Kitchen, Life and my Garden

Rose Scented Geranium Syrup

It’s beautiful scent makes up for its ‘leggy’ habit.

Rose scented geranium is a delightful and useful addition to any garden. It’s pink flowers are simple but cute. It’s fairly tolerant of a number of soil types, and its leaves send a beautiful rose scent out as soon as you brush up against them in the garden, or bruise them more deliberately.

After a long, extremely hot and drought ridden summer season, my plant ‘looked like the rest of us’…

After a quick prune I was left with a small armful of branches filled with gorgeous leaves. My mind destined them for cuttings and Rose Scented Geranium Syrup.

Rose Scented Geranium Syrup

This recipe is a traditional favourite in several cultures. It couldn’t be simpler, because it’s just the rose scented geranium leaves, equal parts water and raw sugar. But please do it when you have time to enjoy the scent in your home and be present with the boiling syrup.

Warning: This is not a recipe for including children. Boiling syrup is scalding and damaging if it gets near skin, because it sticks and can’t be quickly removed with water. Do not leave the stove unattended. Please protect yourself and don’t allow children in the kitchen for this one.

Method:

Sterilise your storage jars or jugs using boiling water bath or oven method – Google if needed.

Pluck rose-scented geranium leaves only, and put them in your pot.

Just cover the leaves with water-keep count of how much you’re adding using cups/bowls/jugs etc.

Add the same amount of raw sugar that you added in water.

Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and thick bubbles form-this will take different times according to your quantities of leaves, water and sugar.

Do not be tempted to turn the heat to high as this will burn the sugar.

The thick bubbles show you the mixture has turned from sugar-water to sugar syrup, and your rose-scented geranium syrup is ready.

Use a funnel in the bottle with a metal strainer on top of the funnel, to decant your syrup into storage bottles/jars/jugs (see photo). This will separate the leaves from your finished syrup.

Hint: A clean sink is what I use to put my bottles in and then decant into. This captures any sticky hot mess that may result and keeps my hands above the hot syrup rather than near it. If a bottle falls, it doesn’t damage you or your bench.

Using oven mitts, place your hot syrup bottles onto a heat proof surface and allow to cool. Put lids or stoppers on when cooled.

Store in the fridge and use promptly. Never consume mouldy or discoloured syrup.

Uses

Your rose-scented geranium syrup will lend a beautiful perfumed rose-scented sweetness to any baking, cocktails, iced tea, cake icing, toffee etc.

You can also use rose-scented geranium leaves as natural air fresheners and to bake directly onto the bottom of cakes–but that’s another blog!

I’ve got some fresh strawberries from the garden and I’ll be making a batch of Rose-scented Geranium and Strawberry Muffins. Mmmm.

I hope you have fun making and using this delightful syrup.

 

Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and using your syrup.

 

 

 

 

Events, Garden Update, Life and my Garden, Mindful Nature

Happy Nature Filled New Year 2019!

A flower blessing to YOU from my garden and I for a beautiful, healthy and happy New Year!

In this photo I used mini dianthus, zinnias, dahlias, nasturtium and roses I picked from my garden on New Years Day, with a purpose that didn’t involve a vase.

I felt these beauties should have multiple uses, in true permaculture style. So when I was picking flowers for my usual flower blessing bowl – a beautiful energetic practice I like to do for setting the home’s energy on New Years Day (see below) – I thought I’d do a year theme inspired photo for Instagram too.

If you’re not following me on Instagram I confess that’s really where the daily posts and action is. So please press this Instagram link and follow me there too–I’d enjoy getting to know you!

I’m more of a ‘just do-er’ than a resolution maker. But I will be better at posting here in 2019 and that’s really what I work with– a loose plan with flexibility that involves taking opportunities that pop up along the way!

On the ‘harvest opportunity front’, my edible garden is producing amazing things right now in the peak of our Australian Summer. I posted a photo of tomatoes on my windowsill today on Instagram. There are really so many ripening on the windowsill it’s making the window difficult to open. I need a new and simple system, ha ha–don’t we all for everything! It’s a great problem to have! But I wouldn’t want the window open today anyway. It’s 38 degrees C outside! So I’ve bought myself some time with the weather’s help.

I’m doing a daily pick/harvest photo, and sometimes a focus photo, on one particular type of vegetable or fruit if I think it would be interesting. Here are some examples of this colourful and productive time of year in my garden.

