Ho Ho Horseradish!

Everything you read about growing, harvesting, grating & preserving horseradish is true!

It's easy to grow. I shall plant out this piece again and we'll have another good harvest next season. And any little pieces of roots that you leave in the ground will grow, too.It's a bugger to dig up, if the soil is rocky, hard and/or clay.Wash and peel the roots, then chop into chunks, and grate or grind in the food processor. Open the lid very, very, very carefully, and ideally in front of an open window. And away from your face. Don't breathe! The fumes are incredible. They'll clear your sinuses in no time!
Add some vinegar and salt, if you'd like to have some ready to eat. (Quantities are stated in a post written last season.)
Taste a tiny bit - it's potent stuff! You don't want it to blow off your head. It'll keep for quite a few months in the fridge. It will get milder in time.
Or add some cream to your grated horseradish for immediate use. Very, very nice! Especially with smoked salmon.
I've also filled several small containers with the grated horseradish and put them in the freezer. Nice! :)

Fruit trees and rain water in an Adelaide kitchen garden

The two kitchen gardens on this blog – while only 22 kilometres apart – are in quite different climates. In VG's hill's garden, some hundreds of metres of extra altitude mean a shorter growing season and the ability to grow cool-climate crops like berries and cherries.

Down here on the Adelaide Plains, and moderated by the sea in St Vincent's Gulf nearby, the climate is somewhat warmer and berries and cherries struggle, while citrus and stone fruits do better. So here’s a brief list just to show the great variety of fruit that can be grown within easy reach of the kitchen and the cook.

Fruit trees in this suburban Adelaide garden

Apples, mandarins, Valencia and Washington navel oranges, olives, Satsuma plums, grapefruit, lemons, purple and green figs, chestnuts, sultana grapes, freestone and clingstone peaches, almonds and Lady Finger bananas – all these provide fruit and nuts from this garden throughout different seasons. There are berries, such as boysenberries, raspberries, Kiwi Fruit, josterberries and of course, strawberries, but these are fairly recent additions to the garden and are not yet prolific bearers. Some common fruit trees are missing at the moment – persimmons, pears, prunes, passionfruit, nectarines, walnuts and apricots. These will be planted out into the new orchard, once it is fully enclosed to keep the parrots and possums out.

 Lemon tree with smaller Valencia orange on right  ...and here's the next crop of lemons coming along

This olive tree is still young but has many small black olives beloved of birds, if not the cook!This beautiful grapefruit tree reliably bears several months supply of fruit each year with no maintenance. We've learnt to enjoy a small glass of freshly-squeezed juice for breakfast each day. This magnificent grafted chestnut tree stands in the old Italian garden next door, but drops its crop onto our driveway. The same with the deep-purple fig on its left. This almond tree is very old, dating back to a time when this area was all orchards and vineyards. The original tree is dead; this is a sapling that grew from the base.

The open forked trunk of this Washington Navel orange tree serves as a useful storage place for home-grown bamboos used for staking tomatoes The base of this Satsuma plum tree show its great age, plus dry rot that will eventually end its long life. An old orchardist that came to prune it estimated its age to be in excess of 100 years. dating back to the original settlement of this area for fruit grape and vegetable growing.

This mulch-covered garden path also acts as a 'sump' to capture run-off from the driveway. This rainwater is stored in the soil below for the fruit trees that surround it. Rainwater from the house roof is piped below this path to the tanks beyond. Washington Navels are a winter eating orange, and are just starting to show colour now in late autumn.

This enclosed orchard (under construction) is needed to keep possums and parrots from the peach trees. The lemon tree is to the right. Valencia oranges - a juicing variety



The major limitation to gardening here in Adelaide is water; rainfall occurs reliably only in the three coldest months of the year, and peak production in the garden occurs six months later during the long hot and dry Mediterranean-style summer. While we grow just as many crops during winter as in summer, holding water over from the rainy months to the summer months is all important. Every roof is connected to rainwater tanks, which have a total capacity of about 70 000 litres, or about one month’s supply when the heat’s really on and consumption peaks at 15000 litres per week. Just not enough. And with ‘peak water’ costing nearly $3 per 1000 litres from the town supply, making up the gap means water bills of $45 per week. The garden has to be productive to supply the replacement cost of water in store-bought fruit and vegetables. Mulching and drip irrigation help water use efficiency.


So here (below) is the view from the deck outside the back door of fruit trees, easy-to-reach vegetables and herbs and the main rainwater tanks down on the back-right. This is the ‘kitchen garden’. Not visible – and off to the left – is the main production garden where ‘bulk crops’ are grown.


