Thursday, 13 February 2014

Food, glorious Food!

I've always liked the name "homesteading".  It commonly refers to a lifestyle that promotes self-sufficiency and sustainability.  And the joys of homesteading are endless.  Okay, there is some back-breaking stuff required, digging up old growth, turning compost, planting, harvesting, preserving and preparing - but oh, what satisfaction!  On Sunday, I had a mammoth cooking session.  When asked by a friend why I would bother to cook on a Sunday, the answer was simple.  I simply had too much food in the fridge.  Use it or lose it.  So I made 3 vegetarian Shepherd's Pies (actually one big one turned into 3 smaller casserole dishes - one to eat, one to freeze and one to give away to our student son), a pot of spicey green beans (freezer-bound), a summer-squash pasta sauce flavoured with sage (freezer filler) and a batch of banana oat cookies.  A good use of many 3-4 day old veggies.  My fridge is only half full now and I can see space for more of the produce I see I shall have to collect again tomorrow.

Rice-paper parcels
I've stumbled onto a good thing.  I love to browse magazines and get ideas from the cooking sections.  Not that I am one to slavishly follow a recipe, but I will pinch the idea of the combination of ingredients or a picture may inspire me to try something different.  So having seen an idea for chicken and seafood-filled rice-paper wraps, I designed my own version above.  Grated carrot, avo, cucumber and sprouts on a bed of black bean pasta noodles, and a lashing of my own Sweet Thai chilli sauce.  Oooh, yum.  Such a pleasant change from our usual bread and extras-types lunches.  And so easy to make, they have featured as a possible new favourite a couple of times in the last week or two!  Dunked in soy sauce, they go down a treat and 2-3 parcels is enough to fill most hunger pangs.

Late afternoon garden "shopping"

Flowers for the table centre-piece.
Garden Activities:
This time of the year brings such a massive dose of food, that we have been happy to have a German Helpxchanger make some inroads into consuming our over-abundance of fruit and veggies.  They come as a helpxchange and leave as a friend.  We have finished our first flush of beans, and I have planted a late crop, which is just starting to produce. We've had 2 bunches of bananas ripen (each weighs about 15kg) - the sweetest little things this side of Ecuador.  No carbon miles, no horrid sprays, just pure sweet sun-ripened flesh.  We had a small harvest of Omega plums (due to rigorous pruning last year) - about 2 basketsful, and about 40 Luisa plums (very young tree, laden with huge juicy plums).   A vicious wind saw half the near-ripe plums ripped off, so not keen to waste, they made it into a light-coloured sweet and delectable jam.  We've picked a few handfuls of juicy ripe figs (covered with bird-proof bags) but the birds have eaten the majority, as they do every year.  That same wind that blew half our plums off the tree, blew one of 3 fig trees down (sob!!  it was our Turkey Brown - the sweeter of the 2 varieties) and so we decided to give it the Big Chop on account of it having been blown over the previous year too.  Now we only have 2 green fig trees to protect from the marauding birds.  Strangely enough, the fig tree I planted from a sucker of the original tree, does better at fruiting than it's parent.

Little fingers of sweetness
Figs - a precious thing indeed from our garden!!
I have bottled about 8 large bottles of gherkins.  We are still eating from last years pickles!!  We had a small but good harvest of huge tangy nectarines to herald the summer, and a fairly regular supply of strawberries, gooseberries, Chilean guavas and blueberries.  They seem to be tapering off now to a handful every second or third day.  Cucumbers and courgettes have been plentiful, with those now succumbing to late summer fungal diseases which always signals an end to them.  I have sneakily tried to plant late crops of courgettes and cucs - gardening is my ongoing experiment to see what I can get away with!!

Who needs a green grocer when this all grows on your doorstep?

Smoothies and Fruit Salads.  The stuff of Gastronomic Dreams.  We love our summer harvests - each fruit salad tastes different.  Tropical.  The taste of Holidays.  Always reminds me of my grandmother's fruit salads, especially when I add passion fruit!  Funny how oral senses can evoke massively powerful memories.

