The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

Creating Local Food Security & Healthy, Vibrant, Regenerated Living Soil, & Nutrient Dense Food

GROWING VEGETABLE FRUITS

 

 

AUBERGINE, (see: EGGPLANT)

 

COURGETTE, (see: ZUCCHINI)

 

Contents: 

 

1. CUCUMBER

2. EGGPLANT

3. KIWANO HORNED MELON 

4. MELON

5. PEPPERS

6. PUMPKIN

7. SQUASH

8. TOMATO

9. ZUCCHINI

CUCUMBER (Cucumis sativus)

I’m a bit traditional when it comes to cucumbers.

We grow the long smooth green type, most often seen in green grocers and supermarkets and sometimes the shorter traditional ridge cucumber type that will happily run around outside, and gherkins, but don’t let me stop you from trying to grow ‘Apple’ cucumbers and Indian cucumber ‘Poona Kheera’.

We always grow long green ones + some gherkins which I pickle the traditional way with whey and salt, rather than vinegar.

Soil & Feeding:

As cucumbers are members of the pumpkin/squash family they like a good dose of well-rotted compost – 2 buckets per square metre (yard), and regular liquid feeds of comfrey juice and/or liquid seaweed every 2 weeks during the growing season.

 

A traditional way to prepare the soil before planting cucumbers out, was to dig a square hole about 15 or even 20cm (6-8in) deep, about the same size as a cake tin (25 x 25cm) (10 x 10in), half filled with pressed down well rotted garden compost, plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, then back fill with top soil. But if you are concerned about disturbing valuable mycorrhizal fungi in the topsoil, you can gently mix the compost and fertiliser into the top few centimetres of soil.

When the second true leaves have grown on your seedling cucumber, plant them out above the filled hole – they will love the compost you have supplied when the roots find it. The compost will not only supply nutrients, but will also retain water in dry weather.

Varieties:

Tendergreen: is great for a traditional long, smooth skinned variety.

Marketmore: is a good outdoor ridge cucumber for cooler areas, traditionally grown on ridges – hence the name. They are stumpy slightly warty cucumbers with a good taste. They are disease resistant and productive.

Long White: These types are sweet and never bitter and are also good croppers, especially if they are allowed to climb up a structure.

Apple: is similar to Long White types, but rounder and thinner-skinned. Many of our friends prefer the white and apple types of cucumber.

Poona Kheera: is an heirloom Indian cucumber with a golden brown skin and sweet, but never bitter taste. An excellent keeper lasting for weeks in the fridge without losing quality.

Gherkins: I like pickled gherkins, so I grow 2 or 3 plants for traditional whey and salt pickles with dill and mustard seeds, as well as some pickled in spiced vinegar. You can pick them small for sweet pickle, or around 5 to 6cm (2-2½in) for spiced pickling.

Sowing:

Cucumber seeds keep 6 years

To get a good start we sow them in pots, after first sprouting them in-between sheets of moist newspaper or kitchen towel in a warm room or cupboard. Cucumber seeds often rot off if sown in seed compost, and sprouting them first in damp newspaper or paper towelling in a warm place indoors, will produce a higher percentage of germination. As soon as the little roots are 2 or 3mm (1/16-1/8in) long, carefully plant them into seed compost and do not over water.

For late crops, sow 2 seeds outside where they are to grow, having first prepared the soil, as above.

Growing:

For those in colder areas, you will have to grow your cucumbers in a glasshouse, tunnel house or conservatory, climbing up a structure, wires or strings. For those in warmer areas, as here in Nelson, grow them outside up a wigwam of canes, or up chicken wire netting, or plastic netting tied to stakes. For growing up stakes you will need to tie them in as they grow. Ridge cucumbers are hardier and we grew them outside in the UK, planting them outside under cloches to begin with in mid spring.

Prune back side growths to two leaves after the young fruit formation.

Mulch around the plants with untreated straw, old hay or grass clippings after watering or rain to keep down the weeds and retain moisture.

Harvesting:

Like courgette/zucchini if you turn your back for a couple of days your cucumbers or gherkins will have become monsters; so check them every day and cut them or pick them when they are the right size. Regular picking ensures more to pick.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Grey Powdery Mildew: is the most common disease of cucumbers, usually becoming a nuisance middle to late summer. Prevention is better than cure, so spray once a week with a milk and water spray 50/50, or Trichoderma virid spray. This is usually effective. If it does get the better hand, spray with dilute urine at one part urine to three parts water + a few drops of eco washing up liquid to help it stick. The urea in the urine is a very effective fungicide, but too strong if undiluted.

Recipes:

Cold Summer Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

• 2 cups Greek Yogurt

• 1 cup Vegetable Broth

• 2 Cucumbers, peeled, diced, and divided

• 4 Green Onions, sliced, divided

• 2 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill

• 2 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

• 4 teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice

• 2 teaspoons Salt

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt and vegetable broth; set aside.

2. In a food processor, purée 1 peeled, diced English cucumber, 2 sliced green onions, chopped fresh dill, and chopped fresh parsley.

3. Add the cucumber mixture, fresh lemon juice, and salt to the yogurt mixture; whisk to combine.

4. Stir in 1 more peeled, diced English cucumber and 2 more sliced green onions; refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Garnish each serving with chopped dill and croutons.

Fermented Pickled Gherkins

Ingredients:

• 15 – 20 gherkins (or 4-5 pickling cucumbers cut into 7mm (¼in) thick slices)

• 1 tablespoon mustard seed

• 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped

• 1 tablespoon sea salt

• 4 tablespoons whey (made by draining organic thick Greek style yogurt overnight tied up in butter muslin with a bowl beneath) – if whey not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt.

