Saturday, 3 March 2012

Cooking up a Storm

The calm before the storm.......
Weather Bombed today!  Thursday saw the winds from Hell's Lungs blow us up such a storm, then, today they arrived with the full wrath, from Hell's Belly! Made Thursday's gale seem like a breath of fresh air in comparison.   They predicted winds of 100km, not sure how I could verify that?  All's I know, is that the winds upturned our wood store, uprooted my bean teepee and downed branches and tomatoes all across the garden.  Luckily our previous rudimentary moorings stopped our hothouse from taking a hop and skip across the gardens again!  The bean teepee was due to be pulled up this weekend, so no tragedy there!  Mike also braved the winds on Thursday to pull down all the giant sunflowers, lest they come crashing down in the wind, causing more damage to surrounding plants.

So with warnings in place, I knew not to plan any gardening activities for today.  The morning has been spent processing the windfalls of Thursday.  While it storms outside, I cook up a storm inside.  I have dehydrated 10 trays of basil leaves (onto the third lot of 5 trays, with several more to go).  We will have a nice supply of dried basil to last the winter through.  5 full-packed trays yeilds a mere quarter of a cupful of dehydrated and crushed leaves, so although I am drying heaps of leaves, I end up with seemingly very little for my efforts!  On the plus side, a good heaped teaspoon of dried leaf basil is all that is needed to impart the taste of summer to a winter pasta sauce.

The basil seems to have appreciated the cooler and wetter
summer conditions more than their companion tomatoes!

An abundance of yellow cling peaches awaiting the the arrival
of some sunshine to ripen up on the tree, wait in vain.
The yellow cling peach tree is a grand success story.  About 4 years ago, I discovered these tall weedy looking plants growing in a patch of bare ground.  There were about 6 of them and as I pulled them out, I noticed what looked like an almond clinging to their roots.  Aha, I thought, we must have thrown some organic almonds out and they have taken root!  So I left one, as an experiment.  As I proudly showed my rapidly growing almond tree to visitors, they warned that you cannot grow almonds successfully from seed.  Why not? I argued, if the good Lord saw fit to give us seeds for growing, why would my almond tree not be successful?  Pull it out before it grows too big insisted my husband.  No, wait and see I said.  After 2 and a bit years, my almond tree set fruit.  I was so excited!!  I knew that almonds grew a fruit, and that you let them drop and the fruit rot off of the nut, so I watched as heaps of fruit lay rotting on the ground.  Then one day, I thought about all the rotting almond fruit and wondered to myself how it looked suspiciously like a peach.  Feeling rather brave and not wanted to die of arsenic poisoning, I bit tentatively into an almond fruit to discover the sweet orange flesh of a cling peach inside.  What joy!  The dismay at allowing so much fruit to fall and rot was quickly forgotten as we hastened to collect the last remaining yellow-green fruit to eat.  The rest is history - my "almond tree" has successfully grown in harvest volume and provides us with enough to eat and to make wonderful jam.  I have since purposely planted a seed-grown tree out at the back of the house.  This is it's first year of fruit set and although the fruit seems a fraction of the giant cling peaches in front, I am sure it will provide us with much edible pleasure.  This morning I bottled a potful of semi-ripe peaches to eat for desert over winter when everything seems so bleak and dull.  Unfortunately, I cannot wait for the elusive sun to tree-ripen them as they are beginning to rot on the tree after all the rain we have had this summer.  I have a bucketful left to cook into wonderful golden peach jam later today.
Our heritage sweetcorn, small but juicy.  Corn needs a long,
hot and dry summer.

Harvested and bottled dill pickles (left)
and a mix of yellow and purple beans (right)

Easy peasy flat bread with sun-dried tomatoes
I often make a quick and easy flat-bread when pressed for time, for a meal.  Served with humus, tomatoes, basil pesto and cheese, it becomes a lovely summer lunch.  My daughter and son use it to make their famous pizzas, always a taste sensation!  It is a favourite recipe given to me by my mother, which always makes me think of her when I make it.
Easy Peasy Flatbread/Pizza base recipe
3 cups self-raising flour (I add 1 tspn baking powder per cup of ordinary organic flour)
1/2 cup sunflower or olive oil
1 cup luke warm water
pinch salt
Throw all ingredients into a tight-lidded plastic container and shake it up vigourously for about a minute.  Pat into a round shape, press a knuckle into the dough to create depressions.  Drizzle olive oil, coarse sea salt and sesame seeds on top.  Bake for 15 mins @ 180deg. C.

The Chook Chick at work

The chooks get transported all around the garden to do
work for their own pleasure

The spent strawberry patch makes a nice foraging patch for the
chooks, who can safely scratch and eat all the snails, slugs and
bugs sheltering in the enclosure.  Awesome pest control.

Having cleared under the pear tree, the chooks are placed in
temporary enclosures for a couple of hours to clean up any
pests in the soil surrounding the tree.

Chaos........ the elderberry is taken up, releasing some airflow
and  sun aspect to the fence hugging feijoa and orange trees.
Changing spaces: now that the elderberry has been taken out, it frees up heaps of space for the overcrowded trees behind.  I plan to plant blueberries in it's place.  Blueberries don't grow to the gigantic proportions of the elderberry, and require little attention other than picking and netting in summer.  They are also wonderful immune boosters.  Talking of immune boosters, our apple Monty's Surprise is a New Zealand heritage apple that is reported to hold the most nutritious cornocopia of antioxidants than most apples.  They grow to 750grams, some the size of a small pumpkin!!
7 jars of green cling peaches, with added frozen summer berries
to add colour and interest completed this afternoon

Monty's Surprise Apple way bigger than my hand

6 jars of Beetroot relish made mid-week - turns any bland sandwich
into a gourmet treat!

This mornings bottling session - 5 apple pulp bottles and
6 of stewed peaches (one includes pear pieces).
So it's been a busy day cooking up a whirlwind of preserves!  After stewing fruit, making jam and fresh bread (machine made), and rice and dahl for supper, me thinks 'tis time to retire.  Phew!  Now it's time to put me feet up, and watch a movie or two!  Tomorrow's a day of seed sowing by the lunar calendar.  And probably some clean up after this raging storm outside.