It was a long weekend here in South Australia, which means an extra day for – you guessed it – gardening!
I did a few little jobs on Sunday: feeding my fruit trees with an organic fruit and citrus blend, and then watering them heavily, and picking the last of our zucchini, and some eggplant ready for brinjal pickle. We have had a very dry Summer, and the trees required some extra food and water to get them through until the rain comes (and who knows when that will be?).
I picked just over a kilogram of eggplants. We have at least another five or six coming on, thanks to a late flush of Summer heat. We are growing a standard Black Beauty eggplant this year. I have tried growing an heirloom variety from Diggers called Listada di Gandia, but as with the San Marzano tomatoes, I planted the seed too late and only one of the plants is doing well. If I end up with one or two fruit from this one plant, I will be very happy. It’s a shame; I was looking forward to the beautiful purple and white striped fruit.
That being said, the Black Beauty has been prolific, with no pest problems. Seed catalogues and plant guides say to expect 4-6 fruit per plant, but our best plant has produced at least double this. We have four healthy plants and have eaten the fruit curried, in pasta, barbecued on skewers with haloumi, and as a layered ‘lasagne’ style with ricotta and yoghurt sauce. This time we have decided to make brinjal pickle, our favourite Indian condiment.
Brinjal is just the name that eggplant or aubergine is known by in South East Asia. The pickle is of Goan origin.
Having never made it before, I just found a recipe online that looked simple enough. My husband and I started it on Sunday, by chopping and salting the eggplant, and leaving to drain overnight. Then this morning after breakfast, we got to work. I recommend the recipe linked above, as it smelled amazing and was so easy that even our daughter helped out.
Then it was out to the backyard to remove the spent zucchini plants, dismantle the bean tripods, stripping off the dried bean pods to save for next year, and pick the last of the fresh beans for dinner. I also tied up the tomatoes again. The San Marzano I planted late seem unlikely to produce the huge harvest I was wishing for, but they will yield some fruit and we may end up with tomatoes for fresh pasta sauce for a few meals at least.
Once we removed the spent zucchini vines (discovering one last, giant zucchini under a leaf!), we assessed our pumpkin situation. We are growing Butternuts (I say “growing”, but that implies both effort and intent – these self-seeded and we have let them go their own way), Kent (in Australia also known as ‘Jap’), and Lakota. The Lakota is struggling, and I would probably not grow it again. The winner by far has been the Kent.
I saved the seeds from a Kent pumpkin I bought at the supermarket last year. Normally I roast pumpkin seeds (my family love them as a snack when roasted with olive oil and salt), but I managed to snaffle some away for the garden. I was not sure if they would grow, but they turned out to be very successful. When we pick this pumpkin this afternoon, I will make sure to save some of the seeds for next year. The huge vine is still producing baby pumpkins, and I expect to leave the plant in the ground for another six weeks at least.
We took a break and had a chat with our neighbour over the fence. He is a very keen gardener, and gave me the Giant Russian Sunflower seeds that were so successful this Summer. He did not have a lot of luck with his sunflowers this year, so we gave him a head of seeds from our collection drying on the shed roof. He has pigeons, chickens, and parrots, so was pretty happy to receive it. He also discovered a giant zucchini in his patch, so we had a good laugh comparing our finds. We will save the seed and swap. He is always experimenting with different gardening methods and soil mixes, and we spent a pleasant half an hour discussing soil, plans for garlic crops, and our successful plantings for the Summer. Best of all, he promised me a bag of pigeon poo from his aviary (pigeon poo is the king of compost activators). One of my favourite things about gardening is that it creates great relationships between gardeners.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent weeding, tidying up, and feeding the tomatoes, capsicum, and eggplant with a liquid blend of organic fish emulsion fertiliser, epsom salts, and seaweed tonic.
An occasional feeding of epsom salts is good for tomatoes. The high magnesium helps to ‘sweeten’ tomatoes in the fruiting stage. It also helps to prevent blossom end rot.
A perfect, sunshiny day of gardening finished with a delicious meal of five-spice roasted pork served with stir-fried beans and maple-roasted pumpkin from the garden. Doesn’t get much better than that, really.