Archive for the ‘Nettles’ Category

October update

November 6, 2015

I was expecting to begin this post by saying we’d not had one drop of rainfall for the month…the first totally dry October since I began keeping records when we moved here 16 years ago, but lo and behold we had a thunderstorm on the last day of the month that delivered 14 mm. Melbourne’s average for October is 65 mm, so it was still well below that, but I got a useful 2000 litres in the big tank and all the swales filled so I was happy, even if it did wreck my plans to burn off. With tiny fruits swelling on all the trees, this is the time when moisture in the ground is really needed. Even better was yesterday’s fall—22 mm—a bit less than half November’s average. So things are a bit rosier on the rainfall front.

The dwarf Stella cherry is in its second year and is being well-watered and netted. There are many more fruits than last year. I counted at least thirty tucked in amongst the leaves. I want to get all of them! :

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My new thornless blackberries surprised me by producing pink flowers instead of the familiar white of the wild blackberries :

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I scored a useful compost bin from a friend and I’m going to use it for food scraps and the stuff from the composting toilet. I’m hoping the contents won’t dry out so much over the summer like they do just sitting in an open wire cage. I have 2 worm farms under the house, but I want to de-commission one and so I’ll have extra food scraps to deal with. This new bin has come at just the right time :

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I’ve had problems with introduced black rats eating tomato seedlings planted in wicking tubs and boxes near the house. Never before has anything ever touched a tomato seedling here, so I was gob-smacked, not to mention furious, to find just leafless sticks the day after I planted them. I’ve managed to get some planted in other spots well away from the house, but planting in Zone 1, near the house, is temporarily on hold. I’ve baited and 6 rats have gone to god so far and the scuffling noises in the ceiling have gone too.

I’ve established a bed of nettles under my plant benches (these are the stands that hold over 600 tubed plants). The nettles don’t invade the path beside the benches, because the soil is more compacted there and they get water and fertiliser runoff when I water the tubes. I just have to remember not to get too close in summer when I’m wearing shorts :

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A classic example of permaculture design where the outputs from one part of the system become the inputs for another part of the system.

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The foliage in the strawberry wicking buckets died right back over winter and I was afraid I’d lost them, but they’ve burst into new growth and flowers and fruits. I topped the buckets with chook poo compost which has obviously helped :

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I’ve written before about mini tomato cuttings using plants thinned from pots where I’ve sown 2 or 3 seeds. I snipped off a few seedlings at the base and stuck them in some water till I could get round to putting them in as cuttings. I was busy and they sat there for a couple of days. They couldn’t wait and started growing roots in the water :

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Tomatoes definitely have a will to live!

This beautiful ferny foliage belongs to the tomato variety Silvery Fir Tree :

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It’s a determinate variety, so doesn’t need staking, and is one of the earliest varieties to bear fruit. I’ve been growing it for about 4 years now. The fruits are large and slightly flattened and have a good flavour.

Looks like I might get a good crop of dill seed this year. I use a lot of it in pickling cucumbers and my local supermarket doesn’t carry it, so I like to have a crop of my own each year. This is in a wicking box :

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I’ve been eating asparagus almost every second day. The trouble with asparagus is that if you don’t check the bed every day they have an inordinate desire to reach the moon :

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The two small ones in front are about the size you’d get in a bunch at the supermarket. It’s not a lost cause, however. Snapping up from the bottom, to remove the woody bits, still leaves two-thirds of edible stem and I can chop up the woody bits in the Thermomix, blanch and freeze them for winter soups. Valuable fibre shouldn’t be discarded!

These 6 little seedlings are worth more than gold! :

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They’re blueberries. I’m indebted to rabidlittlehippy for showing how to propagate them from seed. She put the berries in the freezer….actually no, I think she used purchased frozen blueberries. Anyway, I put berries from my own plant in the freezer. I didn’t record how long they were in there, but I took them out in March (at the equinox actually), extracted the seeds from the fruits and sowed them. They took nearly 60 days to germinate and then sat there all winter doing nothing. They started to grow in early spring and I potted them up at the beginning of October. There were 8 but 2 died. In the environment where they grow naturally, they probably drop from the bushes in late summer or autumn, then sit on the (?frozen/snow-covered) ground  until spring and then germinate. Which makes me think they took so long to germinate for me because I should have had them in the freezer over winter and sown them in spring. So I’ll try that next time. It has been a real thrill to succeed in growing blueberries from seed as plants are expensive to buy. Thanks RLH!

