Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

It’s spring and spring means peas! Lots of peas! I planted two crops of “Telephone Peas” but nearly half if them turned out to be snow peas! Luckily I planted as many as I did because we’re still getting plenty!  

  
The peas are grown on a trellis made with wire mesh and tomato stakes. This gives them support with the option of tying more mesh, fencing wire or string between the stakes to keep the trellis going higher. One of the pea crops has grown well over 7ft high but unfortunately recent winds have bought it back down below 6ft.

We harvest peas as we need them, trying to be careful not to let them grow too fat and woody but also trying not to store too many in the fridge. Today, however, the recent warm weather has bought on a flourish of peas and we managed to harvest 2.2kg in one go!   

  
Our kids love eating peas raw and just picking them off the bush while playing in the backyard. But, typically we simply blanche them quickly in the hot water or add them raw into a salad. But one of the nicest ways we have eaten our peas is in fresh summer pasta. 

Making a lovely white sauce we simply toss the pasta with a few fesh peas and some bits of crispy bacon and some torn up mint leaves. The heat from the pasta and sauce cooks the peas just enough while serving! Beautiful! 

But I still reckon my girls are right… straight off the bush is best!   

Spring Update: What’s Happening on The Urban Farm

Spring Update: What’s Happening on The Urban Farm

It is almost the end of September so I figured it’s time for a Spring Update with what’s growing, being harvested and new plans for The Urban Farm. 

The first thing to notice on the Urban Farm is just how dry everything is. It is only the end of September but we are already watering consistently with the irrigation. Donald has seen just 170mm (7 inches) in 2015 to date! That’s nearly 100mm (4 inches) short of average!

But, with consistent watering the garden is not looking too bad. In fact, there is heaps going on. 

  
SPRING HARVEST

At present we are continuing to harvest plenty of winter-spring veg. Our broccoli secondary heads are performing beautifully with regular pickings of near 500g. I love broccoli and the way it keep producing well after the primary heads have been eaten and it’s still around $7 a kilo in the Supermarket. Along with the Curly and Red Russian Kale, the brassicas are going to seed and so I imagine with some warm mid 30°C temps forecast, we won’t have them for much longer!   

 We are also harvesting silverbeet, beetroots, leeks, peas and snow peas. The leeks are lovely and fat and go beautifully sautéed down with some chicken, white wine and cream in Chicken & Leek Stroganoff. 

The peas are a funny story. We planted 3 crops of “telephone peas” (store bought seed) and half at least have come up as “snow peas”! We’re not complaining about the snow peas but I would have liked to be picking and shelling more peas. 

  
The broad beans are flowering but we are yet to see many pods and haven’t begun harvest yet. It will be nice when the broad bean harvest coincides with the end of some of the brassicas. The herb garden is also coming back after winter and needs a tidy up, while the garlic is growing really well in the warmer weather!

  
If we really set out to eat only from the garden (which we basically do) we would be about 80-90% garden sufficient this spring with only a few carrots and potatoes being purchased to add to the garden picked green veg. 

WHAT’S BEING SOWN?

In the seed house we have started tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. This year I have gone for heirloom tomatoes so I can collect seed. We have Black Russian, Tigerella, Mortgage Lifter and Green Zebra tomatoes as well as Sweetbite, Sugar Drop Yellow, Tommy Toe and Lemon Drop “cherry” tomatoes. They will stay in the seed house until we are free from frost risks in about mid October.

  
We also have Gerkin Cucumber, zuchinni and Lebanese Cucumber in the seed house. These seedlings will stay until they have strengthened to protect them from earwigs… and when I have some room to plant them out!! 

In the garden we have planted the first crop of potatoes. These have been planted deep in a trench which will be gradually filled in as they grow. We will also plant succession crops later in the season. 

  
Later in the season we will be seeking to plant bush beans, sweet corn and some more beetroots as well as the usual succession crops of summer veg. The fruit trees too will hopefully be producing fruit to pick in later summer. That have all had a good fertilise and are getting plenty of water in this dry weather. 

– Jono

Winter: When the rain (never) tumbles down in July

Winter: When the rain (never) tumbles down in July

Winter. Not exactly the best time to be an urban farmer. Cold. Damp. Slow.

This year in Donald (Western VIC, Australia) has been particularly cold and typically dry. Maximums have been consistently around 9-13°C with plenty of clouds. There has been a number of small, insignificant showers of rain amounting to just 37mm (1.5 inches) in June & July and only 128mm for 2015 (5 inches). So what do you do when it’s so cold, dry and slow?

WHAT WE’RE HARVESTING

We’re currently picking plenty of kale, spinach, silverbeet and chard as well as some secondary heads of broccoli (which are slow growing) and some leeks. This is nice and added to frozen beans from summer and the odd slow growing beetroot from the winter garden we can make do with buying a few veggies like potatoes and maybe a few carrots.  There are peas in the garden which are flowering but not podding yet, and the broad beans are up and about, so when it warms up around September we should have a large influx of produce. The kale, beetroots, silverbeet and broccoli should all grow quicker and produce good yields come September as well.

IMG_7817

GARDEN JOBS TO DO

Although we haven’t had enough rain to stop watering, and the cold has stunted the growth of some crops, the weeds have been running rampant. There has been lots of rye grass, stinging nettles and other small weeds poking their heads up and need to be pulled. The chooks are thankful for the constant supply of greens however!

It is also time to starting thinking about Spring-Summer crops and making room for them. Soon I’ll plant some snow peas and work beds with manure and compost where summer crops will be planted. I’m halfway through making a mini seed raising hot house out of an old kitchen cupboard which will be used to start off early summer crops and protect them from a late frost.

IMG_7820

 

The idea is to have enough space prepared in the garden for summer crops to be planted out – beans, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, sweet corn, capsicum, potato etc – while still growing the current winter-spring crops. Then, when they have finished by summer, they can make way for succession plantings of the summer crops and rested beds ready for autumn.  There are also fruit trees to prune like the massive over grown fig tree and the old nectarine tree. These will also be dressed with manure ready for spring growth and flowers!

It might be cold, wet & slow but there is always something to do!

Jono

The Hungry Season: Winter Veg Recipies

The Hungry Season: Winter Veg Recipies

Winter is, for obvious reasons, slower in the garden. But the produce that we pick can be just as delicious!

We’re not as self-sufficient over winter as the array of veg and the speed at which they grow makes the quantity of produce lower until early spring. However, along with some beautiful backyard eggs, beetroots, some leafy greens and broccoli, great dishes can be made.

We had a wonderful surprise two days ago when I pulled out a frosted, self sown potato from the summer potato crop. Underneath this single plant was 2.5kg of hidden gems!! A great find during the hungry season!


Here are a couple of our favourite ways to cook winter veggies.

BEETROOT, WALNUT & FETA SALAD

beetroot salad

This is a winter salad which can be served warm. Roast chopped beetroot (bite sized) in some olive oil and balsamic before tosses it into a baby spinach leaf salad with chunks of feta and some crushed walnuts. Add a bit more olive oil and balsamic to dress the salad.

KALE CHIPS

Kale-chips

Kale is a wonderful and versatile veg that can be steamed, stir-fried, added to dishes and even baked! Kale Chips are a delicious baked snack or side dish and it’s easy to do.

We flavour our Kale Chips with sesame seeds, olive oil and sesame oil and then just pop them into a hot preheated oven until they are crispy (which doesn’t take very long). They go a dark brown, or even a black colour, but the taste is terrific and they just dissolve in your mouth!

FRIED EGGS WITH STIR-FRIED GREENS

 

This is a simple dish which is great for a light meal, breakfast or lunch. Stir-fry a mix of winter leaves (Kale, spinach, beetroot leaves, chard, silverbeet) in some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Place on a crusty piece of toast and top with fried or poached eggs cooked so the centre is still runny. If you’re able to find some field mushrooms, this goes great with the kale leaves and egg!

Winter!! Doesn’t have to be the hungry season!

Jono

Preserving Your Harvest: Air-Drying Herbs & Chillies

Preserving Your Harvest: Air-Drying Herbs & Chillies

By the end of Summer our herb & chilli garden bed is overgrown! We’ve been harvesting constantly but even that hasn’t curbed the growth. Our basil is delicious in summer but the frost kills it over winter and I still want to eat my preserved tomatoes with my homegrown basil in my daughters favourite dinner, Spaghetti Bolognese, even when the garden isn’t producing anything. So here is how I air-dry my herbs for winter… and it’s really simple!

Simply cut the herbs you wish to dry, tie them in bunches with string and hand them upside down in an airey, dry and protected spot. The herbs are best cut around mid morning to be full of flavour and hung to dry as soon as possible. Our storage cupboard off the kitchen is perfect. We leave the herbs hanging for around 6 weeks until they are completely dry and then package them in airtight preserving clip lock bottles. We’ve dried plenty of rosemary, oregano, basil, mint, thyme, parsley and sage this way.

How does this work? The moisture in the plants is drawn down into the leaves by gravity and then evaporated out leaving behind crisp, dry, flavour filled leaves. You can also dry them in a dehydrator, on wire racks in the sun (if you live in a sunny location) or in the oven. But this air-drying hanging techniques works really well and is super easy.

You can hang chillies too to air dry, but I have found down in Victoria, unless you have a consistently dry and warm spot in your house they can begin to perish as they hang. Instead, I have tried oven drying them at about 50°C. While I am not a total fan if this method due to it’s energy consumption it does work if you live in a cool or wet climate or if your house isn’t consistently warm or dry.

So don’t let those summer herbs go to waste, get drying!

Jono

Early Winter Harvest: Leeks 

Early Winter Harvest: Leeks 

The beginning of Winter is often the “hungry season” on the Urban Farm. The end of Summer has seen the end of beans, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, cucumber and the like and we’re often only harvesting one or two things going into the end of autumn and early winter. One of the crops we’re harvesting in early winter are beautiful fat leeks.

Leeks are basically large spring onions and they do take a considerable time to grow to an appropriate size. These leeks were self sown from a crop we’d been harvesting all through summer. We dug up the young plants in late summer and transplanted them into a new bed to fill out.

To get the long white fleshy part of a leek you need to bury it. This is typically done by hilling up the leeks as they grow so the majority of the flesh is underground. When we transplanted these leeks I made sure most of the young plant was burried in order for a nice fat white flesh to grow to a nice size.

When you harvest a leek it is best to use something like a garden fork to ease the plant out so you don’t break it. Then strip the outer two leaves and trim the tips for perfectly harvested leeks.

We’re turn turning these ones into chicken and leek stroganoff! Yum!

Jono