What is not so obvious is the large ‘sump’ area between the gardens in the foreground and the background. This is the area where we hang our washing to dry in the sun on a pull-out clothes line from a box on the left-most wall. Once this area was lawn, which always looked lousy unless freshly cut, and which had the highest maintenance cost of the whole garden, thanks to petrol driven mowers and trimmers needed to maintain it. Food output was zero. Now it’s been converted to kitchen garden, and all this middle area is covered deeply with wood chips from an old gum tree that died in the front yard. Here all the runoff from the concrete driveway ends, sinking once more into the earth and supplying the surrounding fruit trees throughout summer. The wood chips prevent evaporation, and is pleasant underfoot.

Autumn harvests and buckets of bean seed

There’s only one week left before the official start of winter in southern Australia, as we ignore the dates of the solstice and equinox when apportioning our seasons down here. Instead, the year is chopped into four equal slices of three months, and so winter begins here on the first of June, and Spring on the first of September.

But the ‘break’ in the rains has yet to come, and the dry and warm conditions have meant that many summer crops have lingered on; tomatoes, basil, chillies, capsicums, pumpkins, cucumbers, parsley, coriander and turnips are still to be found out in the kitchen garden. A final tour of the garden before the expected change of weather finds the cook heading up to the house with dishes of produce.


DSCN5562The gardener can only watch her passing; the ‘Lazy Wife’ bean seeds have to be got off before they get damp in the forecast rain. Both green and dry bean seed pods go into the barrow, which is pushed into the shed to avoid the inclement weather. These will be sorted and shelled, with the dry bean seeds frozen overnight to kill off the ‘bean weevils’ that would otherwise eat the stored seed out from within. At the same time, the remnant bean plants have to be stripped off the trellises, and various other seed crops have to be gathered in and processed for next Spring – cucumbers; zucchinis, dwarf beans and fennel.

Over under our sunny north-facing family-room window, trays of seeds begin to accumulate; here they dry and get sorted, out of reach of rats and mice that would be pleased to dine off them if left lying about down the back shed.

Burgeoning diversity in the Aztec maize

Last year’s Aztec maize saw only a few cobs saved for seed, and these had largely red, yellow and white seeds. DSCN5573Yet this original ‘corn’ plant – the forerunner of all the maize and sweet corns now propagated throughout the world - has all the genetic codes built in to produce a rainbow of colours when harvested, which happened here yesterday just before the rains began.

This year purples and browns have appeared. Now who would like some seeds? And what will the cook make of this product of the gardener's whim?


Radish salad

I get to claim that I’ve been gardening for over fifty years on a mere technicality; as a small boy, my father let me use a patch of his garden to grow easy vegetables like beans and radishes. About every two hours, I would go down to the house and get Mum, urging her to come and look how big my radishes were, then dawdle back up the yard to give them a chance to grow just that much bigger before we’d arrive to inspect them.


Back then, all radishes were ‘French Breakfast’; small rose and white spheres about three centimetres across that seemed to live their whole life in the space of a few short weeks. After that they turned to wood. In more recent decades, I grew ‘White Icicle’ radishes, all of which met a similar fate of fossilisation if left too long between visits by the cook.

After much mucking about, I discovered Japanese ‘Daikon Radishes’, and the love affair between us has seen off all competitors. Not only are they huge (yes, that’s a dinner plate in the photo above!) but they are a pretty plant with the exquisite patience of the Japanese themselves; these radishes don’t seem to turn woody, and can be left in the ground for longish periods. Their only downside seems to be their size – they can take some digging out if left to go too deep!


A simple dish of radish salad is a fine peppery condiment to accompany all sorts of meals. Just peel a single radish with the potato peeler, grate it coarsely and add chopped chives (or any other oniony material) and add balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then serve.

A walk in the veggie garden

Word of warning - if you like a neat garden, do not go any further! You will see plenty of grass and weeds, amongst the veggies.

