staples

I often worry the I haven't planted enough, or I'm not caring enough for the veg that I am growing. I get despondent when I visit other people's gardens and when they appear like a veritable food jungle in comparison to my patch. As a result I often leave feeling deflated. It's part and parcel of relying on yourself to supplement much of your food supply by being a veg grower. You stop worrying so much about money and start worrying more about your vegetables (for the record I still worry about money, more so the lack of).

It's like clockwork at this time, in the middle of summer, when I start complaining to myself that I should have mulched earlier, or that I planted the wrong variety, or that I haven't watered enough. It's all very much useless energy I spend in worrying. I can't change anything about it my annual habit of mid-summer glumness. It is what it is. I'll always be hard on myself. For example, in this yard I have planted so many onion only to see them fail as a crop. Many small onions, and many just weren't even worth harvesting. I torture myself thinking that it was something I did wrong. But the truth is, it's been too cold and wet this past spring and not ideal conditions for a productive onion crop. It's just something I have to accept. On the flip side though, pea and broccoli did really well. Spuds have been a challenge here, and it's mainly because of position. I think if we had the entire vegetable garden located elsewhere we'd have better yield but it's the place I'm growing in at the moment, so it is what it is.

Onions didn't do as well as I'd like but shallots did! Go figure.

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One positive side to renting is that you tend to grow a lot of food in pots. It's an insurance policy, just on the off chance you're landlord tells you they might want to move back, our sell the place. Plants like chilli respond well to this arrangement as they like the heat of residing in pots, it's a micro climate, and they also like the soil to be well drained. We have one chilli plant that is fruiting like mad at the moment but the rest are just at budding stage. I had to make a batch of salsa picante for an event I'm cooking at on Australia Day for The School of Life. I committed to making both my salsa picante and my hot zucchini relish to marry with rabbit burgers and the famous Farmers Larder Pork Sausages. The salsa is at its best when it has a few weeks to brew in bottles, it seems to bring out the 'slap in the face' flavour, and adds a little more complexity to the salsa. I mixed my chilli with some (cough!) store bought chilli, and the end result is there....BANG! CHILLI!!

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For us chilli is like potato and onion. It's something we eat everyday. Be it fresh in summer and autumn, or dried in winter. Be it a salsa made in summer and enjoyed in winter or maybe as a garnish on fresh caught ocean fish. It's one of our staple ingredients. And for that reason I grow lots of it now. It makes sense to me to grow lots of the things that we consume a lot of. Thats my approach to veg growing.

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I have to three main objectives in veg growing.

1. Grow lots of things that you need a lot of 2. Grow veg that you need a little of here and there in the kitchen like celery, herbs, carrots etc 3. Grow heaps in summer that you can store and eat in winter

And because I can't grow everything I take what I can get from other growers when I can get it. These blackcurrants I scored form my longtime mate and ex-boss the mad Polish Pete. This guy has a love, a passion for growing fruit that I've not seen in any other human. He truly believes that the dude upstairs invented fruit and veg for us guys downstairs and to celebrate that eden he's set up a 100-variety fruit orchard that's always made me drool when I make a summer visit. He has so many blackcurrants this year he doesn't have a use for them, so we picked some (and a bucket of plums, limes, lemons and peaches) in return for some of our elderflower cordial and a copy of my book. A fair deal, as we don't have the selection of fruit trees as he does! Clever kitchen Kate made a knockout spicy plum and current jam and a smashing blackcurrant cordial (goes terribly well with vodka and ice).

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Our garden is now still in transition. It got knocked about by three days of hot dry wind and almost 40C days, but it's survived. We had a grass fire on our road, but thankfully the CFA got to it before it took hold, we could have lost everything I suppose. But the staples garden is still there, growing us beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, beans, lettuce, pumpkin, and more beans and pumpkin. Staples. They feed us over winter.

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