• 1 cup filtered water

Preparation:

1. Wash gherkins well and place upright in a 1 litre (2 pint) jar in layers (or fill jar with cucumber slices)

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over gherkins, adding more water if necessary to cover the gherkins (or cucumber slices)

3. The top of the liquid should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar

4. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days (2 days for cucumber slices) before transferring to cold storage

EGGPLANT [AUBERGINE] (Solanum melongena)

We live in a mild climate with a reasonably long growing season in one of the sunniest part of New Zealand, however we still find growing good Eggplants exacting, but with feeding well and cosseting from seed to fruit you should be successful in producing good eggplants.

For those that live in cooler climates, with shorter summers – grow them in a glasshouse or Polytunnel.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Two or three weeks before planting out the seedlings, incorporate 2 buckets, of well rotted compost or manure plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), or dig holes 30cm (1ft) square and 20cm (8in) deep and 60cm (2ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost, plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser topped up with top soil. Then pre-warm the soil where they are going to be planted by covering with a square of black plastic or crushed charcoal and topped with a cloche – a 5 litre (1 gallon) juice bottle, with the bottom cut off will do).

 

Varieties:

Florence Round: is a heritage variety. This is one of the easiest eggplants to grow because it produces well in cooler climates. It is a prolific producer of large round, deep purple fruits with a white rim around the sepals. Great flavour.

 

Kinglong: is a long thin purple and white skinned eggplant specifically for cropping in marginal climates. Good flavour and are cooked like other eggplants.

 

Black Beauty: is a large teardrop shaped fruit borne in abundance on bushy plants. This is the one we grow.

 

Sowing:

They need a long growing season so start early indoors or glasshouse in late winter/early spring. The little seedlings need potting up into rich soil in a 5cm (2in) diameter pot as soon as the seedlings have a pair of true leaves. The pots need keeping warm in the glasshouse or cold frame until after the last frosts.

 

Growing:

Plant out when the last frosts are well gone, at 45cm (18in) apart in staggered rows in their pre-prepared plots (see above).

 

The plants should branch naturally, but it is best to pinch out the main stem when the plants are about 23cm (9in) high to encourage branching. Restrict the number of fruit to 5 to decent sized fruit.

 

Water weekly with liquid animal manure mixed 50/50 with some liquid comfrey or liquid seaweed – diluted to tea colour – once a week from mid summer onwards.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Tomato/Potato Psyllid: As eggplants are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases. See TOMATOES for remedies.

 

Blight: Tomatoes can get blight, same as potatoes, but if you grow eggplants in a glasshouse or Polytunnel you are less likely to get blight. (See: TOMATOES for more about these problems and how to control them).

 

Recipes:

I like my eggplants sliced into 1cm slices lengthwise, brushed with olive oil and cooked on a hot griddle pan until they have black stripes on both sides. The inevitable recipe is Ratatouille when all the ingredients are available at the same time of year. The curry is also good.

 

Ratatouille

Serves 8

 

Ingredients:

 

• 2 large eggplants

• 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise and thinly slice

• 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into strips

• 2 onions, peeled and sliced

• 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme)

• About ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Preparation:

 

1. Peel and cut up eggplant into 1½cm (½in) cubes, place in a bowl and toss with a generous spoonful of fine sea salt and let stand for 1 hour

2. Rinse cubes in colander and pat dry with paper towels

3. Sauté eggplant cubes in batches in several tablespoons olive oil

4. Remove with slotted spoon to a oiled Pyrex, or enamelled casserole dish

5. Sauté zucchini, pepper, onions and tomatoes separately, adding more olive oil if necessary – removing each to the casserole dish

6. Add mashed garlic and thyme to dish

7. Mix well and bake uncovered, at 1770C (3500F) for at least 1 hour until most of liquid has evaporated

 

Eggplant Curry

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

 

• 2 large eggplants

• 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

• 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

• 1 tablespoon ground coriander

• 1 tablespoon ground cumin

• 1 teaspoon turmeric

• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

• 4 tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped

• ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped

• About ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Preparation:

 

1. To peel tomatoes, dip in boiling water with a slotted spoon for 5 seconds

2. Peel and cut up eggplant into 1½cm (½in) cubes, place in a bowl and toss with a generous spoonful of fine sea salt and let stand for 1 hour

3. Rinse eggplant cubes in colander and pat dry with paper towels

4. Sauté eggplant cubes in batches in several tablespoons olive oil

5. Remove with slotted spoon to a oiled Pyrex, or enamelled casserole dish

6. Sauté onions and spices in olive oil until tender

7. Add remaining ingredients to onions except chopped coriander leaves 8. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring until well mixed

9. Add to casserole and mix well

10. Bake uncovered, at 1770C (3500F) about 1 hour

11. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves

KIWANO HORNED MELON (Cucumis metuliferus) 

This fruit is native to the Kalahari Desert, Africa. It is also called the African Horned Cucumber or Jelly Melon. It is a refreshing fruit with tastes of banana, cucumber and melon. However the fruit’s skin has spines and the stems and leaves covered in fine spiky hairs, it is best to wear gloves when handling this plant, but don’t let that put you off. 

Soil & Feeding:

As with all members of the squash and cucumber family, they like a humus rich soil. So add two buckets of well rotted garden compost per square metre (yard), or one bucket per plant, plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) mixed into the top eight cm (3in).

Sowing:

Kiwano are tender plants, so if you will need to sow them in pots in seed compost in the warm 20-250C (68-770F) and don’t plant them out until well after the first frosts. Or, wait until past the last frosts and sow outside when the soil has warmed up.

