SARAH THE GARDENER

Monday Message

“A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.”

Liberty Hyde Bailey (An inspiring American horticulturist 1858 – 1954)

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message
Due to the sudden drop in temperature – although probably not cold by most folks standards – we don’t even get a frost here, I have decided computer gardening isn’t such a bad thing right now.  After last week the garden is in a good place, but I need to avoid the boom and bust situation that swings wildly between in control and jungle wild.

I went in search of a message for today and stumbled across Liberty Hyde Bailey – an inspirational horticulturalist and botanist who achieved many great things in his life time and left us with many words of wisdom, for the garden and for life.  I need to find out more about him.

But for now his words express my sentiment.  Winter is a time for garden planning.  I have no fireplace (yet) so you will find me planning my garden under the hum of the heat pump!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Downtime

I have had a lovely week.  I approached it with trepidation, but I had no choice.  Once again our power was off for maintenance.  In an effort to catch up for the time lost during the lockdown, the power company decided to make one final push to get the job done to replace all the power poles in the area for once and for all. We were without power between 9am – 3pm for three days in a row.  Initially I was indignant – how could they do this to us?!  Don’t they know we have work to be done?  For us out here in the country, no power not only meant no power but also no internet and no water.  But as resourceful people in an unchangeable situation, we adapted.  Hubby the Un-Gardener packed up his office and went and worked elsewhere, where there was a power supply, so he could continue working without skipping a beat.

Cuppa tea time

Even without power there is always a way to make a cuppa tea. It wouldn’t be right to go without.

For me I took a different tack…  I decided to leave the office completely.  Over the last month, while trying to #MakeMayCount, I had done a lot of extra computer gardening and was in need of a break from the demands that glare at me from the glow of the computer screen.  On looking about the garden, while in control, some of the edges were beginning to show subtle signs of….  Of…. well not quite neglect, but love and care had been tossed at it in the haste of the month instead of being lovingly placed and it was beginning to show.  I needed some time with just me and my garden, no one else, no distractions so we could reconnect, one on one with each and every garden bed.  I needed to feel familiar with each one and recognise its needs.

Sorted garden

I feel a little better about the garden now… it has had a lot of good honest undistracted love.

It may be winter, and I am taking the opportunity to slow down and listen to the suggestion of the season, with its cold sluggish rain lazily and sporadically falling from the sky, the chill of the morning that suggests lingering a little longer in bed and starting the day a little later when it is more comfortable.  This all suits me just fine.  But the garden is still my baby and it still needs care and attention and will always do so – although fortunately in winter, not as much as in the coming season of spring.

Brassica bed

The winter brassica bed is coming along nicely. I just need to move the crop rotation signs.

However, in these slow days, there are things that can be done to get ready for the next season.  If I prepare the beds now in a no dig fashion, by adding compost, nutrients and goodies to the soil and allow the worms do the work of incorporating it into the structure and making it readily available for my plants to absorb it when the time comes, then I save myself the stress of preparing beds while tending seedlings in the busiest window of the entire gardening calendar.

Garden plans

I found my laminator and whipped up some plans for the garden so I can keep a track of where I am at with it on different levels – preparing the beds, planting the plants etc….

I need to ensure I maintain my daily sector sessions and take care of tiny weeds and hoe the paths and tend to the needs of the plants still lingering there.  It is so easy to look out and think, I did it last week so I’ll be fine to skip it this week, and then something comes up the following week, preventing any gardening being done at all and before you know it, it is a weedy mess again and it makes a complete mockery of the whole sector system that actually works really well when it is used properly.  I really need to work on my self discipline and allow it to become a routine in the fabric of my days.

Rat tunnel

This is a battle of wills – one I intend to win…

I filled my powerless days with jobs, chores, tasks, and projects.   Each with varying degrees of excitement or a reluctant willingness for something simple yet ever so slightly boring.   I have stepped up my battle with the rats who have expanding their domain to include living under the dome.  They have become so brazen I saw, in the middle of the day, one creature trying to get out of the compost bin through the gaps in the side and he was so fat he got stuck half way and had to wiggle his way like something out of a kids cartoon.   Each evening I bury the holes in the base of the greenhouse hoping that they won’t be there in the morning.   This is a war I will win, even if I have had to increase my battle into weapons I’m not entirely happy using.

Seedlings in the greenhouse

There is a lot going on in the greenhouse and each of these potted plants need care and attention.

