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.

One Dish Deliciousness

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the May 30th, 2020

I love making one bowl meals.

Tonight’s meal:

Coconut and Asian Lime Rice surrounded by:

Sweet Potato and Chilli Cashew Nut

Teriyaki Mushrooms and Sweetcorn

Stir-fried Bok Choy with garlic

Hoisin and Ginger Steak slices

Coconut and Asian Lime Rice

Mix half a cup of desiccated coconut and about five Asian lime leaves with one cup of Basmati rice. Add a pinch of salt and cook in a little more water than you normally would.

Hoisin and Ginger Steak slices

Season a thick-cut free-range rib-eye steak with salt and pepper. Leave to sit while you cook the sweet potato. Put hoisin sauce and chopped ginger into a small saucepan and simmer. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar to taste. Simmer until thickens.

Cook steak over medium-high heat in a cast iron pan, covered, turning once until it is cooked medium rare. Leave to rest, then slice and toss with the hoisin sauce.

Teriyaki Mushroom and Sweetcorn

Stir fry baby sweetcorn and mushrooms, toss with teriyaki sauce.

Sweet Potato and Chilli Cashew Nut

Slice sweet potato into small cubes and sauté until just browned. Add cashew nuts and continue until they are also browned and the sweet potato is tender. Add salt, crushed hot dry chilli and a good squeeze of lime.

Stir-fried Bok Choy with garlic

Stir-fry chopped garlic for about 30 seconds. Add roughly chopped bok choy and stir fry til just wilted.

Serve the rice in the middle of the bowl with the other ingredients around the sides. Sprinkle with chopped spring onion.

Quick & Delicious

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 31st, 2020

In summer, with the sun setting so late, I prefer not to spend hours cooking. After getting home from a dog walk, supper should be ready in about half an hour. Tonight’s meal took about that to prepare. Everything fresh from the garden.

* Sweetcorn fritters with curried yoghurt

* Zucchini salad with tomatoes, basil, feta and sprouts

* Sautéed eggplant slices

Grilled eggplant slices

* Slice a large eggplant and toss with flour and Herbes de Provence.

* Sauté on both sides in olive oil until browned on both sides and soft in the middle. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt.

Sweetcorn fritters with curried yoghurt

The trick to making light and fluffy fritters is to use chickpea flour. Wheat flour creates wetter, denser fritters.

I never follow exact proportions when making fritters. You are aiming for a wet mixture that just holds together enough to be picked up in a spoon and dolloped into the oil.

* Mix together: chopped jalapeño, sliced spring onions, cooked sweetcorn kernels, salt, pepper and curry powder to taste.

* Add chickpea flour and baking powder (approximately one teaspoon to one cup of flour) and mix.

* Mix together one egg and a little milk. Add it to the centre of the veg and stir to incorporate. Add more milk as required.

* Heat sunflower oil in a frying pan and drop in spoonfuls of the batter. Cook over medium heat until browned on one side. Turn and cook the other side.

Zucchini salad with tomatoes, basil, purple beans, feta and sprouts

* While the fritters are cooking, julienne the zucchini and toss with feta, cherry tomatoes, basil, chopped fresh purple beans and sprouts.

* Mix together and dress with olive oil and balsamic.

GROWING TURMERIC

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 27th, 2020

Turmeric isn’t just for adding flavour to food, it also benefits health and looks beautiful in the garden

It’s surprisingly easy to grow, however it requires a little patience. Here’s how to grow turmeric and how to use it.

PLANTING

In spring look for the freshest rhizomes you can find, preferably with a few sprouting buds (they look like small horns popping out of the skin). You can find fresh rhizomes at Indian spice shops, greengrocers such as Impala or selected Woolies and Checkers. Livingseeds sells fresh rhizomes in spring.

Turmeric likes fertile, well-drained soil, and although it thrives in hot weather, it doesn’t do well in full sun, preferring morning or filtered sun only. Wait until daytime temperatures are above 20°C before planting.

A few days before, cut the rhizomes into 5–8cm long pieces, making sure each one has at least two buds. Cutting them ahead of time allows the surfaces to dry, reducing the chance of disease. If you have small tubers, don’t cut them.

Plant the rhizome at an angle, with one side about 7cm deep, and the other just below the surface. Position it so that the growth buds point upwards. Cover with compost and press down firmly. Water well until the ground around the rhizome is soaked; keep it moist until the first green shoots appear – which can take anything from 20–45 days.

