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Friday, 30 September 2011

Pickles


I picked the last vegetables from my veg garden yesterday and decided to make some pickles. I made three large 5l jars of mixed vegetables pickles. I used peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, cauliflower, green tomatoes and carrots. The recipe is quite simple. You have to clean and wash all the vegetables, and cut cauliflower and carrots into pieces. I filled peppers with grated cabbage. Put the vegetables into a jar and pour in the vinegar mixture. Vinegar mixture recipe for 5 l of water: 5 l water, 200 g salt, 1 dl vinegar, 1.5. sachets of pickles preservative (about 15 g), 250 g sugar. Warm up one litre of water and add salt and vinegar. Let it boil. Move from the herd. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the rest of water and dissolved preservative. Stir it all well. Leave it to cool.
I usually wait one day before covering the jars because the vegetables sometimes sucks in the liquid and it is needed to pour some more the next day. Store it on dark cool place.



I also have some golden cayenne peppers. I simply thread them on a string and let them dry. Sadly, they will loose this beautiful yellow colour. 




Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Autumn Days

Sunny and rather warm days continue into Autumn. I have just read the most peculiar news in our local newspapers: the source of our river dried this summer for the first time in history! The water is so low that you can cross it wherever you want. This small amount of water comes from the two streams that miraculously still have some water. There is no rain on a horizon at least for another week and the temperatures remain the same - about 26°C (79 F). At least, it is not so hot and steamy as it was in summer.

Mantis religiosa

I found this praying mantis into my vegetable garden, climbing the kohlrabi leaf. In the garden, most blooms turn into fruits.

Lunaria annua (Honesty)

Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese Quince)

Pyracantha coccinea (Firethorn)

Anemone japonica 






Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pindjur

For Mark, and all of my readers, here, there is a recipe for Pindjur.



Pindjur is a relish of red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and different spices. Vegetable chunks combined with spices give this product an appetising flavour, appealing colour and pleasant aroma. It is a dish from Macedonian cuisine.
There are several varieties of the recipe and this is the one I used.

Pindjur

Ingredients: 

4 kg ripe tomatoes
10 dag hot peppers
5 kg roasted red peppers
1.5. kg roasted aubergines
20 garlic cloves
bunch of fresh parsley leaves
25 dag cloves
4 tablespoon of salt
8 dl vinegar
1 dl oil

Mixture 1: 
Peel off tomatoes, slice them and add chopped hot peppers. Add sugar, salt, vinegar and oil. Cook it for 1.5 hours on low fire to reduce the liquid.
Mixture 2:
Roast peppers and aubergines - in oven or even better grill them. Peel them off. Slice them into chunks. Add chopped parsley leaves and garlic. 
When the first mixture is done, add the second one and cook it all for another 20 minutes. Pour the mixture into glass jars and cover with the cellophane. Make sure the jars are warmed up in the oven before being filled up with Pinjur.
Bon appetite!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Fig


Growing the Common fig (Ficus carica) in the continental climate conditions is quite a challenge. Figs in the mediterranean areas of Croatia are quite common. They grow there in almost every garden, very often together with it's family relative Mulberry. Fig prefers warm climate but can also be found in continental climate with hot summers just as it is here where I live. Though, it needs a well drained soil and somewhat protected position.

A fig tree in the garden of my friend.

In my garden, the growing conditions are not good for it. The one I had used to get frozen every Winter and I had to cut it down to the ground every Spring. It was really annoying and I finally eradicated it. But, my aunt, who has a small walled garden enjoys fresh fruit every summer. Her fig is planted in the corner of the garden near the house. Protected from the coldness and harsh winds, it reached the balcony on the first floor from where we picked up some fruits. Visiting her the other day resulted with these figs on my photo.

This white sap may be an irritant to the human skin.

 I simply love fresh fig fruits. Traditionally, figs are being dried because the fresh fruit doesn't keep well. The Common fig belongs to the Moraceae family. This family includes some of the well known plants such as the Mulberry, Breadfruit, Fig, Banyan. One of the characteristics of this family is the presence of laticifers, elongated excretory cells that produce milky sap - latex or rubber.
Some plants of the genus Ficus we keep as house plants. Commonly they are Ficus benjamina and Ficus elastica.


Try this recipe for Fig Balls. I always make them for Christmas. 


Ingredients:

25 dag dried figs        (1 dekagram  = 0.352 ounces)
10 dag sugar
12 dag grounded walnuts
1 orange, zest + juice
a bit of rum, lemon zest
Get the figs through the meat grinder, add walnuts, sugar, rum, orange and lemon zest and as much orange and lemon juice as to get the compact workable mixture. Make the small balls out of it and coat them with sugar.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tomato Crop


These egg shaped tomatoes are the fruits of my enormous tomato I wrote about in one of my previous posts.       
I think there is still more than a hundred fruits on it! Really, I haven't seen anything like it before. It is still growing bigger, that is - longer, because the stems are crawling on the ground. Thinking about it, isn't it the natural growth of the tomato? It is us who stake it and train the stems around the support. That is our way to spare the space needed for its growth.


My cherry tomatoes are also planted a bit later than the other ones. This no rain weather does not bother them at all. Every now and then I pick up plenty of ripe fruits.


This is what I picked up today...

Good news: The rain is coming! It is supposed to rain for a couple of days. My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Bay Laurel Troubles

Scale insects along the main leaf vein of the Bay laurel.

