I was asked recently in an interview how much time I spend in the garden each week. I flippantly replied around 1-2 hours. Afterwards I thought some more about this, had I been overzealous with my estimation? Surely I must spend more time each week than the length of a movie growing the majority of the fresh produce we eat? And yes, some weeks it would certainly be more, particularly during summer and autumn, while other weeks very little beyond a quick weeding while I am harvesting for dinner. On average, spread throughout the year, around 1-2 hours a week is about right.
But I did ponder how I have simplified my gardening over the decade I have been growing in this garden. I know what grows well in my cooler garden and I mostly stick to that – herbs, silver beet, spinach, salad, brassica, celery, peas, beans, carrots, beetroot, onions and garlic + recently tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies in the glasshouse. When I weed, unless it is a weed I don’t want in the garden (convolvulus and oxalis I’m talking about you), I simply pull it out upturn the roots and leave it right there on the garden bed to decompose into the soil. In winter I rest most of the heavy producing summer garden under a green crop to add nutrition to the soil while also preventing weeds taking over. Keep it simple.
Gardening does take time but on reflection it is less time than I actually thought. And the more you do it the more you learn, and I suppose the easier it becomes. And then just when you think you’ve got it sussed a new summer arrives completely different to the last summer and everything is new again! Happy autumn gardening, it really is a lovely time of year to BE in the garden, not too hot nor cold, and the soil is wonderfully hydrated from the recent rains.
The cookies I share below were inspired by my Dad and his wife’s garden that we visit most weeks. This time of year their 1-acre property is a garden of eden literally dripping with fruit in their semi-subtropical location. It is interesting to see how different a garden mere kilometers away from our own can be. Including a hedge of sweet and aromatic Chilean guavas that my children contentedly sit under and eat to their heart’s content. In between mouthfuls I managed to get a few handfuls into a bag to bring home to add to our weekly batch of lunchbox cookies.
HOMEGROWN KITCHEN COOKBOOK LAUNCH
Thank-you for your amazing response to the sneak peek or my new cookbook several weeks ago. Homegrown Kitchen will be officially released and in bookstores and retailers around New Zealand from Monday 10th April. You can find out more and pre-order a signed copy HERE. I can’t wait for you to finally see it! And if you live in the Nelson area I would love to invite you to my book launch event…
I make a variation of these cookies most weeks for school lunches. Usually I add chopped dried apricots but this week I experimented with adding some Chilean guavas we picked from my Dad's garden. Because the flesh is on the dry side they worked perfectly in the cookie dough adding a lovely aromatic flavour which I complimented with a sprinkle of finely chopped rosemary from the garden. They are a little fancy for everyday school lunches but my kids certainly approved by sneakily eating half of the first batch I made while they were cooling - you know they are up to no good when it all goes suspiciously quiet!
2/3 cup dates, chopped
1 free-range egg
3 tablespoons peanut butter or sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup ground almonds or oat flour*
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds or whole chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
50g quality dark chocolate (min. 70%), roughly chopped
1/3 cup Chilean guavas, dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the chopped dates into a small sieve and rinse with 1 cup boiling water to soften the dates. Set over a bowl to drain for several minutes.
- Place the dates, egg, peanut butter, coconut, almond flour, flaxseeds or chia seeds, baking powder and salt into a food processor and pulse 6 times to combine. Scrape down the sides and pulse 6 more times until the mixture comes together. Tip into a mixing bowl and add the chocolate and guavas. Use a spatula to combine.
- Roll the cookie mixture into walnut-sized balls and arrange evenly on a lined baking tray. Press down with your fingers to slightly squash the balls. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a cake rack. Store in an airtight container and consume within 5 days.
*To make these cookies nut-free for school lunches replace the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter and the ground almonds with oat flour. I love using oat flour in baking as part of the flour component to add a tender crumb. I make it myself by simply blending rolled oats as needed in a coffee/spice grinder until finely ground into a soft flour.