So you've grown broccoli, but how do you eat it? Here's the place to:
I've got loads of parsley and lemons in my early spring garden. A great way to use them is in Gremolata
Gremolata is an Italian recipe: mix finely chopped parsley, minced garlic and lemon zest (skin). Toss through boiled, steamed or microwaved vegetables or sprinkle over casseroles for a
healthy sweet-salty flavour burst.
* Parsley - either flat or curly (see photo) can be grown year round. Save seed from a healthy plant, and stagger the plants. Parsley is rich in calcium.
* Peak production for lemons and other citrus trees is in winter, but established trees fruit for much of the year. Young trees need protection from frosts but they are well worth the investment.
Surplus juice can be frozen. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, great for keeping winter colds at bay.
* Garlic can be grown year round, but it is traditionally planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day. It is then
stored in a dry airy place.
People wanted the full-of-flavour basil pesto recipe after tasting it at the first WIC meeting, so here it is…
1/2 cup nuts 4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups fresh basil leaves 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil Pinch of salt and pepper
Toast the nuts in a hot dry pan until they turn golden, watching all the time. It only takes a few minutes.
Blend the nuts, garlic, basil and cheese in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Gradually add the oil in a thin stream then the salt and pepper.
Store in a clean airtight jar, covered with a thin layer of oil. It will store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks, or can be frozen for several months.
Grow: Garlic, basil, nuts and even olives grow in the Waikato! Traditionally pine nuts are used, but cashews or walnuts also work well.
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is frost tender but can be grown inside in pots in winter. For longer cropping start it in seed trays in August, plant it outside October-January. It likes soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C.
Uses: Popular in Italian cooking. Use pesto as a dip or on bread instead of butter. Tomatoes taste delicious with basil pesto - use it in a salad dressing, on top of baked tomatoes, or with baked beans. Try a spoonful on a baked potato or tossed through steamed vegetables. For a quick meal toss pesto through cooked pasta with cooked chicken or bacon, onion, and baby tomatoes, serve with a salad.
Parsley Pesto...as above but use walnuts instead of pine nuts and parsley instead of basil. delicious!
Remove the large beans from the shell, Small shells that havent grown yet can be chopped into bit size. mash a clove of garlic Boil enough water to cover beans in a small pot, add beans cook 2 minutes, drain. Get a frying pan med heat, melt a tablespoon (large thumb size blob) of butter add beans and garlic for 1 minute at the most. Plate and eat
Foraging is about finding free, often wild, food. It is a great chance to take the family walking with a purpose.
There are some food plants growing in public parks: it is illegal to take food from Hamilton Gardens on Cobham Drive or any of the formal council garden beds, but you are welcome to forage in other Council public parks, where there are often nuts (especially chestnuts) and some fruits.
For example, loquat season just starting here in Hamilton (the birds have started on them, so they must be ripe! - see photo). The fruit are a light orange colour when ripe. There are several trees next to the bridge in Bridge Street, bottom of Victoria St, Hamilton City. Yum - but wash the fruit thoroughly first!
Loquat fruit go brown very quickly when the skin is broken, so if you are not eating them immediately put them in water with a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of vinegar. They are delicious eaten fresh, they can be cooked like peaches, or put a few in a stew to add a little natural sweetness.
If you are in any doubt of a plant's identity, don't eat it!
Don't forage where plants might have been sprayed with herbicide or in polluted places.
Don't forage on private land without getting permission from the owner first.
Do you know of any good foraging spots in Hamilton? Let other WIC members know by replying to this post...
Take only what you need for your household and definitely no more than half the ripe crop so that others will get a share.
As I said above, we are working on a list of trees where you can forage food with HCC and some volunteers. Here are a few sites to get you started:
Walnuts: (see photo) They are starting to drop now. There is a large tree Jesmond Park on the eastern side of Claudelands Bridge at the end of Opoia Road. The tree is amongst the bushes near the edge of the river: go in a group and watch your children carefully!
Chestnuts: There are many chestnut trees around Hamilton, usually ready around the 7th April (Easter this year). Here are two locations:
Cooking with Chestnuts
Nourish magazine has information about how to prepare your foraged chestnuts and a recipe for Chestnut & Bacon soup on their web site at the moment, see http://www.nourishmagazine.co.nz/25/chestnut-bacon-soup/
The NZ Vegetables site has a winter salad recipe for Brussels sprouts with Chestnuts and Pumpkin - see http://www.vegetables.co.nz/chefs/food-service/fresh-inspiration04/... (Brussels Sprouts are a type of brassica, ie same family as cabbages, which need lots of chilling to do well so they grow better in Tokoroa than in Hamilton).
Chestnuts are high in protein, so are a good alternative to meat in vegetarian meals.
Chestnuts do not keep well: try to use them when fresh, or peel and freeze them for future use.
They can be used in many different ways: roasted whole, chopped into stuffings, ground into flour, etc. In England they are often eaten as part of the Christmas meal in winter, eg cooked with brussel sprouts. They can also be eaten raw, but not everyone likes the taste.
If you are dry roasting them in a fire or in the oven, keep them in the shells but pierce the shell with a knife first: I can tell you from personal experience that if you don't pierce the shell they will explode!!
Chestnuts are popular in China and are an important food in northern Spain, among many other countries.
A Burmese garden member and some of the Iranian community have been harvesting the leaves of the Wild Turnip (Brassica rapa ssp sylvestris) which is seen by most kiwis as a weed because it grows wild here (see photo, taken at the Grandview Community Garden).
The groups have been harvesting its leaves - the root is not fat.
The leaves are can be quickly steamed, stir fried, pickled or eaten raw in salads (like the autumn turnip salad we made after visiting the HCC Kitchen Garden). You could use the flowers in salads. The seeds could be dried and used a bit like mustard.
The plant is a brassica, so is related to turnips, radishes, cabbages, mustard, etc. It often grows on vacant sections and in weedy areas.
There is a Wild Foods and Foraging - NZ Facebook page with helpful photographs, information, etc.
One of the contributors is Michael Daly, author of Find it, Eat it: cooking foraged food gathered around New Zealand. (You can borrow a copy from your local public library - Hamilton City Libraries, South Waikato Libraries, etc.)
One of our NZ traditions at this time of year is fruit cake, baked slowly at a low temperature in the bottom of the oven. It uses dried fruits. I'll be publishing one of my favourite recipes for fruit cake in the next newsletter. The one in the photograph is decorated with locally grown walnut halves.
Most people bake their fruit cakes in tins, but you can bake them in untreated wooden boxes.
It occurs to me that the (free) pallet off-cuts you produce when you are building your next compost bin could be turned into one of these!