Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

A Melon By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet

They may have been tiny this year but they weren’t short on flavour!

Eden’s Gem Rockmelon

Today I sent my rockmelon plants off to the compost but not before I harvested the last fruit of the season. This was a very strange crop indeed. The fruit were much much smaller than I imagined they would be. These were meant to be ‘Edens Gem’ rockmelon. Well, they were… but they weren’t softball sized as they should have been. They were like little rockmelon berries. Well, technically they are – botanically, rockmelons are modified berries or pepoes. Theres an interesting fact for you!

I think that this was a seed issue as the plant was quite healthy and the fruit were amazing (albeit so very very small).

Now, I want to put this out there because this was a total revelation to me: unripe rockmelon make an amazing substitute for cucumber! Yes indeedy!

When I pulled up the vine there were a few immature fruit still hanging there. Curiosity got the better of me so, I cut into them to see what I would find. Naturally I had to have a little taste. It was just like cucumber, only sweeter. So, into the salad they went.

I think I know what I’ll be doing with my melons next year! (oh behave!)

Have you ever grown Eden’s Gem?

How did you fare?

Pobblebonk

I found a visitor under a bale of straw in the orchard. Its a Pobblebonk (also known as an Eastern Banjo Frog). This guy was quite big, about the size of my palm. I’ve heard them out the back before but this is the first time I’ve actually seen one. How lovely!

Limnodynastes dumerili - Pobblebonk

Frogs of Australia have sound bytes of their calls click here. You can use these sound bytes to identify the frogs you hear around your yard.

Give it a go.

How To Propagate Strawberries

Ok folks here is a very quick and cheap way to get new strawberry plants for free!

During late summer – early autumn you will notice your strawberry plants sending out long stems that have a knobbly clusters like you see in the picture below.

Strawberry stolons or "runners".

These are often referred to as “runners” or in botany we call them “stolons“. Quite simply they are a specialised above ground shoots that emit roots, allowing stoloniferous plants, like strawberries, to colonise themselves.

Strawberry stolon

Strawberry stolon. Roots forming.

It is best not to propagate too many stolons from each plant as this can exhaust the parent plant and weaken the growth of your developing runners. I think four is plenty.

To propagate your own strawberries you will need:

  • a pot or tray
  • some potting mix or compost
  • a pin
  • Or if you don’t have a pin you can use a piece of thick wire and some wire cutters.

You can easily make your own pins from an old coat hanger just as I have done below.

Old coat hanger wire cut into short pieces.

Bend the wire over the wire cutters.

Now you have pegs.

DIY pins.

First fill your pot or tray with potting mix or compost. Pat it down with the palm of your hand so that it is level and firm. This will give the roots something to grab on to.

Fill your tray/pot with potting mix or compost.

Now take your stolons and place them on your filled tray or pot.

Stolons in place.

Pin it into place on top of the potting mix. You want the stolons to be fixed firmly in place so that the base of the stolon is in contact with the potting mix.

Insert your pin to anchor stolon.

When your new plants have developed a good root system you will see the roots through the holes at the bottom of your pot or tray (this can take around 3 weeks).

Cut your new plant free from the parent plant, making sure that you cut nice and close to the base. This will prevent the spent stem from rotting and potentially harming your new plant.

Cut close to the base.

And there you have it! New strawberries from old plants!

Naturally, if your strawberries are in the ground and you want to propagate them direct into your soil you can do so. I would advise you to pull back your straw and pin the runners into place where it suits you, not where it suits the plant. It is your garden after all!

Of course you can grow from seed or division but this truly is the easiest way to propagate. Also, propagating in this way means that you will produce clones of the parent plant and this is great because then you know exactly what kind of fruit will get when the plant matures.

If you don’t have your own plants to propagate from have no shame asking a friend or neighbour that does. Remember, love is sharing!

Bottled Tomatoes

Since we’ve reached that part of the season when we’ve eaten just about all of the tomatoes we can handle I figured it was time to show you how we preserve our tomatoes.

My family have been preserving tomatoes for at least the past 80 years (that we know of) and as yet Ol’Pauly and I are the only ones from our generation to continue the tradition. Its something that we both love to do and we’re more than happy to share the process with anyone who wants to learn.

We use Fowlers Vacola jars for our preserves because they are of the highest quality.

Standard jar next to Fowlers Vacola jar. Note the thick rim of the Fowlers Vacola jar.

As you can see they are very thick glass and although they are on the expensive side ($3-4.50 per jar) they are most definitely a worthwhile investment as they do last a long time. Some of the jars that we are using today were handed down to us and are at least 50 years old.

If you use Fowlers jars I recommend that you follow our family rule: The jars are for family only! I have made the mistake of loaning them to a friend who threw the jars in the recycling bin! In our family we have a clear understanding that: these jars are like boomarangs – they come back! And at the end of each year there is a big round up of all of the jars so people know to expect a knock at the door.

Of course, you can do this with ‘standard’ jars that you’ve recycled from the supermarket. However, you will need to buy new lids often, as they don’t last very long. I use these jars for the preserves I put aside for friends. I do this so that I don’t have to worry about tracking them down afterwards. The process is essentially the same as for the Fowlers jars.

