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?

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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

Rainy Day Activity #3

Ok, its raining outside and you’re looking for any excuse to stay indoors. Well, I have a great activity for you to do while you’re sitting down watching Ellen /when you’re not dancing that is!

Tomato Ties!

Yes indeed. You can make your own tomato/any-plant ties while you’re sitting in front of the TV and you don’t need to buy any fancy materials to do it!

To make your tomato ties you will need:

A sharp pair of fabric scissors

An old t-shirt or any other light knitted fabric like jersey. Scrabbies will come in quite handy here. What’s a Scrabby I hear you ask? According to “The Meaning Liff*” – a Scrabby. (noun) is a curious-shaped duster given to you by your mother which upon closer inspection turns out to be half an underpant.

Stretchy fabric. Note that from thumb to thumb is "across the knit".

Now for the fun stuff:

If you are using an old garment, first cut off all of the seams so that you are left with clean pieces of fabric that, you could stitch back together to make a slightly smaller garment than before. No, no, we mustn’t get distracted!

Don’t throw away those seams! You can use them as ties too.

Now quite simply cut your fabric into strips, cutting across the knit so that you are left with stretchy strips that when pulled will curl inwards. I usually cut mine about 2cm wide by about 20cm in length. Suit yourself though as I usually use my eyeometer. You can make them wider or longer just not shorter or they won’t allow you to tie them securely.

When tying my plants I usually use what I believe is called a half bow knot. Particularly when tying tomatoes. Now, this will be interesting explaining how to do a half bow knot without a video handy. Here we go: You need to imagine that you were tying a bow in the usual manner except that when you get to the final loop you push the whole piece through so that you are left with one loop and two tails. You can then pull on the tail of the existing loop to release the knot without the need for scissors. How was that? Give it a few goes on your big toe first. Yes, I was tying it on my big toe while I was writing that description. Haha I told you there would be no fancy materials needed!

It is best to dispose of the ties after each use as they can harbor diseases that you don’t want to spread to other plants in your garden.

So now you can get a years worth of plant ties and recycle your old clothes AND you don’t even have to leave the front door!

Yay for you!

* The Meaning of Liff is a very funny dictionary of words which describe common objects or situations for which no word previously existed. The Meaning of Liff written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (two men who, I am positive, enjoy their whiskey).

Strawberry Cake

Oh yeah, I told you that this was going to be a show-stopper!

And yes, it tastes even better than it looks!

I would normally use a 22cm spring tin for this recipe however, in this case I opted to make one med sized cake (about 18cm) and a couple of small cakes in my little 10cm springform tins (great for two people to share). Why did I do this? Well, my brother can sniff out a cake about 10km’s away and I didn’t want to have to send him home with a cut piece because frankly, this cake looks so lovely uncut. Naturally Paul and I enjoyed a sneaky half and that still left us with a whole cake to take to our friends house. It was a big win-win!

The recipe:

As the ganache needs a good amount of time to cool and firm up we should start by preparing the:

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 2/3 cup of cream
  • 250g best quality white chocolate – if you can find vanilla bean white chocolate go for it!

Roughly chop your white chocolate and place it into heat-proof a mixing bowl.

Pour the cream into a saucepan and put it on a medium heat. You need to bring the cream to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the white chocolate. Leave it to sit for 1-2 minutes. Now using a spatula slowly stir it from the middle, working out to the sides of the bowl.

Put the ganache aside to cool right down and become firm. You want it to be like spreadable butter.

Now for the cake:

OK before we start on the cake I want you to preheat your oven to 180C and using some butter and baking paper, grease and line your tin/s.

Strawberry Cake

  • 3 cups of self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bi-carb soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of raw caster sugar (if you can’t get raw just use white caster sugar or just ordinary sugar)
  • 1 vanilla bean split in half and the seeds scraped or 1 tsp of concentrated vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2  cup of buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk see yesterdays post How to make your own buttermilk)
  • 2 cups of strawberry puree (take 2 fistfuls of strawberries and blend)

To finish the cake

  • 300ml extra cream, whipped – please, please, whip your cream. This is no place for that out of the can stuff. Also, there is no need to add sugar to the cream. Enjoy the freshness of the cream on its own.
  • A jar of strawberry jam – fresh is best! I used my Strawberry, Kaffir Lime and Vanilla Jam.
  • White chocolate Ganache

OK here we go:

Sift together your flour, bi-carb, baking powder and salt and put it aside.

Now cream your butter and sugar, adding your vanilla at the same time. You want your butter to become light in colour and nice and fluffy.

Turn your speed down low and add your eggs one at a time, allowing each to be well incorporated before you add the next egg.

