Tag Archives: capsicum

Too Many Grapes – Never Enough Tomatoes

Garden Gone Wild

A very special rose. This gift from a friend holds the memory of someone taken much too soon.

Record rainfall followed by hot sun

After a late summer of seemingly endless blue skies, South Head received an unseasonal 124 mls of rain between 08 and 14 March. On the first soggy day we were grateful as the water tank was getting low, but by the end of the second day the novelty had worn off. The rain followed by sun has turned the vegetable garden into a jungle through which I can barely navigate.

A carpet of green

A tangle of kūmara, melon and squash.

In early November, we planted three rows of kūmara tupu. ‘Tupu’ are the rooted shoots that grow on a kūmara tuber. The vines are very vigorous  and are spreading all over the garden. I’m very excited about this. We’ve had mixed success with potatoes and I’d much prefer to grow kūmara if possible. We’ll have to wait until the leaves start to die down before seeing what’s hidden in the soil. This could be any time from the end of March onward and looking at our plants I suspect it’ll be more like April.

After harvest (assuming there is actually something growing underneath all those leaves) we’ll set the best aside to start a new crop next October.

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Left to right: Basil jostling with carrots; okra; rhubarb; kale and silver beet (chard, to those of you from the northern hemisphere).

Our one surviving rhubarb plant is gigantic. The stalks are fat and juicy and despite baking them into Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and adding them to cereals and desserts, many will go to waste. We also have more than we can eat of basil and silver beet, and I’m curious to see how the okra turns out. Growing okra is another ‘first’ for me, and in my ignorance, I allowed some pods to grow too long, so have cut them all off and am hoping that more will be produced before it gets cooler.

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Left to right: Limes; habanero peppers; ‘Big Chief Butternut’ squash; bell peppers.

Continuing with the green theme, it looks like we’ll beat our record for limes as both trees are very well-endowed this year and also have a decent crop of new flowers. My favourite chile pepper, Habanero, is looking very fine, with each of the plants laden with flowers and young fruit. I also sowed a handful of seeds for a different squash, ‘Big Chief Butternut’, which apparently grows to 2 – 3 kg. And it is HUGE. And the capsicum (bell pepper) plants have become so large that we’ve had to support them with sturdy wooden stakes.

Zucchinis and tomatoes

This summer we’ve had the heaviest crop of both zucchinis and tomatoes since living at South Head, with green beans, coming a close third.

cleome and worms
Left to right: Pretty Cleome spinosa (Spider flower); a tomato fruitworm tucking into a green tomato; the disturbing sight of a grub inside a tomato; same grub after removal.

Scattered around the vegetable garden are self-sown Cleome. I planted a half dozen a few years back to attract green vegetable bugs and the Tomato Fruitworm, Helicoverpa armigera ssp. conferta. The Cleome attract both insects really well, but there haven’t been so many green vegetable bugs this year, and I’ve been picking off the damaged tomatoes when I come across them. The hens like drawing the fat green caterpillars out. I must admit that when I overlook one, and the tomato goes rotten from the inside, I can’t bear to look at them, let alone touch them. All that ‘goopy’ decay turns my stomach.

I’ve been freezing tomatoes in 400 gram packs for use over winter; the neat thing about outside-grown tomatoes is that they are easy to peel, which saves time later. And I’ve also bottled a batch of tomato sauce. I’ve used the zucchini for pickles and we’re eating them every other day. My favourite recipe is to slice them thickly before sautéing them with mashed garlic in a little olive oil. At the last moment, to throw in a few sage leaves. Because the Costasta romanesco variety of zucchini isn’t at all watery, the sage leaves quickly go crispy and add a delicious flavour.

And still there’s more…

There are some vegetables I haven’t really bothered with… lettuces, for example. We rarely get around to eating them and while I do have a row growing and gradually aging right now, there are several earlier plants that I’ve let go to seed; the fuzzy down drifts around the garden with the slightest breeze. Lettuces are unlikely to become a problem if they sprout everywhere… I allowed a golden turnip plant to go to seed in Spring and we now have them growing in a couple of the pathways. There are only single rows of beetroot, carrots, parsnips, golden turnip and rocket – not that you’d ever need any more than one row of rocket!

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Left to right: Asparagus still sending up shoots; zucchini Costasta romanesco; parsley; bulb fennel.

Grapes and honey bees

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Yet another amazingly productive crop we’ve had this season is grapes. The vine stretches along the sun-drenched,  north-facing wall of the barn and I’ve never seen as many. We can’t keep up with eating them, so they are all beginning to split and ferment on the vine.

Honey bees (Apis mellifera) gorging on the over-ripe grapes

Grapes are particularly attractive to honey bees – more so in the morning, and in the evenings I’ve seen the German wasp, Vespula germanica hovering around, so I’m hoping to observe them at dusk at the end of one of the fine Autumn days we have ahead of us, to see if we can ascertain the location of their nest.

