Archive for the ‘Oca’ Category

April update

May 12, 2015

Hard to believe it’s May already; I’m wondering where autumn went. We don’t seem to have had many of those lovely warm days I remember from past autumns.

The Sweet Wattle is flowering all through the bush, filling the air with a beautiful scent :

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I picked the first mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes of the season :

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The mushrooms actually came from the hugelkultur bed; it’s nice to think that as the underlying wood rots down, it’s providing me with some extra food.

The New Girls have continued to lay well, with at least a dozen eggs a week between them. I thought the they were going off the lay, preparing for their winter rest, when egg production dropped down a bit to 9 a week, but then this appeared, all 136 gm of it. Ouch! I bet that hurt! :

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This Japanese seedless mandarin is covered in fruits, the only problem being that they have almost no mandarin flavour and are as sour as lemons! :

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I’m thinking the only way to deal with them would be to preserve the segments in a sugar syrup, perhaps with some spices to make up for the absence of mandarin flavour. Ideas anyone?

The blueberry has donned it’s autumn foliage :

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The oca is growing well and the tubers will be harvested as soon as the foliage dies down in winter :

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The asparagus fern needs to be allowed to die back to return nutrients to the root system, then it can be cut back and the beds fertilised in readiness for the spring crop :

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This is an alpine strawberry in a wicking box. I sprinkled some corn salad seed around it. I think I overdid it a bit! :

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The pepino in the wicking box is still producing fruit :

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The wombok chinese cabbage in the wicking box is growing well, but not looking like producing the expected tight central cluster of leaves. I was hoping to make kimchi with it, but if it doesn’t do its thing the chooks are going to have a ball pulling these massive leaves to bits :

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August update

September 9, 2014

Well it was nice to finally see some sunshine and warm days towards the end of the month and the winter blues slipping away. Here’s hoping the warmth continues.

Around the garden…..

The first of the tomato seedlings are out in the polyhouse after being sown at the winter solstice and being kept inside in a sunny window for a couple of months. I sowed three seeds to a pot and will let them grow on a bit, then take mini cuttings of the extras as I did last year :

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The tamarillo season ended with a flourish with this beautiful truss of fruits. Almost a shame to eat them :

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I’m really going to miss them on my breakfast cereal. Some fruits still haven’t ripened and I don’t know why, or if, or when, they will. I don’t know what triggers ripening—is it increasing warmth or lengthening days? They’ll be getting both of those from now on, so maybe there are delicious breakfasts still to come.

Leeks are looking good. These are in a wicking box. There’s a similar batch in the garden looking just as good :

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Likewise garlic. These are in the garden and also in a wicking box :

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This is a dwarf nectarine. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s only about 50 cm high, and is supposed to grow to about a metre. The flowers are also much pinker than the photo shows. In its first year it had 5 nectarines and a rabbit/possum got them all. Last year it had 2 and I got them.  I’ve made a special cage for it this year :

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All of the larger stone fruits are flowering too, but it’s a worry that I’m not seeing many bees around.

I’m not really a great one for growing plants in odd-looking containers, but when my 15 year-old wheelbarrow finally died, I decided that since it was too tall for the rabbits to get to, it was worth being repurposed for veggies in Zone 1. It’s now sporting some kale and chicory and I’ve tossed in seeds of mizuna :

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While I was taking photos for this post, I saw the first Cabbage White Butterfly for the season. Damn & blast. That means it’s probably too late for netting, so daily inspections of all things cabbagy for eggs and caterpillars will be needed.

Er….? :

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Fooled you?  I cut them out of some white plastic sheet. Because…..

…..on last Saturday’s ABC Gardening Australia program, one of the presenters came up with the idea of plastic white butterflies, pinned to the top of sticks and poked in around plants in the cabbage family, the idea being that if a female Cabbage White sees other butterflies there, she won’t waste her eggs but will go somewhere else and lay.

Don’t laugh…..I did it years ago and it worked! Only then I hung the fakes on fishing line above the plants. I stood and watched and it was true; the butterflies wouldn’t land on the plants while ‘other’ butterflies were hovering there. There was only one problem—I had to spend some time each day untangling wind-blown fishing lines. I didn’t repeat it in subsequent years, and think the fakes must have been thrown out, but after that TV program, I’m going to have another go. On sticks this time.

