Summer Garden

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Each season this year I want to share our experiences in the garden. How much of our fruit, herbs and vegetables can we grow ourselves I wonder? Can we learn to eat within the season, with what grows best here in the heat or cool of the months that pass? What an exciting and daunting prospect for the novice-vegetable-grower that I am. The past four months we've been on the farm (and blessed with the space and opportunity to garden) I have been busy thinking, reading, experimenting with keeping a worm farm, composting, saving seed, raising seedlings, cooking and preserving the harvest, connecting with other growers in the community, involving the kids in the process too. I am learning to cultivate and grow in myself self-discipline, planning and patience - because the process and rewards are so satisfying. There is nothing quite like helping a corn stalk grow so that you can savour it with your loved ones: fresh raw cobs so juicy and sweet on the tongue.

Over the last month I've been drafting this summer garden update. I get ready to post then events unfold, or we get our hands busy, then the scene has changed and more has grown or finished for the season. Above are photos of our plants growing, vegetables picked, quiche made... you can see Reuben and I among the lush green of the poly tunnel, our hands clutching french beans, sweet corn. Truly a feast for the senses and the product of much hard work from us (and the plants). This past week has been challenging though - the weather has been extreme and at times unrelenting in heat and wind.

About a week ago we had such strong winds the steel pole frame of the poly tunnel snapped from their joints and in a matter of minutes became mangled and bend beyond repair. We slashed the plastic too late and what remains is a sad reminder of the power of nature. Flaws in the design (height, strength) would inevitably show themselves, it's just a pity it had to happen this way. The plants are alive, though wind beaten. It's now a battle between me and the late afternoon birds who want to get at the just-ripening tomatoes. I don't know what the future of this site will be, though I will move ahead as much as I can with the late summer and autumn planting. I have trays of seedlings waiting to be sown once the weather cools down and space is made - we shall wait and see!

harvesting: kale, silver beet, rainbow chard, lettuce, chicory, nasturtium flowers, zucchinis, cucumbers, beetroot, parsley, chives, basil, sugar snap peas, french beans, sweet corn, tomatoes (just beginning), eggplant

growing: capsicums, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, spaghetti squash butternut + jap pumpkins, english spinach, heirloom carrots, celery, potatoes, sunflowers

in the orchard: recently had a harvest of white peaches and apricots, watching the nashi pears, apples and pomegranates swelling for autumn…

raising seedlings: celeriac, brussels sprouts, fennel bulb, radishes, endives, asian greens, coriander, dill, nasturtiums, cabbage, sprouting broccoli, sweet peas, sugar snap peas,

reading:The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round, Wild Fermentation: The flavour, nutrition and craft of live-culture foods, Nourishing Traditions, Allsun Farm polytunnel growing notes...

preparing: salads with nasturtium flowers, cold zucchini and lettuce soup, chicken and corn salad, rainbow chard quiche (recipe below), herby mayonnaise

preserving: basil pesto, nasturtium pod capers, peach and apricot chutney, green tomato chutney, pickled cucumbers, lacto-fermneted vegetable relish

- Rainbow Chard + Bacon Quiche -

1 tablespoon butter 1 brown onion 2 rashers of bacon, chopped (with fat) 8 eggs 1 cup pure cream 1 cup grated cheddar cheese handful of fresh chives, chopped finely handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely bunch of rainbow chard - washed - you need 2 cups chopped leaves and enough rainbow stalks to top the quiche with. quantity of homemade pastry (I make Maggie Beer's Gluten Free Puff Pastry because I'm Coeliac)

Preheat oven to 170'c. In a pan melt butter and sauté onions for around 5 minutes on low heat or until onions are soft and slightly caramelised. Add bacon and stir till cooked. Stir in 2 cups of shredded chard leaves, remove from heat and cover (the steam will partially cook the chard).

Meanwhile in a bowl whisk together eggs, cream, cheese and herbs. Line a pie dish with baking paper and your desired pastry - you want the pastry to come up the sides of the dish as well. Blind bake for 15 minutes until golden. Scatter onions and bacon over the bottom of the pastry. Cover with eggy mixture and top with rainbow stalks into a striped pattern. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden and set to touch in the middle.

Cool and remove from pan. Enjoy with a crunchy salad. Makes a particularly lovely picnic lunch…