The things which spark the interest of readers are always a surprise. When I failed to include half-a-cup of olive oil in a Meyer Lemon Olive Oil cake (Kitchen Garden, August 24) we received more than 40 responses from those planning to bake the cake.
Then I wrote about growing a zucchini "tree" (Kitchen Garden, October 26) and readers all over Canberra emailed to say they were joining the experiment. My blackjack zucchini seedling was planted on October 8 and, a week later, it seemed to have the dreaded powdery mildew.
Examining three tiers of zucchini seedlings at the Heritage Nursery in Weston Park showed that blackjack was the only variety with what appeared to be mildew but, online, I discovered that the pattern is called marbling and highly regarded. So I then took the photo which accompanies this column. The pot is adjacent to three rosemary bushes which lure bees to pollinate the zucchini flowers.
The Heritage Nursery has a printed sheet of herbs that bring honey bees into your garden. It includes borage, bergamot, chives, feverfew, lavender, oregano, sage and thyme. As another experiment, and to defeat the possum who eats my fennel to the ground, I have planted fennel on either side of a tomato plant in a pot. It is easy to clip a frond to go on grilled fish.
With zucchini selling for $8 a kilogram at supermarkets and the Southside Farmers' Market, I was rather chuffed last week to harvest three small zucchini with their golden flowers. In correspondence with another grower, he said his plant had not yet put out a "leader" so nothing was growing up the stake. Ditto for mine.
When your crop is producing, here is a recipe from Ras Stephens, a longtime organic grower with a community plot in Cook.
"This wonderful light and healthy soup came about when I had an abundance of sorrel leaves and zucchini coming up in my garden at the same time," she says.
"I've tried many recipes with these vegetables but this is one of the simplest, delicious and quickest to prepare."
Depending on how much produce you want to utilise and how big a pot of soup you want to make, ingredient quantities can be varied.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), a hardy perennial plant, is the essential ingredient in French sorrel soup. The lemony tang of the leaves add zest to salads and with fish, including smoked salmon and you could add a slurp of the soup to the eggs in an omelette.
3-4 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
A good bunch of sorrel leaves, washed, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
2-3 medium potatoes, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves, sliced or just left whole
2 onions, roughly chopped
4-5 cups homemade stock (chicken or vegetable)
salt and pepper to taste (instead of salt, Ras uses Vegeta
A tasty dry vegetable seasoning (from the herbs/spices section of supermarkets)
Note: this soup freezes well.
On October 24, in the Sunday Canberra Times Relax magazine, Karen Hardy interviewed Australia's best known kitchen gardener, Costa Georgiadis, about his new book Costa's World: Gardening for the soul, the soil and the suburbs (ABC Books, $45).
We know the landscape architect who has presented on screen for SBS, and now hosts the ABC's Gardening Australia program, has a passion for his own plot, verge gardens and community gardens. Chapters in the book also include bees, bush regeneration, compost and chooks with an emphasis on new gardeners and kids in the garden.
For children at Christmas, Costa says to give a gift connected to nature, a hand trowel, a packet of seeds, a subscription to a gardening magazine, a ticket to a workshop. Food & Wine has two copies of Costa's book for readers. To win, tell me what you think are Costa's eight "go-to veggies" and what you or your family or friends are growing for summer. Send your emails with name and address to: email@example.com
Note: Due to waterlogging due to recent wet weather, the December 12 open day at Cook Canberra Organic Growers community garden has been postponed to early autumn.
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