Friday, July 31, 2009

Bolt of Blue and maybe a Pinch of Purple

Melbourne is a funny place. It rained most of last night, although we only got 7.2mms, still nothing to complain about. Now the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky, although I am not sure how long that will last.

Flowers in the balcony garden love both these things, rain and sun. So do the vegetables, and definitely the tomatoes, but in an effort to stem the tomato obsession I thought I might post about my prettier, more floral garden friends. Ok maybe I shouldn't call them friends, or should I?

Everything seems to match the sky at the moment, radiant blues with a hint of purple. The pansies are looking great, although I am wondering if any of the others will put out flowers and if they will be of a different colour, this was, after all, a mixed pack of seeds.

The cornflowers are bright blue and multiplying. Hard to photograph for some reason, perhaps a mixture of the wind (yes sun and rain and also wind) and lack of a plain background.

There is also an abundance of violas. They look amazing in the sunshine and it will be sad when I have to dig them up to put the tomatoes in. Maybe I can transplant them into a smaller pot and keep them.

Blue flowers, blue sky, this is going to be a good day :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tomatoaholics Anonymous

Tomatoes, tomatoes tomatoes!!! Everyone is posting about them. Little balls of coloured yumminess are springing up in everyones' gardens and being placed in various culinary styles on plates across the places experiencing Summer.

Dan over at Urban Veggie Garden Blog had this encompassing post, then followed it up with scrumptious harvest pictures of his tomatoes. Sooooooooooo Jealous!!!

The Suburban Gardener is so flush with the fruity things they're practically giving them away. Ok not giving them away, but making juice and other such yummy concoctions out of them.

Skippy's Garden is beginning to put the littlies out.

The Cottage Garden got the first full sized one a long time ago.

Amira's were a long time coming, but the redness of the Romas is certainly present in this post.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens, whose full sized tomatoes are a little slow in emerging is at least writing about them, and will get them soon, I am sure. And at least she is getting some cherry tomatoes

Hanna's tomato tastings are delayed too, sounds like some of you have some tough weather over in the other hemisphere. But one day they will be here and again I'll be reminded that many of you are enjoying the goodness of summer's divine little homegrown red fruits (and yellow and green and purple and orange and ...)

Even food blogs are not leaving me alone, with mouth watering temptations like this post on heirloom tomatoes at Seasaltwithfood.

Are there any I missed? If so post links in the comments.

But here in Southern Australia we are wallowing in Winter. Ok so 15 degree relatively sunny days are not too hard to deal with, and most would call them a pleasant day, but there have been some morning frosts and the heater has been getting a bit of a work out in the evenings. And it is not that I don't have tomatoes, yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes are in abundance at the markets. But it is just not the same. The winter indoor tomato experiment is toddling along nicely (refer to the picture above), but I am not a very patient person and all those blog stories of tomatoes make me want my own home grown ones now! Keep up the pictures of the tomatoes at all costs please fellow bloggers, I beg of you as they give me the fix I so sorely need. Is there a tomatoaholics anonymous anywhere in Melbourne? If so, please point me in its general direction, with a black russian or mortgage lifter in hand for good measure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flipping, Swimming Flies

The indoor winter tomato experiment is rolling on its merry way, with some lovely looking fruits forming.

Only problem is the lush greens attract more than just myself to their beauty - they bring in the flies. Flipping, horrible flies. The flies grew in number as the plants grew in size. Then one day I stumbled upon a solution that didn't involve buying chemical-laden fly traps or anything more than what I normally had in the kitchen. I was enjoying a chai latte, from a mix left behind graciously by lovely second awesome balcony sitter but never managed to finish it. As usual I forgot about the cup and came back two days later to a spotted looking milky mess. Upon closer inspection I realised that the flies flew in, but not being the best swimmers, had drowned! A modified version using milk, water and sugar was placed by the window. At the beginning it looked like this.

One day later it looked like this.

I've been changing them daily, usually because I never finish my tea in time before I have to run off to uni and the fly colony has significantly decreased. As long as the flies don't get swimming lessons any time soon, we should be set with this method. What is your fly removal method?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sensible Snow Peas

The other night I had two lovelies over for dinner and not only did they get to sample the broccoli side sprouts (ok so just broccoli with teeny tiny heads) they got to try the snow peas. I put them raw, crunchy and crispy into a side salad and the two diners thought the snow peas were sweetly pleasing. The problem with most of my snow peas is they grew up and up and up but alas the trellises could not grow with them. For an idea of my trellising ineptitude check this post out.) The early attempts turned into jumbled messes like this.

The newer plantings are far more sensible. The one pictured below is growing more slowly and the stems are less leggy, meaning the leaves are more densely packed together. They look set to put out flowers soon which will be at a far more sensible height.