And that, as far as I can remember, was October. Oh, but I forgot the Girls again. Two eggs a day (and sometimes three), from the four of them. Enough for me and some to share. Self-sufficiency is alive and well.

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Aaahh…autumn!

April 17, 2014

Calm, sunny days. Gentle rain. Plants greening up and putting on new growth. Lots of work to do and lots being done. Not too hot to work. The nicest time of year in Melbourne.

The potato onions are going bananas in a wicking box:

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This year I’m trying leeks in a wicking box:

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When I’m growing them in the garden, I don’t build the soil up around them (to produce white stems), I use mulched bracken. It’s much cleaner and means no dirt gets between the layers of leaves. Because the wicking box isn’t deep enough to do this, I’ve added a ring of plastic gutter guard around the edge. That way I get 6-8 inches of mulch around the stems. The bracken helps to hold them upright as well:

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I finished potting my strawberries into their wicking buckets:

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They’re sitting on an upturned plant stand on the deck, on recycled fridge shelves. The legs of the stand sticking up don’t look very attractive until you realise they’re in just the right place to support a net at fruiting time. Voilà:

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With the end of the tomato season, I move on to my winter vitamin C source…the Valencia orange. They’re small this year, because of the lack of summer rain, but there are plenty…enough for a vitamin C hit every day:

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Speaking of tomatoes, there’s just one plant still going. It was given to me late in the season which is why it’s still fruiting. It’s called ‘Checkmate’. I can’t find anything about it on Google, but look at what it just produced:

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The big one weighed in at 368 g and the other at 277 g. I hope the flavour is as big!

The first mushie of the season. Only a tiddler, but I will use it in a risotto with some of it’s bigger (purchased) cousins. I don’t think there will be many this year. We just didn’t get the early autumn rains:

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I’ve removed the corn crop and mulched up the leaves, which went straight back on the bed they were grown in, as should happen, so that the nutrients the corn took up as it was growing are returned to the soil:

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Don’t be fooled by those pie-in-the-sky schemes that propose to burn crop wastes for energy or turn them into ethanol so we can still drive cars. Keep removing nutrients from the soil and eventually it won’t grow anything. Of course in the industrial agriculture version, we just add chemical fertilisers—nitrogen made from natural gas (fossil fuel) and mined phosphorus (which is running out), and so on. The chemical load in the soil eventually kills the soil fungi which help the plants take up nutrients and you’re back to square one—depleted soil that won’t grow anything (and in the meantime you’ve run out of fossil fuels and phosphorus).

I didn’t get much of a yield from the corn plants. The male flowers appeared well before the females and had dropped most of their pollen before the girls appeared. I stopped wasting water on them when the weather got hot. I should’ve kept going, because they did set some cobs, but they were small and the poor fertilisation was evident. The last of the carrots (the tiny ones), in the next door bed, were picked as well:

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My seed-grown quince tree flowered well last season and set a lot of fruit, but most of it burned or dropped off in the summer heat. The tree didn’t receive any water over summer, so I wasn’t surprised. But two fruit miraculously survived and grew to a good size:

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They were a beautiful unblemished yellow (which hasn’t come out well in the photo) and were equally unblemished inside, unlike the ones I usually buy which, I think, come from local backyard trees. I’ve stewed them for breakfast.

Celery and dandelion in a wicking box for winter greens:

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A lush crop of nettles growing in the shade under my tubestock plant stands. When I’m watering the tubes, the nettles get the overflow of water and nutrients. I just have to remember not to brush up against them when I’m wearing shorts!:

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Dutch Cream potatoes are growing well. There are two other batches like this—Desiree and Kipfler. Now that I’ve found a good way of preserving potatoes, I don’t mind how many I grow:

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Last year someone gave me some fresh figs. I can’t resist sowing all sorts of seeds, just to see if they’ll germinate. They came up easily and quickly, so now there’s a baby fig tree in the food forest:

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I sowed bread wheat again this year. It germinated easily and a batch of self-sown chickweed decided to share its space. No problems; I’ll gradually weed it out for the Girls. It’s chook caviar to them:

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This is Warrigal Greens aka New Zealand Spinach. I don’t use it much (so many other greens to choose from), but it makes a good ground cover and keeps the weeds at bay:

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I’ve started sowing brassicas. There are still cabbage white butterflies about, but if I leave the seedlings in the polyhouse they get leggy. I wanted them in full sun so they’d be more compact, so I made a wire box to cover the seedling pots. I watched a butterfly hovering above in frustration—she could smell them but she couldn’t get in. Ha! Score—me 1 butterflies nil. These are four different kale varieties:

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Well, that’s my autumn garden. Just to prove I’m not sitting inside playing computer games!

