It's finally the time of the year when the dehydrator is working full time, and there's currently a bunch of herbs drying in the dehydrator.
First up is coriander, which is currently on it's second harvest for the season.
Next we have dill, which has also been harvested for the second time this season.
I've also just harvested celery for cutting for the first time this season, and I'm hoping to turn it into celery salt.
And also, there's finally enough basil to start dehydrating. I've just did the first harvest, and there was enough for both making a small amount of pesto, and also for some to dry.
And finally, I've just harvested lemon balm for the first time ever. It's used a lot in the teas I often drink, so I'm hoping to make some for myself.
Have you got harvests coming on? I love early summer in the garden, it's full of so much potential.
Have a wonderful day.
During last year's growing season I had a Serrano chilli plant growing in our glasshouse, and over summer it gave me an abundant harvest of both green and red chillies. I picked so many chillies that I had no idea what to do with them all. I gave away as many as I could, and then with the rest I decided to dry them. We mainly use chillies as dried chilli powder in the kitchen throughout the year, so this method to prepare them was the best way to use all the left over chillies.
I waited until I had a big chlli harvest (some had already started drying out whole), and I cut off all the tops off before splitting them down the middle and removing the seeds (while wearing gloves). I then dried them in our dehydrator on trays at a temperature of 50˚C.
The smell was quite pungent, so initially the dehydrator was sitting outside under our veranda for the day, and then in the garage after that.
Once the chillies were dry, they were stored whole in a plastic container until it was time to grind them.
Last week, I finally got around to actually grinding them in our coffee and spice grinder. So as not to stink out the house with powdered chilli, I placed the grinder under the rangehood with it turned on.
It didn't take very long to turn the chilli into powder. It didn't make as much as I thought it would, so I think that this year I won't give as much away, so we'll have more chilli powder for ourselves.
And we've already used our new chilli powder in a meal, we made chilli con carne that very night. It wasn't too spicy, but it had a really great flavor that we liked. I'm definitely happy to make even more chilli powder this coming growing season.
Have a wonderful day
I'm a curious person at heart, I love growing new things in the garden, and especially when they're niche plants or crops. Every year I'm always trying a new variety of tomato or basil to see if I can get a crop that works well in our local conditions, and I've also grown linen plants so I can get flax fibre for spinning (but that's a whole other story)...
Back during the great bread flour shortage of 2020 during New Zealand's first Covid 19 lock down, I joked to hubby that we might have to start growing our own wheat and then processing it into flour if we wanted to continue baking our own bread at home. I was only joking of course at the time, but ever since then the idea has been at the back of my mind. Could I possibly successfully grow my own wheat, process it, and then make it into bread?
During the winter months of last year (2022), I finally decided that now was the time to try growing wheat in my vege garden. There's an unspoken rule about wheat locally—you can't grow it successfully in Otago, and especially down in Dunedin. You grow wheat in Canterbury, and oats in Otago (now that gives me another idea...). I chatted with my friends online, and they were doubtful it would work, it's too cold and not sunny enough, but that didn't deter me. Hubby and I live in Mosgiel, which is an inland suburb of Dunedin, and we get long, hot summers compared to suburbs much closer to the sea. I successfully grow limes, lemons, and mandarins outside during the summer, and wheat isn't as fussy as to grow as them.
My first task was researching where I could find wheat seed. I found two small seed merchants in New Zealand who sell it, Kings Seeds and Kōanga Institute. The Kings Seeds wheat was sold in packets for growing wheatgrass, and came in a handy 1 kg packet, so I went with that since I was already buying other seeds from them in my spring seed order.
My next task was figuring out when to sow the seed, and I found this wonderful blog post by Epic Gardening detailing everything I needed to know about growing wheat. My plan was to sow a 1 m x 2 m section of vege garden bed in early October, at 25 plants per square foot, as our last frost is usually in late September. That would give the wheat plenty of time to form ripe wheat berries over summer before autumn arrived, as it takes 120 days from seed sowing to harvest. But unfortunately that plan was delayed by two weeks after we got an 8 cm snowfall in early October, followed by a week of frosts.
So the week before Labour Weekend I prepared the soil to a nice and fine tilth, and then sowed my seeds. I diligently placed bird netting on a frame, watered the seeds in, and waited impatiently for them to sprout. What I didn't count on though, was Luna, our neighbor's cat. She had decided that the netting and fame made a nice hammock, and it would be great to sleep on.
While climbing onto, and sleeping on the bird netting she created gaps, and that's how the birds got in. Without me knowing, within half a day, sparrows had eaten most of the wheat seeds I sowed. After much grumping, and completely redesigning the frame and bird netting, I completely bird and cat proofed the second sowing of wheat seed. And this time it worked.
