would have had to make some difficult decisions as to which varieties to focus their attention on (hand carting water or limited watering with generator support).

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Carnarvon Bay community meeting – information was hard to come by without power and only sporadic mobile reception

The main realisation for me from my experiences during the fire is how vulnerable we are to power/fuel loss in our modern day communities. Without power our perishable foods would only last a day or two and most people, especially in isolated areas without good public transport and shops, rely on fuel to gain access to these foods in the first place. In our Tasman Peninsula scenario people with vegie patches, off-grid solar, gas bottles and water tanks with hand pump back up and header tanks would have been relatively comfortable, as would those who preserve their own food.

At least I am heartened by the knowledge that our Tassievore community is doing it’s best to support our communities to reduce the reliance of our current food supply on carbon by: encouraging home-grown fruit and veg; reducing food miles by linking Tasmanians with Tasmanian grown produce, and providing re-skilling workshops to teach us all how to use and preserve the great foods we have available.

I am also inspired by the amazing work that volunteers and emergency service personnel do everyday and especially when times are tough.

Dear Santa – all I want for Christmas is for my pink eyes to grow bigger

Given that growing food is the first part of my Tassievore challenge mantra (If I can’t grow it myself, I’ll buy it from a Tasmanian that can.  If it doesn’t grow here, I’ll buy it from a Tasmanian who sells it) I really need to get you up to speed on what’s happening in my garden.  This is my first garden blog and I’ve got lots to report.  First off, here’s a chart that maps out my knowledge of gardening.

mount stupid

As king of mount stupid, I’m going to dispense wisdom and advice on all things green and growy, despite the fact this is my first growing season.  I’ve killed a few token herb pots in my time, but clearing a patch, improving the soil, planting and fostering seed!? Newb.

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Here’s the current run down on my garden – good, bad, ugly.

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Bed Alexis – the good, bad and ugly all present in this bed, I’ve some excellent Florence fennel and a cousin of Quinoa (keen – wah) called Huauzontle (wah – zont – lay) doing really well.  Huauzontle flower buds are used similar to spinach and broccoli, can’t wait to try them out!  The rest of bed A was cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli (including broccoli rabe, my favourite) and Asian greens but they were riddled by cabbage moth.  Dammit.  Oh I recently popped the herb hyssop into this bed, but am unsure what to do with it when it takes off.

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Bed Bernice – A bean arbour, some thriving lettuce (home grown tastes the best!!) and some tomatoes under poly, bed B seems to get the best sun/ water ratio as the calendula marigolds planted  to attract good bugs, deter nasties were flowering here well before beds A and C.

Work it Tony!

Work it Tony!

I learnt a bit about poly tunnels and using poly at a Sprout Tasmania workshop a few months back – inspiring stuff.

Bed Celeste – Kale (largely Tuscan, largely destroyed by cabbage moth), snow peas, more lettuce and lots of herbs in this one.  I think I should have interspersed the herbs with the veg as they can function similar to the marigolds, but!  A quick search online showed me some herbs help veggies (chives and carrots) promoting growth and some deter growth (sage and cucumber), so now I’m unsure.  Bed C also has some immature asparagus crowns that may be ready next year.

Bit on the side – water cress, rhubarb and garden mint all growing well together.  There was some oregano here too, but the mint has already crushed it.

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Roots – slow going in the root box, leeks were the first thing I planted in the garden and they still look like well-spaced chives.  The parsnips failed completely but the carrots are looking promising and I’ve already harvested the radish.  I do have some big healthy turnips ready to pull but no idea what to do with them.

PP1 – I’m not doing to well with the pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers, I’ve had a number of batches grown from seed and seedling up and die on me.  Slowly the mounds I built are being taken up by easier to grow lemon balm, strawberries, a chocolate mint (found it at the farm gate market last weekend – curious to see how it goes!) and a basil mint.

Maria the safe harbour – located far far away from the other veg this is a reserve patch of pumpkins just in case the others are dying due to facial tumour disease.

Cane Lane – 24 canes = half a handful of raspberries and 24 dead brown sticks.  I did something very wrong here and need to investigate!  The jost and blueberry survive.

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The Orchard – some very old fruit trees with variable levels of fruit production.  I share a lot of these with the parrots as they were here first. The chooks are in under the trees.

Potatoes – 4 rows of pink eyes and one of dutch creams!  South arm pink eyes became available 6 weeks ago, but mine are still babies – hopefully I’ll be able to harvest some for Christmas day.

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Bees and Shroom bags – these are great, I bought 12 bags and continued to water the tops every day.  I had a good run of swiss brown mushrooms for a month – more than enough for a family of 4 as I was giving them away.  The water that collects at the bottom of the bags has run through organic matter and chook poop and whatever else makes a nice liquid fertiliser.  Once the mushrooms seem exhausted, I’ve been using all that organic material in beds to prepare the soil for things that like a lot of organic matter – my tomatoes for instance.

That’s it I think!  I get a lot of garden envy when comparing to a few more experienced friends (Ray, Alex and Louise I mean you) but the experience so far has been really worthwhile – I’m constantly learning, I’m constantly eating, and I’m constantly popping down to see what’s grown.  I’ll have to check the Peter Cundall guide for what happens next, I might get a few more rounds of some of the faster vegetables or plant out some frost sensitive options I haven’t thought about yet. Good times ahead for growing your own!

Feedback via the blog comments hugely appreciated if you’ve spotted a problem or want to share how your garden is going this year  – if you have the space and the time gardening is an excellent way to fulfill your Tassievore Challenge!