Summer can be a challenging time for the garden in the subtropics. Weeks of long hot days and almost drought-like conditions followed by days of constant rain and high humidity do take their toll on the soil and vegetables. Sweet potato however thrives in this weather, and as mine had been in for the last couple of years it was time to dig it all up (with some help from 2 of my girls!) and plant a fresh crop. This has meant lots of sweet potato dishes – curried sweet potato soup to freeze for cooler months; sweet potato and lentil patties; and chocolate sweet potato cake. They are also delicious simply roasted or made into sweet potato chips.
Just the one Jarrahdale pumpkin grew from recently planted seeds that my cousin in north Queensland gave me. I made some pumpkin soup and froze it for winter. If you have an abundance of pumpkins you can also make pumpkin and prune cake and pumpkin pie. I’ve planted some more Jarrahdale seeds, which have taken off with the recent rain we have had.
The beans were short-lived but reaped a handful every few days. I grew a few beetroot – nice when roasted, grated raw in salads, and I love this beetroot dip. My basil and coriander were briefly lush and made some great pesto, but the coriander quickly went to seed. I let it be, then harvested the dried seed and made dukkah. A new crop is already springing up in places where some of the seed fell.
I have a terrific tomato cultivar which cascades down as opposed to requiring staking. It’s the size of a cherry but is shaped like a roma, and carries the name “Bruce’s tomato” after our friend who gave us the plant! I save the seed from year to year, and had a good crop this summer enabling us to pick a handful every couple of days.
Finally, the passionfruit vine went wild this summer, almost entirely covering the Hen Mahal (ie Taj Mahal for hens!) and weighing down the netting so much that it was at risk of collapse. The vine was so intertwined with the net that the whole lot had to come down and the net replaced. A lot of unripe fruit came off in the process, and is ripening off the vine contrary to what I have read. Fortunately, much of the vine was saved as it continues to bear fruit, and it’s currently lying on the ground while an alternative structure for it to sprawl upon is being pondered.
As well as being delicious on their own and in fruit salads, they make great passionfruit butter. This can then be added to a simple cupcake recipe to make passionfruit tea cakes. Passionfruit freezes very well – using an icecube tray is an easy way to retrieve as much or as little pulp as you need.
I sometimes feel there’s not much happening in my garden. But, looking back over the whole of summer, a little bit could be picked here and there to be added to a recipe, accompany a dish, or form the basis of a meal. This all helps reduce the grocery bill and is a small step toward having some degree of self-sufficiency. Do leave a comment and let me know how summer was in your garden. Have you grown some of the same things, and do you have any other good recipes for your produce that you are happy to share?