Seasonal Produce

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There are many good reasons to eat what is in season where possible.  Food miles are reduced if you eat local seasonal produce.  It is more likely to have been picked ripe and have better flavour.  An abundance of a particular crop will invariably see the best prices for the consumer.

Most of all though, if you only eat items that are in season you will appreciate the wait for those crops which only bear at a particular time of the year.  Like the first sweet bite of a new season mandarin.  In our climate we pick fruit from our mandarin tree during June and July which are our winter months.

Once the fruit are ripening I have to cover the tree to protect the fruit from the local scrub turkeys.

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You can also see one of the orange trees next to the netted mandarin.

This afternoon I removed the netting and picked the last of the fruit.

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We have picked a lot of mandarins over the past month or so but these are the last 30 of them.

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We will savour these fruit as we know it will be another 10 months before the next crop is ripe.  In the meantime, there will be plenty more seasonal delights as the months roll by.  Imagine if I could eat these all the year round.  They would no longer be anticipated longingly and the delight of that first burst of delicious flavour would soon become ho-hum.

We are fortunate because we live in a temperate climate so many crops can successfully be grown during most months of the year.  However, seasonality still exists for the citrus trees, raspberries, mangoes, passionfruit and avocadoes.

What is in season at your place?

This was our glorious winter day here today.  No, it has not been photoshopped – the sky really is that blue.

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The Sharing Economy

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Sharing is one of the things that I believe is central to living a simpler life.  Sharing can take many forms from inviting someone for a meal, giving away excess produce or sharing a burden by simply being there to listen.  In many ways, our society has moved away from a collaborative approach to many things and I think we have multiple opportunities to encourage more co-operation within our communities.

There are aspects of social media that are less than desirable and the way some people choose to use it is downright awful.  But all is not lost.  Today I have been able to make contact with an online acquaintance who is looking for items that a member of my family has to give away.  This will be a win all round – items will be decluttered from one home and become materials for someone else involved in a community project.

A neighbour also recently asked online for assistance in how to pick mangoes.  We were able to offer the use of our fruit picker with a telescopic handle.

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So today we worked together to harvest a huge number of mangoes.

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Rather than one person trying to pick, process and store a couple of hundred mangoes we have shared the work and the harvest.  Additionally, the fruit picker is available for others to use.  There is no point in everyone having one sitting in the shed when it is only going to be used occasionally.

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Thank you, Patty and Chris.  We were delighted to be able to help and are especially grateful for your generosity.  Looking forward to mango chutney, sorbet and smoothies as well as yummy fresh mangoes!!

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What have you got that could be shared with a neighbour or friend?  What do you need that someone else may have?  Don’t be shy.  It never hurts to ask and you don’t know what the outcome will be.

Tomato Trial

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I apologise for the break in posts but my computer access has been somewhat curtailed due to some repairs to the main computer.  It is all resolved, thanks to the local computer shop, and we are back in business.

Today I want to share my latest success in preserving our bumper harvest of cherry tomatoes.

After removing the stalks and rinsing the tomatoes, I blitzed them in the blender.

My dehydrator has solid sheets for making fruit leathers so I poured the resulting puree onto the sheets.

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Here is the same tray after drying for about 8 hours.

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I removed the dried tomato and broke it up.

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It was quite leathery and pliable so still had some moisture.  I returned the pieces to the dehydrator and dried them some more.

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Finally, I ground the dried pieces in the blender and this is the result.

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From a couple of kilos of cherry tomatoes I have 1 jar of powdered tomato concentrate.  This can be blended with water to make tomato paste which I can use on pizzas or added directly to casseroles or soups.  I am sure there will be a hundred and one uses for it and the great part is that I have a single jar which stores easily in the door of the refrigerator.

Mango Madness

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First it was the figs that I dried, then the corn being blanched and frozen.  Today’s glut is mangoes.

