My first post on this blog was about growing garlic on my terrace. This year’s garlic crop has moved to a green and gold planter box in my tiny courtyard.
Green and gold planter box
Mark has been working on the courtyard for a few months – it measures approximately 90cm by 300cm. Not a lot of space but now that it is paved with recycled bricks and some shelves have been put up, I will be filling it with herbs and other small edible plants that will fit either in some colorful milk crates or on the narrow shelves that have been built. It is more protected than the very sunny terrace and it will hopefully allow edible plants to thrive. I am excited about finally putting the minimal space of the courtyard to good use!
Garlic and tuscan cabbage, just sprouted
In the meantime, the garlic, which I planted 3 weeks ago, is doing very nicely. 12 of the 13 cloves I planted have sprouted – maybe the 13th one just didn’t like being number 13 so refused to grow. The Tuscan cabbage (cavolo nero) I planted in the planter box next to the garlic has also sprouted. The worm castings solution from the worm farm that lives in the garage is clearly doing its job and giving the garlic and cabbage all the right nutrients to thrive.
The colours of the planter box – again made of recycled wood – are the green and gold of Australian sporting teams that play internationally. That is not a deliberate patriotic move…. I wanted bright colours and this is what paint we had in the garage. However it coincidentally fits in with the up and coming July 2012 Olympic games so maybe I was being subliminally patriotic.
I am hoping I have inherited some of my late father’s and his ancestors gardening prowess and that the courtyard will flourish to become a wall of green by summer at the end of the year. Right now I am enjoying looking at the green and gold box and the patterned pavement bricks as I type.
Recycled bricks in the courtyard
I love Melbourne for many reasons. One of them is the weekly community farmer’s markets that are held in various spots close to the city. This weekend the monthly Slow Food Market was held at the Abbottsford Convent.
Garlic plaits at the market
The founder of the slow food movement is an Italian, Carlo Petrini, who aspired to counteract the fast pace of life and ensure old traditions relating to food and its provenance were not lost. There is a slow food convivium in Melbourne, which has close ties to the Slow Food Market at the Convent. The Slow Food Market is probably my favourite of all the community markets and it is in a gorgeous location. Click here to read more about the community farmer’s markets in Melbourne.
It was a hot windy day yesterday at the market. There were probably fewer farmers and food maker stalls than usual, however the array of late summer fruit and vegetables from local farmers was still amazing. As usual, I managed to buy more vegetables than my husband Mark and I could ever eat! I can’t resist beautiful looking vegetables. I bought colourful heirloom carrots, grandfather tomatoes (each weighing over half a kilo!), a box containing 3 different types of plums, “Bullseye” beetroot (an heirloom variety originally from the Italian town of Chioggia on the Adriatic coast and known as Italian Chioggia) and a gorgeous string of garlic. My father used to make strings (or plaits) with his garlic, and give my sister and I one each one for Christmas presents. You might think a plait of garlic is not a great present, but this was no ordinary garlic; it was fragrant, purple headed garlic that had been organically fertilised all winter. There were about 20 heads on each plait, enough to see me through most of winter. I hope the garlic I bought today at the Slow Food Market is almost as good as my father’s.
Little green padrons
My favourite and most prized market purchase today was my padron peppers. These green babies are undoubtably my new found love (mio amore). I discovered these gorgeous little peppers at last month’s Slow Food Market. The man I bought them from suggested a simple way to cook them – in a sandwich press. I look his advice and they were so tasty and so easy. I looked around the Victoria Market a few times for them but couldn’t find any – most vendors didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. So I was ecstatic to find them again at the Slow Food Market. Padrons are originally from north west Spain and every tenth pepper is fiery hot. They are delicious and super easy to cook. I am sure you will love them and you will probably be fighting me off at the local farmer’s market for padrons in the next few weeks!
Here is the recipe that the man at the Slow Food Market gave me.
I had bought around 20 padrons so that we could eat 10 each and if averages are correct, get one fiery one each. To cook the Padron peppers, turn on your sandwich press (if you don’t have one, use a small non stick fry pan). When the plate/pan is warm, throw in the washed padron peppers. Cook for a few minutes until soft. If using a pan, shake it to turn them over so they brown slightly on all sides and soften. Place on a warmed serving plate. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and scatter some sea salt. You can use aioli as a dipping sauce if you like (click here for aioli recipe), or just serve them on their own. Make sure you have a glass of chilled Prosecco or a nice cold beer, like Birra Peroni with them (this way you can cool your mouth if you get a fiery one – I actually got 4 out of the ten I ate!).
Living in an apartment with a terrace in the inner city is a joy for many reasons. There is one dilemma – the edible garden. There is a tiny community garden on the nature strip close by that is lush, green and from which I occasionally pinch some sage. However there is nothing like having a few items on your terrace that you can gather mid cooking and impress your friends (or just yourself) with “this was growing 30 minutes ago”.
This year I planted garlic for the first time. Garlic seemed to be the right thing to plant. I put garlic in practically everything. Last year for Christmas my father gave my sister and I each a plait of garlic (the leaves are plaited and heads emerge at the end) from his garden. Even though he is 90 years of age, he is still an avid gardener. He wisely told me to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day of the year. He gets his love of gardening from his nonna (probably born in around 1870), who had a huge garden filled with beans, artichokes, tomatoes, parsley and of course garlic, in Pola (Italy back then, now Croatia), near the famous arena from Roman times.
Armed with ancient garlic growing knowledge, and not to be daunted by my 4m x 4m terrace, I set about planting garlic in June. My husband Mark made a planter box out of recycled wood; I lined it with pond liner (which I had perforated for drainage) and filled it with soil rich in worm castings. I planted 16 bulbs. “Make sure it doesn’t get too much water” my father warned me.
Harvest time in December yielded 5 tiny heads of garlic. They were very tasty though I would have hoped for more! I blame the excessive Melbourne rain and the poor drainage (I need to re-think the pond liner or perforate it more perhaps). The largest head had 4 separate and fragrant cloves and the whole lot went into a rather delicious chicken and pork terrine I made for Christmas lunch.
Next year I am hoping the ancient wisdom from my nonna-bis (great grandmother) in Pola will guide me to harvest 16 beautiful heads of garlic grown on my inner city terrace!