I’ve had a few meals of asparagus. There are new spears popping up every day now. To store them until I have enough for a decent meal, I just stand them in  cup of water. It keeps them hydrated and they will even continue to elongate :

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I harvested oca during the  month. These were the largest tubers. I planted the tiddlers straight back into the garden, but in a different spot. I’ll probably pickle most of these. I don’t like them roasted :

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This is purple mizuna. It has beautiful, lacy foliage and looks stunning in a salad :

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Solar…..

Generation from the solar panels bottomed out in July and started to take off again towards the end of August, with 9.7 kWh being recorded on the last day of the month. Amazing what a difference a sunny day makes! Over June and July I imported more power from the grid than I sent back to it, but I’m in front again now and exporting more than I’m using. I’m still waiting for a corrected bill from the retailer. According to their web portal there are 46 days in the January-April billing period that show no export to the grid, and this represents a credit of over $200 they owe me. They keep sending me texts to say they’re “working on it”, but since these are probably automated, I doubt whether they actually are. Main thing is, I haven’t paid a cent for electricity in the last ten months and don’t look like paying anything for the rest of the year. Or ever again. Maybe.

Rainfall…..

At 64 mm, we scraped in just 7 mm above Melbourne’s average of 57 mm for the month. It’s been good for the citrus and the oranges that looked a bit undersized are now looking a normal size.

I was about to hit the publish button when I remembered the most important thing. Eggs. The Girls haven’t laid since mid-January. I’ve been giving them subtle hints nagging them for a couple of weeks now. Molly apparently got sick of me harping on the fact that it was spring and normal chooks lay eggs in spring and laid one on the last day of the month. And as if to say, “there I’ve done it, now will you shut up”, hasn’t laid since. Not to be outdone, Cheeky has laid three. And one dropped out of someone during the night and broke. Oh, well. It’s a start.

Here endeth the summer

March 24, 2014

Well…I hope so.

The autumn equinox has been and gone, we’ve had an inch of rain, the days are cooler and the plants are making new growth.

I’ve planted my garlic and potato onions from Yelwek Farm. Some went into the garden and some in a wicking box. I had success with one potato onion bulb (just one!) in a wicking box last year and I want to see if that was a one-off or whether they will tolerate the extra moisture in a wicking box. The drainage will still be good and if I need to, I can shelter the box from excessive winter rains. I’ve grown garlic successfully in a wicking box before, so no worries there.

Potato onions in the garden:

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Garlic in a wicking box:

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I’ve also planted asparagus in the first of the hugelkultur beds I made.  By spring, this bed will be in its third year and the underlying wood is starting to break down, at least enough for me to get the treeplanter into it without hitting any resistance:

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I’ve staked and tied up the ferns for the time being to keep them tidy and to dissuade the rabbits from investigating them. I’ve had to protect each side of the bed with wire to stop the blackbirds tearing it apart. The ferns will die back over winter and I’ll side-dress each plant with chook poo compost before the spears emerge in early spring. I doubt they‘ll be big enough to harvest this year but should be OK for the next:

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In the spaces between each asparagus plant I’ll sow cucumbers next spring/summer and let them ramble over the mound. By that time the asparagus will have stopped bearing and will be at the fern stage. The ferns, which grow to over a metre tall in mature plants, should provide some shade for the cucumbers during the summer. So the asparagus will do two things—provide me with a yield in spring and shade for other plants in summer. An example of the permaculture principle which says that each element in a permaculture system should perform more than one function.

Garlic chives are flowering. The bees love them. I’ve got a couple of dozen new plants in pots and will plant them everywhere:

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Tamarillos are ripening. I made sure I kept the water up to the plants in summer and it looks like a bumper harvest this year:

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New batch of potatoes coming on. These are Kipflers:

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Dandelions for use in casseroles and soups this coming winter:

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The last of the tomatoes ripening. This one is called Nicoleta and the seed came from a member of the Ozgrow forum. It’s a good size and shape and has a beautiful flavour. I’ll be growing this one again:

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Still getting a few strawberries from the wicking box on the deck. The blackbird has found them so I’ve had to put a net over them in addition to the ring of wire around the tub. Did I mention I hate blackbirds?

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This is purslane. It self-seeded in a wicking box and I’m hoping it will flower and seed there again. It has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a crunchy texture and can be eaten in dozens of ways:

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The oca has kicked on with the recent rain and should form lots of tubers by winter when the plants will die back:

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It wasn’t the best of summers from a food-growing point of view. Yields were woeful compared to past years. The most important things I learned were that I have to make provision for shade on 40-degree-plus days and that plants in wicking boxes will do better than plants in ordinary garden beds.