This next snow pea, put in the ground a few weeks before the first sensible snow pea has already flowered at a much more acceptable height. Far more sensible there, Mr snowpea, bravo!

Luckily no frosts have come to claim the flowers and I look forward to a new harvest very soon. All the other snowpeas, even the ones that have left their trellises for dead, are flowering. Here are some views of them, or at least a vision of what their view is like.

Wonder what these new plantings will choose to do!?! (the snow peas can be seen just peaking through the soil behind the lettuce.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Germination Station

Spring is just around the corner, if by just around the corner I mean a month and a half away but with the recent sunny days one could be forgiven for thinking that the springtime goodness was sneaking back into the grounds of Melbourne a tad early. The clouds and greyness of today combats that theory but it was nice while it lasted.

Given that weather and the date I felt it was high time to plant out my first crop of seeds, indoors by the sunny window of course. Last week the germination station was created. In this pot of 6 we have five varieties of tomato and one chili. I even bothered to label them this time! The tomatoes are Purple Cherokee, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Lime Green, Amana Orange and Pineapple. The chili is a White Habanero, something I have been eager to grow since I found the seeds.

Fingers crossed the sunny afternoons help bring on germination, although I am now one week in and apart from some disturbing looking mold on one of the wooden sticks I am no closer to germination. One single Aunt Ruby's German green has popped his/her head up to say hello. Not warm enough? Mix too rich? Too cold, even inside? Hmmmmmm. Might have to try again! I have bought some more seeds for just such an eventuality ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wrapping up the Tomato Season: No. 7 White Cloud

In the haste to write about the winter indoor tomato experiment I completely forgot the final of the 'wrapping up the tomato season' posts. This one is about White Cloud tomatoes, a medium to large white beefsteak tomato that I grew quite late in the season. I planted the seeds at Christmas and managed to get one crop out of a plant weakened by heat and disease. I planted a second but it died just before fruiting. So here is the summary of this interesting tomato.

White Cloud Tomatoes

When I first heard of white tomatoes I thought it was a joke. At this stage though I had barely come to terms with yellow and orange tomatoes so I was quite naive. I found some seeds on Ebay for this tomato called white cloud and thought 'why not give it a try'. I had to feed the fascination somehow and was certainly not going to find white tomatoes grown locally (or so I thought, actually turns out you can buy them at a few places, as shown by this post.)

It is hard to judge these tomatoes who were grown late in the season, being mere seedlings during the devastating heatwave so surviving against the odds. They were plagued by disease, as were all the late tomato crops. Some odd wilting thing that never really went away (The first signs of it were shown in this post. Some of the indoor tomatoes are beginning to show signs of the same disease, does ANYONE know what it is???) The white cloud plant grew very large, even in its shadowy hidey hole of a spot on the balcony garden. It produced quite well given the conditions, although none of the fruit ripened on the vine. As the disease/wilt/overheating took hold I tore off all the non-diseased green fruit and placed it in the window sill. All 13 or so ripened there.

The taste was ok, like a mild yellow tomato. The colour too wasvlike a mild yellow tomato. Indeed some were more yellow than my yellow tomato! I know white tomatoes aren't really white but this guy was advertised as one of the whitest of the white.

The skin was very thick, which made eating these guys in a sandwich or on their own a little difficult. Probably better for cooking with but with such a delicate taste I suspect it would be all but lost with the heat from cooking. Maybe skinned and raw would be the way to go but who has time to skin tomatoes when making sandwiches? I did make one memorable BLT though!

I might grow these again, maybe out of desperation if the other seeds continue not to germinate. I do have another white tomato, called White Tomesol growing in the indoor tomato experiment. I will see how they fare against their cloud counterpart. May the tastier tomato win!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Midwinter Sun and Sunflowers

While I wouldn't say it was overly warm here in Melbourne, the sun has been shining for a couple of days straight! Although very windy it is a refreshing relief to the usually grey days of winter. Luckily as I am on leave from my thesis I am free to indulge in the more fun things to do in the sun, like afternoon wanders around the greener parts of the neighbourhood.

The yellow sunflower would have loved this weather. Except for the wind, which was his biggest enemy. Alas his indoor days were also numbered and today he went the way of all balcony garden plants (I wish I could say he was composted, but no, I am ashamed to say he just went in with the rest of the rubbish, the difficulties of high density apartment living.)

Let's retrace the life of the yellow sunflower, and his friend the orange sunflower who called the balcony garden home for so many years. I originally decided to grow a sunflower after seeing one in my Mum's garden, and after assurance from Fern at LOTB that it was possible. I potted up a few seeds and low and behold, all 5 took! I gradually gave three away but kept two in my garden. At first they grew together, then were separated into their own pots (I can't quite work out the size for you Chandramouli but they were not too large, maybe 20 x 20cms for the square one comtaining the yellow sunflower and about the same diameter for the round which held the orange sunflower.)

