The delights of beetroot

This is a funny little vegetable.  I’ve always grown it in my garden because it is easy to grow and you can’t have a burger without a slice of pickled beetroot.  Oh and pickled beetroot sandwiches on white bread and a thick smear of soft butter.  Oh the flavour of my childhood.  Because to be honest, that is how I’d always had them.  Pickled in a jar, done by my mum or bought from the store.  That is how they came – pickled and if they didn’t, then you pickled them!


Beetroot, such an easy crop to grow. Just plant and forget for 8 – 10 weeks.

I didn’t realise you could have them any other way.  So I carried on the tradition and grew them and pickled them.  In the early days I grew the normal round ones – but the problem was I grew them too well and they grew too big to fit in a jar.  This was easily fixed by a change of variety to Cylindra which as the name alludes to, grows in a long cylinder shape.  My problems were over, I could slice them up nicely and they would fit in the pickle jar like it was meant for it.

Pickled beetroot

Pickled beetroot – part of the Kiwi culture.

You can see how I pickle them >HERE<  

My first outrageous adventure with beetroot was born out of necessity.  Back in 2014 a TV producer approached me and said we are doing a show called Cook the Books.  It was for chefs with cook books.   All the best names of Kiwi culinary geniuses were getting involved.  And they wanted me, because there were recipes in my first gardening book, The Good Life!   I was flattered and of course I said yes.

TV show filming

It is not everyday you have a film crew in your kitchen

The funny thing is I’m a bit of a slap dash kind of cook and when I contributed the recipes for the book the publishers said “Sarah, people will want to cook these recipes, can you alter them to make them more user friendly”  so I took them to my brother, who is an excellent chef to swap splodges of this and a dash of that for something more metric.  He came back with “Sarah that isn’t how you make soup!”  But I had made a soup like that and it was a very nice soup!

Beetroot salad with halloumi cheese

My famous beetroot salad with halloumi cheese. It looked much better on TV!

So here I was about to be on a TV show.  The format was the famous ones had segment one and three and in between the adverts someone less famous but with a recipe book filled the space.  I was sandwiched between Chelsea Winter and couldn’t have been more chuffed.  I never met her though.

TV show filming

When there isn’t much growing in the garden it is great to have cute lambs to focus on instead

The problem for me as a gardener was they wanted to film in my garden in September.  There is nothing in the garden in September.  It is smack bang in the middle of the hungry gap.  All there was in the garden was a determine stand of beetroot.  Such a blessing I can grow it all year round.  So I developed a fab recipe centred on beetroot.  I thinly sliced them and slowly baked them, making chips, I made of bed of tender young beetroot leaves, sliced red onion, marinated in lemon juice went into the simple salad.  The now pink lemon juice was mixed with salt and pepper and sunflower oil to make the dressing.  And the final addition was some halloumi cheese I whipped up from scratch from a show sponsors cheese making kit.  (The foolhardy thing was it never occurred to me to make a backup…  just in case.  Fortunately there was no need for just in case.)  I ran the recipe past my chef brother and then it was filmed it for all to see!

Beetroot Chocolate Chip muffins

These Beetroot Chocolate Chip muffins were a winner. I wonder what I did with the recipe so I can make them again.

Then I went back to pickling them, and making the odd chocolate chip filled beetroot muffin here and there.  Until recently.  Looking for ideas for quick and easily salads to feed crowds I boiled some up and diced them into dishes with feta cheese and a vast array of possibilities like nuts, onion, carrots or whatever else I had on hand.  I have been free and easy with my beetroot associates and have managed to pull it off every time.  Beetroot has become my friend.

Beetroot juice

I’m not sure I’m that into the health kick thing enough to make beetroot juice an every day thing.

But by far the most delish was the dip I made recently to go with some kohlrabi chips.  I did a brief search of the internet and saw the general gist for the recipes and threw cooked beetroot, a blob of sour cream, a chunk of feta cheese, some cumin, salt and pepper and some red wine vinegar – only because I didn’t have a lemon and the red colour matched, into my blender and moments later I had the most delish dip.


I may never go back to pickling.  Beetroot has been elevated in my kitchen and is no longer a humble garnish for a burger – although that is nice too.

Come again soon – we are now passed the middle of summer and the garden is at the that productive stage that makes it all worthwhile.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

All the gardens under the sun!

With the last of the summer holidays ebbing away, there was only one thing to do…  squeeze in one more day away to do something you love.  So, I packed up the family for an early start to what has to be one of the coolest gardens around.  Hamilton Gardens.  I’ve been before, but it isn’t a just do it once kind of a place.  As the seasons course across the calendar the gardens reveal something else just as other features that have had their day in the sun fade away.   This should be an opportunity to go garden visiting at least once a month to soak it all in and appreciate the changes nature provides for us.  It is only two hours away from us and I always come away with the intention to visit again, until life gets in the way.  Not this time – I’ve marked it in the diary…  I will be back.

