Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spring Onion Life Cycle

  Spring onion or the salad onion taste milder than other onion. Its hollow leaves finely chop and top on fried rice/noodles, porridge or other dishes making it more appealing. Not just making dishes appealing or decorative but add more nutrition good for the health no doubt. My children and I prefer spring onion that does not produce bulb unlike onions or shallots leaves for toppings because it has mild taste and not hot.
 Last year autumn, we transplanted some spring onion seedling under sunflower plants to make the garden more productive. Those spring onion does not seem to mind sitting under the sunflower because it still received direct light from the sun in the morning. We also had a row of carrots growing in front of the spring onion plants.
Spring onion does not need to be harvest whole, can be treated as come and cut again plant. My husband uses a lot of spring onion to cook especially when he makes misoshiru (miso soup). He is the Japanese chef in the family. My sons like prawn and spring onion toast. We had surplus spring onion and when spring came last year our spring onion goes to produce seeds. Bees really like the spring onion flower, there are always hovering around the plant at the moment.
Spring onion is surprisingly drought-hardy when well-established. We left them growing with neglect on the patch and the plants still live till today forgotten. Interestingly, this spring those spring onion plants starts to flower again producing seeds. Furthermore, the flower are much bigger compared to previous year when it flowers for the first time. Spring onion are biennial plant. So I thought when the plant has produce seeds on its second year (last year spring), it will eventually dies. But spring onion continue evergreen growing and surprisingly producing seeds again this year. The spring onion flowers in its second spring are more well pollinated as we harvest more seeds this year and the quality of the seeds looks much better compared to last spring.
This is how our flowering spring onion plants in its second spring season looks at the moment. Last spring, we planted a chilli plant in between these spring onion plants and we had no encounter or problem with pest on this chilli plant. This over-wintered chilli plant survived and will need a little bit of hair cut getting rid of old-leaves as it has already start to sprout new baby leaves and looks really disheveled at the moment.
The dried pods opening up and pop goes the seeds.

Have a nice weekend gardening!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Succulent Flower

This year it was the first time all of the adopted succulent plant in our garden produced flower after 3 years growing them in our garden. We only have 4 different succulent plants in our garden. We don't really need to take care of them. The succulent plant seems to be happy provided with sun and does not require much water to grow well, with these the plants do grow really fast and needed re-potting or divide in dormant season. It is a new experience and fun learning to watch how these plant have grown. Most of these succulent flower colour interestingly are bright orange-red. 
 I think this is an aloe plant type flower, I might be wrong since I adopted them without knowing anything.This is a new bird which adopted itself in our garden since autumn. The birds like to follow us around in the garden and caught our attention. The bird did not fly away as I get closer to take a photo.
I am not sure what succulent plant this is but it has grown quite large. Almost 50cm in diameter. Do you know the name of this plant? 
Sue from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotment has helped me to identify this cotyledon plant
Not sure either what succelant plant this is. A volunteer calendula plant sharing the same pot caught in between.
A memory photos of our succulent plants, as I might forgot how they flower.

Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Treasure Hunting

 My mental health is recovering slowly than my impatient side would like too. But it is a positive thing and something I should be grateful that I did not seem at the moment succumbing to postnatal depression while I am having mental depression and trying to overcome it.  Some days are good that I wake up and feel motivated instead of lying on the bed and not looking forward to anything. Its still a fragile thing and could be a false feeling so I am taking tentative baby steps not to be overdoing myself with too much planning or multitasking. There is still many unsettled things which worries me so I need to remind myself to not set unrealistic goal or dealing with high expectation. Sigh, one step at a time. I need to learn how to enjoy doing one thing at a time instead of doing so many things at once. For example, on my good days I can cook while washing dishes, clean the counter top, laundry and I can also do some weeding or sowing seeds in between waiting for the dish to cook or stirring. But my husband he does one task at a time even though he have some breaks in between. It is no wonder I make myself crazy while doing tasks at hand my brain also seems to be planning what to do ahead running into different direction planning non-stop, can't control and it goes chaotic. It made me think that I have some kind of mental disorder. I struggle to focus on one thing at a time. Physically I feel much better and more energetic after postnatal birth from last week. I am urged and advise to go out and socialise a bit to prevent me being isolated and fall to depression by professional help. Yet, I don't feel like going out at all. The only place I will go out to is the garden. Since I feel physically better now, we have been clearing up the garden bits by bits and found lots of treasures or basically free food last week. 
 A small spot in the garden was sprawled with autumn self-seeded tomato plants overlapping each other. These tomato plants flower during winter but I don't think with the cold temperature it will set fruit. However, after I made an effort to stake these tomato plant last weekend and gave some pruning found some ripened tomatoes and there are already producing fruits. I guess the warming temperature has able those flowers to set fruit. One of the plants has actually grown more than 5 feet tall when I pull it upright and tied it on the emergency support. I was not sure how many tomato plants before and now it is 3 tomato plants on that spot. Some of the cape gooseberries fruits has also matured and drop to the weeds underneath hiding these golden fruits. If my boys are here with me, I don't think mama and papa will have their fair share of these delicious golden fruits. I think they would certainly enjoy these golden 'berries' very much. I did not realised how many self-seeded tall red celery have grown among our backyard container gardens in between other plants and they sure have grown. The celery stalk surprisingly juicy when relying on rain water only. We also harvested some peas and broccoli shoots last week. We harvested all of our Early Horn carrots last week grown in container.
 Here is half of the patch in front of the kitchen window that I have cleared on the weekend. Everything on this patch are self-seeded plants except for 2 foxglove plant which has been completely   hidden. Most of these volunteers are celery and chervil.
Celery from the patch above.
I remembered we had several self-sprouted potato plant on the front yard in different places. However with weed competition and pest attacking the plant many plants got lost while they were growing around 20cm tall. Last weekend while my husband cleared up the front yard and pulling out all the weeds he found several small sizes of potatoes from the potatoes that perished early and lost in sight. Surprisingly, one self-sprouted Royal Blue potato that got lost under sunflower and rose geranium plant has produced decent harvest. The Royal Blue potato plant was not there anymore but somehow I remembered there was a potato plant growing on that spot. So lucky we blindly dug around that area an hit a jackpot.
We are blessed with many volunteer rainbow chards plants  last autumn and this spring I found several new seedlings as well while clearing up and left them undisturbed. Hopefully these seedlings will provide us harvest during summer. Summer month is actually the season which we don't really have much to harvest compared to other season. Lettuce are also plenty still to pick around the garden. But it will be time to say goodbye to lettuce by next month if I don't sow a new batch of lettuce this week.
We also harvested some florence fennels, beetroots, top purple turnips and kohlrabi this week.
There are still many spots to clear up.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sun root

 The first time I saw this plant tuber in our local community veggie swap, at a glance I thought it was some relative of ginger. But it does not even belong to the same group with ginger. Interestingly, these tubers known as sun root and many other names such as sun choke, Jerusalem artichoke, or girasole belong to the same family with sunflower, globe artichoke and lettuce (Asteraceae). Sun root is not from Jerusalem but it is a native to Northern America. The reason why even you left some tubers underground through winter with heavy frost the plant will come back the next growing season, very hardy tubers. It is not a tuber you always find available in the grocery store compared to potato. But it can be used as substitute for potato and it is much much more easier to grow. Does not required care at all in our garden. When the tubers sprouted, I did not even noticed it until it has grown several leaves and I thought it was some other seeds that I was trying to sprout.
 At this stage, the sun root plant has grown resembling more to its cousin sunflower. The plant grow very well in partial shade and hard clay soil. Very convenient plant, when you have little space and you can grow them at the most unproductive spot in your garden and still produce tubers. I have experimented growing sweet potato and potato on this same spot but it never produces decent tubers or tuber at all due to the hard soil and limited hours of direct-light. During summer this spot received just several hours of direct light around noon. 
The sun root plant grows almost 2 metre tall. Sun root tubers contain no starch unlike potato. Sun root tubers carbohydrate consist mainly of inulin which the body does not absorbed so its a good healthy diet food. Inulin compound is also reported to increase the effectiveness of our body immune system and increase calcium absorption. 

