A Quick Tour of My Edible Garden…

sorrel pesto-3

Almost a year ago, my little family made the big leap to life in the country when we bought our tiny farm.

As I shared when we first moved in, it’s been a dream of mine for the longest time to have a little house and some land to grow veggies, raise chooks, plant a little orchard and hopefully some sort of vineyard so my wine making skills don’t lay dormant forever.

As with any good dream there have been some surprises along the way…

Like having not one but two tiger snakes in two days turn up on my kitchen step… Like having to catch a cute little green tree frog in our bedroom one night… Like getting used to waking up and seeing kangaroos just outside our bedroom window most mornings… Like planting my fruit trees in the boggiest patch of clay on the whole farm and having half of them decide to die…

All part of the fun of country life!

Anyway I’ve had a few requests to share what’s growing in my edible garden. Something a little different!

But before I do there’s a disclaimer. I’m new to this whole big garden thing. While I love spending time in the garden, especially picking things for dinner, I’m definitely a long way from being a green thumbed expert. So I’m not sure how helpful this will be…

garden tour

My Herb Garden

This is the closest to my back kitchen door and I just love being able to pop out and get a sprig of rosemary or a handful of basil whenever I need them. This year I’ve had the most amazing basil so we’ve been eating a lot of pesto. And for the first time ever I’ve even got extra pesto stashed away in my freezer.

I’ve also got flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, Greek basil (not as good as the regular stuff), tarragon, coriander (cilantro), chives, chervil, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, sorrel and stevia. One of the biggest attractions for me is being able to grow things like sorrel and stevia that I never see in the shops or farmers market.

I love having a few leaves of super lemony fresh sorrel to enliven a green salad. And it’s amazing in pesto (recipe below). The stevia I’m not so sure what to do with so if you have any ideas please share them in the comments below!

garden tour-2

My Salad Garden

This garden bed is slightly larger and had been pretty good at keeping us in salad leaves most of the year. I love not having to buy bagged salad any more because it’s so expensive and perishable.

When I’m rushed for time, I do sometimes lament the fact that I have to go outside and spend a few minutes picking leaves. But as soon as I’m in the garden, I’m always thankful for those little moments of peace.

Rocket (arugula) is my all time favourite salad because I love the peppery flavour and the fact that it’s so easy to grow. I also have a new found respect for good old butter lettuce and cos which I just pick a few leaves at a time and they keep on growing.

I do have some radishes which I’m still trying to love. If they weren’t so easy to grow I wouldn’t bother. But I strongly believe that it’s just a matter of finding the best way to prepare them!

Silverbeet or chard is something I’ve come to love because of its easy-to-grow nature. Mostly I sauté it in butter and garlic in a covered pot until it’s just wilted down and finish it with a squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of sea salt.

I was late planting tomatoes this year so we have lots of green tomatoes and nothing ripe. Yet. Fingers crossed we’ll get something before the first frosts come.

garden tour-3

My Salad Garden Part2

This bed contains my most recent plantings. A mix of lettuces and Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna. They’re mostly new to me so I’m excited about finding new ways to use them.

I should also report that since I’ve stopped being a ‘slacker’ on the salad washing front, there haven’t been any more incidents of diners finding caterpillars at my table!

garden tour-4

My Raised Veggie Beds

I had these in our old rental house in Cooma. And while I did have to bribe my brother to help me move them, I’m so glad they didn’t get left behind. If you’re renting (like we used to) or if you have poor soil (like we do now) raised veggie beds are the way forward!

At the moment these have carrots, beets, loads of garlic (just planted so won’t be harvested until next Summer), zucchini and some self-sown parsley. I did plant some spaghetti squash seeds and delicata pumpkin both which I’ve read about but haven’t ever seen or eaten. Only one plant has survived and because Fergal loves to play with my labels, I’m not sure which one it is. Looking forward to having that puzzle solved later in Autumn!

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Fish with Sorrel Pesto

Sorrel is one of those annoying ingredients I see referred to in cookbooks from time to time but never see in the shops. It wasn’t until I planted some seeds and grew my own that I was able to experiment with this super lemony fresh-tasting herb. Don’t worry if you don’t have a herb garden full of sorrel. There are plenty of substitutes in the variations below!

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets
2 handfuls sorrel leaves
2 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 handful pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
green salad, to serve

1. Heat a medium frying pan on a medium high heat. Rub fish with a little oil and season with lots of salt. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking.

2. Meanwhile, for the pesto, whizz sorrel, Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add a good pinch of salt and add some olive oil with the motor running until you have a saucer paste. Taste and season with more salt if needed and some pepper.

