Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Number of Cucumbers

We've got cucumbers coming out of our ears at the moment, and that is a wonderful thing. I've never had much luck growing them in the past and I am putting this year's success down to the marvels that are T-Tape and Tom's compost. Cucumbers are a great veg to grow at home because, apart from tasting fantastic, they are not something that keeps terribly well in the fridge when store bought. They are definitely the biggest culprit for going bad in my fridge before I have a chance to use them. I am doing my best to eat them all fresh - with no help from Tom, who is growing them rampantly but doesn't eat them….and a little help from Rossco, who will eat them in salads etc- however try as I might, we can't keep up with production! Yesterday my friend Mary gave me a recipe for old fashioned 'Bread and Butter Cucumbers' which are basically sliced, salted, packed in a jar and pickled. I'm looking forward to giving them a try. They will probably make a nice Christmas gift.

Cucumber is great in all sorts of salads. It's refreshing coolness works very well with fattier meats like pork and lamb. Ottolenghi does a delicious cucumber and poppy seed salad and below you will find a recipe for Belinda Jeffery's Thai flavoured cucumber and macadamia salad, which she recommends serving with a piece of fish and some steamed rice. Cucumber also works really well cooked, for example in a stir fry, and I remember my Mum making iced cucumber soup as an entree for her dinner parties back in the 70s. I'm sure all the chicken stock and cream made it taste delicious!

Back to the T-Tape….after a season of using it I have to say I am absolutely sold on this stuff and would recommend it to anyone looking to install an efficient watering system in their garden. It is so easy now to water my garden-I just turn on one main tap and the job is done. Tom has set his up with a timer so he doesn't even have to turn the tap on, he just has to remember to go up to the garden and pick his cucumbers! Unlike other drip systems I've used in the past, T-Tape doesn't seem to block up with ants and, at 20cm apart, the drippers are perfectly spaced for growing vegetables. I've never had a vegetable garden so productive and go for so long into the warm weather. The success of the cucumbers has inspired me to try again with rockmelons and water melons, which I've never had much luck with. They are just seedlings at the moment but if they do any good I will be sure to let you know! (And no, I'm not getting commission from John Deere for sales of T-Tape!)

I am still picking silverbeet and kale, carrots, parsnips, leeks, spring onions and beetroot from the winter as well as spring planted zucchini, eggplant and, of course, cucumber. The tomatoes haven't stopped fruiting all year and I have new, self-sown, Tommy Toes that have popped up in various places and are now fruiting prolifically.

Not all is a success however. I have to say the spud towers have been a failure in terms of productivity. Chances are I didn't do it properly but compared to the yield from the traditionally grown potatoes the towers toppled dismally. Tom's fared no better and neither did his girlfriend's, grown in Perth.

We have a new herb garden, built by Tom and planted by me. It's under an old tank stand near the kitchen and I'm hoping it will do well through the summer months where it will receive full morning sun, no midday sun, and dappled afternoon shade. Naturally it is watered via T-Tape! I've somewhat optimistically planted a row of bok choy seeds in there so it will be interesting to see if they grow here at this time of year…..this is a bit of a problem I have, and one shared by gardeners everywhere I think-  planting stuff even though we know growing conditions will be less than ideal e.g. the temperature will very likely hit 45 degrees Celsius in a month!

The last of the pigs are in the freezer so they at least won't be sweltering through the summer months. Some days I wish I could spend summer in the freezer, but wallowing in the swimming pool will have to suffice! Unfortunately the last two pigs were a bit on the fatty side so next time we might have to cut back on the wheat a bit. I don't mind a bit of fat but it's a problem when there is too much fat and not enough meat.

From the orchard we are picking loads of yellow fleshed peaches. Such a treat! The white peach tree seems to have succumbed to the salt water so that will have to come out and be replaced by something more salt tolerant. I want to try growing zyziphus (also known as jujube and Chinese date) but I would like to get hold of a non-thorny variety. I know they like hot weather but am unsure of their salt tolerance. Please make a comment below if you can shed any light on this.

Belinda Jeffery's Cucumber, Chilli and Roasted Macadamia Salad


6 medium size Lebanese cucumbers, peeled
1 or 2 small red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
About 1/3 cup finely chopped coriander or mint (or a mixture of both)
About 70g roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped


60ml fresh lime juice
60ml rice vinegar
55g caster sugar or palm sugar (I used 30g and thought it was plenty)
1 ½  tablespoons Asian fish sauce


In a measuring cup or similar whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Adjust the balance of sweet, sour and salty to taste.  Chill. Halve the cucumbers lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and slice them thinly into 5mm crescents. Put them in a large bowl along with the chillies and coriander/mint. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge to chill. Just before serving the salad mix in the dressing and half the nuts. Scoop the salad into a bowl, sprinkle on the remaining nuts and serve it. If you leave the salad sitting in the dressing for too long it becomes a bit watery.

Serves 4

No comments:

Post a Comment