Monday, February 6, 2017

What's in my kitchen, February 2017

I'd originally intended to talk about what I've been cooking and eating lately, but I had some other photographs ready, so this is more of a hybrid between a proper in my kitchen crossed with what's growing in my garden. With the weather being as hot as it has been recently, I've been loathe to plant anything new in the garden. I grow most of my produce from seeds, and it's far too hot for brand new seedlings to be outdoors. That, and my brand of gardening means my plants need to be hardy enough to thrive on careful neglect means I don't have the time to baby along new plants.

I do however like to see things grow and I thought in the interests of being scientific and letting the smalls get involved, that we might put a few things in water and watch what happens from the relative cool of my kitchen window sill, where we can easily top up the water as it evaporates.

When avocado prices dropped a few months ago, I was on those little green/black morsels like a pig in mud. Eventually, I got tired of just throwing the seeds into the compost... they take so long to break down so I thought we'd grow one. I admit, I was spurred on by an ad that seems to be appearing regularly on my Facebook page, where someone has invented a sort of floating mini boat to put an avocado seed in and grow. I thought that it seemed a bit ridiculous to need a specific device so I determined to do it armed with nothing more than a tall glass and some toothpicks.

I peeled the avocado seed, then impaled it on a trio of toothpicks and submerged about half of it into a glass of water. A monokuro boo glass as a matter of fact; I love those little black and white pigs! I digress. It took some time, but eventually, we saw progress. This seed has probably been growing for at least 6 weeks, possibly a bit longer.
It has shoots and roots, and the interesting thing in my opinion is that as that shoot grew, it cleaved the seed entirely in half! The only thing holding it together now is the shoot/root structure. I don't know whether it's providing any fuel or its now purely decorative, but it's sure interesting. The kids are more interested in the fact that if they turn the glass around, the shoot will orient itself to point out the window toward the light. I'm debating where to plant it in the garden when it gets big enough. I'm not sure how long avocado trees take to produce fruit but I suspect a long time.
I saved the top of my tiny piney and let it dry out a little after scraping off the bulk of the flesh so that it didn't get smelly. When it was dry, we strategically placed some toothpicks (left over from a cheese tasting from the look of them) to stop it from falling into the jar, and left the bottom part submerged in water. A few weeks later we have tiny roots growing (you can see one at about 7 o'clock in the jar), and the top is getting a bit taller as well. When the root system is better established and the days are less hot, I'll relocate this little baby into the garden. While we likely won't get any fruit for at last two years, rough leaf pineapples are so delicious and the chickens decimated my last bed of pineapples so I'm starting over.
We've also been saving the roots of spring onions and planting those directly in the garden, and re-establishing a sweet potato patch from a sweet potato that was neglected and sprouted in storage. These have gone directly into the soil in the hope that I will again have thriving sweet potato vines to use for cooking (turns out the chickens were huge fans of them as well).

I guess this post demonstrates that I've been growing a lot of things on my kitchen windowsill lately, which is true. In the heat, I've tended toward not cooking as much as possible, so many of our meals have been simple, fast and not very photogenic. Hopefully as summer rolls to a close, I will start posting more food posts!

I'm sending this to Lizzy, of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things for linking in to her monthly IMK roundup.

Monday, January 23, 2017

How does your garden grow, January 2017

I've had the most glorious gentle beginning to the new year. It's been a very slow pace, and very unstructured. There has been lots of catching up with family, lots of feasting and festivities, and lots of cheer. There has also been plenty of time to potter around the house and garden doing all the little things I always put off during the busy-ness of the year.

I regularly sign up to do courses online as I hate feeling like I'm stagnant and not learning anything new. My most recent course is called Science of Gardening, it's actually a HECS scholarship unit offered by the University of Tasmania, which means that domestic students don't incur any tuition fee or debt for the unit. It actually counts toward the UTAS Bachelor of General Studies, but I'm just taking it for the fun of it (nerd alert!). UTAS often do HECS scholarship units and I find it a good way to keep my brain ticking away.

I'll just steal the explanation about the course and leave it here:
Important and interesting questions for gardeners include why are plants arranged into families, and what features do they share? What are plants made of, and how do they grow? How do seeds know when to germinate, and how does the environment shape the way they grow? What are the crucial factors determining when plants flower and set seed? Why does soil type and nutrients affect plant health? Answers to all these questions and more when you study Science of Gardening.
It's actually a really interesting learning curve for me. It's completely online which is fine, but although it's called the science of gardening, I didn't really think I'd be delving into the chemical composition of soil, admiring the biological cross sections of plants, or re-learning the periodic table and how to recognise deficiencies or toxicities of soil and then diagnose how to correct them.

It's made me look at my garden in a whole new light and consider how I might tweak my gardening practices to make my plants more productive and happy. I appreciate just how much effort these little clumps of cells go to just to end up on my plate!

All that said, here's a peek into my garden right now.

I grew a tiny pineapple and it was delicious, if extremely small (dirty looking Sophie the Giraffe for comparison). It was so sweet and the acid was barely there at all. It was just enough for a morning tea for the smalls and me.
My eggplants are producing prolifically, as they usually do. My soil must be appreciated by eggplants. Although these two are different sizes, the right time to harvest eggplants are when they are plump and glossy. I have taken a batch over to my mother in law's house so that she can use them for Chinese New Year dishes. Yum.
Here is a picture of my sad looking lemon tree. I had an assignment where I had to diagnose citrus deficiencies, which was interesting. As my tree has healthy new growth, and the yellowing is mainly on the older leaves, I suspect magnesium deficiency, which is easily adjusted by watering in some epsom salt. I think there may also be a minor zinc deficiency also, which could be adjusted with a kelp solution spray. It's a sad tree, there is also some leaf miner activity, but it has improved of late, so there is still hope.
The chilli, eggplant, and what I'm 90% sure is a pumpkin are doing well, despite the recent heat. Mr Fork has been putting the water from his fish tank onto my garden when he does water changes, and they seem to appreciate all the fish poo.
One of my assignments also involved testing the ph of my soil. It's something I never really gave much thought to, but now I know that my soil is definitely on the acidic side. I suppose that means I should stop dumping my coffee grounds directly onto the soil and compost them instead. I also need to get some dolomite lime and see if I can raise the ph a bit for happier plants.
Our girls went rogue and built a secret nest under the house where it's lovely and cool. They were sneaky about it, continuing to lay in the regular box too, so I just thought they were slacking off in this heat. It's such a pretty nest, lined with bits of purloined sugar cane from the garden and dried grass. Sneaky things. These will be the last of our eggs as Mr Fork has gotten sick of cleaning chicken poo from the deck and has promised the chickens to a friend who has a large garden, doesn't care about chicken poo and swears not to eat them. I think perhaps it's an unlucky move, especially so close to the Chinese New Year when it switches over to the year of the Rooster, but who am I to come between a man and his BBQ-ing space. Especially when I don't eat eggs myself!
How is your garden growing?

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