Thursday, March 13, 2008

I now have a Sonnenacker.

Today I signed up for what promises to be an interesting idea. Basically you pay 45 Euros for a 100m long 75cm wide strip of land from Aporil to October. On that you can grow whatever you wish - herbs, fruit, veg or flowers. The rule is basically that you don't put any chemicals or pesticides on the plot and in autumn they plough the old rotted bits into the ground for the next year.

So far about 15 people in my town have registered. I am hoping that many will give me tips on what to do as I am "begeistert aber keine Ahnung" - enthusiastic but without a clue!

Here is a link to the sire in German. Be nice if it caught on elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Aubergines? What the hell do I do with THEM!

When they appeared in my organic box last year I left them to one side, only to unfortunately throw them away later when I couldn't find a use for them. I knew of the existence of the following idea but lacked the confidence to do anything.

Years ago I lived in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. My löunch hour was spent in the "Men's" pool - we were strictly segregated - doing 500m then going to the snack bar at out Recreation Center. They'd serve me pitta bread, m'tabbel and a green salad. Well to a neophyte cook these seem complex but now that I feel more confident I have now found a use for these otherwise bitter veg.

Simply chuck them in the hottest oven for 40 minutes to bake, then take them out and cut them open. Juice a lemon and peel 3 cloves of garlic. A dessertspooin of Tahini (pureed sesame seeds) and pulse in the blender. Minutes later comes this hummus-y mix which is better than hummus! Thanks to this website.

I also made some pitta breads. They worked well. Finished off with the simplest lettuce salad thanks to Jamie Oliver's "Jamie at Home" and we had adelicious complete meal which the kids ate too.

British Govt tries to get kids fitter

Saw on the BBC Breakfast yesterday that the Min of Education or whatever they are called is trying to get British kids to do some PE.They said motivating them is not easy.

Well my daughter has been doing "Tournen" for ages in her kindergarten now and loves it.

Soon when the daylight allows and there is no more ice on the roads I want to start jogging again. It fits in with my plan:

1. Grow as much of my own food as I can
2. Learn to cook it in interesting ways
3. Then hopefully run off oall the fat I have put on.

Part 1 had limited success last year owing to my beginner status. Part 2 is undetgoing a hiatus until the new kitchzen is installed - we are living on old bits of thrown away carpet at the moment till the old kitchen is pulled down. Part 3 has been dead in the water. I bought this cross trainer which has never been used much and lies in my cellar. Hope to start the running thing soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Organic!

Was honoured to be mentioned in a Brit lady's blog regarding veg growing and gardening.

As we look forward to the new growing season we enter into it chastened and wiser. I entered into the enterprise last year digging up a chunk of lawn and really put my back into it, so much so that by May I had put my back out! The seemingly benign world of gardening can be dangerous. What I found in general was that I grew all these veg, but when they came I didnt have the first clue what to do with them. Also sometimes I was less than diligent in harvesting - my courgettes grew to 6 pound monsters! But what were a success were the fresh tomatoes along my south wall - they tasted a dream. Evcery visitor to us kept nicking them. My son was the main criminal, as well as pinching grapes whiclst passing my vine trained onto my balcony!

I think receiving the occasional veg box has helped too. You get odd veg which are out of the normal two veg from the meat and two veg kind and you have to Google for recipes to deal with it. That has forced me to research food much more, especially as I have to translate the German word into English. For example lastyear we got some scorzonera. Quick surf then plopped them in a pan with boiling salty water. Puree after cooking and the most delicious flavour. Same with Swiss chard. Bear in mind that when I started to cook (more seriously than meat two veg recipes)  the year before I dint even know what pesto was. Now I make Swiss chard pesto with ease. Aubergines? Bitter boring tasteless veg. But surf for Arabic "M'tabbel" and up comes a delicious hummus type spread which I used to eat every day after my lunchtime swim when living in the Gulf.

I also learned to be not too idealistic in the beginning. Last summer I got hammered by slugs. As a beginner I tried to be organic and use no chamicals but in my opinion unless you know what you are doing in the beginning you have to use them a bit. I used fertiliser on my lawn which helped a lot. I resisted the idea of slug pellets for months till one night I gave in. They ate all my sunflowers - I had 25 of them nurtured from seed, all my lupins. Much of my veg bed was eaten. So one night I gave in and bought some pellets which were hedghog and other creature-friendly. 10pm I strew them all over the garden. Two days later laods of exploded slugs lay all over the garden.

So my advice is until you know what your are doing listen to the locals' advice and use chemicals as long as they aren't really heavy duty ones. We all want to be organic, but how many of us have unwittingly imbibed all kinds of chemicals in our pasts. Our British food has had many kinds of horrible chemicals put into it for years.

I shall try not to be too "right on" either. Simple basics like potatoes and beans will do. Last year I watched Gardeners World and saw this "Three Sisters" thing - beans sweetcorn, and pumpkins all living in feminine harmony with each other. Inspired by the Woodstock generation hippy thing - hey I have the Directors Cut on DVD and often put on old Pink floyd vinyl through the headphones late night when the kids are alseep and I have indulged in too much German beer - Tried it and what happened? One orange sized pumpkin and a few ropey beans. The corn grew tall but overcropped. Result? I am sick of all corn and pumpkins now - we've been eating the soup for years anyway. Cue the need for a more creative approach to veg and cookery.