Thursday, 7 February 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Finally managed to get a copy from the library. Enjoyed the read, very similar to 'Living the Good Life' in a lot of ways. The biggest impact for us is we now make mozzerella cheese using the recipe in Barbara Kingsolver's book (one of my favourite all time reads was The Poisonwood Bible)and I am finally convinced that a deep freeze is a good investment. Trev's been bothering me about getting one for years, but I keep voting against it. He wants to fill it with dead animals, I want to fill it with tomatoes. Barbara freezes her tomatoes on a tray in the freezer, and then throws them in a bag so they rattle around 'like croquette balls', rather than merge into one frozen lump. She grates zuchini and freezes it in bags. There are no end of things you can put in a freezer.

I had to laugh at her discussion about zucchini's, and when in season everyone suddenly locks their car doors in case someone leaves you a bag ofthem. We're at that stage where we can no longer give them away, you mention the Z word and eyes glaze and people back away uneasily. One neighbour recently surprised me with a, 'No bloody way, thank you very much!' I've been growing golden zuch's, a neighbour green, and we aim to have an exchange of zuchini colour. We've eaten them curried, fried, in the ubequitious zucchini slice, I've given them away to the local librarian, and I'm just starting to think about hanging them in bags over peoples door handles while they're asleep when Barbara cut me back to size.

Instead we're coming on for tomatoes on mass. Siberian Cherry, Apollo, sweet bite, and lots of others I've forgotten the names of already. There are at least 30 plants and all rearing for bearing masses of fruit fly free super berries. Man are we estatic about it. Hopefully we can find enough jars to do enough things to them, we're going to dry them, freeze them, cook 'em up and pour them into jars (that are all currently occupied with honey).

I'm watching my tiny, only just fertilised watermelons in the greenhouse, hovering over them, occasionally drawn in for what I call a 'bit of watermelon sex', rubbing the depetalled male flowers over the female. Add a bit of water, more decomposed animal poo and a bit more hovering. It would be fantastic if I can grow even a few to maturity before the first frost.

We don't buy watermelon in the supermarket, it's the locavore thing for us too. If the fruit comes from another state/country, it's out of the trolley. But if I can get it happening here and in a greenhouse it will make it a more sustainable and ethical choice. I've perused the Digger's Seed Club and discovered varieties that grow in cooler climes. I'll be giving those a go next year.


Anonymous said...

Oh I'll be interested to hear how your watermelons go. But how do you survive without bananas?

cheers Lenny

Debbie said...

I love reading your blog, I originally read about and bought your book ( a new book, which I never buy!).

When I was growing up we had a massive chest freezer which was also usually full of dead animals, living on a farm, but also summer grown vegies like corn, carrots and beans - they kept for months.

Hope all continues well with the bees, current crops and house-building.


Mazzajo said...

I've learnt my lesson with "cold-hardy" melon varieties. For tomatoes, it's fine, for melons it's not. I warn you against "Golden Midget" - it sounded great in the catalogue, grew obediently, tasted like... water. Always go for flavour with melons above cold-hardy if you can devote greenhouse space!

Kennette said...

Haven't read Barbara Kingsolver yet, keep forgetting to ask at the library. As an alternative means of preserving food, have you tried a solar food dehydrator? I know that the results are not the same, but dehydrated food doesn't require electricity to maintain storage conditions. We're planning to have a stand-alone power system for our next house, starting small with the solar panels, so probably not enough electricity for a freezer. I have been reading about dried food for years, but never had the $$s to invest in a good electric dehydrator. Got some good ideas about solar-powered ones - necessity will be the motivator I dare say!

michelle said...

I'm just finishing Animal, Miracle, Vegetable - Loving it - so inspiring. I've been telling friends about the zucchini stories as I politley refuse another bag (however the chocolate chip & zucchini cookie recipe is delicious).

I was so envious of the tomato chapter, as I dream of a glut like that. Great idea about the frozen semi-dried tomatoes.

My first attempt at a heirloom tomato crop this year has been thwarted by ravenous wallabies.... sigh...maybe next year..

Linda said...

Hi Kennette,

Yes, I built a solar food dryer in QLD, and it worked a treat, had to be careful though, sometimes I burnt things. Not such an issue in Tassie I shouldn't imagine. There is a great design by Nev Sweeney on our main website, worth having a look.

Survive without bananas when there are raspberries and the best apricots, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, kiwifruit,apples, passionfruit, pears around.

Thanks for the heads up on the midget watermelon, I have struck it from the list, but will give siberian watermelon a go unless anyone else can raise good objections. I admit to being disappointed with the stars and moon watermelon, they were very tasteless and went back to sugarbaby, though Keckleys, an heirloom, was great.

Oh, and Michelle, we are currently just heading into our biggest ever tomato glut - we have about 30 tomatoes planted, and they are all going hard, getting about a kilo a day, but just warming up!


Garden Nut said...


Sugarbaby is a great cooler weather melon. I grow it in Melbourne. They are a smaller Icebox variety and do really well if planted in a big terracotta pot and kept on a heat sink like a concrete porch or against a wall. They don't ramble so much either, so you can pop one of those umbrella-type hothouses over the top as it cools down. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi I have just havested and cut the blacktail mountain watermelon that I grew in Melbourne...... and it is delicious...... it didn't grow as big as they said but it is so delicious.... bought the seeds from diggers......

Laura Hudson said...

I love your blog and i love reading an opposite season to ours - i find it strangely comforting and helps me think ahead - I am in France, so you are heahead of us by about 5-6 months.
Re tomatoes if you haven't got enough jars you can reduce tomato paste to make a concentrate - delicious stuff that packs a punch but takes up a quater of the jars you would use for a regular passata. Just stew then sieve the tomatoes then boil again to reduce to a thick paste that you can scrape a spoon through.
There's a page on my site about making passatas and concentrates if you need more info.

Linda said...

Thanks for the heads up on tomato paste. Trev and I have both done different things to preserve tomatoes. There's a bit of a competitive streak as to who can do the best job of it, you might just have put me ahead of the pack!

Blacktail watermelon sounds good. It's on next years list. The sugarbaby's are almost ready to eat. I'm usually too impatient and open the first one too soon, so sitting on my hands this year!

Anonymous said...

I love reading about your adventures. We grow about 60 tomato plants each year and bottle most of them. I get about 100 litres of beautiful pasta sauces and pureed tomatoes ready to use through the rest of the year. A couple of years ago I managed to pick up nearly 400 Fowlers Vacola jars from various sources - all through the trading post and all deceased estates. Peoples grannies were dropping off the perch and they didn't know what to do with all her jars. Some even had original recipe books with them (great read!). The jars all cost me less than 50 cents each so give that a try because frozen tomatoes take up a hell of a lot of space.

Linda said...

Dear anonymous!

Fowlers jars! I have been donated about 40 of them - I bought seals but I'm used to the NZ Agee jars and I'm not sure I'm doing it right, so I've used the clear cellophane and rubberband trick as I'd hate to see my tomatoes go off in unsealed jars. Exactly how does one go about properly sealing a Fowler's jar? I've bought the seals, I have the lids and clamps, but where do you place the rubber seal around the jar rim? At the top, just below? I can't find anyone who knows, all those grannies dropping off the perch would know, but I can't find any.
Advice gratefully received!


ros said...

I'm not a dead granny yet. My family gave me a brand new fowlers kit for my 40th birthday. The seal fits in the small groove on the rim of the bottles. It needs to be straight all around no twists in the rubber. The seals fit kind of diagonally, you will know what I mean when you do it.