One bed with cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, parsnips, lettuces and *miner's lettuce as living mulch. *I let that go to seed every year and it comes up with a vengeance with the first rain. It's a pretty ground cover, and easy to rip up, if you need to plant something. It's lovely in salads, too.
A carrot patch. With plenty of miner's lettuce as weed suppressant.
The Egyptian Walking Onions, surrounded by lush grass.
Time to harvest the Golden Nuggets. They were really prolific this year.
The leek bed. I usually just cut the leeks, instead of ripping them out of the soil with their roots. They re-grow nicely. Also, I always let a few go to seed, ensuring self-sown leeks.The other half of the bed is taken up by Red Russian kale (self-sown), rapa, some other kale (too lazy to look up the variety name), and Komatsuna. All lovely greenery to ensure a healthy diet in Winter.Here is a view of the whole area. In front you can see the leek and greenery bed. Behind that the Golden Nuggets. To the right you can see the tomato beds. They are still laden with green and nearly ripe tomatoes. The first frost a few days ago hasn't managed to kill them.
The garlic is looking good!
So are the broad beans.And the grass in this veggie bed.

Roast chestnuts, boiled chestnuts and red cabbage dish

Autumn is deepening here on the Adelaide Plains and night-time temperatures have fallen to around 10 degrees C. Loud bangs outside in the darkness signal yet more chestnuts falling onto the shed roof and bouncing onto the driveway from the magnificent Italian chestnut tree that overhangs our fence. Come morning, we roll these prickly ‘tennis-balls’ underfoot to release the chestnuts without getting spiked, and the chestnuts quietly build-up in the cook’s pockets and so find their way to the dish on the sink.


It’s the gardener’s job during the colder months to keep the home fire burning, bring up kindling and mallee logs, light and maintain the fire in the centre of our home, and to take out the ash.

But it’s not all work; a dozen chestnuts wrapped in silver-foil and dropped into the glowing ash of the fireplace make a hot TV snack better than any bar of chocolate. Peeling off the inner and outer skins of knife-scarred boiled chestnuts is another fireside job; these will be frozen and used in dips and soups as winter moves on. DSCN5377

Boiled chestnuts also make a tasty addition to a dish of thinly shredded raw red cabbage, honey, salt and grated Granny Smith apple that is let stand overnight. The next day the cook fries onion, cloves, juniper berries and bay leaves together, then adds the red cabbage and meat stock before simmering gently until tender. Only when this is all done are the boiled chestnuts added.

How to pickle eggplants (aubergines)

After World War II Australia set up a large-scale program of migration to bring out some of the millions of displaced people of Europe. During this time in Australia there was a desperate shortage of labour and a growing belief that substantial population growth was essential for the country's future. Since then, some seven million people born overseas have made their home here.


My own Irish ancestors arrived in South Australia over 160 years ago during the Irish potato famine, and I can still recall the sense of ‘foreignness’ that we felt towards the largely Italian communities that settled around us on the eastern side of the Adelaide Plains. We rather admired the way they took over bricklaying, concreting and masonry jobs in the building industry, while laughing at the handkerchiefs tied around their heads, their poor but lilting English, and the strange foods their children had stuffed between enormous slices of crusty bread in their school sandwiches. We drank tea, not coffee! We’d never eaten pizza! We certainly would never eat pickled eggplants and capsicums!

DSCN5266 Looking back now, I find myself with a real affection for these small nuggetty people who showed us how to grow fruit and vegetables in our own backyards, who made their own wine, pickled olives, made sausages, hand-rolled pasta, baked wood-fired bread and pizza, and who kept rabbits for eating and chickens for eggs. Most notable of all was their powerful sense of community and their rich connection between garden and table and family life. DSCN5270Their children have blended into the population, speak with Aussie accents, but can still be spotted among the polyglot suburban Australians by their dark hair and Italian names. Best of all, they have contributed to the Adelaide ‘coffee culture’; hardly anyone drinks tea socially anymore, and we think of pizza and bruschetta as ‘regular’ food.

One of the last remnants of these older post-war generation of Italian immigrants in our street is an old Italian lady who lives over the road; this is her recipe for pickling and preserving eggplants (aubergines), as passed along to my wife.

Peel the eggplants and slice them thickly.


Place them in layers in a stainless steel colander, which itself sits in a stainless steel dish of similar size to collect the fluid pressed out of the eggplants. Coat each layer generously with sea-salt.


Put another stainless-steel dish on top of this assemblage, and put a few heavy house-bricks into this dish to add pressure. Leave stand overnight.

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Next, boil the eggplant slices in a pungent mix of 1 cup of water and 3 cups of white vinegar for a few minutes, then lay them out between clean sheets (folded over) to allow the slices to shed excess water.

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Now mix thoroughly with olive oil, chillies, garlic and dried oregano. Lay the sliced eggplant flat in layers with the spices in between. DSCN5316

If this mix is not refrigerated, but stored instead in jars in the cellar, it needs to be covered with olive oil.