Archive for the ‘Bok Choy’ Category

Brassica time

March 14, 2016

Brassicas are all those members of the cabbage family—cabbage itself, plus broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and all the numerous varieties of Chinese and Japanese greens.

In this part of the country brassicas are generally considered winter vegetables, so sowing seed should commence in late summer and autumn, to get a winter and early spring crop. I’ve heard that some gardeners sow as early as mid summer, but I’ve never managed it, because tending to summer veggies usually takes all my time and effort.

However, I’m into it now and have been sowing seed daily, some direct sown and some in punnets to be potted up later.

The wonderful thing about brassicas is that they germinate so quickly. Here’s some of my seedlings; the fastest (black kale, on the left) took 2 days and the others took 3-4 days. As well as the black kale, there’s Wombok Chinese cabbage, Dwarf Siberian kale and mustard Osaka Purple (just coming up on the right) :


The problem with brassicas is that they are the food plant for the Cabbage White Butterfly, which lays its eggs on the leaves and the green caterpillars which hatch set to straight away and demolish all the leaves. I can keep my seedlings in the polyhouse until the cooler weather puts an end to the butterflies (or they’ve laid all they can manage and have gone to god with the satisfaction of a job well done), or I can put them out in the open when the butterflies are still around and monitor them daily for a caterpillar squashing session (of course I can net them too, but that gets a bit cumbersome). I like to get them out as soon as possible because they tend to get leggy in the polyhouse, owing to the shadecloth over the top of the plastic (which I can’t get at to remove now and in any case it gets far too hot in there in summer without it).

There hasn’t been nearly as many white butterflies around this season as normally, but there are still a few to make life difficult for the ardent brassica grower. So inspecting and squashing becomes part of the daily routine.

If I get in early before the eggs have hatched, I can simply rub the eggs off the leaves with my thumb. They’re quite easy to see (glasses on) and are usually on the underside of the leaves (the butterfly thinks I won’t see them there, but she doesn’t know I have a (slightly) bigger brain than her and worked that one out long ago) :


Sometimes I’ll leave eggs on a few trap plants to hatch and wait till the caterpillars get to a reasonable size, because the chooks love them as a treat.

I’ve also direct-sowed a lot of seed too. This is Mizuna, a Japanese green that comes in both green and purple-leaved varieties. This was mixed seed collected from the garden, but it seems to be all green :


I’ve sown it in the second-hand bath which I received from a family member for Christmas. I harvest it by cutting handfuls of leaves just above the growth point with scissors and it keeps growing back :


That’s a really good net—the openings are too small to allow the butterflies in and it will also keep the rabbits from browsing the leaves around the edges. In a couple of weeks I’m going to plant my garlic in the other half of the bath.

This is broccoli in a large tub :


Although all these self-sown seedlings are very close together, I’ll be continually thinning them and either eating the thinnings or giving them to the chooks. They love all brassicas, especially kale.

Spring at last!

October 1, 2015

Well…the mornings are still colder than I’d like, but there have been some warm days and all the fruit trees and wattles are flowering and we have passed the equinox.

So what’s happening at the foodnstuff residence?

Asparagus. I’m eating about 3 meals a week. When there’s not enough for a meal on any particular day, I just stand whatever I’ve picked in a cup of water until there are enough. They will continue to grow (elongate) in the water but don’t seem to get any more woody at the bottom :



Raspberries. The raspberry bed is in its second year now. The original five plants have morphed into a random cluster of suckers, which, I’m hoping, will all flower and produce much more than the couple of cups I picked last year. The whole bed is permanently under a net now, because the rabbits love raspberry leaves (and of course the birds will love the berries) :


I’ve had to put a net over the rhubarb. The rabbits were eating all the leaves. I know I only eat the stalks, but no leaves…no photosynthesis…no stalks :


The lettuces in the milk bottle planters are thriving. I’m going to put up three more with alpine strawberries in them :


I love the lacy look of this purple mizuna. It’s in a wicking box with purple bok choy :


With all these fancy hybrids around now, veggie gardens are looking so attractive it’s a shame to have to pick the plants and eat them.

Here’s ordinary old green mizuna, direct-seeded into a wicking box. Too late in the year for it really… will flower before I get much from it, but the Girls will enjoy it :


Direct-seeded calendula. I’ll really have to make that calendula flower ointment this year :


Red-veined sorrel. It was looking rather tired. Amazing what a dollop of chook poo will do :


I’m trying carrots in a wicking box this year (there’s a self-sown lettuce trying to muscle its way in) :


Brillant red flowers on pineapple sage. I must plant more of this :


Tomato seedlings waiting for the real warm weather :


This is my new friend :


A King Parrot. He’s been coming nearly every day recently, sometimes with his lady friend. He’s very tame….she’s a bit more reticent. When he can’t see me outside, he props on the laundry window ledge and whistles. When I come into the laundry and he sees me, he gives what I can only describe as a joyous shout. I go out and spread a handful of sunflower seeds on the deck railing. He’s no more than a foot away from me. So beautiful!

