Archive for December, 2012

Posted on 20th December 2012

grow | watermelon

By MEREDITH KIRTON

 home grown watermelon

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)

Almost nothing says summer like a watermelon.  Cold from the fridge on a hot day, or still warm from growing out in the sun and then split open to gorge on that sweet flesh, it is the stuff from which childhood memories are forged.  They do, however, need some space to grow and time, as they take on average about 3 months to harvest.

The fast growing vines sprawl along the ground in any sunny position, but they do best if the area is also well drained and well irrigated until the fruits start to ripen and the vines are well fed.  Each vine normally reaps only about 5 fruit, so normally a half dozen vines are grown.  For best results, create a mound with added compost and blood and bone and into the top of this sow 3-4 seeds.  After germination, choose the best two seedlings and remove the others.  Repeat this over a few nearby mounds and your watermelon patch will start to grow.  If you want to double the crop, plant corn in the same patch as they are great companions.

You can tell when a watermelon is ripe and ready for picking because the side nearest to the ground will yellow, and a tap on the skin makes a hollow sound like a drum.  The spiral coil near the stem of the fruit will also start to brown.  Cut them off from the main vine, and refrigerate.

Native originally to Africa, they spread all around the world with the slave trade and ended up in the USA.  Although pink to red shades of melon are the most common, watermelons are actually available in white (Cream of Saskatchewan), yellow (Yellow Crimson and Mountain Yellow) and orange (Sweet Siberian and Orange Tendersweet) fleshed types.   There are also yellow rind versions such as Golden Midget and yellow spotted skin type called Moon and Stars. Sugar Baby is a particular favourite with home gardeners  as the vine is more compact and the fruits actually fit in the fridge!

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow
Posted on 20th December 2012

harvest | watermelon

By MANDY SINCLAIR

home grown watermelon

home grown watermelon

Storage:

Once picked whole watermelon should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If cut, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

What to do with glut

watermelon cocktail recipe

Watermelon punch

Remove skin from ¼ of seedless watermelon. Chop flesh and place in a blender. Place in a punch bowl with 2 litres of soda water. Add ½ cup mint leaves and ½ cup vodka. Add watermelon ice cubes (see below), just before serving.

  • To Freeze – ice cubes
    Remove skin from ¼ of seedless watermelon. Chop flesh and place in a blender. Blend until smooth. Divide between ice cube trays and freeze overnight until firm.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

 

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Posted under harvest
Posted on 20th December 2012

cook | watermelon

By MANDY SINCLAIR

watermelon bombe alaska

Watermelon bombe Alaska

23 sponge finger biscuits
1.5 litres vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup watermelon puree, strained
Meringue
3 egg whites
¾ cup caster sugar

1. Line a 11cm x 23cm loaf pan with baking paper, allowing long edges to overhang pan. Lay half of sponge biscuits over base of prepared pan, breaking biscuits to fit if needed.
2. Mix together ice cream and watermelon puree. Pour half over sponge biscuits. Lay remaining biscuits over ice cream. Finish with remaining watermelon ice cream. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until firm peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1tbsp at a time, beating constantly, until thick and glossy.
4. Remove ice cream from pan and place on a platter. Working quickly, use a spatula to spread meringue over top and sides of loaf. Using a blow torch, brown meringue lightly. Alternatively, place under a preheated grill for 1 min, until meringue is golden.

Serves 10

Tip
Add a couple of drops of red food colouring to watermelon ice cream if you prefer a richer colour.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under cook
Posted on 17th December 2012

cook | banana

By MANDY SINCLAIR

banana bread recipe

Never-fail banana bread

2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 apple, peeled, grated
1 tsp pumpkin seeds (pepetas)

1. Preheat oven to 190C or 170C fan. Grease and line 14cm x 24cm loaf pan.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Stir in sugar and walnuts. Whisk together milk and eggs. Add to dry ingredients with banana and apple and mix until just combined.
3. Fill prepared pan and scatter over sunflower seeds. Bake for 45-50 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve with butter.

