harvest_kids

Magic Shelf Issues

To illustrate a point, I’ll use a real life example. A friend’s daughter spent a few days over at our place in December. Dani is almost like a daughter to us, she is in fact the daughter of our closest personal friends. At dinner she said that she would like to help milk our cow the next morning. The next morning once most of the milking had been done, Dani got her chance at milking the cow, she was given a quick lesson in how a cow’s udder worked and an explanation on how to strip the milk from the teats. I must say that she did an admirable job on her first try. She was only given the opportunity to strip the last, so there was not much milk on offer (we normally do this with first timers) but she got about a cup’s worth of milk out. My wife said that she would strain the milk for her back at the house, and then she could drink it. Her immediate response was “Is it fresh?” we all had a good chuckle and thought it quite cute, however the implications of that seemingly innocent question are far reaching.

Another illustration which we have had a few times is the following scenario. We like to involve the children that visit us in collection of food that will go onto their plates, so they often help to lift, pick and clean veggies for our meals. We have come up against resistance and horror from these kids, as they say the veggies are not fit to eat because they have been grown in the dirt or they have dirt on them.

The only exposure that kids have to food production nowadays is the permanently stocked shelves in their local supermarket. These magical shelves are the sole providers of food, every time they walk into a store the shelves have food. The only fresh food is produced by these shelves! So if the food did not come out of a shop then it’s not fresh. If the food does not come in a clear poly bag, nicely washed and packaged it’s not fresh. If the food has not got a label on it…. It’s not fresh.

The daunting thing is, if food needs a label it’s probably not fresh.

Just think about that statement guys, when was the last time you ate a meal, just one meal where everything on your plate did not have a label? Even the fruits and veg in your local grocer or supermarket are individually labeled or bagged…….. Maybe it’s not just the kids that have magic shelf issues?

In some European towns we have seen farmers markets that literally appear and disappear in a matter of hours, these are held every day in some areas and as few as once a week in others, however one can walk up to the bakers stand and buy a few rolls or a loaf of real crust bread, stroll next door and buy some fresh veggies or maybe a seasonal entrée and a few meters further you can get some real smoke cured meats, we have even seen freshly slaughtered fowl available. All of the produce on offer was grown or produced by the seller. Often there is only a price and no description and one is hard pressed to identify what is on offer. It’s simple, one is expected to know what everything is….. just by looking at it.

In just one generation, the loss and lack of knowledge of the real food chain is astounding. Some kids genuinely believe that stores produce the food that they eat. They have no concept that there is a real live, dirty, smelly chain of events that needs to be performed EVERY DAY to ensure that these stores have food available on the shelves.

Society is so far removed from the often grubby and uncomfortable process of food manufacture that they do not, nor care to understand that food production is a process, they only see the final result of often an entire years hard work and effort. Most of this work and effort is by the farmer, a person whom they never see or meet and is often ridiculed and negatively stereotyped.

Most consumers only see the final product, the lifespan of that final product is often less than a few days, and sometimes even considerably less. No consideration is given to what was required to get that perfect, glossy, poly wrapped food item onto the magic shelf.

So guys, here’s the challenge. Try and eat one meal, just one, where everything is fresh. No labels and preferably locally grown. Drop me a mail with your adventure in trying to procure and eat a “real” fresh meal, I’d love to hear from you.

To illustrate a point, I’ll use a real life example. A friend’s daughter spent a few days over at our place in December. Dani is almost like a daughter to us, she is in fact the daughter of our closest personal friends. At dinner she said that she would like to help milk our cow the next morning. The next morning once most of the milking had been done, Dani got her chance at milking the cow, she was given a quick lesson in how a cow’s udder worked and an explanation on how to strip the milk from the teats. I must say that she did an admirable job on her first try. She was only given the opportunity to strip the last, so there was not much milk on offer (we normally do this with first timers) but she got about a cup’s worth of milk out. My wife said that she would strain the milk for her back at the house, and then she could drink it. Her immediate response was “Is it fresh?” we all had a good chuckle and thought it quite cute, however the implications of that seemingly innocent question are far reaching.