This quince tree (grown from seed) has become such an attractive specimen that I wouldn’t care if it didn’t produce any fruit. It did produce last year but something ate all but the few I managed to rescue. I hadn’t bothered about bagging the fruit because….well, who would eat a raw, unripe quince? Something was either very hungry or has no taste buds to speak of :


My little cherry is out in flower. Support for a net is already in place as soon as fruits start forming :


Pear blossom is beautiful :


But apple blossom wins the prize every time :


Last but not least, the Girls are still producing 8 or 9 eggs a week; even 4-year-old Molly is still doing her bit occasionally. Grated carrot and yoghurt goes down a treat :


July update

August 1, 2014

It wasn’t the sort of month you’d write home about….cold, wet & windy, so I spent much of it hibernating inside by the wood fire. I did manage to get some inside jobs done, the most important being making and finishing the new chook coop for the new girls I hope to get in spring. I also did some work (necessarily outside) on the new secure run to house them and the coop. There’s an ongoing post about the process in the drafts folder, which I’ll post when the whole project is finished.

I wasn’t picking much in the way of food. There are just a few tamarillos left and I need to keep some of those for seed. In the greens department I picked silver beet and also warrigal greens. This has taken off again thanks to the rain:


I haven’t used it much in the past, but I must say I’m warming to it as a steamed green. Plus it makes an excellent groundcover and the rabbits don’t touch it, which earns it 10/10 in my book. I saw a recent TV program where an aboriginal chef steamed it lightly in butter and added a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, something I’m going to try (for those who may not know, it’s native to Australia).

The yacon finally died back and I dug it up. There isn’t a photo, it was so bad. Just one decent-sized edible tuber and almost no vegetative tubers. Lack of food and summer watering was probably the reason. I’ve replanted the meagre lot of vegetative tubers in a spot where they’ll get shade and more summer water. I don’t want to lose it altogether, or I’ll have to buy more tubers. This is the harvest in better years:

The edible tubers are the elongated brown ones and the vegetative tubers are the knobbly pink ones with the white tips, which are the developing leaf buds.

My delivery of shiitake mushroom spore plugs finally arrived during the month, thanks to Bernie from Not Something Else blog who contacted the supplier on my behalf through their Facebook page (I don’t do FB). I had selected a couple of logs from recently-fallen large eucalypt branches and set about drilling the holes for the plugs (the instructions said, “using the drill bit supplied”. Oh, right…only it wasn’t).

Easier said than done. The drill labored and stopped. I thought it had died. I tried again with a fully-charged battery. No go. No wonder they call them hardwoods. Eucalypt and some softer timbers are nevertheless recommended for shiitake logs, but I don’t have access to poplar, elm, willow or birch, so this needs to be rethought. If I use a partially rotted, therefore softer log (plenty in the firewood pile), then I run the risk that it will already have been colonised with foreign fungi which will out-compete the shiitake. Maybe all the problems I’ve had are telling me that growing shiitake mushrooms is not my thing. I’ll do something with it, just don’t know what, yet. In the meantime, the spore plugs are languishing in the fridge.

The solar panels produced 110.4 kWh for the month, 16.4 kWh more than for June. I’m hoping it will keep going up from now on. I still managed to send 75.6 kWh to the grid and imported 91.3 kWh from the grid. All up cost for the month, including credits, service charge and GST was $36.45. That service charge is the real killer. I need to send a bit over 3 kWh per day to the grid just to cover it. My April bill, which was wrong (again!), still hasn’t arrived with the corrected amount of credits and I was due for another meter read on 28th July. What’s the betting that will be wrong, too? I’m heartily sick of dealing with energy retailers.

I’m heartily sick of rabbits, too. I have a row of 10 wicking boxes placed up on polystyrene fruit boxes to keep them away from the long-eared pests, who demolish anything at ground level. It has worked up to date, but I’ve noticed a couple of very large rabbits running around. They’ve obviously been able to jump right up onto the wicking boxes and have demolished about 2 dozen plants…mainly celery, bok choy and kale. I was absolutely ropeable and now have to put a wire fence around all the boxes. What really irritates me is that there’s a huge breeding burrow on a neighbour’s property and he won’t fill it in. I’ve managed to stop them breeding here by filling in every attempt at burrow-digging. It’s bloody annoying when others just don’t care.

The bok choy was looking so good, too. This is the best of what was left and will probably recover:


So will the celery:


And maybe the kale:


It continued to rain. Melbourne’s average rainfall for July is 49 mm and we got 124 mm. Still very soggy right down the back.

