An Australian Christmas

‘Down under’ here in Australia the seasons are all backwards to the cook, born as she was in the northern hemisphere. With us, the longest day of the year occurs just four days before Christmas (on the 21st December), though our hottest day is likely to be somewhere in February.

From the book "Aussie Night Before Christmas" by Yvonne Morrison, available at ABC shops

So our chances of a white Christmas - holly, snow, candlelight and sleigh rides - are pretty much zero. For us it’s a season of cold beer, beaches, BBQs, picnics in parks, shorts and T-shirts. Christmas Day was mild this year, somewhere in the mid-30’s - that’s around 100 Fahrenheit if Centigrade is not your thing…

For the gardeners among us, it’s also a time of fresh fruit and berries and some of the best breakfasts of the year, featuring raspberries, strawberries, cherries, bananas, mandarins, apricots and nectarines on top of Australian sultanas, almonds and pumpkin seeds; peaches will be along in January…

The cook cooks the evening meal, but the gardener prepares breakfast, consisting largely of fruit and berries that are in season.

So Christmas day is generally a quiet day in the garden, with just some necessary watering done by hand in the quiet of the early morning and before the family lunch begins.

Christmas Eve was somewhat more hectic; the gardener had to lift the cook’s strawberry crop off the ground and into the gift he’d bought her - a raised Christmas garden bed away from mice, lizards and millipedes that also relish fresh strawberries. This was all done by evening, and looked fine on Christmas morning after overnight watering had settled the transplants.

Rasied beds are particularly important for strawberries, to keep them up above mice and lizrds, who love them as much as we do.

Boxing Day is spent quietly too, but then, on the fourth and last day of the Christmas public holidays, its back to the garden - onions and garlic are ready for harvest after their six month growing cycle, started way back on the shortest day of the year.

White and brown onions are laid out to dry on the mulched surface of the garden before storing them. Red onions are picked as needed for salads, as they won't 'keep'

Our middle son and his partner are over from their eighth-floor apartment in Melbourne and get to witness what they miss most by living in the big-city; fruit and vegetables picked straight from an Adelaide kitchen garden.

Freshly-picked white onion...

Did Mr Kiwi... the right thing by Ms/Mrs Kiwi at last?
Did he finally send out flowers?To enable the bees to pollinate the female flowers? And we'll finally get some fruit?So far the fruit is the biggest it ever grew. So, maybe this year? That would be nice! :)

Cucumber "Home-made Pickles"

The plants are looking rather good at the moment.
There are lots of tiny cucumbers on the plant.
I'm just hoping that they will all be pollinated and result in lots of yummy cucumbers to munch on. Even though they are called "Home-made Pickles", I will be using them to eat in salads. There are still plenty of jars with pickled cucumbers in the pantry.

Purple Congo Potatoes

‘I need potatoes!’, says the cook to the gardener…

‘AAhhRRrr!!!’ thinks the gardener, potatoes being out of season just now…

‘How about some nice beans? – I’ve got plenty of beans…’, says the gardener hopefully, earning a black look. This recipe calls for potatoes apparently, and there’s no suggestion in here that the gardener trudging down to the local shops is going to solve this one…

‘Potatoes from the garden’, repeats the cook, with all a woman’s logic and with just a faint suggestion that the gardener is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

If potatoes are needed in the kitchen, there must as a consequence be potatoes available somewhere in the garden.

‘OK, now we’re reduced to eating weeds’, thinks the gardener, no longer daring to speak his thoughts out loud. The family is coming to dinner in a few hours time – who needs a crisis on the threshold of that?

Purple congo potatoes

So weeds it is – ‘purple congo potato’ weeds, which live forever apparently, as I started with a handful from a fellow seed-saver decades ago, and the damn things just won’t go away – there's always one left in the ground that kicks off the next weed, and I know there’s a patch right down the back getting in the way of my developing pumpkins.

So out with the potato hoe, and 15 minutes later, a few kilograms of the world's ugliest potatoes make their way up to the kitchen to earn an ‘I told you so!’ look from the cook. A good husband is a man who understands just what his wife doesn’t say, so silence fills the silence that follows.

At least I don’t have to peel the bloody things (they’re tiny); we just cut them in half, skins and all, and drop them in the chicken curry. They make a very pretty mashed potato too, and don’t taste bad when roasted…

Purple congo potatoes halved and cooked in a chicken curry

All’s well that end’s well, I guess.

Berry brekkie

One of the marvellous things about a glut of berries is that breakfast turns into pure indulgence.

Take bowl, fill with selection of berries.Mix in (home-made) yoghurt. Enjoy. Simple but - oh! - so good. :)