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Harvesting and Drying Alma Paprika

Hello friends,

This is our second year growing alma paprika plants. It's really satisfying to sow them as little tiny seeds, see them grow up into seedlings, and then onto big pepper plants with red peppers that you can dry into mild paprika.

The process for growing alma paprika plants is pretty much the same as any other capsicums or chillies. The seeds need to be sown in late winter, at the same time as tomatoes, and they need consistent steady heat in order to germinate. At that time of the year we have them sitting in the dining room where we have the fire going each day. Within a couple of weeks they germinate, and slowly over a couple of months they grow into seedlings which need to be potted on.

I move the alma paprika seedlings into the glasshouse in early October, and once it gets to Labour weekend, it's time to plant them into the ground in the glasshouse. Over the next few months they get bigger, and need staking, and at around Christmas they begin to flower. The rounded alma paprika fruits begin to grow, and then it's a wait over late summer and early autumn for the growing fruits to begin to change colour to a bright red hue.

Once the alma paprika fruit has turned red, it's finally time to pick them. I cut them off the plant using a pair of secateurs, and then take them into the kitchen to begin processing them.

After chopping them in half, cutting off the stalks, and removing all the seeds, I slice the alma paprika fruit into thin slices and lay them out on a tray.

Then they go straight into the dehydrator at 35˚C, and I dry them until the slices are bone dry and brittle, ready for turning into paprika powder.

After a quick whizz in our spice grinder, the paprika powder is ready to use in cooking. The spice is tasty and mild, and works great in a number of dishes. The whole process is really easy, and satisfying, so it's now yet another yearly thing for me to do in the garden and kitchen.

Do you have any yearly tasks you enjoy? There's great satisfaction in accomplishing them when it means you have tasty food over the cold winter season.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

My 2023 Garlic Harvest

Hello friends,

According to one of last year's blog posts, I sowed my garlic bulbs for this season on Friday the 2nd of June 2023. Apparently, at that time I planted 60 Printanor bulbs, and in my naive state back then, claimed that we hadn't had any problem with garlic rust in all the years since we returned to Dunedin, so I wasn't worried about it happening at all.

Well it turns out I was really wrong about this. Normally, the humidity in Dunedin in spring usually isn't too bad, but unfortunately in mid-December 2023 the tell tale signs of garlic rust began appearing on my garlic plants after a period of rainy, humid days. I was devastated to say the least, but it was only a few weeks until the garlic harvest, so I prayed for lots of dry and sunny weather, and hoped my garlic plants had already formed decent bulbs while I waited impatiently for harvest day.

A couple of days after Christmas, my garlic plants were ready to harvest. It was a gray, drizzly day, but hubby and I got to work, and began lifting all the garlic bulbs. It wasn't the biggest garlic bulb haul in the world, but it was good enough for us. I had been hoping for lots of large bulbs, so I could swap some of our harvest for other things like apples and pears etc in autumn, but due to their smallish size, we ended up only with enough to last us for the year.

After a quick spray with water to clean off all the dirt, we made the decision to harvest the garlic then and there. Garlic plants with rust don't tend to keep very long while stored dry and whole, so we harvested the garlic bulbs and froze the cloves in our chest freezer. When we cook with garlic we just use the cloves, or we dehydrate the garlic to get flakes and powder.

The thing about growing underground vegetable crops is that you're not entirely sure what the harvest will be like until you dig them up. It's really just a case of making do with what you get, and then planning accordingly. If gardening life was predictable all the time, it would probably be boring...but I still would've loved to have a bigger harvest. So instead, I'll just have to buy autumnal fruit the normal way, at the supermarket.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Another Thrift Store Find - A French Style Tureen and Soup Set

Hello friends,

I was in the Mosgiel shopping area two weeks ago to go vote in the NZ general election, and walked past one of the local op shops, the same one that I found my pumpkin ceramic casserole dish back in February this year. There in the window was the most amazing 9 piece white ceramic soup tureen set with lion faces embedded into each of the pieces.

I walked inside, saw that the whole set was in pristine condition, and that it was for sale for an amazing price of $45. I whipped my bank card out so fast, and within five minutes it was all bundled up in wrapping paper inside a ginormous cardboard box, and on its way back to our car. Hubby, who happened to be in the local post office while all this was going on, took one look at me, and said, "what did you buy this time"...

And here is the set in it's entire glory. I'm so happy with this purchase, and not only because I'm totally a crazy cat lady, and wanted this lion's head set in our home. I was very soon on the internet looking up the bounty I had just found, and saw that what I bought is an antique style French Lions Head White Ironstone tureen and 8 piece bowl set which is worth at least $350 if I were to buy it new, and I definitely never would've justified buying it new.