The orange one was the first to flower. For details see this post dedicated to that event.

But his friend, who ended up being yellow, waited and waited and grew and grew (here's some musings on that little epic adventure.) Eventually he looked like this

Fearing he would not last the wintery winds I cut my losses, and his hears and put them in a vase inside.

All thise for a $1.25 packet of seeds. And there are still so many more to grow! Will try and include one agian this spring, maybe two, we will see. Now to go enjoy the sun, with a stroll around Royal Park.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Produce in the Pan

Flowers are wonderful, they make a garden colourful, fragrant and attract a bevy of friendly bees. If you want a post about pretty flowers go here. However, when space is tight, only beneficial flowers, impulse buy flowers and personal favourites make it in. For me ornamental flowers come second to the flowers in the veggie patch, and for the matter the veggies themselves. I grow to enjoy, and flowers are certainly enjoyable, but they are better viewed while munching on a lemon slice, made with home grown lemons or a salad from garden greens, or something equally delicious produced with the garden veggies.

If you haven't guessed by now this is going to be another cooking/gardening post. I wanted to show what I did with all that extra produce I found when I got back to Adelaide (click here to find out why totally awesome second balcony sitter did not devour it all, bless her.) This is only a basic recipe, a stirfry to be exact. But I just had to use all those yummy snow peas. And don't forget the broccoli shoots, which, having been left for 2 weeks grew big, almost to bursting/flowering stage. (aha now there is one flower that is not welcome in my garden, a broccoli flower which is an omen of the armageddon for the broccoli plant.)

I also had 5 bush beans, taken from my two bush bean plants which were now compost, well my balcony version of compost. Not a lage haul but I blame the time of year I planted them. I needed the pot for a tomato, and to help the leeks in there, because they don't really get along with beans and thus were not thriving. Presto chango, 5 beans to eat and one happy indoor tomato/leek pot.

I also had some more snow peas, coriander and silvetbeet. What to do?

Stick it all in a frying pan with chicken, a chili soy sauce (don't forget the teaspoon of sugar also) and noodles.

Serve with a side salad

et voila, one wonderful way to use balcony produce which may or may not be eaten in the vicinity of balcony garden flowers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bastille Day in the Balcony Garden

Hi folks, and just a warning that this is more of a cooking post than a garden post and alas the only things that went into our lovely Bastille Day meal from the balcony garden were these greens, one tiny yellow carrot, a snow pea that seemed to end up lost (so it is not just you Hurricane J that misplaces snowpeas!!!) and coriander.

And this single, measly lemon, which was added to the dessert.

Now I am by no means French, or French origin or even distantly French. I'd love to be but my spoken French is lousy and I'd hate to deny my Cornish heritage (at least that's where Dad is up to on his quest to do the family tree and I'm happy with Cornwall as my place of ancestry, after all cornish pasties were my total undoing when living in the UK, just heavenly but probably still attached to my thighs!) But driven by ample amounts of spare time (I am on leave from my PhD thesis) and inspired by the latest Gourmet Traveller. (I know I mention the magazine ttwice in this post, and I do enjoy it, but if I didn't get it relatively free as a trade in on my credit card points then I am not sure I'd shell out the money.) I roped Lovely Miss J and Mr M in for a Frenchish meal at my place. It was fairly simple, just a lovely Gourmet Traveller French onion soup, the recipe is here. It takes a long time but is well worth it. Just work with 2kgs of onions, probably supposed to be brown, but I, um, misjudged how many 2kgs would take so was forced to use red spanish onions and leeks. The substitution made it très sweet but très delicious.

I served it with cheesy croutons on top (luckily Mr M popped to the shops on his way over as I had forgotton the baguettes) and a side salad because it was very, very, very strong soup.

I think everyone enjoyed it ... don't you?

Dessert, as you know, involved a lemon, and it was - lemon souffle! It actually managed to rise, a little.

But after only a very short time it was reduced to this.

It was only two of the three diners that were drinking and we worked in reverse order, starting with a bottle of fine red, obtained at the cellar door during my jaunt back to Adelaide in March (not the recent one, the 10 bottle from that trip are in transit.)

Followed by a Grandin, a French sparking white!

What a lovely night. Mr M and I obtained slight hangovers but Miss J came out the total winner as I palmed off half of my seed collection to her. It mostly consisted of things I just can't grow from seed (like 9 types of greens), things I wont grow from seed but obtained in seed mixes like watermelon, cauli, random bushy flowers and very long orange carrots and some other extra seeds like tomatoes and carrots. I am looking forward to seeing how they go in her proper garden. All in all a great night, if only the balcony garden could have starred more.