Apricot bottling and berry tarts!

Have you done any fruit bottling this year? Never tried it before? It’s really easy, and a great way to preserve the summer bounty to enjoy through winter.

Our farm is a demonstration of how you can grow and preserve an entire year’s supply of fruit for your family, so each year we practise what we preach and bottle a heap of fruit to see us through winter.

We aim to preserve enough each year so we don’t need to buy fruit at all, so we’re busily filling the pantry at the moment.

It’s still early in the season, so there’s not much fruit around, but apricots and cherries are some of our favourites, so we’ve filled lots of jars with them already.

We’re also harvesting lots of berries at the moment as well. We don’t bottle these, as they tend to go mushy. But they freeze really well, and we also eat as many as we can while they’re fresh and in season.

 

This is one of our favourite ways to eat them – berry tarts! They are quick, delicious and really easy to make, the whole thing only takes about half an hour from start to finish.

Here’s the recipe to make about 24 tarts:

Gluten free pastry

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1/4 cup besan flour
  • knob butter
  • milk

Make pastry your usual way. Roll out, and use a glass or pastry cutter to cut tart-sized rounds. Cook in greased tart tins (like shallow muffin trays) for about 8 mins or until done.

Berry filling

Put about 400g berries in a saucepan, add about 1/2 cup sugar (or enough to sweeten to taste). Cook, stirring all the while until the sugar is completely melted and a syrup is forming. It’s great if some of the berries retain their shape.

In a cup mix 2 heaped tsp cornflour with just enough water to make it liquid. Add to berry mixture, and stir until the cornflour is completely cooked and the mixture starts to thicken. The mixture will go cloudy when you add the cornflour, so keep cooking until it has gone clear again.

Fill pastry cases with berry mixture and set aside to cool and set.

If you’re interested in finding out more about fruit preserving for home use, try Fabulous Fruit Preserving. It includes instructions for how to bottle fruit using equipment found in most home kitchens, as well as details about freezing, jam and dehydrating (and even includes instructions for making your own fruit dehydrator!)

An autumn reflection on the summer that wasn’t…

Hi there,

Hope this finds you well out in the world. It’s officially the first week of autumn, but the garden looks like its finally hitting its summer stride…hmmm.

unnamed-5-5I’m very aware that I’m very green (young) in this business of growing food on a productive scale in order to feed the community that surrounds our ‘patch’. And this odd season has definitely got me thinking about it all, again, in a slightly different way. Reflecting this morning on the moment that made me truly wanna do this, I remembered that the feeling of not being able to control the elements was something that I relished. I loved that we had to work with it all, if you fought and resisted it or even worse tried to control it, you would be waging war with something that would never work.

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Ultimately, I still hold this value deep down, but I do have to laugh at myself looking at the moment now. It’s easy to soak up all the extremes when you don’t have to pay rent with tomatoes that were meant to come on 7 weeks ago. I’ve struggled this crazy season, and if people have asked I’ve told them, “It’s a slow season, I want summer to arrive!” I shocked myself by feeling a tiny bit of anger towards the joy people were having towards the mild summer. No, I thought! You don’t understand! We need it to be hot! (I’m not asking for a drought, please don’t misunderstand me!!) Another reaction people had was to look at me as if I was dumb…”Well, that’s farming, isn’t it?” and then they’d walk on their way. I was left standing there wanting to keep talking, but we did everything right, we were on time, we spent a lot of money on the good inputs, the good mulch, the irrigation, the seedlings, dedicated more time to be at the patch…

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Another part of the moment I mentioned before that solidified my desire to keep growing (pun intended) my knowledge, resilience and skills around productively growing food WITH the land is that I cannot deny how much it teaches us about ourselves. Seriously, this whole weather thing has made me look, once again, at how I deal with expectations, control, disappointment, bouncing back, coping techniques, taking a breath (lots actually) and being content with my true place in the world.  It teaches me so much.

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I’m at peace now with the season that was, and kinda wasn’t, and have accepted that these extremes, I think, will just become more and more commonplace. Unfortunately. My job is to learn how to produce food within that reality.

So, happy autumn, and may you listen to the natures around you.

Mel.

Gearing up for summer…

We grow things in long straight rows at the patch. It makes sense for efficiency but there is nothing particularly straight and orderly about Mel or I. So, to keep things interesting for us and the insects we plant interesting varieties of things that paint a colourful picture down each row. That’s why tomato time is so exciting! Wowee there are so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes out there, hundreds in fact. Far more than the three varieties you’ll find at the super market.

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This year our lovely friends down at CERES propagation are growing up our tomato and eggplant seedlings and we have been busily preparing the beds and planting out our first succession the past 2 weeks. The seedlings are gorgeous and strong and look very cosy in their new homes. This year we’ve planted black, yellow, stripy, green and red varieties of cherry tomatoes and we can’t wait to pick them and sell them all mixed up together as a rainbow mix! We’re also planting six different varieties of the larger types of tomatoes. Yum.

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Our snow peas and shelling peas are going nuts at the moment and despite the trellising it’s a total wrestle to poke yourself and a bucket through the 2-meter-tall aisles to pick them. This year we got our grubby little hands on a packet of purple podded snow peas. We planted them and they are absolutely gorgeous, dark purple pods. Instead of picking them this year we are saving the lot for seed so that next year we can plant out a row of them rather than just one little corner of a row.

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In amongst each crop at the patch, we usually plant companion plants. Companion plants help in lots of different ways. They can confuse or repel pest insects, attract beneficial insects, act as a living mulch to cover bare soil, help feed the soil biota and they increase the productivity of the row by growing more than one crop. Not to mention they make the rows far more interesting and pretty to look at! In amongst our tomatoes this year there will be an understorey of basil, nasturtiums and chives, oh and  probably a few stray lettuce, rocket, chamomile, calendula and hearts ease plants that have self-seeded in the row too!

Well, the sun is shining, the soil is drying and its time to fix the leaky pipes in preparation for the season of irrigation and colour! Have a great weekend.

Sas and Mel