Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


All about Beetroot!

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 27th, 2020
Beetroot is quick-growing and versatile with edible roots and leaves. It’s ideal for small gardens as it can be grown in containers and also looks pretty in a flower bed.

VARIETIES TO TRY

When growing beetroot, there are quite a few varieties to consider. The most common garden beetroot is a deep ruby red, however, there’s a surprising range available:

Chioggia, is an heirloom variety with striking concentric purple and white rings.

Albino, as its name suggests, is white. It’s much sweeter than red beetroot, and not as earthy.

Detroit Dark Red is popular and reliable. Bulls Blood is one of the deepest red varieties you can grow.

Cylindra is dark purplish red and cylindrical, ideal for preserving.

Golden Globe produces glorious golden yellow round roots.

Crosby Egyptian is a deep red variety with an unusual flattened shape.

GROWING TIPS

◦ Beetroot can be grown almost all year round, except during the cold midwinter months.

◦ Beetroot plants like fertile, well-drained soil and consistent water. This encourages them to grow fast so the roots remain sweet and tender. Unlike most other root crops, they don’t mind being transplanted, provided the seedlings are small and keep moist during the process.

◦ They can also be sown in situ. The seed looks like a clump – it’s actually a seed cluster containing a few seeds.

◦ Once they germinate, they need to be thinned out to one plant, leaving enough space for the rest to develop healthy roots. They can be left to grow in clusters, providing they have enough space to spread out. The bright green and red baby leaves and shoots of the thinnings are delicious as microgreens.

◦ They don’t like competition from weeds, so control this by mulching.

◦  Beetroot grows well with beans, lettuce and most greens, as well as any members of the brassica family. It’s a good soil improver and addition to compost, as the leaves contain high levels of magnesium and other elements.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

◦ Add a slow-release 2:3:2 organic fertiliser such as Talborne Vita-Grow when planting and top dress with

◦ Vita-Green (5:1:5) when they are about six weeks old.

◦  They don’t like dry weather and need regular moisture otherwise they can become stringy and tough. On the flip side, too much rain can also damage them. If it’s too wet, lift them before they rot, even if they’re small.

◦  Cutworms, birds, slugs and snails will all try and nibble your beetroot, especially when young, so protect them accordingly.

HARVESTING AND COOKING

Beetroot will be ready to harvest six to nine weeks after sowing. When harvesting, twist the leaves off immediately, otherwise they’ll continue to pull nutrients out of the roots. Baby leaves can be snipped off a few at a time and added to salads, and larger leaves used in stir-fries, stews and soups. As long as sufficient leaves remain to feed the plant, you will still be able to harvest the root.

Beetroot is tasty at all stages – from raw and crunchy, to being roasted until its flavours caramelise into something completely different. Although most recipes call for beetroot to be peeled,

I often don’t peel the small home-grown ones, as they’re so tender.

When cooking red beetroot, leave about 2–3cm of the stem attached to prevent it from leaching its colour. Cook them first (steam or roast) then peel the skin off (use gloves to prevent your hands being stained red). Yellow, white, and orange beets have a milder, nuttier flavour. Roast them with other veggies as they don’t stain everything red.

The roots contain significant amounts of vitamin C and the leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A. They’re also high in fibre and antioxidants. Beetroot is among the sweetest of vegetables, containing more sugar than even carrots or sweetcorn.

SAVING SEED

Beetroot will go to seed in hotter weather, forming tall spires with pointed heads that develop into clusters of seeds. Leave these to mature and dry on the plant and then harvest the stalk. Dry seed is easily rubbed off the stems. It’s wind pollinated, and unless isolated or bagged, will cross-pollinate.

Hot Stuff Horseradish

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 14th, 2020

For more than three centuries horseradish has been used for everything from relieving back pain to an aphrodisiac. It’s a perennial member of the mustard family and both the roots and leaves are edible.

Planting pointers

Horseradish grows best in moist, well-drained soil, in full sun to dappled shade. It can be invasive if left unharvested. After harvesting, leave a few roots in the ground for next spring. In frosty areas, the leaves will die back during winter but new shoots will come up in spring.

Growing tips

Grow in spring from seedlings or fresh root. Choose a piece of root about 20cm long and about as thick as a pencil. Bury it at an angle with the narrow end 10cm deep and the thicker end 5cm below the surface. Keep it well watered until shoots appear. Leave it for the first season to build up its root system. Once big enough, it will spread its roots underground and new shoots will start sprouting around the base of the plant.