After about a week, the wheat seeds germinated. It was easy to tell the wheat from any weeds, as wheat is a grass plant. The plants grew fast and strong with sunshine and spring rain, and by the time it got to Christmas, the plants themselves were already 80 cm tall, and they'd already set seed heads.
Our past summer was the hottest and driest in years, and I think that helped the wheat ripen quite quickly. The bird netting went back on as the wheat began to turn golden,after I noticed that the sparrows had begun to hang around the wheat again. The tricky part was knowing when to harvest, and I used the Epic Gardening guide to figure out when I was time to cut the stems.
I used a combination of looking at the angle of the heavy seed heads, the hardness of the individual wheat berries when pressed between two fingernails, and also the golden colour of the seed heads to know when it was time to harvest. The wheat wasn't uniformly ready all at the same time, so I selectively cut them on hot summer days in late January, and bundled them up for drying.
The wheat bundles had to dry in the sun for a week before threshing, but I also needed to keep the sparrows away from the drying grain. After much pondering on how to do this step, I decided on laying out the wheat bundles on the gravel floor of the glasshouse during the day. Every morning I would lay the out the wheat bundles on the glasshouse floor, and then place a mesh screen over the glasshouse door, so there would be good airflow.
After a week of drying the bundles were bone dry, and some wheat berries had already began popping out of the seed heads. The next step is threshing, followed by winnowing, and I'll share these processes with you in a future blog post.
But what I can conclude from this whole process, is that wheat is indeed an easy to grow crop. It doesn't require any specialised tools, and is well within the abilities of a home gardener. I've also shown that is possible to grow wheat in Otago, and Dunedin, if you live in a warm, sunny suburb away from the sea. I will happily grow wheat again in my garden in the future.
Have a wonderful day
love eating basil, whether it be fresh in salads or pesto in summer, or
dehydrated to add to dishes in winter, so back in the winter of 2022, I
added three different types of basil seeds to my Kings seeds order. As I
have a PhD in plant biochemistry, I'm always up for experimenting with
new plants to see how they grow and what their harvests are like.
The three varieties of basil I chose were, Organic Basil Sweet Genovese, Basil Gustosa,
and Basil Lettuce Leaf. Sweet Genovese is the basil everyone usually
thinks of when it comes to pesto, and also for eating fresh. This basil
tastes fresh and clean, and grows well in a glasshouse, and is the type
I've grown for years. Basil Gustosa is also a Sweet Genovese type, but
was bred for growing commercially in pots with vigorous growth and good
disease resistance. Basil Lettuce Leaf is the strongest growing and most
highly prolific of all basil varieties. The leaves are twice as large
as normal basil leaves, and the leaves themselves are crinkly.
I sowed all the basil varieties in mid-September and grew them up in the glasshouse in pots until October when they were dug into the glasshouse soil.
The basil plants all grew strong and healthy. There was little difference in growth between the Sweet Genovese and Gustosa basil varieties, and they looked similar. The Basil Lettuce Leaf had leaves much bigger than the other two varieties, were lighter in colour, and they were very crinkly. During its growth the Basil Lettuce Leaf was attacked by caterpillars, where as the Sweet Genovese and Gustosa were not.
It wasn't long before our first basil harvest was picked.
the three basil varieties, Sweet Genovese basil was the most like the
common basil grown and eaten. It had a sweet taste that wasn't too
overpowering. The Gustosa leaves were similar in size to the Sweet
Genovese basil, but it's taste was a little more peppery than Sweet
Genovese. The Lettuce Leaf basil's leaves were much bigger, and had a
slight aniseed taste.
We made a batch of pesto by combining all the basil types, and as you can imagine it was delicious. Because of how expensive pine nuts are, we usually use Mother Earth Slightly Salted Cashew Nuts in our pesto. We only buy them when they're on special, and they are salty enough that no extra salt is needed to make the pesto.
The bulk of our basil crop is dehydrated in our dehydrator for later use in the colder months. We bought our Sunbeam FoodLab Dehydrator in August 2022, and have used it nearly every day since then for drying herbs, flowers, fruit, and vegetables. We couldn't live without it now that we own one. We also bought some accessories for it online, so that we have more finer trays for herbs, and also more silicone non-stick sheets for making fruit leather.
