Spring is well and truly here, and has been for quite a while now. Agricultural shows and expos are happening across the state and the roadsides are alight with wildflowers. We had a very warm August and the fruit trees are now in full bloom- in fact the peaches have finished flowering and are sporting tiny fruit. The scent of citrus flowering in the orchard is almost overpowering. This morning I applied trace elements to all the fruit trees because, having attended a garden workshop recently, I learnt that this is very important and far more beneficial than trying to guess at specific deficiencies and applying individual elements e.g. iron.
The veggie garden is in a period of seasonal transition. Our cool-room is full of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages, in special green vegetable bags which help the veg keep longer, and the garden beds are looking a little bare, however they will soon look lush again when the summer veg seeds and seedlings grow up.
We have butchered one of the pigs and he is delicious! When the time comes we will kill the last two at the same time rather than leave one, which might get lonely.
|A collection of vegetables from my garden, labelled|
and presented in an old dried fruit wooden crate
|Various herbs from my garden, presented for the local Ag Show|
I was fortunate to come away with the most points in the vegetable section and runner-up in the cooking. After a bit of a lack lustre showing last year it was great to see the locals really get into the spirit of the show with lots of exhibits this year.
I have heaps of cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale, in the garden this year, which is great because I love eating this versatile, healthy vegetable. Lots of people ask me how to cook it. My favourite recipe at the moment is to devein and slice it then steam or blanch for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, gently sauté some very finely sliced garlic and chopped chilli in olive oil, add a tin of chickpeas and fry them until they have a bit of colour before adding the kale to the pan and continuing to cook for another 4-5minutes. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you add some crumbled feta cheese it is a meal in itself!
Kale is an excellent addition to vegetable soups like minestrone and we also enjoy it, as a side dish, pureed with either some left over cheese sauce or some cream cheese.
Another, slightly unusual, vegetable that I am currently picking is fennel. Fennel has quite a strong aniseed flavour which doesn't appeal to everyone. Fennel pairs very well with pork I think. I find that when it is cooked the flavour mellows but I actually love the flavour of it raw and this salad is a delicious way to celebrate spring and enjoy fennel's crisp, fresh flavour.
Fennel, Pear or Apple, Parmesan and Walnut Salad
whisk together in a bowl large enough to hold the whole salad;
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider/white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 a teaspoon Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
1 bulb of fennel-sliced very finely using a knife of mandoline
1 pear or green apple- cored and slice finely
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Shaved parmesan to taste - I use a vegetable peeler for this
Chunks of avocado- optional
Salt flakes and ground black pepper to taste
Garnish with some gently fried fennel fronds if desired.
How's your garden going?