Thursday, February 24, 2011
The eco-gardener, the eco-forester and the eco-garden are all fine but there is no Internet connection, so there will be no eco-garden blogs for a while. We have power, water, sewage, and a landline phone, and if any friends reading this need a safe place to stay, give us a ring.
Posted by Christine Dann at 11:54 AM
Friday, February 18, 2011
The melon in the middle,
on January 7...
.... made a delicious dessert
for my birthday dinner
on February 12 ...
... and was an even more
delicious dessert on
I have never tried to grow melons of any kind before, since it just isn't warm enough for long enough outside in Canterbury. Now that I have a glasshouse, I am surprised at how easy it is. I sowed the seeds of both kinds of melons on August 22, 2010 and they germinated well. At the end of September I transplanted the little plants into 9 litre plastic buckets (the cheapest kind), with holes punched in the bottom and filled with a 'vege mix' compost. I put the melon buckets on the shelves of the glasshouse, watered the plants every day, and fed them with Biofeed liquid organic fertiliser every fortnight. Now I am enjoying some of the best-tasting melons I have ever eaten.
Did I have beginner's luck, or is it really this easy? I have some ideas on how to do it better and get even more melons next year, so we'll see. I did have some melons (two in buckets and one in the soil) at ground level in the glass house, and they haven't produced, so it is definitely good to have them higher up, where it is warmer, and less shaded. I also need to be more organised about nipping off the growing tips and surplus flowers before a great tangle of overgrown vines requires trimming and untangling. But for now I will just marvel that water and heat and the miracle of photosynthesis - with just a little nudging from me - produced these sweet and juicy treats.
Posted by Christine Dann at 9:03 PM
Friday, February 11, 2011
Moroccan-Style Carrot Salad and Bread with Za'atar Mixed Salad
Moroccan-Style Carrot Salad and Bread with Za'atar Mixed Salad
The other night we had a grown-at-home, designed-by-the-Mediterranean meal, which made for a great seasonal match. I got my inspiration from a book called Modern Mezze by Anissa Helou (Quadrille Publishing, London, 2007).
Helou's culinary culture of origin is Lebanese, which in my opinion is a big advance on the Anglo traditions I grew up with, as far as food variety and taste are concerned. Mezze is the Greek word for a type of food which served all the way around the Mediterranean from Morocco to Spain (where it is called tapas). It is refers to small, light dishes or snacks, such as dips, salads, bread with toppings, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, little savoury pastries, balls of meat or ground chickpeas, spicy sausages, bite-sized pieces of fish and salty cheeses. These can be served variously with drinks, as a first course, for lunch, or (Helou's favourite way) as a whole meal, made up of a succession of a dozen or more small dishes.
She remembers this fondly from her Lebanese childhood, when her father would take the family out to restaurants and carefully order a delicious variety of dishes to be served all at once. Although she does allow that it is better to sample mezze this way in restaurants rather than attempt it at home. Except on special occasions, and she covers how to do this easily in the book.
Helou now lives in London, where she can get most of the authentic North African, Middle Eastern or southern European ingredients she needs to create this food in colder climes. When I decided to prepare some freshly-harvested baby carrots and other prime salad veges mezze-style, I discovered that I was a bit lacking in some of the ingredients in Helou's recipes, but luckily I was able to improvise with others I had on hand (such as authentic za'atar, a signature mezze herb and spice mix, which is produced regularly by Lyttelton's Ground deli).
So here are my recipes for Moroccon-Style Carrot Salad and Bread with Za'atar Mixed Salad.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
MOROCCAN-STYLE CARROT SALAD
12 baby carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 T flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 T coriander leaves, finely chopped
¼ t red pepper flakes or chilli flakes
1 T wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Put the carrots and garlic cloves in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
Bring the the pot to the boil, add the salt, and cook the carrots gently over a medium heat until they are just tender.
Drain the carrots, discard the garlic cloves, and put the carrots on a teatowel to dry and cool a little.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a salad bowl, and whisk to mix well.
Add the carrots and toss them gently, until they are evenly coated in the dressing.
Serve at once, or at room temperature.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
BREAD WITH ZA'ATAR MIXED SALAD
½ loaf of ciabatta bread
juice of 1 lemon
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 t za'atar, to taste
3-4 large, juicy tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 small buttercrunch lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 red or green capsicum, sliced finely
1 small cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, sliced (OR half a small red onion, peeled and very finely sliced)
fresh herbs to taste e.g. basil, mint, flat-leaf parsley
Slice the bread into bite-sized pieces and place them on a baking tray.
Bake them at 180 degrees C until they are crisp and just starting to go golden.
Put them in a salad bowl while still warm, and toss them in the lemon juice, then the oil, and then the za'atar.
Add the rest of the ingredients in the order given, tossing each time.
Add extra oil if the salad seems too dry, and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at once.
Posted by Christine Dann at 2:41 PM
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
...make a berry nice breakfast,
especially when combined
with home-grown strawberries
and creamy yoghurt.
I didn't expect to find blackberries ripe already when I took a walk up the road yesterday, but Sunday's heat probably helped bring them on. Since I wasn't expecting to find them, I didn't take anything to put them in, so I had to improvise with a hanky knotted at the corners. It was just big enough for the 370g of berries I harvested.
Blackberries are of course not really wild, but positively feral, and a noxious weed to boot. However, they are at least good for human health, being full of Vitamins A and C, plus phenolic acids. Like the vitamins, these are antioxidant compounds which help protect against cancer, and have other health benefits as well. So do yourself and the wider environment a favour, and pick and eat as many as you can.
Posted by Christine Dann at 8:31 AM
Monday, February 7, 2011
Visitors to the Eco-Garden enjoy cool drinks in the shade.
When I heard the cicadas singing at 6 a.m. in the morning yesterday, I knew we were in for a really, really hot day. Those guys don't start to whistle until it is over 16 degrees. I was out in the garden early, watering the veges and doing some last-minute clipping and weeding before opening the garden to visitors in the afternoon.
By then the temperature was in the 30s, and our plan to make most of the plants in the Eco-Garden trees was making a lot of sense. Eventually the 'garden' will consist of clearings in a forest, with just enough sunny space for growing veges, fruit and flowers, and for sitting out in on fine days from late autumn to early spring.
The visitors certainly appreciated the shade as they sat sipping iced tea or elderflower cordial, or went strolling along the paths. One remarked how much cooler it was among the trees. I know on days like yesterday I feel very grateful for green leaves releasing oxygen all around me.
At 9 p.m. I was back in the garden giving the veges some more water. The cicadas were still singing, and I felt almost over-dressed wearing just a fine cotton sarong. I was thinking about the heat, and if (or when) this would go from being a four or five times per summer event in Canterbury to being the 'new normal', and happen every week. I wondered if I would live to see it happen, given that there is currently almost no effective leadership (let alone action) happening on climate change at the national and international levels. One of the most important actions that could and should be taken, of course, is total protection of all natural forests, wherever they may be, and (re)planting of forests wherever possible. Forests play a huge role in helping stabilise the planet's climate, keeping oxygen and carbon dioxide at optimum levels for all other life forms.
A cool green pathway in the Eco-Garden.
I can't make that happen globally, but locally, where I can do something myself, I plant trees. For the future of all, and to enjoy the lovely micro-climate they create in the present in my own garden.
Posted by Christine Dann at 11:07 AM