Friday, 12 October 2012

The joys of growing food

Last week we had our veggie beds arrive.

I have looked on with interest at Melbourne company The Little Veggie Patch Co.   over the last few years.

Have you seen what they are doing smack bang in the middle of our city at Fed Square?

They have been busily creating the Pop- Up patch- an urban Veggie patch experience to help & support people understand the joys of growing your own veggies in a city Car Park. Such an ACE idea!!!   These kinds of ideas of using urban spaces excite me so very much.

You can read more about how to be involved here. 

Just because we live in Urban and Suburban environments doesn't mean we can't do all we can to grow stuff to eat.  You don't have to grow EVERYTHING.  I am not suggesting that.   But kids really do LOVE growing things and you will be amazed at how they will happily try foods they have refused time & time again if they grow it themselves, devouring it in front of you as you wonder what you had missed before.

I would love to see everyone just give growing some food a try. I really really would!

Even growing some stuff is good for you.  It's good for your soul.  It's good for the environment.  It's ever so good for your children.

And veggies are so very beautiful. And delicious.

I believe strongly in the educational aspect of it for our children.  It helps give them an understanding of where our food comes from. Of the effort that goes into it.  Of the things that are out of our control in terms of whether that seed we planted will ever actually make it to our table. Of waiting....... such a good lesson.

Food doesn't magically appear on the shelf at the Stupidmarket.  Or does it?  There are plenty of people- young & old that don't give it much thought.

Sadly I think too many people have lost sight of the big picture.  We choose to take the easy option in our busy lives and block that all out and buy from the big two because it is there and it is easy.  We choose to pop on the blinkers about how that food got there, where it came from.

We don't ALL have to do it the same way. We don't all have to have enormous beds that sustain all our needs. I am not professing that we all become self- sufficient.  It is a matter of awareness but also an opportunity.  An opportunity to BE with our children in a way that not many other activities allow.

Nothing can replace the pure joy of knowing that something you tended to from the very beginning made it's way on to your table and into your tummy to feed you goodness- goodness for your belly and for your soul.

I get that sometimes it is super dooper hard.  I really do. I have five little kids and it does take effort and time. But I think the rewards are immeasurable.  It's quiet time with your children. Time slowed down. Time to converse.  Time to watch. To take notice.

Just TO BE.

As we have had to move our veggie beds in order to make space for some building at our place we started thinking about options that could work for us while the building takes place and into the future.

Since we moved here 5 years ago we have been gradually changing the garden to Native and food producing plants.

The fruit trees look like producing fruit for the fruit time this year and we are beyond excited!  3 years ago we planted a pear, a peach, 2 varieties of nectarine, an apple, a Kaffir lime, a lemon tree, a blood orange, a pomegranate & a  few olive tress. We harvested our first Pomegranate last year- oh the joy.  This year we look like getting an olive crop and there are looking like LOTS of peaches. The kids are beyond excited.  They have learnt about seasonality, about the joy of what the changing seasons means in terms of what they can harvest.

We have had veggies growing in old wine barrels, old polystyrene containers, old pots collected form hard rubbish, old tin cans- whatever we could get our hands on. But we really wanted a bigger space & I needed something elevated because of my back problems and we were keen on using recycled products if possible. This was what led me to the Little Veggie Patch co.- they use recycled Apple crates.  They are the perfect height for me- no bending over!


So last weekend after letting the composted goodness in the soil settle the kids planted out the seedlings they had chosen.

They planted several varieties of heirloom Tomatoes, Radishes, Eggplant, coriander, Pumpkin, Cucumber, Rockmelon, Watermelon, basil, capsicum, sugarsnap peas, Giant Sunflowers & Marigolds to bring the good bugs to the patch.  We also have growing in other areas of the garden- Thyme, parsley, mint, rosemary, artichoke, vietnamese mint, oregano,  horseradish, mustard greens, strawberries & lemongrass.

I left the kids to plant as they wanted.  We don't follow any rules although there probably are some. But I think it is so beautiful to just watch how they think it should be.  They did a great job.

There was talk of how much they loved Gardening when it involved food growing.  That growing flowers was pretty boring but being able to grow veggies that you know you love to eat was so much fun.

