The Garden Gamble

We’re pretty keen on them but it’s not everyday we find ourselves talking to the plants. Yet at this time of year we’re often checking with the zucchini: “are you done yet?” Some are ready for an early exit with their bags packed, others are holding on, reluctant to call it a day, still producing decent sized fruit.

These transition times – seasonal shifts out of Winter or into Autumn – present us with dilemmas. We are thankful for the cooler changes, the increase in wetter days, the shortening daylight hours and the anticipation of a change in diet and flavours. However, it’s usually a busy period as we plan and plant our main crops for the next 6 months.

When we were growing only for ourselves we were similarly busy (with less overall labour involved) but we were also able to allow a plant to slowly fade out and continue to glean whatever fruits it had the strength to produce. These days we are more inclined to weigh up the likely yields versus an opportunity to pull the pin sooner, turn the beds and potentially get a quick maturing catch crop in the ground (e.g. any Asian greens, rocket, lettuce, kohlrabi) before the next season properly hits.

We also play a similar game of compromise with our tomatoes throughout the summer. Do we prune heavily and sacrifice yield but potentially have a healthier plant which doesn’t collapse under its own weight and is less prone to fungal disease? What effect does any extra pruning have on the quality of fruit being produced?

We will learn more as we continue to grow more and our business expands. We know we won’t escape this continual need for nimble decision making. We thrive on the challenges. Hopefully (and ideally) we can one day contribute to the wealth of gardening knowledge with some of our own discoveries and experiences…..

 

Tikka Masala

A British favourite, this curry is best known for its pairing with chicken. We enjoy it just the same with seasonal vegetables and chickpeas instead. While we say the almonds are optional, they do help to thicken the sauce, adding a rich texture, so it’s worth the effort….serves 4.

Ingredients

  • a jar of tikka masala paste
  • a thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • a glug of vegetable oil
  • about 500g of meat/vegetables of your choosing, chopped into chunks
  • 400ml cooconut milk
  • 400g tomatoes (chopped fresh or tinned)
  • 2 tbs of ground almonds (optional)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of chopped coriander (optional)
Method 

Step 1: Fry the curry paste and ginger in the oil, in a deep frying pan or wok, on medium heat for about 5 min until fragrant and colour deepens

Step 2: Add your meat/vegetables and stir to combine with paste. Fry for a further 5 min or so.

Step 3: Add the coconut millk and tomato. Simmer on a low to medium heat for about 15-20 min. If using ground almonds stir in while everything is simmering.

Step 4: Remove from heat, stir through lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped coriander (if using) to serve.

Quiet achievers

This week we salute the stalwarts of the garden – the perennials.

Oft neglected but always there when you need them or willing to fill a seasonal gap, perennials are the unsung heroes of our gardens. Almost everyone has a rosemary bush or bay tree at least, and most people have a fruit tree, in their garden or nearby on a roadside, which asks for almost nothing but gives plenty of fruit or flavour in return.

We are attempting to go one step further in our garden each year in terms of perennial plantings, and are always on the lookout for new and interesting perennial vegetables.  Not that “new” is really the right term – the perennial versions of vegies like kale, broccoli and celery are actually much older than the annual versions which tend to grow (and obviously die) more quickly but yield more than their perennial ancestors.

Beyond the better known perennial veg like asparagus and globe artichoke is a world of exciting and tasty variants, two of which feature in the boxes today.

These are the Egyptian Walking Onion (cue Bangles song and requisite dance moves) and the Rocoto perennial tree chilli. Both survive more than one season in the ground if given the chance and are just as delicious and useful as their annual cousins.

We hope you enjoy these fruits of absolutely no labour at all – and if you know of any other wonderful perennials please let us know – we are always looking for lazier ways to garden!

Tomato sambal

While sambal is technically a sauce, this version is so chunky and moreish it easily holds its own as a side. Great with rice, eggs and/or tofu, and so fast to make…..serves 4 as a topping/side.

Ingredients

  • 80ml vegetable or canola oil
  • 1-2 chillies, depending on desired heat
  • half a red onion or 2 shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • handful of cashews or macadamias
  • sliver of shrimp paste (about 1/2 tsp) or 1 tsp fish sauce
  • good pinch of sea salt
  • juice of 1-2 limes or half to 1 lemon, depending on desired acidity
Method 

Step 1: Throw all the ingredients except for the oil and lime/lemon juice in a food processor or blender and blend until the mixture resembles a salsa or chunky soup.

Step 2: Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok over medium heat and fry the blended sauce, stirring from time to time, until it changes colour, reduces and dries out a little (about 10-15 mins).

Add more oil during the cooking if the sauce looks too dry – now isn’t the time to worry about fat and calories as the oil is needed to achieve a luscious end product.

Step 3: Season with the lime/lemon juice to taste before serving, and adjust salt if needed.