I like to eat

As remarkably – most people do. It’s fun when it fresh, even better if it’s full of vitality and makes your tastebuds smile. Kinda cool when you can’t put a price on it, as it’s something super seasonal to your area. Some of these things you just can’t buy as they’re not viable as commercial crops. Or if you can find them – where have they traveled from, how long ago and did it need a visa to reach you?

Right now theses juicy finger limes are falling off the tree. They get squeezed on to pretty much any dinner and I’ve no idea how long their season is. Husks are all that remain from a bowl of fejoas and banana passionfruit. The fejoa almost got it in the neck a while back, but perseverance won the day – 4 years down the track and the reward is sweet. Again, I’ve no idea how long their productive season is either.

I thank our little winged friends in their Warre beehive for the fantastic pollination of so many of our foods. Naturally , no chemicals are used around the garden, as that would throw the system absolutely and ruin the balance of our slightly overgrown backyard wonderland.

Just to have some living microgreens on the bench, a connection to the earth (even if a cup of soil is all it is) can have so many benefits. Manageable for one, accessible is another. Low maintenance. Just think of it as a pet you can leave on the bench. Snowpeas may take a little while to show their heads, but oh so tasty – worth the week long wait.

If you’re really pressed for time, have a go a radish or rocket. Punching above their weight, these micros are so full of flavour – get curious and plants some seeds to impress your tastebuds.


It started with a seed

Well, it actually started with a salad – a salad farm or market garden where dogs the size of small ponies and weighing in as much as a medium sized human, roamed the farm to protect us all from black bears.

On this ex forestry site, the penny finally dropped. We planted seed, hand watered, harvested and rinsed leaves in a modified wash station shed. I got it. I finally connected with what it was to grow food for others to eat. Plant seed, work, nap, play at beach, sleep, water, protect, harvest, repeat. That was the general rhythm of our days.

This was a chapter in the life and times of an off grid market garden on Vancouver Island several years ago, a temporary home for 6 weeks in a year of travels.

view from hill overlooking kitchen and one aspect of the market garden
small fry seeing how the dishes are done low tech
one of the many many garden beds, planted, watered and harvested by hand

Seemingly a simple day, but which required careful planning, patience, a nod to astrology and a consult with the lunar planting guide and knowing thy workforce to yield best results.

From here I took a desire to learn more an a new found passion to grow. A skill set which used to be so commonplace has been pushed to the side as days just got busier and busier.

In order to understand more of what I eat and in an attempt to slow down, days are now spent seeding, reading how to do the next step, weeding, feeding, observing and tasting what works (and doesn’t) in our own backyard, And what a trip. There’s something to be said about walking outside to harvest leaves for lunch, knowing exactly how much time and energy has gone into that verdant crunchy hit. Try it out – you’ll see 🙂

Not sure where on earth to start? Visit our page Get Involved with one way to start your adventure.

Gotta start somewhere

Yin Yang beans

The main thing about gardening – you just have to start somewhere. I started our backyard market garden with absolutely no idea, no real skills, not much patience – but I had curiosity in spades. After working with food for so many years, I was up for a new chapter.

Most people at this stage would have done a little homework, talked to a few people, maybe have done a course or interned somewhere – not me! In my wildly naive ways, I thought I ‘d just stick something in the ground and see what happened. And that’s why the last 3 years has been such an incredibly steep learning curve.

Seeing a seed germinate in seed raising mix you blended and spring to life is something else. Watching the cotyledons emerge, then on to the true leaves – I check every morning, almost willing them to grow in front of my eyes.

No fancy greenhouse yet – repurposed the kids old plastic lego shelving until I know I can do this seed raising thing for sure before investing in the big bikkies. Use what you’ve got, run the experiments and pay loads of attention. Soon enough there will be a rhythm and then the seasons will change, just to keep you on your toes.

Growing awareness

Many of us learn by doing. By actions taken and observing our experiments over time. That’s been pretty much the whole path of the adventures of Popes Produce. Try. Wait and see. try again. Wait. Cheer.