I’ve also repotted all the seedlings I have in the greenhouse, and it surprises me just how many there are.  But all going well they won’t be there for long.  Then I can give it a jolly good clean out ready for the new season.   I’ve also tried to save my strawberries but that is a story for another day because at this point I’m not sure if there will be a happy ending or not.    I have enjoyed my downtime in the garden so much I have decided to make one day a week a ‘powerless day’ in the garden and just lose myself to the pleasures of the soil, the pleasures that can so easily be lost when you march to the beat of a different rhythm.

Come again soon – I have also been sorting out the asparagus and I can’t wait to tell you all about that.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Monday Message:

Keep doing the little things often so they don’t become big things later.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

This week I will be mostly weeding!

Sarah the Gardener : o)

A month in review

May is done.  We are now in a new month and a new season.  Winter.  The easy month.  The one where it is ok to hunker down in a cosy spot and dream dreams of dream gardens without a weed in sight.  It is a time for resting, recovering, and planning.  There are a few things in the garden that can be done in a slow and gentle pace as the weather allows but for the most part June will most likely be a little less intense than what I put myself through over the last month as I endeavoured to Make May Count.   To be honest I am looking forward to the slower pace but am rather pleased with all I have achieved.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

  • I made garden art in the form of concrete encased beach balls.
  • With Hubby the Un-Gardener, we built a wall and created a nook, although there is still some work to be done.
  • I knuckled down and got a mountain of computer gardening done.
  • I was able to go garden shopping and picked up loads of things for projects that have now. been completed, are still on the go or are still in my head.
  • I learnt boiled peanuts were a thing and whipped up a batch.
  • I made a garden sieve. I need to make more with different sizes.
Concrete beach balls

DID-DAH!!!! And here are my concrete beach balls I made in an attempt to create some garden art!

  • I went to the Chelsea Flower Show – I really wasn’t expecting to do that.
  • I processed all of my peppers in a way that was unique to each variety and bought out the best of them.
  • I celebrated the garden’s 2nd It does feel a little odd to think this June is the 3rd June in the garden.  The time as gone so fast.
  • I planted my garlic and sowed my onion seeds. The garlic is already looking good.
  • We picnicked on the beach in the last of the autumnal warmth.
  • I enjoyed unseasonal sunflowers that self-seeded in my garden.
garlic cloves

The big fat garlic cloves that ended up in the ground and not in the kitchen

  • Plants large and small were repotted into bigger pots.
  • My popcorn finally made it into the kitchen and has already accompanied a few movies.
  • I spent an entire day weeding during a power cut. The power people inform us there will be more in June so I guess that will mean more weeding….
  • The lime tree I saved from my own neglect now has pride of place on my deck and is doing well.
  • My winter brassicas were planted out and are now well on the way to a good harvest later in the season.
  • I have created an army of lupin plants for my mulch plantation. I have seen my dream shredder and so aside from a few dollars and some rapid growth from the lupins my mulch plans are within sight.
Lime tree

Oh and I got my Lime tree repotted.

  • I’ve grown some flax plants from seed to form part of our native planting wind break that has yet to be begun.
  • I found time to read some gardening books that I’ve been meaning to get to. I’m hoping for more of that this season.
  • I saved thousands of photos across to a safe spot, as our dodgy internet prevents it from the safe protection within the cloud.
Sunflowers

My self seeded sunflowers are looking so lovely against the blue of the late autumn sky. We shouldn’t be having either of these things so close to winter, but while they are here they can be appreciated.

I think it is safe to say I achieved my goal and Made May Count and I can look back at a month well spent.   The bar has been set high for next year.  Gosh I wonder what next May will look like in the garden.

But for now, I’m going to put my feet up just a little and enjoy the slower season.

Come again soon – there will still be gardening to do and tales to tell.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

NB:  You can catch up on all of these projects and achievements my checking out all of the blog posts I made during the Month of May.

The Big Beach Ball Reveal

Sometimes you get an idea or see something on the great big internet and something compels you to give it ago. Sometimes this is a good idea and other times it is a case of never mention it again. I have loads of ideas rattling around in my head. I’ve started writing the more viable ones down on a ‘to do’ list so they don’t become forgotten. I also have a few ideas bookmarked on my computer that could be worth my time attempting.

Concrete beach balls

DID-DAH!!!! And here are my concrete beach balls I made in an attempt to create some garden art!

