Lemon Verbena in the Kitchen Garden

March 31st, 2022

KITCHEN GARDEN  

LEMON VERBENA

Did you think that herbs were just for making tea?

Maybe not, but some herbs have endless uses, and this week I’m featuring the herb lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora) that’s larger than you would expect to find in a herb garden so probably could fit into the back of a border but in a sunny location.

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Lemon verbena photo M Cannon
  • How would I describe the scent of lemon verbena?
I would say that lemon verbena has a bright, slightly sweet flavour with a strong hint of lemon.
The strong lemon scent of this herb is far less overpowering than the lemon flavor and fragrance of lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon mint, and lemongrass.

What does it look like?

Lemon%20verbena%202.jpg
Lemon verbena is a vigorous growing deciduous shrub to 3 metres tall by 3 metres wide. 
The leaves are a lime green and lanceolate, and flowers appear in late spring until the end of summer almost. 
The flowers are white, quite small and appear in a panicle.
  • My plant is quite an old plant that I prune each winter to about 1 metre off the ground.

How to use lemon verbena?

  • As a flavouring in kombucha
  • Add leaves to a sorbet or ice-cream when making
  • Poach stone fruit in a sugar syrup with lemon verbena leaves
  • Infuse lemon verbena leaves in olive oil or vinegar-250 ml of olive oil with 6 leaves or to taste
  • Fish en papiotte with lemon verbena leaves

Corinne's Top Tip: 

Why not try  a gin and sonic with muddled lemon verbena. Made with half soda water and half tonic so less calories. 

Listen to the podcast.
Marianne is talking  Corinne Mossati, founder of  www.thegourmanticgarden.com
Gourmantic garden website. You can also follow Corinne for more delightful ideas on Instagram.

What is Mixed Spice in Spice it Up

March 31st, 2022

 SPICE IT UP

MIXED SPICE

The name 'mixed spice,' sounds 'oldie worldie' to me because it's not something that comes up in too many recipes these days. 

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Perhaps if your flicking through an old  Woman's Weekly recipe book, or the cookbook you used at school in home economics class, you might find it in the cakes and buns section.

 

What is mixed spice?

Mixed Spice is a sweet spice blend and is used in a variety of cakes, puddings, pies, breads and buns, biscuits, pancakes, cupcakes, gingerbreads, and even fruit salads.

Mixed spice has actually the following ground spices.

  • Cinnamon-two types, Sri Lankan cinnamon and cassia cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger-to add brightness and freshness
  • Cloves-a very small amount.
  • Allspice-a spice all on its own which is actually a berry.
  • Coriander seeds, ground of course. Coriander is an amalgamating spice.

But what do you use if you can find it on the supermarket shelves?

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Melting Moment biscuits

Mixed spice quick alternative:

  • Cinnamon 1 tablespoon
  • Nutmeg     1 teaspoon
  • Ginger       1 teaspoon
  • Cloves       1/2 cloves
  • Coriander  2 teaspoons
 
Mixed%20spice.jpg
With the predominant flavor of cinnamon, it also makes a nice change to substitute this spice blend for anything calling for cinnamon for an added flavour boost.
Marianne is talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au
If you have any questions you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Lacto Fermented Vegetables in the Kitchen Garden

March 3rd, 2022

 KITCHEN GARDEN

LACTO-FERMENTATION

There are several ways to preserve food, these include freezing, drying, pickling and fermenting.

You may think that fermented foods are a recent trend, but in fact, fermenting food has been carried out for thousands of years.
Fermenting food is one way of preserving your ample supply of produce that's growing in your garden.

There are a few ways to ferment foods but lacto-fermentation is one of the easiest.
  • AVvXsEhk8kxfyko27NtqCYq5GYgxjg_sOScGpY7VFnJySHL7x6E1mnHJmgsr3bM5lSCtHiehMXTaTS8bQM7HHa0KHN4WEqJIbvg0U15xMF9DaG-yVPjLwAxhL9S77h1hnlczv8qwnv0NdWuP91NLKFovAlBqMhkYdTHoNu-We3EI6T8I1pVenMMWIm-yTexwYQ=w266-h400The term lacto-fermentation is a scary one and belies how simple it really is. It's unbelievably quick and easy.

