Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Viola et Violet

I simply love violets. I love the look, the smell and even the taste particularly when they are sugared and presented on a dessert. Lovely friend L gave me a violet a few years ago, but I killed it. She gave me another one this year and so far so good. So good, in fact, it is flowering.

Violas are good too (known to some as johny jump ups) and since sewing a couple of seeds a few years ago the balcony garden has never been without violas, though they're not always in positions I choose! Usually transplant them to a little pot like this:

I even found this lovely yellow variety to add to the collection.

They are idiot proof flowers, what more could I need? Well I guess they aren't that idiot proof because I've killed the two pictured violas in the last few weeks. Neglect ... maybe ... poor positioning ... definitely. I left them in the only really hot winter sunny spot in the garden, in smaller pots than most of my garden, and they didn't like that, or the fact I failed to water them. Ooooopsss.

At least there are about 20 other violas springing up in the garden to replace these guys.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Harvest Monday

Apart from broccoli leaves a a few stray lettuces the balcony garden hasn't been very productive this week. I did pick the last lemon though I forgot to photograph it. Here it was in more splendid days:

It made a delicious addition to my morning drink.

For far more hearty harvest posts go visit Daphne's Dandelions, where all the good garden bloggers post their harvest wares.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leaves, leaves, leaves!

The balcony garden is green and brown at the moment. More brown than green really, because the trees have lost their leaves. This was fine for the apple and nectarine trees who were long finished fruiting but it seems Mr Fig Twig decided to play copy cat.

While the leaf in the above picture has long gone, the fruits remain and will, thanks to its leafy-nakedness, not ripen. At least they look good.

Other leaves were thrown out - thanks to my old enemy powdery mildew. It attacked the swiss chard, the rosemary and the snow peas. The snow peas were dead anyway, but the chard was lush and delicious. I ended up cutting off all affected leaves of the chard, then transplanting them to greener pastures (a sunnier pot with good soil.) They seem happier and are not reinfected so we will see if these drastic measures worked. The rosemary was not so lucky, and given I have two other healthy rosemary bushes (one a new Anzac bush generously given to me by my lovely other half's mother) the zombie rosemary was sent to the great compost heap in the sky.

But it is not all leafy doom and gloom. The wonderful red kale my lovely other half gave to me (yes I am very spoiled) is taking off and I look forward to cooking with it soon. The tuscan kale is nearing its end but the leaves have been gracing soups of late, as have spare broccoli leaves. Broccoli leaves are way too stringy for my tastes to be a spinach or chard alternate, but in soup they blend up just fine and give a great addition to the flavour and nutrients of the dish.

I'm still tossing up whether to squeeze in some leafy green asian veg (bok choy most likely) before the spring season starts or just leave the pots for a couple of months. Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tomato Envy

At the IABA conference quite a number of people were interested in blogs and blogging and there were some great papers on the subject. I introduced these scholars to the term 'harvest porn' - the droolworthy pictures of harvests. Most giggled, some were academically confronted by the exact terminology, while others couldn't understand the joy of looking at someone else's garden produce. But I love these pictures, and at the moment there are so many amazing Northern Hemisphere harvests (and some pretty awesome local ones too.) What I drooled over the most were tomatoes. Delicious, homegrown, still warm from the sun tomatoes.

So I got harvest envy, or moreover tomato envy. It is a love apple seven deadly sin fest on my computer screen! Luckily I curbed this envy a little while ago when the market sold the last of the heirloom tomatoes. Similar scenarios have happened in years gone past.

This time around I got these two beauties and the pictures do not do justice to their size. The portion of slices pictured below was for one meal, and I managed to get three and a half plates of similar size out of these miraculous 'matoes!!!

 Just add some other chopped veggies and here is one wonderful meal.

The red one was a bit like a mortgage lifter, though a little mealy. The yellow was deliciously sweet but again a little mealy. Given the lateness in the season (it was winter for goodness sake) I am not surprised at their mealy interiors but both were heaven anyway.

The Vic markets and some of the Woolworths and Coles in the area (and hopefully smaller places can get in on this action, grrr to Coles and Woolies for monopolising the good stuff.) often have these medley tomatoes. They're grown in such conditions that they are available nearly all year round. They're pretty good, tasty little mouthfuls though sometimes a little insipid. Still they're much better than the cardboard tomatoes of the past!

But nothing, nothing beats the taste of a good, homegrown tomato, so until Spring hits it is tomato envy for me all the way. Keep up the good harvests.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harvest Monday

Conference season means I've been away spreading my academic wares and absorbing the fantastic works of others. First up was the Australian Historical Association conference in Adelaide where I also caught a nasty flu, which meant the citrus drinks aided by my recent harvests were a little ineffective. Then on to Canberra for the IABA conference (international auto/biographical association) where my voice had returned but the cough had remained. Papers went well and I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions I attended. I was particularly pleased seeing a few Melbourne colleagues giving papers (not the least of which was my lovely other half.) Being at a conference in Adelaide meant staying with the parentals, which was as lovely as always. AND I got to see the puppy dogs, who were, as always, as cute as ever.

One would also think that being away would limit the harvest - but here are a few things I harvested before I left (and since I've returned.)

Some thumbelina and purple carrots, enjoyed by me, my lovely bf and also by the bugs of the garden (tiny but super delicious, the carrots that is, not the bugs.)

 (see the big chunk taken out of the orange one!!! I can assure you that was all descendents of Sid the Snail and not me.)

Greens are a good staple on the balcony. Things such as broccoli, kale and swiss chard made a delicious stirfry along with pork mince and rice cakes.

Brocolli leaves (only) also went into a nutritious and delicious soup, that while a distinct hue of baby vomit green, have proven to be almost addictive. I've had two bowls today already. Probably the yellow curry, lentils, parsnips, carrots and potatoes I put in with it. They say that the leaves have a tonne of Vitamin A in them which is awesome, and usually I'd just chuck them out. Hooray for food scraps!

The garden is a little light on produce now (except for a few snow peas, some piddly little lettuce and a few bits of broccoli.) But ... in exciting news ... I spent an hour or so today cleaning up the left over pots in preparation for the spring crop which is just around the corner! Future harvests here we come. For more amazing harvests visit Daphne's Dandelions.