It also wasn’t the best from a personal-keep-cool point of view either. Before next summer I’m going to have an evaporative cooler installed. I don’t need to worry about electricity use, because the solar panels will run it through the day. No more do I want to try and sleep in a house where the temperature is in the high 30’s.

Updating…..

December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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Autumn photos

April 8, 2013

‘Twas a chilly autumn morning and the camera and I went for a walk.

This is wormwood planted outside the chook run. I love the silvery, ferny foliage. Such a contrast to the usual greens. I have more plants in other parts of the garden. When I prune them back I put it through the mulcher and spread it in the Girl’s nestbox. It’s supposed to deter insects. It certainly has a very medicinal smell:

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A wicking box with a newly-planted pepino. Those seedlings all around it are amaranth (there’s a single bok choy there, too). Normally the amaranth self-seeds in the food forest. When it’s finished flowering (and I’ve collected as much seed as I can), I mulch it up and add it to the compost. Seedlings come up in everything that gets topped up with compost. I’ll probably pick some of these and dry them for winter use. At the moment I’m using them as a garnish on soups, in omelets and with other steamed greens:

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I have a tub on the deck with one strawberry in it. It’s been flowering for ages and producing delicious fruit. I used to rant about those huge supermarket strawberries and say they weren’t normal and now this plant is producing fruits equally as huge. I think it likes the chook poo compost I put on it. I’ve put a wire cage around the tub. Birds don’t come onto the deck very often, but bright red treats like this will bring them from miles around:

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The bags of cow poo I was given recently have finally all made it into one of the compost bins. I’ll add worms from the worm farm and let them go through it and make it more friable:

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Now that we’ve had rain, the oca has really kicked on:

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This is mizuna. The chooks love it and there’s generally enough left for me, too. Pretty foliage:

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Broccoli and kale in a wicking box:

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More kale and senposai in a wicking tub:

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This is chicory. I grow it for greens for the Girls. I don’t eat it because I usually have plenty of other greens:

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Not the most elegant parsnips in the world, but the best I’ve grown so far:

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Potato onions

February 27, 2013

I don’t normally grow onions. I grew them once and the results weren’t bad, but I just don’t seem to use a lot of onions and they’re usually not expensive, and I wanted the space for other things, so….

Recently, some of the members at the Ozgrow garden forum were talking about potato onions and someone gave this link to a place in Tassie (where all good things seem to come from). So I took a look.

Yelwek Farm. It looks like a nice place. Nice people. A family-run business and organic to boot. Couldn’t be better. Not only do they sell potato onions, but garlic and oca as well. Different coloured oca. Salmon, Rainbow and Cream. Wouldn’t they all look nice in a salad? I’ve grown oca, but only the pink colour.

Potato onions are grown like shallots. You plant a bulb and it makes new daughter bulbs around it. You keep some back for replanting and eat the rest. I’ve grown shallots and they’re easy.

So I ordered some potato onions, some white and some brown. There must have been a problem with how I ordered because it seemed when I got a confirmation email that I was going to get two lots of white onions instead of one white and one brown. I wasn’t fussed. Then an email came saying there’d been a PayPal mix-up and could I confirm my order. I did that and mentioned that I’d wanted one lot of each colour instead of two lots of white. That had apparently been my mistake. Clicked the wrong link I suppose.

As an apology for the inconvenience (it wasn’t) of the PayPal mix-up  they offered to send a complimentary pack of brown onions if I paid the postage. In the meantime I’d seen how stupid I was not to order garlic as well so said I’d make a new order (the initial one had already been sent) for garlic, which I did. I ordered 3 bulbs of garlic and received enough complimentary brown onions to make the package weight up to the postage rate. Like I said, nice people.

Two visits to the Post Office later, here is my box of goodies:

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Go and have a look at Yelwek Farm and order from these nice people. Family-run businesses who care about what they do deserve our encouragement.

This season’s oca…..picked & pickled

July 26, 2012

The oca plants have fully died back and I’ve picked all the tubers…..


…..and started pickling them. Here are the first two jars:


The recipe I use for the pickling liquid is fairly simple:

3/4 cup vinegar ( I use apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp dill seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 springs fresh dill (place in the jar with the sliced oca)
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar

Mix all in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour over the sliced oca in a pre-heated jar.

