Vegetable Gardens

Autumn in the garden

rainbowchardThough it is bucketing down as I write this, I have to still tell you that autumn is the best time to plant everything as it’s still warm enough for roots to grow into their new surroundings and the whole plant gets comfortably established and growing before next summer. So … put on your Drizabone and get out into the garden and get planting for a great spring spectacle!  I’ve just planted lots of Tuscan kale (for my healthy next door shop neighbour Suzie Anderson to take home and add to her morning juice!), ornamental kale (not to eat, just to admire), artichoke, lettuce, spinach and ruby chard at The Potting Shed Kitchen Garden … and leek, broad beans, cabbage, peas and cauliflower at home in our vegie garden .. and can’t wait to harvest it over the next few months. In early spring the combo of baby broadbeans skinned and blanched, drizzled with oil and garlic butter and sprinkled with fresh mint on grilled foccacia is unbeatable! IMG_6588And if you’re lucky enough to be on acreage or have friends who will let you harvest their paddocks, autumn is mushroom season … and there’s nothing like freshly picked mushrooms sauteed in butter on toast for breakfast … or as my mother used to do, reduced right down till the flavour is really intense, and added to casseroles or as a side with bacon and eggs. Mmmm.

Vegie and herb seedlings to plant
Broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leek, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, shallots, spinach, silverbeet. Herbs: Coriander, rocket, chives, lemon grass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme.

Flower seedlings to plant
Now’s the time to plant alyssum, calendula, candytuft, carnation, cinneraria, cornflower, cosmos, daisies, foxglove, lobelia, marigold, nasturtium, nemesia, pansies, poppies, primula, snapdragon, sweet peas and viola.  Most of which we have in stock at the moment at The Potting Shed.

It’s the perfect time to plant camellia sasanqua and japonica, hebe, photinia, viburnum, lilly pilly and buxus and pick your deciduous trees whilst their foliage has its vibrant autumn colour and last but not least it’s time to plant spring flowering bulbs.  More on those soon. Meantime, happy gardening!

 

 

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Lemons are ‘gold’

IMG_0580In spite of the very dry season, we have a bountiful crop of lemons and limes so I picked a basketful to decorate my shop and was setting them out when a friend came by for a chat.  “Are these organic?”, she asked.  Not certified, I explained, but picked from the garden that very morning, complete with snails and certainly free from any chemical fertilisers or sprays.  Grown in the old duck yard, they thrive on the naturally rich soil.   “Did you know organic lemons are almost impossible to buy”, my friend said.  “They’re $16.95 a kilo at the Health Store because of the shortage so these will sell. They are gold!” she laughed. I wasn’t actually planning to sell them, but if there’s a shortage, why not!  So if you’re looking for beautiful fresh, home-grown lemons come by The Potting Shed and pick up a bag.  As we have several very prolific trees in our garden, I use them a lot in cooking – a lemon fresh from the tree is so completely different in flavour to those on the supermarket shelf. They’re particularly useful for a quick little lunch of chicken tenderloins, tossed in lemon thyme, butter, lemon juice, a splash of good olive oil and lemon zest.  Quickly on the grill and onto grilled rye or focaccia with fresh rocket.  Yum. We’re expecting a shipment of espaliered lemons, limes and cumquats this week at The Potting Shed.  Can’t wait to see them.  So perfect for courtyard gardens.  IMG_3041IMG_3045

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IMG_0661Above: Lemons in Positano.   Years ago I was a guest of my dear London friend Paul who had rented for his fortieth birthday an ancient, stunningly renovated fortress on a cliff overlooking the Amalfi Coast.   To get from the carpark to the villa below, we had to walk down a series of terraces all trellised with lemons.  It was magical –  the combination of the hot, mediterranean summer air, the breathtaking views of the coastline and the perfume from the sun warmed lemons which hung down like thousands of tiny  yellow chandeliers!IMG_0658 IMG_0660 IMG_0666

Ornamental Kale will add glamour to your winter garden

 On a trip to France a few years ago, we visited the remarkable Villandry gardens in the Loire Valley.  What stood out for me, amongst the many other wonders in this, the world’s largest jardin potager, was the spectacular ornamental kale.  Row upon manicured row of this beautiful vegetable, curated into an art form amongst a sea of other vegetables elevated from the vege patch to the catwalk!  So I have ordered lots of it for The Potting Shed – knowing that whatever doesn’t sell will go straight into the garden at home.   One fellow enthusiast came in today and snaffled a tray full, so if you’d like some seedlings to add panache to your garden this winter, be quick.  I have a feeling they won’t last long!  I’m also looking for ornamental cabbage which I saw in many villages in France in Autumn (see picture at bottom)  which is another lovely accent plant for the cooler months. I’ll let you know when I have it in stock. IMG_4719 IMG_4723 IMG_4718

Culture Ornamental Kale is easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained loams in full sun. It’s a  frost hardy plant that needs cool temperatures to produce best leaf colors. Here in the Highlands they are best grown in the cool temperatures of autumn, but may also be grown in early spring. If grown in summer (and they will), plants will need some afternoon shade to survive, but the foliage will not be as spectacular.  Plants also look fantastic grown in containers as is often seen in France.