So what is it?

Firstly the term wasn't derived for having to use milk in the process.
Lacto refers to the lactobacillus bacteria that does all the breaking down of the food.
Did you know that all vegetables are covered in the various strains of the good bacteria lactobacillus?
It does involve lactic acid in the process which is a good thing because lactic acid is a natural preservative.
  • What about the bad bacteria?
No problem, the brine that you submerge your vegetables in kill them off, while the lactobacillus survives to do the preserving work.
Using the correct salt to water ratio in your brine will ensure the safety of your lacto-fermentation.

How do you do it?

You can lacto-ferment most produce in yur garden.
 Beans, carrots, beetroot, and Corinne's favourite is using stalks of chard, nasturtium seeds.
You need salt but not iodised or table salt. Table salt will make the ferment go bad because of it's additives.
  • Use high quality sea-salt.

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    Photo: Corinne Mossati of Gourmantic Garden

    Non-chlorinated water, and no fluoride so will need to be filtered water.

  • Kilner jar or a glass jar with a lid.
  • Weights to submerge your ferment.
  • BASIC RULE: Brine solution is 2-3% salt.  
  • 2% brine:1 litre of water needs 20 grams of salt: 

Step by Step

  1. Collect your dry ingredients and add them to a dry sterile fermentation jar.
  2. Pour in the brine solution to cover the vegetables.
  3. Add a ceramic weight on top to keep the vegetables below the liquid.
  4. Burp the jar daily: this releases the gas.
  5. It will take 2-3 weeks during the summer months.
  6. Once it's ready, place it in the fridge to slow the ferment process.

Are you a chilli aficionado?

Perhaps you’re growing the world’s hottest chilli, Carolina Reaper or the second hottest, Ghost chilli?

But did you know that Carolina Reaper chilli is 200x hotter than a Jalapeno pepper?
But what do you do with all those chillies other than freeze them?

  • Why not make a chilli lacto-fermeneted sauce?
Follow the above steps then once you think the chillies are done, drain the brine and add other flavouring ingredients.
Blitz in a food processor.
 
To find out more, listen to the podcast.

I'm talking with Corinne Mossati, founder of the www.gourmanticgarden.com.au website.

If you have any questions you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com 

Rose Geranium Based Drinks in the Kitchen Garden

December 24th, 2021

KITCHEN GARDEN

Rose Geranium 

Scientific name: Pelargonium graveolens

Family: Geraniaceae

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Rose geranium leaves (photo Corinne Mossati)

 

Personally I’m a fan of scented plants whether it’s the flowers or the leaves.
I just love to inhale their perfume either by sniffing the flowers or touching the leaves.

This next plant, the rose geranium, is not just your ordinary scented geranium because of its many uses.

Sure you can get by just inhaling the perfume after crushing the leaves but why not think about it’s culinary uses, especially in festive drinks. 

First let's talk about the plant.

Rose geraniums are quick growing especially in the warmest months of the year.

Expect this to be a small bush of 1-2-1.5meters with leaves that are soft to the touch, slight hairy and deeply incised as pictured on the right. 

Rose geraniums grow best in full sun but can tolerate part shade. Also frost and drought tolerant.

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Rose Geranium spritzer (photo Corinne Mossati)  

Keep pruning the leaves to make your rose geranium plant into a tidy compact form, otherwise it will tend to flop over and sprawl a bit.

Don't throw away the cuttings or prunings as all geraniums root easily and quickly. 

Just cut a piece or stem of about 5cm long, first removing the bottom two-thirds of leaves. Pop this piece into seed raising mix in a small pot or you can even place cuttings in water.

Rooted cuttings soon grow into plants that make great gifts to give to friends.

But don't waste those leaves, because what better way to use them, than making a rose geranium syrup to pour over ice-cream or a rose geranium spritzer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start off with making a rose geranium syrup.

All you need is 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of chopped rose geranium leaves.

I'm talking with Corinne Mossati, founder and editor of Gourmantic Garden and Cocktails and Bars  Corinne has provided the links to the recipes below.

