Member Since: 08/22/2010

recent comments

Re: 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard

YUM! Anything that looks so good, has to be great to eat! Amazingly, this was one of the only 3 vegies I could get my carnivorous son to eat (the others of course were french fries and tomato sauce), in that glorious flaky-crusty-cheesy Greek fillo-and-feta classic, spanakopita.

I've planted some recently, and though it's a cool weather crop, our current antarctic spring conditions are making it sulk somewhat, especially the red ones. Plants with that gorgeous colour take a bit longer to grow than their green counterparts. It's a chlorophyll thing. But surely warmer days will eventually arrive, as usual my beauties will all soar to sturdy, voluptuously rumpled heights, and I will wonder why I ever imagined I needed more than a single plant! Must get some tame bunnies to gnaw the inevitable surplus.

We call it Rainbow Chard down here in the Antipodes. All the individual colours have seductive official names too - Ruby Red chard, Cardinal (deep vermilion), Canary (yellow), Flamingo (that obscenely dayglo pink!) How could I bear not to grow flamboyant flamingoes, canaries and rubies in my reborn garden?

Re: Keep Rabbits Out Of Your Fall Garden

You mean to say them no-'count chiweenies ain't content with trampling all your best crops - they invite the bunnies in to partay as well???

Re: Roast Some Healthy Pumpkin Seeds


"Lightly roasted, salted, unhulled pumpkin seeds are popular in Greece with the descriptive Italian name, passatempo ('pastime'.)"

You've whetted my appetite with that recipe Chris. I'm going to try growing the pumpkins which produce hull-less pepitas. It's early spring here in Australia, so I have time to order the seed, and construct a mini greenhouse to fend off the dreaded summer frosts.

If anyone else is interested in growing these conveniently-seeded pumpkins next year, they are called "STYRIAN HULL-LESS" and they're available from limited sources; one is www.horizonherbs.com . The pumpkins take about 90 days to maturity, weigh 6 - 15 lb, and are said to be good to eat as well as producing a supply of high-protein pepitas, which are also used for production of pumpkin seed oil.

Re: Roast Some Healthy Pumpkin Seeds

Thanks Chris! So it has to be done the low-tech way? And if someone offers me a gift of their own pre-hulled roasted pumpkin seeds, I should be very suspicious, right?!

Re: Roast Some Healthy Pumpkin Seeds

But HOW do you shell them? Train a parrot to do it for you??

Re: Roast Some Healthy Pumpkin Seeds

I've always hated throwing away the most protein-rich part of the pumpkin (I gnaw through a huge one each month by myself) but I've never been able to figure out HOW to time-effectively hull them! Is there a special technique?

I have found that there is a hull-less pumpkin variety which is used for pepitas, but alas the year-round killer frosts where I live, pretty much rule out trying to grow them here.

Re: Summer Musings

I so LONG to be Greek! Especially in winter and at mealtimes!

Re: Covering gardens

I inherited a garden from people who obviously believed this was true.

15 years later, I am still breaking my back and my heart digging out their layers of black plastic sheeting, landscape cloth, lengths of carpeting, all manner of trash - which is RIDDLED with dense impenetrable mats of perennial weed roots which have woven themselves in and out of all this stuff. Their tough pointed roots pierce through black plastic and nylon loop pile and landscape cloth with gay abandon. Weed seeds fly in from surrounding farmland and sprout in carpet, and in the mulch and dust that lands on top of the plastic and landscape cloth.

This is a massive environmental problem which really needed heavy machinery to scalp the entire surface of the garden so that I could start fresh with organic mulches. It is impossible to pull weeds out of synthetic materials, and impossible to plant into soil that is covered with it. The earth underneath is pitifully depleted, compacted, sour and dead. It requires huge amounts of organic matter before it will grow anything.

The soil is a living organism that needs to breathe, to have oxygen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide moving freely through it, to have the sun shine onto it, to soak up the rainfall, to be broken up by frosts. Black plastic prevents all of these natural processes, and kills the soil life underneath, good and bad - except the perennial weeds of course! They run rampant underneath plastic, strong and undeterred on their quest for a chink of light, so dense that a garden fork can scarcely find a way through them.

If you have docks, couch grass, onion or rope twitch, buttercups, flatweeds, etc then black plastic is not the answer. I'm still trying to work out what is the complete answer, but a spray of Roundup over 200 square yards of heartbreakingly-weedy veggie garden a month ago, has reduced those monsters to desiccated shrivelled brown straw on top which is fairly easily hoed off.

I still have to mattock and fork out the huge volume of perennial roots which do not seem to have died off yet. Any opportunistic regrowth will have to be spot-painted with Roundup later. It is a case of grow my own food or starve right now - so Roundup was the only practical resort.

As for those nice juicy annual weeds - a light hoeing when they're small, or easy pulling when they are bigger, and continual application of layers of weed-free organic mulch (clean straw, pea hay, wilted mowings from your garden and your neighbours, untreated sawdust, etc) turns these weeds into food for the hungry worms who tirelessly feed the soil.

