This summer I would like at least one component of every dinner I make to come from my small garden. It’s not exactly an impressive task to set myself, but it’s a start, and most nights I’d hope to be using two, three, or more things from the garden. I don’t have a big plot of land to work on at home, but what I do have fortunately is very sunny – too dry and sunny, in some areas. I’ve decided this year to try to grow produce that is either harder to find in the shops, doesn’t get particularly cheap, or is something I often use and would like to be able to grab from the garden in a hurry if I haven’t bought any. Some items I’ve planted fit more than one of those categories. I’ll plant more as the summer rolls around, but right now I have in the garden: broad beans; perpetual spinach; spring onions; cherry tomatoes; wild rocket; mesclun mix; tom thumb lettuces; butter beans; cavalo nero; cabbage; corn salad; Thai chillies; coriander; Thai basil; holy basil; mint; flat-leaf parsley. Not a huge haul, but a well-selected one, I think!
Last year I spent quite a bit of time and effort on my tomatoes, for a not so great return, so this year I’ve restricted my tomato efforts to the darling little golden cherry variety that my older daughter loves so, and the odd plant that sprang up from last year’s seed. A friend of mine reckons Aucklanders – with our bothersome humidity – just shouldn’t bother with tomatoes. My dad, who lived in Christchurch, always had the most beautiful tomato crops. Any gardeners out there keen to add their opinion – are tomatoes worth the effort up here in the North? They just get so cheap and tasty in season, I think I’ll leave them to the professionals. That said, I do have seeds for quite a few Italian heirloom varieties that aren’t commonly available to buy, so well worth growing.
Another lesson from last year for me is to try to plant compact-growing things. Last summer my Lebanese cucumbers went insane and took up a whole terrace, and while they gave me a bumper crop, I couldn’t pick them or give them away fast enough! The bread and butter pickles I made, and all those salads of cucumber ribbons with mint and a Nuoc mam-style dressing were pretty good though.
If you’re an Auckland reader and keen to swap produce, comment on here or drop me a line at email@example.com