February in My Green Garden
This month, traditionally the hottest in Melbourne, will mainly see me enjoying – and preserving – the fruits of my labours by eating!
- Pick, pick and pick more still, to keep the plants producing more. If I let seeds fully develop on the fruiting vegies, such as beans, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes, the plant feels that it has done what it needs to do in evolutionary terms and so will happily allow itself to die back. But if I keep picking, they will keep producing until thoroughly exhausted.
- Some of the harvest I will deliberately let go to seed, so that I can keep the same varieties for next year. This is a great practice to keep heirloom varieties continuing as well as saving money buying not needing to buy new seed each year.
- An organic feed now of the produce plants with some liquid comfrey that has been brewing for a few weeks won’t go astray, to supplement the now depleted soils on the heavy feeding plants. If you don't brew your own fertiliser, any organic feed, such as Charlie Carp is also suitable. You will be looking for something high in potash as this is the mineral that helps plants produce more flowers.
- Otherwise I just need to keep watering and starting to get rid of plants that may have finished. If I get around to it, some seed sowing in punnets may happen towards the end of this month, but it is just too hot right now. You can try but you will need to cool soil or your seed raising medium down as winter vegies need cool soil to germinate.
- New plants won’t go in until March or even April, but soil preparation can certainly happen if I have empty space, by adding some of the beautiful compost that has been quietly but busily maturing while I’ve been out relaxing! I also took a Bokashi bucket away when we stayed away from home for more than a couple of days. This portable little alternative to composting unit means that I don't need to lose all those valuable fruit and veg scraps that we produce in the kitchen while away. (I know - I'm a compost addict!)
- Once fruit trees have done their thing, I move nets to another tree needing protection from the pesky pests.
IN THE KITCHEN OF MY GREEN GARDEN
All of this food production puts my kitchen into hyper-drive too. The preserving jars come out and get a workout.
- Blood plums have finished for the season, but were made into jams, including a low-sugar jam I have been experimenting with; chutneys and bottled halved fruit and stewed. I didn't freeze any stewed fruit this year as I just don't have any space right now in the freezer.
- Our pear tree is finally fruiting after planting it in 2009 - and of course, it's making up for lost time with loads of fruit. They are the Baby Face variety, maybe known as cocktail pears, as each is just a mouthful. Seemed like a good idea at the time to grow this delicious variety but admittedly, they are fiddly to process.
- Pickles from green tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini continue. Done Italian-style (sott’olio or under oil) is a process which can take 2-3 days but is well worth it.
- Ripe tomatoes will be made into peeled and bottled toms. This is done in different sized jars so that when a recipe calls for peeled tomatoes, I just choose the jar size to suit. I'll also make a simple pasta sauce that I then bottle and heat preserve. It is the best and so easy to open up a jar as a base for a vegie pasta sauce or even on its own over pasta. Fast food Italian-style!
- Some varieties of tomatoes I grow specifically to make our own dried or semi-dried tomatoes. The dehydrator hardly gets a break this month but it is an economical way of drying fruit and veg when the outdoors weather doesn't allow it. Oregano gets air dried as it's the only herb which I think tastes better dried than fresh.
- Basil is being made into pesto and then frozen in jars and ice-cube trays, in family-sized portions.
February and March are the prime harvest months in Melbourne which makes this is all an on-going process because not everything ripens at once and so I am regularly doing small batches, rather than having one big preserving day. But if you can get seasonal fruit and veg cheaply from your greengrocer and organise a few friends to have a big weekend of chopping and cooking and chatting, all the better!
PS And we're gearing up for one of the biggest preserving days of the year: Passata Day.