One of the aspects of having a garden I really enjoy is the ability to be resourceful with the produce that comes in the harvest basket from my morning garden stroll. That harvest is often determined by the weather right now (saving things from heat) or determined by what I need for a particular meal.

The cheese-ball you see above is an example of a theme based snack. I made it for New Year’s Eve (out of near-to-date milk which otherwise may have gone to waste) by making my own cream cheese and then, using it in the cheeseball. It wouldn’t be coated in chives unless I’d had an abundance to pick from in the garden. It wouldn’t exist at all if I didn’t have an aversion to wasted milk.

So the intention behind the types of home cuisine I make can be steered by the garden itself and ‘ingredient opportunities’ that present themselves. Becoming aware of your choices is what this is about, which is ironically linked to New Years Resolutions.

Mindfulness in the garden, offers a beautiful rhythm of flowing with the seasons, with life in general, if you let it work on you.

I hope you experience great ‘flow’ in 2019–at work, at home, at play, in communication with others and in your special relationships.

May 2019 be your best friend!

 

 

Life and my Garden, Plant Stories

The Time to plant Fruit Trees is Yesterday!

When people ask me when they should plant fruit trees…I say…’yesterday!’

I say this because fruit trees can take years to prosper – for you to get ‘food results’.

For example I haven’t seen an avocado from my over 12 year old avocado tree.

But let me tell you a story, because that’s not always the case…

My Spring Satin dwarf plumcot tree was bought for $16 AUD in November 2015, marked down from $45.

The tree had obviously experienced dehydration at the ‘big shed’ it came from, and looked quite sorry for itself on that overpopulated markdown shelf. It was the only plumcot there.

I knew this tree had potential with my help, because it’s genetics and nursery supplier were reputable. I had also heard only great things about this variety, to that point.

It is now 3.5 foot high and in remarkable health. It’s small stature is definitely not an indicator of fruiting ability in my experience.

The tree is planted within stone’s throw from a satsuma plum, and a nashi pear that blossom at the same time. It’s possible these are acting as pollinators or at least encouraging pollinators for this partially self-fertile fruit tree.

So far this year it has produced 850g of fruit, with average fruit mass of 18.8g.

No fruit fly, minimal water, drought tolerant, delicious tasting fruit!

While I still advise getting all your fruit trees in early  I want to show you that some are surprisingly quick to fruit!

These are the type of images I was dreaming of when I started my garden 26 years ago.

This fruit took only 3 years!

Get planting! 🌸

PS Would you like to see daily updates from my garden? See VintageTrish Instagram

#fruittrees#stonefruit #plumcot #getplanting #organic#springsatinplumcot #growyourown#growyourownfruit #nochemicals#permaculture #organicgardener#vintagetrish #garden #ediblegarden#vintagetrishgarden

Kitchen, Life and my Garden

Bay Leaf Drying Time

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I noticed masses of new season growth on my mature, very attractive and fragrant bay tree this afternoon.

I’m so glad I planted this tree ‘all those years ago’.

I’ve trained the tree into a standardised form in the middle of one of my annual garden beds.

The tree is an evergreen constant in this bed, along with the rosemary bush.

It gives structure and purpose while the rest of the bed morphs annually around it.

When the bay tree starts to look like a shaggy pom pom on a stick, I know it’s bay leaf drying time!

The strong dry winds today make perfect conditions for this.

The wind is drying off the humidity in the air, and this starts to desiccate the leaves once removed from the tree.

Thankfully the dust (from the dust storm these winds are part of) was not that bad where I live, today.

I’ll dry my bay leaves indoors naturally over a few weeks.

Since my drying equipment is taken up with so many other tasks such as flower and lavender drying, at present, I will be drying the bay leaves very simply-in paper bags.

I’ve decided bay leaves and bay leaf powder will be my mission this season.

I’m imagining the many uses and projects these leaves will have–culinary powders/leaves, immune-boosting teas, fragrant sprays, bug repellant sachets…the list goes on.

After all these years I still get a thrill from this side of gardening.