Before you get started:

Ensure that you have all of the equipment that you need for processing your tomatoes. This equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before use.

!! Never mind if you know you have cleaned it before you put it away last. All equipment must be washed immediately prior to use!!

You need to fastidiously clean your jars, lids and rings. Use a scrubbing brush or a bottle brush, and hot soapy water. I add a bit of bleach to the water too.

Then rinse in hot water with a splodge of white vinegar. The vinegar does two things: it assists in the sterilisation of your equipment and it also helps to remove soapy residue. This will leave your jars shiny and streak free.

Note: You do not have to use heat to sterilise Fowlers Vacola jars. They simply need to be very clean.

Thoroughly rinse all food items that will go into your bottles in clean water. Drain and set aside. In this case that would be your tomatoes and any herbs that you may be adding to your bottles.

Ensure that all of your equipment is placed in their appropriate positions ready for the processing to start.

OK – Here we go:

Fill your pot with water and bring it to a gentle boil.

Score the skin of all of your tomatoes by cutting a small X in the bottom. Set aside.

Blanch the tomatoes by placing them into the boiling water for only a minute or two. The aim is not to cook the tomatoes. We just want to loosen the skin so that it comes away easily when the tomatoes are plunged into the cold water.

Now is a good time to place your rings into a bowl of warm water, where they should rest for at least 15 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the pot with a colander or sieve and plunge them into a bucket of cold water. This will encourage their skins to begin peeling off.

Peel all of the tomatoes, placing their skins in a scrap bucket and placing the skinned tomatoes aside.

It is at this point that you will chop or puree the tomatoes if you prefer not to bottle them whole.

Now we go over to our clean jars. Place the wet rings into the grove on the outer rim of the jars, making sure that it is on evenly and that there are no twists in the ring. The rings should remain wet.

Just under the rim there is a groove where the ring sits. Pull the ring into this position.

The ring is in position.

A twist in the ring. Always correct twists in the rings as they will prevent lids forming a seal.

Place the jam funnel in the opening of your bottle. This is to ensure that the rim of your jar is absolutely clean. If there is any residue, no matter how tiny, it could prevent the lid forming a seal.

Pour a little water or juice into the jar, about 1/3 full should do. Packing the fruit into liquid helps to eliminate large pockets of air.

As you pack the tomatoes into the jar neatly place any herbs you prefer in and around the fruit. Presentation is always important of course! 😉 Note: I forgot to pack the basil into this lot. Oops!

While the funnel is in place add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per 500ml jar (1/2 tsp to 750ml, or 3/4 to a Lt), or if you are using lemon juice that’s 2tsp per 500ml jar (1 tbsp to 750ml or 2 tbsp to a Lt)

Top the jars up to within 1 cm of the lid of preserving liquid, whether that be water or juice. Don’t fill them any higher!

Double check that the rim of the jar is completely clean.

Place the lids on top of the jars so that they are level and snap on the clips. Or if you are using standards jars, screw on the lids.

If you have a preserving unit like the one below place the bottles into the unit and fill to 5cm above the jars with cold water (or tepid water for standard jars). Turn the unit on.

Fowlers Vacola preserving unit.

If you don’t have a preserving unit, place the jars into an empty pot with a cake rack sitting inside the pot. (The cake rack prevents the bubbles rattling the jars, which can cause them to break). Put your jars into position and fill to 5cm above the jars with cold water (or tepid water for standard jars).

A large stainless steel pot with a round cake rack placed at the bottom.

The jars must be completely submerged at all times in order for the jars to form a seal.

You need to bring the water to a rolling boil. This should take approximately 1hr. If the water boils before the hour is up don’t allow it to boil for more than 5min before switching off the unit or turning off the heat (pot).

**If you are using standard jars DO NOT use cold water to submerge hot jars as you risk breaking the glass!**

Using your bottle tongs, carefully remove the tomatoes from the water and place on a cooling rack or towel that has been spread over your bench.

Allow the jars to cool completely, undisturbed for 12 hrs.

Check that seals are all in tact. If all is well, label your jars with product name and the date of processing. If there are lids that did not seal you may need a new ring or lid. Replace and reboil.

How was that? Helpful?

If you’re interested, I run workshops on gardening and preserving the harvest. These workshops are aimed at teaching people how to do all sorts of practical things just as you see here at EveryDayInTheGarden. If you’d like to join one of my workshops please send me a message via the contact form and I will keep you up to date with any upcoming events. I also host “Garden Parties” for small groups throughout the year. I like to think of them like Tupperware parties but, for practical skills, knowledge and yummy cakes.

Speaking of cake:  Just in case you missed my post last year about tomato cake, now is the perfect time to make one. I swear it doesn’t taste savoury, it’s a little like carrot cake. My tip for serving it to friends is this: Don’t tell people what it is before they’ve tried it. Ask them to tell you what they think it is! I’ve experimented with this many times. If you tell people its tomato cake, they’ll turn their noses up at it. However, if they don’t know before they try it a) they never guess what it is and b) they all love it!