Hamilton Gardens

The entrance to the gardens hints at the pleasures to come

But let me tell you all about it.  Hamilton city had the forethought and great vision to convert the local rubbish dump beside the Waikato River into a garden, as far back as 1960.  They decided not just to create a botanical garden, but a garden museum exploring the development of gardens across time and cultures, which are represented in over twenty garden styles.   And they are all world class and award winning… internationally.

Hamilton Gardens

At every turn there is something to amaze you

Short of getting garden overload, which would leave me deliriously giddy for days, I paced myself and only visited a handful, peeked in a few and left a few for next time to ensure I’d return.  So, let me share with you my favourite gardens so far.

Chinese Scholar’s Garden

Normally the Japanese style garden is the one people seem to want to recreate and there were several versions created in Monty Don’s garden show Big Dreams Small Spaces, across three seasons that I binged watched over the holidays.  But no one had expressed interest in a Chinese style and to be honest I’d never really given it much thought myself as an exciting garden possibility.  But as the first garden of the day it blew my breath away.

This garden is based upon gardens from the Sung Dynasty from the 10-12th Century.  The garden is supposed to take you on a journey that evokes imagination and surprise.   This is a big call, but I think I’ll call it one of my favourites.

You can find out more about this garden >HERE<

Italian Renaissance Gardens

I almost didn’t visit this one as I wanted to save it for next time and the day was late and the kids were beginning to moan.  I promised them I’d just take a peek.   But on turning the corner and emerging from the dark corridor into the bright light of day, the most incredible garden revealed itself to us and we were lost to it.  The intensely blue of the sky allowed the bright colours of the plants, contained within the deep greens of the hedging plants of the formally laid out garden and the cream brickwork and sea green geometric pools at the centre of it all to just pop.  It was complex in its design, yet somehow elegant in a way that only an Italian could pull off.   I will visit this garden again, and again… and again….

You can find out more about this garden >HERE< 

Mansfield Garden

My third favourite garden was rather quirky in its origin, but it translated wonderfully from the pages of a book I now must read.  The garden is designed around Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘The Garden Party’.  She is one of our famous authors from the beginning of the 19th century and had a fabulously daring lifestyle until her early death aged 34.  This garden not only reflects a garden in her story but also what a typical garden would have been like for the well to do kiwi back in the Edwardian days.   It is so well done, you feel like you are one of the attendees at the party as you make your way down the paths.

You can find out more about this garden >HERE< 

There are only so many words to fit on the page and images to jam in as well, so we will continue this again next week.  There is still so much to show you.

Hamilton Gardens

The walled vegetable garden is so impressive. I have garden envy!

Come again soon – after more than a week of sunshine the garden is beginning to finally bear a proper summer harvest.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB: Clicking on each image will give a bigger picture and a few words to describe them.

New Year New Garden

I am back in the garden again.  It isn’t like I didn’t go anywhere, but over the Christmas and New Year break, I took a holiday of sorts.  We have such a beautiful spot here by the ocean, so we decided to share it with our friends and for a week it became a summer campground, minus the expensive campsite fees.  I enjoyed the company of others, just like I would have if I was one of the campers – although I did have the luxury of my own bed!  No tenting for me.  I think I’m getting to old for that palaver.  We swam, went for long walks on the beach and wandered up and down the giant hills we have.  We cooked on a BBQ and saw in the New Year with much celebrating.  It was magnificent.

Christmas meal harvest

There was still enough of a harvest to make the Christmas day meal special, and gave me a secret excuse for a spot of gardening on the big day!

But the garden took a back seat.  It wasn’t completely neglected as I kept up with the watering.  I really must finish the irrigation system, so I can water six beds at a time.  Currently I am a slave to a nine-minute alarm and if left a moment longer, I end up with a flood out the bottom of the beds.  It would be nice to just set and forget.  This task has been moved further up the priority list for the new year than it was before.  The days are sunny, and the sand is hot, so things can get thirsty pretty quickly.


I love the Gladioli in my flower bed. Of course the image doesn’t do them justice, they are a really vibrant colour.

I also nipped into the garden to harvest things.  To be honest there hasn’t been much, because everything went in so much later than I would have liked but considering there was no garden at all at the start of May last year I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  The harvest will come.


Finally – a Zucchini! After seeing so many others declare a glut and producing jars and jars of zucchini relish, I can finally say ‘I am in the game’. Starting late hasn’t been all that enjoyable.