Over the last few months my You Tube feed has been inundated with a similar type of video, tempting me to try and have a go. I don’t know what the internet is trying to tell me, but I felt like it was speaking straight at me and it would be rude to ignore it. Besides, what it was suggesting was it was not only really cool, but quick – most of the videos were only 15 minutes long, and importantly easy – every single version got great results every time!

concrete beach ball supplies

Here are all the bits and bobs I used to make the concrete beach balls – although in hindsight I have far too much cement and a chopped up pillow case may have given enough bits of fabric!

I rounded up two beach balls left over from the summer and a neglected cheap bouncy ball. The kids have loads of balls – they’d never notice it was gone! I ordered a large bag of cement, dug up a bucket of ‘good sand’ without an excessive amount of plant debris in it and nabbed and old winter sheet that had seen better days an cut it into small pieces. That part was probably the hard part as your really don’t appreciate how large a queen sized sheet is until you have to cut it up into small pieces. I ended up with a blister!

The painted nook

I love how the nook looks painted!

I laid down a tarp, so my nice new deck didn’t get ruined and set to work. I made a 50:50 mix of sand and cement and added water to make a rather runny mix. Then I mixed in a handful of shredded sheet and began applying it to the balls like doing papier mache. My expectations were at odds with reality and I learnt a few things in the making.

  • Firstly, my sheet pieces were too big so I had to cut them up again.
  • My rubber gloves were too old and started to perish and now I understand the importance of fresh gloves and not getting cement on your skin. – Nothing too serious, but gloves are good.
  • It is not quick or easy.
  • This is a job best tackled in small parts.
  • If you try to cover the entire ball at once, gravity will work its magic and all the lower bits will fall off. Concrete is actually quite heavy. So, you need to do the top half, let it set and then turn it over and do the bottom half.
  • It won’t be perfectly round after the first layer – in spite of what the videos suggest. I ended up with a lumpy mess and it took several half layerings to get something that remotely resembled a sphere! But each session only took a few moments, once you got the hang of it.
  • Oh, only the bottom layer needed the sheet pieces – the rest was a thicker paste – still a 50:50 mix of sand and cement, just less water. This is used to try and smooth things out.
  • In the videos they all kept a hole in the bottom to remove the ball. In the end I thought ‘bugger it – the ball is staying in there’. Much easier and so forever more the balls will endure, encased in cement. Its not like we’d be using them again after what I put them through.
  • Make sure there are no holes in the beach ball. My big one went flat under the weight of the cement and everything just fell off… It was a complete disaster and a terrible mess.
Kikuyu roots

I pulled out a mountain of Kikuyu roots!

It is worth persevering with because eventually you get something to be pleased with. I was at a point where it was almost round enough and every time I applied a new layer it wasn’t smooth and lovely like I wanted it to be so I thought I’d give it a gentle mist with the hose to smooth it over. That didn’t work but I got a lovely texture that disguised all the lumps and bumps and I happily decided I was done.

A weed free bed in the nook

This was a tad exhausting but it feels good to know the job was done thoroughly. You can’t really cut corners when trying to get a weed free bed.

I didn’t take many photos because with the gloves and the cement and the mess it was a little tricky, so I have a before and after for you. The rest of the images are from yesterdays efforts on the nook. The day was nice and sunny so I was pleased I’d been out on the rainy day before to get paint so I was able to finishing the painting. Then I dug down a spades depth all around where we want to put plants, to remove the kikuyu roots. They don’t seem to go down too deep, but I dug up a mountain of them! I think I’ll need to put in some kind of barrier to keep them away. After that effort I was stiff and sore and a little weary. I’m pleased today is a rainy day again, so I can get a break from making hay while the sun shines to do some computer gardening.

Come again soon – the veggie patch is calling to me and its cries are getting louder.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

#MakeMayCount

Unpredictable Days

Sometimes Making May Count means I’m so busy Making May Count that at the end of the day I collapse exhausted into a comfy chair and remain there until I recharge enough to get up and send myself to bed.

Garden shed chandelier

It is rather decadent to have a garden shed chandelier, but I love it!

Yesterday was one of those days.   The boffins had said it was going to rain all week, which turned out to be untrue and after a bit of a foggy start the day cleared to be one of those fabulous sunny days we have become accustomed to.  Unlike today, which is back to the gloomy foggy rainy situation we found ourselves in on Monday.  I hadn’t expected to get anything of note done in the garden at all.  I’m not mad enough to work in the rain and the risk of catching a cold would mean people looking sideways at me when I sniff or sneeze when I do venture out and about.  It is really not worth the risk.  So I set myself up for a day of computer gardening in the cosiness of my office.

