Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chapter 32: Sublime Lemon Marshmallows

The Arctic breezes have been making themselves felt over the past few weeks. It seems as though every seedling hasn't grown for weeks, and so we have had to busy ourselves with other wintery chores such as pruning, fertilizing and various forms of therapy for gardening angst. Its funny how winter affects the avid veggie gardener. We become fidgety and on edge. Any tree that has looked the slightest bit unruly has copped it this week. The Japanese maple, grape vine, macadamia, grapefruit, mulberry, wisteria and even the chili bush, have all succumbed to the secateurs. Pruning has its therapeutic benefits for the depressed winter gardener. Rather than lamenting over slow growing carrots, take out your frustrations on some dormant fruit tree. But sometimes, winter calls for more potent methods to overcome the gardening blues.

Winter Basket Case
For the severe cases, there are other therapeutic pruning possibilities that my basket case husband discovered while hacking back the wisteria...that's right, the old school art of basket weaving. Wisteria runners make for excellent weaving. they are extremely strong and flexible. So if you have wisteria and are feeling close to winter gardening madness, give it a try... Joe has made three so far, which is better than rocking back and forth somewhere out in the vegetable patch, in eye shot of the neighbours. We thought they would make lovely hanging baskets to grow strawberries in for the summer months, or just as regular baskets to collect the morning eggs or veg from the patch.

Lemon Marshmallows Recipe
As any good domestic goddess knows, Winter is best spent indoors (although I believe less gifted people know this too) doing something thrilling like mending socks, or better still whipping up some lemon flavoured marshmallows for depressed gardening husbands and hyperactive cabin feverish children. Sugar solves everything.

If you have ever had a glut of lemons, we have a recipe that will bring them back into a high demand. These are absolutely delicious.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups caster sugar, 2 sachets gelatin, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut (we used the longer length coconut), food colouring, one lemon

Choose a pan/dish/plate and line it with baking paper.Combine sugar and 2/3 cup of hot water in a saucepan over medium heat. cook and stir for a few minutes until sugar dissolves and syrup is clear. Mix 2/3 cup of cold water and gelatin in a jug and add to your sugar syrup. Cook and stir for a few minutes or until gelatin has dissolved and mixture is clear. Set aside and cool til room temperature. Then use electric beaters or we just used our bar mix to wizz mixture until thickened. Add vanilla, a little lemon rind and a teaspoon or two of lemon  juice. Wizz.

 Scoop the mixture into separate bowls (one bowl for each colour). Add two drops of food colouring to each and wizz til colour is mixed in. Spread into prepared dishes. Smooth the top over, although don't worry too much if it is still a little lumpy, you can serve it upside down.

Set aside, at room temperature until set, (about an hour and a half). Lift out your marshmallows and cut them into bite size pieces using a wet knife. Place some coconut in a ziplock bag, add marshmallow pieces and give it a gentle shake. Display on a beautiful plate, choosing one deserving of magical childhood memories and sweet delights.

Being winter and all, we decided to roast our homemade marshmallows by the fire. The stuff perfect memories are made of we thought...that is of course until G burnt her finger on the fire place door and wailed down the house, and N's marshmallow melted right off the stick. Tears all round. Sigh, the perfect hazy marshmallow memory I'm sure the kids will cherish forever...oh well, at least try the recipe..roasting is optional.

Around the patch
While things may be slow in the patch, we have also busied ourselves with some frivolous planting ventures. Recently we planted two kiwi fruit vines (male and female), a choko vine, some lazy old carrots and sneaky shallots, and about 150 more broad beans. Our red paw paw, residing in the green house for the winter, is still looking happy, and dare I say, may be ready to bear fruit before the end of next summer.

Our citrus trees have been busy making fruit galore. The mandarin and orange trees are bursting with deliciously sweet fruit and our lemon tree has produced a much better crop than last year. The lemonade tree however seems to have carked it, the lime tree remains beautiful but barren, while our grapefruit, which had a bumper last season has taken this season off. So it got the hack, and a generous mulching. 

Chook Tractor Triumphs
With the six chooks, letting them free range sadly became something that we could not afford to continue, unless we wanted to live in a barren dusty chook poo waste land, or so we thought. Since the end of summer, the chookens have been kept within the confines of their chook yard, where not a single scerick of greenery remains. Despite our garden once again flourishing, it didn't seem right, and the ladies were stroppy. A compromise needed to be made, so we set about constructing a prototype chook tractor from some poly pipe and chicken wire.

 It was time to get the girls back onto some greenery and give those thighs a good work out before summer. The results have been surprising! with a diet of worms and leafy greens, the egg count is back up to 3 or 4 eggs a day (in winter don't forget). We have been placing the tractor where ever we intend to prepare for planting, and within a day or two, the chooks have the ground weeded, dug and fertilized. Each morning, 3 lucky cluckies are grabbed and bagged, then carried to the chook tractor, where they are released to spend the day scratching up worms and eating grass seeds to their hearts content. At sundown N and G help herd the hens back to their pen. then by night fall the cage doubles as a possum force field for some of our winter crops. Hi five chook tractor!

Next blog, its time to get serious for the big sow. Winter will be over before we know it, and spring will have us springing into seedling action. we have been storing our toilet roles, and soon, our planting shall begin!

this years challenge is set to be all together different!

Speak soon.


  1. you just planted more broad beans? hmmmmm .... i am wondering if i could get away with a heap more .... the professionals would say it's too late to plant .... but i just love them .... and often do what i like rather than what i'm told anyway! i just might have to give it a go!

  2. I love homemade marshmallo, I don't make it because I would be the only one eating it. Daughter sometimes makes me a batch as a treat

    We grew all our veg duing 2010 and mostly this year as well. It's great isn't it, eating from our gardens.


  3. I love your baskets made from wisteria, perfect!