Sunday, September 22, 2013

A little bit of Spring

A little bit of Spring bounty..

We've had some sickness in our tiny house lately. Weeks of it. Fluey, pneumonic kind of illness. Consequently, things have been slow in these parts as we've all been decrepit. Yet despite the decrepit, we have managed to observe and celebrate the advent of Spring. 

Cause for great celebration has been the big rain we've had. Joy oh joys. Bloody great. I laugh at myself a little now when I think about how obsessed I am with checking the rainfall. It never would have occurred to me when we lived in Sydney. Now I talk to everyone about it, which works fine when talking to people around town. But I must admit I do get a little self conscious when I catch myself recounting our rainfall in mm's to our Sydney friends. However when you've just planted 800 native trees and shrubs and you rely on tank water and you have year old fruit trees that you are hoping to see some serious growth on this Summer and you have vegetables to grow and Summer time garden beds to create, well rain does become all. 

One recent Sunday, before the big rain, we'd had a little rain (25mm in case you're curious). Our coughs were almost gone, the air was mild and the raindrops in the trees were glistening in the morning sun. It felt good. We'd just noticed the globe artichokes were coming on and the broad beans were standing to attention. Huzzah! Let the Spring eating begin. Excellent. We've probably talked about it before, but there is real joy to be found in eating seasonally. Not to get too ranty, but we just don't need tomatoes and watermelon in July. We just don't. They don't taste good, they'e come from far away and it's so weird, this concept that we can have what we want whenever we want. Not to get all Socialist mumma on you, but I can't help but feel that this devastating sense of entitlement will be our undoing. We've been eating a lot of kale, cabbage, root veg, chard, pumpkin (still working our way through our Autumn haul)and leek lately so the growth of the broad beans and artichokes is cause for some joy. New flavours, new recipes, new eating, new ideas, new conversations.... what could be better? 

Beautiful sight of the artichoke

Meatballs with broad beans and lemon
I had been waiting for the broad beans because I was wanting to cook the meatballs with broad beans and lemon from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem. They suggest it makes a perfect Spring supper, and we'd have to agree. Truly truly delicious. This is my favourite kind of food. Food that is rooted in the seasons, real food with real flavour. It's easy to make with what's fresh in the garden and the spices in the cupboard. We will eat it many times this Spring but only while the broad beans and spring onions flourish in the garden and local lemons abound. 

There were about six globe artichokes ready for the picking. Just six. There are many more to come but as you'd probably know, you can't wait for the littlies to be ready because in that time the artichoke heart will turn to flower. Beautiful purply blue flower but heartless flower nonetheless. So while it felt a little ridiculous to be processing just six artichokes, preserve them I did. We'd been studying Preserving the Italian Way for pig recipes. Yes, pig. We bought a pig from a friend and made many wonderful things with it (yes this will be a post, soon) But of course preserving the Italian way is about more than just the pig, so we turned to it for artichoke inspiration. It's very simple really. You peel the artichokes back to their heart, leaving them in floury water (to stop them browning) while you peel the rest. Then boil them up for 5 or so minutes in a mix of water, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, cloves, bay leaves and garlic. Then leave to cool and drain for hours and hours. Then put in a jar with some olive oil. One jar is all we got, this time. But this week there'll be another seven artichokes and a few weeks later there'll be more and so on. By the time Summer hits, we may well have stocked up on several jars and they will provide some good eating on pizzas and in salads this Summer. 

The first jar

Apparently you can preserve scotch thistles in the same way as artichokes. Have you ever tried such a thing? Of course, they are related but little did I know you could eat an actual thistle. Apparently you need to catch the thistle just before it flowers. Annie and Olive and Oscar traversed the land in search of some scotch thistle at this very juncture in its life cycle. Strangely they only found a couple. I gave it a good try, carefully peeling back the prickly "leaves" but ended up with a thistle heart so small it made no sense to preserve it. I thought maybe we'd picked it too early? But any later and they'd be flowering. We've got some more thistles, on the brink, so maybe this week I'll give it another go.

in pursuit of the thistle
It feels as though we are a little behind in our summertime garden preparations. Weeks of coughing will do that to you. Weeks of coughing and pigs to process and pastured poultry enterprises to establish and lovely guests to host will all delay the Spring planting... Oh yes, there are plenty more stories to come...


  1. Hi Genevieve. Are spear thistles different in flower/heart to spear thistles? I read somewhere that what we call scotchies are in fact spear thistles in Australia. Maybe this is only in Sydney though.

    1. Oh yes, they may well be. I just did a bit of a google and I see what you mean.. Hmmm so maybe no thistle preserving for us after all. Thanks for the tip. It was very perplexing.