I like oca fresh, either raw or pickled. I know there are people who rave about it roasted, but to me it’s yuk. The texture goes like mashed potatoes and the flavour is like old socks (no, I’ve never eaten old socks, but you know what I mean!). Maybe I cook it for too long, I don’t know. Or maybe I have a different variety to other people. I think I’ll try gently steaming a few tubers in the Thermomix. If that can’t do it, nothing will!

Some of the biggest tubers, scrubbed and ready to go:

They don’t need peeling. They’re crunchy and slightly lemony. If left in the sun for a few days after harvesting, they sweeten up a bit.

I’ll be posting out tubers this week to those who asked for some.

How much am I growing?…3 month update

February 6, 2012

I wrote this post back in November about how I was going to record all the food I bought and all the food I grew, for a whole year. I want to see what percentage of my food I’m actually providing from the garden.

I’m writing it all in an exercise book and I’ve also put it on a simple spreadsheet which adds up the totals and calculates the percentages.

So far, in the first 3 months, the average is 25%. In other words, of all the food that’s come into the house in that time, 25% of it has come from the garden.

Not too bad, but it’s summer—the best season of the food-growing year, with tomatoes, zucchini, beans, cucumbers & carrots in abundance and fruit (not a lot this year) from the trees. I know I won’t be able to keep that up over the winter. There’ll be peas, leeks,  plenty of greens (silver beet, chinese cabbage & kale), but my broccoli leaves a lot to be desired (I really must do something about keeping the Cabbage White Butterfly off the plants and I must learn to grow better broccoli). Right in the middle of winter there will also be oca & yacon and asparagus in the spring.

So it looks like I’ll finish up with something less than 25% for the year. The only thing that might boost the % is that I may not need to buy much over the winter. The fridge is bursting at the seams with bottles of pickled veggies, pesto, tomato paste, pasta sauce and marmalade. There will be tomatoes in the freezer and jars of dried tomatoes in the cupboard, plus potatoes under the sink and pumpkins, if I’m lucky. I have enough bread flour and wheat to make a year’s supply of bread and enough pasta and rice for at least that time, too.

Oh, and I forgot eggs. A dozen eggs a week will help boost the totals, too (speaking of which, top egg weight this past week was 53 g—going up!).

In no way am I self-sufficient in food and I doubt whether I ever can be, especially where meat protein is concerned, but it’s an interesting exercise anyway.

I’m all oca-ed out!

August 16, 2011

I’ve started harvesting oca in earnest. All the stems have died down and I need to get them out so I can prepare the beds for the summer stuff.

This is the harvest from just one bed, about half a square metre in area. To give an idea of the scale, they’re sitting in an upturned rubbish bin lid:

There are some nice big tubers in this lot and there are still 2 more beds to harvest!

I only eat these raw or pickled (not cooked) in flavoured vinegar. Some people say they’re delicious roasted. I’ve boiled, roasted and microwaved them and to me they’re well,…….bleaaaah!

I pickled a couple of jars today. It’s a pity the colour bleeds out of them, because the effect of the dark-coloured internal rings when they’re sliced crossways, is lost. But they’ll taste good in salads, anyway:

Later edit:

My pickling liquid recipe is below—after one of the comments.

First oca harvest

June 9, 2011

I showed this photo of my oca crop a few posts ago:

It’s looking very healthy at the moment. Normally all the plants would die off in winter and I’d start harvesting the tubers.

I was scrabbling around amongst the growth today and found these near the surface:

So, already tubers have formed and are in the process of enlarging. This rain should help produce some big ones.

I thought about the many South American crops like oca and yacon (which I’m also growing) when I came in and logged on.

There was a comment from Chris at Gully Grove blog, who’d watched the videos I linked to in yesterday’s post, and made the comment that we may have to give up on cereal crops like wheat (and on cereal products like bread), and move on to novel foods which are easier to grow in the permaculture food forest type of food system which was advocated in the video.

Oca and yacon are ideally suited to this type of food system. The tubers can be planted in a clearing amongst trees and shrubs or at the sunny edges of the forest and tubers can be dug as required or left to reproduce themselves.

I remembered that this is the way Jackie French grows potatoes in her wilderness garden. It turns out that Jackie is a favourite of Chris’ too and The Wilderness Garden is one of her favourite books! Likewise!.