Harvesting and cooking

Harvest the roots in early winter or after the first frosts (as this makes the roots tastier) and process as soon as possible. These roots make a far stronger horseradish sauce than any commercial varieties. Pick young leaves for salads and stir-fries.

Horseradish sauce  

Be warned: fresh horseradish is potent! The first time I made horseradish sauce it felt like I’d been attacked by mustard gas. When you harvest roots they smell earthy but, tucked away in their cell walls are isothiocynates. These form part of the plant’s defence mechanism – as soon as an insect bites into a root, enzymes release this volatile pungent oil. And the same thing happens when we cut or process the roots. The enzymes continue to release hot vapours until vinegar is added, as vinegar stops the enzymes in their tracks.  If you want really hot sauce, leave the processed horse radish for a longer time and if you want milder, add the vinegar earlier  

Method
  1. Scrub roots well and peel thicker ones. Do this under running water to prevent weeping!
  2. Cut into chunks and then blend in a food processor until it reaches the texture you prefer (I like slightly chunky sauce).
  3. For every 3 tablespoons of horseradish add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a good pinch of salt.
  4. Decent into sterilised bottles, seal and store in the fridge for up to six months.
  5. For a creamier sauce blend three tablespoons chopped fresh horseradish with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon chopped chives  

Tip

Add slices of horseradish to a bottle of vodka. This preserves it and makes great flavoured vodka – perfect for a Bloody Mary.

Yoghurt making tips.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 7th, 2020
Humans have been making yoghurt for thousands of years – probably since they discovered that milk fermented while being carried in bags on the backs of camels.

Yoghurt is simple to make – but there are are few tips to making really smooth thick yoghurt.

* Heat 2 litres of full cream milk very slowly until it reaches 90°C (If you heat it too quickly the yoghurt will be grainy.)

* If you want thick yoghurt, hold it at 90°C for ten minutes. When casein (protein) in milk is exposed to the lactic acid created by culturing, it unravels and forms a 3D net, thickening the yoghurt. By heating the milk, another protein (lactoglobulin) is denatured, enabling it to connect to the 3D net, making the yoghurt thicker. The extended heat denatures most of the lactoglobulin.

* Remove from the heat and cool to 40°C.

* Mix the milk with a good few dollops of plain yoghurt (one with lactobacillus bacteria, not gelatine!).

* Keep in a warm spot overnight in a cooler box or an oven when you have finished cooking. If you have a slow cooker or a pressure cooker that doubles as a slow cooker they are very efficient.

Turkish Pea, Yoghurt & Chicken Soup.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 5th, 2020
I would never have thought of cooking yoghurt in a soup but when my Turkish step-mother-in-law, Sevim, made a version of this for us, I discovered how delicious it is.
This is very easy to adapt to a vegetarian soup – use vegetable stock and omit the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup long grain rice
  • 1 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • Quarter roast chicken
  • 1 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups thick yoghurt
  • Handful pine nuts
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs dried mint
  • 1 Tbs pul biber
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

    Rinse the rice and cook in a cup of the stock until very soft.
    In another pot bring the remainder of the stock to a boil, add the chicken, cover and simmer until the chicken falls off the bone.
    Cook the peas and mint in salted water until just cooked. Drain and purée. Set aside
    Remove the chicken from the broth and shred chicken flesh off.
    Mix the beaten egg and flour together. Add the yoghurt and mix well. Scoop out a couple of spoons of the broth and mix into the yoghurt mixture, stirring it in well.
    Add yoghurt mix to the broth in a slow stream, stirring.
    Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
    Add the shredded chicken and simmer for further 5 minutes.
    Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Roast pine nuts in a cast iron pan, set aside
    Melt butter in same pan until browned. Pour onto a bowl and stir in mint and pul biber.
    To serve, spoon soup into a bowl, swirl the pea purée through it and top with pine nuts. Drizzle with butter. Eat with crusty olive bread.

CITRUS in Small Spaces

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 5th, 2020

Evergreen and healthy, citrus trees are ideal for small city gardens. Self-fertile, so you only need one, they can be grown in containers or pruned to suit any space. Although they prefer temperate climates, many varieties survive mild frosts if protected when young.

