Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Edible Balcony update - wet, wet, wet

 Water is usually the life-blood of the living which is why it is easy to forget how deadly it can be as well. As most of the country drowns in water I should count myself extremely lucky to be high and dry on the 13th floor of my Potts Point apartment block. I do.
This rain has been quite unbelievable.
The heavens just keep opening up. It reminds me of the monsoon season in Zimbabwe where I spent much of my teenagehood. Between November and February each year we would be marooned indoors with roads cut-off and school often closed due to the deluge.
I haven't seen this much rain since then.

The plants on the balcony are getting a soaking and there's not much I can do about it. 

Only the edibles on the wall - cavolo nero, vietnamese mint, warrigal greens and sorrel - need any hand-watering

Pretty as a daisy: the feverfew has flowered.

Luckily my tomato vines are on wheels so I can move them out of the rain.
Too much water will destoy the crop.

I've already counted about 40 flower branches on the cherry and grape tomato plants.

I've transplanted my candy-striped beetroot seedlings into a grow bag.

I hope the rain and sparse sunny days won't retard their growth too much

the rhubarb is going gang-busters though

And the good ol' rocket is bushing up nicely

This ruby silverbeet is now in its third year and getting a little woody so I may put in a new plant soon

The strawberries have been down in number ....

... but super sweet

And the edible violas - both purple and yellow - may get tossed through a salad tomorrow night.

Ahhhh... here comes the rain again. The harbour has disappeared behind a grey mist. We are a country of such extremes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stefano Manfredi's Kitchen Garden at Bells, Killcare

It's a hot, humid Sunday morning and Steve Manfredi is taking me on a personal tour of his wonderful kitchen garden at his highly-acclaimed Bells restaurant at Killcare, on the New South Wales Central Coast. (Yes - I'm very spoilt!)

Stefano Manfredi is one of Australia's most important chefs and food educators.
His passion for Italian ingredients and authentic Italian cooking has led to him grow his own favourite hard-to-get Italian herbs and vegetables.

In a few square metres he is now supplying about 15 % of the produce for his restauarant.

And ,no, that is not Steve but a scarecrow dressed in chef's whites - an effective device for keeping some of the marauding birds away.

A corn crop

red onions

big flavoursome purple bulbs

A huge patch of sorrel.
Steve says he loves throwing some chopped sorrel over baked potatoes for their lemony tang.

Steve also loves cooking with bitter Italian greens.

A white turnip. It might find its way onto today's lunch menu.

Yellow zucchini flowers

beans, beans and more beans...

They're just starting to fruit..

Damn... some of those birds have feasted on the tomatoes.

Juicy lemons

And a persimmon tree...

Dense with fruit.

Steve has just put in a new veggie plot.

It's well-fenced to keep out the rabbits and wild deer that were let loose after a nearby deer farm closed.

Steve loves this basil variety and no wonder. It has large billowing serated-edged leaves with a wildly pungent minty flavour.

A big patch of heirloom black radishes.

dark skin and white peppery crunchy flesh.


Steve's favourite chard

A new crop of tomatoes will be ready in early autumn

a watermelon patch

This is Steve's dog who protects the nearby chook house from attacks by wild dogs.

The brown hens get a nutritious pellet feed supplemented by scraps from the kitchen garden and lay beautiful deep, yellow-yolked eggs that guests are given as part of their breakfast hamper.

Steve's last lot of chooks were killed by a wild dog attack so these ones have Fort Knox-like protection.

...and in return happy chooks lay happy eggs...

look at these beauties!

Steve very generously gave me a basket of goodies from his garden containing garlic, zucchini, basil, tomatoes, radish, bitter lettuce and some of those delicious eggs....

...which I threw together for a light Sunday evening dinner of Frittata alla Stefano.

It included chopped garlic, onion, tomato, basil, and zucchini fried in a little olive oil with some lightly beaten eggs with a little milk...

... a sprinkling of cheese...

.... all topped off with some zucchini  flowers.

Stefano it was delizioso!
What an inspiring day.