We have had a week of swelteringly hot days, all up in the high 30s. Yesterday was 39oC way too hot to work out side, so we got up very early and got started working by 6am. We gave up and came inside at 11.00 am. It was just too hot. We have been watering the vegetables morning and night, but they are still suffering. Many of the plants like beans, celery and cucumbers have dead, dried patches on their leaves.
But at least they are still alive, so that is success. I gave the sweet basil its first hair cut. I tip pruned all the florets that were trying to flower and filled a large basket with the leaves. I like to make a kind of pesto-like paste. to go into the freezer, so that there will always be basil to add to sauces later in the year. We also make real pesto with garlic, pine nuts and parmigiano cheese, but what I’m making here now is just basil, garlic, a little salt and olive oil paste. It freezes well and keeps all year, so that when I need some basil flavouring in winter, I can open the freezer and take out the tub of this frozen basil paste, tap it upside down to drop it out of the container and then slice off a block of almost fresh basil concentrate. Beautifully green and flavourful. The rest is returned to the freezer for later.
I’ve been known to make up to six or seven of these half litre containers during the summer. As long as I never let the basil flower and keep pinching out the growing tips, the plants seem to thicken up and keep producing more leaves. Once you let them set flowers, they stop growing.
This stuff is fantastic. I love it. It’s one of there few things that we keep in our small freezer section of our fridge. Because it isn’t cooked, we can’t preserve it any other way, other than drying the leaves, which I have also done, but dried leaves are different. This stuff is magic. So intense. The little bit of garlic and salt really brings it to life. And it is surprisingly easy to slice from the block when frozen. Having very little water content and being mostly oil, it doesn’t set hard like ice, but more sort of leathery?
All the mid season peaches are now gone. We only have one tree of late peaches yet to come on. It is netted and we wait for them to ripen. All the berries are now over with over 20 kilos picked this year and safely all preserved, vacuum sealed and stored in the pantry. This recent heat wave has brought on the plums and they are just wonderful, sweet and tangy with that fabulous combination of acid and sugar that make your mouth water. We eat the first of them straight from the tree. Such a great taste, warmed by the sun, the juice trickles down our chins. They are mouth waveringly good. There are too many ripening all at once, so Janine has been stewing them and we have them for breakfast with a little yoghurt.
We are in direct competition with all the birds at this time of year. The Lovely and hard working Janine has been moving the nets around and bagging some of the fruit, keeping one step ahead of the birds, while I have been so busy with orders. It’s a lot of work, but worth it. Having beautiful fresh, organic, clean food that we have grown ourselves, is a major part of our enterprise here.
We work outside very early and then again in the late afternoon and evening. Working inside during the heat of the day. Janine has mown the stone fruit orchard and I have mown the citrus grove and vegetable garden. Everything is looking good and now the heat is over for the time being with a cool change arriving and bringing with it some beautiful, cooling rain. I emptied the rain gauge this morning and we have had 33 mm. Just enough to flow down and top up the dam for a few more weeks of hand watering. The combination of cooler temperatures and soaking rain will bring all the plants back to life and put on a growth spurt.
I bought a kilo of live mussels from the fish-truck man, so we are having mussel and vegetable soup for lunch. I usually just do the simple favourite, mussels in white wine, but as we have so many beautiful vegetables at the moment, I make a combination of green peppers, green and yellow zucchinis, red shallots and fresh sweet basil sauce. I bring it all to life with a jar of our preserved tomato passata concentrate from March. This batch was made with tiny yellow tomatoes, onions, capsicum, garlic and olive oil.
I cook it off and add the mussels to the boiling broth. It fills the kitchen with its steamy fragrance. It’s a great indulgence, but we have earned it. Everything except the mussels from our own labours in the garden.