Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

'Tis the time of year in the sub tropics when the Sweet Leaf/Katuk bushes [Sauropus androgynus-- mani cai (马尼菜), in Malay it is called cekur manis or sayur manis] loose their leaves and bare out.I make sure I strip every leaf on mine before that happens and ferry them inside. As I have been advised by my Malaysian gardening mentors, I've cut the bushes back and taken cuttings for striking.

But I miss 'em sweet sweet leaves. I have only about 20 leaves left and I won't waste one of them.

I love Katuk with a gourmandising passion.So I'm planning to up my supply...and maybe I should look at trying to extend the harvest season next year somehow.

The good thing is, as the Katuk struggles to flesh up, the Kale kicks in...and I have planted a lot of Warrigal Greens to supplement.

Katuk, Kale, Warrigal Greens..seems all very exotic, doesn't it? But they all very easily grown this far north on grumpy soils. Kale is supermarket expensive ($5/bunch) and not the green veg norm. The rest are rare.

Also in Winter the Kantong -- water spinach -- dies back but sweet potato leaves make a good substitute . There is always plenty of leaves in sweet potato patches. Indeed, it is said, that if you cull back the leaves, you'll get bigger tubers.

Here we have folk chasing the hard to grow, bug prone, and often expensive supermarket veg like broccoli and such, when there are these more self reliant substitutes

From my POV the produce larder essentials starts with veg like this --and core fresh herbs like rosemary, parsley,garlic, coriander,chilli and basil -- all of which I tend to pile into a dish -- and the root vegetables: carrot, beetroot, turnip...Add the main starches -- white and sweet potatoes -- and you're cooking up a storm. The 'glue' for all this, for me, are spring onions and leeks. Indispensable. I haven't peeled a regular onion in almost a year. And while I use fresh (or frozen) ginger a lot I prefer to grate Turmeric -- and I even have the bench top stains to prove my preference.

I use tomatoes, of course, even 'dry' them -- but my keen addiction is to one  sweet pepper type : Cubanelle/Italian long sweet pepper.

The day I master the cultivation of these delights will be a great horticultural moment.

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 3, 2014 at 21:28

Hmm, the Japanese-style pickled Ginger, that's all I've come across. For many uses that pickled Ginger would be good but for juicing, I need the whole rhizome to squeeze the juice from. I use a single-gear low-speed juicer, grating wouldn't accomplish much. I don't do blended smoothies, just vege and fruit juices.

Tomato skins can be very tough in cooking especially chutnies/sauces so removing the skins first is the simplest for me to do. I never de-seed Tomatoes though.

The Chilli seeds really are something else! Too fierce for me. It is a waste, yes. Some traditions save the seeds and dry them for a condiment. Sound idea!

Comment by Dave Riley on July 3, 2014 at 16:15

Michael Body, the late food writer, ran a discussion on 'keeping' ginger way back in the nineties and the general agreement was that freezing was the best option.

I eat the chilli seeds as well as the flesh. I neither de-seed or skin tomatoes either. I can't understand these habits. The tomato de-seeding and peeling thing is an Italian preference but elsewhere not so.The chilli seeds are hotter than the flesh so I adjust accordingly.

Waste not/Want not.

Most times I'm unwilling to peel anything -- potatoes for instance, sweet or white. At best I'll scrape carrots with a fork.

Beetroot I peel at some stage in the prep...and turnips.

But unpeeled can be a freezing problem as the skin defrosts very differently from the flesh of a vegetable.Depending on the amount of ginger you use in a blend up, grating is still an option. The only issue is finger/arm fatigue...

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 3, 2014 at 11:05

Ah yes, gotta clean it! I do that with Ginger for vege juice. I do de-frost that since it's going through the juice extractor. The skin comes off as does Tomato skin when it's thawed.

Grating whole is a new idea to me, sounds good.

I freeze Chillies but remove the seeds first. I've got Plums and Peaches frozen ready to make Chillie Jam or Spiced Plum/Peach Sauce. You'd never know it was frozen it cooks up a treat.

However I'd rather bottle it if I could to save the freezer space and the electricity to keep it frozen. But that doesn't look to be much of an option.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 3, 2014 at 9:31

Like with ginger I freeze it. You may want to clean and peel it first -- then bag it. But I don't bother with the peeling..and don;t freeze it if it's wet. To grate, use the fine option on a grater -- not the bigger blades -- and grate a piece when frozen. Return the leftover sections to the freezer. It's like rhizome yellow snow. Freezing doesn't work so well with galangal, though, because galangal can be so woody and when you come to grate it it's too tough for the blades.

If you defrost ginger or Turmeric it will turn into a soggy sponge. Yuck. The trick is also to freeze the youngest and bigger pieces.

I also freeze whole chillies....just chop em up for any dish while frozen -- and I've frozen lemongrass in the past if I do a big harvest and think I'll run out. But I've got plenty of lemongrass all year now --I must have over 30 clumps -- so I don't bother. Lemongrass you may have to defrost if it's stringy.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 3, 2014 at 8:57

How do you preserve the Turmeric Dave? My big root is waiting cleaning then I'm not sure of my next move. Looked into preserving (similar to Ginger) but no one seems to do that. Once I break the tubers off the main lump, there will be raw ends to catch moulds. I have the jars to do preserving and don't want to freeze it if I can help it.

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