3. Serve fish with a big dollop of pesto on top and salad on the side.

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Variations

no sorrel? – basil or flat leaf parsley are the best substitutes or try mint or coriander (cilantro) for something a bit different. A big squeeze of lemon can make the pesto taste more fresh and lemony.

dairy-free – replace Parmesan with an extra handful of pine nuts or different nuts like almonds, cashews or Brazil nuts.

vegetarian – serve pesto with pan fried eggplant ‘steaks’ or some cooked quinoa or other grains. It’s also really lovely with poached or fried eggs or as a fresh topping for a simple omelette dinner.

carnivore – replace fish with chicken thigh or breast fillets or a good quality pork chop.

more substantial – serve with mashed or roast potatoes. Or serve fish on a bed of cooked grains such as quinoa, brown rice or farro.

What about you?

Are you into growing your own food? Got any tips on veggie growing or veggie garden design you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Just pop a comment below…

And I recently made my last David Tanis meal for the Summer! You can read all about the latest installment in the Jules & David Project OVER HERE.

Big love,
Jules x

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66 Comments

  • Yay! So great to see your garden, I’ve been wondering how it was going after moving. So happy to see the recipe for sorrel pesto, I have a pot of it (going on 3 years old now!) that I use for salads, but it will be great to use it for something more.

  • Try baking/roasting the radishes. I’m not a fan of them raw, but love them baked!

    We’re converts to spaghetti squash – it’s definitely not pasta, but we’ve gone low carb for various health reasons, and it’s great as a base for bolognese and mince-based meals. I have some seeds, but haven’t tried growing them myself yet (I’ve bought them from the fruit shop in Belconnen Westfield).

  • Hi, I just thought I would share my love of Sorrel, it was introduced to me by my mother in law who is European and she makes the most wonderful soup with it. Basically sauté some onion and bacon for flavour and then add a little flour and cook for a little while, then add stock (which ever you like, chicken is good, and diced potatoes and cook, At the last minute add chopped sorrel (I like lots of it)and you don’t need to cook it really, its done. It is the most tastiest soup. It came from the camps during World War II. I hope you try and like it as much as I do. In fact I haven’t cooked it for so long and have no Sorrel in my garden so you have inspired me to get some. Thanks

  • I’m with Karen — cook those radishes! I like to saute them, adding just a pinch of sugar, to caramelize them. Nommy!

    I’m starting my second year of balcony “farming”. I have just one pretty standard-sized apartment balcony, but last year I harvested pac choi, peas, green beans, carrots, Swiss chard, salad greens, tomatoes, strawberries, and several herbs. And a couple of anemic peppers. I’m ditching the peppers and strawberries this year for additional tomatoes, and will attempt to continue growing through the winter. :-)

    • Good for you Hilary! I love my winter garden… Everything grows more slowly but there are hardly any pests to deal with… And thx for the radish sauté idea Jx

  • I’d love some chooks as well but I have a very small garden in the middle of suburbia so not very practical. Everywhere is concrete or clay so I invested in raised beds and found all my problems solved. I have several varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, green and yellow beans, peas, capsicums, carrots and herbs which are still going strong despite autumn looming. I’ve had no luck with lettuce as it bolts so quickly but I’m not complaining. Please keep the photos coming as you expand your garden…I’d love to see them. :-)

  • I’ve found that when the silverbeet gets out of control, I steam a whole lot, squeeze the water out, chop it and put portions in the freezer to add to frittatas/quiches, spanakopita, fritters, etc.

  • Not a comment on gardening as such, but you mentioned radishes. The secret to enjoying is to cut them paper-thin, as this helps to distribute their unusual flavor amongst others in a mixed salad.
    Enjoy!

  • I’m with Corinne, cut radishes paper-thin and add to salads, dips and cultured vegetables. Cut a bit thicker they are great in stir fries. Once you get hooked on them, try the white Diakon radish, they grow bigger than carrots and are good in sauerkraut and stirfries.
    I saw spaghetti squash for $10.50 Kg last week. Lucky I have about twenty large ones ripening from 6 plants.

  • Thanks for the tour. I must look up tiger snakes- not a problem in England. Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall has a recipe for a delicious green tomato and lemon marmalade. Sounds odd, I know but we made it this Summer and it’s really lovely.

