Aubergine Update

I’m sick to the back teeth of aubergines, we have half a dozen jars of brinjal in the fridge, and have given as many away. We have 3 kilos of ratatouille and 3 kilos of aubergine curry in the freezer, and have eaten as much again. There is also only so much moussaka one can eat, ditto grilled aubergine! I give away approximately 4 kilos of aubergine a week, and only the not-so-nice ones are retained for the above home processing.

Lesson learned, I shall only retain a few plants at the end of this season, along with some peppers, tomatoes, chillies and a courgette plant.

And a note on courgettes…..in the uk our courgettes grew so prolifically we couldn’t give enough of them away, here I have one tiny courgette just ripening from 3 plants!

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Food Forest in the Desert

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Not only do vegetables grow quickly here, so do trees. The banana plants in the photo above were planted a year ago and have doubled in size since. They’ve only produced one bunch of very small bananas on one plant so far, which means their energy has been concentrated into vegetative growth.

We have 5 mango trees in the garden that were planted 4 years ago, so they should be flowering this year. We’ve cut them right back to ‘shock’ them into flowering, and also to let some sunlight reach the plants growing below them, fingers crossed we get some mangos. They don’t look so great (aesthetically) right now because of the hard pruning, so I’ll post a photo when they are in full bloom.

The orange and lemon trees flowered well last winter, their first year after planting, and then had severe bud fall due to 3 days of unprecedented bad weather in April. We eventually picked one lemon, someone else helped themselves to the single surviving orange! Let’s hope we have better luck this year.

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The pomegranate tree above was planted last year and has about 50 small fruits already, so looking forward to eating some of those.

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The fig tree that was planted last winter is laden with fruit, literally hundreds. This isn’t the best photo but I was trying to also capture the papaya tree in the background, it can just be seen in the top middle section of the photo. We’ve had little success with papaya trees so far, they wilt and die after a few months, they are either too shaded or too exposed, so this one, planted in the middle of the fig and palm trees, and shaded from the mid day sun by the damas trees in the background, is doing really well. We need to plant some others near by and in similar conditions as they are not self pollinating.

The plan is to under-plant all of these trees with edible shrubs, perennials and herbs, hence the title of the post. We planted aubergines around the base of some of the palm trees last year and they survived the intense summer sun, we’re doing the same with peppers and tomatoes this year. I’d like to plant some berry bushes and strawberries in the next month or so, and some self seeding plants such as amaranth.

Growing things in the desert – veggies

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I love winter in Abu Dhabi, the days are warm and sunny and the evenings cool, enough to need a sweater ( for me, at least -Tom is still in short sleeved T shirts).

But what I love most about winter is that we can grow our own food, without any chemicals. We have raised beds, pots and vegetables growing under trees. We have lots of trees!

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These are 3 of our raised beds, and we are experimenting. Our neighbour claims that the soil here ( um, what soil?) is really good for growing vegetables, all it needs is some natural fertiliser now and again. So we have one bed that is just local soil with the addition of farmyard ( goat) manure. We have another bed which is filled with our homemade compost mixed with some locally bought compost. We’ve mulched around the plants to retain moisture in this bed.  We’ve planted the same plants (almost) in each bed so that we can compare. and so far the local bed is lagging far behind.  The only thing that is growing well is garlic, whereas in the ‘western’ bed, everything is at least 3 times the size of the local bed one month after planting. Now, it maybe that the slower growth will lead to a longer growing season, who knows – we’ll report back in a few months.

The third bed also has our compost and a frame for  growing vertically.   We planted runner beans, French beans, pumpkins, butternut squash,  and sweet potato vines. All of the beans have died, both transplants and seeds sown directly into the ground. I’ve replanted time and again and they all die at about 12 inches tall 😦  I’ve decided to give up trying as it’s obviously too dry for them and have now been replaced with cucumbers and honeydew melons, which are just about an inch tall so far, so you can’t really see them in the photo. We’ll update on progress.

 

 

Lemongrass and Ginger Soap

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I love this soap, it’s really easy to make, lathers well and really gentle on my skin. The bar sets hard so it lasts well and smells great. Ginger is so good for the skin. I have to say, my poor photography skills don’t do it justice!

I used a basic soap recipe.

olive oil 400g

palm oil 300g

coconut oil 200g

castor oil 100g

water 380g

lye 148g

Lemon grass essential oil 15g

This recipe works well with a number of additions At thin trace I added the EO and about 30g of fresh ginger juice. It poured really well and set up after only 12 hours.

 

Lacto-fermented Ginger Beer

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This is my first attempt at a lacto-fermented beverage, and it’s delicious.

I’d juiced a big lump of ginger root to make some Lemongrass and Ginger soap, and had a couple of ounces left over. I dissolved a couple of tablespoons of raw sugar in some hot water, added the juice of 2 lemons and the ginger juice. this was poured into a flip top bottle and filled with warm water. Next I added a couple of tablespoons of whey that had been drained off a carton of yogurt. Shook it up and left it on the counter for 2 days.

After 48 hours I tested for flavour and fizziness, it scored well on both. Another 12 hours later and it was really fizzy, so time to put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process – don’t want the bottle to explode!