Harvest Day

Actually the title is a little bit misleading as the weather got completely nasty this afternoon, but harvest “half” day just didn’t sound right!

There’s nothing really more fundamental than our ability to grow our own food. So it’s kind of amazing how dislocated we have become from our own food supply. One of the ways that we’ve started to reconnect (and it harks back to permaculture principals) is with the concept of feedback. You can’t make good decisions about what you eat, what you avoid and what products your purchases encourage unless you actually know something about them. So we have started simply by asking questions in order to kickstart this feedback loop. You will be amazed at the stories you get from people and the information you find about what you’re buying. Perhaps more importantly you’ll realise really quickly that people know nothing about the food they are selling you. My thought is that if someone can’t tell you, at the very least, where it came from then you probably shouldn’t buy it.

The best way to know about where your food comes from, obviously is to grow your own and today I was really pleased to have a pleasant morning and nothing else to do (well except watch the kids, but as you’ll see they joined in). I have a tendency to get really excited about seeds which leads to some interesting plantings, and it also means that sometimes I go a little overboard. About two years ago I dug up what used to be a concrete driveway at the back of our house. These two things added to just one outcome – potatoes! Between Nikki and I we’ve dug up about 6 Kg of them over the last couple of days so it looks like gnocchi is back in season! On top this were a fair few beetroots that have been happily growing except for when the black chicken (called Kebab, but that’s another story) escapes it;s enclosure…as it turns out beetroot leaves are her favorite. But the most exciting gardening exploit of the day was the garlic harvest. For people who reckon they can’t grow anything but have a bit of space can I recommend giving garlic a try. Simply buy an organic bulb, break it into cloves, plant around the autumn equinox, pointy side up and wait until cup day (7.5 months later). A friend of ours started her own garlic plantings in pots this season. After several months she discovered the plants were covered in aphids, and after seeking some advice at Ceres nursery, transplanted them into bigger pots and voila – aphids disappeared. There’s probably lots of other things you can do to guarantee success but apart from the odd weed, some decent compost and a bit of worm-wee (the juice from the worm farm) when they are almost ready, that’s about all the attention they need. What you end up with is the best tasting garlic you have ever had and an exchange rate of one clove for one bulb sound pretty good to me. It also ironically brings me back to the asking questions thing as it’s only through doing so that I learn’t how bad the white Chinese garlic that you see in the supermarkets actually is. Anyway so after planting a couple of bulbs out last March, we now have a very excited son and enough garlic drying out to last us for a fair while.

The last part of reconnecting with food has got to be cooking it, so lunch was made up with what I’m going to call a Spanish scramble in that it would have been a Spanish omellette but I was in a rush so it became scrambled eggs made with our eggs (thanks girls), spring onions, potato and parsley, all from the garden.

I’ll finish this blog with one more, well lets call it an achievement rather than a success. One of our aims is to reduce the amount of meat we eat but I’m always struggling to find recipes that have the mouth feel and satisfaction of a roast but without the meat. One of the solutions is to use the satisfaction value of pie crust with the veggie fillings and it with this in mind that I planned to make mushroom pie. As is quite frequently the case I only late realised that to make a puff pastry top you need puff pastry, which nobody will be surprised to hear doesn’t come in anything other than plastic (D’oH!). So add to my morning the joys of learning to make pastry, my new found awareness of just how much butter is in that sucker and finding out that there is a world of difference between store bought pastry made with who knows what flour and homemade pastry made with our organic wholemeal flour. You can judge for yourself but given the fact that my son (4) requested that next time I make 8 lids for 4 pies and that my daughter (2) actually ate it all, I’m taking this as a pretty big achievement.