Jasper the Dog

Jasper the Dog loves hanging out in my office, but he does drag in a lot of sand in those giant paws

I do have to say it is a lovely spot and I have the heater going so it is warm and I love my lights, they contribute to the cosy feeling by delivering a warm glow from their chandelier bulbs.  Although it does need a bit of a tidy up as Jasper the Dog has made a bit of a mess.  (Nothing I have done could possibly have contribute to the mess…)  But he does like to pull paper out of my waste paper bin and shred it.  And his big boofy feet have tramped sand everywhere.   Maybe if I get all my computer gardening done I should probably clean the office…  if it is still raining.

Half painted wall

It was so frustrating to run out of paint, just when I was getting into the swing of things.

But yesterday it was unexpected lovely, so I fiddled about with the beach balls again.  Two days ago I was ready to write these off as a failure, but persevered and am glad I did as they are almost how I thought they’d be and all going well will be able to do a bit of a ‘did-dah’ thing very soon.

Garden centre purchases

I think I may be morphing into a different kind of gardener – I didn’t even look at the vegetable section at the garden centre. Although I’ll never not be a veggie gardener.

Then I decided to paint the wall.  I was going to break it up into four sections so it didn’t seem overwhelming, but it was actually quite pleasant and I kept going until I ran out of paint almost at the end of the third panel.  It looks fabulous, even in its unfinished state.  Although it was raining today I decided to go and buy more paint so when it stopped and the wall dried out I’d be ready to pick up where I left off.  But alas the store didn’t have the paint I was after so I will need to go further afield to find it.  But it wasn’t a wasted trip as I came back with some plants, some hanging basket stuff and other bits and bobs.

And now I need to get on with the computer gardening that I should have done yesterday.

Boiled peanuts

I have a new love… Boiled peanuts. I didn’t know they existed before, but I’m glad I do now!

Oh and as a side note…  did you know boiled peanuts was a thing?  I didn’t until the other day.  I had pulled my peanuts out of the ground and really didn’t know what to do with them.  Then the lovely Donna from Rainbow Gardens – I’ve been following her on You Tube for probably a decade, well she put up a video all about peanuts including a recipe for boiled peanuts and I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Oh my goodness – we have a new favourite in our house!   Check out Donna and her peanut video >Here<.  Be sure to tell her I say Hi!

Come again soon – I may need to put my eyes back on the veggie patch for a moment to keep it in order.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Monday Message

Use the things you saved for a rainy day, on a rainy day.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

Today is a rainy day.  I am in danger of being trapped in my office this evening because I don’t want to get wet and it is quite heavy right now.  It has drizzly and rainy all day, which is great for the garden and the water tanks but not great for the gardener or the view… we can’t even see the ocean!

foggy view

You can’t even see the ocean. You know it is there, somewhere because you can hear it, but gosh its gone!

But we need to be kind to ourselves and use the good stuff we put aside for later, for a reason to celebrate, or for something special or even for a rainy day.   It’s normally the bottle of bubbly, the fancy soap or the sweet smelling candle.  I have to say I don’t want to end my days with a mountain of these in my cupboards.   Within every day can be found a reason to celebrate, some kind of silver lining, if you look really hard.  Hopefully my silver lining today will be getting back into the house without getting wet!  That is a win and I’ll take it as such.  Not very gardeny but hey – its raining.

Foggy garden

Today is not a gardening day

I’m still Making May Count but in the rain it looks different.  It is computer gardening and a bit of screen gardening as I managed to soak in even more Chelsea Garden Show yesterday.  It was very indulgent but it was still kinda gardening.   There is just one more week of May and in the grand scheme of things that is still about a quarter of the month so no time for slacking.

Come again soon – rain or no rain, progress of some kind will be made.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Making things in May

I have been busy again in and around the garden in the last few days.  I have been tackling those beach balls as promised but with mixed results.  I still haven’t finished yet, so I’ll save the big reveal for when I’m done.  But just to say things aren’t as easy as they look on the internet!  I suspect my attempts will be less than perfect!  Wait and see!

Beach balls

The beach ball project started off so optimistically!