In my almost absence things did take a bit of a hit.  There was a lot of rain right before Christmas.  There hadn’t been much of any significance since September and I know this well as this was when I put in a 30 thousand litre tank to service the garden and it wasn’t looking like it would be fill in time for the heat of summer.  And then the heavens opened and the week before Christmas was cold, wet and miserable and not summery at all.  The only blessing was it filled my tank to more than half.  Unfortunately, my potatoes didn’t like the wet conditions and I am left with a bed of shrivelled stalks and leaves.  I did dig one variety up and all is not lost.  There was a harvest of sorts.  I’ll have to dig up the rest and see what is there.  I’m not holding my breath.


A years’ worth of onions – well those and the other early lot, the same amount as these which are almost dry and ready to string up.

The late garlic also got hit with rust as a result of the wet conditions.  Which seems to have delayed that last push for bulbing up.  I’ve been pulling one out a week to see how they are doing, and it isn’t looking great.  Especially when compared to my successful early crop.  I have set a few of the best bulbs aside for next year, but in view of the quality of the late ones I may just put a few more aside.

tomato potato psyllid

The dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid. No one wants to see this. I hope I have taken care of it, but it does go a long way to explain my less than vigorous plants. I just thought it was because they went in late.

These things were out of my control, but taking my eye off my tomatoes was a bad move…  I have just spent a more than an hour dealing with an infestation of psyllid.  Had I been more in tune with my garden I would have spotted the tell-tale sugar-esk poop a lot sooner and it wouldn’t have spread as far.  I have removed a lot of affected leaves – which I intend to burn and sprayed to save my crop.  I don’t spray often, but when I do it is with determined intention and a touch of anger.  How dare they invade my garden!

Shelling peas

A perfect school holiday activity – shelling peas. Especially after a week of too much sun!

On the up side, the peas are nearly finished, and I’ll have enough to store in the freezer for winter meals.  I hope to pop some more in, in the autumn.   The onions have been fabulous, most of them are huge!  I just need somewhere to store them, but we don’t have a shed just yet.  Hubby the Un-Gardener isn’t keen for a years’ worth of onions to be hanging around the house.    The kohlrabi has been a hit, especially when we ran out of crackers for the dips and cheeses, so I raced to the garden and sliced one up.  Everyone loved it.

Tidy garden

It feels so good to back in routine. Sector one has been taken care of and everything is looking as good as can be expected.

But now I am back in my routine.  Monday is the first row and it has been weeded, watered, fed and cared for.  All its needs are met.  Tomorrow I’ll tackle the second row and restore holiday neglect into order and so on.  It shouldn’t take long.

Come again soon – the summer has finally arrived, and the plants are loving it.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Looking forward

As exciting as 2018 was, I’m not all that keen to repeat it.  I think you should probably limit the number of dramatic upheavals in a lifetime.  Now we have found this beautiful spot and put in all this hard work to get to this point, I am happy to make the call…  “this is it.”  This will be the place you will find me in 10, 20, 30, 40 or all things going well in 50 years’ time.   It is such a wonderful location and there is enough space and possibility that we will be kept excited and enthralled by this place for a very long time.

summer day in the garden

Finally it feels like summer, you really can’t beat a blue sky day in the garden.

So, reducing that long term view to next year, what does that look like.  We still have indoor projects to take care of, new bathrooms and painting walls etc but I have no problems waiting until the depths of winters.  I want to get this place right, and if we are going to be here for such a long time then there is no hurry.

Training melons

I have specific plans for where I want my melons to grow so I am using landscape staples to head them off in the right direction.

The garden will fall back into the gentle ebb and flow of a normal garden and I am looking forward to this.  There is nothing like construction and seedling management in mid – late spring to fray the nerves!   There are still things to be done.  There is one more bed to be built and I’ll get onto that over these summer holidays so then I can properly say “it is done.”  Well, on that level.

Popcorn pollen on tassels

The pollen is falling on the popcorn tassels, but I do hope I have my timing right and it is all done by the time the sweetcorn start doing the same.

The dome still needs glazing and the glass is here, so it is just a matter of organising the doing.  I can hardly wait for this one.  Then I’ll pop some shelves in and it will be fabulous.  I still want and need a shed or two and the fence needs finishing, but these things are in the plans and I have help lined up.

Almost ready onions

I’m waiting for these Pukekohe Long Keeper onions to become ready so I can plant my strawberry popcorn seedlings so they can get on their way before the painted mountain corn that I want to start from seed once the garlic comes out. I have a bit of an ambitious juggling act going on with my corn this season. I hope it works.

