Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back to gardening in New Zealand

Upon my return I was a bit too busy to work in my garden, and a bit scared too. We were away for 7 months and 2 days, a long time for a veggie garden! But it wasn't bad at all, there were a few weeds, of course, but mostly the big type, easy to remove in one go (or two). Before leaving NZ I covered the garden with a very thick layer of bark mulch, spread all around the vegetables that were already growing there (and were eaten by my house sitters). The mulch kept the weeds at bay in a fantastic way! And Nature is amazing: a few plants self seeded, I found some tomatillo plants, some with flowers and tiny fruit, a few tomato seedlings, borage and strawberry. The rhubarb looked dead, but after a few days it sprouted again (maybe it was waiting for me?), and there was plenty of green, red and yellow silver beet, plus a few leeks. Mint took over half of the garden, and while pulling it up I discover quite a few new potatoes. I did a big cleaning and this is what I had at the end of it.

Not bad! But then I turned the soil, put compost down and planted some seeds and seedlings... and felt that in a matter of week the weeds (the small annoying types) would appear on the fresh turned soil, so I gave my seedling something to read.

The zucchini got the Italian and Spanish papers, the tomatoes and capsicum the real estate pages, and the celery and new leeks the sport section. Beans, corn, cucumber etc, strips of current affairs. I don't know if it will work, but it looks... well, different! Pots and stones keep the papers down for now, and when I have time I hope to find some more mulch.

And now to my first harvest: The leeks differ in size, I grow them because they do better than onions and garlic in the rainy bush, and they last a long time in the soil. I have quite a few.

Then my first lot of potatoes, they are all different types. To tell the true I never 'plant' potatoes. Sometimes I buy them, and if they have a root I cut the piece off and bury it in the garden. So I have new potatoes all year round.

Ah, I also had a last rotten celery plant that only had a crispy top (the rest had to go in the compost). I used that too and made a soup. Self-sufficiency except for adding a little organic vegetable stock.

In the end I didn't have enough potatoes to get a very thick soup, and after blending it I added a bit of Vietnamese mint (of that, I have plenty!) to add flavour and compensate for poor texture and strange colour! It wasn't my best soup, but it was OK.

Silver beet... too much! I washed it and washed (at least 7 times, my mum told me) and recycled the water for the garden. I do the same with the potatoes, too much good soil in that water!

In the last four weeks I put the silver beet in lasagne, use it as a side vegetable, done quiches and frittata, and (like in the photo below) rolled it inside filo pastry (just a few sheets, no need for oil, just brush the top and edges with water, a trick I discovered so that it doesn't burn). In the filling I put cooked chopped-up silverbeet, tofu, salt, Moroccan seasoning and smoked paprika. And next to it my second harvest of potatoes, previously boiled and peeled (it took a long time, had to do it with fingernails). The potatoes too had salt, Moroccan seasoning, and smoked paprika, plus olive oil. Maybe I should have done them differently, but I really like them like this!

I baked everything and served it with green beans (not mine, yet) sautéed with olive oil, garlic and oregano (and a pinch of salt). Sorry, no photos of the inside... sometime my family likes to eat in peace without me taking photos of everything :-)

Then the other day I had my last harvest of potatoes, for a while I think! Look at them, washed, boiled and peeled with fingernails! Not so many... enough for a little salad for two...

I added mayo and capers and, instead of spring onion, a chopped baby leek. Good to discover that raw chopped baby leeks taste better than spring onions!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


  1. Hope you have fun gardening!! Great post!

  2. Thank you Alessandra! Wow, you were quick, I was still editing!! :-)

  3. Oh quante cose appetitose! E soprattutto genuine!

  4. Se predno l'aereo, posso soggiornare da te fino all'estate?!Che meraviglie Ale!!!!

  5. It's wonderful that you are able to harvest from your garden after being gone for such a long period of time. I am envious of the leeks you are able to grow. Our farmers markets are closed for the season and the cost of leeks skyrockets at this time of year. I must admit that expensive or not, I do splurge. Your photos are wonderful. It seems all is well in your corner of the world. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  6. Saretta, proprio quando e' inverno in Italia devi venire qui, che e' estate!!! Aspetta ancora un po' (adesso piove spesso), Febbraio e' i mese migliore! Ti ospito in cambio di un po' di lavoro in giardino, e magari in cucina? :-)

    @ Mery. Welcome back. I do try to grow different allum, but nothing works like leeks, I am really happy about them!

  7. What a pretty garden you have, Alessandra. Everything tastes so much better when picked from your yard, doesn't it?

  8. Yes Barbara, fresh, organic... and that sense of self-sufficiency.... :-)

  9. mmm yummy leeks! Our garden is waiting for me to plant it up.. hopefully this weekend. I discovered some purple potatoes when I was weeding it ;P

  10. So you used fresh baby leek...and it tasted great...that's great to know! Your garden is awesome Alessandra. It survived really well for you being away for so long. I love the photos, and the way you described the special newspapers each seed received.

    Watch that mint though!! AHgrrrsive.

  11. Yeah Bren, that mint has leaves as big as spinach and roots as long as my washing line, but at least after weeding my hands smelled nice! :-)

  12. Ciao, volevo ringraziarti della visita, ma che ci fai in Nuova Zelanda? Intanto ti rispondo: del semolino non avanza nulla perchè lo rimpasti lo ridistendo e continui a fare i gnocchi alla romana finchè il semolino è finito. Un abbraccio

  13. Aiuto Aleeee O_O non riesco più a trovare il commento sui ravioli...
    tuttavia volevo dirti che io chiamo "ravioli cinesi" (definizione qui molto usata)ogni "saccottino", qualsiasi sia la cottura.
    Al risto cinese infatti, accanto a ciascuna denominazione in lingua relativa ai ravioli, c'è la traduzione in italiano : ravioli cinesi o ravioli arrosto.
    La denominazione appropriata dei tuoi "ravioli fritti" non la conoscevo, approfitto anzi per ringraziarti dell'informazione...
    Mentre i Gyoza o Jaiozi li conosco e li ho anche fatti :) se ti fa piacere dai un'occhiata :

    Grazie ancora cara :)

    p.s scusa se ho scritto in questa sezione il commento

  14. Your garden looks great! Best of luck with it-you seem to have the magic touch! :)

  15. Ciao, piacere di conoscerti e grazie per essere passata da me. Quante cose interessanti ho visto qua.. vado a curiosare un altro po'. A presto


  16. Dear Alessandra
    Please see this page for making Paneer...she is an amazing cook for vege dishes. I follow her blog all the time
    Have a nice week

  17. How lovely to be back in your garden, I stick to herbs, citrus and the odd rhubarb plant since I can't keep upnwithnthe bugs to grow veg!


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