    • Thx for the Hugh idea… I love my granny’s green tomato pickles but it has loads of sugar in it so am on the lookout for something new to do with my green toms. And I love Hugh! And you’re lucky you don’t have tiger snakes… They’re in the top 10 most deadly snakes and they can be aggressive.. Not a good combo! Jx

  • Hi,
    Stevia can be used as a sweetener; it is very sweet! Try adding a few leaves to herbal tea instead of honey or sugar. I’ve not tried using it baking, but I guess it would be possible :)

  • M… Do you enjoy the flavour that stevia adds to your drinks along with the sweetness? I had the plant for a few years and tried various ways to use it but I always found it added an un-appetising flavour that ruined anything I added it to. Very different to the purified stevia powder which I find acceptable. I’m interested to know if others who have used it are not put off by it’s flavour.

  • Hi Clance
    I’m so pleased you shared your garden – it looks fantastic!
    I have got so much I want to share with you … A lovely lady from our community garden recommended I put 3 or 4 Stevia leaves in with Rhubarb when making pie or crumble (I haven’t done it yet but I’m sure it’s a good recommendation). I have a great Silverbeet and Radish salad recipe that I typed up and stuck in my home made recipe book when I was about 12 years old – I will let you know when I publish it on my blog when I get back into it! I have sorrel in my garden too so really looking forward to trying it out in pesto. This Summer I have really focused on my herb garden and I totally recommend – Lemon Balm – pick a sprig and cover with boiling water, steep a minute or two and divine – I am just loving it when I get time to do it! Re: Your soil – I have done workshops on this subject and would love to share – let’s link up more!
    Lots of love Jane xox

    • Jane! Lovely to hear from you… Great idea to add stevia to rhubarb…. And I’ll keep an eye out for lemon balm… Love herbal teas. Look forward to reading your radish salad too xx

  • I think delicata squash is absolutely wonderful. Discovered it at the grocery store last year (we have one store that tends to bring in ‘ethnic’ produce and for some reason they get this when I’ve not seen it anywhere else.) We make a quick curry with it, add it to other dishes and serve it as a quick side.

  • Jules, the answer for your radish problem may be umeboshi uick pickles. If you can’t get umeboshi vinegar (japanese pickled plum) near where you are, it should be avaliable on the internet.

    Umeboshi-Pickled Red Radishes

    1 bunch red radishes
    1 Tbsp ume plum vinegar (Eden Foods brand is the best)
    Filtered water, as needed
    METHOD

    Trim, wash and dry radishes. Cut into quarters, or eighths, depending on size. Place radishes, cut-side down in a cold skillet.
    Place skillet over medium heat. Continue to heat until radishes begin to release their moisture, and you can hear them sizzle and see them beginning to dance in the pan.
    Add the umeboshi vinegar and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, or enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cover the pan.
    Turn heat to medium-low, and cook for two to three minutes, or until pan is almost dry.

    When I was little, my mom would always serve these with pan wilted kale and I loved them (the kale not so much…but now I love that too)
    Remove lid, and test a radish for doneness by inserting the tip of a knife. The radish should be almost crisp-tender. If it is not, continue to cook for another minute or so. If the pan seems dry, add a splash or two of water.
    When the radishes are just cooked, remove the lid, turn the heat to high to concentrate and reduce the remaining liquid to one or two tablespoons. Toss the radishes in the ruby red juices to glaze them slightly. Remove radishes from the pan and let cool.

  • I have grown Stevia and like you didn’t know what to do. I ended up drying it, crushing it and storing it. While it was green and not white, it tasted fine in various drinks and such. It also was sort of sweet and grassy if you just picked a leaf off of the plant to chew on.

    Because I just air-dried mine, they seemed to re-hydrate when stored so I did end up throwing some out because I was afraid of mold (there wasn’t any that I could see, but….)

    I googled stevia and found a number of websites that show what to do with it.

  • Jules, with the Stevia, I would think that drying and grinding it would be the way to go, since the main use of it is as a sweetener (don’t know of any other uses). If your remaining squash vine is spaghetti squash, you are in for a treat. I’ve always roasted mine whole – small ones for about an hour, larger ones for 1.5 hours at 350ºF/180ºC. You don’t want to overcook them. Once they are baked, if you cut them in half the long way (so you have two long pieces), you can then clean out the seeds, take two forks and fluff out the strings. My favorite way to serve spaghetti squash is with garlic butter and parmesan cheese.
    I used to grow my own veggies, including spaghetti squash, but that was a very long time ago. I would probably still enjoy it, but these days I spend too much time traveling to be able to have a veggie garden, plus it would be a lot more effort to care for since we live in the desert. So these days I’m happy growing native plants that take care of themselves.

