Monday, December 29, 2014

Let us collect lettuce seeds

I really used to lament over our hot dry Perth summers. Last year we had no summer crops because we were away for seven weeks and as we gardeners know, a good food garden needs daily attention so we just didn't bother. But this summer, so far has been fantastic. We have had a bumper tomato crop, heaps if apples, bananas, boysenberries, lettuce and lots of other veggies.

Our new wicking bed is crankin' and will hopefully keep us in greens for a while to come. But of course, as seasons flow, some crops finish.

One patch of lettuce bolted a couple of months ago and now it's time to collect the seed. If you're new to seed collecting, lettuce is a great one to start with. I've been saving these seeds, which I originally got from our good friend Ben, for several years. They are red cos lettuces.

So first if all you need to do is resist picking from your best lettuce plants. Just let three or four go to seed. They look like this with fluffy seed heads when they are ready to collect.

Once they flower, seed and dry you just take the seeds. So simple. I just roll the seed head in my fingers to loosed the seeds and let them fall into a container.

And there they are, all ready for my next crop which will be in a few weeks time. I'm really trying to keep the greens rolling this summer. I have to remember how lucky we are in Perth - with care, we can grow most veggies most of the year round.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How to cook and eat globe artichokes

November and December are a time of year we really look forward to. We have apples, boysenberries and my favourite vegetable, globe artichokes available from our garden. I rave about artichokes to people and so many say "But how do you cook and eat them?". Well, here's how my Dad showed me and it's delicious.

First, pick the artichoke when they're fairly big but before they start to flower. They flesh out lots as they grow but if you pick them too late they'll be too stringy and less tasty. Cut them just below the globe, leaving maybe 10mm of stork on.

Then boil them immersed in water for about an hour with the lid on. To test whether they're ready pick a petal from low down on the globe and taste it. This is done by putting the petal in between your top and bottom teeth and scraping off the flesh at the lower end of the petal. If it's still hard to chew it's not ready yet.

When it's nearly ready put some knobs of butter in small bowls and microwave until melted.

Remove the artichokes from the water when done and serve. Place a large bowl in the middle of the table for discarding eaten petals and the choke. Now dig in.

Simply pick petals and dip them in the butter. Most of the lower, bigger ones have some 'meat' on them, the smaller ones higher up have less. When you've eaten most of the petals, stop before removing them all. If you do this you'll get into the 'choke', the upper part above the heart. This part will choke you if you eat it, hence the name. 
This part should be removed, as should the stringy stork below the heart. Remove the stork with either a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
Then remove the choke by cutting horizontally between the choke and heart with a sharp knife, as below.

Discard the choke and eat the heart, smothered in melted butter!

They work really well as a starter, but not a main as there's not that much to them.

Have a go, it's the ultimate umami taste...