The back beds – the ones behind the dome still need to be irrigated and that is a weekend type project, but not difficult.  Then I need to connect all of the beds together in groups of six ending in common hubs, so I can easily set up my water distributor and water computer to water in a set and forget way.  I have actually found myself enjoying the irrigation process.  I think Hubby the Un-Gardener will be delighted to have the irrigation supplies out of the bedroom where I have been keeping them while I don’t have a shed!

Partially completed irrigation system

Having pipes coming out of the middle of the paths is a good short term solution to keep the beds irrigated. However it is a bit of a tripping hazard so I will need to get to work to connect it all up underground. Fortunately sand is easy to dig!

The way the beds are set up now, there is a connection popping out in the middle of the path that I can just attach a hose to.  I have found, while not as retentive as the swamp, the sand under the garden has water holding properties and in combination with the swamp soil in the beds, I only need to water for nine minutes before it leaks out underneath.   After a nine minute watering, the sand around the beds eventually changes to the dark colour of wet sand and remains like it for days.  Digging down at this point reveals lovely cool moist conditions days after the initial watering.  It has been an interesting experiment as I was under the impression sand was free draining, but it would appear I have some good stuff that is very fine.  It also means my water tank won’t take as much of a hammering as I anticipated over the summer.   I suspect the 20 minutes I was watering the garden at the old place was a touch to long!

Green tomatoes

There are green tomatoes showing in abundance across the the tomato bed. All going well the harvest will be magnificent!

For the benefit of the irrigation – the garden has been divided into five groups of six.   This works well in other areas too – giving me a daily group of beds to care for.  This system worked well in the old garden and will work well again here.  So, on a Monday only group one gets weeded, watered, fed and any maintenance.  Any harvesting across the garden is done on any day.  Although from past experience the Friday bed can get a bit neglected.  But what this means is things tend to stay in control and if it slips from the grasp of order, it doesn’t take much to put it right.  I found in the past if I was going from the worst bed to the next worst bed, then eventually the most in control bed would join the ranks of the out of control.   Weeding a barely weedy bed once a week is way more efficient.

Tatsoi flowers

I missed the tatsoi due to the busyness in the lead up to Christmas. I’ll sow some more, but for now the flowers look fabulous against the blue of a summer sky.

So, I am looking forward to a gentle gardening year where I can enjoy the ebb and flow of nature.  Or I may take on another project – who knows.

Come again soon – 2019 will be way more in control!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

It is Done!

Wow!  What a year.   I have to say it was one I really wasn’t planning for or expecting at the start of the previous one.   Sitting on a sunny beach at the start of 2017 I had absolutely no idea that at the end of 2018 I would be sitting in our beautiful home overlooking the beach with my dream garden in the backyard.

New Garden before photo


While it seems like the journey has been fast, it hasn’t been without its ups and downs.  I mean, I’ll never forget the April storm with its 212km gusts while our relocated house was still up on jacks.  That storm is now looked upon as a blessing as it has helped us to appreciate the worst case situation here on the coast and we have taken it into consideration with our plans around the place.

New Garden after photo


Living in a caravan for 100 days with two teens – 40 of those days without internet, still makes me wonder how we did it at all.  But we did it and survived just fine.  You do what you need to do to get ahead, just putting one foot in front of the other and eventually something good happens.

New Garden

I am so pleased with what I have achieved

But it is the garden that blows my mind.  It was hard work, but at the start of May there was nothing there at all.  And now as I stand in the middle of what is my dream garden, it takes my breath away.  It isn’t completely finished, but what garden ever is?  It is at a point where I feel I can call it done.  All my desired crops are in, albeit it a tad late for some.  But the main thing is there will be a harvest that will return us to the state of almost completely sustainable in vegetables. That was probably the hardest part of the last year – having to buy produce wrapped in plastic at great cost.  I feel great relief that I can put that behind us once again.

I’d like to invite you to come for a quick video tour of the garden and check it out for yourself.

Thank you so much for following along with me this year.  It has been a tad crazy at times and I am hoping 2019 will be more settled.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you call.

Come again soon – I look forward to a gentle and calm new year.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Rhubarb Cordial

Rhubarb leaves

Rhubarb leaves greater than my wildest expectations!

While it was windy the other week, lately it has been so calm than it would be easy to rebuke the naysayers who frequently declared “ohh it will be windy there.”  If you only came to visit once and it was this week, you would think the wicked winds of the west wouldn’t be at all possible.  It is just too lovely!

Rhubarb cordial

Wash and chop the rhubarb in to 1-2 cm chunks.

