In My Kitchen, March 2018

Perhaps the title of this post should read ‘In My Kitchen Garden’ as this season’s harvest dominates the show and tell. March sees the tables and benches laden with baskets full of apples, pears, quince, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, lettuce, basil, Thai herbs, and an occasional potato. The garden is wild and I can no longer tame all that rampant life without ending up on the table of the osteopath. The time for clearing and seeding will soon announce itself. I can already sense a crispness in the air. Today, the second morning of Autumn, the overnight temperature dropped to a chilly 10ºc: I pull on some warm socks before the day’s heat sets in. A morning cup of tea, followed by a rummage through the seed box is an auspicious start to the new season.

Sleeping Buddha and tomatoes

The sleeping Buddha was installed in my kitchen window after I was stung by a European wasp last week. These lovely Roma tomatoes enjoy an extra lazy day in the glazed northern sun. From now on, Buddha will remind me to search for smuggled insect terrorists. Did that wasp stare through the windows and gaze longingly at my produce laden table, then sneak in when the wire door was ajar?

Odd tomato varieties

This year we inadvertently grew some rather odd tomato varieties. Some are large and flavoursome but aren’t so prolific. They are grown for show. I bought the seedlings from an Italian man who labelled them simply as ‘red’. It’s rather nice though to completely cover a slice of bread with one large disc of tomato, the jewelled translucent seed and ridged pattern simply blessed with a grind of salt. It must be the perfect breakfast. The Russian tomatoes are lacking in flavour and I won’t bother with these again. They are too big and tend to rot on the vine before ripening. Next year I’ll stick to my favourites, the varieties that are well suited to my micro-climate;  Rouge de Marmande, the best of tomato flavours, Roma, or similar egg-shaped tomatoes which are good keepers, Green Zebra and the large acid free yellows which continue fruiting well into late Autumn, a literal pomodoro, along with a few self-sown large cherry varieties.

Over the last few years, I’ve gathered many old baskets which tend to clutter the verandahs during the colder months. They come to life during February and March when they are filled repeatedly. The long kitchen table is covered with baskets full of colour as they await sorting, freezing, cooking, preserving or giving away.

Jonathon apples- our earliest variety. More varieties to come. Lace produce bag in foreground made by Celia: thank you lovely friend.
Marcella Hazan’s apple and rum cake. One kilo of Jonathon apples dispatched.

It’s always a challenge to find more uses for zucchini. One way of eating a kilo without noticing is to make Indian Zucchini Bhaji. Grate them, mix with onion slices, then add to a thick and gently spiced Besan and rice flour batter, then deep fry them like fritters. Serve with chutney and yoghurt.

Zucchini Bhaji and mild mango chutney.
Fettuccine with grilled zucchini and pesto.

I am still being challenged by the cucumber plague and now give most of them away. Come and help yourselves.

Cucumbers, Hazlenuts, Buerre Bosc Pears.

Everyone and his dog has been waiting for the arrival of my figs. That day came yesterday. I have a few hundred slowly ripening and pick a small basketful when perfectly ripe. Green on the outside, but soft and purple within, they are the garden’s gender antonym to the zucchini. At some point I’ll make some fig jam when the harvest becomes overwhelming. Unusual fig recipes are welcomed, dear reader.

My most successful eggplant this year is this magenta striped variety, Melanzana Siciliana or Graffiti eggplant. I have some wild self sown eggplants still to show their true colours.

Too nice to cook.
Buerre Bosc pears are great keepers.

Thanks once again to Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings for hosting In My Kitchen, a monthly event which encourages many to step back from their regular writing or photographic posting and to take a closer look at the engine room of the house, the kitchen.

34 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, March 2018”

  1. Glorious glorious Signora, I am so jealous. I can’t wait till we can move back to our currently very messy reno site and have a garden like this. Wish I lived nearby, one of my Small People would polish off those cucumbers without any problem at all. Ten degrees is very fresh, still very mild up here.

