5 December 2007

The summer garden

Every gardener needs an assistant, and I have Alice. She follows us around the garden and loves to eat fresh tomatoes and carrots, just picked. In the photo above, she was told to "sit", but she kept a sharp eye on me while I took photos. LOL She is behind the potatoes and in front of the tomatoes.

The garden is suffering from the neglect of the past two weeks. There are no major problems there but the general day to day business of removing dead leaves, collecting vegetables every afternoon and tidying up has made way for a busy week at my voluntary job and the kitchen renovations. Today we will put in the work to bring the garden back to being the productive patch we need and want it to be.

These purple heirloom eggplant well illustrate the lack of time spent out there over the past week. They're too big, turning green and would be terrible in a vegetable lasagna. The taste would still be there but they'd be rubbery and tough. I'll be using these for eggplant relish that I hope to make this afternoon. In a relish, all mashed up and combined with spices and onions, like most vegetables, they'll make a great relish and can be stored in the cupboard for eating later in the year. Waste not, want not.
They'll be followed by these little sweet eggplant that will be perfect for eating next week.
New eggplant are forming every day.
There is a wall of tomatoes out there too. I forget what type these are but they're one of the large heirlooms, possible beefsteak or mortgage lifter. The flowers are forming and soon I'll be able to tell with more certainty. One of my jobs today will be to tie these back as they're falling over themselves and are starting to grow along the ground. That's not good here as we do have problems with wilt.
We are also growing tomatoes in the aquaponics garden - there we have an heirloom dwarf red fig tomato and a couple of other smaller types. I intend preserving at least a dozen jars of tomato relish this year, recipe here. We enjoy that with salad, as a pizza base and on cheese sandwiches. I also hope to make up 10 or so jars of tomato sauce. The sauce I did last year matured to perfection and was a real treat on plain fresh pasta with a green salad.
I love the following photo. This is a Lebanese cucumber that has fallen from its trellis and is dribbling along the ground. You can see that at every leaf junction there is a sweet juicy cucumber forming. That's great news in itself, but I have at least 30 cucumbers in the fridge, so when I make the eggplant relish I'll also use most of those cucumbers for bread and butter cucumbers. It's one of my regulars and you'll find a post about them, and the recipe, here.
This is a better photo of the cucumber vines. They're mixed in happily with celery, eggplant and tomatoes.
These yellow zucchinis are growing well now. These are the first fruit. We'll eat these as zucchini flower fritters, zucchini omelettes and souffles.
You can never have enough lemons. Thankfully the tree is full again and will produce well for the next nine months. I'll use the lemons for drinks, desserts and in general cooking - I often add a dash of lemon juice.
The green beans are almost finished and we've been enjoying their bounty in bean salad for the past few weeks. I've also blanched and frozen a few kilos in small batches. The photo below shows them tangled in with the choko vine - the little yellow flowers are choko flowers, which is producing its first fruit this season, and the pigeon peas which are flowering well after being cut back after harvest two months ago.
So now I'll have breakfast and get out in the garden before it gets too hot.
Thanks to everyone who comes here to read. I love getting your feedback in comments and emails. There has been a big jump in readers this week, so hello and welcome to all the new folk. I hope you enjoy your time here.
I've been asked for the eggplant relish recipe, so here it is:
  • 2 large eggplant cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 red capsicum (pepper), chopped coarsley
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped and skinned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malt vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cut the eggplant into cubes, sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt over it and let it stand at least 30 minutes. After that time, rinse well under cold water to wash off the salt and allow to dry. This removes any bitterness from the older eggplants. Heat ¼ cup oil in a deep heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add dry eggplant and cook until tender and golden. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic and onions and cook until softened. Add celery, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes. Combine vinegar with sugar and add to vegetable mixture. Simmer uncovered for about 15 - 20 minutes or until mixture is thick and the flavors are well developed - add salt and pepper.
This will keep in the fridge, with no further processing, for about six weeks. To keep it longer, add the hot relish to warm clean jars, seal and place in a water bath. Bring to the boil and keep on 90 - 95C (194F) - 95C (203F) for 45 minutes. Remove jars from bath and allow to cool overnight before wiping and placing in the stockpile cupboard.


  1. Oh your garden is something to truly envy! Oh, I wish I had something like that! I miss fresh veggies from my garden.

  2. Could you post your eggplant relish? I am desperately looking for ways to use up eggplant? I have so many of the darned things.LOL.

  3. Your garden looks wonderful Rhonda, even without the daily maintenance. I am ringing to get quotes today on getting the ivy cleared form my back yard, so I too can make my patch of earth more productive.

  4. Your garden looks wonderful to me! I'm a new reader of your blog and find it very interesting. Can you tell me what gardening zone you are in? I'm in north American zone 5 (with a few sheltered spots which are probably 6, but it's obvious you are in a much warmer zone. I live in Bath Township, Ohio and have an acre and a half.
    Do you have those gardening zone numbers in Oz? I have some relatives in Adlelaide (sp?) and a good friend in Cairns who came from Tayree. (more spelling questions!) I am working on making life more simple for me and for the beautiful planet of my birth.

  5. oh Rhonda, I'm drooling, could you fed-ex some veg please??? everything looks very healthy, I have never grown eggplant and didn't realize they had such a pretty flower

  6. Oh how wonderful!

    I love your garden photos, Rhonda.

    The only vegies we are currently eating from the garden are zucchinis, but the rest are on their way. I am growing peppers, chillis, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes and beans in my summer garden.

    It's amazing what a little rain can do! Everything here looks so much better than it did a couple of weeks ago.


  7. What a beautiful garden Rhonda! I enjoy seeing the way you tend and keep it. What a great life you and H have made for yourselves. Blessings Pam Watts

  8. Rhonda Jean,
    Your garden is Beautiful! Makes me want to go out and play in the dirt.But,its wintertime here, so I will just have to enjoy your pics. for now.I grow Roma Tomatoes, their great for sauce also canning, when I can them I put sprigs of favorite herbs in the jar. I Love gardening and canning.:o)
    Happy Gardening!

  9. I have enjoyed it here so much! You are a great teacher! ( even if you are not trying to be! LOL )
    Thank you for all you teach me!


  10. RJ, I love the photos of the eggplant. Can you believe, I've never seen an eggplant growing in situ. They look so lovely. Do you ever make baba ganouj?

  11. So nice to see lush summer growth. Here everything is covered in a blanket of white. Forecast? 6-8inches!! :)

  12. Your garden is truly beautiful. I hope to try some container gardening and worm composting this spring. I really believe every little bit helps. As others have commented, we to have snow here today. It is our first snow of the year here in Maryland and my 5 year old is thrilled. The teenagers don't get excited unless school is cancelled ;)


  13. I love looking at your garden. As a beginner grow-your-own-foodist it spurs me onward and upward!

  14. Rhonda, I live in the USA in the state of Florida. We do not have any lemon trees in our yard sadly, but we do have one sour orange tree. I'm told they're the sort of oranges used in making marmalade. Do you have any other suggestions of how they could be used?

  15. They're called Seville oranges so just google that and you'll find a wide range of recipes. They make the best marmalade.


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