Busy Weekend

Busy weekend, homemade lemongrass and ginger soap with a copper mica topping ( bit OTT but smells amazing); berry flavoured Shea butter lip balm; home- made ketchup, used the last of the Roma tomatoes, and bone broth – all before lunch!

i have milk kefir fermenting ( thanks to Aisha for the scoby) and have been converting some of the grains to water kefir over the last week or so. I now have 2 bottles of cranberry kefir brewing, and 2 bottles of grape. Will post separately on the process and the results.

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More Sweet Potatoes

We planted 7 sweet potato plants last autumn, 4 in large pots in the garden, and 3 directly into raised beds. The pots were not successful, the chickens ate the vines of 2 pots, and they didn’t produce anything. The 2 other pots flourished, but I turned them out too soon, t’internet said I’d have kilos and kilos after 4 months.  Both had 2 reasonable sized tubers ( 6 inches long and 3 inches wide) and 4 or 5 tiny tubers. Rather deceptively, the larger tubers were at the top and the tiny ones at the bottom, so I fooled myself into thinking that they were all of a reasonable size. They’d been growing for 6 months, so longer than the recommended time for huge crops – don’t believe everything you read on Pinterest!

The potatoes in the raised beds are doing much better, the vines are spreading through the beds, especially now we’ve pulled up the tomatoes and courgettes, and are putting out runners, which will produce new plants and new tubers. The potatoes are growing near to the surface and are a good size. Below is one I picked this morning, with my flip flop for perspective (UK size 6). I’ll record how many I get, this one weighed 450gms, and I picked another that weighted 250 grams that was poking through the soil.

The pots were planted out last November and harvested end of April. The one’s in the beds were planted in January. We had pretty cold nights (12 degrees C 🙂 – it’s all relative) right until the end of Feb, so maybe it’s the warmer weather rather than the raised beds that have allowed these plants to do so well – they seem to be thriving in the 40+ heat.

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Summer Fruits

It’s in the 40’s here in Abu Dhabi now, summer’s well and truly here! This is the first year of having an established garden, this time last year our fruit trees were fairly newly planted, so I’m surprised to see that so much is still growing. We have a second flush of figs, seen in […]

Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomatoes have done really well. They grew quickly and ripened quickly, each bunch weighing over a kilo. Even though it’s 40 degrees here now, we still have some flowering although it’s probably too hot for them to pollinate now. Last week I picked 7 kgs of various tomatoes. As well as using them in sauces or cooking them for breakfast, I’ve made ketchup and canned several jars ( with my new pressure canner that my friend Karen got for me in the US)Image

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The raw ingredients for my ketchup in a big saucepan. I didn’t have any fennel bulbs so used fennel seed, tasted fine.

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Tomato ketchup reducing. I’d used 2kgs of Roma tomatoes plus at least a couple of Kgs of other veg, and ended up with just 750mls of sauce. It took about 3 hours to reduce after sieving, but was definitely worth the effort. All natural ingredients, no preservatives and I used agave nectar instead of sugar. Tom loved it so much he’s eaten half of it already!

I also have 6 x 500gm jars of home grown and canned tomatoes

 

Grow your own – update

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The raised beds are doing well, we have Roma and beef tomatoes, peppers, chillis, butternut squash, pumpkins, courgettes, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, garlic and various herbs (I’m not even mentioning aubergines although they continue to grow profusely!). The big disappointment this year has been beans – they just won’t grow, get to about 12 inches then keel over and die. We have 2 broad bean plants that have survived and flowered, but haven’t produced any beans.

The figs and pomegranates are ripe and we’re harvesting them almost daily, bananas are ripening and the citrus trees have tiny oranges and lemons just starting. The mangos didn’t flower after all the shocking we gave then, so looks like we’ll have to wait another year to eat fresh homegrown mangos. The photo above is a small clump of sugar cane which is almost ready to harvest, we don’t use a lot of sugar, but it’s nice to be able to produce our own cane juice, which I’ll be using for the next batch of fermented ginger beer.

 

Update:-

One of the mango trees finally flowered and we had about 5 fronds of blossoms, each eventually had approx 10 fruit buds, unfortunately a storm in April blew most of those off and we are left with 2 fruits. Let’s hope they survive to ripen.

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!

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.