I have a small bay laurel bush planted in a pot. It simply cannot survive the harsh winter weather in the region I live and I have to keep it in house over winter. Bay laurel grown in pot often suffer from an irregular water supply or may be affected by frost and cold if not moved into a house on time. But, none of these is my trouble. For years I have been trying to fight the scale insects on my bay. They are probably the species Coccus hesperidum, Brown Soft Scale insect. They occupied not only the lower parts of the leaves placing themselves along the leaf veins but also the stems. Of course, they suck the sap and so weaken the plant. They are very hard to treat because of their protective shields. I used to remove them manually with a sharp brush, but now the plant is grown bigger and has too many leaves to do it. But, sucking the sap is not the only problem they cause. They excrete 'honeydew' which is full of sugars. It attracts ants and some other insects to feed on it. The drops of this sweet 'honeydew' fall onto the lower leaves coating the leaf surface and causing the secondary infestation - Sooty Mould.

Sooty Mould

The leaves become blackened and are sticky to touch. This type of fungi are saprophytic so, they do not cause any tissue invasion to the plant itself but may restrict the light and slow the photosynthesis. Besides, they are really not a pretty sight. 

The scale insect


I am afraid, both mould and scale insects are very hard to remove and I have to treat them chemically with fungicides and oil/soap based insecticide. I will try to wash the plant with soapy water and a week later wipe the leaves with methylated spirit. If it doesn't help I would have to reach for chemicals.

To end this posts, something much nicer - my favourite late summer performers: Verbena bonariensis and Pennisetum alopecuroides.





Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Late Performers

By this time, many plants have already set the seeds and spread them away by wind, by ants, by touch (just think of the Impatients - Touch-me-not Balsam!) or some other way... I am afraid, those who need water to be let out into the world will have to be patient and wait for the rain to come. I have collected some seeds as ever and packed them into paper bags. I leave the seeds of biennials to spread naturally because they need to germinate this year and produce young plants by winter. I only transplant them in early Spring on the spots I want, as I do with my Clary sage, for example. 


Hollyhock seeds... and the latest of it's flowers...


In spite of frying sun, there are some wonderful performers in my garden. Besides Asters and tall Sedums that I mentioned in one of my previous posts, ornamental grasses develop their panicles and spikes. One of my favourite ornamental grass is Pennisetum alopecuroides, Fountain Grass. The clumps are rather big now and I think, I will divide them in Autumn. 

Pennisetum alopecuroides

Verbena bonariensis among fading flowers of Echinacea.

Amaranthus adds interesting colour to the flower beds.















Friday, 9 September 2011

Kale

The municipal water supplies are so low that using it for garden watering and car washing is strictly forbidden! Well, the drought took it's toll anyway. But, my kales seem to do rather well. The plants are really beautiful, one can mix it with flowers too. I especially love the cultivar 'Black Toscany'.

'Black Toscany'

'Dwarf Curled'

Decorative squashes are so small, but I think, there will be a few to pick up.

'Turk's Turban' squash (Cucurbita maxima)

'Swan Neck' gourd (Lagenaria siceraria)
This one is planted on the compost heap...

No rain on a horizon for at least a week...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

DIY


I've been busy lately with various 'projects', such as these cardboard gift boxes on the picture above. My friend Marina and I are going to have our stand at the following Christmas Fair. I know, I know, there are at least three months until the event but, hey, I have to prepare myself in time. I am going to sell various things. Advent flower arrangements, door wreathes, gift boxes, flower pots, baskets, Christmas cards and tree decorations ... all decorated by hand or by using the decoupage technique.

This picture frame is a birthday gift for my friend.

A wooden basket.

A flower pot with a saucer. 







Thursday, 1 September 2011

Autumn Is in the Air


Have you a feeling the summer days are coming to an end and Autumn is in the air? I do. Everything around me tells me Autumn is knocking on the doors. The days are shorter. Mornings are fresh.
The bright shiny apples fill up the bowl on the table. We make our winter preserves; cook the tomato ketchup, make jams, put vegetables in the deep freezer. I always make so called "soup vegetable mix" for deep freezer. I mix carrots, parsley, kohlrabi and celery, put it in the bags and freeze. I have already frozen dill leaves as well as parsley. Parsley may be also preserved in salt. Just chop it, mix with salt and put in a glass jar. Keep it in the refrigerator.

Aster novi-belgii 'Marie Ballard'

As for the garden, Asters and tall Sedums are taking over. I have several species and cultivars of Asters. There are dwarf Aster dumosus  'Kristina' with white flowers and some unknown cultivar blue-violet in colour. The tall ones are Aster novi-belgii 'Sarah ballard' and Aster novae-anglie 'Alma Poetschke' with beautiful pink-crimson flowers. They are not all in bloom now but soon they will be.

Aster 'Kristina'

Sedum spectabile

Tall Sedums are one of my favourite autumn bloomers. The most attractive among them is Sedum telephium 'Autumn Joy' (or German 'Herbstfreude'). Another species I have is Sedum 'Matrona' with reddish stems and Sedum 'Purple Emperor' with purplish leaves, stems and purple-red flowers. Though it has not got the neatest habits, it looks great in mixed border. Sedums grow rather well in my garden and I divide them every second or third year. 

Sedum 'Purple Emperor'