In the spirit of making things I took some time to make a soil sieve.  I used to have a plastic one, but its life span in a heavy use garden isn’t very long and it fell apart.  I have been making do with some mesh I found about the place that I cable tied to the bottom of a plant pot tray with a wide open bottom.  It was useful for what it was, however, the long skinny shape wasn’t practical.  I’d kept my eye out for something to replace the broken plastic one but never really saw anything I was prepared to spend my money on.

Soil Sieve

I’m very pleased with how this soil sieve turned out – given there were no plans or measurements – just a vision that had rattled around in my head for quite some time.

Rummaging about the place I found Hubby the Un-Gardener had a stash of plastic mesh, so I liberated it for my own purposes.  I did ask but to be honest, he didn’t really have a choice.  We have also acquired a lot of leftover bits of wood and I’ve become a bit of a wood hoarder.  I think I got it from my dad as he would never throw out a good bit of wood.  We once sat around a bonfire and he wouldn’t left us toss half of the firewood into the flames proclaiming, ‘don’t burn that, it could come in handy one day.’

So with my collection of wood, my pilfered mesh and my fabulous drop saw that I picked up from a recycle centre for a mere $24 dollars and a spot of imagination I ‘whipped up’ a rather cool soil sieve – if I must say so myself.

Soil sieve in action

I never expected to be using the soil sieve so soon but it does a great job

I only really built it because I wanted to, rather than having a need, but it is strange the way life works, as Hubby the Un-Gardener and I continued working on our fire area nook and we have been trying to get rid of the Kikuyu grass so we can create a beachy feel around the fire that in summer, we can dig our toes into sun or fire warmed sand.  In the winter we are so rugged up as the bits not directly exposed to the flames can get rather chilly and can dampen the experience.    But this work meant digging over the sand down to a certain level – about a spades depth to remove roots.  And in perfect timing my sieve was called into action to return the sand to the nook, minus any plant material.   It couldn’t have worked better.  I’m so pleased with my efforts.

Hedge trees

These trees will make a rather lovely hedge and will soften the nook.

We’ve also been tree shopping and bought some trees to create a hedge for the nook to make it feel cosy.  We have had to change out design a little as originally were only going to put them down one side of the nook, but once we placed the trees it looked a little out of balance.  This means going back to the nursery…  Self-control will be required!

However, the highlight of the weekend so far was my visit to Chelsea Flower Show.  I’ve always meant to go.  A few years back it was a new year’s resolution to go the following year, but then we decided to move a house and all plans of travel went out the window.   This whole global pandemic has been a dreadful situation.  But even in the face of such a horrendous time, there are glimmers to goodness that allow for moments of joy and happiness.  One of the events to be affected is the Chelsea Flower Show. While it is incredibly disappointing that the Flower Show has been cancelled, especially considering the amount of effort that goes into it many, many months before hand, it has become more accessible this year to keen gardeners like me in far flung places.

Virtual Chelsea Flower Show

It is a pleasure to be able to indulge in the Virtual Chelsea flower show. Although one day I’ll see the real thing.

The Royal Horticultural Society have created a virtual Chelsea Flower Show that can be viewed on You Tube.  There is something for everyone – tours of designer gardens, hints and tips from seasoned gardeners, Q&A sessions, and fabulous nursery folk extolling the virtues of their best plants and so much more.  There is even a message from the Queen.  As much as it is a lovely way to spend a chilly almost winter evening, it has made me all the more determined to get to the real one, one day.

Come again soon – hopefully, there will be a beach ball reveal sooner rather than later.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Two pecks of peppers

Picking up from where we left off yesterday >You can catch up here< I am sharing my adventures in making the most of the peppers and chillies I have grown this season.  No longer are they all just allowed to turn red and lobbed into the sweet chilli sauce.  This time I have found out what make each one special and used them to that advantage.  Along the way I have discovered some newfound kitchen favourites and I have to say the next up – the Jwala pepper will forever have a place in my garden.

Jwala green chilli sauce

Oh my goodness, my new dear friend, green chilli sauce. This is a taste explosion and while it is hot, this is not the predominate feature. Wow wow wow.