Rose Geranium Syrup recipe http://www.cocktailsandbars.com/rose-geranium-syrup-recipe/

Rose Geranium Spritzer http://www.cocktailsandbars.com/rose-geranium-spritzer/

Let’s find out more by listening to the podcast.
If you have any feedback email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Indian Cooking Class in Spice It Up

December 24th, 2021

 SPICE IT UP

Indian Cooking Class

Forget those jar sauces and ready- made pastes that you can buy in supermarkets.
If you want a real curry, you’ll need to make it yourself but aren’t they complicated?

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  • Ian's spice kit is named after Christine Manfield's new cookbook called 'Indian Cooking Class.'

If you're a bit daunted by Indian recipes then would be chefs would find this very useful.
In this segment Ian takes us through what some of the most often used spices are in Indian cooking and why they are so important to Indian cuisine. 

Some of these are:

Ajowan seed

Methi or Fenugreek leaves.

Panch phora- a spice blend

Chaat masala is a spice blend containing cumin, black salt, fennel seed, amchur or green mango powder, and garam masala-(fennel,caraway, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper) and Asafeotida..

Gunpowder spice blend.

  • I have now tried the 'butter chicken recipe twice for this book and give a 5 star rating. As good as if not better than restaurant butter chicken.

You start off making a roux with chick pea powder and canola oil

Then marinate chicken pieces in a spice blend that is made from a ginger/garlic paste, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, sea salt flakes, methi, and cardamom ground. Add the spices to yoghurt and coat the chicken, then marinate for at least 4 hours.

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Butter Chicken-photos M Cannopn

Let’s find out more by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au

Well now you know what some of those weird sounding spices are that are used in Indian curries.

You don’t have to buy the book and the spice kit, but it’s a way to kickstart your armchair journey to the spices and curries of India.

If you have any feedback email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Dill versus Fennel: What‘s the Difference in Spice it Up

December 18th, 2021

 SPICE IT UP

Dill versus Fennel

How well do you know your herbs?
Have you ever used fresh dill in any recipes?
Perhaps a dill sauce, with smoked salmon or in a potato salad, but what about fennel.?
Those feathery fronds of dill, have a similar smell to fennel, so can they be used interchangeably? Dill is pictured here but it looks similar to the feather fronds of fennel doesn't it?

So how can you tell the difference between dill and fennel fronds?

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Fennel bulb and frond

Dill fronds are slightly finer and a darker green than fennel fronds.

Dill has a higher anise or licorice note when you crush the leaf.

Fennel has the same level of anethol (active enzyme) but tends to be sweeter.

  • Seeds or both dill and fennel are used in cooking and are referred to as a spice.
  • Seed flavour profiles differ from the fresh plant. 
  • Dill fronds are sometimes referred to as 'dill weed' in recipes.

    Dill seeds are used a lot in pickles, but don’t have magical properties.

    Ian’s great tip was when using fennel seeds, dry roast them which by the way gives satay sauce that special flavour.

    • My favourite use of fennel seeds is in home-made sausage rolls.  

    I mix 150 grams of beef mince with 300gms of pork mince, 1 grated carrot, 1 grated potato (raw), w teaspoons of chopped sage leaves, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds,  salt and pepper to season. Divide mixture onto puff pastry sheets and roll up with join side down onto baking trays. Bake for 15 minutes at 220 C until golden.

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Dill or Fennel flowers?

Let’s find out by listening to the podcast.

I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au 

If you have any feedback email 

realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

 

 

Murnong Yam is Plant of the Week

November 6th, 2021

Murnong%2BYam1.jpg

PLANT OF THE WEEK Number 3

Scientific Name: Microseris Lanceolata

Common Name:Murnong Yam

Family:Asteraceae

 
Yam Daisy

Native Habitat: found in a wide range of habitats in Australia: these inlcude mallee, slerophyll and sub-alpine communities.

Description:-Strappy, linear green leaves above underground tubers that emerge after rain in Autumn.

Height-Width: 30cm x 30cm

Flowering: yellow daisy flowers in spring-autumn.

Fruiting:fluffy seedheads (known as achenes), similar to dandelion seedhead.