  • I’m with the other commenters – cooking radishes completely changes the flavor (I think they get more mellow). Of course I like them raw on buttered bread with a pinch of salt (or in salads too). Also, don’t forget that you can eat the radish greens if you’re so inclined.

  • very witty jody.i enjoyed reading all the comments.the main advantage about growing your own is the greater life you get out of a plant.picking leaves as you go.i agree lemon balm is worth having, goes with avocado.i wondered about the kangas eating your plants or is it all high fenced. large crops of chilli might be a use for stevia,you could bottle your own sweet chilli sauce.

    • Barry! Loving that sweet chilli sauce idea… Have just planted a heap of chilli seeds. Great!

      The Roos seem to leave everything alone.. But it’s been a really wet summer so there is plenty of grass etc for them… Am sure in drought time it could be a problem but planning a walled veg garden in the future!

  • Thank you for sharing Jules. I just moved to a house and I know in the spring i’m going to want to start my veggie and herb garden. Having raised beds is certainly the way to go! I never thought of planting lettuce like you but, I think I’ll do that as well.

  • Made a great salad recently with an orange and a few radishes, a handful of freshly picked mint leaves and a squirt of EVOO. Delicious!

  • I love your garden, Jules. Thanks for the tour. I am in a rental and have all my herbs in pots.Any tips for keeping possums off my parsley. They leave the other herbs alone but the parsley disappears. I have made 3 small garden beds for veggies. Kale, lamb’s lettuce and beans grow well for me. The climate here is very hot and can be dry so a lot of other stuff like tomatoes struggles.

  • Great efforts! Stevia is sold in these parts as a sugar substitute – either in liquid form or powder. You might try drying the leaves and then using them to sweeten stewed fruit or whatever.
    Have you tried growing lemon balm? It’s like a weed – great for tea or to add some lemon flavour to cooking. I dry the leaves in the Fall so I have some on hand during the winter months. The plant is perennial and comes back up in the Spring.
    Cheers! Amanda

  • I really like your garden. I would love to know how you mad those raised bed out of metal. I am looking at different ways to make them and I like what you did.

    • Thx Helen!
      I got the raised beds from Birdies Garden Products here in Australia… They’re really easy to put together… Am sure there would be something similar where you live! Jx

  • I am so inspired by your herb garden. I think I’ll give it a go this year.

    In regard to the radish. I like to keep it simple. I saute them (stem cut side down) in butter with salt and pepper. The radishes stay crisp but release their sugars which give them a totally different flavor.

  • Hi Jules,
    I love love love your garden! Amazing. I use gradient.com – you register your area and get monthly emails telling you what to plant. Brilliant little website. My question, where did you get those great planters? We have a zillion rabbits here and they are tricky little blighters. Leave the weeds to flourish and munch everything else when they can. I think those planters would be a perfect foil for them!

  • Thanks for the gardening ideas — and the recipes! It’s amazing to see how well edible plants can be integrated into a flower garden or landscape planting. Raised beds are definitely the way to go. Otherwise it takes *forever* to improve the soil. And we have plenty of horse troughs here in Texas :)

  • It’s a wonderful garden, fresh salads are so much better than anything store-bought.
    I’ve heard that the country you live in has the 10 most poisonous snakes. Something about once being a penal colony. Where does the Tiger snake fit in?

    • Hey Daryle! I think Australia only has 7 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world… Not sure exactly where the Tigers fall but it’s definitely top 10! I’m pretty sure they were here well before the convicts :)

  • I was wondering if you are getting much toxin leak from using the recycled wood beams in your raised gardens. often long ago they were soaked in creosote.
    also I was checking out my seed from a few last years and had some which were quite old so I am making seed bombs for fun while waiting for planting season.

  • Just wanted to some other variations for the pesto mix…I was staying at a place at the end of the season that started making nasturtium pesto as they cleared their garden beds for winter! Nasturtium has a bit of a peppery flavour so it’s different but it worked well. They were also using nutritional yeast as a vegan option instead of parmesan, and someone got experimental and started roasting the garlic before it got added which was pretty yum too!

  • Your edible garden is gorgeous! I am in love with your salad garden! I live in England and here is the climate is not that great when it comes to gardening but I still find a way to grow herbs, salads and some other veggies. I really like the way you managed to create your garden! I can’t believe what it is to find such poisonous snakes in your garden! Sounds horrible but adventurous as well! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Camelia!
      You know I’d be happy to have a bit less sun if it mean there were no snakes… but it is character building learning to overcome my fear :)
      Jx

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