But they lurk in the background waiting for an opportunity to tussle the place and I need to be wary.   And a recent casualty of the wind has been my rhubarb.  To be honest it was a victim of its own success.  It is a rags to riches story at best.  At worst it is just a rhubarb plant in my hands.   I’ve never been great with rhubarb, but it turns out it was more that it didn’t care for wet feet and so failed to thrive.  In that it made thin spindly stalks and small leaves and never more than a modest harvest.  So really the fault wasn’t mine at all.

Rhubarb cordial

For flavour I added the tangy zest of two manderins and a knob of grated ginger.

Here in the new place there is no chance of getting wet feet, so I purchased a plant with great anticipation of something better than before.  I even deliberately tried to get the red stemmed kind and all of the young seedlings in the garden centre were positively glowing with a delightful ruby colour.  Although now as they mature, they seem to be more green but tinged with red.  Never mind, it’s still rhubarb.  The thing is I probably went to the garden centre too early as the rhubarb bed wasn’t built yet so, the poor thing had to linger on the side lines in its pot for longer than I would have ideally liked.  Keeping plants in pots alive has always been a bit of a struggle for me!

Rhubarb cordial

Put it all into a large pot and barely cover with water, bring to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer until the rhubarb has been reduced to a pulp. Stir often to stop it burning on the bottom.

Finally, the bed was made and enriched with loads of goodies, swamp soil, blood and bone, sheep pellets and Yates Dynamic Lifter.  It was all mixed in and the rhubarb plant settled in to the centre of the 1 x 1m bed it was to occupy all by itself, aside from a few marigolds to make the place look pretty.

Rhubarb cordial

Strain through a cheese cloth or clean tea towel overnight. Fortunately I had one that had seen better days and was so thin you could almost see through it and it was almost no longer good for drying dishes.

It seemed happy enough there, until Snowy the Goat broke loose and decided to have a munch.  There wasn’t much left, and I toyed with the idea of going back to the garden centre for another one like I did for the blueberries.   The blueberries weren’t that damaged, but she’d eaten all the unripe berries that I had specifically selected the plant for and was anticipating a decent harvest in the first season.  I went back to the garden centre and bought two more equally laden, only to have Snowy the Goat escape once again and eat all my blue potential….  Again.  In the end I just planted all four plants and expect the plants will settle in all the better without the burden of fruit to develop.

Rhubarb cordial

Measure out the liquid you were able to drain off and put back into a clean pot.

But in all the drama the rhubarb stayed put and a new plant wasn’t sought.  Which is just as well as the ‘pruning’ must have stimulated the growth, that and the quality soil it was planted in, as it just took off.  The stems were so large I could hardly wrap my thumb and forefinger around them and the leaves where massive.  And this was their undoing.  When the wind picked up, the leaves became like sails and took the strain, loosening the stems at the base.  Then the wind changed direction and attempted to finish the job of destroying my plant.  The biggest stems were barely hanging on.

Rhubarb cordial

For every litre you get add 500g of sugar. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar. It becomes a rather thick syrup but you won’t be using much when diluting it to make a refreshing drink.

I know you aren’t supposed to harvest from rhubarb in the first season, but it just had to be done to repair the damage.  Besides the way they had grown I figured it wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  And waste not want not I took them into the kitchen to turn them into a refreshing rhubarb cordial that the kids probably won’t like so I will be all mine to quench my thirst while working in the garden.

Rhubarb cordial

Pour into sterile bottles. It should be able to be kept for at least 3 months, but once you start using it, keep it in the fridge. Mine probably won’t last that long, and I can see myself using it with chilled fizzy water, a drop in a glass of bubbly or maybe even to zing up a G&T! Hopefully I’ll be able to dissuade the kids from using it or it will be gone in a week as they stay hydrated in the heat of summer.

It is quite a simple recipe and the detailed instructions can be found beneath the images in this post.  I hope you try and enjoy it.

Come again soon – the garden is almost finished – in more ways than one.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Radish Relish

Radish is a quick and easy crop, and this is where the flibbertigibbet of season worked in my favour.  I was late getting them in and ordinarily the weather warms up and then all they do is bolt to seed with no sign of a fat bottom at all.  But with the season on constant reset back to very cold after a few days of almost warm enough, I was able to trick my radish into growing perfectly.  And they were fabulous.  Perfectly formed things of beauty.

Perfect french breakfast radish

Perfect French Breakfast Radish. But do the French actually have radish for breakfast?

