Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tomato and Zucchini success and Summer Garden pics

Since I started growing vegetables I have had very little success with tomatoes and Zucchini (and most other squashes). They would always get terrible powdery mildew which would devastate the entire plant, eventually killing it. Also my squash were not getting pollinated and the babies would just rot. I had almost given up. With the tomatoes, I actually had given up. Ripped out all my infected plants and didn't bother planting more.
For the Zucchini I decided to try planting them in containers, or grow bags in my case. And so far so good. The plants are doing to well! They are fruiting and I hand pollinate every morning, and I can move the bags during the peak of the day when it gets really hot. I Can't wait to start picking them.

Zucchini in grow bags

I was very disappointed about my tomatoes. Everyone grows tomatoes and it just seems like the easiest crop to grow. Hubby got rid of some old tomatoes in the fridge by throwing them into a crevice between our two back walls. The space in about 15 cm wide and I normally grow nasturtiums there. A few weeks later we noticed some tomato plants popping up, but didn't take too much notice as we thought they would eventually get infected and wilt away. But no! One in particular just grew and grew and then started fruiting. After a good few weeks it was laden with green tomatoes!
I am still waiting for them to ripen but any day now we will be picking tomatoes.

Needless to say, I have since planted a bunch more tomato plants in the crevice between the two walls. Hoping for the same success.

I have been loving my garden this season, so much is growing and I am enjoying watching as each day the plants get a little bigger.
Here is a few pictures of what I have growing at the moment:

Green peppers are growing all around the garden

 Potatoes in hessian sacks seem to be doing well

Butternut is taking over my pathways

Corn is growing tall and strong with butternut filling the spaces underneath

Brinjal plants are exploding with fruit

Cucumber and loofah vines are taking over the walls

And a self seeded sunflower (from the chicken feed) has overtaken the top of the jungle gym! I am looking forward to seeing it flower!

Hope everyone else here in the southern hemisphere is having success in their gardens.
And as things are getting busy around here and I might not post again this year, I hope you all have a FANTASTIC Christmas, and a very happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Garlic Harvest

It seems everyone in the southern hemisphere is harvesting garlic at the moment, and it shows by all the garlic blog posts I have read recently.
This year is the first time I have ever grown garlic and I only planted 12 cloves in a medium size pot. I knew that when harvest time came around I would regret that I didn't plant more, but I wanted to see how it went.

So here is my garlic harvest for 2012:

They look more like onions than garlic to me, but I will give them a try when they are a bit dryer in a couple weeks.
So out of the 12 cloves I planted I have 4 good size, 4 little ones, 3 started rotting in the ground (we have had tons of rain) and 1 that didn't grow at all.

Not too bad. Next year I am going to try to grow a lot more garlic and plant them in different places around the garden. How great would it be not to have to buy garlic for the entire year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Raising Rabbits for meat

Its taken me quite a while to sit down and write this post. One of the reasons is that I wasn't sure how people would react when they see that we will be eating our rabbits.
I have Lindsey from Northwest Backyard Veggies to thank for giving me the nudge in the right direction. Lindsey raises her own chickens and rabbits for meat and reading her blog has been inspirational (chickens for food are on my list for next year, at the moment it's just eggs)

My husband use to have many rabbits which he breed mostly for the pet trade. At the time we never considered eating our rabbits and when someone mentioned it we just laughed it off. Little did we realise that nearly 2 years later we would be back in the breeding game, but this time for food. We are starting off small, just one pair of breeders to supply our own family. Maybe at a later stage we might get another female or 2 and sell to family and friends. Perhaps a future business venture for my eldest son?

We have weighed the pros and cons and we have decided that it is a step in the right direction
Here is my reasoning:

  • Our rabbits will be well looked after and have a happy home
  • They will not be confined in tiny cages where they can't even take one hop
  • They will be fed good food, have access to lots of hay and fresh water, and be fed fresh produce from my garden.
  • When the time comes, they will be slaughtered in the most humane way possible and we will be grateful that they gave our family a meal.
  • Because we live in the city, we cannot raise cows or sheep, but rabbits are small and quiet and easy to care for. It just makes frugal sense.

Just watching this video gives us all the reasons we need to raise our own rabbits

After the decision was made, our first step was to buy some rabbit meat from a butcher and see if we actually liked the stuff. So we called a few specialty butchers and eventually found one who stocked rabbit. You won't go finding rabbit in any old retail shop here in Durban. So off hubby went to the butcher to buy the rabbit, when he got there he phoned me to tell me how much it cost and whether he should still get it. R200 (about US$22) for a rabbit that was under 2 kg!! I told him to get it as we were going to consider this an investment, if we liked it we would never have to pay these prices again and our meat would be fresh and organic.