Serves 12

Tip
Banana bread can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks after baking. Cut into slices and lightly toast when ready to serve.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under cook
Posted on 17th December 2012

grow | banana

By MEREDITH KIRTON

 backyard bananas

Bananas are the 3rd most eaten fruit, after apples and oranges, in the world but are also eaten like a vegetable when it comes to the larger, green plantains, which are great in curries or fried!  Botanically known as a herb, they are actually more closely related to grass than to any trees.  Each “tree” is actually botanically a stem, and this is why they die after flowering and put up new suckers continually to replace themselves.  These semi tropical plants started off native to South East Asia, but popular now right across the tropical world, and can be grown as far south as Sydney providing they are sheltered and frost free.

The fruits grow in a large bunch weighing about 45kg and made up of about 20 hands – Each finger of which we pick and eat as a banana! Aside from the delicious fruit, leaves can be used for cooking by wrapping food inside and steaming it, and flowers can also be eaten though they need to be peeled and have the petals removed from just inside they first layer, and right in the very (white) centre. Salads made from these flowers are popular in Thai cuisine.

To grow bananas you will need a warm, sunny, well drained and well fertilised site, and a quality disease free sucker. Dig a large hole, add manure and clear away any grass, then plant your sucker.  Avoid watering straight away as this can cause them to rot, so waiting a week before giving them a good drink reduces this risk, but after then, regular water and fertilising is essential.  Rhizomes are normally planted in spring, and plants will grow to about 6m, flower and then send up a replacement sucker.  Once the banana fingers are up to size, you can cut off hands green from the bunch and ripen them inside with another piece of fruit, so save having all 45kg ripe at the same time!

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow
Posted on 17th December 2012

harvest | banana

By MANDY SINCLAIR

tropical bananas grown in the backyard at home

 

 

Storage:

Bananas are best picked whilst still green as the ripening process continues once harvested. Store at room temperature in the fruit bowl. They are best eaten when the skin is yellow and lightly flecked with black spots. If left to over-ripen the skin will become black and texture soft and at this stage is ideal used in baking. Alternatively peel and mash flesh before storing in an airtight container and frozen. Use in smoothies, cakes or puddings.

What to do with glut

Banana fritters recipe

Banana & coconut fritters

1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 tbsp brown sugar
400ml can coconut milk
½ cup cold water
2 eggs
4 bananas, thickly sliced diagonally
1 cup shredded coconut
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
maple syrup, ice cream, to serve

1. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. Mix together coconut milk, cold water and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
2. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or saucepan until a cube of bread sizzles on contact.
3. Dip banana into batter, allowing excess to drip off. Roll in coconut to coat. Deep fry in batches, for 2-3 mins, until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
4. Serve drizzled with maple syrup and ice cream.

Serves 4

  • To Dry
    Banana chips

    Peel and slice bananas. Place on a baking tray in a single layer and bake at 250C or 230C fan for 15-20 mins, until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

 

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Posted under harvest
Posted on 14th December 2012

grow | ginger

By MEREDITH KIRTON

 ginger rhizomes

Native to Asia and India, it is used in curries, stir fries, sweets, candied and of course, made into a fabulous thirst quenching beverage. To grow ginger, you can just obtain a locally grown rhizome from your fruit and vegetable market, and then cut it up into chunks, each with an eye, for regrowing and plant 30cm apart.  You can also buy setts (small rhizomes) from many mail order companies that are certified disease free.

As it’s a tropical plant, you will need to find a frost free position, and even then its best planted in late spring after the soil has warmed up. Make sure the soil is well drained and well watered, and enriching with manure will help your plants grow throughout the 8 months or so it takes them from planting to yield time.  You will know it’s time to harvest
your ginger when the leaves die off in autumn.  At this time you can dig up the whole clump, or simply cut it back and dig up a few rhizomes at a time from the side of the clump.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow