Tag Archives: asparagus

Sun, Wind and Rain

November is here!

Rain is being blown across the paddocks, watering the maize.
Rain is being blown across the paddocks, watering the maize.

It was incredibly windy on Tuesday, with strong gusts blowing in from the west all day.  It was also very sunny.

Today, the wind is still howling and it’s bringing torrents of rain every 30 minutes or so.  It’s noticeably cooler, too.


Yesterday was a great day for the garden, despite the wind.  I’d decided to dedicate a decent amount of time to tidying up and sowing some more seeds, so started around 9.30 am.

The first thing I had to do was re-tie the young tomato plants to their stakes.  They are hardening up nicely and the first two I planted out are flowering, but some of the spindlier ones were definitely being battered by the wind.

The latest cleared vegetable bed... between the betroot and carrots I sowed edamame and more carrots.
New seeds have gone in between the beetroot and the carrots & peas.

I then set to work tidying up a patch of the garden that had some bolting lettuces.  After pulling them out and sifting through the soil, I sowed a second row of Edamame and a row of the heirloom carrot, ‘Touchon‘.  I was reassured to see that despite the dryness of the surface, there’s still evidence of moist soil about a trowel’s depth in.

On Sunday I had already sowed rows of organic Basil ‘Sweet Genovese’, Turnip ‘Golden Ball’ and Beetroot ‘Crosby’s Egyptian Flat’, so I’m feeling much better about the state of the vegetable garden.  I don’t think I’ll ever get on top of the required tasks, though.

The wonderful South Head growing conditions that produce so many vegetables, also produce weeds that grow with alarming vigour and scatter their seeds all year round.  And there is never a frost to kill anything off.

Spring Greens

Beetroot (foreground), kale and broad beans.
Beetroot (foreground), kale and broad beans.

The vegetables are providing us with choices each day – it’s a matter of juggling between them all and trying to work out what we particularly feel like eating for any given meal.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed Silverbeet, Asparagus, Kale, Lettuce (not just the green variety), Rocket, Broad Beans, Red Cabbage and Peas.


I couldn’t say which is my favourite, though I do love to have asparagus spikes every other day of the week at this time of year.

Fresh garden peas.
Fresh garden peas.

Close behind would be fresh peas, and tender young broad beans are wonderful, mashed up with butter and a little garlic.

And I found a really easy (and yummy) recipe for Red Cabbage – so we’ve cooked this up a couple of times.  I think this is on the menu for tonight, actually.   Sautéed Red Cabbage.

Other Vegetables

Florence Fennel

Florence Fennel (foreground) and Peas.
Florence Fennel (foreground) and Peas.

The Florence Fennel has been putting on a good deal of growth.  Fingers crossed they won’t bolt before forming their bulbs.  We’ve had good crops for several years now, and one that went straight to seed.

You can see dried Lilly Pilly leaves in all my photos.  They seem to fall at all times of the year and I’m always scraping them out of the garden in an attempt to keep it looking tidy.  But I guess I’ll never have a tidy garden as the slightest breeze sends them showering back down.

Runner Beans and Lettuces

Lettuces and Runner Beans.
Lettuces and Runner Beans.

The runner beans seem a bit slow.  Ben put in some ‘King of the Blues Runner’ in between the Scarlet Runners from last year.  Scarlet Runners are perennial, although most people tend to pull them out at the end of the season and put in new seeds the following year.

Growing in front of them are a few lettuces and some self-sown Viola Tricolor (Heart’s Ease).

Potatoes and Sweet Corn

I poked around beneath the soil by one of the early potatoes and was pleased to see at least one beautiful new potato.  It was quite a good size for an ‘early’ so I’m hopeful that we may have better luck this year with growing spuds.

Ben hasn’t been so lucky with his sweet corn, though.  He sowed a whole packet and only two sprouted.  It’s hard to know if it’s something in the soil, or our friendly blackbirds have been in and dug them out.  It’s disappointing and exasperating, but given that our back paddock has been sowed in a commercial crop of sweet corn and that we always get to help ourselves after the first picking, I’m philosophical about it.

I don’t think we’ll bother to try to grow sweet corn again.  (We did have a really good crop the first year we were here.)


Egyptian Walking Onions
Egyptian Walking Onions

The Egyptian Walking Onions (also known as Tree Onions) are coming along well, forming the first little topsets at the end of their leaves.

I’ll be glad to have these as I’ve had bad luck with trying to grow regular onions.  The seeds have struck well enough, but have been dug up by birds before becoming properly established.

Silver Beet

This Silverbeet never stops growing.
This Silverbeet never stops growing.