 

Growing:

Mulch around with untreated straw, or grass clippings when the plants are big enough. Liquid feed every two weeks with comfrey or seaweed liquid.

 

Harvesting:

Keep picking the fruit when ripe.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

First see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants.

 

Mildew: The most common disease of this whole family is mildew on the leaves. A good preventative measure is to spray the leaves with a 50/50 solution of milk and water, or Trichoderma viride every 2 weeks as soon as the plants are starting to produce fruit.

 

Recipes:

Choose a Kiwano that is fully ripened. It'll have an orange rind with orange spikes. Squeeze it slightly to make sure it has some give and isn't rock hard and green.

 

Like a pomegranate, the seeds are perfectly edible, but are somewhat bland. What you're after is the sweet green flesh around the seed. You can take one at a time into your mouth and separate the seed before spitting it out, or take a whole mouthful and chew it up.

MELON (Cucumis melo)

Most of the sweet melons we eat are varieties of Cucumis melo, but watermelons are different, they are Citrullus lunatus, but they require the same growing conditions. 

Soil & Feeding:

Melons need a well-manured soil, so dig in well rotted garden compost or well rotted horse or cow manure at two buckets per square metre (yard), plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, or use the compost hole method as described in 'CUCUMBERS'. For those living in countries with cooler summers, grow them in a glasshouse, Polytunnel or cold frame.

Varieties:

 

Rock Melons are probably the easiest to grow and one of the best tasting, because they are generally smaller and faster growing melons for temperate or warm temperate conditions. In a difficult season they still do well. The flesh is super sweet and a deep rich orange with a full flavour, and being disease resistant they are heavy croppers. They are round with a yellow heavily netted rough skin.

 

Amish: is an old American heritage melon that is super sweet.

 

Charantais: is a superb French heirloom melon that is considered by many to be the most divine and flavourful melons in the world. Almost round melons, which turn from green skinned to yellow when ripe with a net over the skin. The flesh is very sweet, juicy and aromatic with many melons weighing over a kilo (2 pounds).

 

Jenny Lind: is another great heritage variety. An outstanding green fleshed rock melon, super productive and disease resistant, very sweet and full of flavour. It has smaller melons than Charantais and Amish. It has good mildew resistance.

 

Watermelons need a longer growing season than ordinary melons. So if you live in a country, or areas with a temperate climate, you will need a fast maturing water melon.

 

Black Tail Mountain: is supposed to one of the best open pollinated short season watermelons around. It is a dark skinned red-fleshed melon. The flesh is sweet and juicy as it should be.

 

Sowing:

Sow inside at 180C (640F), in mid spring; putting two seeds in seed compost in an 8 cm flowerpot and thinning to one seedling if two come up. Plant out when the last frost has come and gone, under some kind of cloche to slowly accustom the seedling to outside conditions and temperatures. Giving them too much of a sudden shock will set them back severely.

 

I make my cloches from 5-litre (1 gallon) clear plastic juice or spring water bottles, with the bottoms cut off and the cap removed. These are great for small seedlings planted out in the spring. However, if it is a warm sunny day they will need taking off in the day and placed back in the late afternoon.

 

Growing:

As with all members of the cucumber family it is important to water regularly. When the plants have made three leaves, pinch out the growing point. It will then make side shoots, which should also be pinch out after three leaves. When the fruits form, pinch the growth to two leaves beyond the young fruit.

 

Harvesting:

Cut the fruits as soon as they feel soft when you press the ends. They also often smell sweet and perfumed when ripe.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew: As with all the cucumber family, they often suffer from mildew on the leaves as the plant matures. A good preventative measure is to spray the leaves with a 50/50 solution of milk and water, or Trichoderma viride liquid, or powder thoroughly mixed in water once a week as soon as the plants are starting to produce fruit.

 

Recipes:

 

Melon Feast

Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 small to medium sized Cantaloupe or Rock melon

• ½ cup crystalized ginger, chopped

• ¼ cup pine nuts

• Zest of 1 lemon

• ¼ cup of mixed nuts, chopped

• The seeds of 2 cardamom seeds, crushed, or ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom

• A drizzle of liquid honey, or maple syrup

• 2 squeezes of lemon juice

 

Preparation:

 

1. Cut the melon in half lengthwise

2. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the centre

3. Chop the crystalized ginger and place in a bowl

4. Add pine nuts and the zest of the lemon

5. Heat a dry frying pan and roast the chopped nuts, stirring continuously until lightly brown, then tip into the bowl

6. Split the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, take out the seeds and discard the pods, then grind the seeds, or use ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom, and add to the bowl

7. Mix the contents of the bowl together, then fill both halves of the melon 8. Drizzle some liquid honey or maple syrup on each filling

9. Squeeze lemon juice onto each filling

PEPPERS (Capsicum annuum)

Sweet peppers and hot chilli peppers are not difficult to grow, as long as you start them early enough and feed them well. Chilli peppers are very prolific, so you will not need many plants. Here in Nelson we grow them outside, but for those in colder climates, grow the peppers either in a glasshouse or Polytunnel, or start and finish them under cloches. Outside they need plenty of sunshine and a sheltered position. 

Soil & Feeding:

Like tomatoes they love rich soil. So, mix in two buckets of garden compost plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), or alternatively dig a hole, 20cm (8in) square and 15cm (6in) deep – 45cm (18in) apart, half filled with compost pressed down and topped up with topsoil plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser. If you do this long before you plant out the seedlings, mark the spots with a stick. It is good to do this 2 or 3 weeks before planting out after the last frosts, covering the position with a cloche to warm up the soil.

Varieties:

Chocolate: For us this has been a very good reliable cropper of medium sized red-brown fruit. Don’t let the colour put you off, it tastes as sweet as an ordinary red pepper.

