Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dusting off the vacola

An excess of rhubarb on the Peninsula patch finally made me get out the Vacola cooker and jars that have been gathering dust for a few years. I did Rhubarb in light sugar syrup. I don't think I quite got the packing right - see how the rhubarb's floated to the top? Should be delish with yoghurt, on porridge, or in a clafoutis.

Its fig season and amazingly the birds have left us some of the luscious beauties produced by our rather neglected tree. Now, what to do with them . . .

Towards the end of April, I finished picking the last of the summer bounty. The purple kings kicked on until end of April.

These german pickling cucumbers were quite special. I kept meaning to preserve them in brine but we ended up eating them all fresh in salads.

From the next door neighbour's jaw-droppingly productive veggie patch

Our next door neighbours continued to share their garden bounty with us. Massive zucchinis became zuchini fritters, which froze well and were great in Bboy's lunchbox with a small container of sweet chilli sauce. Parsnips, pumpkin and potato got turned into cornish pasties. Later in April, I added jerusalem artichokes from my patch to the pastie filling. These pasties also made good lunchbox fare. Its hard for me to swop veggies with my neighbours because they grow so much. I settled for giving them some kefir fetta and sourdough pizza base.

Butter lettuce, safe from the rabbits

Our first pomegranates
In my Dad's orchard, the pomegranate tree has produced its first crop. I was quite excited until I did some research on how much work is required just to get the seeds out, let alone make juice out of them. Disheartened, I left them to moulder in the fruit dish - oh no!

The last of the tomatoes became the base for a bean-tomato filling for burritos. This base, which comes from one of my favourite food blogs Veggie Num Num, is is super easy and can also be used as a pasta sauce. You basically just chuck your ingredients into an oven tray, toss it all with a good dose of olive oil and bake until soft and mushy. No standing over a frypan stirring and no need to take the skin off the tomatoes. That's my kind of cooking.

Beans-in-tomato for burrito filling 
Serves 4

  • 1½ cups dried beans, pinto, haricot or red kidney
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 green capsicum (bell pepper), quartered
  • 250g tomatoes
  • 1-2 chillies
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • 1 tbs fresh oregano, diced
Boil your beans with a bay leaf and simmer till soft enough to your taste.

On a baking tray put the garlic cloves, capsicum, tomato, chillies and oregano. Drizzle 2 tbs olive oil over the top and toss everything well. Bake in a 180°C oven for 25-30 mins or until soft. When cooled, chop all ingredients roughly, saving the pan juices.

To the roasted veggies and pan juices, add 1/3 cup olive oil and salt to taste. If you have time, you can put the whole shebang in a pot on the stove and cook for a further 30 mins to improve the flavour. But if not don't worry. It'll still be tasty. You can also mash the mixture a bit towards the end to get the consistency you like. Add the cooked beans.

This is the basic filling for burritos. The other fillings are things like chopped lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, grated cheese, and of course, sour cream. I put these in little bowls on the table so people can make up their own. The tomato-bean base freezes well.

Co-op action
I've joined a local food co-op which has just started up in my area and is operating out of a shed on someone's property. The founding members built bays for the goods - dry goods such as flour, rice and nuts. Members pay an annual membership and order every two weeks. We bring our own containers and sign on to a roster to supervise order-pickup day. Produce is mostly organic and local and includes cleaning products such as laundry powder and dishwashing liquid, as well as some personal care products. Its great to have a co-op that is so local and connected to my community.

Reveg and rehab tours
My partner, Bboy and I have been attending field trips to properties near us that have undertaken rehabilitation and revegetation works. Wetlands and boardwalks featured on the amazing property in these photos. The non-government conservation group Habitat Restoration Fund ran the project. Weed control was the main management action - once competition for light, water and nutrients from the weeds was reduced, indigenous seed in the soil seedbank was able to germinate.

The property also had some well established orchards and veggie gardens with serious bird and rabbit-proofing. I was impressed by this watering system on some of the newer trees.

In wider world news, its great to see that the EU has slapped a 2-year moratorium on neonicotinoids. Hopefully that will give their bees some breathing space

I can't keep up with all the fabulous free plant ID tools out on the intermatron these days. Here's another I came across recently, produced by the WA government. Its got proper binomial key functionality and all. Love it:

Weeds of Australia identification tool

I caught these sawflies hanging out together on a eucalyptus on the property in March.