Nettle pesto

October 29, 2012

My new little edible weed book arrived a couple of days ago:

It’s a great resource and conveniently pocket-sized. I’m even more enthused about maintaining a collection of edible ‘weeds’ somewhere in a corner of the food forest.  Going to need an alternative name to ‘weeds’ though, to eliminate the negative connotations.

I have a large, healthy patch of nettles growing at the moment so I was interested in the nettle entry. There’s a recipe for nettle gnocci in the recipe section at the back of the book and nettle pesto was mentioned, so today I got to and made a batch, using my normal basil pesto recipe:

I’m not sure about the taste; it’s very ‘green’ (a bit like eating your lawn), and not a patch on basil pesto, but I’ll try it on some pasta later in the week and see how it goes. Definitely won’t throw it out though, with all that goodness in the nettles it’s too valuable to waste. I might try the gnocci at some stage and nettle and potato soup which I made some years ago, is a winner, too.

My pesto recipe:

2 cups basil (or nettle) leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Blend all except the parmesan in a food processor until the desired consistency and then stir in the cheese. Of course, it’s a doddle in the Thermomix and it will even grate the parmesan for you.

I picked a huge basket of nettle leaves, so what I didn’t use will be dried and ground into flakes to use in omelets, casseroles, soups, you name it, etc.  Nettles are extraordinarily rich in minerals, with 8 times more iron than beef, lots of calcium and up to 40% by dry weight of protein.

Novel foods

August 27, 2012

Sharon Astyk over at Causaubon’s Book has a short post about foods most of us don’t normally eat, or know it’s OK to eat.

Mention of broccoli stems and how delicious and useful they are made me think of a sign that some greengrocers put on the broccoli, to the effect that if you break off the stems you’ll be charged for them! That always makes me laugh! Although to be fair, home-grown broccoli stems are much more tender than their shop-bought counterparts.

Since trying to become a more self-sufficient foodie, I’ve learned about a whole slew of unusual edible things that other people turn their noses up at. Things like dandelions (leaves and flowers), chickweed, calendula flowers (really attractive in a tossed salad), nettles (nettle & potato soup is yum!), and so on.

I was at a neighbour’s recently and their rather neglected veggie garden was covered in chickweed. We really must get the weeds out, she said. I said you can eat that, it’s chickweed, it’s rich in iron; they grow it by the acre in the US to extract the iron for iron tablets. Her jaw dropped quite a bit.

One day, I will make a list of all the edible ‘weeds’ and similar plants I can find info on and start an edible weed garden.

Wild edibles

April 26, 2012

I make a point of always reading blogs and blogposts about edible wild plants (what most Aussie gardeners would call ‘weeds’), because even though the blogs might emanate from the northern hemisphere, that’s where most of our garden weeds come from, too.

Here’s a recent post that gives a recipe for dock curry. If I can find any dock plants growing down the back, I’ll give it a go, if not I might try nettles, of which I have a huge patch, or maybe a combination of nettles and sorrel which also has a lemony flavour.

This would be an ideal recipe to do in the Thermomix.

I really must try to develop a patch of edible wild ‘weeds’ somewhere down the back of the property in amongst the native grasses. I’m already growing sorrel, nettles, chickweed and dandelions, but the real problem is the rabbits. They seem to love all these (well, maybe not the nettles), and every plant I grow has to be protected with wire. I think I’ll have to encircle a large area with wire (several square metres), so that I can leave the ‘weeds’ to self-seed and multiply.

Nettle season in Ireland

April 11, 2009

A couple of posts ago I wrote about nettles. Here’s another post on the subject from Brian Kaller at Restoring Mayberry.

Nourishing nettles

March 18, 2009

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My nettle patch is making its annual comeback so it’s time to think about drying and soup-making. Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly iron—42 mg per 100 g—more than red meat!

I dry nettles by simply picking the leaves (warning: wear gloves!) and laying them out on a sheet of paper or a drying screen. When they’re dry and brittle (and have lost their sting) I crush them with a rolling pin and rub them through a coarse sieve. I add a spoonful to anything I’m cooking—casseroles, soups, bread, omelettes. A great way to boost the iron content of a meal.

I made nettle soup for the first time last year and we really enjoyed it.

Here’s a recipe.