That afternoon we had roast rabbit and with the leftovers we had a lovely stew. The meat was tasty, a bit gamey, but still very good.

Our next step was to get our breeding pair. We decided on New Zealand rabbits, which are the most popular for food and got ourselves quite a young pair.

So let me introduce you to our pair of white New Zealands, they do not have names yet, and I am not sure if we will name them at all.
Getting both to stand still at the same time is not easy

So comfortable with me (even in his cage) he is nearly falling asleep

Their large area to hop around as they feel, and a shelter from the elements

They still have not breed as of yet, but we are expecting their first litter in the next couple of months.

My last appeal to those who think it might not be right of us to eat our own animals is that, if you eat meat, an animal is going to die. So why not know that that animal was brought up and slaughtered in the best possible way to provide your family with a healthy and nutritious meal. Do you know where your meat comes from and how those animals were treated before reaching your table?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Potato Plant Flowers

A little while back I planted some seed potatoes in a huge concrete pot that I had sitting empty for quite a while. I wasn't sure is it was a good spot for them, but I wanted somewhere where they would be contained and tires just didn't work for me.
This morning when I went outside I got such a lovely surprise. They have all started flowering, and it's looking stunning. Who know that a simple potato plant could be so beautiful!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Carrot (pumpkin) Pie

This morning when I opened my blogger dashboard I was greeted by a delicious looking post by Sara from My Merry Messy Life on an easy pumpkin pie recipe.

Here in South Africa when someone says pie, this is what comes to mind:
 Basically a pastry pocket with a meaty or other savory filling.

I have never made or even tasted a pumpkin pie before, I have never actually made any pie but Sara's pie looked so good I just had to give it a try.
Only problem is I didn't have any pumpkin in the house.

After following a link to Pick Your Own they mentioned that a good alternative to pumpkin in this pie is carrots. Well I have tons of those in the garden and decided to give it a try. I have been looking for new ways to use my carrots as the family are not too fond of them as a veg on their own.
So out I went to pick some carrots.

Washed and trimmed, here are the purple and orange carrots from the garden

I just love how when you peel these purple dragons, the orange under the skin is so bright.

Anyway back to the pie...
I didn't take any picture during the process of making the pie, but here is the end result:

And after about 15 minutes:

It was sooooo good! I think I am hooked, lots more carrot pie coming to this household. I will also have to try pumpkin and butternut one day
I must say, hubby was very skeptical about this "carrot pie", but he really enjoyed it and the boys thought it was amazing. Who would have guessed carrots could taste this good.

So here is the recipe if you would like to give it a try, you can also use the recipe from Pick Your Own as they have tons of pictures to follow

210 grams of flour
100 grams of cold butter
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
cold water to bind

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add water while the food processor is running until the dough comes together. It only takes a few tablespoons. Wrap the dough in some cling film and place in the fridge.

2 cups of carrot puree (i used about a kilo of carrots to get this, which I steamed and pureed in the food processor)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
350ml of evaporated milk (I used regular milk and mixed in 2 tablespoons of milk powder to make it richer)
*update* I made this pie again and while following the recipe above I realised that I forgot to put sugar on the list.
1 cup of sugar

Simple mix all the ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth

After about half an hour remove the dough from the fridge and roll out, then place in a pie dish. Pour the filling into the crust and bake.
Bake at 210 C (425 F) for the first 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 175 C (350 F) and bake for another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Leave to cool for about 15 minutes (this is the hard part), slice and enjoy.

Apparently its good with whipped cream or ice cream, but we didn't get a chance to try that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

First step towards canning

There are so many blogs that I enjoy reading, and many of the lovely women (and a few men) that I follow can their extra produce, and make delicious looking jams and preserves.
I have been itching to try it out myself, but battled to find the right jars here in Durban. I eventually found a local distributor for Consol a few months back, a company call Dalgen. Today I finally got a chance to go up and visit their showroom. I came home with these 24 x 500ml jars and 12 x 1 litre jars. I couldn't help myself.

My next step is to get myself a canning pot (or at least something big enough) because when I got home I realised I didn't have a single pot big enough to cover these jars.
I'm not sure where to get a proper canning pot here is SA as I have searched for ages on the net. I can get them from amazon but international shipping is not cheap for such a large item.

I am so excited to get into the kitchen and start my canning journey but I may just have to wait a few more weeks before I can get cracking.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Case of mistaken identity.

I think no matter how long you grow your own veggies, you can always learn something new.
In my last post I made what seems to be the most silliest mistake. I posted the below picture and said that my corn had germinated.

