Two very different nuts

I was just looking back through my photos to pull some together for this post, and realised how over winter I am – it’s been very cold and rainy here the past few weeks, and I had a horrible cold on top of that (coughing + baby in belly = uncomfortable!), so although I am normally someone who doesn’t mind the cold weather, I am definitely keen for some warmth, longer days, summery food and hopefully less rain so my garden actually gets a bit of a chance to grow!! Anyway, that’s my random end of winter rant over 🙂

I did some planting a few weeks ago, of tomatoes, peas, red cabbage, english spinach and broad beans – the rain has probably not helped their ability to thrive, but I can report that there appears to be shoots of all of them, which is positive, so there will be more to report on over the next few months!

In older garden news, let me tell you about peanuts!! More specifically, growing them!

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I am very much an experimental and haphazard gardener, who likes to plant things to see how they work in a small space, sometimes with great success (cucumbers, tomatoes, I can sense another good summer for you guys!), sometimes with sad results (corn, broccoli, one day I will conquer you!). Peanuts fit somewhere in between these two camps – they were a success, but a limited success, because the yield wasn’t high, but then the effort put in wasn’t high either, so I think it’s ultimately a win!

Now, I helpfully didn’t record when I planted these peanuts, because it was back in the days when I was a bit sloppier about my recording dates. However, I would guesstimate that it was sometime between October and December, as these photos were taken in January and February respectively, and the plant is clearly already quite advanced!

January peanut plant

January peanut plant

February peanut plant

February peanut plant

I then harvested the little guys in June. So, it’s a long slow process to get peanuts. However, the thing I like about peanuts is you just let them grow, no real intervention required!! The plants grow, then form little yellow flowers, which then drop into the earth and burrow down to create the nuts – how cool is that!! The nuts themselves actually grow under the soil, on the roots, and you know when they’re ready, because the plant at the top dies!! Finally, a positive spin on plant death!

Peanuts still attached to roots in soil

The dead plant at the top, soil and peanuts at the bottom!

You then shake the whole thing out of the pot, and sift through to find, voila, peanuts!!

Soil, with peanuts!

Soil, with peanuts!

Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

When I initially bought a ready grown peanut plant a few years ago, the success of which inspired me to plant my own, the vendor helpfully advised that you shouldn’t eat the peanuts straight away once you harvest them, you should leave them to dry out for a couple of weeks, as there is some residual toxicity going on that you want to avoid! So, I dutifully put my small crop of peanuts in a container in a sunny spot in our kitchen for the past couple of months, and am now slowly nibbling my way through them, making them last as they are so few!

Peanuts in container - still soily!

Peanuts in container – still soily!

Peanuts in their shell - see, actual peanuts!

Peanuts in their shell – see, actual peanuts!

Peanut after a bite - not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Peanut after a bite – not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Summary – peanuts are a fun plant to grow, in that it looks pretty, is very low maintenance, and is fun to harvest, but unless you plant acres worth of them, you won’t be making homemade peanut butter anytime soon! In hindsight, there are probably some things you can do to ensure more flowers grow, leading to more peanuts, but I don’t think that would have dramatically increased my crop to the point of making my own peanut butter, which would really be the ultimate goal!

The other nut – coconut
No, I haven’t decided to grow coconuts, even I, with my spatial awareness issues, am aware that a palm tree won’t work in our suburban backyard!! However, I did receive a free 1L sample of Pure Harvest Coco Quench coconut milk, which I thought I’d review for you here. I don’t tend to go in for dairy alternatives, mainly because I don’t have to, I tolerate (and in fact adore) traditional cow’s milk dairy very well, and therefore don’t really need to adjust my taste buds to the other types. I have dabbled in almond milk with cooking, and liked it, but still sometimes find non-dairy milks a little intensely flavoured compared to what I’m used to when milk is the focus of the dish like coffee or cereal. However, in the event that the bun in my oven isn’t so accommodating of dairy, and I need to cut out dairy for a while while breastfeeding, it is good to consider how I will continue to enjoy my breakfasts without regular milk!!

