Finding solace and purpose in the kitchen and garden.
There’s something comforting about connecting with the earth, growing, then preparing your own food, and preserving.
It’s not something I’ve done a lot of, I must admit, until recent years when I finally planted a vegetable garden.
This project has been a success and failure at different times for various reasons. Most recently I had let it go, due to life getting busy. So two weeks ago when I went out back to take a look I found the vegetable garden had been overrun by a forest of weeds.
I don’t know about you, but through watching the news as COVID-19 spread around the globe, some primal survival instinct kicked in – that I needed to get my garden in order as a way of becoming partly self-sufficient.
It took a weekend of hard slog to remove all the weeds and plants that had gone to seed, and cut back the overgrown lavender I’d planted for the bees.
I made some wonderful discoveries though – silver beet, basil and parsley were still going strong, and one capsicum was growing. But the biggest discovery, literally, was finding two massive cucumbers hiding under the weeds.
Not wanting to waste this produce I put out a mayday on social media for ideas of what to do with them. Pickles was the overwhelming reply.
Now I have never made pickles or preserved anything but I have fond memories of my mother making jam and steralising jars in the oven. Luckily I also had some jars which I have been saving for a glass pantry that I will one day organise!
Making pickles, it turns out is really easy. I used Annabel Langbein’s recipe. Ingredients are cucumber, celery seeds, mustard seeds, white vinegar, sugar and salt.
Scooping out the cucumber seeds as I prepared my giant cucumbers for pickling also got me thinking about the seeds. If I wanted to be truly self-sufficient I shouldn’t always rely on the plant shop to have them.
Googling ‘how to save cucumber seeds’ brought me to this very useful ‘how to’ on YouTube
Hurrah, I have now successfully dried out and saved the seeds in a wee jar, labelled with the cucumber variety, and ready to be planted next summer.
Now the wait is on for three to four weeks before I can try my pickles.
Every time I look at my pickles sitting in the pantry I feel the hug of my mother and grandmother who were pros at this stuff, and a feeling of satisfaction.
And each night I now go on a snail/slug patrol mission with a torch to save my newly planted seedlings from Plant Barn. One snail found the beer trap (they like the sweetness of beer); and others I’ve feed to the birds – not without remorse I might add – as they munched three seedlings in one night and if I want my cabbages and lettuces to grow then these snails and slugs need to move out.
Each morning I’ve also been saving the eggshells from my breakfast scrambled eggs and placing crushed eggshells around each seedling to further protect them.
Conserving and not wasting anything, even eggshells, also feels great.