Working within your community is such a treat. I’ve been loving working with a local child care centre to share my growing enthusiasm for edibles with their little ones through monthly incursions.
So today it was lessons in to actions. Tiny little hands filling cups with beautifully aged compost, nestling in little lettuce seedlings to observe and share with their families.

Little hands learning by doing
Stages of a pumpkin seed germinating

To help illustrate the growth of a seedling, the worm farm pumps out the goods. It’s about getting your systems in place, observing, and sharing those findings.

Imparting these lessons with the little ones and their gorgeous teachers will generate further discussions with each other, in the centre, the the home, and give people food for thought as to where our nourishment comes from.

Caring people, caring community – what an awesome place to be!

What the garden has taught me

morning zucchini flowerGardens are incredibly satisfying places to hang out. They also instill an incredible amount of wonder and a feeling of awe as well as providing something juicy for your next meal. If you make enough time to go slowly in the morning, you’ll see & hear all the pollinators playing.

Brush past the herbs, pinch off some basil tips and inhale.

The edible garden may offer solace and supper, but don’t be lured into a false sense of security – it comes at a cost.

Hot hot days require a little extra attention, making sure all your little darlings stay hydrated. Tomatoes are best fresh & homegrown, the fruit fly in our coastal environment greatly appreciate our efforts.

Zucchinis are so exited to get up & grow – you can just about watch them mature before your eyes.

Take a break during peak growing time and be prepared to wade through weeds and tomato bushels on return. One thing the edible patch isn’t is static. There’s always life, always a pulse, many lessons to learn and observations daily.

With the Davidson’s plum dropping and figs bursting at the seam, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The art of manifestation

IMG_2092.jpgSo lately I’ve been refocusing what our vision is for Popes Produce. What we came up with was –‘crafting locally grown abundance’ and what we’re encouraging with our education program is ‘inspiring home grown food adventures’. We want to have fun, empower people, get them curious about their food and playing outside.

So what bliss – planting out the last seedlings before lunch and a lovely friend surprised me with the offer of a trade – hand caught (by him) lobster for Veggie Wraps. Hmmmm…..edible awesomeness hand caught for hand grown in our backyard….paired with a home made garlic aioli (garlic generously gifted by a beautiful local grower) for dinner – hard to go past.

And the icing on the happy garden cake – a drop in (we’re talking under 5 minutes) by a dear friend who visits only very sporadically with a big pile of horse manure to keep our fruit trees happy.

So our systems are well fed and our heart is filled by random acts of kindness.

Spread it around – random gifts of generosity fill the soul and keep our communities knitted together.

Slowing down to grow

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The fennel time forgot next to a 39 sized shoe

It happens so often – run run run to chase a idea of who you should be, where you should be and what you should be. Sometimes slowing down can have remarkable results.

it’s important to remember to be a little kind now & again – slowing down long enough to nibble on mulberries, watch the ladybugs on the flowering parsley and check out how quickly snails can shimmy up the side of a bucket when they know they’re under threat. Making time to get on your bike.

Take this fennel for example – the last seedling left in the tray, tucked into a little pocket and quietly left to it’s own devices. Wanting space back, the beast was harvested and promptly turned into Agrodulce Pickles – half a dozen jars to be put away for Christmas family feasting. Going slow can have some pretty spectacular yields.

Moral of the story – be kind, go slow and remember the best things take a little time. A little planning and mapping goes a long way. Make it as visual as you like. Step back and check that plan now and again to make sure you’re where you thought you would be on the map. And if you’re not – adjust the plan to accommodate where you’re at.

For a dose of inspiration – check out the great story of Ruth Stout – a lady who found her ultimate garden groove well down the track of life. Enjoy the ride!

Eat your greens

How many times did you hear this as a kid? Tedious – I know. Boiled to within moments of turning into an unrecognizable form. Ever found something lurking up the back of the fridge you just weren’t sure what it was?

When you have greens only metres from your door or picked within hours of reaching you – you know on some deep level these greens deserve respect. You need to enjoy their vibrancy – happy food.