VARIETIES

Lemons


Meyer (thin skin with juicy, dark-yellow flesh; moderate to heavy frost)


and Variegated Eureka (juicy with pinkish flesh; mild frost) both grow to 3x3m.


Rough Skin (tough, easy to grow and hardy) grows to 5m but it takes well to shaping.


Limoneira (large oval elongated fruit with a smooth rind) grows to 5x4m but can be pruned smaller. Very productive.

Limes


Sweet Lime (low acid and mildly sweet flesh; very light frost)


and West Indian Lime (strong flavour and more acidic; frost sensitive) are compact varieties growing 2x2m.


Asian Lime (distinctive double leaves with a very aromatic flavour used in cooking; light frost) is even smaller at 2×1.5m.

Naartjies


Most varieties grow to 3x3m but can be shaped.

Satsuma (sweet tangy fruit; moderate frost) is one of the easiest to grow.

Kumquat


has small oval fruit, with sweet skins and sour flesh, ideal in preserves. It tolerates moderate frost and grows to 2x2m.

Calamondin


Both normal and variegated varieties are small at 1mx75cm. Tolerant of moderate frost, they produce small juicy fruit, lovely in preserves or liqueurs.

Orange



Cara Cara (almost thornless with pink, sweet, tangy fruit; moderate frost) grows to 3x3m.

Grapefruit



Both Star Ruby (ruby red flesh and great flavour)


and Jackson (creamy, sweet, juicy flesh) grow to 3x3m. Both frost sensitive.

GROWING & MAINTENANCE

Citrus trees need fertile, well-drained soil, full sun and regular water – more in spring and summer and less in autumn and winter. A sign of too much water is yellowing leaves dropping. Remove fruit in the first year so it puts its energy into getting established. Feed with Talborne Organics Vita-Grow 2:3:2 once a year for root conditioning, followed by Vita Fruit & Flower 3:1:5 every four months, preferably, April, August and December.. Keep well mulched to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Feverfew, lemon balm, tansy and yarrow are all good companions.

GROWING IN CONTAINERS


An excellent option for small gardens, verandahs or patios as all citrus trees do very well in containers – as long as they are fed and watered regularly.
Container tips:
• Use the largest container you can.
• Citrus need a well-draining medium. Use a mixture of compost, vermiculite and cocopeat. In the top third, include a slow release organic fertiliser such as Talborne Organics Vita Fruit and Flower.
• They don’t like being too wet as they are susceptible to root rot, so keep the soil slightly on the dry side – monitor regularly and don’t let the roots dry out completely.
• Regularly pinch off new shoots to encourage a compact bushy shape.

PRUNING



Citrus trees need pruning to remove weak, broken or dead branches and spindly growth. Prune when needed after they have finished bearing. Aim for a well balanced framework of larger branches with an open centre for light and air flow.

SHAPING

Citrus trees take well to shaping – a good option for small gardens as they can be trained to fit a custom space. Prune into the rough shape when young so it grows into a dense form.
• Follow the Italian example of training lemons to grow up over a pergola to form a shady roof for a courtyard.

• Train citrus to grow up a trellis to create a screen in the garden.

• Shape citrus into hedges – this works well next to a pathway in a small garden as the top can be left to fill out above the pathway.

DISEASES & PESTS


Aphids: organic insecticidal oil
Black spot: organic fungicide
Codling moth: sticky trap with a lure
Citrus psylla :organic pyrol spray

HARVESTING & USING


Fruit can take six to eight months to ripen to full size and colour. Undamaged fruit will store for several weeks in the fridge. All parts of citrus fruits are edible, creating a wide variety of options from marmalade, preserves or juicing, to candied peels and zest. Citrus pips, particularly lemon, are full of pectin, which makes jam and jellies jell. And of course, a gin and tonic is not ready to drink unless it has a slice of lemon in it.

TIPS FOR HAPPY TREES

• Producing fruit requires plenty of energy – if a tree is struggling, strip the fruit off so it can put its energy towards recovering.
• Don’t worry if leaves go yellowish in winter – it’s a sign of them not enjoying the cold.
• Practice good sanitation by removing fallen fruit. This helps to prevent disease spreading or pests breeding.
• Feed, feed and feed – citrus are hungry trees and benefit from plenty of nutrition.