Grow great leafy greens this week – specially when your current plants are bolting to seed

Grow great leafy greens this week – specially when your current plants are bolting to seed

We love lettuces for salads in warmer weather, so we plant cos or open leaf lettuces at this time as we get a better harvest than with iceberg-type lettuces.  


In summer we plant them in a moist, cool spot, maybe in semi-shade from hot afternoon sun. Early morning sun is kind to them.

In hot sun and dry soil leafy greens go through their life cycle really quickly  –  these are not favorable conditions for growing lush greens. If a tiny seedling’s survival is threatened, it quickly produces a seed stalk instead of growing leaves. Suddenly they seem to sprout up, taller and taller.

We check soil moisture each day [move mulch aside and feel below the surface with a finger to decide if they need water]

It’s such a balancing act – too little moisture or too much [specially from over-head watering] cause stress. Too wet can cause leaves which touch each other to hold moisture and become slimy or mush – not nice!



When you see leafy greens starting to produce a flowering stalk, it’s time to plant new seeds to grow up for crops to harvest in a month or so. 


Beware if considering planting leafy green seedlings in summer,

The shock of transplanting at this time is often enough to cause them to bolt instantly to seed while really tiny – no leaves to eat!


So, we generally plant seeds at this time rather than seedlings. Keep them moist so they can germinate and grow strong roots. This way they are ‘sort-of’ adapting to the current warm conditions, as much as possible.


Another point for good germination is soil temperature

Too hot and they wont even start! Cool shaded areas have much cooler soil temperature than out in full sun.

Try an experiment some time and go out at mid-afternoon and put your hand flat onto soil in full sun and notice how hot it is. Now feel soil in a shaded place.


Best times for planting seeds of greens?

After the new moon this first week of the new year is the best week to plant for lush leafy greens.

The best days are Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th  January 2017




My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

Looking for a recipe to turn lemons into lemonade? This one is my ‘go-to’ recipe

  • 200 ml lemon juice – squeezed fresh from juicy lemons [and we sieve the big bits out]
  • 400 ml water
  • 200 g sugar or equivalent other sweetener [I sometimes use Stevia – add it with the juice]

Boil water in a saucepan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. Cool.
Add lemon juice and stir.
Keep this concentrate in fridge [1-2 weeks only].

To serve: in a tall glass/jug add ice, a little of the concentrate, and fill with sparkling spring water or soda water. Stir.

Taste, adjust quantities and sweetness. Some lemons are more sour than others – they need more sweetener to make a nice drink. Taste and adjust until you like the result.



PS  My grand-mother’s original recipe included the lemon peel [zest].

It was boiled with the water for a bit [her measurements varied each time she made these for us as the recipe’s outcome depended on the type of lemon, season and rainfall. So she taste-tested and adjusted until it worked]


PPS If you buy lemons, unless you know they have clean skin without wax or chemicals, use only the juice.


Build a lettuce wrap

Build a lettuce wrap

How to build a ‘Heather’s Lettuce Wrap’ – delicious!!!

Start by assembling your favorite salad foods. Here, I use cheese, olives, gherkins, cucumber, tomato, sprouts, wild greens. Find your favorite sticky stuff to smooth onto each lettuce leaf to hold the rest on.

Create your unique, favorite wrap with just what you like. Mine is held on here with smooth peanut butter – works well!

Mayo works well too. Or other nut butters, or hummus, or other dips. [Lettuce wrap around a dip by itself is pretty delicious too – and is very quick. Depends on how hungry I am!]

I like the sweetness of peanut butter with the tangy wild greens, pickled gherkins and salty olives.

Some of us prefer to replace the lettuce leaf wrap with bread.

The greens here include endive, plantain, chickweed, rocket, parsley, miners lettuce, Herb Robert.



Breakfast a la our garden – even in winter!


In winter we really enjoy a warm, sustaining porridge containing lots more than just oats!

