The cosy season
We are well and truly in to autumn now I am finding the scent of the air changing to a comforting earthy smell that makes me want to eat soup and forage for mushrooms. In the garden more and more of the summer crops have fallen as the temperatures continue to drop. This makes room for more winter crops that I have been planting gradually, but it’s best to get them started now while there is still some warmth in the days.
Leek and potato soup is such a delight on a cold day so, come winter, I know I will be pleased that I took the time to sow leeks. They are an easy crop to grow and don’t take up too much space. I love watching leek seedlings, or any onion for that matter, unfurl from their seed as they come out doubled over. It always reminds me of a very tall man climbing out of a very small car. When the seedlings are about 20cm tall they are ready to plant in the garden. To make sure you end up with a long white stalk, poke a hole in the soil with something the width of a rake handle, about 20cm deep. Drop the seedling into the hole and fill it with water. This may seem odd but will wash enough soil to cover the roots and the leek will grow to fill out the hole and you will have tender sweet leeks just in time for the chilly weather.
Now these are a love them or hate them kind of a vegetable. I was never one of those kids forced to eat them because my mum never cooked them. She didn’t like them so they were never on our menu. But having experienced them as an adult, without the associated traumatic memories, I really like them. It turns out that kids have a different way of processing the flavour of brussels sprouts than adults, who are more likely to enjoy them. So if you haven’t tried them since you were a kid, you might need to give them another go. The secret to good brussels sprouts, or any brassica for that matter is to plant the seedling firmly in the soil, and don’t at any stage let them dry out or they will bolt straight to seed.
This is one of the most anticipated harvests in my garden and such an autumnal treat. Feijoas were among the first things to go into my orchard and this year it looks to be a bumper crop. The fruit come in thick and fast and it quickly goes from being a wonderful bonus to a bit of a task master as you work to preserve every last ounce of goodness in jams, wines, muffins, and preserves. Just enjoy them while they last. The key to a bumper harvest is to make sure the bush has an open structure so the birds can get in and pollinate. I've been told the best way to tell if your feijoa tree has been pruned enough is if you can throw a frozen chicken through it! Pruning is best done after harvest.
It’s a shame Halloween is in the wrong season for us. I have loads of different kinds of pumpkins ripe for the picking in my garden and it would be lovely to make a seasonal display of them but it didn’t seem quite right to celebrate Easter with pumpkins. I am harvesting my pumpkins as they come ripe and maybe I will make a fine display as I cure them for winter storage. This involves leaving them in a dry sunny place for two weeks then turning them over for another two weeks. This will make the skins hard and sweeten the flesh. Then I will bring them in to a cool dark place for safe keeping.
In the kitchen
Chop feijoa flesh into salsas to serve with chicken, fish and meats, alongside curries and on sandwiches. Warren Elwin mixes his feijoas with chopped dates, toasted pistachios, desiccated coconut, coriander leaves, orange zest and a good squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
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It’s definitely time for Kyle Street’s pumpkin pie which has become a menu staple at Auckland’s Federal Deli.
Sarah O’Neil, Hubby the Un-Gardener and their two boys have planted a large garden as part of their journey to discover “the good life”. Visit Sarah’s websitesarathegardener.co.nz
Recipes to try with your harvested pumpkin and feijoa