Food & Garden to Table

Garden to Table – Living the Dream

garden to table - living the dream. Family fruit picking in Lisbon

Few ideas are more appealing than garden-to-table food. Especially if you can do this in Ericeira. Growing and cooking our own food is part of what living the dream is meant to be. With this certainty, we set to work.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring our tomato and pepper plants
Our very first ripe tomato

Living the Dream

Growing food is a learning curve. But, working our way into it, is surly a good exercise all along. Even if we do not get it right this time, it will have been worthwhile. Besides, there will always be tomorrow, and next year. So, endless opportunities to try again.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring one of our okra plants
The okra that did not make it to our table

Jokes apart, we have had excellent pear, plum, fig, orange and clementine harvests. The apple trees have also been quite productive, although probably better for juicing then eating. Next year, we would like to have a juicer ready for this. One of those wine grape pressers, for crushing our apples. This should save us some time, as the whole fruit can be pressed, with no previous preparation, rather than a wash.

Nowadays, the family finds that gardening really is good fun, often rewarding and somewhat mysterious. Honestly, we are grateful to be learning so much about growing our own food. We have become experts in teaching ourselves how things are not to be done. Once this is mastered, I can not imagine how wonderful our garden will be.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring our pear trees.
Sweet July garden pears

Garden to Table: the learning curve

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring our first tomato, pepper and plum harvest
Our first tomato, padron peppers and plums

Not that long ago, mowing the lawn was all we ever had to do. But, since we moved to our new home in Ericeira, we have become bolder in our gardening ventures.

Luckily, we can get most of what we need from the local garden center/shop, just across the road, Viveiros Batalha. We take our empty wheelbarrow and bring it back packed with manure, tools, seed, pottery and, often, some cute ornamental plant for the house.

Among our most successful harvests are the tomatoes and the padron peppers. We have somehow managed to grow the sweetest and most flavorsome tomatoes ever. These are delicious raw, on their own or in a salad, as well as cooked in a tasty homemade tomato & herbs sauce.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring our charcoal grilled peppers
Garden to Table: charcoal grilled garden peppers

Our crunchy padron peppers are also particularly scrumptious, especially when charcoal grilled and drizzled with garlicky olive oil.

The okra however, did not make it to our table. Just like the spinach, these would have done better in a green house. which, we are going to build at some point, using the glass we saved from the old conservatory.

Also worthwhile mentioning, our rainbow chard is surprisingly productive. The leaves keep on growing and we always have some chard to eat, all year round.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring a dish with our young Chinese cabbage leaves
Garden to table: new Chinese cabbage leaves

Equally amazing is the Chinese cabbage, although only growing from March/April to October/November. Growing from seed, this cabbage is ready for eating in only 8 weeks. These small, early leaves are delicious sauted with ginger and garlic.

Whereas, in about 15 weeks, the Chinese cabbage is as mature as the ones we find in the shops. Bought cabbage has thick, white stalk and pale green leaves. This is the core, without the darker, looser green leaves that surround it in the garden. The cabbage is delicious, gentle on the tummy and very quick to cook.

Chinese cabbage, radish and Chinese chive - Garden to Table in Ericeira
Chinese cabbage, radish and Chinese chive

The Chinese chive, on the other hand, is somewhat labor intensive. On top of that, you only get to harvest it once a month. Untangling, washing and picking each small branch takes some time, but I find that it is still worthwhile growing them. These greens do not keep well, so you will need to prepare them within a day or two. Unless you pickle them, which is also tasty.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring a pile of just picked Chinese chives
October Chinese chive
garden to table - living the dream. Featuring a dish of Chinese chives and omelette
Garden to Table: sauted Chinese chive and omelette

Cooked Garden Pears on the Table

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring cooked pears
Garden to Table: cooked pears in white wine, Saffron and green cardamon

Pears are particularly demanding, as they seem to ripen all at about the same time and has to be dealt with straight away. We pick the fruits just before they are soft, peal and core them and cook in wine, immediately. This can be red wine with cinnamon and vanilla, or white wine with green cardamon and saffron.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring cooked pears
Garden to Table: golden cooked pears

Courgette & Marrow Feast

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring marrows
Marrow & chamomile raised vegetable beds

In the beginning of the summer, our courgette grew out of control, huge leaves and big, plump courgettes. So much so, that the 5 plants in the front bed were growing on top of each other. We have had to move them to the side of the garden, for more room. Unfortunately, the pants did not like to be moved and ended up not resisting.

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring cooked marrows
Garden to table: roasted marrow & couscous

At least, as a consolation prize, our little decorative marrows did very well in that front raised bed. They sprouted like mushrooms. Week after week. After the courgettes, we eat marrows: baked, stewed, in a soup, sauted, Bombay, Biryani…

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring marrow and lentils sups
Garden to Table: marrow & red lentils soup topped with Za’atar croutons

Garden to Table Plum Compote

Plum compote is our family’s favorite. On top of being absolutely scrumptious, this compote is incredibly easy and quick to make! I only wish we had a few more of these beautiful little plum trees…

garden to table - living the dream. Featuring plum compote
Garden to Table: plum & vanilla compote

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