TIPS FOR GROWING TURMERIC

Turmeric grows about a metre high and has shiny green leaves. In fertile soil, it’ll need little more than a compost mulch after harvesting, and a side dressing of bonemeal and Talborne Organics Vita Grow (2:3:2) in spring.

For the first year, leave it to become established before harvesting. Look out for the exquisite flowers, which form at the base of the leaves in midsummer.

In late autumn it begins to die back and by the beginning of winter, the leaves will have turned brown and withered. Mulch well with compost and it’ll pop up again in late spring, as soon as the weather is warm enough.

It spreads by growing new rhizomes underground, forming large clumps above ground.

You can also grow turmeric in containers. Make sure that they are at least 30cm deep and don’t let the soil dry out.

PESTS AND DISEASES

In hot dry weather, spider mites can be a problem. Spraying with water mixed with garlic oil will sort them out. In very moist hot weather, fungal diseases can affect the leaves. Spray with 1 part milk to 4 parts water to prevent this.

HARVESTING

Once established, you can harvest pieces of root off the side of the plant throughout summer. In late autumn or early winter, once the leaves have died down, push a fork deep into the ground under a section of the plant and lift the rhizomes. Cut the stems off and place the rhizomes on a hessian sack. Give them a good wash with a hose on a high pressure setting, turning and rubbing to remove all the soil.

STORING

They’ll keep, refrigerated, for three to four weeks. If you need to keep them longer, cut into manageable pieces and freeze in an air-tight container. To make turmeric powder, cut rhizomes into slices and leave to dry before grinding in a spice or coffee grinder. Note: Fresh turmeric stains everything!

EATING AND USING TURMERIC

The roots, leaves and flowers are all edible. Aromatic roots add flavour to curries, marinades and rice.

Fresh turmeric root has a more intense taste than dried and isn’t as bitter. It contains plenty of curcumin, an effective anti-inflammatory. To obtain the maximum benefit, mix it with black pepper, as its active ingredient, piperine, aids the body’s digestion and absorption of curcumin. Warming turmeric and mixing it with fat also increases its efficacy. Add it to smoothies or warm milk with other spices.

The flowers give an exotic flourish to salads, and fresh leaves impart a subtle turmeric flavour if torn and added to curries and soups at the end of cooking. They go particularly well with coconut dishes. The leaves are also delicious as wraps for sticky rice buns, or as parcels for steamed fish.

Calculating mulch.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 20th, 2020

People often ask me how much mulch to add. It depends on what mulch you are using. Straw or leaves can be added a bit more thickly than compost for example, as they are looser.

If you are buying mulch in bulk and want to work out how many cubic meters you need here is the process:

1. First work out the square meterage by multiplying the length by the width of each your beds.

2. Then combine these to get a total.

3. If you have circular beds the maths is a bit more complicated:

  • Measure the radius of the circle (the distance from the center of the bed to the outer edge.)
  • Then multiply that number by itself. Then multiply the total by 3.14 (π):

R x R x 3.14 = square meterage of a circle.

4. If your beds are odd shapes, divide them into imaginary rectangles and circles and add up the totals.

Now decide how deep the mulch will be. If I’m using compost and leaves mixed together I make it about 10cm but with straw it can be 10-15cm.

Take your total square meterage (meters) and multiply it by the thickness (centimetres). Divide it by 100 to get the metre cubed amount you need to buy.

For example:

40m² x 10cm deep = 400cm³

400cm³ ÷ 100 = 4m³

If you are buying in bags:

Compost is sold in 30dm³. This is 30 cubic decimetres and 10 bags make up one cubic meter.

For 40²m you would need 40 bags.

Preserving Summer’s Goodness

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 10th, 2020

A dehydrator is an excellent tool for preserving summer’s abundance. Especially when you suddenly find a couple of baseball bat zucchinis skulking in the garden!

First step is to slice them evenly. A mandoline is essential.

Don’t cut them paper thin – they will get skinnier as they dry. About 3-4mm thick is good.

Next step is flavouring. The choice is up to you: lemon, salt and Mediterranean herbs; soy sauce and chilli powder; rice vinegar, mirin and soy sauce; apple cider vinegar, garlic and parsley – whatever you like. Don’t leave them in the marinade for long – five minutes will do the trick.

And then layer the slices in the dehydrator and dry until crisp. Store in an air tight bottle.

These can be eaten as snacks or added to soups and stews.

Yum!

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