Fruit salad
And then there was our garlic harvest.  Methinks I went overboard and planted way, way too many garlic bulbs!!  I have made 3 garlic plaits with about 20 bulbs in each, and we have 2 wooden bowls of the bulbs which were a little less tidy and had started to open up on account of the heavy rains we had a little while back.  So we will use those ones first, but my goal of having a bulb for each week of the year is well and truly over-achieved!!  We can use it for our winter medicine to boost the immune system.  It's a case of simply growing your own cold and flu remedy!

Garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, beetroot and more garlic.

Blueberries:  Nature's Own Vaccination.
One day, Mike discovered an unusual iridescent green bird in the garden.  It appeared to be hurt, so we carefully caught it and kept it in a little box overnight in case our cat thought she might nibble on a midnight feathery snack.  We have never seen a bird quite like this one, and with excitement, we checked it out in our bird book - a Shining Cuckoo.  What a fascinating find!  Mike rang around to find out who could help rehabilitate it and was told to keep it overnight and if it survived the night, bring it in the next day, all the way to Tauranga.  The next day it was quite chirpy, despite it appearing to have an injured wing.  It spent the day in our retired chook tractor, and Mike took it to a Wildlife Rescue Centre in the afternoon.  It is amazing what we sometimes find in our little garden enclave!  Once we found a mother duck and 11 ducklings, then we have found a whole family of hedgehogs, and now this amazing little feathered tourist.

Our Little Shining Cuckoo

with an injured wing
Our little friend overnights in our Wildlife Rescue Box.

My Ginger Project
I'm experimenting with growing ginger.  Again.  Last year, the ginger shoots died in winter, so I forgot about them.  Till I emptied the bucket months later to find 3 medium sized ginger roots!  So I was successful after all, I just didn't look under the ground.  Duh!  So I have used those very roots to try and grow another batch.  Lookin' good!

Abundance of tomatoes.

All shapes and sizes.

Gorgeous little Cinderella pumpkin that will feed us in winter

White cucumber

My capsicums went in a little late this summer, so they are just starting to fruit.  I am waiting patiently for them to turn from green to red and yellow.  Dreaming of stuffed capsicums.  Roasted capsicum.  Capsicum and chickpea curry.  Yum!  Bring it on! 
My good friend, Gina, gave me a tiny knee-high macadamia tree about 5 years ago.  It has grown into a mammoth 3m tree and I caught my first exciting glimpse of maccs the other day!  Yay!  Our very own nuts!

Fresh macadamias on Our tree!
My Niagara grapevine is very colourful.  I have had to cover every bunch of grapes with netting bags.  The little feathered buggers STILL try to eat them.  Can't blame them as the smell the grapes are giving off are a heady, sweet, syrupy aphrodisiac!  I have harvested 4 bunches as early hors d' oevres - they definitely don't disappoint!  Did you know that grapes are the Signature Food for blood cells - and green/white grapes are good for white blood cells.  Red grapes are good for - yep, red blood cells.  If you cut a grape cross-ways, it looks like a blood cell, with the seed in the center mimicking the nucleus of the cell.  Wisdom of the Ancients.  So if you have a problem with your white blood count, eat green/white grapes and red for red blood condition.  Easy.

The pear tree is laden, and the birds have begun their annual Pear Feast.  They are always my lighthouse warning that I better act fast if we are to eat any produce!
bagged grapes

Niagara grapes to tantalise the senses
A vital part of the garden, the compost bin, has had quite a fair attention from our helper, Seb.  Turned twice in as many weeks, the compost is humming along nicely.  We will soon harvest the left hand side, to place around our winter crops and boost their growth.

My avo-cornfield is becoming an overgrown wilderness.  The corn is of 2 varieties, black and multi-coloured.  I planted them 2 weeks apart, to reduce the incidence of promiscuous corn sex, but it seems they are all silking and pollinating at the same time!!!  Not sure what we will get!  But they sure look healthy and stand higher than the proverbial elephant's eye!
My chilies have never done so well before, they are double the size of any chilies I've ever grown before!  Hot and Spicey, oh, so nicey!  (sorry - that comes from a children's book - Wombat Stew!)

Heritage corn corner

Chili, Chili Fusili

Another type of Chili 

Late season hearitage tomatoes
I will keep on homesteading.  Growing our food.  Making our personal care products. Recycling our waste where possible.  Re-inventing new uses for old items.  Repairing broken goods to last a longer mile. Living like they did 60 or more years ago.  The Good Old Life.  Bring it on!

Sun Glow

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