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.
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.
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: the learning curve
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cooked Garden Pears on the Table
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.
Courgette & Marrow Feast
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.
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 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…