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    1. Very fresh indeed, and a welcome break from days of around 30c. That overnight chill will help the pumpkins along and the borlotti, i fagioli scritti, like a little chilling too. The quinces might also hang on longer and not drop before they are fully yellow in colour. It’s still very hot though and we have had very little rain.
      I know your garden will be wonderful when you return.

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  2. As I slowly and enviously scrolled thru’ your post I had to rap myself on the knuckles about my lack of logic: am thinking of the amount of work which has gone into producing this huge bounty . . . and now the gathering of the harvest and the ‘making use of’ all that lies in those baskets . . . shall be thinking of you ! I had always loved spring until I moved here and one of my new local friends smiled whilst voting for autumn – yes, we were down to 13C this morning but the next seven days should boast the high teens when I belatedly wake and go onto high 20s – absolutely perfect . . .

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    1. It has been rather a lot of work. we have been doing this organic self sufficient thing for as long as I can remember, even when we were both working full time and production seems to have increased a lot lately. I am eyeing off the fruit tree catalogue- maybe I could buy just one more. It’s 30c all week here- lovely mild Autumn.

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  3. Hi Francesca. It is a bit overwhelming this time of the year. We have so much produce we can bearly keep up with giving it away. At the moment we are inundated with cucumbers and snake beans. Yours looks gorgeous, I bet you have lots of takers.

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    1. I took a bag full to our beach camp with a sign ” free organic cucumbers . Please rake some”. My granndaughter Daisy gave hourly reports, that ni ine had taken any and no one had been to my shop. I then wandered about and forced them into the hands of thise I knew. Some people are frightened of free produce.

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  4. look at all that gorgeous produce! it reminds me of our tassie friends who spend all summer and autumn picking their garden glories and having to preserve them all. it seems to be a common theme. thanks for joining us all in IMK world. cheers sherry

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  5. Your photographic skills outdo your gardening skills … or maybe the other way around! What an absolutely beautiful collection of images and color!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  6. Looking at your photos puts a smile on my face. I love seeing beautiful produce. As I read I reflect that I have a single basket on the verandah that I use to gather veges and transport forage to the chooks. Such is the difference in our scale, which makes me appreciate the effort you both go to. Not much less joy -I am thriled to pick anything!- but a lot less work. I often note the presence of tangible evidence of your influence on my life, and you continue to inspire me… I’ve added besan flour to my shopping list.

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    1. You are so lovely to say that Dale. Yes, get the besan flour for fritters of all kinds. Alsi has an organic packet and it seems to need a bit more liquid than the finer Indian ones I usually buy. It is probably more wholemealy. When I make any kind of pakhora, everyone develops an endless hunger for them.

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  7. I recently was given two starts of turkey figs and look forward to a bounty. What a wonderful selection of produce from your garden! I can just picture the baskets lined up with the colorful tomatoes and other vegetables and fruit. You must have a huge garden for such a prolific harvest. I always worry about it dying or going to seed if I travel for a few days or weeks during the summer.

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    1. It is a worry Liz., though for us it’s more about water. Last year we travelled for 5 months- from Australian winter through to mid Spring. The fruit trees were established enough to manage but we came back to 1/2 acre of clearing up the vegetable patch. Most of the winter veggies had gone to seed and were 6 feet tall, and the celery had seeded everywhere. I don’t mind things going to seed- in the long run I am aiming for a permaculture garden – I just need to be more disciplined about removing things. A garden is never tamed- it will always win and this is the joy and the battle.

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      1. Water is a worry for us as well, there have been restrictions during the past few years and very high prices. It is not as bad at the new place since we have our own well. I always hate going away during the summer when the garden is the most bountiful, but love reading about your travel adventures.

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  8. Congrats on all that fabulous produce. I just planted seeds last weekend in the green house. Planted some tomato seeds, some you reference here.

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  9. I scrolled through your kitchen garden post with envy – what a gloriously bountiful harvest. There is something wonderful about seeing wonderfully weathered baskets filled with home grown produce. How lucky your neighbours are (also, the cake and bhajis look deliciously more-ish!)

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