Monday, January 23, 2012

Yummy Plums!

So who said seedling trees are a waste of time? :) These gorgeous fruit are from self seeded trees in our garden that I left to grow, just in case. Yes, they took a few years to reach fruiting size, but they got there! The yellow plum is small and freestone (the fruit separates easily from the stone) so has proven to be very good for cutting in half for drying or other preserving methods. The red one is a proper blood plum with sweet deep red fruit, possibly grew from seeds from a supermarket plum. It's about half the size of the ones on the supermarket shelves but that's still big enough.

I've been using a damaged wheelbarrow covered in glass and a net curtain as a dehydrator. It's working very well.

Other uses for the plums have included plum cordial and plum icecream as well as lots of them eaten fresh- breakfast for a few weeks now has been a half toasted muffin and a bowl full of fresh stone fruit (apricots, peaches, plums) maybe with some tinned fruit too and a blob of cream. Yum!
The apricots have finished for the year as have the early peaches (Goldmine variety) but the late peaches (seedling trees again) are still ripening.

Pick a large saucepanful of plums. Just barely cover with water and stew gently. Strain the juice- I put the pulp through a colander first to get out the stones and skin, then put the rest through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Measure the juice into a saucepan, and for every two cups add two cups of sugar and a teaspoonful of citric acid. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 mins. Bottle, store in fridge unless you can sterilise it in a Fowler's kit or similar. Fairly strong, use at about 1:6 concentration or to taste.  

Keep the pulp for other recipes- jam, sauce or my aforementioned icecream. 

Whip 300ml. of cream. Separate 4 eggs, beat the whites until stiff and add the yolks to the pulp with sugar to taste- probably 2-3 tablespoons. Combine whites, cream and fruit mixture. If you have an icecream machine use according to instructions. I just put it in a container in the freezer and stir it up every hour until set. 
RAW EGG WARNING: If you're pregnant or for any other reason worried about listeria, you can heat up the fruit mixture gently until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon, then cool and proceed with final steps. Can't do anything about heat treating the whites though. The raw egg method is no more hazardous than chocolate mousse made with raw eggs, but use your own judgement as to whether you feel safe with this recipe (or ask a doctor).

Asparagus Peas

This is a veggie with a difference that I'm trying for the first time this year. Not the same as Winged Bean, which is a tropical plant in the Lotus family, and would not like our sometimes chilly climate at all! I didn't have much seed and some of the plants which I started early in pots didn't transplant well, so I'll only have a small "taster" harvest this year. I'm planning on saving some of the seed to try again next year with hopeful wisdom gained from this year's experience. 

Raised Beds

There's a patch near our back door that's never really grown anything for one reason or another. I recently decided to bring it into production so started digging it over...or trying to anyway. Turned out the soil profile consists of about 10-15 cms. of poor soil over a layer of bitumen over a layer of decaying concrete over fist sized rocks. Yeek! Not exactly ideal.

So I've somewhat broken up the old bitumen etc. to give a semblance of drainage then built up instead of digging down. I've used a previously tried temporary measure of filling cardboard boxes with layers of soil and organic matter (crummy soils down the bottom, better stuff for the top 15 cms.) then planting. Yes the boxes do decay but by that time the organic matter has also broken down, the bed is only about half the height and can have a more lasting edging put on it. I've planted a mixture- corn, beans, capsicums, lettuce, tomatoes, basil and some cosmos. All doing well.

The top layer of compost I used has a lot of seed in it- both
ordinary weeds and grasses and self seeded plants like borage, fennel, calendulas, tomatoes and coriander. Most of these are getting weeded out but I'm transplanting the tomatoes (just in case they fruit before our first frost) and I'm leaving the coriander alone. It doesn't transplant well and I don't have enough growing.

Behind the cardboard boxes is a more conventional raised bed using besser blocks as edging. eventually we plan to use these for construction purposes but they won't suffer for being useful while we store them. This bed was half finished in the photo (with temporary metal divider); I've now finished the other half and I'm waiting for the bean seeds I've planted to come up- drying varieties for winter soups.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Busy Days

Have been absent from blogging for a while. Life's been a bit too "interesting".

Just over a year ago our garden looked like this when the creek behind our place reached the highest level it's got to in over 100 years. Possibly the most water to come downstream since white settlement.
Didn't do our carpets much good but gave the garden and the local wildlife a good boost. For the first time in 10 years I've been finding green frogs in our garden, and the more common pobblebonk frogs and brown frogs have been breeding too.

So now I'm getting stuck into the garden with a vengeance! Have set myself a project of using up a lot of seed that's been sitting longer than it should have, renovating neglected beds and creating new beds. My latest is a batch of 30 besser blocks bought for renovation work that I've temporarily diverted to grow soup beans (French Flagelot, borlotti, lima, red kidney, black eyed). Have marked my calendar with a countdown to the likely first frost date (late April usually) so I figure I've got about 14 weeks to get them grown and harvested. They should just make it.