Jwala

Now this one was fun.  I was given the seeds by the good people at Yates to try as it was new to them.  I was more intentional about using these in the appropriate way to appreciate they were given to me.  It would have been pointless to give me something special and then all I did was mix it up with everything else in a sweet chilli sauce.   Being of Indian origin and were supposed to be used green, I decided to go off on search of an authentic recipe that made them the star.  I stumbled across a lovely Indian lady on the internet making a green chilli sauce.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t in English, but with the blessing of subtitles and the ability to follow along, pausing the video as I cooked, I ended up with the most amazing green chilli sauce.  Oh, my goodness it is fabulous.  Full of spicy, heat and the freshness of a green chilli.   I will miss it when it runs out.  We have been cooking more curries and making poppadums just to have a reason to use it.

Mad Hatter Peppers

Mad Hatter Peppers are so cute and really nice to eat just as they are

Mad Hatter

This was one of those random selections where it looked interesting and there was one more spot in the garden that could be filled with something interesting.  It had a cute little shape and a cute little name, and it promised not to be hot – well most of the time – it suggested there was a Russian Roulette thing going one where there would occasionally be a hot one.   But I haven’t found one yet and they are so sweet and delish I’ve just been eating them raw in the garden.  They almost taste like apples, which is kind of weird.   I’ll definitely grow these again.

Mulato powder

I’m a little disappointed with my impatience with my Mulato,  because the deep rich colour brings a deep rich flavour. But it is still nice, but just not as nice as it could have been. And it is the knowing that, that is the frustrating thing.

Mulato

This year I got impatient and harvested these too early.  But they were taking forever to turn to that lovely rich chocolately brown colour.  They are great in Mexican cooking as part of Mole Sauce.  Apparently they should be dried whole, but I have been drying them in pieces and grinding them into a powder and using them as a spice when I make anything remotely Mexican.  I really should have a go at making a proper Mole.  Maybe next season.

Padron

These were a bit of a miss this year as I missed that window when they are small and a delight to eat tapas style, fried in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt as you anxiously watch your friends, hoping yours isn’t the random hot one.  Experience has taught me, once you miss that window, they are all the hot one.  So, I leave them to go red and into the sweet chilli sauce they go.

Homemade paprika

I’m pretty impressed with my homemade paprika. I might just make a goulash to fully appreciate the flavour.

Paprika

These are a great little pepper with a nice thick wall and great flavour and colour.   There is only one thing to do with these and that is to dry them and grind them and use them as paprika spice.  I need to grow more of these because there is never enough to be a year’s supply of paprika for my cooking needs.

Pickled pepperoni

These pickled pepperoni are delish and gives us an interesting option to go Greek when we prepare our nibbling platters when entertaining.

Pepperoni

Finally, we have these funny wee things.  I first bought them mistakenly thinking they had something to do with salami – goodness knows what I thought I’d do with them.  But each year they ended up bright red and in the sweet chilli sauce.  But this year being intentional I decided to treat them with respect.  The first clue was in their proper name Greek Golden Pepperoni.  Which alludes to the fact they need to be picked while young and golden in colour.  And the second clue is they are Greek, so I went off in search of an authentic Greek recipe and found they were pickled whole in a salty / vinegary brine.   And they are really nice.

Smoked dried chilli powder

This has to be my all time favourite. I will never not do this.

Aside from my sweet chilli sauce that is made up of everything, my other go to, must have is my smoked and dried chilli powder.  A bundle of mixed peppers and chillies are smoked over coals and wet apple chips in my BBQ.  Then I dehydrate them to a crisp and blitz them into a fine powder.  I end up with more than enough to last the year and it gets sprinkled into absolutely everything.  I’m certain it will be the fragrance that instantly transports my kids back to their childhoods when they are grown up and off in far flung places.

Bell peppers

Bell peppers, washed and chopped and ready for the freezer.

It felt great to treat each of these peppers and chillies in a manner that respected the flavour and tradition behind each one.   It did take a lot of effort but now that I know what I have been missing out on, I will certainly put aside time in my late summer and autumn knowing there is a lot of kitchen gardening to be done to create so many wonderful things.

Come again soon – things maybe quiet in the garden, but there is plenty to potter about with.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

One peck of peppers

In my garden my pepper bed has space for 18 pepper plants.  I normally pop in half a dozen bell peppers so I can have a good supply to freeze to use over the winter months as we use them in most meals.  So that means there are 12 spots for interesting things.

peppers and chillies

It would seem a shame not to take advantage of the uniqueness of all the different chillies and peppers.

