We are very lucky here in Hawke’s Bay because not only do we get a generous proportion of lovely weather but we also get to enjoy it over a long weekend every year with Hawke’s Bay Anniversary Day and Labour Day straddling a Spring weekend in October. This particular long weekend played host to the NZ Edible Garden Show with a smorgasboard of entertainment from various experts covering topics from Epigenetics to How to keep chickens. I went for the day and managed to see five and a bit talks which were all informative and entertaining too.
First off the mark was the lovely Laura Faire Sunday Star Times columnist, keen vege gardener, Guest Chef on NZTV’s Good Morning show and Cookery Book author. The main dish demonstrated here involved that tricky little vegetable the Artichoke. I’m growing artichokes this year, variety ‘Purple de Jesi’, after being inspired by the River Cottage Garden which had swathes of artichokes which were allowed to merrily, and wantonly, go to seed and flower with bright purple brush tops. However, having seen Laura’s secret weapon for dealing with the armour like coating of an artichoke I might try cooking a few too. Laura’s secret weapon? A rolling pin. Simply bash the outside of the artichoke to release the heart (without destroying it). Gently move the heart back into place and drizzle the inside and outside with olive oil. Grill or barbeque and turn every 5 minutes or so. So simple and a great tension buster to boot! Laura then whipped up a Bagna Cauda dip which is an Italian garlicky hot sauce. I was thrilled to see Laura championing the new Double Cream from Lewis Road Creamery. Since living in New Zealand for the last four years I’ve had to make do with single cream but Not Any More!
I treated myself to a copy of Laura’s latest book Limited Edition Cookery. It’s not just a cookbook; it’s a book about Environmental Enlightenment and Doing Your Bit for the planet and going on a bit of an Eco Journey. Laura’s journey started with the realisation that growing your own vegetables meant providing a ready made “cupboard” of fresh ingredients for cooking and ended with the realisation that making small changes to our lives, whether that be growing herbs on a windowsill or making your own compost, is nourishing to ourselves and our homes. Just my kind of thing. It’s also a little piece of artwork. One page within the book has been lovingly handfinished with gold leaf and it comes with a little packet of bee blend seeds to attract the bees and simultaneously create more produce. There’s also a postcard printed with a recipe to send to a friend and spread the joy. It’s green credentials are pretty impressive too since the whole book is certified carboNZero and printed here in New Zealand. I’m banning it from my kitchen because, at best, I have a bad habit of splattering cookbooks with sauces and, at worst, burning them…. This cookbook is too lovely for that! I always think that growing your own veges creates a different kind of cook; more practical (you cook what’s in the garden), more inspired (you end up cooking veges you’d never buy) and more creative (surprising what you can come up with when faced with a mountain of courgettes). Also, a dollop of homemade quince jelly or spiced tomato chutney can lift even the humblest of meals to a gastronomic feast. It’s a book for the cook and the gardener alike and I already know what I’m going to cook from it first….but I’ll save that for another post.
I was thrilled to see our own local Celebrity, Janet Luke, talking about how to prepare a meat rabbit, keeping chickens and gardening in small spaces. I wished I had had a copy of Janet’s first book, Green Urban Living, before I set out and planned my vege garden four years ago. I actually gave a copy to my sister for her birthday because she had just acquired an allotment and included a pot of comfrey. I hadn’t even heard of comfrey until reading Janet’s book and I picked up many, many other tips too. Janet’s foray into keeping rabbits to “harvest” for the table holds a certain fascination for me. I would struggle to kill a rabbit yet I eat meat. As Janet points out, it’s not a nice thing to do but her rabbits have had a great life and every scrap is used including the fur so nothing is wasted which is really how it should be.
Here’s a great way of recycling old clothes; just one of many quirky ideas from Green Urban Living!
Another talk I thoroughly enjoyed was by Jo Duff from KahiKatea Farm entitled Beyond Companion Planting. I think I’ve got companion planting pretty much sorted in my vege garden. I plant carrots with spring onions, basil with tomatoes and calendular officinalis pretty much everywhere. However, Jo talked about planting Guilds of Plants which are plants that benefit each other in many ways. The most common example is that of the Three Sisters which consists of sweetcorn underplanted with squash and beans. The sweetcorn provides support for the beans and a little shade for the courgettes. Beyond this is the Food forest system which is basically a way of gardening that mimics a real forest thus providing food, medicine, fibres and dyes. If you want to read more see Jo’s very informative website and have a browse through her seed selection for some little gems. I have been aiming (albeit blindly and quite unknowingly) for this Food forest system in my vege garden too. This year will not only have calendular and dahlias but also yarrow, heartsease, borage, comfrey, heaps of herbs plus a few fruit trees. It makes sense to adopt a more permaculture way of thinking when growing vegetables; flowers mean more insects which means more pollination which means more veg. Another really interesting piece of advice concerned letting your garden look a bit messy; let some of your parsley go to seed to encourage more insect life, let your calendular self seed so you get free plants next year. Makes me feel a whole lot better about the state of my vege garden at the moment that’s for sure!
Linda Hallinan was up next talking about What NOT to do in your Garden. I loved her honesty about how difficult it is to make compost and she advised digging a trench and burying your vege scraps in it then planting on top; not sure my chocolate lab would allow this one though. She also said that people are scared of weeds and never know what to do with them. Quick tip: dig up the weeds, leave on a concrete floor in the sun all day then consign to the compost bin. Other little snippets included grow flowers to fill your vases rather than buying over-sprayed commercial varieties, don’t plant silverbeet (who really eats it anyway?) and DO NOT buy bags of lettuce; they are not good for you at all. Well Said Linda.
The last demo I saw involved making Mozzarella by Farmhouse Kitchen. Now this is not your luscious Buffalo Mozzarella but it is very good none-the-less. It involved heating milk and adding rennet and being Very Accurate with a thermometer. There was also a fair amount of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g involved. The result was a very tasty mozzarella cheese that would not disgrace the top of a pizza or a salad Tricolour! Farmhouse Kitchen use the Mad Millie Cheesemaking Kits at their Workshops but you can also use them at home. The soft cheeses seem to be the easiest for beginners. Guess what’s on my Christmas List….