Marconi Red: is a traditional long very sweet red pepper from Italy, which can grow up to 30cm (12in) long.

Tollis Sweet Red: is a sweet red Italian heirloom that is an all round favourites for fresh eating. It is a medium sized, tapered pepper always producing a huge crop over a long period, which taste really sweet and full of flavour. It is one of the easiest to grow for home gardeners.

Pepper Chocolate

Californian Wonder: is an heirloom that has been the standard bell pepper for many decades, this 1928 introduction is still the largest open-pollinated, heirloom bell you can grow. A perfect stuffing pepper-blocky 10 x 9cm (4 x 3½in), thick-walled pepper, but tender and full of flavour.

 

Hot Peppers

 

Cayenne: is one plant that can grow up to a metre (yard). Often the peppers are curled and twisted, growing to 12cm (4¾in) long and tapering to a point, changing from dark green to bright red at maturity. Cayenne is renowned for its heat.

 

Habanero Red: If you want one of the hottest chillis on record – this is the one It is rounded and red.

 

Tai Hot: Numerous medium to hot tiny fruits. Highly tolerant of heat and drought conditions.

 

Sowing:

Peppers need a long growing season to do well. Sow in seed compost in pots or boxes in a glasshouse or conservatory at the end of August in the southern hemisphere, or middle of April in the northern hemisphere. When they are 3cm (1in) high, pot them up in a good rich potting compost to grow on for planting out after the last frosts.

 

Growing:

Plant out in staggered rows 45cm (18in) apart, during late spring. Pinch out the growing point when the plants are 15cm (6in) high and tie them to a cane. Water regularly and feed with a liquid seaweed, comfrey or animal-manure fertiliser every week (see: the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’Liquid Manures).

 

Harvesting:

For sweet peppers, you can pick them when they are large and green, or leave them on to turn red.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

First see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants. As a prevention, spray with liquid seaweed regularly throughout the growing season to help protect the plants from fungus diseases and pests.

 

Pests

 

Tomato/Potato Psyllid: As Peppers are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases – see: TOMATOES for details.

 

Recipes:

 

Bottled Roasted Red Bell Peppers

This recipe was adapted from Eugenia Bone's great canning book ‘Well-Preserved’.

 

Makes 3 x ½ litre (3 x 1 pint) jars

 

Ingredients:

 

• 2 kilograms firm, fresh, clean red bell peppers

• 1 cup lemon juice

• 2 cups white vinegar

• 1 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic, quartered

• ¼ cup slivered white onion

• 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika

• ½ teaspoon thyme

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

• 3 bay leaves

• 1½ teaspoons salt

• 3 x ½ litre canning jars

 

Method:

 

1. Take the rubber seals, or lids into a pan of boiling water, and boil for 3 minutes to sterilise.

2. Place the jars in an oven set on 1000C (2120F) until needed.

3. You need to blacken the skins as quickly as possible, so that the flesh of the peppers is hardly cooked and still firm, so that you can easily rub off the blackened skin.

4. If you have a gas range you can place the peppers directly on the burners range so that the flames lick the peppers. Work carefully so that as soon as one section of a pepper is blackened, you turn it to work on a fresh side. Do not overcook! Alternatively, use a cook’s gas torch, or a gas torch that is used to burn off old paint.

5. When the peppers are blackened all over, place in a bowl and cover. (The steam from the hot peppers will help dislodge the skins.) Once the peppers have cooled enough to handle, work with them one by one over a plate, gently peel off the blackened skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the seedpods, stems and all seeds. They will then have that lovely barbequed flavour.

6. Heat lemon juice, white vinegar, olive oil, garlic, white onion, smoked paprika, thyme, black pepper and salt, in a saucepan and boil for 3 or 4 minutes – (Unlike tomatoes, which have their own acidity to help preserve them, peppers do not, this is why we use lemon juice and vinegar).

7. Distribute the peppers evenly among the jars and place some of the garlic in each jar.

8. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the peppers to cover. Leave 1½cm (½in) head space on the jars. Wipe the rims with a clean, dampened paper towel. Place on lids and rings – do not tighten rings tight!

9. Place filled jars back in the oven for 15 minutes.

10. Hold each jar with oven gloves and tighten the lids.

11. Let cool completely.

12. You can store them for a year.

 

Stuffed Peppers

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 4 medium-sized red peppers

 

For the stuffing:

 

• 12g (½oz) red kidney beans

• 75g (2½oz)long grain brown rice, washed

• 275ml (9floz) water

• 1 large onion, peeled and chopped

• 1 large garlic clove, crushed

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

• 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, chopped

• ¼ - ½ teaspoon chilli powder

• Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Method:

 

1. Wash and soak the kidney beans over night

2. Drain and rinse them and put them in a heavy-based saucepan with water and simmer for 15 minutes

3. Add the brown rice, bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down and leave to simmer gently, with lid on, for 45 minutes, until the beans and rice are cooked and the water has been absorbed

4. Set the oven to 190oC (374oF)

5. Slice off the stalks with the top of the peppers, saving for later, and remove the seeds

6. Put them in a large saucepan of boiling water and simmer for gently for 2-3 minutes

7. Drain them and pat them dry with kitchen paper

8. Place peppers in a greased shallow casserole and leave aside while making filling

9. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes, then add tomatoes, cooked rice and beans, chilli powder and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

10. Spoon the filling into the peppers

11. Replace the sliced off tops as “lids” and bake in oven for about 35-40 minutes, until peppers are completely tender

12. Serve with a tasty tomato sauce and some vegetables

 

Sweet Chilli Sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

• 500g (17½oz) long fresh red chillies, stems trimmed

• 3 garlic cloves, peeled

• 3 cups white vinegar

• 3 cups caster sugar

 

Preparation:

 

1. Take 100g of the chillies, cut in half length-ways, leaving the seeds in, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Halve, deseed and coarsely chop the remaining 400g (14oz) of chillies and place in the food processor. Add garlic and 250ml (8½floz) white vinegar. Process until finely chopped.

