Things are winding down in the garden. I’ve taken out the cherry tomato plants though the big beefsteak plant still has plenty of fruit so I’ve left it in for a bit. I’m picking the tomatoes before they turn red to beat the insects that seem pretty keen on them, and ripening them on a table in the kitchen.
I totally misjudged the trimming of the zucchini plant. It has been the most magnificent plant, the best one I’ve ever grown – one plant has produced close to a 100 zucchini – but when I saw the tell-tale silvery powder on the leaves I gave it a haircut and tidied it up. It looked awesome and I discovered there were several small clusters of babies growing away under the leaves. But then the big rains came. Great for the water tanks and garden generally, but not so for the zucchini plant as it caused major rot where the leaves were removed and I’ve lost a lot of those babies. That’s a lesson (check the weather forecast before hacking into a plant).
I am unsure whether it will recover as daylight hours are now reduced and the heat has gone out of the sun. Mmmm.
I planted summer savory but it has remained untouched. I was excited at first, but I find I always reach for thyme or marjoram when I want those kind of herby notes. Summer savory belongs to the mint family, and although I don’t find my plant that minty, it certainly is peppery. Back in the day it was favoured as a hot spicy herb before black pepper took the herbal throne. There’s also a winter savory. It’s a bit milder, not as peppery, a bit earthy and can be bitter. Summer savory and beans are a great combination. I had gazillions of beans and the summer savory right there, but I guess I am a thyme/marjoram lover. It did bring bees to the herb garden though, so I’m thankful for that. I’ll see how long it fares during autumn … and try to use it soon.
Sage, thyme and marjoram are still flourishing, and an endless joy. As well as using them with food I also love a wee posy of them in the kitchen to sniff. The flowers and tight buddy things that form on marjoram are all useable, though you can trim them away if they start to go brown. At this time of year mint and parsley take off. I think this is when flat-leaf parsley tastes the best – so fresh and clean, with little bitterness – and I like to use it liberally. A quick salad with chopped radishes and parsley, a splash of vinegar and sprinkle of salt is a 2-minute salad with a nice hot bite.
Tarragon is still prolific, but as soon as it turns cold in Auckland – most days are around 20°C (68°F) – it’ll start to go brown and die off. The trick is to pick it all just before that happens and to dry it at room temperature, then transfer it to a jar. It will keep its fragrance for well over a year. Remember with tarragon, it will come back again. So cut it down to the soil and leave a marker where it is so you don’t accidently dig it up, and next year, it will pop up again in spring. It always looks so cute, little tufty blades reaching for the sky! It can do so for several years before it eventually dies off.
I cut the yellow and thin green bean plants back about three weeks ago and got many more beans from them, so that was successful. I’ve also cut the scarlet runner bean plants back as they’d finished flowering and encouraged the few baby leaves left to curl around the bamboo stakes. You never know. And, of course, when you cut down beans you always find a few monsters, so I’ve kept those and I’m drying the beans to plant next season.
Talk about monsters. Yep, the zucchini that got away on me … we’ve all had it happen to us. It was hidden under all those leaves, hence the yellowing on the skin.
I’m letting all the fennel flowers turn to seed then I will dry off. Homegrown fennel seed is simply amazing. It’s very aromatic, and so unbelievably licoricey-sweet, and quite a joy to use with pork and chicken, fish, and baked vegetables. And nothing brings more bees to the garden than those high yellow flower heads visible from far away.
I’ve plenty of picking broccoli. Do you know this one? It’s sold as tender-stemmed broccoli, but it is really broccolini. It grows single stems of broccoli, which you harvest and it keeps on producing even more single stems, unlike headed broccoli which produces one big flower head then it’s done. I love it. I’ve got 6 plants producing enough tender-stemmed broccoli for 2 meals a week. Cavolo nero and red chard need some attention: they just need to be eaten!
I won’t be planting again, apart from lettuces, until my little house comes in (it is going to be ‘craned’ in!) as the raised vegetable plots are all going to be moved. Phew! There’s lots of work to be done over winter to get things ready for spring.