'eat your greens'

There are a number of  places to find the nutritional composition of why – but my eyes glaze over as I try to understand the composition breakdown of greens – I’m not scientifically minded and I like my food being food – not only because of what it can give me – but because of what it represents, it connects me back to place. Back to my backyard, to the sunshine and the watering and the incredible party trick of actually making the meal happen. These greens are seasonal, abundant, a whole food unto themselves and don’t need anything fancy.

Time and energy has been invested in making sure these greens reach their verdant potential. The average lettuce can take around 8 weeks to grow – carrots several months, shallots just are and beetroot – go top and tail into the meal. When you know the energy invested into their growth, you certainly don’t want to waste anything.

Carrot tops are totally edible – they can go into a sauce, stir fried as a veg, chopped into a salad. Beetroot tops can be used as a spinach substitute. Flash in the pan with a little olive oil, pinch of salt and lemon juice. Stalks of rainbow chard – just chop finely and throw into the stirfry. Respect your veg and munch away!

 

Small and slow solutions

.(..being content with the small wins and getting through the day.)

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Pretty much most days seem like their potential is limitless. There’s a never ending parade of incredible people doing amazing things and getting out there saving the world.

I walk down the hill and wonder how I can save a few lemons.

This tree you understand – is just in it’s happy place, doing it’s thing – growing quite remarkable lemons. No matter how many you harvest, there always seems to be a few more. Lemons just don’t grow overnight, one day I might tie a string to a blossom and see exactly how long it take s to grow these orbs of zingy sunshine, but until then – let’s just say a while.

So I juiced, I preserved, I made cordial and I made curd. All relatively simple, not too much time or space. (On the bench or in my head)

Great thing about preserved lemons, once you’ve got them, you’ll always find a use. And they look pretty.

Here’s how to – PRESERVE LEMONS.

Get yourself a clean jar with properly fitting lid. You could even sterilize it if you like. (Say 2 x 300ml tomato paste jars scrubbed clean.)

4-6 good sized lemons

A juicer

Pure salt – I had Himalayan rock salt on hand.

A sharp knife and chopping board.

Sprinkle a little (1 tsps worth) of salt in the bottom of the jar. Cut a lemon into thick slices/ quarters/ eighths and lightly sprinkle salt on the cut sides. Wedge them into the jar and repeat until you’ve got approximately a 2cm gap at the top. Now start juicing another lemon and pour in over all those chopped up pieces. the aim is to totally submerge all the chopped lemon. Any bits left protruding could go moldy as they will be exposed to air. If any bits still stick up, either wedge them in or take them out. This preservation technique works because it’s an anaerobic environment (and there’s all that salt and citric acid.)

Screw the lid on and label. Best if left for a minimum of a month.

Minimum fuss, no waste and you’ve put away some food for later. Bottled sunshine.

Making friends with salad

So the other day I ran an incursion at an early childhood centre based on the concept of ‘Seed to Salad Bowl’. The youngest ones rolled seeds around planted a few and nimble fingers plucked dill seed from the picnic rug. The next group up planted out their very own salad bowl in a salad spinner. For our final trick with the older kids in the centre,

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I chopped up tomatoes and cucumbers to show the seeds, passed around slices to try, slid the remaining slices into the bowl and stirred through leaves from the garden – stored in glass to keep them fresh. Asking around why they thought the salad leaves were in a glass jar & the winning answer ‘so people won’t steal them’.

To make our little salad extra snazzy, I dressed it with a little juice from a jar of home preserved lemons. Now this aroma and flavour is not for the feint hearted  – kind of slams into you. Well well – time to eat the salad and I’m so glad I wasn’t standing in between these kids and the salad. Arms lunging into the mix and salad was snorfled. The staff and I looked on with amazement, as these kids just couldn’t get enough.

Dressing on the salad of this morning – one of the younger ones hung back, not to have a chat, nor to play with the seeds, but to help me pack everything back into the bag of tricks – gold.

Salad made with friends.