In the summer when I am down in Wanaka, I love getting up with the sun and wandering around my garden. There’s something incredibly still and soft about the land at this time of day – a hint of dew on the ground, everything looking so fresh and new. I get out my hose and do a bit of watering in the vege garden. I get to see what’s doing well and what needs a bit of attention and TLC before the day launches into its busy schedule. This year, the cucumbers have not taken kindly to being moved from the balmy confines of the hothouse to a few cold nights in the outdoors. It’s been such a late, cold spring here this year that the cherries, raspberries and apricots are running about a month behind – normally I can be picking juicy red cherries well before Christmas, but this year they won’t be ready for another few weeks.
The garlic and chives, on the other hand, are fattening up nicely. We have planted three kinds of garlic – a pink French garlic, a curly-top garlic and some elephant garlic. It will be interesting to taste the difference between them. In Turkey earlier this year, I enjoyed a fresh garlic sauce made simply by puréeing peeled cloves of new seasons’ garlic with olive oil and some salt and pepper. The result is like a creamy mayonnaise in texture and a soft, sweet garlic taste – not too strong or biting. It’s wonderful with lamb and potatoes. For more tips on growing and cooking garlic and other alliums, see my website. The coriander is already wanting to bolt so I am going to cut it right back today and whizz up an Asian pesto. I always blanch the coriander by pouring boiling water over it in a sieve and rinsing it in cold water before puréeing it up with some garlic, ginger, lime zest, chillies and oil. Finally, I add a bit of salt and pepper and sometimes some peanuts or cashews. The pesto goes really well with any kind of noodle or Asian salad. For other ideas for growing and using herbs, see the gardening pages of my website.
My big harvest of the week is going to be artichokes. I am going to cut them all right back so that, hopefully, they will come back with another good crop in the autumn. This year, I plan to preserve them in olive oil. The best way, I find, is to cook them slowly, covered in olive oil with a few cloves of garlic, some bay leaves and lemon. Once cooked and cooled, they keep happily in the fridge for months. My other favourite recipes for artichokes include Sicilian Artichokes, Potatoes and Olives or as part of a Mediterranean Summer Grill Plate. Potatoes fresh from the earth A cauliflower emerges[/caption] The first new potatoes (self-seeded from last year) are flowering and ready to pick. Gently boiled with a little salt and mint, and then tossed in the pot with new seasons’ garlic and butter, they can’t be beaten. I'm also hugely proud of my flawless cauliflowers. I'll be using them in my Crisp Cauliflower & Cashew Salad. It’s hard to feel anything but lucky when nature dishes up such wonderful harvests for us to enjoy.