That is the thing about radish – which are great as an addition to the salad, but they generally don’t sit well as the entire salad…  if you get what I mean.  They are spicy and have that weird brassica flavour that is ok in small doses.   It is funny that everyone recommends them as something for kids to grow because aside from being fast, therefore there is no waiting around for the short attention span of modern kids, but they also look pretty.  But that is where the advantage ends.  Image the disappointment of someone trying this quick growing crop that looks so good you expect it to taste so much better and erring on the sweet side.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the shock hasn’t put would be growers off for life!  It is definitely not a kid friendly flavour and we should get them to grow strawberries or sugar snap peas instead!

Washed radish

They do look deceptively like they should taste of something else

Back to my radish.  I had begun having a few in salads to add their own special something, and the salads were nice.  However, life got really busy for a week or two and my perfect radish kept growing and entered the almost too far gone stage.  I had to act quickly to save the crop and I knew just what I was going to do.  Something I’ve done before.

Topped and tailed radish

The secret to stopping radish going soft after harvest (and other root crops) is to remove the leaves straight after harvesting as the plant is still trying to keep the leaves fresh – at the expense of the bit we want to eat!

Have you ever heard of the tip where you sow radish seeds alongside carrot seeds?  The radish are supposed to help reduce the need for carrot thinning because once you harvest the radish the carrot spacing is perfect.  I’m not convinced on this.  As much as I hate thinning carrots because it seems so wasteful, but I would rather do it than have the alternative.  I tried it one season and ended up giving away radish by the carrier bag full – kilos at a time!  The carrots grew on well enough – but no one needs that much radish.  It was coming out of my ears.

Grated radish and other ingredients

Fortunately I have a device that grates at the touch of a button. I actually hate grating for some weird reason so the device was the best gift ever!

It was then I stumbled across a great recipe for Radish Relish.   You can read more about that over abundant radish situation in my first book The Good Life and find my original recipe for it.  However, this time I didn’t have all the same ingredients so mixed things up a bit.  So long as you don’t alter the ratios for the preserving ingredients – the vinegar, sugar and salt, then you can play with the herbs and spices and flavours to make something different each time.

caraway, dill, fennel seeds and peppercorns

Caraway, dill, fennel seeds and peppercorns are the lucky spices that got to pep up my relish… this time.

So, this is what I did this time.

I washed all the radish and topped and tailed them.  Then I grated them to find out just how much I had – turned out there were 7 cups!  Eek

preserving ingredients

While you can have fun with flavours – follow the amounts / ratios for the preserving ingredients exactly to ensure your relish stays healthy.

The recipe called for a red onion, and I only had a half one in the fridge and some bought browns ones that I need to use up before my harvest comes in – which due any day!  So, I grated those up too.

radish relish ingredients

Radish relish ingredients have to be the prettiest ingredients ever left to soak.

Then I looked at my supplies of spices, which is actually somewhat depleted since our move.  I’m not sure where they all went.  They are probably in a box somewhere, so I had to work with what was there.  I decided on an anise tone and measured out caraway, dill and fennel seeds and some mixed peppercorns.  I used a couple of teaspoons of each.


Stopping to say hi to Santa in the middle of making radish relish isn’t compulsory but won’t harm the soaking relish.

I also decided to use up some store-bought garlic while mine was curing on the back porch.  Waste not want not and all that.  I also found a lemon in the fridge, so I zested and juiced it and added a knob of grated ginger.  I’m not entirely sure the ginger is a match for the other flavours, but it was in the fridge and I was beginning to be a bit free and easy with things that would be good to use up.  Fortunately, this is where I drew the line.

cooking radish relish

It isn’t exactly festive flavours but cooking the relish fills the house with a delightful aroma

Then the important stuff was measured out accurately – white vinegar, salt and sugar.  For three cups of grated radish you need one cup of vinegar and one cup of sugar and two teaspoons of salt.

Jars of radish relish

Pop into sterile jars and seal with your preferred preserving technique.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for three hours.   You can leave it longer if you have to go and watch the Santa Parade in town.  I found it was still fine.  After soaking, it all takes on a lovely pink colour.

Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat until it thickens into a relish-like consistency – erring on the wet side.  Stir often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

radish relish with crackers and cheese

It actually looks quite festive on the plate and will feature along side cheese often during this holiday period.

Then pop into sterile jars and seal.  If you store it in a dark cupboard it can keep for up to a year.  For my seven cups of grated radish I got four and a half cup sized jars.  They look so pretty they would make a lovely Christmas gift…  if I want to share…

But if you can’t wait, it goes nicely with a crisp cracker and a creamy cheese.   It is a delish tangy, sweet and sour flavour with a slight crunch.

Come again soon – the rhubarb is dying for some preserving action too!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Back in the garden

It seems like forever since I have been in the garden. Last week I was at the flower show which was exciting and inspiring, and I loved every moment. This week we had a bereavement in the family and while it was a blessed relief from suffering it was still a very sad and sombre week. And the garden waited on the side line for my return.