Re: QUESTION: Insect Issues

Webbing? What webbing?? It's so fine I can't see it! Most probably made by very fine spiders! Nothing to worry about if so.

As for the soil that is appearing which looks as if it had been "chewed up and spit out" - you are exactly correct! This is wormcasts, and means that you have a healthy earthworm population in your soil!

Those busy little guys turn the soil over tirelessly even when we can't be bothered, as long as there is enough moisture, a mild temperature and a source of organic food on top of the ground. The amount of soil they can bring to the surface, and the organic matter they can take down into their burrows, is phenomenal. When they make their way to the top like this, they are opening channels which aerate the soil and allow rain to soak in better, as well.

When digging in bits of my garden that have been neglected for some years, I keep coming across plastic plant tags that are buried several inches under the soil. I didn't bury them; those industrious worms have done it! These wormcasts are a good sign of a healthy soil.

Sorry about your dead plants, but I don't believe the worms could have caused this. Must be some other problem there.

Re: My One Fairy Tale Eggplant

Here are some favourite recipes that will make an aubergine afficionado of anyone!

3 - 4 serves

1 large eggplant, sliced 3/4" thick
1 egg beaten with a little milk
dried breadcrumbs
olive oil
8 oz Mozzarella cheese, sliced
6 oz tomato paste
white or red wine
a pinch of ddried oregano or 2 tbsp fresh, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt, black pepper
4 oz fresh Parmesan cheese

Dip eggplant slices first in flour, then egg, finally in breadcrumbs, coating well.
Saute a few at a time in shallow olive oil till crispy brown. Drain.
Arrange in a single layer in a large baking dish.
Arrange Mozzarella slices on top.
Mix a little wine of your choice into the tomato paste to make a thick sauce.
Stir in the oregano, garlic, salt & pepper.
Spread 2 - 3 tbsp sauce on each slice.
Grate Parmesan over.
Bake at 400 deg F for 15 minutes, and serve hot.

BABA GHANNOUSH (Middle Eastern dip)

1 large eggplant
1 clove garlic
¼ - ½ cup lemon juice (to taste)
3 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
crushed red pepper, a dash of cumin,
chopped fresh parsley or coriander.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake eggplant for 30 minutes, or until outside is crisp and inside is soft.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Cut open eggplant and scoop out the flesh into colander and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Removing the excess liquid helps to eliminate a bitter flavor.

Place eggplant flesh in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mash together with a fork or in a food processor. It can be smooth or textured.

Place in serving bowl and top with lemon juice and olive oil. Add other garnishes according to taste.

Serve with warm or toasted pita or flatbread. Enjoy!

Serves 6

3 medium eggplants
2 sweet red peppers, diced
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 onions, chopped
4 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 2 tsp dried
3 - 4 peeled, chopped tomatoes

6 oz walnuts, finely chopped
2 oz dry breadcrumbs
3 oz Parmesan, grated
2 Tbsp butter, melted
4 - 8 oz cream

Slice eggplants in half lengthwise.
With a soup spoon, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4" on skin.
Chop eggplant into 3/4" cubes.
Place the shells into an oiled baking dish.

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in large skillet.
Saute onion, eggplant & peppers, tossing until they begin to soften.
Season with salt & pepper. Stir in garlic, herbs & tomatoes.
Simmer a few minutes.
Fill the eggplant shells with this mixture.

Combine topping ingredients, using enough cream to make a soft paste. Spread evenly over the filled eggplants.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
Serve hot.

MOUSSAKA (Classic Greek dish)
Serves 6 - 8

2 lb eggplant sliced 1/4" thick
Olive oil

1 large onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lb ground beef or lamb
1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp parsely, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper

3 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan or Kefalotiri cheese
1 egg, beaten

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt.
Leave in a bowl for 1 hour to draw out excess moisture.
Drain slices, then rinse all salt off.
Drain and pat slices dry with paper towels.
Shallow fry the slices on both sides.
Stack on a plate when cooked.

Gently fry onion & garlic in oil for 10 mins.
Add meat and brown over high heat, stirring well.
Add all remaining meat sauce ingredients, seasoning to taste.
Cover and simmer gently for 30 mins.

Melt butter in a saucepan.
Stir in flour & cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring.
Pour in milk all at once. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly.
Allow to simmer gently for 1 minute to thicken.
Remove from heat.
Stir in nutmeg, 1 Tbsp of cheese, salt & pepper to taste.

Grease a baking dish 13" x 9" x 2".
Lay 1/3 of eggplant slices on base.
Top with half the meat sauce.
Reoeat layers, then finish with a layer of eggplant.
Spread cream sauce over.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Cut into squares to serve.

Re: My Favorite Salad Green--Whatever You Want to Call It: Arugula or Rocket

Hello Susan,
Your wild arugula has a different name from the tame one. I quote from an Australian heirloom seed catalog which has a picture of it that looks just like yours -

"Wild Roquette Diplotaxis tenuifolia ‘Sylvetta.’
Classic delicately textured, peppery roquette leaves that can be continually cut. Will keep producing for years."

You can find the reference in their downloadable seed catalog here -