I was given a couple of chokos a few weeks ago and I put them on the kitchen widow sill to see if they would sprout. One did:


I’ve put it in a pot to grow on a bit before planting out. This is my second go at growing chokos. I killed the first one, many years ago, probably by putting it in an unsuitable spot and forgetting to water it. I think the rabbits might have been implicated, too (when are they not!). I’ll try harder with this one:


I’ve had this patch of Queensland arrowroot down the back for ages. I’ve never done anything with it, cooking-wise. It gets little or no water in summer, so it doesn’t thrive, but then it hasn’t died either:


I’ve dug up a few tubers to propagate and will spread it around a bit more and experiment with cooking the tubers.

Well, that was July. Here’s hoping August brings some more warmth. Meanwhile I’m off to make another batch of kimchi.

The apple-sock tree & other things

May 17, 2012

The persimmon has finally lost all its leaves and the ripening fruits in their natty little apple socks are now obvious (but not, I hope, to the possums & parrots):

Here’s what’s under those protective covers. There are 13 of them (I hope that’s not going to be unlucky). My mouth is already watering:

Always on the lookout for new food things to grow, I came across this pot of Burdock (Arctium lappa) seedlings at a local Sunday market:

The people who grow these are regulars at the market and often have unusual plants. Their pots always seem to be crammed with seedlings. I think their technique is to fill the pot with potting mix and add a generous pinch of seed and let it all grow on.

I researched Burdock and it’s the long tap root that’s used, so I thought it might be a good idea to repot the seedlings individually so I have one plant to plant in each spot and one root to dig up at any one time. There were plenty of them and they were easy to separate. I wound up with a dozen plants in all:

At last count I had 24 wicking boxes and every one has something growing in it.

Garlic doing well:

Bok Choy, direct sown. I’ll thin these as they grow, use the thinnings as greens and let a few grow to full size:

A selection of edible greens—Red Russian Kale, Curly Kale, Lacinato Kale, Rocket, Tatsoi, Chicory, Endive and Osaka Purple Mustard. This box is on the deck, right outside the door—easy to access a handful of greens to steam for dinner:

Remember when I was looking for chickweed growing wild on the property? Well, I eventually found it and encouraged it and now it’s everywhere. Here is is in a wicking box with peas in the background. It has a lovely delicate flavour, gently steamed with butter and is also good on sandwiches. Far more nutritious than lettuce:

Still eating out of the garden

March 21, 2011

All I’ve bought at the greengrocer in the past three weeks are  a couple of onions and a sweet potato, both for a dhal recipe I wanted to make.  It’s a great feeling to be able to eat  healthy, chemical-free  fruit and vegetables for so many months on end as I’ve been doing.

I also bought some garlic, but that was for planting, not eating, because today is the autumn equinox and that means garlic planting time. Actually I jumped the gun a bit and put mine in on the 18th. It was a significant anniversary day for me, so I decided to make it garlic planting time as well. I should mention that I had to buy fresh garlic this year for planting, because last year’s harvest was so miserable it wasn’t worth replanting. I hope this year will be better.

I also planted 35 garlic cloves and 15 well-grown leeks in my friend’s garden, plus seedlings of kale, broccoli and mustard greens. This is the garden I wrote about here. She’s been picking beans, and her cherry tomatoes are just starting to ripen. I hope to write a bit more soon about what’s happening there.

I’ve pulled out most of the tomato plants and the climbing beans that had grown through them. There are dozens of pods to shell and dried beans to store for next years crops.  I haven’t bought bean seeds for many years now.

There are still Cabbage White butterflies about, but I’ve planted kale, cauliflower and broccoli anyway. I just have to remember to inspect the plants every couple of days and flick off any eggs that have been laid. As soon as we get the first cold snap of autumn, the butterflies will disappear.

This is a mixture of green and red bock choy, direct sown into a water-wicking box. The seeds germinate in less than a week and grow very quickly. It’s a great way to get a quick feed of baby greens. I’ll use these in many ways—stir-fries, salads, chopped as garnish for soup or in an omelet or a rice dish. I don’t bother to trim off the tender roots, just pull up the entire plant and wash off the dirt. As they’re thinned the survivors will grow bigger and eventually I can leave a few to grow into full-sized plants.

Here’s a photo taken earlier in the season of a Gross Lisse tomato with some nice-sized fruits ripening. This one was planted in a water-wicking tub and also had some Purple King climbing beans rambling through it:

Last week’s harvest:

  • Snap Beans   270 gm
  • Black Russian tomatoes   534 gm
  • Red Pear cherry tomatoes   877 gm
  • Reisentraube cherry tomatoes   93 gm
  • Burnley Bounty tomatoes   1231 gm
  • Green Zebra tomatoes   198 gm
  • Grosse Lisse tomatoes   54 gm
  • Gold zucchini   203 gm
  • Lebanese zucchini  765  gm
  • Supermarket cucumbers   309 gm
  • Roma tomatoes  84 gm
  • Red Delicious Apples  7348 gm

Colourful Bok Choy

May 20, 2010

This purple-leaved variety of Bok Choy (seed from Diggers) is almost too pretty to pick and eat.

