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05 February 2019 @ 10:29 am
Veggie garden 2019 and the top 10 things I have learnt.  
I love my potager: a fenced chicken-proof, rabbit-proof, dog-proof garden about 20 feet by 30 feet (7 metres by 10 metres) with beds laid out in a geometric pattern and lined with untreated hardwood sleepers (the equivalent of railroad ties, only without the creosote). It takes minimal work to weed, as I keep it very thickly underplanted with herbs, spring onions, lettuces, etc, and it's super productive. As this is my first season, it's been a learning experience. My lessons have included:

1. Do not plant snow peas up the fence where the peach tree is. Because snow peas look an awful lot like peach tree leaves. It's a bugger trying to find them. Also, snow peas will grow to more than three metres in height. Crikey! But people LOVE them, so it's never any trouble finding grateful recipients.

2. The colourful gourmet varieties of veggies are sometimes as productive than the 'normal' variety -- and sometimes not. Rainbow silverbeet/swiss chard, yep! It's well worth the packet of seeds to have all those lovely leaves and stems in such an array of vibrant, jeweled tones. Purple podded peas are far less productive than the normal sugar snap peas, so other than the novelty of the colour they're probably not worth the space. But heirloom tomatoes are as productive as the 'supermarket' varieties, and they taste soooooo much better that we only grow the heirlooms now.

3. Speaking of tomatoes: If you have a rectangular garden (as I do) with a bench at the front where you can sit and admire your lovely garden, don't put tomatoes in the front row. They get massively huge and block the view.

4. The stems from the leaves of pumpkin plants, peeled to remove the bristly bits, are really a lovely vegetable to add to stir fries, curries, etc. Cut the stems of medium sized leaves (the little ones aren't worth the trouble, and the huge ones are tough and scarred). Cut off the leaf. Peel the stems the way you would string beans or celery. (Put the strings out in the garden somewhere for the sparrows to use in nest making). Chop the peeled stems into about 1 inch pieces, and voila! They cook quickly and have a mild taste somewhere between pumpkin and beans. You can also chop, cook, and eat the little tender leaves at the very tips of the vines. (I learnt this from my Indian/Pakistani/Nigerian colleagues.)

5. Also, pumpkins take over the planet. One plant can take up a house-sized area. I, um, put in about fifty plants. Oops. They're even growing wild in the paddock: oddly, the cows won't eat the plants, though they will eat the pumpkins themselves.

6. Growing beans for drying (e.g. kidney beans) is easy, and you really do get a fair few, so if you use them it's probably worth taking up some space in the garden. You don't pick them regularly the way you do green beans, butter beans, runner beans; you let them dry on the plant. But each plant ends up producing about 40 bean-seeds, so it only takes a few plants to make a meal.

7. Speaking of beans: the weather has been very bean-friendly this year, and I'm starting to think maybe, just maybe, I planted too many. We've had beans with every meal, I've frozen down enough for about another hundred meals, and I've given away sackfuls of them to everyone and anyone. And still they're going strong. You do have to pick them every day or two, to keep them producing (and to keep them from turning from weenie-beans to oversized inedible monsters), and each day I get half a bucketful. Wow. I'm mightily sick of beans. Maybe planting green beans, dutch heritage beans, yellow runner beans, purple bush beans, and scarlet runner beans was....overkill.

8. No matter how many sugar snap peas you plant, you'll never get enough to freeze down. And they get powdery mildew when the weather turns hot. I'll need to try them again in autumn/winter.

9. I already knew the lesson about how one or two zucchini/courgette plants will produce enough to feed half the country, and you just bloody can't give them away. However, I've found that it's easy to just cube them and freeze them, and in winter they make a nice addition to a mixed steamed vegetable dish, curry, or soup.

10. Broad beans/lima beans/fava beans are only edible if you peel the skins off each one after you've shelled them, even if they're teeny weeny young. That skin is bitter! But the insides are really quite nice; it's the first time I've ever liked this kind of bean. Plus, they make a fabulous base for pesto instead of using nuts (which are madly expensive here). Peeled broad beans, garlic, basil, parsley, and oil, put into a blender (or zippyzappyequivalent; lemon juice optional), and you have a super fab pesto to go on pasta or pretty much anything. I like making meals where everything is produced on our property, so this fits the bill as I don't have walnut or pine nut trees.
Malkin Grey: Basket Girlmalkingrey on February 5th, 2019 12:15 am (UTC)
the cows won't eat the plants, though they will eat the pumpkins themselves.