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The picked grapes are sweet and juicy.

Northern Japan in springtime

In about a week’s time I’m heading to Asahikawa in the north of Hokkaido for about five weeks. The contrast in weather will be a shock, I’m sure – going from the mid 20s to low 30s Celsius to close to 0 degrees (at least, for the first week or so), but I’m very much looking forward to my very first visit to Japan and am planning on writing  about my impressions while I’m there. Because I won’t have the distraction of the garden, I should have much more time to write, which will be something I’m really looking forward to.

DahliaCactus Colour Spectacle‘ growing against the old fence.

Changing of the Season

 End of Summer

Maize being harvested.
Maize being harvested.

It’s definitely Autumn.  As I sit at my computer I can hear the rumble and whirr of the combined maize harvester driving along the paddock adjacent to our property.  As it moves down the rows, capturing everything in its path and discarding all but the individual maize kernels, great clouds of dust rise around it.

The wind has picked up this afternoon and is blowing in from the north… It was supposed to rain, and perhaps it still will, but right now it’s a mixture of bright sunlight and racing clouds.

The Garden

This beautiful buttercup squash weighed 3.189 kg.
This beautiful squash, ‘Burgess Buttercup’  weighed 3.189 kg.

Clean Up Tasks

It’s the time of year for clean-up and maintenance tasks in the garden. The squash and pumpkins are ready to be cut from their vines and stored in a dry and airy place.

The twisted brown tomato stalks need to be pulled out and burned, along with the remains of our former passion fruit vine.

I made the decision to remove the vine after it had finished cropping, due to it being afflicted with disease.  It has been incredibly productive this year, and I’m sure we have eaten more than 200 individual passion fruit.  So, it was with a heavy heart that I cut it away from the fence yesterday.  All that is left is to dig the roots out of the soil.


A scattering of fruit; Feijoa and Guava.
A scattering of fruit; Feijoa and Guava.

Plump feijoa and red and yellow guava are strewn on the grass outside our kitchen window; an array of yellow, green and red baubles.

While the guava are quite definitely edible, now that the feijoa are ready they won’t get a look in with me. Back in Spring when the blackbirds were stripping the petals from the flowers, I could not have imagined that the trees would be so heavily-laden.

A pair of kererū in the yellow guava.
A pair of kereru in the yellow guava.

For several days we’ve had two plump kereru camped out in the fruit trees.  At night they seem to seek refuge in the golden totara, but by day they stay in the yellow guava, gorging on the fruit (they can swallow the guava whole!) or just sitting still in the sun.

Juicy pears.
Juicy pears.

We’ve also had many pears.  The only problem is getting to them before the blackbirds!  But if we go out early in the day we can usually rescue most of them.


Capsicum, Eggplant and Chillies.

For the first time, we’ve had eggplants that have grown to maturity and we’ve had an amazing crop of capsicum.  I’m hoping that these will keep cropping until May or June.  We also have abundant habanero and one other (unidentified) chilli pepper.  This latter plant came from a packet of chilli ‘Caribbean Blend’ so I’m not really sure what it is. We sampled it (with trepidation), and although it was hot, it didn’t seem as hot as a habanero, nor did it have the beautiful floral flavour that a habanero has.

Chilli peppers strung up in the barn.
Our new seasons’ chilli peppers strung up in the barn.

As you can see from the photo above, I’m going to dry the chillies this year.  We have such a huge chest freezer, that even with the baskets at the top, we tend to lose track of small things.  It will be interesting to see if I’m successful or not.  I thought it would be great to grind them up and use them with a pepper shaker.

This morning I took a bucket to the farm across the road and collected some field mushrooms. Yum!!! These are my favourite funghi.  They have such a rich taste in comparison with button mushrooms purchased from the supermarket.

Field mushrooms, freshly-picked this morning.
Field mushrooms, freshly-picked this morning.

They’ll be great sauteed in butter and stirred through some freshly made pasta.

After the Harvest

What's left after the harvester has done its job.
What’s left after the harvester has done its job.

The harvester has finished in the field.  All that is left behind are the husks and a few dried leaves.  It’ll be tough for the small shrubs we have on the fence-line, especially now that the wind is coming from the north.  For a good six months they’ve been sheltered by the maize!

The maize field is now stark against the sky.
The maize field is now stark against the sky.

Corn Relish




Finely chop the oregano and the coriander, (until the moisture in the leaves is starting to ooze out).  Neatly dice the capsicum and chop the onion finely.


Toast the ground cumin in a medium saucepan for 1 – 2 minutes (until aromatic).  Add the onion, vinegar, sugar, oregano, habanero and salt, and bring to boiling point.  Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the capsicum and corn, and simmer for a further 3 – 4 minutes, or until the corn is cooked through.

Pour into hot sterilised jars and preserve using the water bath method.

ImageAdapted from the recipe for ‘Cilantro Corn Relish’ from About.Com Home Cooking.