Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Summer vegetables and sweet potato leaves...

February 19th!  This must be a record for the longest gap between posts!  I've been busy with family, visitors and loading rubbish into a dumpster in my yard...   left behind by someone else,  but I've bittent the bullet and decided that I've just got to get rid of it.
The garden continues to produce enough for me, and while meals are often unusual, I am learning what will sustain me during the difficult summer months.  There have been a few days with temperatures in the 20's Celsius,  but no rain at all.  This week I had a man with a bob-cat come to level out a patch of ground (for a labyrinth) and even he commented on how the earth is so dry and powdery everywhere he works... we really do need some rain.
I water the garden every day, sometimes twice a day, and it survives, though the area that I grow in summer is much smaller than the winter garden. This morning, as usual,  I watered and gathered whatever needed picking...  this morning it was zucchinis, tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, silver beet and jalapenos (sounds like stirfried vegetables for dinner tonight!)

The zucchinis are producing quite a lot.   People usually complain about them and their prolific fruits,  but they are quite a good option in summer.  This year has been especially good as the hot dry weather has kept the downy mildew under control....
... a few leaves show some spots,   but I haven't been too concerned.  I have picked all of the zucchinis as baby ones and often with the flowers attached.  The flowers are really good when stuffed with cheese and fried, and when I have had too many of the fruits, I have blanched and frozen them (on biscuit trays, then bagged and in the freezer for soup later.  (Zucchini soup is very good.)  And of course,  they are very good in various stir-fried mixes, curries or kitchadee because they can be flavoured to suit any dish... very versatile.

The "normal sized" eggplants are also producing now, though less prolific than the long skinny ones in the basket above.  I'm waiting for a couple to grow to "baba ghanouj".

Meanwhile,  the corn that I planted (late) using seeds that were a gift last year, is beginning to produce cobs....
 .... the potatoes have lost their flowers,  so that once they die off,  I can dig up the rest of the harvest that I havent already "bandicooted."
It is also the time of the year for collecting some of the seeds....  here are some lettuce seeds from an "oak leaf" type that I grew from seed this summer.

I am not an "indoor plant" kind of person.  However,  I have been growing some sweet potato slips from a plant in my back verandah.  My plan has been to grow sweet potatoes for some time,  however they really don't like the clay soil or the heat.... I will overcome this eventually,  but meanwhile,  I have the "parent" plant running wild in the back verandah....
 .... it is growing in  a cut off wine barrel (and that is how I may need to grow them eventually) but it is trying to take over the whole place!    I have the aloe vera inside (out of the heat... it won't grow outside in summer!), the cardamom plant and a little chili plant that belongs to someone else (this is being re-habilitated after a serious accident!)    But here is the rampant sweet potato plant pushing my cardamom plant out of the way....
... it is truly a beautiful plant, and very, very vigorous.
I tasted its leaves,  and they remind me of a lettuce or spinach leaf....  and this sent me looking for a way  to use these leaves, of course.
Leafy vegetables are some of the varieties that are easier to grow in winter here (they are often too fragile during hot, dry weather) and, being in agreement with Michael Pollan and his seven rules for eating...
  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4.  Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

 I did notice that his quotation "Eat plants, mostly leaves"  is not specifically mentioned.  However,  the sweet potato leaves are definitely in the "food" category and so I went looking for recipes and found several, but this blog post really caught my eye.   The recipe looks good, and I will try it,  but the reminiscing about collecting the "free food" is interesting also.  This is from a Japanese source,   but from my "digging" it appears that most of the sweet potato leaf (or yam leaf, as it is called in the United States) recipes are of Malaysian origin... at least online.  Some experimenting to be done here!

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