Ordinarily I kind of panic at the end of the season, let them all go red and make one giant batch of sweet chili sauce with all my good intentions falling by the wayside as I wander back to the house with a basket laden with produce.

making chilli sauce

I’ve been stirring up trouble in my kitchen

But this season I have been intentional with my good intentions and given each variety of peppers the ability to shine for the stars they are.  Each has their own special flavour and use and after going to all the effort of growing them from seed it is important to celebrate them in a way that allows us to fully appreciate what they have to offer.   It was a lot of work, but I have to say I am so glad I took the time as I now have some amazing condiments and ingredients to enrich my cooking.

Cheese and crackers nibbling plate

Just one cheese and crackers nibbling plate with cowboy candy and pepperoni peppers.

Now this is a rather long story, so I’ve broken it into two parts, so it isn’t so overwhelming.  It also buys me a little more time to do something with those beach balls.

We’ll start at the beginning because it makes more sense as I always plant my garden out in alphabetical order in case something goes amiss with the labels.   Although strangely enough the first is the last as I’ve only just bulk harvested my bell peppers and they are destined for the vacuum packer in small batches and will be tossed into the freezer.

Cayenne

I could have dried them all and ground them up but to be honest it would have made a mountain of cayenne powder and if I use it at all, it is a pinch at a time.  So, these helped make up the bulk of my sweet chili sauce and I’m ok with that.  I did air dry some because they look really cool and there may be a recipe at some point that calls for chili flakes and then I’ll have some on hand.

Cayenne Peppers

I guess you can’t really grow peppers without drying some on a string.

Habanero

I am a fool.  I have grown this for many years and we really don’t like things too spicy.  Every autumn I say, “I won’t grow these again – they are too hot.”  But come spring and I look at those inoffensive little seeds and I think ‘why not’ and sow some.   And they are prolific.   This season I made a Piri Piri sauce using garlic and lemons to give it the right flavour.  I also made a hot mango sauce with them, added a handful or several into the sweet chili sauce and used them in the smoked chili powder.  I also made a fermented sriracha style sauce.  And there are still loads on the plant!   I’m not a great one for following recipes so I looked on the great big internet and got the general gist of things – making sure I kept the preserving elements and ratios correct and kind of winged it.   I wish I remembered exactly what I’d done as my Brother the Chef said they were really good!  High praise indeed.

(NB click on the images above for descriptions)

Habanada

Now I stumbled on to this one by accident and by accident it was one of those seed catalogue shopping accidents when you click all the buttons ‘by accident’.   But I’m pleased to say it was a happy accident and this little beauty will be in my garden again next season.  What it is, is a heatless habanero and it has so much fruity flavour.  Who knew behind the heat of a habanero was something so complex and delish?   They certainly pack a punch – but in a good way.  I made a habanada relish that is so lovely with a soft cheese on a crisp cracker.  I also use the cute little heatless bombs in place of peppers as they give so much yumminess to a dish.

Habanada relish

I kind of made up this recipe based on a capsicum relish and I have to say I love it so much. There is so much flavour in there. It is a shame there isn’t much, but the habanada are so small!

Hungarian wax and Yellow Banana

I’ve put these together here because I treated them the same in my kitchen.  I sliced them up and pickled them.  I got the recipe off the internet and it is a pretty standard salty / sweet / vinegary recipe.  But I kept them separated as the Yellow Banana is really mild and the Hungarian Wax is quite spicy but they both give a great crunch on a platter of cheese and crackers or to lift a salad from the doldrums.   Or just steal them one at a time out of the jar.

Yellow banana and hungarian wax peppers

I have made these before. One of the few peppers I managed to treat properly and so I know these will taste good and I look forward to eating them.

Jalapeno

Normally these grow really well for me and my favourite thing to do with them is to stuff them with cream cheese and cook them on the BBQ.  But for what ever reason this season they grew really small and not so prolifically, so I didn’t get many.  But I did manage to get enough to make something I’d only heard of recently and that was Cowboy Candy where they are sliced up and cooked in a sugar / vinegar syrup until nice and sticky.   The heat and the sweet go really well together.  I really should look into how they are eaten as I’ve just been doing the cheese and cracker combo with them.  We’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately…  because of all the peppers.

Cowboy Candy

Cowboy Candy is such a fun thing. I’m so pleased I gave it a go.

Now I’m going to stop here, or I’ll end up going on and on and on and on!

Come again soon – I can’t wait to tell you about the Jwala.  That is probably my favourite chilli.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

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