Basil is dried in our dehydrator at 35˚C for a number of hours. It is ready when the leaves snap after they have been cooled to room temperature. After that they are stored in a glass container for 48 hours to check no further water has been released into the container.
we dried all three varieties of basil in the dehydrator, both Sweet
Genovese and Gustosa dried quickly. The Lettuce Leaf basil however, took
a long time to dry as its leaves contained much more water than the
other two varieties.
the basil is dried I ground all the basil varieties together using our
Breville Coffee and Spice Grinder. It is designed for grinding all sorts
of herbs, spices, and also coffee, and we bought it online when someone
was having a sale.
experimenting with all these basil varieties over the Spring and
Summer, I have decided that in future seasons I wish to grow only the
Sweet Genovese and Gustosa varieties. Even though they do not have big
leaves like the Lettuce Leaf Basil, they still have good plant growth,
and are resistant to caterpillar attack. They also dry fast in the
dehydrator, which is what we harvest most of our basil for. The mix of
the two varieties also brings a good combination in terms of taste, so
that's also a bonus.
am having sinus surgery this Friday (17th March), and will be
recovering for a couple of weeks, but have already prepared next weeks
blog post for you.
Have a wonderful day,
Today I thought I'd share with you all the anemone and collarette dahlias dotted around my garden. Now that we're in autumn it's only a matter of time before the first frost of the season hits them, and the flowers and plants die down for the winter season.
first introduction to dahlias was by my Aunt, who was a big dahlia
collector when I was growing up. I remember many happy weekend
afternoons following both, her and my grandfather around their back
garden as they worked, and admiring my aunt's many dahlias. I thought
they were big and beautiful, and wished for some of my own one day.
started collecting dahlias myself when we were living in Wellington. I
came upon a bedraggled dahlia tuber sitting in a bag at a garden store,
and took it home in order to rescue it, and gave it a new home. That
dahlia was Dahlia Lucky Number.
Lucky Number is a big dahlia, measuring over 1.5 m tall and is a
prolific flowerer, with hot pink flowers the size of a dinner plate.
Because it is a collarette dahlia, with the heart of the flower exposed,
it is very popular with both bees and butterflies. In truth, it is one
of my favorite dahlias.
wasn't long before I picked up another dahlia, this time the Keith
Hammett bred (he's a New Zealand breeder) Dahlia Mystic Sparkler. Mystic
Sparkler is another collarette dahlia, and has beautiful dark foliage
which shows off the hot pink and yellow flowers. This dahlia is also
attractive to birds and bees as well. This dahlia is compact, and grows
well in pots and planters.
When we moved back to Dunedin in October 2019, my dahlias had already arrived ahead of me. The winter of 2019, I had dug up all my dahlias, trimmed them, and couriered them down to my sister in Dunedin, where she put them into her garden for the upcoming summer season. Once we had found a home down there, and after the summer season (and the first Covid 19 lock down), we dug all my dahlia tubers up, and I took them home to plant in the ground.
meanwhile, in October 2019 after we had moved into our home, I couldn't
resist picking up another Keith Hammett dahlia from the garden store,
and planting it in my front garden. Dahlia Mystic Enchantment is a
dahlia related to Mystic Sparkler. Mystic Enchantment has the same
characteristics of Dahlia Mystic Sparkler, except it has florescent
orange flowers, and is an anemone dahlia. Bees are also attracted to its
flowers, and the plant is a very prolific flowerer.
More recently I've picked up another Keith Hammett Dahlia, this time the collarette dahlia, Protegee. It has the same dark foliage as Mystic Sparkler and Mystic Enchantment, but it's flowers are bright pink in the middle, surrounded by a lighter pink.
And another Keith Hammett Collarette dahlia I've also acquired recently is Dahlia Home Run. It has pretty, bright pink flowers, and adds nicely to my ever growing collection of Keith Hammett dahlias.
And as if I couldn't get enough of Keith Hammett's dahlias, he has a website where you can buy seed packets containing dahlias seeds from his breeding experiments. Each seed will give rise to a dahlia that has never been seen before. You will never know what you will get. I've bought seeds from his Beeline, Beeline II, and Sunflower collections, and sprinkled them around my garden. The photos below show the variation I've gotten so far from my seed sowing.
I have many more Keith Hammett dahlia seeds stored away, so who knows what colours I will get in the years to come as I sow more seed. But these aren't my only dahlias, I also have a number of stunning dinner plate and decorative dahlias also, and I will show you those as well in the coming weeks.
you are new to dahlias, and are unsure how to look after some of you
own, I really recommend the book, Discovering Dahlias, by Erin
Benzakein. It contains detailed information on looking after dahlias,
and has many great photographic examples on how to do things like
dividing dahlias etc.
is certainly settling in down here in the deep south, the nights are
getting longer and cooler, and trees are starting to change colour. As I
am having sinus surgery late next week, the next week in the garden
will be very busy for me, getting jobs done before I will be recovering
for the next three weeks after that. I have spring bulb orders arriving
soon, and I would like to get them in the ground as soon as possible,
otherwise hubby will have to do them for me, which should be fun...
Have a wonderful day,