Another illustration which we have had a few times is the following scenario. We like to involve the children that visit us in collection of food that will go onto their plates, so they often help to lift, pick and clean veggies for our meals. We have come up against resistance and horror from these kids, as they say the veggies are not fit to eat because they have been grown in the dirt or they have dirt on them.

The only exposure that kids have to food production nowadays is the permanently stocked shelves in their local supermarket. These magical shelves are the sole providers of food, every time they walk into a store the shelves have food. The only fresh food is produced by these shelves! So if the food did not come out of a shop then it’s not fresh. If the food does not come in a clear poly bag, nicely washed and packaged it’s not fresh. If the food has not got a label on it…. It’s not fresh.

The daunting thing is, if food needs a label it’s probably not fresh.

Just think about that statement guys, when was the last time you ate a meal, just one meal where everything on your plate did not have a label? Even the fruits and veg in your local grocer or supermarket are individually labeled or bagged…….. Maybe it’s not just the kids that have magic shelf issues?

In some European towns we have seen farmers markets that appear and disappear in a matter of hours, these are held every day in some areas and as few as once a week in others, however one can walk up to the bakers stand and buy a few rolls or a loaf of real crust bread, stroll next door and buy some fresh veggies or maybe a seasonal entrée and a few meters further you can get some real smoke cured meats, we have even seen freshly slaughtered fowl available. All of the produce on offer was grown or produced by the seller. Often there is only a price and no description and one is hard pressed to identify what is on offer. It’s simple, one is expected to know what everything is….. just by looking at it.

In just one generation, the loss and lack of knowledge of the real food chain is astounding. Some kids genuinely believe that stores produce the food that they eat. They have no concept that there is a real live, dirty, smelly chain of events that needs to be performed EVERY DAY to ensure that these stores have food available on the shelves.

Society is so far removed from the often grubby and uncomfortable process of food manufacture that they do not, nor care to understand that food production is a process, they only see the final result of often an entire years hard work and effort. Most of this work and effort is by the farmer, a person whom they never see or meet and is often ridiculed and negatively stereotyped.

Most consumers only see the final product, the lifespan of that final product is often less than a few days, and sometimes even considerably less. No consideration is given to what was required to get that perfect, glossy, poly wrapped food item onto the magic shelf.

So guys, here’s the challenge. Try and eat one meal, just one, where everything is fresh. No labels and preferably locally grown. Drop me a mail with your adventure in trying to procure and eat a “real” fresh meal, I’d love to hear from you.

harvest_kids

What’s in our Garden

Well, we are still playing catch-up with our harvests, the first flush of tomatoes is slowing so we only do tomatoes every 3 days now, but it’s time to process other veggies, beetroot and carrots are high on the list. We have been picking pumpkins for a while now, and it’s nice to watch our stock of winter storage pumpkins growing. An update on the Atlantic giants, they seem to have recovered from the sever grazing from the bull, and it looks quite positive that we should get some fruits for seed, so don’t despair.  This just shows one of the benefits of no-till planting and good organic practices.

With all the rain in Gauteng over the last 2 weeks we have had a dreadful time with the melons, they just can’t take the excessive moisture, and have literally collapsed. The Moon and Stars melons however seem to be able to take the moisture and are still doing well.

Planting is going on again for winter and we have set out a number of seeds direct sown as well as seed raised in seed trays for transplant in a few weeks.

harvest_kids

What should you be planting now (Late Summer- Autumn)

It took me a few years to work out that a winter veggie garden is not planted just before or in winter. (OK I admit, I can be a tad slow) The winter garden is one that is planted in late summer or very early autumn, with very little planted in winter. In winter all growth either slows down or just plain stops. So to get your winter crops, most of what you are going to be eating will need to have 70-80% of its growth completed before winter sets in. It’s no use waking up in April or May and deciding to plant a winter garden. Now is the time, especially with most of summer behind us and only 3…maybe 4 growing months left, what can or should one put into the ground now?

Very simply you should be looking at short season crops and winter veggies. These two groups are very broad and many vegetables fall into both groups. I’ll start with the short season crops as this is what needs to go into the ground ASAP to make sure you get a few harvests in before autumn sets in and the first frosts start to paint the countryside white.