Are you preserving your harvest? Let me know what you’re preserving.

Summer Herbs II

This post is for Alexa who wrote to me asking for more information regarding summer herbs. I thought that many of you might find this topic interesting so I have posted my response here for everyone’s benefit.

That reminds me that it is time to give my Thyme a haircut!

Alexa – hi Im in high school and I need to do this hospitality project, part of it is that I have to name 5 summer herbs but Im struggling to find any! I was wondering if you could list a few for me it would really help me, thanx 🙂

Hi Alexa,

Thanks for your question. I can see how this could be quite confusing as there is a lot of talk about herbs on the Internet but, mostly the information is non-specific in terms of their seasonal classification. It can also be tricky in some parts of the world, like here in Australia, where we don’t necessarily have clearly defined seasons. In cold climates for example it would be much easier to tell that you have “summer herbs” because they would be the ones that either can’t survive in winter or go dormant during that time. However, in my garden that is not quite so evident – because many of the perennial herbs that would, in a cold climate garden, go completely dormant, don’t. Sure, they start to look a little tired and die back a bit but, after a good prune they reshoot and continue to grow into the autumn and winter. Mint, sage and oregano are just a few of those continual growing “summer herbs” that I have in my garden.

So, I would say that “summer herbs” are those that like the warmer weather and do most of their growing during the spring and summer months. They are herbs that we plant in the spring to enjoy harvesting during the summer. They will often be the type of herbs that die down at the end of summer (but, not always!) or in the case of perennials, ones that need to be cut back hard before the frost arrives.

One place that might give you a good clue as to which are “summer herbs” and which are “winter herbs” is to look at a few recipe books. For example mint is one of those herbs that is used a lot in summer dishes and drinks. Pineapple sage and lemongrass are beautiful in fruity, summer iced teas and are also a nice accompaniment to bottled fruits like peaches. Basil is another important summer herb – very often teamed with fresh tomato dishes because they share the same growing and harvesting seasons and also because of their naturally superb flavour combination.

The following are some of the summer herbs that I have growing here in my garden. I have listed their Common names and their Botanical names for easy reference. I hope this helps.

Jodi

Every Day In The Garden’s Summer Herb List:

  • Basil Ocimum basilicum
  • Chamomile Matricaria recutita
  • Chives Allium schoenoprasum
  • Comfrey Symphytum officinale
  • Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
  • Horseradish (or Seeradish) Armoracia rusticana
  • Mint Mentha spicata
  • Oregano Oreganum spp.
  • Lavendar lavandular angustifolia
  • Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
  • Lovage Levisticum officinale
  • Parsley Petroselinum crispum
  • Pineapple Sage Salvia elegens
  • Summer Savory Satureja hortensis

I’m back!

I’m well and truly up and out of bed now and for the first time in many, many weeks I have been back out working in my garden. If you’re still with me, thank you so very much for your patience!

I have been out in the garden from time to time but I didn’t have the energy to actually do anything except sit and enjoy my girls company. Bless my girls! While I was in bed they were right there outside my bedroom window keeping me company and keeping me entertained. And Chickie was there with me too as always =)

See:

The girls sunning themselves outside my bedroom window.

So, I have quite a lot to catch up on. Yes indeed! I’ll tell you all about as I tackle it throughout the next week or two.

My poor vegetable garden is in a very sad state. It is getting very empty now as Autumn is upon us. I have been out and cut out all of the veg that had gone to seed or was totally neglected in my absence. I cleared out my tomatoes yesterday – the earliest that I have ever done this! They were not happy and had endured an unprecedented attack by the birds. We have however, had a fairly good crop all things considered. So, there will be bottled tomatoes to come – watch this space! But for now I am off to make a Tomato Cake. See you soon!

Visitor of the Month

Isn’t this Jewel Bug or Metallic Shield Bug (Scutiphora pedicellata) beautiful?

Sorry about the blurry head. It was so windy that I was lucky to get shots as clear as this. Oh and it really wasn’t all that happy about me taking photos either.

Ok – for the nerds among us (yes, that’s me too!) here are the particulars:

Kingdom: Animalia (naturally!)

Phylum: Arthropoda

Sub-phylum: Hexapoda (that covers all creatures with 6 legs and antennae)

Class: Insecta

Order: Hemiptera

Sub-order: Heteroptera

Family: Scutelleridae

If you want to see these guy’s in their other stages of life go to Morewell National Park‘s website.

Someone was a bit shy!

Jewel Bugs are sap suckers that feed on a number of different plants, including some food crops. I haven’t had any problems with them in my garden do date. Therefore, I treat them as very welcome visitors. This particular bug has been hanging out on a potato that sprouted in my leafy greens bed.

Why is this a “Bug” not a beetle? Well, these guys, those of the order Hemiptera have four membraneous wings beneath their scutellum as opposed to beetles who only have two. Also, these guy’s have what I would best describe as a “Ute Lid” styled scutellum. Beetles have a dual scutellum that has a split down the middle which, when they take flight, open up more like gull-wing doors.

Come to think of it, Herbie really was more of a “Love Beetle” than a “Love Bug”. Maybe if Herbie was a Ute…

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