Onions ready for harvest

And I think they’re done. I shall harvest them tomorrow.

While I was building the garden, a two-week absence wasn’t a big deal and not uncommon. I’d just grab my drill or my shovel and just pick up where I left off. These days it isn’t quite so forgiving. The plants in there have a funny habit of growing and seem to grow even faster when you aren’t watching them. Things have taken off!

Weeds with problems

Normally weeds are thugs that cope much better than precious garden plants, but all my weeds look lacy so I need to seek out and destroy them all, to prevent their infestation spreading!

The biggest difference in growth was the weeds and it made the garden look messy. I really don’t like weeds in the garden. They rob the soil of the nutrients I put there for the plants, they crowd out my desirables and to be honest – aren’t even attractive. So, the first thing I did was whip around the garden and clear all the weeds. I’ve done most of the garden today and it was made easy and pleasurable because the soil was loose and soft. Not wanting to waste the stolen nutrients, I popped the weed seedlings into the compost. All except the grass and the thugs. They went into a different bucket and were dumped far, far, far away.

Sweetcorn on a lean

After a week of wind, the corn was starting to think this was their natural position. It didn’t take much to convince them otherwise. I will have to activate my string control system to stop further leanings.

As I went around, I made mental notes and tended to the needs of my plants. The brassicas have been hit quite badly with a leaf miner and as it is in the leaf structure, I may need to spray with a systemic to take care of it. The harvest won’t be ready for ages. The problem is one of the common weeds around here is a brassica plant and looking around, all of the weeds have been reduced to lace. This is a good reminder to make sure weeds that could be hosts for pests and disease are removed from the vicinity.

Weirdly fused tomato plants

You go away for a couple of weeks and your tomato plants do weird things. The stem seems to have split and then re-fused back together further up. I shall watch this plant with interest.

When I left the tomatoes were too short to tie into the wires of my tomato support structure, but in two short weeks, they were tall enough to tie into two wires. I also managed to nip the laterals out. Some were at the point of almost being too big. I never end up with perfect single stem tomatoes!

Windswept peas

I may have to give up my favourite Alderman Tall peas and stick to the dwarf varieties, they are not coping well in the windy conditions.

The Hunter River White Onions seem to have been blown over, but then on closer inspection the Pukekohe Long Keepers, which take longer to grow, haven’t. So, while it was quite windy this week and all my corn was at a jaunty angle – easily remedied by firming them into the soft soil in the preferable upright position, it was easy to just think the weather was playing games with my crop. But then it dawned on me – they are actually ready. The wind may have helped but they would have gone over any day now anyway. So, I made a mental note to harvest them as soon as I can.

Garlic harvest

Not a bad crop, considering I left it a little too late. They are the biggest I’ve ever grown. Things seem to like in swamp soil here on the coast!

Like the onion, the garlic was acting funny. I noticed it before the busy started and made a mental note to give it a feed. It was just the early garlic. The mid-winter stuff is fine. While I was away, I thought about the garlic and realised there wasn’t a problem – it was also ready. Not all ‘poorly’ behaviour is a bad thing. Unfortunately, it was probably two weeks too late for the Purple garlic as there was no protective coat and the cloves had started to separate so they won’t store well. I’ll have to use them first. But I have to say it is the best and biggest garlic I have ever grown! I can’t wait to see what the mid-winter garlic is like.

Harvest basket

Not a bad haul for this time of the season…

I also harvested the first decent lot of peas, my entire crop of radish that got out of hand while I was away, a bowl full of strawberries and I took the scapes off the top of the garlic I harvested. The wind had been toying with my rhubarb as the leaves are huge and were acting like sails, they were pretty much coming loose so I helped them to find their way into my basket.

The big harvest isn’t that far away, but I still have things to plant out, so I’d better get a wiggle on.

Come again soon – Summer is here and the garden is good.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Showing off the show

I headed back into town again today to revisit the NZ Flower and Garden Show to take all the photos I forgot to take the other day.   Once again it was a lovely day with the rain held at bay, but very humid and very hot.  I can only hope it continues for the rest of the show, but the boffins are suggesting there will be rain on the parade.  However they have been known to be wrong and lets hope they are wrong this time.

NZ Flower and Garden Show

Sometimes when inspired by great gardens you need to make a very big wish!

They say a picture tells a thousand words so this will probably be one of the longest posts I’ve ever done!  Join me below as I relive a wonderful couple of days through the images I have taken.

Click on the images for full blown pictures and details.  I hope you can find the time to pop along and if not please enjoy the snapshot of my time at the NZ Flower and Garden Show.