Sun root flower resembles sunflower and smaller in size but looks really cute. Sun root plants once established is drought-hardy compared to potato plant in our garden. In my mind, I kind of form a plan regarding these 3 plants potato; potato, sweet potato and sun root how to fully utilise the space and rotating the harvest to keep fresh supplies going between these 3 tubers. The best time for us to grow potato is end winter and harvest by early-mid summer. We can plant potato again early autumn and harvest mid-winter ~mid-spring. We start to plant sweet potatoes and sun root in September (early spring). Sun root can be grown in the most poor condition in our garden which somewhat increase the garden productivity during summer. Sun root and sweet potatoes can be harvested by mid-autumn when potatoes supply are no more. But for sweet potato tubers we don't have to dig them out until we want to use them. The sweet potato tubers does not mind staying underground in our climate here.
Sun root flower also has seeds but smaller than sunflower seeds. Can be grown from seeds but the tuber results will be variable like potato grown from seeds after some research reading. Growing from tubers will produce the same as its original parent, basically the parent clones. After some reading about this plant, I become interested to try growing this plant from seeds. Alas, did not managed to collect seeds because I throw the debris into the compost unaware of them having seeds or I was not thinking much that time when Abby was still in the tummy growing big very fast (3rd trimester). It was a cold day when we harvested the tubers. Any gardeners on the Northern Hemisphere harvesting sun root tubers soon? Did you find any seeds on the remaining plant spent blooms?
Well as you can see this section of our garden is in shadow some part during the day. The sun root plants dying and almost the time to harvest some tubers. My husband thought all the time it was a sunflower growing, not knowing that it was actually a sun root plant before I seek his help to harvest the tubers because it is in a spot hard to crouch for a heavy pregnant woman surrounded by other plants.

I was not expecting that much harvest because from previous experience growing potato and sweet potato on the same spot yield almost nothing. Surprised me it did, it was really a nice harvest for just one plant growing in poor condition. The basket harvest was really heavy fill with sun root tubers.  The sun root tubers also helped break the hard clay soil for next plant growing there.
When I was pregnant with Abby, I enjoyed roasted sun roots and in Malaysia yellow curry very much. This post actually has been drafted since June and I just managed to post it today typing with one hand while the other hand holding Abby.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Most Anticipated 2012 Harvest

I would like to introduce you to our anticipated harvest of this year Abbiyana Ariel born on 9th August 2012 at 2 PM through waterbirth normal delivery. She is our biggest harvest for this year but she only weight 2.99kg at birth. Four hours after birth we went home. Abby face resembles her brothers when they were babies. She is the reason why there are no posting in this blog for a while. Her father wanted to name her Abigail which means a father joy but I was not keen on it. Because my husband hometown family will pronounce the name different as suppose to be due to the dialect going to sound very weird. Abbi means a father's joy. Yes, Abby father is really happy now he has a baby girl. Her middlename is Ariel is not because she was born under water and related to Disney little mermaid is just a coincidence. But Ariel was chosen as her middlename from one of the archangels. Her brothers middlename are also from one of the archangels ~ Mikhail and Haniel. According to Chinese calendar this is the year of water dragon, born in water she enjoys her bath very much.When she demands for her feed she sounds like a little dragon as well ...hehehe...
September is really a busy month for harvesting and sowing seeds. I am very behind with the sowing schedule due to postnatal birth confinement and care and could not keep up with edibles need to harvest ASAP. 
Main harvest for this early spring month from our garden are broccoli and carrot. I am hoping now that we entered spring this year carrot won't flower that quickly for us to enjoy them.
Although, we have only one Italian sprouting broccoli plant, I cannot keep up harvesting the shoots. The plant is very generous providing so many shoots to harvest continuously through this month.  I keep on giving-away the harvested broccoli shoots because we can't finish them and I can't managed time to blanch and freeze them. While I am writing this I think maybe I should make broccoli puree and frozen them for Abby when she starts to try solid food. A few of chillies were picked half ripe and brought inside to ripen them up.
Totally forgotten to harvest one Kent pumpkin last autumn. I found the pumpkin amidst the weeds at the back of our backyard fence last week. Fortunately, it was in good shape. Kohlrabi also needs to be harvested this month before it starts to flower. Noticed how long the grass on our backyard.
Autumn-sown radishes need to be pick quick this month as many of them are starting to give the sign of going to flower soon, Peas are also one of the main harvest this month, a luxurious fresh snack while in the garden. Self-sowed celery plants are abundant for picking as well.
Cherrytime capsicum and self-sowed yellow currant cherry tomato are also available from the garden.
We also have spinach and Touchstone Gold beetroot readily available from the garden this month.
This early spring is our chamomile peak harvest season. Nice to have fresh chamomile tea to make us feel more relax. I am just a bit concern whether chamomile tea is fine for breastfeeding mother.
Last Saturday, while cleaning up one of the neglected patch fill with weeds at the back of our backyard fence found some potatoes and leek. I was pruning some of our over-wintered bonica brinjal plants, surprisingly found some small fruits on the plant. We were also clearing up some containers and harvested some unnoticed bush peas and cape gooseberries. Its like treasure hunting for goodies this month with the weeds going wild everywhere.
Another face of a month old Abbiyana Ariel.
I am enjoying motherhood at the moment.
Thinking whether I should give her a first hair cut now that her hair is passed her shoulders.
Join in Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rainbow Chard Life-Cycle

