Friday, January 30, 2015

The Lalor Summer-School for Vegetables, Mid-Term Report

I seem to recall that when I last blogulated, several decades ago, I hinted at certain misdemeanours on the part of Summer: to wit, excessive heat. If I didn't hint at excessive heat, then I was certainly thinking about it, because at the time the edges of the leaves were still crisped from the previous heatwave. The edges of me were still crisped from the previous heatwave. This is despite the fact that I had spent most of the heatwave either chipping away with a spoon at 2 litres of frozen peach pulp or lying on the floor, pretending to do work-related reading, and periodically groaning.

I'm very pleased to report, however, that Summer has pulled up its socks and been remarkably nice ever since. February may be prove me wrong, but so far this has been the best Summer since 2010-11. We've had a whole fortnight of maximum temperatures in the low 20s and southerly breezes most days and a blanket or two on the bed and snuggly cats and a half-full watertank and yes I do go on about the weather, but it's because heatwaves turn the Harlotian mind to thoughts of imminent apocalypse, and, in the interests of balance, I have to be proportionately relieved by non-heatwaves.

It's been good, gentle weather for keeping veg alive, dry enough that they haven't all keeled over with fungal infections, warm enough that things are ripening in their own good time. 

We've been doing pretty well on the tomato front. The long red fellows are Amish Pastes. The big red in the bottom right-hand corner is a tomato of unknown parentage that turned up one day, the furry things up the back are not tomatoes (hello, interloping peaches), and the little orange guys are from a free packet of Diggers' Club Artisan Tomatoseeds.

I was a bit suspicious of Artisan TomatoesI mean, calling something "Artisan" just isn't very artisanal. Artisanal tomatoes should have names like Wapsipinicon Peach, Jaune Flamme, Schimmeig Weltschmersch, Big Red Rockeater, or Alpaca's Delight - or Amish Paste, for that matter.

But I'm prepared to overlook the flaw in their nomenclature, because they're quite lovely. And prolific. In future I'll have to try to repress the urge to grow magnificent boomba tomatoes and instead stick with the cherries. They ripen so much more quickly and they're so much more bounteous and easy.

As for their fellow nightshades, I've been enjoying my inaugural tomatillo crop. I bought these Green Harvest seeds, never having tasted a tomatillo, and I'm very pleased to find that they're worth bothering with.

The fruit mature inside these lantern-shade pericarps, like Cape gooseberries do.

And then, it seems, they're ripe when the pericarp splits. The fruit are sweet and strangely cheesy-tasting. Word on the street is that they're the basis for Mexican salsa verde (they're green when ripe, hence the verde). Henceforth I will be looking down smugly upon mere tomato-based salsas.

Speaking of smug, and more nightshade action, I seem to have cracked the secret to getting eggplants and capsicums from seed-to-fruit in a single season. Or I've had a lucky fluke anyway. I brought on these seeds in my heated propagation tray inside, and planted them out in late October into a bed covered with about 20cm deep of my artisanal compost, which shall henceforth be known as Artisan Compost. Apart from the minor setback caused by my Artisan Compost spawning a minor forest of volunteer potatoes and mallow (thank you, cold-composting methods), which it took me several weeks to realise I had to sacrifice to the greater solanum, things are going Well.

Camouflaged green capsicum! Sexy milk bottles & plastic flowerpots were deployed as earwig repulsing devices when the seedlings were planted out.

I've been getting a bit of bean action from these Dwarf Violet Queens, but the plants are disappointingly floppy. I may have over-manured the soil they're in (not with my own personal manure in this case, some of you may be pleased to read); whether it's that or that they're just congenitally lazy, I don't think I'll bother with them next year.

 Carrots and parsnips and leeks are pottering along in the excellent Greensmart wicking pots on the front driveway:

The disgustingly bitter radicchio which I didn't realise (a) would need blanching and (b) would taste like some grueling Baltic herbal remedy has gone to flower:

and in the spirit of growing my own root-based coffee substitute,  I am considering yanking it up and doing unto the radicchio (aka chicory) what hath been done unto its friends the dandelions.

Corn, corning away:

 Kale, kaling:

Leek, flowering:

Pumpkin, disappearing over the neighbours' fence, which is probably where its fruit will end up:

 NB: nibbled leaves. A personal contribution from Agatha the Pumpkin-Leaf Improver and Professional Chook.

Jaune et Verte squash, squashing:

That's not quite all. There's a potato patch doing its underground thang (I hope), two sweet-potato plants, one sending vines out on a serious rampage and the other minding its own business, the Egyptian walking onions beginning the formation of their bulbils, sorrel looking green and joyous, silverbeet going frantically to seed, Jerusalem artichokes ensuring flatulence for 2015, and Chinese water celery beginning its inaugural march across the pond into water chestnut territory.

And now, c'est tout. B+.


  1. There are but few things in this world that are disappointingly floppy, and your beans are not one of them.

  2. Yum. And repeat.
    For a variety of reasons, no vegies were planted here this year. I regretted it then, and I regret it still.
    And I will regret it again when I taste (or more accurately) don't taste my vegies until the next crop happens.

  3. Leek, flowering! Who knew? Enchantment.

  4. Excellent reporting of happenings. Well done on the eggplant front. Mine are barely flowering. I also have a tomatillo and am looking forward to it fruiting. I think I remember reading radicchio is less bitter grown in autumn/winter, but having grown it once and being underwhelmed I've never bothered to see if it is true. But it has pretty flowers.

  5. So relieved to read that I'm not the only philistine who doesn't get radicchio, Bek. I'm still holding out on the possibility that the roots will make a good tea, and you're right, the blue of the flowers is gorgeous.

    Sorry to read about your eggplant underwhelmingness. I've never had so much luck with such young plants. I think the deluxe compost must have helped.

  6. Hello Kate! Yes, the leek flowers - they're lovely. All the flowering alliums, actually, are just beautiful. Unfortunately letting it flower depletes some of the tenderness of the stalk bit that's for eatin, so I've only been letting a couple flower for seed (and enchantment).

    1. Oh dear yes, the eternal tension between food for the tum and food for the eyes: blossoms v dinner. Thank you for leaving some pretty little nothings to admire, but don't risk more of the tender ;) x

  7. Dear Elephant's Child - thanks for the long-distance yum. Luckily there are greengrocers for times like these :-) x

  8. You are a force of mystery and wonder, TimTx

  9. Enjoying immensely your delightful garden commentary, Lexi.

    Such lovely and colourful produce..

    Alack and alas, a green thumb I have not. :(

    I make a good scarecrow, at least. As a result I've saved countless figs for the table. Have three different kinds of fig tree. One was self sown.. My kind of fig tree. :)

    Those Eggplant look super! How do you cook yours?
    They are really nice, sliced and then grilled or barbecued. Afterwards pour over extra virgin olive oil, a few squeezes of lime juice and add a couple of crushed finely chopped garlic cloves. Then eat it with some fresh crusty Italian bread. Bellissimo!

  10. Thanks, Kathy :-). Sounds like you are possibly the queen of eggplant preparation. The way you describe's great. I also just chop it up and put it in curries and casseroles - let it absorb whatever liquid is happening already. Because I'm going to have quite a lot of it this year, I'm also thinking about ways I can preserve it (eggplant pickle, eggplants under vinegar - not sure exactly how it will work ... will have to do some research).

    Hooray for self-sown fig trees!