Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A Year in the garden and on the Blog.

This week celebrates the first birthday of this blog. Diane and I would like to thank all those who have visited and helped us to get up and running in this new [to us] media.
We would also like thank all those who made comments on our, and their own blogs and to the many members of the media that have written about their experiences while dining with us. Cheers.
Also thanks to all those who asked the Magic Robot he’s working on the current batch of culinary questions now, and will respond in private to all and on the blog to the ones he thinks are suitable.
The most common question asked by real visitors as opposed to the virtual ones is, how much produce you grow?
The short answer is as much as possible but this anniversary is probably a good opportunity to have a close look at what really happened in the garden over the last 12 months.
And also to remember that we have about half the water storage for the coming year as compared to this time last year.

The garlic crop last year was about 50kilos but this year as we saved all the good seed stock and it should yield over 150kg. We will be picking in earnest in a couple of weeks.
I remember buying the original garlic seed in about 1988. After a big night in Melbourne I decided to go out to Footscray wholesale market in search of seed garlic. We had been out to a mates big-number birthday bash and were dressed more for the cocktail bar than the market so when I asked a couple of traders if they had any seed garlic it must have triggered a code response as I was ushered to the back of a stand and very quietly shown a box with some hessian bags covering the contents. When the bags were removed I saw 2 small shiny chrome pistols. It must have been the suit.
I politely declined but asked if they had any seed garlic? With a gruff expression of disappointment we were escorted out of the stand and pointed in another direction and told to ask for Tony at the other end of the market where we were sold the original garlic stock that still grows today. Forget about it!

The olive grove yielded over 65 litres this year and even after a serious pruning the flowers, now blooming, suggest that it will be considerably more next year. We had to prune the under branches to prevent scale from getting established. Its quite hard to prune large branches full of flowers and the promise of lots of oil but it had to be done and the trees look better for it, magnificent in full bloom. We use the oil for the table, for finishing dishes and for special salads. There is still 20 litres of Arbequina oil left so we should only have a couple of months without it. Next years’ crop should see us through.
We planted 200 tomato plants last month mostly from our own seeds and we still have about 40 litres of tomato passata in Fowler's jars till we can pick our own. We do not use tomatoes on the menu until they are ripe here. The last of the dried tomatoes are being used with the last of the cumquat vinegar for an agro dolce stock served with some lightly cured free range turkey slowly baked in the wood oven.
All the spiced and brandied cumquats are finished and sadly the cumquat trees look bare this year.
But we do have a few neighbours with big cumquat trees and I suspect garlic will be the exchange used to barter for them.

The white peach tree is loaded and looks like providing a bumper crop again with the harvest due around the New Year. The frozen white peach Bellini mix used for sorbet lasted till about 2 months ago. This tree is magnificent. I cannot remember the variety as it was planted over 20 years ago and it still yields without fail each year in great abundance. I should try to get Paul, who helps in the garden, to graft some of it onto the other trees that don’t yield quite so well.
The asparagus patch is over 20 years old, about the length of a cricket pitch, and has provided enough asparagus over the last 3 months to be able to put a set entree for up to a hundred serves each week. I think this week will be the last one harvested and it will be allowed to go to fern to feed the rootstock for next year.
The dry weather has meant the artichokes have been not at their best but we will separate them and hopefully next year might be a bit better. They can yield 2 or even 3 crops a year but we just don’t have the water to keep irrigating them.

The sorrel beds have had a number one haircut and are starting to come back after a 3 week holiday.
We have rediscovered the joy of sorrel , which like lovage [also doing well] are hard to find in the markets.
On the other side of the ledger we have lost the white strawberries, the cape gooseberries, the ground cherries and some of the perennial chillies to the big dry. But the tomatillos are back self seeded again. The most searched for ingredient on this site has been for Tomatillo. There is still time to plant them. I will post some recipes as they ripen in March.
All the self seeded salad leaves from last season are now finishing. We had cos red and green, miner’s lettuce, endive, radicchio, oak leaf, curly green and red lettuce and many more all year and are planting now as the mulching has slowed the strike rate of self seeded plants considerably. The true wild rocket or Ruchetta is getting us through along with the edible succulents like aptenia and rock samphire which come into their own in the drier months. Hopefully the purslane will also come back with a vengeance. The Japanese strawberries are struggling as are all the berries but we will make up last years’ red currants that have been macerating sous vide in brandy, into crème de cassis and cassis sorbet in the next week or so. Bellini? or Kir Royale? Its a hard call.
Paradoxically the Josta berries are looking full of fruit and should be a good foil for some duck or turkey over the summer?
The white and Morello cherries look good now, they often fall prey to a number of pests and diseases but you never know. I will post again to alert you to the pick your own season at Ken Campbell’s farm at Mount Duneed [ see side bar under Morello] from last year. Just after Christmas we picked over 40kg spiced and brandied and they lasted till about a month ago. I will make a lot more this year along with the Morello molasses that came in so useful in the dessert section.
The quinces and medlars are pretty reliable and we are still using last year’s preserved quinces, paste and medlar paste on the menu.
The plums trees look a bit grim so no home cured prunes this year, the green gage will only last for a week or so this year but the pears are living up to the variety Sensation [al]
The apples look great and have lasted dried till about a month ago.
We have only one table grape vine, an old variety very perfumed and sweet that is looking very good and full of minute bunches. I should plant more grapes as they don’t require a lot of water.
Most of the citrus looks disastrous and need a wind break to save them but the new pistachio, persimmon and pomegranate trees are blooming.
We are still using the last of the frozen Charentais melon pulp for sorbets and this week we plant more, along with the cucumbers [very good last year], squash, pumpkin, eggplant, parsnips, beetroot, and whatever else self seeds over the next month. We will have to hand water all the garden this year.
The lack of water and how to make the most of what water there is, continues to be the most important part of life here. Do we try and dig for a bore? Do we connect to the mains water?
Hard questions, which the whole country is facing together.
Shower with a friend


Ed said...

Congratulations on one year. I've thorougly enjoyed it and look forward to visiting again. Next time you are in town overnight we should catch up for that drink. Cheers

Thermomixer said...

Congratulations. Hopefully many more years to come. You are doing a fantastic job as usual with the garden - the variety is wonderful. Hope we get some rain.

health cover said...

Wow! fresh berries and fresh plums. I wish i have those in my own garden..

Duncan | syrupandtang said...

Well done! It's been enjoyable reading about the developments and ideas, and the list of fruit and veg is inspiring:)

Another Outspoken Female said...

A belated congrats on your first year. I loved the Footscray market story :)

Hope you got the recent rain. I swear every plant in my tiny city garden doubled in size last weekend, so yours could be looking like something out of The Day of the Triffids by now!

Maybe I will get to visit you in the flesh in the coming year.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Outspoken,
Yes we got a magnificent 65 mm I will post on what this means as soon as this weekend is wrapped up.