We sowed our first batch of Rainbow Chard seeds last year autumn and we have never need to sow any rainbow chard seeds ever again that was the first and last sowing we needed in our garden. Since then there are continues supply of rainbow chard up until now available for us growing without care and thriving in our garden. This is because we let several rainbow chard go to seeds last spring and we often found volunteer seedlings in the garden ready for transplanting if we wish so. Several of our rainbow chard plants are showing the sign to flower now that we officially entered spring this month.
Rainbow Chard can grow up to 50cm tall but it is a plant that also can be grown in container if you have a small or balcony garden. For example the depth of soil in the container on the photo above is about 25cm. Rainbow Chard plant can look ornamental as well.
Rainbow chard needs full sun or more than 6 hours direct sunlight to grow well. Two to Four plants will be sufficient for a small family. Rainbow chard is a cut and come again plant. I  observed that rainbow chard is heat and drought plant once established last summer. Rainbow chard does not grow much in partial shade or growth is very slow.
A healthy flowering rainbow chard plant can grow up to 7~8 feet tall.
I was surprise to see the bottom of the flowering rainbow chard plant forms beetroot. Rainbow Chard and beet root are cousins, they belong to the same family.
Rainbow chard pollinator agent is wind.
Rainbow chard seeds drying on the plant.

How do you like to enjoy your rainbow chard?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Squid with Chilli, Garlic and Crisp Lettuce

 Ohoho....This is a record for this blog, I have not updated for more than a month. I have been a very bad blogger. My hands are really full now and its very tricky to type with one hand. For friends that have known me from this blog, will probably guess right what has kept me away from posting or visiting. There are many waste going on in the garden and into the compost heap. We are blessed with many self-seeded edibles this year and with only 2 mouths to feed in the house now, we can't managed to finish the goodies by ourselves. Lettuce are nice to be pick now in the garden smack straight between sandwiches.  There are still a few left of red chillies dangling outside for us to make our favourite squid dish.
~Squid witg Chilli, Garlic and Crisp Lettuce~
(Recipe from Your Place Or Mine by Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris)
2 squids (about 400 gram each)
500ml peanut oil, for deep frying plus a little extra
1 head garlic, finely chopped
35 gram cornflour
75 gram rice flour
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
2 teaspoons freshly grounded white pepper
1 egg white
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 fresh red bird's-eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 fresh green bird's eye chillies, thinly sliced
1 fresh long red chilli, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 small iceberg lettuce, washed leaves separated (optional)
2 small lebenese cucumbers, peeled, cut into strips (optional)
Coriander sprigs, to serve

(1) Rinse the squid, then separate the hood and tentacles. Rinse and remove the contents of each hood and rinse again. Remove the head and beak from the tentacles and rinse again. Remove the quill from inside the hoods and discard. Score each hood lightly on the softer side on the diagonal with the tip of a sharp knife then repeat in the other direction to form a neat criss-cross pattern.  Cut each hood into 4 cm pieces and set aside with the tentacles.

(2) Heat a splash of the oil in a wok over low heat and fry the garlic until just golden. Remove that garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel to drain, then set aside.

(3) Mix the cornflour, rice flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Place the egg white in a stainless-steel bowl, then beat until light and foamy. Place the squid first into the egg white, then lift out, wipe off the excess and toss through the flour mixture. Set aside.

(4)Heat oil for deep-frying. Working in batches if neccessary, deep-fry the squid for 4 minutes or until crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel.

(5)Heat a splash of extra oil in the wok and fry the spring onion, chilli and ginger for a few seconds over medium heat, then add the squid and coriander and toss together. Tip the lot onto a plate and serve with lettuce, cucumber and coriander sprigs.

Hope to catch up with every one soon.
Take Care!