Come again soon – Summer starts on Saturday!  I hope the weather got the memo.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Delivering Gold

Yesterday I participated in something pretty amazing.  I was invited to join the judging team for the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show.  It was a real honour and a privilege to be involved in this way in such a prestigious event in the New Zealand Gardening Calendar.  The show in its current form is in it’s second year and while last years was inspirational, this year feels even better and in future years will grow to be bigger and more impressive as the amazing garden designers vie to improve their already outstanding gardens.  As a nation we haven’t had such an event since the devastating 6.3 Christchurch earthquake in 2011 stopped it in its tracks.  We should be so thankful to the lovely Kate Hillier for returning show gardening on such a scale to our horticultural calendar.

Lost and Found by Christian Jenkins at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

This wellness garden created by the lovely Christian Jenkins does a great job of imparting a sense of peace and calm after a busy day. It was a pleasure to meet him and his delightful Mum. Congratulations on the Gold.

Being a judge sounds very glamorous and I have to admit I was slightly excited and very nervous, especially as the other judges were the ‘who’s who’ of garden celebrity, people I had long respected and have been inspired by.   I shouldn’t have worried so much as, like in any sphere of the gardening universe, these gardeners were the nicest people and passionate about the same things as me – all things green and good!   But the work of a judge is serious.  The responsibility falls heavily to make the right decisions, and to do a good job an early start is required.  I presented myself to the judge’s tent at 7:30am!  I’m not normally out of bed by then on a normal day!  We were greeted with a breakfast of bacon butties which is apparently an RHS tradition and it felt special to be part of something even bigger than the show we were standing in the middle of.

Lost and Found by Christian Jenkins at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

This  amazing piece of craftsmanship stands at the entrance to Christian’s garden. I wonder if I have the skill, patience and time to attempt to make something that would vaguely compare. Probably not, some things are best left to the experts!

It was a long and rewarding day.  We even had the pleasure to delivering the prize medals to the garden designers once our deliberations were done.  Watching the reactions of folk who had been awarded prizes worthy of their efforts just made it even more wonderful.  Like the roar of delight of the school children who found out they had a golden garden, and the tears of joy, and I suspect relief, when the vibrantly rich Pollinator’s Paradise had gold added to their colourful garden.

NZ Flower and Garden Show

I hastily snapped this creative work of art that caught my eye at the back of an exhibit and I assured myself I would remember which garden as I hurried by. But alas no, it has slipped my mind. So I will update this image once I know who to give the deserved credit to. It isn’t always the big showy things that can inspire us.

Once the judging was done and dusted for the day, it was a quick change into a fancy frock and back for the official opening.  The remarkable Jackie Clark was MC and every time I see her addressing an audience, she impresses me with the ease, grace and flawless humour she delivers her message.  Then it was a delight to see the wonderful Maggie Barry up on stage.  When her TV show was in its prime, I wasn’t a gardener – I was a poor student.  But found myself on the Saturday morning after the Friday night show, unexplainably drawn to a garden centre where I would be compelled to purchase some poor plant that didn’t stand a chance as I promptly ignored it as my studies took precedence…  Until the following Saturday where my collection of half dead plants in pretty pots grew…

Jules' Zen Garden at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

It is hard not to be impressed by an hundred year old tree, with its twisted and gnarled features that sat perfectly in the surrounds of the tranquil Zen Garden that came out as the best in the show.

By the end of the night I found myself comfortably rubbing shoulders with old friends, new friends, those who inspired me, and those who will continue to inspire me.  The designers, fellow judges, media folk, and the unflappable and incredible organisers all came together to make it a day I’ll never forget.

Land of the Long White Cloud by Franca Logan at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

The interpretation of the Land of the Long White Cloud in this impressive floral display takes your breath away. The photos really don’t do it justice and to stand under it fills you with awe. Definitely a golden display.

However, from a horticultural point of view there was barely a moment to sit and contemplate the incredible workmanship and finer details of the gardens as I raced on by to perform my duties.  I barely took any photos, which isn’t like me at all – I’m a happy snapper who clicks with wild abandon.  So, I’m going back tomorrow to soak it all in.

Tony Murrell

My day was made all the more special with Tony Murrell as a judging companion, always ready to spread joy! Here he is playing the jandal pan pipes in the school garden section! Such fun.

I want to especially thank the NZ Flower and Garden Show for inviting me to be a part of something truly special.  And if you are in the Auckland Region from today to Sun 2nd Dec, I encourage you to pop along to the Trust Arena.  You won’t be disappointed.  There is something for everyone.

Come again soon – I’ll do another update after my next visit that will let the pictures do the talking.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


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