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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Feeding Through The Hungry Gap

Even in the "hungry gap" you can make nutritious meals for less than $2 by growing your own.
In the past I have been a bit anti home growing carrots; they're fiddly and slow and finnicky and lets face it, cheap to buy anyway right.
Craig persevered.
We have tended to take the advice of our Italian friend Lisa who simply sows them in lines and harvests them in lines as she needs them. 
Her words,
 "you take them as they come, as they grow, some are straight, some are small and sometimes they are big, wassamatta? They are all carrots"
freed us from the commercial expectations we had been placing on our crop.
We had been conditioned to think carrots were straight, one colour and one size and we were failures if we didn't produce like that.

You do need to ensure that the seed is kept moist till germination and that the weeds are not too vigorous among them. A good tilth to the soil is helpful but if you are using your compost like you should for all your vegetables your soil will be great anyway. A steady supply of water during their growing is also important, like any vegetable you don't want them to go for days on end without water, it will tell in the taste and texture.

Think about that carrot...
it is essentially a root taking up from the soil and creating it's goodness.
I know farmers who will not eat bought mono-cropped sprayed carrots for that very reason.
Another incentive to grow your own.

One of the best reasons of all I have discovered is it's slowness as it turns out. The late sowing in summer has been steadily feeding us for months and what's more I haven't had to preserve them or store them, they have done just fine in the cool ground. I literally pick them as I need them. Within minutes of them being in the ground we are eating them.
Fresh, chemical free, cheap and versatile.

This week for dinner I slow cooked a whole chicken, one of the roosters we culled a couple of months ago. I based it around the Chicken Soup recipe in Anneke Manning's seasonal cook book.
I used a huge bunch of parsley. I mean a huge bunch like a vegetable quantity rather than a herb flavour quantity as it is about to go to seed and I am using as much as I can of it's lushness. I added a bottle of last seasons' tomatoes from the cupboard and juice from a lemon from the front yard. Next some dried beans (4 different types)  from last years harvest that I had soaked for 24 hrs and of course lovely carrot straight from the patch and some garlic still feeding us from last years crop.

The next night I took those leftovers from the slow cook and strained the liquid from the meat and veg. I added some mashed potato to the solids and baked the mix in a pie for dinner the next night. 
Craig took leftover pie for lunch the next day and I took the leftover "soup" for my lunch.
The chick cost us $5 and the cost of feeding it till dispatch is more than covered by the eggs from the pullets.
All the veg was produced from our own saved seed.

I won't get into a breakdown of energy costs to produce the meals suffice to say the initial cost of the slow cook....around $5 plus electricity
The pie say $1.60 for the butter and flour in the pastry and the potatoes (we've run out)
For a total of $6.60 plus whatever for electricity for cooking I made three meals for us.
It's the end of winter (spring doesn't really start here properly for another month yet) and we are in the "hungry gap" of the garden. We still have perpetual spinach and lettuce, carrots and parsley growing. Lemons are in glut and the chooks are laying. We are on our second last pumpkin and though the Turks Turbans are shocking hard to cut my word they store well!

 We are still using garlic and there is also Tas pepperberry leaves, bay leaves and hardy herbs still for the picking. We are down to our last dozen of bottled tomatoes and haven't run out of paste, sauce or condiments. The dried beans are something else. They are a meal in themselves and a little handful goes a long way. We have just finished the frozen peas and broad beans and green beans. 

Though I am starting to crave fresh fruit (we still have bottled cherries, pears, apple and plums) there is no way we would ever go hungry.
All from a suburban backyard.
I cannot urge you enough, just grow two things.
Next year grow four
Next year you'll never look back again.
In the southern hemisphere sow a couple of rows of carrots and keep sowing a row every month till autumn and you'll be feeding yourselves the whole year through. It is surprising how much you will harvest from a short row so gauge it by your family size.


  1. This is such an inspiring post Tanya! I WILL grow more vegies in my suburban back yard this year! I don't even have a proper vegie garden, just corners and pots. I still manage to grow lots of herbs, greens, lettuce, garlic and the odd lot of peas, beans, broccoli. I've never grown a carrot though, and I love that you are mostly eating out of your garden!
    I 'cut' my pumpkins by wrapping them in an old pillowcase and throwing them on the pavers out the back. They split into lots of easy-to-chop pieces!

    1. That's a great idea Jo. I am seriously thinking I need to purchase a little tomahawk for next year's crop of Turk's Turbans. Did I mention the seeds are DELICIOUS!

  2. What an inspiration you are, Tanya!

  3. I have enjoyed reading this post and share your sentiments. It's still a carrot whatever shape it is.
    I find that it's helpful to add horticultural sand to the soil when I plant my carrot seeds to lighten the soil for them. When I plant the seeds I cover them with some damp cardboard until they germinate. It helps.

  4. A great post

    I love Jo's tip on "cutting" pumpkins. I need to try that on the thick-skinned squash.

  5. Carrots ARE worth the effort......they over-winter so well in the soil. So does beetroot. I'm still eating carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery, brussels sprouts and swedes. I still have plenty of tomato puree in the freezer, along with corn and a few other things. Dried chillies, tomato relish and sauce, pickled zucchini, jams - plenty to tide me over the garden hiatus before potatoes, broad beans, mange-tout peas come in (all looking good!) And then of course, the summer glut! Oh, I have tomatoes flowering in my poly-tunnel - should get some early ones this year!

  6. A couple of years ago I grew some harlequin carrots, and they were delicious. thsi year I was given a packet of regular carrots so put them in. The only thing is that they take so long until they are ready. I normally pick them when they are small and spindle avery very tasty.

  7. A great post Tanya, loved it.
    You really are an inspiration.
    So should I start planting carrot seeds now?
    Have already planted 2 zucchinis, getting in early as I left
    it a little late last season and didn't get the full benefit of them.
    We have our local vegie swap on tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what everyone takes.....always a good time to pick up gardening tips and hits.
    Have a great weekend,

    Claire x

  8. Brilliant post and most inspiring. I shall go and get me some carrots planted now. Just need to figure out where.

    1. Your garden is definitely inching towards full capacity LOL

  9. I grow carrots all year round without too much stress by planting them in pots in the shadehouse where it is easy to keep them moist and weed free till they are well germinated, then planting them out in little clumps amongst everything else. They don't like transplanting but this isn't really transplanting because they're planted out soil and all. Bit hard to describe, but takes you to a post about the method. It works beautifully, and I love home grown carrots.

    1. Thanks for the alternative growing advice Linda!


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