Position: Full sun and part shade. 

Attributes: Dry tolerant once established and can grow in sandy soil.

There are many bush tucker plants that are not that well known and this is another one of them.

  • Yam daisy plant can be hard to identify in the wild because it looks like a lot of other yellow daisy plants, including dandelions and flatweed, also called cats ears.
  • The main differences: flat weed has a rosette of hairy, wavy-edged leaves that sit flat on the ground, while murnong has upright lance-shaped leaves. 
  • Murnong flower stems have a curved, drooping top as the bud develops, then straighten as it opens, whereas flatweeds and dandelions are upright as the bud is forming. The white tubers are nutritious and sweet tasting They can be eaten raw or baked, mixed with other vegetables or turned into a paste for dessert.
  • It is possible to buy the seeds of yam daisy plant online.
  • To find out more listen to the podcast. I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley horticulturist

Success with Coriander in the Kitchen Garden

September 18th, 2021

 THE KITCHEN GARDEN

SUCCESS WITH CORIANDER

Scientific name: Coriandrum sativum
I mentioned before that certain herbs that look alike and again I find myself talking about another herb that confuses people.
 
Australians refer to the seeds and leaf as coriander but in the northern hemisphere, the leaf is sometimes known as 'cilantro.'
Coriander is one of those herbs that people either love it or hate it.
Do you love it?
 
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Coriander leaves

Coriander is easy enough to grow but being in the carrot family,(Apiaceae) its green leafy tops can look not only like other herbs, but other vegetables!

  • My guest, Toni Salter in the podcast, calls it the 'primadonna' of herbs. 
There are many things it doesn't like and without a second glance, coriander will bolt to seed giving you not much leaf at all.
What causes it to bolt to seed?
  • Soil is too dry
  • Too little water at the right time.
  • Poor or impoverished soil.
  • Poor drainage in your herb garden.
  • Temperatures too warm for it's liking.
  • Temperatures too cold for it's liking
  • Transplanting-the worst sin.
Problems with germination?
Try soaking the seeds for a few hours in a shallow saucer of water.
  • TIP: Always sow the seeds directly into the position where it will grow.
Sow it into a container if you like, but keep it there.
Coriander loves rich fertile soil, much like your vegetables.
coriander%2Bseedlings.jpg
Coriander seedlings

When to Sow in Australia

For sub-tropical and arid zones, you have August to September;
Temperate districts, sow the seeds from September until the end of November,
In cool temperate zones, October to November,

  • Sow your seeds about 1 cm deep, cover them and keep them moist.

Whether or not you sow them in rows, scatter them amongst your other veggies, or use them to grow as a shade plant for your lettuce, it really doesn’t matter.

Companion planting: plant coriander near your spinach to confuse the grasshoppers.
Let one or two plants go to seed. The flowers attract beneficial insects after which the coriander seeds can be harvested to use in cooking, once the seeds turn brown and crispy.
coriander-seeds-on-a-drying-plant.jpg
Coriander seeds drying on plant
A must if you like Asian cooking and even though coriander looks like parsley, as soon as you smell it, you know what you’ve got.
 

Heaps of Coriander seeds are used in curries, tagines and many other Asian dishes.
In fact the whole herb, including the roots can be ground up to make a Thai Green Curry paste.

Let’s find out more
I'm talking with Toni Salter www.theveggielady.com.au
PLAY: Success with Coriander_8th September 2021

If you have any feedback email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

 

Winter Savoryvs Thyme in Spice it Up

September 18th, 2021

 SPICE IT UP   

 SAVORY VS THYME

Often there’s a couple of herbs that look alike and even have similar flavour profiles.

If you had them growing together in the herb garden, you may even confuse the two because of how closely they look to each other.

Thyme is the better known herb in Australia, which from the 1950's was commonly used in soups, stews, scones and casseroles.
For some reason, savory is not very well known in Australia, but it’s commonly used America and England.
In England, and America, it's quite popular and in the US, winter savory is a key ingredient in the stuffing for the 'Thanksgiving Turkey.'
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If you rubbed both herbs without knowing which was which, you would most likely think they both were the same herb.

