Fresh flavours for friends
Part of the pleasure of vegetable and fruit gardening is in the satisfaction of eating and preserving your produce.
Other aspects include sharing food, seeds and growing methods with fellow gardeners and the bonds that grow from shared interests.
Over the holiday period, we caught up with relatives from Australia, who were travelling with a group of friends.
They'd already visited family further south and left with a bag of fresh produce from the garden, including some rat-tailed radishes, the seeds of which originally came from my garden.
The group were delighting in the different produce that grows in our climate.
As supplies were beginning to run low, they were happy to leave here with a couple more bags of produce.
While initially I wondered what I had to offer as my garden seems to be "between season" at the moment with my raspberries having finished, courgettes only just coming on, cucumbers developing but not ready and only one tomato plant near to having ripe fruit just yet, it's surprising what a trawl around the garden produced.
Our visitors were appreciative of the selection of fruit, veges and herbs we supplied them with.
The blackcurrants in particular were a hit, as several in the group had never tasted them fresh.
I also gave them some kohlrabi - there are quite a few people who haven't tried this before but I figured as one of the group was a chef, at least one person would know what to do with it.
If you've never seen a kohlrabi, you could be forgiven for thinking aliens have landed if you came across one unexpectedly in the fridge.
The best description I've read of the appearance of a kohlrabi plant is "a cross between an octopus and a space capsule" but in the garden, it's a bit more obvious kohlrabi is a vegetable due to the brassica-like leaves.
The name kohlrabi means "cabbage turnip" in German and the vegetable is a member of the brassica family. The taste is said to be between a broccoli stem, cabbage and turnip, depending whose opinion you're reading.
While the leaves are edible and taste great (similar to kale in my opinion) in my easy way of revving up my greens - steamed then tossed with oyster sauce and a few drops of sesame oil before serving - the kohlrabi bulb is the main attraction.
It grows above ground and is really part of the plant's stem that fattens into a bulb. Apparently the smaller bulbs are the most tender and tasty and the bigger bulbs can be woody.
I harvested the largest of my crop, the early purple Vienna variety of kohlrabi, when it was as big as my fist, and I have no complaints about taste or texture.
The suggestions I found online for how to use kohlrabi varied from soups and mashes to eating it raw.
Raw suggestions were: Sliced and lightly salted, cut into strips and eaten with dips, grated into salad, or cubed and drizzled with a variety of condiments.
You have to peel the outer skin away as that remains tough when cooked.
The bulb was tasty roasted in the oven with a light spray of oil, although it's useful to note that kohlrabi took longer than potatoes to roast and become tender.
I'm a big fan of raw vegetables so I didn't bother with salt or dips when I first tried kohlrabi raw and it got a big thumbs up from me.
It's also really good diced finely and sprinkled into a salad and goes well with my favourite dipping sauce, which is really simple, just two parts soy sauce mixed with one part sweet chilli sauce.
While our visitors enjoyed our crops, I was also impressed with their Queensland climate when I visited them back in spring and found a big mango tree in their garden. They also have a lychee tree.
Next time I will plan my visit better though and time it so the fruit is ripe and I can sample their fresh produce!
WHAT TO PLANT IN JANUARY
A few of the plants garden guides recommend are: Beetroot, carrots, leeks spinach, radish, lettuces, coriander, chives, beans, cucumbers and bok choi.
It's also time to start thinking cool weather crops. Leek, swede, turnip and parsnip seeds can be planted now.
Grow brassica seeds in punnets to plant out in autumn. Try something different: Chioggia is a variety of beetroot with a mild flavour and stunning red and white striped flesh.
The Marlborough Express