2. Place the chilli mixture, remaining vinegar and caster sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.

3. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

4. While cooking, sterilise the bottles in the oven set at 1500C (3020F) for 15 minutes and place the caps in boiling water for at least 3 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce into sterilised airtight bottles and seal.

PUMPKIN (Cucurbita pepo) 

I regard pumpkins and squash as one of the essential winter staple foods. Personally, we prefer pumpkins referred to as Squash (see Squash), which usually have a firmer and tastier flesh than most pumpkins, but some pumpkins have a firm flesh, like squash as well – for example Queensland Blue which is very popular in Australia and here in New Zealand and Boer Pumpkins from South Africa, which are similar to the Queensland Blue. Pumpkins are usually much bigger than squash and that is why they are the ones that compete in giant pumpkin competitions.

Soil & Feeding:

Pumpkins need serious feeding and a rich water retentive soil. There are two ways to do this:

 

1. Apply 2 buckets of well rotted compost or manure plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) and gently mix into the top 10cm (4in) of soil over the whole plot

 

2. Dig square holes 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 20cm (8in) deep and 90cm (3ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost mixed with + 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, pressed down, then filled up with top soil for both plant foods and moisture holding. This is particularly good if you have limited supplies of well-rotted compost.

Boer Pumpkin

Varieties: 

Boer Pumpkin: This pumpkin has very similar eating and keeping qualities as Queensland Blue, but with a slightly better taste. This is the variety we have grown for several years. 

Queensland Blue: Expect 2 or 3 fruit, 4 to 8kg (9 to 17½ pound) fruit per vine. The combination of thick skin and thick dense semi sweet flesh guaranties excellent storage times. 

 

Queensland Blue Pumpkin

Austrian Hulless (Oil Seed Pumpkin): is a pumpkin grown for the pumpkin seeds only, and the oil for pumpkin seed oil. The seeds are unique, in that they don’t have shells! It is very difficult to de-husk pumpkin seeds, but with this variety they are ready to eat, after cleaning and drying. The remaining flesh is quite stringy, and commercially the flesh is fed to pigs, but you can make soup from them as long as you sieve the cooked flesh to get out the stringy bits.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BxXUdRKSAU on how to grow and harvest hulless pumpkins.

 

Sowing:

For later crops, you can sow two seeds edgeways 4cm (1½in) deep, in each station outside, thinning to one seedling; but we prefer to sow two seeds in 6cm (2½in) diameter pots in our glasshouse at the beginning of September southern hemisphere or mid April in the northern hemisphere; thinning the seedling to one and growing them on inside until they are about 8cm (3in) high.

 

Plant out in late spring, and place over the top, a 3 litre (6 pint) square clear plastic juice or spring water bottle with the bottom cut off and the screw-top discarded.

Homemade Plastic Cloches made from cut off water bottles

Plant out in late spring, and place over the top, a 3 litre (6 pint) square clear plastic juice or spring water bottle with the bottom cut off and the screw-top discarded (see left).

  Push a bamboo cane down through the top into the soil to secure it against wind. Alternatively, bend two number 8 wires into a ‘u’ shape 18cm (7in) high placed across each other over the plants and pull a polythene-bag over, secured with a large rubber band near the bottom. This will protect the young plants from the sudden shock of outside temperatures and possible late frosts. 

Growing:

If you would like several smaller pumpkins, rather than 1 or 2 large ones, after each shoot has produced one plain-stemmed male flower and a following female one, which will have a round miniature pumpkin behind it, cut the stem back after the female flower. Water regularly, especially during dry periods and particularly when the fruit are growing. As soon as they start producing fruit, feed fortnightly with comfrey liquid, and/or seaweed liquid.

Harvesting:

Pumpkins are ripe when the skins have become hard and dry and there is a hollow sound when you tap them. Never break off the stalk when harvesting, as this will let in decay. Cut the stem cleanly 5cm (2in) up from the fruit.

 

To ensure proper ripening, we place the harvested pumpkins on the tin roof of our garden shed to ripen in the sun and allow the stems to dry out properly, to help seal the stem against fungus rot and ensure maximum storage throughout the winter. In the autumn, well before the first frosts, take in your ripened pumpkins and store them in a cool, dry, frost-free shed, outhouse or store, on shelves or slats.

 

Check them regularly throughout the winter for signs of rot, especially around the base and the stem. If there are signs of rot, eat them straight away, cutting out any rotten parts.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

The most obvious is grey mildew on the leaves from mid summer onwards. Regular spraying with a seaweed spray and/or milk 50/50 with water, once a week, will help to prevent it happening and the seaweed will also feed the plant and provide all the trace elements it needs.

 

Recipes:

My favourite way to cook pumpkin is to roast oiled and de-seeded wedges in the oven until caramelised – yum.

 

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

About 7 years ago I diagnosed with celiac disease, so I had to learn how to make gluten free flour and pastry. For those who are not celiac or gluten intolerant, substitute the GF flour with organic unbleached white flour.