Bush beans are a great one but they need to be in before mid/late Jan. If you plant enough now you can get a good few kilo’s into the freezer before frost kills the plants. Give them plenty of mulch and organic matter to speed up growth and keep them at their best.

In the warmer area’s you can still plant some squashes, typically patty-pans, marrows or a quick crop of little gems. I find however that if we plant after Christmas we never get a good yield and the plants are plagued with mildew. So if you don’t mind spraying then go ahead.

Peas are a good late summer / autumn crop, we plant about 60 meters of double row peas every year. Our kids hate shelling the pea’s but always love to eat them. Where we live the heavy winter frosts kill the peas off, so we need to make sure everything is harvested before the heavy July frosts knock the plants out.

Carrots, now here is a good all year crop, you can basically plant them any time of the year except the dead of winter. Plant a few rows now and another in a month’s time. With the slowing of the seasons they will store quite well in the ground. Over winter we hardly ever lift our carrots as the winter chill keeps them dormant, and in the ground they stay fresh. If you have some of our Purple Dragon Carrots leave at least 10-15 plants in the ground and grow your own seed. Don’t incorporate fresh organic matter into your carrot planting as the organic matter will give you deformed roots. Rather plant the carrots into a bed that was well improved for the previous crop.

Beetroot, also another good all season crop, treat it the same way as your carrots and either process a whole lot or leave in the ground and use as needed. We often do a few meals with the small sweet plum sized beets that are thinned out to make space for the ones growing on. The young leaves also make a great addition to salads.

Spinach is a crop that just keeps giving. Plant a few and reap the rewards. My wife makes our spinach in a simple way that just brings out the flavor. Fry up some onions until they are clear, add some water (1/4 cup) add finely chopped potato until it’s reduced to mush, then add the chopped spinach and let it simmer down. Add Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. It’s also good to make a huge pot and freeze the balance for later.

Lettuce is actually a cool season crop, and performs better when temperatures drop slightly. Now is the time to plant them for a great harvest in the next 2-3 months.

The Brassica’s. Now is the time for brassica’s… Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Broccoli etc. If you want to have success with these vegetables, just simply prepare. Smother your beds with compost and organic matter, these puppies are hungry. They are what’s termed as gross feeders, and will handsomely repay you with outstanding crops if you feed them well. Plant some seed into cell trays and plant again in 2-3 weeks time and then again 2-3 weeks later. One of the benefits of heirloom brassica’s is that they tend not to ripen all at the same time. Each plant has a slightly different growth rate so the 3 week window will give you a good spread for the dinner table. With the Hybrid stuff they all ripen at the same time and then you are up to your ears in one or other variety… which can get a bit tedious.

Don’t look at planting tomatoes, potatoes or peppers or other long season crops now, as they will not make it before winter. Especially on the Highveld. Elsewhere or if you have a green/hot house may be different.

If you plan your winter planting now, you will have the best producing winter garden ever. You will be able to put fresh produce onto your table and be able to bless a few friends with your winter harvest. So have a walk through your garden one evening, with a glass of wine or a nice cold beer and look at where you can free up space for a winter planting. Decide what you would like to plant……… and get sowing.

harvest_kids

What’s in our Garden

This is the season when all the work starts, we are picking about 10-15 kg’s of tomatoes and bags of beans every day now, it’s getting to the point where every surface is covered with brightly coloured tomatoes in all colours shapes and sizes. Every 2 days we blend them down and reduce them into ‘sous’ for winter.

Our potatoes are ready to lift and we have had a number of meals with fresh taters from the garden. With our hectic festive season I did neglect to lift them earlier. However, that said you can also leave them in the ground and harvest as needed, they will keep perfectly. We are still waiting for some of the pumpkins to ripen so that we can lift them for storage and beans are a big effort right now to get into the freezer.  We will be doing carrots and beetroot later in the season so there is no worry there.

As for the rest, Lacy our Cow is pregnant again, which is a good thing, but the Bull we used flattened our Atlantic Giant planting so you will have to wait another year for Giant Pumpkin seed, it’s been a total failure this year.