Now mix in your buttermilk.

Then one spoon at a time, add your flour and with every couple of spoons add a dash of the pureed strawberries.

When it has all been incorporated pour the batter into your tin or tins. You could certainly do this in a cupcake pan if you would like individual portions.

Bake in a moderate oven for 35-40 min. Obviously the smaller tins will cook more quickly so keep a eye on them. Keep testing with a skewer and when it comes out clean (from the middle!) your cake is cooked. Remove the cake tin from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack for about 10 min. Once it has sufficiently cooled, remove the cake from the tin and place the cake back on the rack to cool completely.

Cut your cooled cake in half. Spread the bottom of the cake with as much of the strawberry jam as you like. Then plop a big dollop of the whipped cream in the centre of the cake, on top of the jam. Don’t spread it all out to the sides as it will ooze out when you put the top half of the cake on. The cream should be about 2 cm from the edge of the cake.

Pop your lid on and spread on your white chocolate ganache. I like to swirl around the cake but that’s just me. Do what feels right for you.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Jam with Kaffir Lime and Vanilla

You know, I have a thing for making jam! Whenever I hear of fruit that is in need of rescuing my mind goes wild with potential jam recipes. I’m cool with the traditional single fruit recipes but, I love to mix it up a bit too.

So, when I came in with a couple of kilos of strawberries recently I thought hmm… what do we have here that might be just a bit different? Well, I almost always have a few vanilla pods in the cupboard but, while I was outside picking a few limes I looked over at the Kaffir Lime tree and had an epiphany… Strawberry Jam with Kaffir Lime and Vanilla. Yeah baby!

Here it is:

Wash the strawberries quickly to get rid of any dust or critters.

Chop the fruit.

Add the sugar and vanilla. Give it a mix and leave it for 10 min.

Add the Kaffir Lime leaves.

Cook for 30 odd minutes then ladle jam into hot jars.

Check out your fancy work.

Ok lick your fingers.

Done!

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I have three rules when it comes to jam:

1. NEVER add water!!

2. Don’t walk away from it!

3. Don’t overcook it!

Jam shouldn’t be a scary thing to cook. It’s actually very easy. You just have to make sure that you are prepared before you start. It shouldn’t be something that you rush to finish. Take it slow, make it with love and you will have people lining up at your front door. You will! Be prepared!

I cooked this for no longer than 30 minutes.

Oh and FYI I’m not a “jam setter”. Frankly I don’t like my jam to be supermarket set. Thanks to Edith for the inspiration. Of course I don’t want my jam to be too runny but I have found that if you focus on setting your jams you will:

  • overcook your jam
  • loose that fresh fruity flavour
  • and if using pectin sachets or pectin sugar you will change the flavour of the jam.

Because we make most things from scratch here we are really sensitive to the taste of many preservatives. Yes, sometimes they are necessary but as far as pectin in your jam is concerned – forgeddaboudit!

My hot tips for this (and many other jams):

Use what you have and adjust the recipe to cater to however much fruit you have. I generally like to make my jam in batches of 3kg but, you have to use what you have and in this case it was 2kg.

I used to use 50/50 fruit to sugar but, I remember Jamie Oliver once saying that you really only need about 300g per kilo of fruit because you are only preserving your fruit for one year and lets face it by this time next year this jam will be long gone and you’ll be ready for a new batch anyway. Well, I tried it and the results were great – I haven’t looked back. Thanks Jamie!

I use lime a lot in my jam but, this is mostly because that is what I have on the tree. If I had lemons that’s what I’d use. Please don’t send yourself broke buying limes when lemons or grapefruit would suffice. Having said that, I am loving the flavour of the lime!

The recipe:

Strawberry Jam with Kaffir Lime and Vanilla

  • 2kg Strawberries
  • 600g sugar
  • 1 Vanilla bean
  • 2 Kaffir Lime leaves
  • the juice of one lime (about 2 tbsp) or use lemon if that’s all you have

Cut your strawberries (or not it’s up to you) and place in a pot.

Cover the strawberries with the sugar. Give them a quick stir and leave them for 10 min. This will release their juice. When they’re ready they will smell divine!

Mash them with a potato masher or with your hands.

Slice the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds and add both the seeds and the bean along with the Kaffir Lime leaves to your pot.

Turn on the heat (med – not too high) and cook for around 30 minutes. Skimming the froth off the top as it cooks. Stir it often and make sure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom. If it starts to catch, turn it right down.

Ladle into sterilized jars while it is hot.

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If you like the sound of that jam check in tomorrow because I have a recipe that will make your Christmas!

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