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The benefits of live yoghurt
23.03.2017

Step away from the “dessert yoghurt", writes Will Studd. The real unadulterated thing is much more rewarding.

All-Star Yum Cha
22.03.2017

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Honey Fingers, Melbourne's inner-city beekeepers
22.03.2017

Single-source honey putting community and sustainability next to sweetness.

Vermouth is having a moment
21.03.2017

More and more adventurous local winemakers are embracing Vermouth's botanicals, writes Max Allen.

Exploring Indonesia's Komodo National Park
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Indonesia's Komodo National Park is home to staggering scenery and biodiversity. Michael Harden sets sail in a handcrafted yacht to explore its remote islands in pared-back luxury.

The new cruises on the horizon in 2017
21.03.2017

Cue the Champagne.

Seven recipes that shaped 1980s fine dining
21.03.2017

Australia saw some bold moves in the ’80s, and we’re not just talking hairstyles. Greater cultural references started peppering the menus of our restaurants, and home-grown ingredients won a new appreciation. The dining scene was coming of age and a new band of pioneers led the charge.

Where Melbourne's finest will take the World's Best Chefs
20.03.2017

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

December

It is a little confusing returning from a late Sicilian summer to a late Melbourne spring. One day I'm in a sun-baked landscape of olives, almonds, vines and prickly pears, and the next I find myself surrounded by exquisite crab-apple blossom and new foliage in my own garden. Sigh.

The memories of eggplant cooked and served many ways; of sweet tomatoes of every size and shape; of fennel crushed with sardines and fresh anchovies in pasta; and of zucchini and squash of many different shapes, sizes and colours (including one new to me called tanarumi, or something like that) are still fresh.

But now that I am back at home, it's time to assess the state of play in my garden following a three-week absence.

The tomatoes are about to go in, along with the basil plants. And here's a salutary lesson. I had the different varieties of tomatoes arranged in rows in the hot-house and had saved plant labels (why? I wonder) by labelling only the front pot. The kind person who kept them watered failed to grasp the significance of the rows and the pots have all been mixed up. The leaves all look identical at this stage so I can't tell them apart, other than the black Krim and oxheart tomatoes that were on another shelf. The conundrum now is to know whether I am planting a climbing tomato alongside a medium-growing variety, or three of the same. Hmmm.

I read in Organic Gardener magazine that if one has trouble with crop rotation (as I mentioned in my last column), a solution might be to scrub out containers at the end of the life cycle of one crop, and refill them with fresh potting mix before replanting.

I have three large pots of cornflowers that are about to finish flowering, so those pots can be emptied, scrubbed and refilled and will become home to three capsicum plants that will revel in the heat from the paving on which they sit. One of them will be the fabulous pimientos de Padrón (my seeds are from The Italian Gardener). I adore these little green beauties, which are starting to become quite prevalent in restaurant land, quickly fried in olive oil till the skins blister a bit and dusted with a very little sea salt.

My gardener moved the large pepino plant, and it now resides underneath the Little Gem magnolia and seems perfectly happy in its new semi-shaded spot. This is significant because it has freed up precious sunny space in the front garden for a zucchini plant, of which there will only be one this year. I am happy to let it romp over what is left of the lawn, but its feet will be firmly planted in good soil.

One side of the front path will be for tomatoes, basil and lettuces, and the other side will be for climbing beans and several eggplant bushes. Wherever there is space I will be popping in lettuce seeds and maybe one or two chilli plants.

The celery and broad bean tub will now become home to cucumbers. And I am going to pull out some of the rioting nasturtiums that have done such a marvellous job of filling a corner behind the globe artichokes. With the addition of more compost, this space will be for a pumpkin vine that I will try to train onto the carport trellis.

Isn't it difficult to believe that another year has just about ended? Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to everyone.

Until next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY ARMELLE HABIB

This article is from the December 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

MORE INFO

For information on Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation and schools program, visit www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au.

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Honey Fingers, Melbourne's inner-city beekeepers
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