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Reap the benefits of a spring vegetable garden

Rosella's make one of the most delicious jams.
Rosella's make one of the most delicious jams.

SEPTEMBER is a peak planting month and if you want to capitalise on the relatively mild conditions of spring and early summer you can produce a wide variety of vegetable crops that can be used in the kitchen. Grow the veggies to make your own antipasto that will give barbecues, dinner parties, picnics, and even sandwiches that special touch. You can also give gifts of your cooking save a little and give something that your friends and family will love.

It's all about thinking ahead and planting fruit and veggies you will use in the coming months. Plant the ingredients for tomato relish, pickled cucumbers, rosella's for the most wonderful jam and cordial, eggplants, tomato and capsicum you can cook and preserve in olive oil. Why not make sun-dried tomatoes in your oven. Why make your own beetroot slices for those summer BBQ's or a delicious Beetroot Relish. You can stock up in your pantry and save money on your weekly shop.

WHAT TO PLANT

HERBS - plant basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lemongrass, mint, parsley, tarragon and winter savoury.

FRUIT & VEGETABLES plant artichoke, beans, capsicum, celery, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, melons, okra, onion, potato (tubers), rosella, silver beet, spring onion, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato and tomato.

CHARGRILLED EGGPLANT

Ingredients

500g eggplant, thinly sliced into rounds

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons dried basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves

Olive oil

Method

Wash a 2 cup-capacity jar and lid in hot soapy water. Rinse in hot water. Drain upside-down until completely dry. Layer eggplant and salt in a colander. Set aside for 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towel.

Heat a BBQ or chargrill over high heat. Cook eggplant, in batches, for 4 to 5 minutes each side or until browned and tender. Transfer to a bowl. Add basil and mint. Toss gently to combine. Transfer to prepared jar. Add oil to cover eggplant. Seal jar. Refrigerate.  

ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

3kg ripe roma tomatoes, halved lengthways

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 bay leaves

you can add oregano or mixed herbs then bottle

Method

Preheat oven to 150C/130C fan forced. Spray a large baking tray with oil. Place tomato, cut side up, on prepared tray. Season with salt. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with garlic. Add bay leaves. Roast for 1½ hours or until collapsed and slightly golden. Set aside to cool slightly.

Discard bay leaves and tomato skins. Transfer the tomato and juices to a food processor. Process until smooth. Bottle in clean jars, don't forget to turn the jar upside down for a minute to seal jar. Once jar opened you can store for up to 1 week in the fridge. Use as a pizza sauce or toss through pasta.

BEETROOT RELISH

Ingredients

2 bunches beetroot, peeled and grated

1 large granny smith apples, peeled and grated

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup caster sugar

Method

Combine all ingredients except sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins or until softened. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 mins or until reduced and thickened. Season. Spoon into warm sterilised jars. Seal tightly, then leave to cool.

PICKLED BEETROOT

Ingredients

2 large (500g) beetroot, trimmed

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 dried bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sterilised glass jars with lid

Method

Wash beetroot. Pat dry. Wrap each beetroot in foil and scrunch top to enclose. Roast for 45 minutes or until skin peels away from beetroot when rubbed. Set aside for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Wearing gloves, peel each beetroot. Thinly slice. Pack beetroot into a warm sterilised glass jar. Carefully pour enough hot vinegar mixture into jar to cover beetroot. Seal jar. Set aside to cool. Refrigerate for 1 week to allow flavours to develop. Once opened, use within 1 month.

SEMI DRIED TOMATOES

Ingredients

2kg small roma tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons sea salt

Olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 120C/100C fan-forced. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Place a wire rack onto each tray.

Cut tomatoes in half lengthways. Using a small sharp knife, remove core and seeds. Place on prepared racks, skin-side down. Sprinkle evenly with oregano, thyme and salt. Season well with pepper.

Bake tomatoes for 1 1/2 hours. Turn. Bake for 1 hour. Turn tomatoes. Bake for a further 4 hours or until tomatoes have collapsed and dried out. Stand for 30 minutes to cool. Transfer to an airtight container. Pour over enough oil to cover tomatoes. Seal. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

 

Grown your own cherry tomatoes.
Grown your own cherry tomatoes.

BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES

5 large Lebanese cucumbers, trimmed, cut into 1mm-slices

2 small brown onions, halved, very thinly sliced

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup caster sugar

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

Large pinch of ground turmeric

Method

Place the cucumber, onion and salt in a bowl. Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge overnight to soften. Rinse the cucumber mixture in a colander. Pat dry with paper towel.

Place vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and turmeric in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add the cucumber mixture. Bring to a simmer.

Transfer the mixture to clean, dry glass jars. Seal and invert for 2 minutes. Set aside for 1 day to develop the flavours.

Topics:  gardening re-retirement retirement-living wellbeing


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