The favourite vegetable question (Kitchen Garden, September 7, 2021) generated varied responses. The first man I asked replied, without hesitation, asparagus, so that was the reason for the Gunpowder asparagus recipe which accompanied the column. It prompted me to buy early Australian asparagus of this season. Maybe you have, too.
The first woman I asked said potatoes, particularly Dutch creams. There is a Kipfler potato developing "eyes" in my pantry ready for planting out in a fortnight so I'd better add a Dutch cream. Last year I used ultra-premium potting mix which was too dense and held water so the potatoes rotted - they don't like wet feet. Certified seed potatoes should be chosen to keep diseases at bay. The Heritage Nursery at Yarralumla usually has a good range.
Toby of Lyneham selected beetroot as his favourite. Chefs seem to keep beetroot bright red for serving but, at home, it often fades to a dull pinkish red. A Canberra scientist friend sent me the link to an absorbing article by Sam Wong in Science Direct (July 28, 2021) which gives the secret to red "beautiful beetroot" including baking beetroot muffins - add a crushed Vitamin C tablet to the cooking ingredients.
Wynne Austin of Ainslie nominated mushrooms for their variety or snow peas so I picked my first homegrown snow peas "Mammoth Melting" variety from Arian McVeigh of Canberra Seed Savers (Kitchen Garden, June 29). "Melting" is an odd word for these snow peas as they are crisp, sweet and stringless.
To all those readers who named avocado as their favourite vegetable (me too) it is regarded as a fruit. Bob Gardiner says "Green Zebra" is the sweetest tomato and insects wait for it to turn red but it doesn't, having yellow and green stripes when ripe, and it does jazz up a salad. Technically a tomato is a fruit but also accepted as a vegetable.
Chris Ryan of O'Connor chose the green bean and gave the following tempting suggestions: steamed until just done it is chewy with a bit of olive oil and salt; or fry hard to crispy with garlic, chilli and pork mince in a Chinese dish. "The green bean is meltingly flavoursome Turkish-style after cooking for an hour in an onion, tomato and capsicum sauce," she says. "They hold their own in Spanish dishes with onion, parsley and lots of tomato. It is very hard to ruin a fresh bean."
Jenny Andrews of Aranda has a new favourite, kohlrabi, but we will tell you about that when her young plants have plumped up.
The winner of The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma is Stephen Lawton of Weston. He wrote, "My favourite vegetable is the eggplant/aubergine. Now that I've written that, I'm frightened it might be a fruit? I love its colour, grilled until it blackens on the outside and the inside is creamy, dressed with za'atar and feta. Or blended into a dip babaganoush and spread on anything! ... And if it is a fruit, then I'll go for corn. What isn't there to enjoy when chomping and gnashing on a corn cob, with juice spraying your face and the joy of sucking/picking the kernels out of your teeth for hours afterwards? When my partner is eating theirs, I'm instructed not to look at or interrupt them!"
Because the book was heavy and I live within 5km of Weston, I delivered the prize to Stephen's letterbox but we did not meet. So he sent me today's photograph with the corn and smiling eyes.
Sweetcorn recipes from the book include a cucumber roasted corn salad with a corn cob, olive oil, pepitas, shallot, cucumber and parsley and a dressing of mustard seeds, honey, olive oil, chilli flakes and fish sauce. Masala cheddar cornbread combines cornmeal, sweet corn kernels, sharp cheddar, fennel, turmeric and flour.
Have there ever been more weeds in our gardens? Surrounding my Chinese cabbage, broad bean and spring onion there must be 100 bits of green which need to be removed. The worst offender, however, is flick weed or bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) which is an edible salad green - but not in my kitchen.
In her September newsletter sent to Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, executive director Dr Judy West describes the latest high-pressure hot water steam weeder being used by horticultural staff. It "cooks" the weeds instantly and leaves behind a mulch. Flick weed is on the gardens' list of problem plants.
Science Week giveaway winners
The playing cards for International Year of Fruit and Vegetables (Kitchen Garden, August 17) have been sent by Carol Quashie-Williams to Libby Osborn of Waramanga, Chris May of Crestwood, Valerie Carey of Griffith, Michael Fawcett of Alexandria, Katrina Titheridge of Waramanga, Elly McGinness of Wanniassa and Rohan Goyne of Evatt.
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