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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.

Growing and Harvesting European Linen for the 2023-2024 Season

Hello friends,

As a crafter and a gardener, I like to combine my hobbies in interesting ways. In this case it was growing and harvesting European flax (Linum usitatissimum) in order to prepare some linen for spinning and weaving.

Back when we lived in Wellington I bought some Essene European flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) from Koanga Gardens. In the first year I sowed half the seed packet into a 1 m x 2 m space, and grew the linen plants mainly for producing seeds, so in years afterward I could grow even more flax for linen. My linen harvests thereafter would be self-sustaining. I now grow linen every couple of years for collecting seeds, and stockpiling flax stalks for making linen.

This blog post is showing the process of growing linen from seed sowing to harvesting. In later blog posts I'll share as I go through the flax processing and then spinning and weaving it.

The first thing I did was buy the book "Homegrown Linen: Transforming flax seed into Fiber." by Raven Ranson. This book is very detailed, and shows all the necessary steps in growing homegrown flax for linen. I then used it to calculate how to grow it in New Zealand seasons.

The first step in growing flax seed is deciding when to sow the seed. Flax seed is sown in spring when oats and barley are sown, and in our case it was in mid-October. If flax is grown for linen then the seeds are grown very close together so that long tall stalks are produced, but if flax are grown for seeds, they are planted further apart to allow for branching and more flower production.

After weeding the patch of ground it was to go into in spring last year, I fertilized it with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets, and then prepared the soil to a fine tilth. I then sowed the flax seed in a broadcast fashion very close together, so that the linen plants would grow very tall, with little to no branching. After covering the seeds over with a fine layer of soil using a rake, I watered the seeds in, and then covered the crop with bird netting to protect the seeds from the local very hungry avians. It takes approximately 100 days from seed sowing until plant harvest, so this was classed as day 0.

Within a few days of watering each day, the flax seedlings began to appear. It is always very exciting to see them come up.

And within a week, the seedlings were actively reaching for the sky. In the photo below I was growing the linen plants for seed, but as you can see, I spread them a little too far apart.

Once the flax starts growing, it basically fends for itself. If sown very close together no weeds will grow, making it an easy crop to take care of, as long as it gets enough water. And once the flax reaches about 50 cm tall, it begins flowering at around day 60. The beautiful blue flowers open during the day, and close again at night. And now that the plants are tall, they sway very prettily in the breeze.

Flowering and setting seed boils takes around a month. One of our neighbourhood cats, who we call Patches, decided to make their snoozing spot inside the linen crop. No matter how many times I tried to shoo them away, they kept coming back, so I let them be. It's a good thing they're cute because they ended up squishing a bunch of linen...

Once the seed heads (boils) have set, now is the time to think about when to harvest. It's a good idea to set aside a section of your crop to let the boils (seed heads) mature and turn brown, which means they are then ready to harvest for next years seeds. Their plant parts will be dry and thick and yellow, and they won't make good linen.

The rest of your crop will be used for producing linen. When the bottom half the plant has turned golden, it is time to harvest the plants. The seed heads will not usually be viable for collecting seed, but I've found in the past that some of them can be.

The best way to harvest linen is to pull them out by hand in clumps. Lay the harvested linen plants out on the grass, all facing the same way, with the roots at one end, and the boils at the other. Once you've harvested all the linen plants, it's time to stook the plants, which means creating bunches of sheafs, and then tying them in the middle like the poles of a teepee. You want air to get up into the middle of the sheaf to dry it out. Place the sheafs upright with the roots at the bottom and let them dry in the sun on sunny days.


Once the linen plant sheafs are dry you can store them until you want to begin processing your linen. The next step is processing my current linen crop, and this will occur in a couple of weeks after autumn starts...

Have you ever tried experimental gardening? I've done this in the past with growing wheat, and it's very interesting to see how food and fibers are processed. It makes you appreciate how complicated food and textile production is.

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.

Harvesting Calendula, Lavender, Chamomile, and Catnip

Hello friends,

It's a very busy time in the garden with lots of harvesting to do, and last week I finally got around to harvesting chamomile, lavender, calendula, and catnip.

It was a bit of a battle to work around the many honey bees, bumble bees, and native bees who were all doing some harvesting of their own, but I finally got the flowers harvested.

The calendula and chamomile went straight into the dehydrator, but I had to chop the lavender stems back to make the lavender flowers fit inside. My dehydrator now lives in the garage, as the scented air flow sets off my asthma.

Once that was done, it was time to harvest the catnip. I grow our catnip in the berry cage, as it's the only way of getting a harvest for our indoor cats, Missy and Rosie, without the neighbourhood cats destroying it first. The catnip plants however had grown like weeds, and were far too large to fit inside the dehydrator.

After giving the branches a trim, luckily there was enough space inside the glasshouse walkway to fit them all in, so I laid the catnip out flat to dry. I put an old mesh door over the glasshouse during the day to stop the birds eating my tomatoes, but it also handily fends off the neighbourhood cats too.

Now that all the plants are dry, they go into storage for later on in the year. I plan to use the chamomile, calendula, and lavender in soap making once I have the time and space to do it. And the catnip will go into the cat's stash of catnip I keep all year for them.

Do you spoil your fur babies with their very own catnip? I find homegrown catnap is much more potent than store bought.

Have a wonderful day.

Julie-Ann

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

Dehydrating All The Herbs

Hello friends,

It's finally the time of the year when the dehydrator is working full time, and there's currently a bunch of herbs drying in the dehydrator.

First up is coriander, which is currently on it's second harvest for the season.

Next we have dill, which has also been harvested for the second time this season.

I've also just harvested celery for cutting for the first time this season, and I'm hoping to turn it into celery salt.

And also, there's finally enough basil to start dehydrating. I've just did the first harvest, and there was enough for both making a small amount of pesto, and also for some to dry.

And finally, I've just harvested lemon balm for the first time ever. It's used a lot in the teas I often drink, so I'm hoping to make some for myself.

Have you got harvests coming on? I love early summer in the garden, it's full of so much potential.

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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