First apples of the season

Galas. Super juicy, sweet and crisp. Absolutely delicious.

This year's crop is just great. Hardly any blemishes. Good size. And quite a few off the tree. The rain moved in, so we had to stop picking. So, two great things at the same time - apples and rain. (It's been an incredibly dry summer, so rain is an exciting and very rare event at the moment.)
Excuse me, I have to go and eat another apple! :)

How to save watermelon seeds

The ‘Moon-and Stars’ watermelons have ripened down in the vegie patch and are joining the late summer harvest flood up to the kitchen where they are eaten fresh or made into an icy drink on hot days.

Writing up a technique on how to save watermelon seeds seems almost too obvious to be worth the effort, but the various seed-saving handbooks offer some useful advice on the subject that’s worth repeating…


A seed-saving friend lent me an old (first edition) copy of his American seed-saver’s handbook, called Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. I have reproduced (below) some good practical advice on saving watermelon seed from this excellent book – a ‘must’ on every gardener’s bookshelf.

“Many gardeners have trouble determining just when a watermelon is ripe. Counting the number of days from planting works only in those rare seasons when the weather is fairly normal. The plink, plank, plunk method of thumping is popular, but seldom reliable. Watching for the light-coloured patch, where the watermelon touches the ground, to change to the next darker shade works with some varieties. Probably the most reliable sign of ripening occurs when the small tendril directly opposite the fruit’s “peduncle” (stem attachment) changes from green to brown and becomes dry.”

P1010716“Children are great at saving watermelon seeds. When the watermelon is ready to eat, the seeds are also mature. Try donating watermelons to a teacher at a local elementary school with the following instructions. Gather a large group of children on the lawn, provide each child with a paper cup for the seeds, and make everyone promise to spit the seeds into their cup. When tummies and cups are full, collect the seeds in a bowl, add a squirt of mild dishwashing soap and wash the seeds gently. Washing will remove the sugar and saliva that remains on the seeds. Then pour the seeds into a strainer and rinse thoroughly.”

I would add a codicil to this excellent advice; select the darkest and plumpest seeds and throw away the rest, particularly the pale immature ones.

Eggplant 'Tsakonikis'

This is a Greek heirloom eggplant.

It's the first time I am growing this. It's a fairly early eggplant, and you can see this even at our place! I don't usually have such big fruit on our plants at this time of summer. I will let it grow a little big bigger, then harvest it. It'll be interesting to cook with it. Can't wait! :)

From onions to cabbages

Life goes on in the vegetable garden; the onion bed has been harvested and the chooks turned in to clean out all the insect pests. This is the usual prelude to planting the autumn and winter crops such as broccoli, cabbage and various Chinese vegetables, now in the seed trays.


The flood of zucchinis is starting to wane at last, overtaken by a flood of cucumbers.



So its no rest up in the kitchen either; how to bottle cucumbers is an art form the cook continues to develop year-by-year.


P1020267With the long mild Adelaide autumn just around the corner, the gardener is still planting out bush beans, shallots and ‘clump lettuce’ while still working overtime to keep the water up to the existing crops so that they can cope through the on-going heatwaves.


Clump lettuce

TP1010712here are innumerable jokes about lettuce, most of them corny, and some deadly accurate: -

Q: What water yields the most beautiful lettuce heads?
A: Perspiration!

Planting lettuces out one at a time is my idea of hell, so I have developed an easier method that can only be described as ‘clump lettuce’.



First I make lettuce seed trays from old pie trays and pieces of wood, Chux wiper clothes to line the bottom and cable ties to hold it all together. This is then filled with potting mix to about two centimetres below the brim, mixed lettuce seed from my vast collection sprinkled liberally on top, then another centimetre of potting mix tamped down on top of that. This hangs out on the seed table for about six weeks while being watered each day with rainwater. By then it looks like this: -


No way am I going to separate all this seedlings one from the next and plant them separately in tiny holes along a string line.

P1020279Instead I hoe a furrow through my richest soil that has been turned over by the chicken flock, well watered beforehand then left for a further week to allow the soil to come alive again after this fallow period.

At 10cm intervals along the row, I plant ‘clumps’ of lettuce seedlings that are simply torn apart from the root-bound seedlings lifted out of the tray lines.

P1020276So what happens at harvest time?

The lettuces all compete for soil, moisture and nutrients in their space, and the cook wanders along picking the most tender leaves off what ever looks good for the salad.

This thinning process supplies us with regular salads without the hassle of digging out a whole lettuce and disposing of the root ball.

Once sowing has been completed (and only a few rows are sown each week to ensure different rates of maturation) drip lines are laid beside the lettuce rows and turned on, as such leafy seedlings wilt quickly. The mulch layer that covers our soils right through summer is returned around the individual seedlings to prevent evaporation from the soil surface.


The last step is to lay shade cloth or shade cloches over the seedlings for three to four days to give the ruptured root systems a chance to recover and spread out to find moisture.


Peach rain…

P1020231It’s raining peaches, and its ‘all hands to the pumps’ as cook and gardener seek to stem the tide. Peaches are leaving the property by bag, basket and bucket. Up in the kitchen, peaches are being dried into peach leather, dried in the dehydrator, pureed and frozen into peach cubes for winter ice-cream, and dried in the fan-forced oven.

P1020218Down in the orchard, the cook’s grand idea to allow the chooks to fossick in the orchard has had the direct consequence of hens burying newly-fallen peaches under the clean straw laid out to catch them, making peaches harder to collect and clean. There’s nothing for it; we have to strip the tree or spend our days picking up dirty fallen fruit.

While this plan to bulk-harvest peaches had the benefit of simplicity it has, as always in the garden, flow-on effects for the gardener; seed trays need to be emptied to stack and store the peaches without bruising them. P1020208This gets done, but puts the kybosh on the gardener’s salad-plant out planned for today.

Well, if you can’t beat them, join them!

Saving the peach crop is now both urgent and important, displacing all other jobs.

So the gardener takes over fruit cutting, while the cook sees to all the sorting and drying processes.

Yet another long day in the garden, but these peaches are perfect, and we’ll be enjoying them long after the memories and tensions of harvest-stress have fallen behind us.





Ah, but wait! – there are still three more later-varieties of peach trees carrying crops we have yet to contend with…