When you actually use what you grow,  it multiplies the already exponential benefits of gardening.💕🌸

P.S If you’d like to see my daily garden updates visit and follow me on VintageTrish  Instagram

 

#baylaurel #bayleaves#fresh #dryingprocess #strongwind#garden #gardeninginaustralia #ingredients#bayleaftree #nochemicals #organic#wintercooking #wintercookingingredients#urbanpermaculture #vintagetrish#immunityboost #naturalmothrepellent#vintagetrishgarden

Garden Thoughts, Nature, Garden Update

Garden Update: Focus on what you Can do

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A summer bearing Imperial mandarin focusses energy for survival in a hot climate by not wasting it on producing an orange skin–even though its ripe and ready for eating.

A garden can teach you anything if you let it. Focus is one of those ‘anythings.’ It springs from cultivated patience and observation over time. Nature says ‘you’ll just have to deal with this,’ the Garden says ‘all that remains is what matters.‘ And a gardener who looks and listens, learns the lesson. Well that, at least, is my experience.

If you follow my Instagram feed you may have seen my post about my tiny 2 feet high Imperial Mandarin tree. Despite this high heat-ridden, windy, dry summer, the little trooper produced 5 very large mandarins. They were delicious and juicy. How? Well, you’ll notice I harvested them green with slight yellowing of the skin. This is because the mandarins in our hot summer climate are best harvested (for taste and sweetness) at this stage. I harvest the Valencia oranges the same way, from another tiny tree. The fruit at this stage, are ready for eating, but they don’t look it. The tree focusses its energy to prioritise survival in a hot climate summer-bearing situation, by stopping short of full orange colour-ripening. The tree lives. It’s that simple, but complex too. In a natural forest hot climate situation, the fruit would fall to the ground where the ripened seeds (unaffected by peel-colour) allow the plant a chance to reproduce. Now, if you’ve ever waited (in a hot climate) to harvest summer-bearing imperial mandarins until they went orange, you’ll know it was a long wait and the fruit tasted bitter (been there). The tree wants the fruit harvested quickly to increase chances of reproduction, so water can be directed to the roots and growth. Those actions will in turn increase its survival and resilience. Nature is way ahead of us! We have to get with the program!

Focus is the best piece of advice I can take from my experience in my garden this season, then give to you, as a possible hint on handling these weather weirding times. Right now there’s a ‘back-up in the flow’. Observation is telling me to ‘hold…hold’ – just like the Scots were told to ‘hold’ attack by William Wallace in that powerful battle scene in the movie Braveheart. It’s still too hot in the garden, for several types of cold season crops. Though, not necessarily for all types. Further, the steps I take when, have to be pared back to the essential, minus any flurry (because I, like the garden, have not got the energy to waste).

To fill you in, I think we are discovering ‘Second Summer’ in southeastern NSW this year. This is the name I’ve heard some indigenous elders call the weather cycle in the warmer regions of Australia, which seem to be eerily similar to this years weather patterns we’ve been copping. It’s April and yesterday was 35 degrees celsius here, again.  Today is over 30 degrees in temperature, but this time accompanied by strong hot and drying, northwesterly winds. The lead up to this has been 8 months of regular windy days from different directions, suggesting wind might be ‘the new daily normal.’ The heat in my area this month has been a consistent 7.6 degrees celsius above average. Less than 1 ml of rain fell this morning (the first rain of this month) and we have had just 106 millilitres in 2018 so far. My water tanks, are dry, again. The 106mm rainfall roof-harvested and tank-stored water has this year been used sparingly but consistently, on parched earth throughout the season. Many high temperature records have tumbled. Our nearby cousin, Penrith, was the hottest place on Earth recently. Our local area flying fox population was decimated by the heat  in early January, when our maximum temperature registered 45.3 degrees celsius. Later today I’ve learned in the news that a serious bushfire is burning out of control in a bush lined suburb just kilometres from here. Hot northwesterly and westerly winds seem ever-present when bad bushfires occur on parched land.

So I continue to focus major effort to providing enough water to my large and unirrigated suburban garden. Having earned my certification in permaculture design in 2014, I have provided my garden (both prior to, and since) with the benefits of water harvesting design elements. They work really well for both food forest trees and my annual vegetable garden.  I also have available town water – not as good for the soil as rain water, and an ongoing problem if it doesn’t rain soon, but there, thankfully,  if I need it.

Just like the mandarin tree I focus harvested water, where it is needed and conserve its use. By growing my own seedlings (using seeds collected from previous crops) I’m giving my annual vegetables the greatest chance of survival, in this garden and climate. Those annual plants then develop their own genetic ‘water-usage instructions,’ pass them on to the seeds they produce, and I collect them. So the seeds can only get better…for this garden. Meanwhile, the perennial trees and plants develop their learning about how to live and use water in this climate, because they never really go dormant (except in summer high heat). Plants learn from conditions then prioritise an adapted response. So cool.