Noteworthy Characteristics   Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group), commonly known as cabbage, and Brassica oleracea(Acephala Group), commonly known as kale, are cool weather vegetables that are grown for harvest of their edible leaves. Cabbage forms heads and kale forms upright leaves. By contrast, ornamental cabbages and kales are grown primarily as foliage plants for their intensely coloured leaves rather than as vegetables. Ornamental plants were developed for ornamental use without regard to taste. Ornamental cabbage typically develops large rosettes of broad flat leaves and ornamental kale typically develops curly, ruffled leaves in a tight rosette. Leaf colors are usually quite showy, including white/cream, pink, rose, red and purple. Plants will grow to 12-18” tall and need the cool weather of spring or autumn to develop their best foliage color. As night temperatures drop during the autumn, the leaf color typically darkens and intensifies. Cabbage and kale are in the same species as a number of other cool season vegetables including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Garden Uses  Mass plantings. Border fronts. Edging. Containers. The colorful leaves make an attractive food garnish and if you pleach their trunks, they make great cut flowers_MG_7612IMG_4373.

Asparagus love

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In May this year, following a memorable visit to London’s Chelsea Flower Show,  RHS Wisley, Hidcote, Daylesford and various theatre and gallery outings, we had lunch at Petersham Nurseries .  It was impressive – simple, seasonal, perfectly prepared and presented.  Paul and I ordered the asparagus starter – served simply with boiled eggs, a capsicum and chilli coulis and sprinkled with edibles.  So fresh and full of flavour … truly delicious.  Inspired, I came home and planted more asparagus in the garden.  You have to wait for a few years to get a good crop, but once established your crowns will deliver daily  delights each Spring for 20 years or more.  There is nothing like the taste of those spears cut early in the morning and poached quickly for the breakfast plate.  Just add butter.  Don’t mess around with asparagus … it’s paradise just on its own if picked fresh.  And then overnight, as if by magic, up they come again, little lovely fat spears waiting to be cut again the following day.  I’ll never forget one year at Country Trader‘s very swanky Christmas party there were giant bowls of asparagus in the most extravagant display I’d ever seen … voluminous bunches accompanied by Hollandaise sauce. Dip, sip, dip, sip.  Bollinger Champagne and fresh, warm asparagus … heaven!

So whether you’re growing your own or buying from the local Farmers Markets here’s what goes well with asparagus, as advised in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion:

artichokes
bacon
breadcrumbs
butter
capers
chervil
chives
cream
eggs
gruyere cheese
ham
light soy sauce
mushrooms
mustard
olive oil
oranges
parmesan cheese
parsley
potatoes
raclette cheese
sesame oil
smoked salmon
spinach
tarragon
walnuts

The wonders of La Chassagnette in Camargue

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La ChassagnetteI found this article in France Today which I thought you might enjoy.

The Camargue—that wide strip of land between sky and sea that stretches across arms of the Rhône—is not just a paradise for birds and white horses. Its marshes are put to work producing crystalline salt, its broad flatlands produce some of the world’s finest rice, and its grassy fields are home to black cattle whose lean, delicious meat is recognized for its healthful properties.

If you have time for only one restaurant in the Camargue, it should be Armand Arnal’s La Chassagnette. Seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, the tall, quiet chef presides over a restaurant both simple and sophisticated. Simple, because he uses only fruits and vegetables from his own organic garden, no matter the season. His immense potager, which inspires rapt admiration in most visitors, produces treasures he transforms into the most elegant of dishes. For Arnal, vegetables are not an accompaniment but a noble product, worthy of all his attention, and ours. It’s sophisticated, because he knows how to take a fish, caught that morning or the night before, and use it to compose a dish that seems quite unpretentious but is the result of some fairly profound thought. Take the marinated lisette, a small mackerel that he serves with a broccoli purée, black sesame and preserved lemon; or the duck raised in the rice fields, served with ribbons of root vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce and a sprinkling of caramelized pine nuts; or the dessert of fennel sorbet, vanilla granité and fennel confit. Born in Montpellier, Arnal formerly worked with Alain Ducasse, notably in his New York restaurant for several years. Arriving at La Chassagnette in 2006, he won a Michelin star in 2009. Although he’s proud of it, he says a star was not his primary motivation— what he likes is creating cuisine tied to its locality, and in the Camargue he has found his niche. Route de Sambuc (betwee Arles and Le Sambuc)04.90.97.26.96 www.chassagnette.fr