Our Silverbeet is amazing.  These plants are a couple of years old, but don’t seem to want to go to seed.  They have actual trunks now – somewhat like pyramids, with the leaves forming in a circle around the upper edges.

A week or so ago I pulled off all the ratty leaves, thinking that we’d be pulling the plants out soon.  They responded by sending out new glossy leaves, immaculate.  We had to cook some up last night just to work our way through them.  The ribs are so wide and the leaves so large that we can’t eat both.

Strawberries and Bananas

The strawberries are safe from the blackbirds, now.
The strawberries, protected from the blackbirds.

The strawberries have been coming along well.  The problem with them (is there a common theme, here?) has been the blackbird hen.   And probably a few other birds as well.

Each morning I’d go down to the garden only to find sharp pecks in the strawberries – even before they’d ripened properly.  I’m sure the hens were happy, though, as I’d throw them all the half-pecked fruit which they’d eat avidly.

Ben’s built a clever frame with netting to keep the birds off, so the berries are having a chance to ripen and be eaten by humans, rather than birds.  We’ve probably picked around a kilogram so far.

Banana 'Mons Mari'.
Banana ‘Mons Mari’.

The bananas are also looking good.  They seem to be forming better than the ones from earlier in the year – perhaps due to the improved growing conditions.  It’s warm, and we’ve had a good deal of rain compared to a year ago.

Blackbirds and Feijoa Flowers

Blackbird hen, back on the nest.
Blackbird hen, back on the nest.

Speaking of the blackbird hen, she’s back on the nest again! This is the same nest she used to raise her last batch – built inside a small Sweet Bay tree situated within our fenced-off vegetable garden area.

I took the above photo yesterday and had to poke the camera in quite far as it was so windy that the branches were being rocked and shaken.

As you can see, she stares steadily out at you, but doesn’t budge.  Not that I’d want her to – and I tried to be as quick as I could as I’d hate to put her off her task.

Despite the damage the birds do to our garden we do love having them here.  They are so tame and so pretty.

We regularly see two or three young birds from her first brood.  They have grown from chubby little birds with short tail feathers and speckled breasts, to much sleeker specimens.  And where originally they weren’t very skilled at flying, they are now adept.

Feijoa flowers are irresistible to birds.
Feijoa flowers are irresistible to birds.

We don’t see the male (father) blackbird very often, but the hen and young ones are often in the Feijoa, eating the crimson flowers.  I was worried about this until I read that birds eating the petals help pollinate the flowers.  However, it seems to me that the birds not only eat the petals but destroy the whole flower.  Often the complete flower drops to the ground and the bird will fly down and finish it off there.  I guess time will tell.

Freshly-plucked Feijoa flower.
Freshly-plucked Feijoa flower.

The other thing I read with interest is that the fleshy petals of the Feijoa flower are edible and can be sprinkled in salads, etc.  I decided to check this out this morning (even though I didn’t want to remove a potential Feijoa) and can confirm that they have a pleasant taste.  They are more fleshy than they look, so have a bit of texture to them, and have a delicate sweet and spicy flavour.  No wonder the birds like them!



Here’s another member of the Bromeliad family that is currently looking good in the garden.  I love the way water collects in the centre of the leaves.

Neoregelia are native to the South American rain forests.  I’m pretty sure that this particular specimen is Neoregelia ‘Everlasting’.

Rum, plums, corn and squash

ImageRum Pots and Cherries

What a hot day it’s been!  One of my plans for today was to find a use for the remaining plums along with some of the strawberries, now that latter are ripening up nicely.

I had been reading about rum pots, also known as rumtopf and romkrukke.  This seemed like a really cool way to preserve some of our fruits as they come to fruition on our trees.  I’ve mostly missed the boat re the plums, but starting now, I should be able to use our strawberries, pears, tamarillo and feijoa.  I also collected a few Cape gooseberries, as these grow like weeds around our property.


The ideal container for a rum pot is a ceramic container or a dark jar, as the fruit should be protected from bright light.  I was also looking for something that would hold a decent amount of fruit.  In the end, the best containers I could find were some tall, glass spaghetti jars, enclosed in a metal sleeve, with a wee window on one side.  Into these I layered the fruit with 1/2 their weight in white sugar, then topped them up with dark rum until the fruit was just covered.

Sad Cherry Tale

Some years ago, my daughter Amiria had brought me back a small bucket of export quality lapin cherries from Summerfruit Orchards in Central Otago, where she had been employed fruit-picking.  I saved a few of the finest specimens, added them to a sturdy glass jar and covered them with brandy.  I kept this jar of cherries for 3 to 4 months, having placed it in a shady place at the corner of my kitchen bench – I’d rotate the jar regularly to keep the alcohol circulated through the fruit.