The sun behaved just for the hour or two we needed.   It was absolutely delightful.

As the produce grows and we harvest I will share with you more of what we make with it......

NB: This post was not sponsored in any way- we paid for our beds-  I just love to shout out for peeps I think are rad. Onya Little Veggie Patch Co!!!

I would LOVE to tell you I made this with ingredients from my garden but we aren't there just yet.
One of my fave ingredients of Spring is ASPARAGUS! So much yum.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram (you will find me there as gourmetgirlfriend) will know of my addiction to Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale). 
I just love it- I have it in nearly everything. I will find any excuse to have it.
So this tart was an excuse really to use two of my fave spring things.
Wait a few weeks and it will be Broad beans.......
I have also started making my own shortcrust pastry- I used to be so scared of doing pastry. 
Shortcrust is quite forgiving really & super easy if you use your food processor to do most of the work- give it a try. It is super satisfying eating it knowing you have made it! 
The trick is to rest it before rolling & of course to using the best quality ingredients you can. 

for the pastry:

  • 200g Plain flour
  • 100g butter
  •  a pinch of salt
  • about 50g  ICE COLD water
for the topping
  • 1 bunch of spring asparagus
  • 5-6 stems of Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml cream
  • S & P
  • 200g your favourite cheese ( I used Bruny Island Raw Milk C2). Half will go in with the eggs and half on top

preheat oven to 190C.

First make the pastry by adding the flour and butter in to your food processor and blitzing for about 30 seconds or until it looks a little like breadcrumbs.

Now add the water and blitz again until it forms a dough.

Remove onto a floured bench and knead lightly.

Wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.

 While the pastry is resting you can prep the topping.

Trim the Cavolo Nero (i use the whole shebang as I love it but some people like to trim the leaves off the stems- do this if you like.

Add a little butter to a non stick pan. Add garlic and Cavolo Nero and fry gently till wilted. Set aside.

Remove the woody stalks from the Asparagus.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and cream and 100g of the cheese.

Now roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is able to cover the base of your pie dish.

Grease the pie dish and lay the pastry over carefully. Prick the base with a fork.

Place soem baking paper over the base and add baking stones (I didn't have any of those so I just used Dried Chickpeas).

Place into preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the base is cooked. 

Remove from the oven and remove baking paper & baking stones.

Add the Cavolo nero and then lay the Asparagus over the top.

Now pour the egg mix over the top and finish with the last half of the grated cheese. Season.

Place in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked.

This tart is delicious served Hot or Cold.  

Ours never made it to getting cold though!

I wanna go hang out with these kids & their furry boots of awesome in the forest & play pillow fights. Wanna come? 


  1. Excellent Ruth, so much goodness! I am lucky enough to have a large vegetable patch but I love the LVP guys. I have their first book and refer to it often...good simple practical advice and funny too! Your tart looks to-die-for...I have both kale and asparagus in my patch so I might have to try this one. Have a lovely weekend :)

  2. I started a garden journal over on my blog, to link in all of us loving our gardening! There is that air of satisfaction growing things in one's garden... we harvested some of our own spinach last night, our first harvest since moving in 3 months ago! Delightful! xx Hope you can join in on the Garden Journal! xx

  3. Love this post! I get the BIGGEST kick out of gardening. We are lucky to have just over an acre so we have lots of native plants & a good size vegie patch. It's relaxing & rewarding, as well as being hard work but oh so worth it!!

  4. I agree with you 100%, we have one of the corrigated vege gardens, waist height and its filled with chilli's, sage, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, mustard greens, parsley, my boys planted some sunflowers and we also have a bay tree and some mint in pots, its amazing what you can do in a little coburg backyard :)

    I like to get my seedlings at ceres ....and a latte while I'm at it :)

  5. Oh Ruth, you are such an inspiration. Wonderful post, every bit of it! I think one of the first things we will do if we buy our house will be to put in some beds. All these years here and we've grown so little, especially since no.4 came along. I'm ready for it now, I think!

    I will be trying out that tart, it looks right up our street. YUM!

    Love the video. It's how I think my boys are. How I hope they are. Some of the time anyway! xxx


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