So, when we ran out of milk the other day, I decided to give the coconut milk a whirl. I used it in my porridge for around 4 days, in my coffee and in one of my late night cereal snacks (bub gets hungry in the middle of the night!). I found that I could taste it in my coffee and cereal, and while not unpleasant, as it is quite a nice flavour, it would probably take a bit of getting used to if I was to use it full time. However, in my porridge, although the consistency looked a bit different (see below), it tasted almost the same, which is positive for me, as it means it functions well as a replacement for my warm breakfasts, and is likely to be able to be adapted to other breakfasts as well.

Coconut milk porridge cooking - the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

Coconut milk porridge cooking – the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

So, on the whole, a thumbs up from me – it is easy to use, store in the fridge like normal milk in a carton, shake before use and away you go!


To all the vegetables I’ve loved and lost …

Apologies in advance, this is a rather sad and pitiful post, detailing some of my least successful vegetable adventures of late. I think it’s important to tell the good and the bad equally, as I’m still an amateur (which is someone who does something for the love of it!) gardener, and am continuing to learn (well, hopefully!) from my mistakes, and by telling the interwebs these stories, hopefully you can learn some things the easier way (ie by reading about it) rather than the harder way that I have been doing!

Zucchini, I barely knew thee
So, I’ve documented in a previous post my aphid issues with my zucchini plants. I have an update – the poor little plants didn’t survive the multiple attempts on their lives by the aphids/ants/powdery mildew. While the aphids did reduce significantly, as did the ants, the damage appeared to be too great for the plants to actually continue their life, despite new pots and lots of encouraging looks from me!!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That's the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I'm sure!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That’s the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I’m sure!

Lessons learnt
Spot aphids early and often, and act early – I think a bit of the old soap and water spray combo might have been effective in removing the aphids in their initial stages and preventing their return, which in turn would have removed the ant attraction, and hopefully the plants could recover. I will try this later in the year when zucchini planting season comes around again.

My backyard is not a cornfield
I was excited by the idea of corn, but in hindsight, didn’t really do any research as to the most appropriate variety for backyard growing, nor the most appropriate amount of space/plants required for successful pollination. My corn plants looked impressive at all times, growing tall and proud, but unfortunately, despite all this lush foliage, they produced only about 3 of the smallest corn cobs you’re ever likely to see!! Very cute, but rather useless, and possibly not worth the effort, for me, in a pot in the backyard. Part of the issue I have discovered is that you need quite a few plants to ensure effective pollination, and I don’t think there were enough, and I don’t think I have the space/interest for the amount required. I don’t think I’ll try them again for a while, certainly not this variety, as there is a long time between planting and harvesting for such a small return – I like quick returns, people!!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!

Lessons learnt
Pick a backyard-suitable variety, invest in an acreage somewhere.
Big promise, small delivery

Big promise, small delivery

Broccoli, where art thou?
When I planted my capsicum plants in early January (which are still trying to decide whether they will survive the aphid infestation that I finally have succeeded in removing with soapy water and create capsicums), I also planted some broccoli. My Veggie Patch app is helpfully telling me to harvest said broccoli, however, the seeds never actually sprouted!! I am saddened by this, and not sure whether I should have soaked them overnight to assist in germination, or whether the seeds were a dud, or whether they didn’t like that particular pot/soil combination, or what has happened, except a distinct lack of broccoli!

Lessons learnt
Sometimes things don’t work out for inexplicable reasons, not necessarily your fault – it’s important to keep the faith and continue on despite these setbacks! See, growing vegetables can teach you important life lessons!

Future plans and some hope in the garden
I had some issues with peas and broadbeans last year, both succumbing rather early on to various forms of mildew (I think large amounts of rain at some of the early stages didn’t help!). However, I refuse to be daunted by these issues, and will plant them again on the weekend, and let you know how they go!

My bean plant is busily creating the cutest little beans – unfortunately, one by one, so not enough for a meal or even a decent-sized snack, but hey, progress is progress!!

A bean!

A bean!

My tomato plants are ignoring the onset of autumn and continuing to create little tomatoes – go you good things!

My peanut plant is dying – this is actually a good sign, when the whole thing dies, it means the peanuts are ready to harvest under the surface! Nice to know that a plant dying is not my garden incompetence, but nature’s wacky way of doing things!

So, in summary, while there have been some key setbacks in my garden of late, there is always hope, with each new season comes a new crop, and I will continue to strive and learn and share with you all!!