Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ole oleracea

Cabbages in the MPYE patch
My mother used to tell me that her violent dislike of all things cabbage arose from being subjected to meals of murdered (overcooked) cabbage as a child. I inherited her prejudice against Brassica oleracae, with the exception of stuffed cabbage, which is a family speciality on my dad's side. But over the last few months, as I harvested cabbages from the MPYE patch, I found myself wondering if there might be unexplored pleasures hidden in those, admittedly snail-ridden leaves. There is not much else by way of large veggies coming out of any the patches at the moment, so it was time to roll up the sleeves and trawl though the cookbooks.

Kohlrabi and cabbage from the MPYE patch

One of the things I've found in my travels in through cabbage recipes, is that it lives in wintry recipes that the older folks love, or at least the anglo older folks. Cabbage and cornbeef, for example, go hand in glove. As does cabbage and vegetable soup. A good cabbage and cornbeef combo came in the form of an Adrian Richardson recipe for cornbeef. It is one of those one-pot winter winners, replete with greens (cabbage from MPYE patch), starch (potatoes from the Peninsula patch), and some satisfying spices (fenugreek, mustard, bay). The relative cheapness of the cornbeef cut is also a plus.
Cabbage, chickpea and fetta salad
I also invented a tasty take on the traditional coleslaw, a cabbage, chickpea and fetta salad. Chop up the cabbage roughly, and add chickpeas and crumbled fetta. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. You could substitute parmesan for fetta. I reckon some parsley and other herbes fines would go well with this too.

Sign on to herbs

Signs for the MPYE veggie patch
Now that the herb collection on the MPYE patch is respectable, I decided to make some signage for it. A trip to the excellent Reverse Art site in Ringwood, with Sue as a guide, yielded wood and paint. Veggieman, who has made an occasional appearance in this blog, contributed the lettering. The decorative touches are Sue's.

In the inner-city patch, the tamarillos are looking mighty tasty.
Tamarillos in the inner-city patch
With the warmer weather on the way, I planted some pineapple sage (Salvia elegans). Not sure what to do with it in cooking, but I just love the idea of a pineapple herb.
Pineapple sage in the inner city patch
Immediately outside the kitchen, hardy winter staples of chard, spinach, rocket and parsley are going strong.

Greens in the inner-city patch
And my first attempt at carrots seem to be coming along nicely, backed by some broadbeans and hemmed in by wormwood.
Broad beans, baby carrots, and wormwood in the inner-city patch
I really hate to weed, and try to design my patches to avoid it, but I do end up doing some. I've been very pleased to find some parts of the garden that used to be colonised by unwanted plants are being voluntarily occupied by species that are most welcome: warrigal greens, vetch, red clover and such. These are all species that I planted at some time in the past so the seeds have laid in reserve in the soil, hopefully encouraged by my no-till gardening.
Volunteer warrigal greens in the inner-city patch
With spring in the air, I'm sowing seed of coriander, beans (purple king), and cucumber, and chervil.

As part the Integrated Pest Management component of my ag science degree, I've been insect hunting and insect-damage hunting. Looking at lettuce aphids down the lens of dissecting microscopes is an uncommonly fine thrill. My father gave me this lemon, from a tree on the peninsula, to investigate. What animal caused this?

Marie Antoinette

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