  • Winter savory, unlike thyme, is not sold as a cut herb in the produce aisle of your supermarket.
  • Confusingly there is a 'summer savory' which tends to die off in winter and usually not come back.

Looking after both herbs

With their tiny leaves, both herbs are adapted to the dry regions of the mediterranean. 
Both herbs are in the mint (Lamiaceae) family, but unlike mint, don't  feel you need to give either thyme or winter savory heaps of water with the exception of the hottest days in Australia's summers.
  • I've never seen the seeds of savory being sold however if you have a pot of winter savory that's overgrown and become leggy, follow these tips to refresh it.
  • Dividing the roots  in spring, will rejuvenate the plant.
  • Start off by trimming about a third of any wrapped or circling roots.
  • Divide the root ball into thirds or quarters, making sure that each section has a healthy piece of root and stems with green leaves attached.
  • Remove one-third of the top growth, and trim away any dead or damaged stems and leaves.
  • Re-pot into new containers and gift some to your friends.

But can you substitute one for the other?

Thyme has the volatile oil: thymol which is a strong natural antiseptic.  
wild%2Bthyme%2B2.jpg
Wild thyme growing amongst a rocky outcrop

You only need to use a small amount to get the flavour, and is a key ingredient in mixed herbs.

  • Did you know there are over 100 varieties of thyme?
  • The wild thyme of Provence is known for its strength of flavour. Think 'herbs de Provence' is a blend with this wild thyme.
The answer is yes, both herbs are interchangeable, but savoury is less pungent than thyme.
  • You will find winter savory, Satureja (sat-you-rea) montana, as a plant sold in most garden centres.
  • So time to get some of your own.

Let’s find out more by listening to the podcast.
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au

If you have any feedback email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Winter Pruning of Figs in Plant Doctor

August 18th, 2021

 PLANT DOCTOR

Pruning Figs: 

Ficus carica is the edible fig that hails from the Mediterranean.

Fig trees aren’t quite as ubiquitous as citrus trees are in the produce garden but they are still a firm favourite.

What's not to like?
They are delicious to eat fresh and or dried, plus nothing beats home grown figs. 

There are a few different types: 

  • 'Black Genoa' is typically a large growing fig tree and not suitable for small back yards. This is a fast growing heavy cropping tree that produces large sweet purple skinned fruit. Good for inlan Australia but not so good on the far north coast.
  • White genoa-great for drying about half the size of black genoa: also grows well in cooler areas.
  • Brown Turkey  good for eating fresh, is a very hardy tree that does well in inland areas.
  • White Adriatic-a green skinned medium to large fruit.
  • Dwarf Brown Slow growing and compact this small tree can be kept at about 1 - 1.5 m in height. Great for small spaces and pots and smaller backyards
There’s a only few things you need to know when attending to those trees and believe it or not, winter time is one of those times.
In fact, winter time is the time you need to go out and take a look at your fig tree, assessing it for what to prune and what to leave
fig%2Bfruit.jpg
 
  • When you first get your fig tree, prune the tree by half; cut it back to 3 or 4 branches.
  • Prunings can be used to propagate more trees as the cuttings take root very easily.
TIP: figs like to grow in shallow soil which has been enriched with limestone. 
  • pH 8 is an ideal for figs, and you can do this by adding crusher dust to the soil. 
  • What is crusher dust?
  • Crusher dust is a blend of small crushed blue metal rocks and finer dust.
  • Either add it to your pot or to the soil.
  • Incidentally, crusher dust is a great medium for striking 'slow to take' cuttings.

Getting Down To Pruning

Steve’s tip is to prune new fig trees by half when you get them, but for older trees, prune one-third to one-half each year. 
  • We are looking for the new growth to supply the current season's fruit.  
  • Prune out any limbs that are less than 45 degrees to the trunk. Keep branches that are more or less at right angles to the main trunk.
  • Remove any branches or laterals that are less than half a metre from the ground.
  • If you need to, you can now bring it into shape but otherwise you have done your main pruning.

So let’s find out what more needs doing.
That was Steve McGrane, agriculturist and horticulturist.
PLAY: Pruning figs_7th July 2021
If you have any feedback email realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

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