Saturday, 15 March 2008


For the last eight years we have been decidedly seedy gardeners. Without the pressures of a restaurant to supply the garden has for the most part grown itself.
While the restaurant was going ten seasons of kitchen gardening had left us with a very big self seeding vegetable patch that more than adequately supplied our, and our mates' needs. Plants once in neat rows now popped up in the most unexpected places. Tomatoes under the olives, asparagus in the artichoke beds, fennel with the garlic. All this in a rather romantic state of semi-controlled chaos. We kept on collecting seeds just in case plants like the poppies bought on our first trip to France decided to stop growing. A frightening prospect. Not only have they grown but crossed with each other into the most extraordinary combinations that surprise and delight each year. Diane collects the seeds and carefully stores them for the next season. We have lost some varieties though, the white wild strawberries that seemed to seed so prolifically have disappeared in the big dry but luckily one of our friends has now got more than they need. We regularly get calls from guests who have grown our plants from cuttings or seed asking how to prepare them.

The joys of sharing seeds.

Some seeds are also picked for cooking. fennel, coriander, lovage, caraway and such but some seeds are also useful when green like these nasturtiums "fruit" that will dry into mature seedpods..

They are moist, crunchy, and peppery like horseradish perfect for a surprising addition to salads and sauces.

This year a little more order is required as the full potential of the garden is again to be realised.
Picking ripeness is an art in itself and a little local knowledge is priceless. Take tomatoes for instance. The large beefsteak varieties if left to fully ripen on the vine can become floury but if you pick them when just red they ripen to a magnificent moist sweetness.

Pears also get very floury if fully ripened on the tree, they need to be picked when they easily separate from the branch and left to ripen in the kitchen. These ones are
Mock’s Red Williams quite aptly re-named Sensation for marketing purposes.

The most difficult fruit to pick ripeness in are the olives. Most Australian consultants tell you to pick them black, fully ripened for the best yield of oil. On the other hand most high quality European olive growers advise picking them when just changing from green to red and a fascinating equation is offered to get it right.
Take 100 random olive samples from the crop and assign a number to each starting from 0 for the least mature deep dark green to 7 for the ripest black skin and black flesh. Multiply the number of olives in each grade by the number of its ripeness add all the numbers together and divide by 100. The optimum result is supposed to be 5.
But here over the last 3 seasons the cockatoos seem to be the perfect actuaries. When the cockies strike we harvest. The greener the fruit the better the flavour, that is if you like strong spicy oil. The small loss of yield is more than made up for by the intensity of taste.

The cooking class program is up at this link Starting in the second week in May.
If anyone has a better calendar that can enable photos and recipes to be added please send me a link it looks a bit OfficeWorks at the moment.


Anonymous said...

Jeeze I'ts good to to look at pictures of fresh harvest. We are struggling into spring here and the only thing green in my handkerchief plot is the garlic which seemed to enjoy i'ts weekly blanket of snow and occaisional solid freezing. However new seeds are planted and shoots will show soon. I spent days poring over the seed catalogue from seed savers wondering which of their 13,ooo odd varieties to sow and am dissapointed that I can only fit about ten in my plot. Clancy

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

We may be rooned if rain don't come. At this stage we'll even take snow if its wet!

RG said...

Thanks for sharing the olive ripeness formula, George. Fascinating. In the time it would take me to do those calculations, the olives would have ripened considerably.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

That's why we have cockatoos