Here is our Winter Porridge Extraordinaire recipe:

Heather’s way [and below I have given approximate measured amounts if you prefer that way of cooking]

In a medium-sized saucepan, soak overnight

  • about a handful rolled oats
  • some chia seeds
  • some linseed [whole]
  • some ground LSA [we grind linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds – about the ratio 4:2:1]
  • 3-4x amount of water [filtered preferably]
  • if you have extra yogurt, add a dollop too – the acidic environment it creates means more unlocking of nutrients from the oats.


Approximate measurements:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds
  • 1 tblespn linseed [whole]
  • 2 tblspns ground LSA [we grind linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds – about the ratio 4:2:1]
  • 1 1/2 cups water [filtered preferably]
  • if you have extra yogurt, add a tblspn too – the acidic environment it creates means more unlocking of nutrients from the oats.]

In the morning, place the saucepan on the stove and bring to boil gently. I stir with a flat-bottomed wooden paddle/spoon to keep it from sticking. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat right down to extra-low and simmer gently until cooked.

Add 1-2 tblspns tahini [ground sesame seeds] which will thicken the mix and give it a creamy consistency. Add more water if it is too thick. Stir.

Turn off the heat and leave sit for a few minutes if you have time – the flavors blend and mellow. Re-assess whether it needs more water to thin it or more tahini to thicken it. Adjust as required to be just how you like it.

Some people like adding a sweetener – stewed fruit works for us – apple, peaches, nectarines, apricots are so sweet. Or add some dried fruit to the dry oats and soak over night [sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, etc all give a different flavor and provide variety]

Other additions we sometimes include:

  • cinnamon
  • cardamon


So, to create a winter breakfast energy boost:

  • 1 apple – chopped [or other fresh fruit you like]
  • Stewed fruit [home grown and preserved plums here]
  • Yogurt  [or whatever you like instead – kefir/milk/coconut milk/almond milk/etc]
  • Add the cooked mixed grains of a delicious porridge.

Optional: serve with a mandarin and/or orange before or after [just because they are so delicious at the moment] and savor!

[PS: Some people like to start the meal with a small glass of water with juice of 1/2 small lemon in it. We like Meyer or Lemonade lemons as they are sweeter than many other lemons.]

[PPS: Apples, oranges and mandarins are from our trees. Orange is just starting. Mandarins nearly finished and so sweet. And amazingly we’re still picking apples from the tree! Crisp and sweet – a real joy]

Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!

20160521_100028The small ones are the ones we eat [like those lower left in the photo].

Steam a few minutes for the tiny ones whole or sliced medium-sized ones. Sweet and delicious.
Large chokos develop a tough skin and are flavorless compared with the tiny ones. We spice large ones to make them worth eating. They are kept in a cold place until we have no more small ones on the plant. Then we use the large ones [unless we’ve given them away].

Large chokos are usually the ochoko vine over cherry guava treenes available in shops. If you see small ones, choose them for flavor.
Chokos grow on a rampant vine. Our’s covers the back fence and a tree. It will die back as cold winter weather and frosts arrive.

The roots remain in the ground to re-sprout next spring. Covering the roots with mulch for protection in winter helps this short-lived perennial plant last longer. Continue reading “Chokos are in season (late autumn) in Auckland!”

Our first persimmon!


We planted a persimmon tree 18 months ago as an experiment – we had never grown them before. What would they be like? Could it grow here in a small suburban yard? On clay [all the top-soil went with the subdivision]? Would it like Auckland’s semi-tropical climate with warm, moist summers?

Persimmons are deciduous small trees and lose their leaves in winter so I thought it may just be a hopeful dream to grow our own organic ones.

Yet, here it is. Our small tree which we ‘sort-of’ espaliered on the fence in a narrow garden bed has lots of lovely green leaves and now has ripening fruit! Wonderful.


What experiments do you wonder about? Do start, you never know what is possible anywhere until you try.