We have 2 mango trees, one large one that is about 20 years old and does not fruit.  I have no idea why there are no fruit and I am not sure how long we will maintain a non-productive fruit tree when the space could be better utilised.  The other tree was planted about 3 years ago and has produced a few mangoes last year and this year there are 2 that have reached mature size so we are waiting for them to ripen.  So the glut is not from our own trees.

As we were going out on Sunday I noticed several mangoes lying on the driveway of a property not far from us.  I knew that the was a mango tree in the front yard but I can honestly say that I had never noticed fruit on in previous years.  Since the owners are not permanent residents I contacted them to see if I could collect any fallen fruit.  With a positive response to my enquiry I headed off to pick up the fruit this morning.

I discovered that there are actually 3 mango trees and there was an abundance of fruit on the ground.  2 supermarket bags were filled with rotten and decaying fruit which I took home and put in the compost.  The usable fruit filled 5 calico bags!

Mangoes
Some of the fruit were very ripe and others were partly damaged so it as important to salvage what I could before they deteriorated any further.  I decided the quickest and easiest solution was to puree the pulp and freeze it.  Remember, that I had picked the fruit before 6am and I still had to go to work.

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After 30 minutes of furious preparation and a blender I had 2.5 litres of mango puree ready to store in the freezer.

Mango puree
I have taken one of the remaining mangoes as part of my packed lunch and there are still 38 mangoes on the kitchen bench.

Of course, there are still dozens on the trees.

I am really glad that I made the effort to contact the owner of the property as it would have been a shame to see all of this fruit go to waste.

How would you use the mango puree?

Fabulous February

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Today is the first day of the month.  The weather has been a bit cooler the past week and my mind starts to turn to gardening as our prime gardening season beckons in the next month or so.

Despite the fact that it is supposedly too hot to grow much over the summer there always seems to be something to harvest in the garden and today was no exception.

Harvest

This is the reward today for what has been a summer of neglect in many ways.  Avocadoes, purple beans, corn, figs, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, lemon and eggs.

Corn
This is the first of the corn.  It is not bad considering that the seeds were expired by about 3 years, they got no supplementary watering, were almost dug up by the chickens, flattened by the wind about 3 weeks ago and generally neglected.

The Duke cooked 2 cobs for his lunch and declared that it was the best corn we have ever grown.

Lunch
Tonight I am going to blanch the rest, strip the kernels and freeze them for use during the year.  I do not particularly like corn on the cob but we do add it to dishes such as tuna mornay and it will be great to use our own organically grown corn instead of imported, canned corn kernels.  I will also be drying more of the figs.  I did some last week as well.

I have never blanched and frozen corn before so I will make sure I take some photos and will tell you all about that in another post.

An Abundance

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When you grow your own fruit and vegetables there are invariably times when the amount is quite overwhelming.  Some things are difficult to preserve and others have a very short shelf life.  Figs definitely fall into the latter category, so when I picked a large bowl full yesterday there was no doubt that I had to do something with them straight away.

I pulled the dehydrator out of the bottom of the pantry and set to work.

Figs

I set the dehydrator up on the laundry bench and 24 hours later we have semi-dried figs with nothing added.

Dried figs

I keep them in the refrigerator as they are not completely dried.  They will not be eaten just yet as we still have plenty of the crop yet to be picked.  There may well be enough to dry another batch in a week or two.

The Production Line

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Having a productive garden entails more work than just planting, watering and harvesting the crops.

The next step is to make sure that the produce is used wisely.  It is difficult not to have some wastage, especially when there is a glut.

At the moment we have an over-abundance of lemons and grapefruit and are doing the best we can to deal with them.

Lemons

On Saturday evening, The Duke and I juiced and froze about 3 litres of lemon juice and a litre of grapefruit juice.  Most of the lemon juice is in 1 litre quantities so that I can thaw it and make cordial when required.  However, I did put some into ice-cube trays for those moments when I just need a tablespoon or so of juice.  We have 2 lemon trees and it is only a rare time when there are no fresh lemons available but it is best to be safe and have some on hand.

Juice to freezeYou can also see more beans and carrots that we picked on Saturday.

What are you harvesting at the moment?