For now I'm very happy to have it safely sitting inside our buffet hutch, but I soon plan to make some french onion soup to make inside it...

Have you ever found an absolute gem of an op shop find? I'm curious to know what you've found.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Drying and Grinding Our Homegrown Serrano Chillies

Hello friends,

During last year's growing season I had a Serrano chilli plant growing in our glasshouse, and over summer it gave me an abundant harvest of both green and red chillies. I picked so many chillies that I had no idea what to do with them all. I gave away as many as I could, and then with the rest I decided to dry them. We mainly use chillies as dried chilli powder in the kitchen throughout the year, so this method to prepare them was the best way to use all the left over chillies.

I waited until I had a big chlli harvest (some had already started drying out whole), and I cut off all the tops off before splitting them down the middle and removing the seeds (while wearing gloves). I then dried them in our dehydrator on trays at a temperature of 50˚C.

The smell was quite pungent, so initially the dehydrator was sitting outside under our veranda for the day, and then in the garage after that.

Once the chillies were dry, they were stored whole in a plastic container until it was time to grind them.

Last week, I finally got around to actually grinding them in our coffee and spice grinder. So as not to stink out the house with powdered chilli, I placed the grinder under the rangehood with it turned on.

It didn't take very long to turn the chilli into powder. It didn't make as much as I thought it would, so I think that this year I won't give as much away, so we'll have more chilli powder for ourselves.

And we've already used our new chilli powder in a meal, we made chilli con carne that very night. It wasn't too spicy, but it had a really great flavor that we liked. I'm definitely happy to make even more chilli powder this coming growing season.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Planting the first of my Potatoes

Hello friends,

I finally started planting out my potato tubers for the spring growing season. I meant to do it a couple of weeks ago, but more urgent gardening tasks got in the way. Every year I grow four different varieties of potatoes in the garden, and each variety we use for different reasons.

The first potato variety I grow is Rocket, it's a 1st early potato which only takes 60 - 70 days to maturity. I like planting these in early to mid-September as it means they will be the first potatoes to be ready to eat in mid-November for boiling and roasting. The second variety of potato I grow is Jersey Bennes which is a 1st early potato that reaches maturity in 80 - 90 days. When planted at this time of the year the potatoes will be ready to eat in time for Christmas, and we eat them boiled and also in potato salads.

The other two varieties of potato I grow are Ilam Hardy and Haylo, but they won't be planted until October. Ilam Hardy is a 2nd early/main potato that takes 70 - 80 days to maturity, and is great for mashing, baking, roasting, chips, and wedges. We mainly use this potato for turning into gnocchi, and also in potato and leek soup. The last variety of potato I grow is Haylo, which is an improved variety from the Agria variety potato. It is in my opinion the best roasting potato, and we in fact did an experiment one year to test this. I grew Ilam Hardy, Agria, and Haylo one year, and compared roasting them using hubby's double cooking method for making roast potatoes. Haylo was by far the best tasting roasted potato variety. Haylo is a 2nd early/main potato, and matures in 80 - 90 days.

With these four varieties of potato growing in the garden, we are self sufficient in eating potatoes pretty much throughout the year in various forms, thanks to storing gnochhi and potato and leek soup away in our chest freezer.

I began chitting both the Rocket and Jersey Bennes potato varieties back at the beginning of August, and it wasn't long at all before they started growing, and by the time it was actually time to plant them, they'd unfortunately gotten too big. A disappointment for sure, but they were still fine to plant into the ground, I did so very carefully, taking care not to break any growing shoots.

After digging two trenches in an area of the vegetable garden, I sowed five of each of the Rocket and Jersey Benne tubers into the ground. I always plant them in order from right to left, with the Rocket on the far right, then the Jersey Bennes to the left of them. Experience has taught me that the Rocket variety will indeed rocket up and produce a copious amount of leaves which will smother any other growing potato plant varieties, and block them from sunlight given half a chance. If I do it this way, any new rows of potatoes will get morning sun preferentially to the rocket potatoes.

It didn't take very long to plant those potato varieties, and then gently cover them over with soil. For the next few weeks as they grow up they'll be safe from any late frosts, and once they're above ground, I'll cover them with frost cloth every night until the last frost has passed.

In a couple of weeks it'll be time to plant the Ilam Hardy and Haylo potato varieties, but before that can be done, I need to transplant some dye plants I have in that part of the vege garden. But before that can be done, I have to prepare another area of the garden for the dye plants to move into...

It's pretty much a big juggling job in the garden right now, with the most urgent tasks being done first, even though they may not be the tasks I want to do. And I'm now behind in seed sowing as well, but I will get there I'm sure. The next rainy day in the garden will be a huge seed sowing session, and my aim will be to sow everything else that needs to be sown.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

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