My change-of season garden ‘should’ technically have cool season crops starting to ‘take’ or even ‘fruit’ by now. But ‘should’ is a human perspective and the four seasons approach has little relevance in Australian conditions. There are probably more like 12 seasons but I would need training in indigenous weather content to know for sure. I take many cues from Indigenous knowledge weather advice, but I have much to learn! What I have right now is a ‘hybrid season’ annual vegetable garden, that looks much like… a summer garden! Eggplants, cherry tomatoes and capsicums have no intentions of fading. Volunteer tomato seedlings are popping up with strong little stems that don’t resemble the straggly fragile ones that usually die off at the first sign of cold. I’ll pot those up the minute the weather threatens cold, and shelter them through winter for an early start next season. The garden is not overly tidy and neither are my techniques, but it’s not messy either. I have a very strong need for aesthetic beauty and when everything is humming nicely along, my garden proves both great productivity and beauty can co-exist.

My confused granny smith apple trees are blossoming again. There is no real chance of them producing finished apples before the eventual cold, which from experience of this last year, could mean no granny smith apples in spring/summer – for the second year in a row. Bummer. It’s unlikely the blossoms will last anyway in these cruel hot winds. Even the washington navel orange blossoms which are ‘on schedule,’ may find it difficult to hold on in the wind (they are drought stressed).  We may have less oranges this winter. I caught myself singing that “Cruel Summer’ Bananarama song the other day while pruning some burnt leaves off my avocado tree. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a psychological hang-over from my youth, and is more of a meaningful thought as I pruned the avocado of this cruel season!

Anyway, there’s some cool season things like snow peas I planted in shade…now climbing and flowering. They are third generation to this garden, so they’ve adapted to the seasonal routine (which is something bought seedlings can’t do in their first generation). They make my heart sing. The red russian kale seedlings don’t seem to mind their haphazard garden spot which is the result of being put in ‘for now.’ They seemed tough enough, with my intention being to move them to a final spot, later. Their mature siblings from last season, left in over summer for an early start, burst out of dormancy into production a few weeks ago. The garlic are up and over the 20cm mark, but I won’t know how the very warm start to the ‘cold season’ has affected their taste, until closer to Christmas.

Many of my cold season crops – naturally grown seedlings I’ve started like broccoli, purple cauliflower, edible flowers, rocket and mizuna are holding out in seedling trays and pots. I’ve had to focus my efforts more than usual this season, on providing shelter from wind and heat. I find I can water them easily, keep them alive and prevent bolting this way, which wouldn’t be possible in the garden beds yet. While I hope they won’t be ‘bonsai’ by the time they get into the garden (because their roots have been in trays and pots too long) the alternative – bolting or dying when I’ve spent so much effort raising them, seems a lot worse.

My mind this afternoon, returns to the central Australian indigenous elders who’ve spoken about Uterne Uyelpuyerreme – late summer. In March usually, the advice goes that ”whirly winds dance across the landscape, scattering seeds and pulling the growth up from the seeds in the ground” and then… the cool weather is nearly ready to arrive. But the advice also goes, that if it rains, Winter can extend into September. This would delay what we usually think of as ‘Spring’. Well I’m hoping for rain but focussing my planning systems on preparing for none – which seems somehow to be a higher probability. I’m probably a cynic! But if  it does rain, I’ll prepare for a late ‘spring’ planting, which will mean another ‘hybrid change of season garden.’ I’m not sure Nature is aware she’s being scheduled by humans. If she is aware, she doesn’t care. So good luck to Her if it’s the latter!

As the sun starts to dip today, I can say the whirly winds are still here. Perhaps cooler weather is near. I’m looking forward to it, and the garden doesn’t need to speak to tell me it is too. But just look at those divine olive branches I cut and put into water this morning! It’s still warm enough weather for soft cuttings and a dream of the free olive hedge those cuttings will spawn. That hedge will protect fragile plants from the ‘whirly winds’ in similar seasons I expect to see in the future. Cultivated patience. Thoughts for another blog, obviously. Take care, focus on what you Can do. Trish 🌸

© Trish McGill 2018