After a few more days I went outside and found this:
My actual corn has now germinated and I have these squash plants randomly dotted around the bed. So what I assumed was a baby corn plant was actually a squash, which I guess came from the compost I added, probably butternut.
I am going to leave them in and see how it goes as I have read that corn and squash do well together.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Garden

Last weekend we had a family picnic at the Durban botanical gardens. They have the most amazing permaculture garden, and even though it was locked, we could walk around the fence line and get a great view of it. I was so inspired! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me but I will take it along next time.

But back at home this is what is going on in the garden...

The nasturtiums are beautiful in full flower

One of the many brinjal plants

The chard bed is very full, there is also a few beetroot still in here.

Cayenne chillies that self seeded from last season

Lots of basil, also self seeded

The corn I planted over the weekend is just starting to peek out of the ground

A cucumber vine climbing up an old security gate

Last of the brassicas, hoping I can get these out the ground soon as the summer bugs have stared to hit them pretty hard. They are just not quite ready yet, I think I put them in the ground a bit too late over the winter season.

Lettuce gone to flower, but I will leave them in and collect some seeds.

 The office garden looking pretty good. The middle bed that looks empty is were the corn has been sowed.

I still have quite a bit that I would like to get into the garden, and the days just seem to be flying by. It's hard to believe we are already into the second month of spring. I better get busy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

First Potato Harvest

Today I harvested my first ever successful potato plant, which may seem strange because spring has only just started. I planted these potatoes back in May during Autumn and we have such a great climate that they grew right through winter. Even though the plants got pretty battered and banged during our late winter storms, I still managed to pull this bounty from one of the plants today. This is the first time I have planted potatoes in the ground and the first time I have gotten any sort of potato harvest. So from now on I think I will stick to planting directly in the ground.
Just over 2.6kg, I am very pleased.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Coriander Pesto

As the rain continues to fall after 3 non-stop days, my fingers are itching to get back into the garden. And the weather says it is going to continue like this until the weekend.
I have however managed to keep myself busy in the kitchen and one thing I cannot get enough of at the moment is coriander pesto. So easy to make and delicious with everything (well almost)

I have not been able to grow coriander in my garden yet as it keeps bolting before it has even four leaves. Luckily our veggie market had some on special and I managed to pick up 2 bunches for R5.

This recipe is so quick and easy. All you need are the ingredients and a food processor. I just got one this week and so far I am loving it, it has so many uses.

Throw the following ingredients into the food processor:
A medium bunch of coriander
About 2 handfuls of cashew nuts
About 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
A pinch of salt
And a chopped up chilli (or in my case chilli paste)

 Wizz it while adding olive oil until you get the consistency you like
My new best friend in the kitchen, my Kenwood Multi-Pro
 Bottle and refrigerate

Use it in pasta, on crackers, in sandwiches or salads. Sometimes I find myself just eating it off the spoon, it's that good.
It also makes a yummy dip by mixing 1 part pesto with 3 parts plain yogurt.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to do with Turnips?

I seem to have an abundance of turnips that are at picking size so I decided to search the web looking for interesting ways to use them. I tried steaming them and didn't like that very much, then tried caramelizing them and didn't like that either.
So I ended up pickling a jar and I am hoping that they are going to come out great. I quite like pickles in genreal, so I don't see why these won't taste good. I will try them on the weekend after a week of pickling.

(*update* I just couldn't wait a week to try the pickles, they have been in the fridge for 5 days so I thought they must be done. And they were! Tasted them just now and they are perfect! They are going to be so nice in a salad or on a sandwich.)

But for now, here is how they were done:
Trim the greens off the turnips and peel them

Chop or slice into any shape pieces you would like, not too thick.
Salt the slices and let them rest for about 15-20 minutes, this will draw out excess moisture.
Boil 1 cup water with a cup of white vinegar, a tablespoon of salt and a table spoon of sugar. Add spices that you like in your pickles. I only added peppercorns.
Stuff a jar with the turnip slices and a bit of crushed garlic. If they come out nice I might add a chilli next time. Fill the jar with the boiling brine and seal.
Allow to pickle in the fridge for 4-7 days and enjoy!

I read that the leaves of the turnips are also edible and not wanting to be wasteful I thought I would give them a try. I know you can eat them raw but they are quite hairy and prickly so I cooked them up and then made an omelet/quiche thingy :)
Wash and chop up the turnip leaves
 Fry up an onion with some garlic and mixed herbs. Add turnip leaves and fry until tender.
 Add a block of feta
 Beat 4 eggs with a little milk, salt and herbs you like. Pour over the turnip leaves and cook over low heat with the lid on. You can also put it under the grill for a couple minutes to brown the top.
It was quite delicious and for a spinach loving household it made a very good alternative.