Ben was washing dishes one day and thought the jar of cherries something old to be discarded, so he tipped them into my compost bucket.  I didn’t notice that they were missing until it was too late.  I’m sure I’d have scooped them out of the compost bucket if I’d known straight away!

I still wonder about those cherries – what they would have tasted like…  But it’s a lesson on letting people know about the strange concoctions we have in our kitchens.



It’s time to allow our asparagus plants to produce their ferny foliage so that they can grow strong and healthy for our Spring 2014 crop.  These plants have been in place for 4 years now, and this year we were eating spears continually from the end of September through to the end of December.  We had put in some plants of the regular green variety as well as having sown seeds of the purple, Asparagus Sweet Purple.

Freshly-picked asparagus, lightly steamed and served with melted butter is one of the special flavours of a spring garden.

Sweet Corn


It’s been a busy time for Ben, collecting as much sweet corn as he can, before he runs out of energy.  Over the past 2 days, he’s harvested around 150 ears and has spent a good proportion of the day scraping off the kernels and freezing them free-flow for winter use.  It’s a time-consuming task and not much fun when it’s so hot outside, but well worth it.  He’s also frozen some of our runner beans.

I mixed up a batch of corn fritters for lunch – couldn’t resist it!  They were yummy!

Other Garden Tasks


Other garden tasks undertaken today included cutting back the spent sweet peas from the back fence of our main vegetable garden.


Around February last year I collected seeds from a patch of sweet peas I had sown the previous Winter.   We sowed these this year to see how they would turn out.  The blooms haven’t been as strong, nor as fragrant, and are in a very narrow range of colours: scarlet, vermillion and shades of pink, none of them particularly vivid.

This was disappointing on a couple of levels as (1) I’m not a pink or a red kind of a girl, and (2) I prefer my flowers to have a fragrance.


The same can’t be said for our gardenia which has been flowering very well this year compared with last year.  We saved this shrub from our previous property in Titirangi, where it struggled with the paucity of sunlight.  I do love the beautiful waxy flowers with their creamy, honeysuckle fragrance.


Another plant currently providing brilliant colour to the garden is the bougainvillea, Scarlet O’Hara.  This is another plant we saved from Titirangi.  There, it barely produced a single new shoot, and failed utterly to produce the beautiful crimson bracts.

Hibiscus Golden Oriel
Hibiscus Golden Oriel

We also recently planted a very garish looking hibiscus, Hibiscus Golden Oriel, a Hawaiian hybrid.  I couldn’t resist it, but usually don’t like flowers that combine the colour yellow with red!

Other tasks for today have involved checking on how the vegetables are progressing.  I have a habit of walking around my garden at least once a day, but often go back again in the late afternoon, mainly to check on what needs pruning or cutting back, or which vegetables are ready for harvest, which need to be pulled out, etc.  To be honest, there is not enough hours in the day, so I tend to just do the things that interest me at the time.

Buttercup & Butternut Squash
Buttercup & Butternut Squash

Today I was especially pleased with the progress of my squashes, Burgess Buttercup and Butternut Chieftain.  I’ve grown these two as I particularly like the taste of their flesh.  Also,  they are extremely prolific, which means we’ll be provided with many individual squashes of a perfect size for two people.

Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato
Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato

I’ve also grown a new pumpkin this year, Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato.  According to information I have read, this is the sweetest of the heirloom acorn squashes and is named after Thelma Sanders of Adair County, Missouri.  It is renowned for its cooking qualities and has won many a harvest bake-off competition in the USA.

It doesn’t seem to be producing as many pumpkins as I’d hoped, but there is still plenty of time until the end of the season.

I obtained seed for both the pumpkin and the squashes from Kings Seeds.


The passion fruit, macadamia nuts and pears are developing as expected.   I really need to somehow get to the top of the pear tree to thin the pears… ideally there should only be 2 – 3 fruit per bunch to allow them to grow properly.

The passion fruit are very fat and healthy looking, and the macadamia nuts look to be producing a good crop this year.


The tomatoes are fine, although they seem to be a bit slower to ripen than at the same time  last year.  I have grown several varieties from seed: Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, Bloody Butcher, Black from Tula, Black Krim and Sun Cherry.  I especially like the ‘black’ tomatoes, but am always interested in trying new varieties.

The lettuces are bolting and I’ll have to compost them soon.  The basil is slow to grow, too.  I’m thinking this is to do with the lack of rain prior to Christmas, but they should put on good growth now that the weather has settled.


When the sun set today, we had generated a very respectable 14.59 KWh.  Not bad for our 11 panel / 2 KW system.  There is something so very satisfying about generating our own power from the sun.  I’ll never take this for granted!