11 February 2008

It's not easy being green

I had a lovely day yesterday working away quietly in my home. Hanno was up on the roof cleaning 10 years worth of dirt off with Jens' pressure cleaner hose and as he stayed up there most of the day, I think he enjoyed every minute of it. I started off my day watching the end of a DVD one of the ladies here sent me. It was the BBC program It's Not Easy Being Green - 2 DVDs, eight programs. It's the true story of an English family who moved from a city to a small village in Cornwall on the road to a greener life. We started watching it the night before and I very really keen to see their progression from normal suburban family life to being self sufficient in water, electricity, biodiesel and much of their food. What a wonderful program! They installed a water wheel, solar and wind power, used water from their own spring, grew organic vegetables and kept pigs and chickens. None of which they'd done before. Their website is here with recipes, a great forum and lots of info.

I did the ironing when I finished watching and thought about that family while I worked. They were quite inspiring and when the DVD ended they were starting to conduct school groups through their farm to teach children the importance of a green lifestyle. That part is significant, I think. It's not just the doing of it, we have to be showing others what is possible and how we can all play a part, even if that part is small.

Our garden is looking pretty grim at the moment. Most of the garden beds are empty or just hold the last sad remnants of our summer garden. I cut into our last pumpkin yesterday, we are eating store bought tomatoes again and bitter, tasteless lettuces from the market. I even bought canned tomatoes to make some tomato and chilli relish! I usually have enough tomatoes to make sauce, whole tomatoes in jars and lots of relish but this summer's rain knocked the tomatoes on the head early in the season and we scraped by with fresh tomatoes for a short time and then started buying them from the store. I really dislike buying tomatoes because they are invariably perfect looking but lack taste. Nothing beats the fresh organic vegetables we grow in our backyard.

I started planting seeds yesterday afternoon. So far I have a tray of Siberian kale, a short bush variety of cucumber, zucchinis, pink farmstyle pumpkin - the seeds from a local friend, and sugarloaf cabbage. I'll go to Green Harvest during the week and see what goodies they have for the new season, and to the green grocer for organic potatoes to plant. I hope they have Dutch Creams as I fancy a garden bed full of them.

This is the recipe for the tomato and chilli relish:
  • 6 chillies, chopped finely - the type you choose will determine how hot the relish is
  • 1 large onion - finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 150 mls white vinegar
  • 1 kg (2.2lbs) tomatoes - I used canned tomatoes, chopped finely
  • large piece of fresh ginger - chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds

Sweat the onion and chilli in the oil, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until it comes to the boil and then simmer very slowly until it reduces in volume to give you a thick mix. It will thicken up more when it's cold. If you like a very thick relish, you can add a small amount of cornflour (2 tablespoons mixed in a little water) to the relish to thicken it. Make sure you cook it another minute after adding the cornflour.

Add the relish to clean hot jars. We will eat our three jars of relish in 4 or 5 weeks, so I didn't bother processing it. If I wanted to keep it in the stockpile cupboard for a few months, I would have added water to a large saucepan, placed a folded up tea towel on the bottom of the saucepan for the jars to rest on, carefully placed the jars in the water, made sure the water was over the top of the jars then brought the saucepan to the boil with the lid on. I would have kept the water on the boil for 45 minutes, then removed the jars to sit on the bench until they were cool enough to put in the cupboard. But my relish is now in the fridge and Hanno has already eaten about a quarter of one jar. It won't last long.

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