 

Ingredients:

For the Gluten Free Flour you can buy it or make your own - this is my recipe: 

 

• 3 cups brown rice flour

• 3 cups sorghum flour (or buckwheat flour)

• 2 cups potato flour

• 1 cup tapioca flour

• ½ cup LSA

 

For the Gluten Free Pastry:

 

• 187g (6½oz) gluten free flour (as above)

35.5g Gluten Substitute (mine is from Orgran)

• 112.5g (4oz) salted butter

• 1 large egg

• 1 heaped teaspoon guar gum (or xanthan gum)

• Maybe a little cold water

 

For the Filling:

 

• 425g (15oz) pumpkin flesh cooked and mashed

• 3 eggs

• ¾ cup rapadura (or ½ cup brown sugar)

• 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ teaspoon sea salt

• ¼ teaspoon powdered cloves

• ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

• Grated rind of 1 lemon

• 1 cup of crème fraiche

• 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

 

Preparation: for the homemade GF Pastry:

 

1. Mix the ingredients for the flour, unless you have a store, or have bought GF flour

2. Place the flour and guar gum in a mixing bowl and mix together. Then chop up the butter into little bits into the flour and gently rub the butter into the flour until it becomes small crumbs. Alternatively, place the flour, guar gum and butter into a food processor and process until the same result is achieved

3. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add to the flour mix and mix thoroughly The great advantage of making GF pastry is you don’t have to be so careful not to overwork the dough.

4. If the pastry is not sticking together properly, add a little cold water and continue

5. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to about ½cm (3/16in) thick and roll round the roller to lift it over a 20cm (8in) flan dish to line it. If it falls apart you can place the pieces into the flan dish pressing the pieces together.

6. Clean the sides off with a knife, or crimp the edges together with your fingers for a rustic look

 

For the Filling:

 

7. Cream together the eggs and the Rapadura (sugar) in a mixing bowl, gradually blending in the other ingredients

8. Pour into the flan dish and bake at 175oC (347oF) for 35-45 minutes

9. Serve with whipped cream

 

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1kg pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, coarsely chopped

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

• 40ml (1¼floz) extra virgin olive oil

• Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 1 large brown onion, halved, coarsely chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

• 1 tablespoon ground coriander

• 1 large fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped

• 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock

• Extra virgin olive oil (optional),

• Extra oil, to serve

 

Method:

 

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (428°F). Combine the pumpkin, rosemary and half the oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender.

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, coriander and chilli, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until onion softens. Add the pumpkin mixture and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Remove from heat. 3. Place half the pumpkin mixture in the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a clean saucepan. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Ladle soup into serving bowls, and drizzle with extra oil to serve.

SQUASH (Cucurbita pepo)

 

Obviously, squash are a form of pumpkin, but they have some different characteristics that warrant a separate section. 

  The most obvious difference is that squash tend to be smaller and have much drier, denser, sweeter flesh. This both makes them easier to store over longer periods, but also makes them tastier. Being less watery, the flavour is concentrated. 

 

For Soil & Feeding, Sowing, Growing, Harvesting and Possible Pests and Diseases – see PUMPKINS 

 

Waltham Butternut

Varieties:

Waltham Butternut: has a sweet orange firm flesh. The vigorous vines yield 4-5 fruit each. Can be stored for 3 months or longer. 

Burgess Buttercup: is is a very productive dark green skinned squash with bright orange dry and sweet flesh that tastes better with keeping. The fruit weighs between 1½-2kg (3-4½ pounds). It keeps right through the winter if looked after properly. This is definitely one of our favourite squash.

Buttercup

Recipe:

 

Yellow Squash Medley

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 4 small, or 2 large yellow squash

• Sea salt

• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

• 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

• 2 tablespoons pine nuts

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 

Method:

 

1. Nick the end of each tomato with a knife, then plunge them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds. Then take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and when cooled enough, peel the skin off.

2. Remove the ends from the squash and peal them. Then cut them lengthways into 15mm slices, and then cut the slices into chip shaped strips. Sprinkle with sea salt and let sit for 1 hour.

3. Rinse the chips well and squeeze dry with a tea towel, or paper towel.

4. Sauté onion in olive oil until golden.

5. Add squash and tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes more over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

6. Stir in pine nuts and parsley.

TOMATO (Solanum lycopersicum)

When we first moved to our farm, having been brought up in a city, we were amazed at the wonderful taste of fresh vegetables that we grew, including beautiful sweet and tasty Ailsa Craig tomatoes, compared to the tasteless red things we were used to from the city supermarkets.

Soil & Feeding:

Tomatoes need full sun. Like their cousins the potato, they love heavy feeding and a good rich soil. 

In our six-year rotation system tomatoes follow brassicas, which have a following winter green manure of lupins and oats. Dug in, in the spring, this adds some fresh organic matter to enliven soil life, and provides some extra Nitrogen from the lupins. However, it is essential to also add a good dose of well-rotted manure or compost for a good crop. This can be done in two ways:

1. Apply two buckets of well rotted compost or manure per square metre (yard) and gently mix into the top 10cm (4in) of soil over the whole plot + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre or yard.

2. Dig square holes 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 15cm or even 20cm (6 or 8in) deep and 60cm (2ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost mixed with + 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, pressed down, then filled up with top soil for both plant foods and moisture holding. This is particularly good if you have limited supplies of well-rotted compost.

Varieties:

Tomato varieties are endless, but I would suggest growing the old and Heirloom tried and tested varieties, here are some good examples:

Ailsa Craig: was bred in Scotland by Alan Balch and introduced in 1912 by the seed vendor Alexander and Brown of Perth, Scotland. It is named after the Scottish Island, Ailsa Craig, a distinctive dome-shaped island rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde. This is a well-known old variety that produces medium sized fruit, early in the season with a lot of flavour. Good both in a greenhouse or outdoors – well known in the British Isles and other countries for over 100 years. This is the variety we grew a lot of in Britain in a glasshouse.