Around here, people grow pumpkins for cattle fodder. There are also eating varieties, of course; you don't want to try cooking a fodder/jack-o-lantern grade pumpkin. (Though I understand the roasted seeds are good.)

And then there are the giant pumpkins, grown for competition. And the pumpkins for flinging from trebuchets, and out of pumpkin cannons, for pumpkin-chunking contests....
horace_hamsterhorace_hamster on February 6th, 2019 03:31 am (UTC)
Kiwis grow a zillion kinds of pumpkins, from standard butternut squash to little acorn squash to the grey crown pumpkins, the latter of which I think are of Aussie origin and which make for the best eating and the best keeping (up to a year!). Unlike in the US, where I only encountered non-squash type pumpkin of the pie variety (eewwwww!), the steamed, baked, or roasted grey pumpkin here is very common and also extremely delicious. An entire crown pumpkin, wrapped in foil and roasted in the woodburning stove, is a dish for kings (and will feed a family of five for a week).

The cows (or, at least, my cows) will eat the pumpkins themselves, but not the leaves and vines. It's the first time I've run across any kind of greens/veggies that people will eat but cows won't, since the cows happily eat every part of the plants of broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, parsnip, silverbeet, beans, peas..... Weird. Maybe it's the fuzzy-prickliness? I do peel the prickles from the stems before I eat them.

To prove to myself that they're highly edible, I made a pumpkin curry last night. A handful of cubed pumpkin pieces, several handfuls of pumpkin-leaf-stem pieces, ginger/garlic paste, mustard seeds, coconut cream, and a sprinkle of garam masala, cooked for about thirty minutes and served over plain rice -- it was truly lovely! "You can make this any time!" is the greatest accolade (as opposed to the one my wife learnt from my father: "This is nice, dear, but you don't need to make it again").

I'm also told the pumpkin leaves are great for wrapping around fish parcels and baking, steaming, or bbq-ing. Haven't tried it yet, but will have to give it a go at some point, I reckon. I have found that snow pea tips, broad bean tips, teeny cauliflower leaves, and young radish leaves are all beautiful in mixed green salads. I hadn't realised how many parts of each veggie are edible, and indeed delicious!

The local shop had cabbages on sale today, and I hesitated, but then decided I cannot justify buying something simply because it sounds yummy when I have such a glut of other veggies at home. We are trying to eat seasonally; I find that the cravings for out of season veggies have significantly diminished since our fresh-from-the-garden in-season veggies are so superb, but I am tempted from time to time. It helps that I freeze down a lot, so I can have peas and beans and corn and zucchini in winter; however, we've not yet succeeded in growing cabbages at all, so that's one of the few veggies I continue to drool over. It also probably helps that we can garden year round: corn and beans and tomatoes in summer; broccoli and cauliflower and kale in winter. Peaches and pears and apples in summer; figs and citrus and fijioas in winter. Hurrah for Godzone.
Malkin Grey: Basket Girlmalkingrey on February 6th, 2019 03:48 am (UTC)
"You can make this any time!" is the greatest accolade (as opposed to the one my wife learnt from my father: "This is nice, dear, but you don't need to make it again"

Or the line a friend of my brother's used to use -- "I'm afraid I can't share your enthusiasm for this dish."
horace_hamsterhorace_hamster on February 6th, 2019 04:37 am (UTC)
I think my father was trying to be kind, but he has always been an emotionless git as well as a privileged white male middle class arse. When I was a child, he told my mother he preferred dry packet pasta to her home-made egg noodles in chicken noodle soup; the fact that I still remember that speaks for itself. It's no wonder she lived a life of misery with zero self-esteem.

L-J has always been incredible about encouraging me to try new things and she will honestly rate them as inedible, bleh, nice-but-don't-make-it-again, okay once in a while, pretty nice, yum, and holy effing eff this is faboo. It's one of the top things that I love about her. Mostly we agree on foodles, sometimes not; but it makes for great feedback and meal planning for the household (foodie, obsessive, passionate) cook. Plus, she loves my home made-pasta (and, for a recent birthday, she gave me a top of the line pasta machine). Yay!

If we wholly disagree (or in my case suffer from allergies), I occasionally compromise and make two meals: tuna/sushi/mexican for me, mussels/scallops for her :D