It’s growing well in it’s water-wicking box. I direct-sow the seed (putting 4-5 seeds into each spot and thinning later), because it almost always runs to seed if I try transplanting seedlings.


June 26, 2009

I’m never, ever going to be one of those supa-doopa bloggers who write one post a day. What I’d like to be, however, is one of those who manages one post a week, but here it is a fortnight since my last and…..oh, well…..

What follows is a hotch-potch of what’s been happening in the last fortnight.

I’ve sown the first batch of tomato seed for the season. I do it on the winter solstice, simply because it’s a day I can remember. I’ve sown it in the ‘little nursery’ I wrote about here and it’s sitting indoors, in a sunny window, on the heat pad. I’ve put 3 seeds of each variety into each cell and will eventually thin to one seedling. Varieties sown were Roma, San Marzano, Grosse Lisse, Green Zebra, Purple Russian, Red Pear (a cherry type), Black Russian and one billed as the original wild tomato (from Phoenix Seeds—I grew this one last year and it produced hundreds of grape-sized fruits, good for drying for snacks).  Later on (maybe around the spring equinox), I’ll sow a second batch, in the hope of extending the harvesting season into late autumn.

I’m in the process of putting together another row of water-wicking boxes for the spring/summer planting. These will be near one of the small water tanks and I’m going to set up a dripper line from the tank into the watering tube of each box so I can water them all automatically at the same time. Just in case we have another summer with a succession of days over 40 C, I’ll be setting up some polypipe arches over the row of boxes to support shadecloth.

I’m harvesting lots of greens from the garden—silver beet, kale, lettuce, chicory, bok choy and rocket. The peas sown in February are still bearing. I’ve got a half-dozen broccoli plants just forming heads. I should have sown much more. Leeks are starting to enlarge and I’m blanching the stems with sugar cane mulch. Four varieties of potato have sprouted and are doing well—Desiree, Bintje, Dutch Cream and Nicola. A patch of Kipfler which I didn’t harvest last year have also resprouted. The garlic is growing but the plants are small. I hope this doesn’t mean small bulbs. Maybe they’ll kick on when the weather warms.

I’ve sown beetroot (a tad early but it’s germinated) and radishes into wicking boxes and carrots into the garden. Haven’t tried carrots in a wicking box yet, but some years ago I grew a golfball-sized variety called Thumbelina from Eden Seeds. Maybe this would be ideal in a wicking box. I just checked their website and they still have it in the catalogue.

I harvested my first batch of jerusalem artichokes—boy, are these things prolific growers! I planted a couple of shrivelled tubers in May last year and harvested just under two buckets of tubers 12 months later.

The oca is dying back and I’ve bandicooted a few tubers. I hope there’ll be a few to actually eat this year. Last year’s crop was so small I had to forgo eating and replant them all.

The yacon hasn’t died back yet, but it always seems to produce a good crop of sweet tubers. These are nice sliced and fried and also grated in salads.

And finally, the winter solstice has passed, the days are lengthening and so far they’ve been fine and sunny. But alas, no significant rain.

Wicking box update 2 (& brag)

June 16, 2008

Here’s the wicking box containing the Bok Choy Chinese cabbage, 70 days after sowing the seed. Tomorrow’s the big day when I harvest a couple of plants for stir-fry.

This has been a great trial run for the wicking box idea. Even though the boxes received some overhead rain, they were happily sucking up the water from the bottom reservoir, because I was checking levels regularly and on two occasions found the reservoir empty and had to refill with water.

I’m looking forward to trying celery in the boxes over the coming summer. Celery is a water-loving plant and my previous efforts to grow it haven’t been notable. It’s shallow-rooted and keeping water up to it (remembering to water every day in summer) has been my main problem. I’m not going to direct sow the celery seed into the box as I did with the Bok Choy, as celery seed is very tiny. Instead, I’ll sow it in the polyhouse in seed-raising mix and pot up seedlings which I’ll plant into the box when they’re large enough.

Continuing with the showing off… here’s the first couple of chilacayote harvested.

The smaller one weighs 900 gm and the larger one, 1400 gm. And there’s seven more on the vine rapidly approaching these in size! I made a small trial batch of chilacayote and ginger marmalade yesterday and was given 8 out of 10 for it by the Better Half. Lost a mark for the set (slightly runny…next time add some Jamsetta), and another point lost for ‘not gingery enough’. Sheesh! And I doubled the ginger from the original recipe, too. Some Better Halves are never satisfied.

Oh… and the chilacayote will join the Bok Choy in the stir-fry.