Alma: Although this can be eaten fresh, it is one of the best to dry. In Yugoslavia it is known as the Italian tomato and back in Italy it is known as Principe Borghese! It is an egg shaped, egg sized and red, firm drying tomato. It crops over a very long period, and crops heavily, and the fruit can be sliced and dried for winter use or put into oil containing garlic and herbs at the almost dry stage for table use. It is also a really good cooking tomato because it keeps its shape. They are one of the varieties that have high nutrition.

Tommy Toe: is a fast growing productive tomato, and it is one of the very best tasters. The vines bear long racemes of large cherry tomatoes.

Black from Tula: 

 

This is an Heirloom variety, which originally came from Tula in the Russian Caucasus. It is a large beef-stake ugly dusky reddish brown tomato with blackish red flesh – but oh boy does it taste good!

 

It produces heavily and continuously on strong plants and has become one of our ‘must have’ tomatoes every year, especially for bottled purée and bottled chopped tomatoes and large fresh slices for sandwiches.

TOMATO Black From Tula

Sowing:

Tomato seed lasts 4 years. Sow in a greenhouse or windowsill in seed trays or boxes in early spring at 2.5cm (1in) apart and 3mm (⅛in) deep. Transplant them into 9cm (3½in) pots at the seed-leaf stage.

 

Planting Out:

Plant them out after the last frosts at 60cm (2ft) apart, placing a square 5 litre (1 gallon) plastic juice bottle with the bottom cut off and the screw top open over the young plants, with a cane pushed down through the hole into the soil to stop them blowing over. Alternately, put a small cardboard box over them at night, with the flaps spread out for stones or bricks to hold them down, and take off each morning. Gradually acclimatize the plants by taking off their ‘cloches’ if the weather is warm in the daytime and replacing them in the evening; eventually taking them off altogether, when the nights have warmed up.

 

Growing:

The plants will need staking, unless they are a bush variety. This can be done by banging in a 2cm (¾in) square stake in next to the plant while it is still young, tying them (not too tight) to the cane as they grow. Alternatively, hammer in 5cm (2in) square, or round stakes at each end of the row, tying a 5cm (2in) round pole across the top between them and tying strong garden string down from the pole to the plants, fixing the string with a tent peg at the bottom. As the tomato plants grow, rap them round the strings to support them. Make sure the structure is very strong, as a row of tomato plants full of fruit gets very heavy.

 

Pinch out the tops of the plants when they have produced 4 clusters of fruit. Also remove the side-shoots that grow from each leaf joint when they are still small. Bush varieties need no staking or side-shoot removing.

 

Mulch down around the plants with spray-free straw after first watering well, or sow lightly around the plants with annual Crimson Clover and clip regularly, spreading the clippings around the tomatoes.

 

Feed with a liquid feed of comfrey, seaweed or animal manure every two weeks from mid-summer to early autumn (see: the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’Liquid Manures).

 

Harvesting:

Start picking as soon as the fruits are ripe to get the sweetest flavour and encourage the production of more fruit for the end of the season. In places that have a shorter summer, you can ripen the final tomatoes in the autumn, by removing the leaves and laying the plants down along the rows, covering them with cloches, or plastic tunnel cloches to finish ripening, as we did in the UK. Alternatively, pick off the green fruit to make green tomato chutney, or place them the traditional way in a draw, or the modern way in large ziplock plactic bag(s), with a few ripe tomatoes, or banana brought indoors to finish ripening.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

 

Potato Blight: This is a fungus disease that can eventually kill the plants and rot the tomatoes. Usually if we do get blight it tends to be right at the end of the season, by which time one is coming to the end of the crop, and clipping off the most effected leaves will help to delay the inevitable. There is less chance of blight if the crop is grown in a greenhouse, or conservatory. Organic organisations recommend preventive spraying with copper sprays, which I don’t like because of the damaging effect on beneficial soil microorganisms, so I spray with Trichoderma viride.

 

Potato/Tomato Psyllid: This is a bacteria introduced to the plants by the sucking psylid mite. As tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae family (potatoes, egg plants, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases, the most important at the moment here in New Zealand is the tomato/potato psyllid native to North America which was first found in New Zealand in 2006, and is still spreading throughout the country and is now spreading in Australia. Europe and Asia fortunately does not have this pest.

 

Nymphs, and possibly adults, inject a bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum into the plants when they feed. The bacteria causes discolouration of leaves and the plant becomes stunted exhibiting ‘psyllid yellow’ and ‘purple top’. Leaf edges upturn and show yellowing or purpling. The plants internodes shorten, new growth is retarded and crops are severely reduced.

 

However not all host plants show ‘toxic’ plant reaction symptoms and interestingly if the psyllids are removed early, the plant may start to grow normally again as soon as the bacteria ceases to be injected by the psyllid mites.

 

Psyllid mites are particularly partial to tomatoes more than potatoes or any other of the family and one of the best ways we have found to properly control them is with Neem Tree granules and/or diatomaceous earth.

 

Neem Tree Granules:

 

By adding 1 handful of Neem Tree granules into the planting hole around the root ball, or 100 grams per square metre mixed into the soil, will deter the psyllid bugs. In the soil the Microbes break down the granules releasing the Neem properties that are still in the granules over time. These properties are taken up by the roots and translocate through the plant; thus if a chewing or sucking insect feeds on the plant they receive a small dose of the Neem affecting their ability to eat again. Thus they die of starvation.

Diatomaceous Earth: 

 

What is Diatomaceous Earth? Quite simply Diatomaceous Earth is the fossilized remains of ancient algal shells called Diatoms or Phytoplankton that lived in the sea. DE is a fine powder Examined under a microscope and magnified 7000x these tiny diatoms appear as spiny honeycombs or tiny cheese-grater like cylinders. These microscopic cylinders are extremely hard and sharp. These tiny particles stick to the insect, abrasively rub through and serrate their epi-cuticle and joints, absorb their bodily fluids and they die of dehydration.

 

The fine powder is placed in one of those plastic drinking bottles with a suction nipple. Open the nipple, shake the contents and squirt the powder onto the stems of the plants.  

The psyllids prefer to suck the sap from the stems, and covering the leaves will interfere with the plants ability to photosynthesize, however check the back of the leaves just in case.

 

This will have to be repeated after rain if it has been washed off. This is an effective control method.

 

Tomatoes may also be affected by whitefly, leaf mould and red spider mites, which can be controlled with pyrethrum spray in the evening to avoid bees, because by the morning it will have lost its potency; or use a garlic, chilli and ginger homemade spray.

 

See: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.

Recipes:

Stuffed Tomatoes

Feeds 6

 

This is a particularly good recipe for large Black from Tula tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 3 large tomatoes

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 good slice of whole grain bread

• ½ cup of ground walnuts, or mixed nuts

• 2 tablespoons butter, softened

• 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

• 1 teaspoon fine herbs

 

Preparation:

 

1. Set oven at 175oC (347oF)

2. Slice the tomatoes in half around the equator; remove seeds and place cut side up in a buttered baking dish, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper.

3. Process bread and walnuts (or mixed nuts) in a food processor to make fine crumbs.

4. Add butter, cheese and herbs and pulse a few times until well blended. 5. Spread a spoonful of stuffing into and over each tomato half.

6. Bake at 175oC (347oF) for about 30 minutes.

 

Fermented Tomato Ketchup

This is definitely the best ketchup recipe we have ever come across; we make it regularly. This may seem exacting to make, but if like us you are regular makers of fermented foods, and I seriously suggest you give it a try, then you will make whey regularly and other forms of traditional cooking and preserving, like making regular kefir, cooking up stock and fish sauce, processing tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. Have a look at 'Nourishing Traditions' by Sally Fallon, which I consider one of the most important books I have ever read as regards preserving, improving the digestibility of grains and nuts, processing and cooking using traditional methods.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 3 cups organic tomato paste, or home made by skinning the tomatoes, chopping and whizzing in a food processor, then sieving to get out the seeds

• ¼ cup whey, made by placing a tub of thick yogurt or home made kefir in a cheese cloth and tying up over night above a bowl to collect the whey

• 1 tablespoon sea salt

• ½ cup maple syrup

• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

• ½ cup of home made fish sauce, or bought fish sauce which is often concentrated and might have to be diluted

 

Method:

 

1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended.

2. Place in a litre-sized mason jar or crock.

3. Make sure the lid or cork is sealed tightly, as lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.

4. The top of the sauce should be at least 2.5 (1in) below the top of the jar to allow for expansion.

5. Leave at room temperature for about 2 days, before transferring to a refrigerator.

ZUCCHINI - Courgette (Cucurbita pepo)

 

Soil & Feeding:

 

As zucchini are members of the pumpkin/squash family they like a good dose of well rotted compost – 2 buckets per square metre (yard), incorporated into the top 10cm (4in), and regular liquid feeds of comfrey juice and/or liquid seaweed every 2 weeks during the growing season.

 

A traditional way to prepare the soil before planting zucchini out, was to dig square holes about the same size as a cake tin 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 15cm or even 20cm (6 or 8in) deep, 60cm (2ft) between each hole. Half filled them with pressed down well-rotted garden compost, then back fill with topsoil.

 

When the second true leaves have grown on your seedling zucchini, plant them out above the filled hole – they will love the compost you have supplied when the roots find it. The compost will not only supply nutrients, but will also retain water in dry weather.

 

Varieties:

 

Cocozelle: This is an old heritage variety with a much better flavour than modern shop varieties. It is a long, green skinned courgette marked with lighter stripes, hugely productive, and a better flavour than shop varieties as well as being very easy to grow. The Male flowers also edible and delicious. It can also be grown on to marrow size and eaten stuffed.

 

Black Beauty: This was developed in 1957. It is a very neat dark green zucchini, which we have grown for many years.

 

Sowing:

To get a good start sow 2 of them in 8cm (3in) pots in the greenhouse in mid spring. When they germinate, thin to one if necessary.

 

Planting:

Plant out 60cm (2ft) apart each way, covered with plastic cloches made from square 5 litre (1 gallon) juice or spring water plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off and the cap taken off. Push a cane down the cap hole into the soil to stop them blowing over. You will need to take them off during sunny days until the plants are getting too big and they have been acclimatized.

 

For late crops, sow 2 seeds outside where they are to grow, having first prepared the soil, as above, and thinning to one.

 

Mulch around the plants with untreated straw, old hay or grass mowing after watering or rain to keep down the weeds and retain moisture.

 

Harvesting:

If you turn your back for a couple of days your zucchini will have become monsters, unless you want marrows for stuffing; so check them every day and cut them or pick them when they are 10-12cm (4-4¾in) long. Regular picking ensures more to pick.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Grey Powdery Mildew: is the most common disease of zucchinis, usually becoming a nuisance middle to late summer. Prevention is better than cure, so spray once a week with seaweed spray and/or a milk and water spray 50/50. This is usually effective. If it does get the better hand, spray with dilute urine at one part urine to three parts water + a few drops of eco washing up liquid to help it stick. The urea in the urine is a very effective fungicide. Always dilute because undiluted urine will burn the leaves!