Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Neglected garden December 29, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 8:23 pm

I’ve been away for a week and everything seems to be out of control.

Eating: zucchini, peas, silverbeet, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, onions, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blueberries, basil

Weeding: everything. I admit that it is more than a week’s worth of weed growth that I’m pulling out.

Tidying: I cleaned out the greens bed by the steps, including the bolted celery and a couple of carrots – not sure where they came from. There were a few meadowfoam plants, which I left, because I like them – they are pretty and they always seem to have a bumblebee on them.

Planting: I planted the celery seedlings that had been sitting around in pots for a couple of months at least in the cleaned out greens bed. Hope they’ll grow leaves and not bolt like everything else.


Cleanup December 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — belladonnabess @ 10:40 pm

Harvesting: the last of the broad beans, Jersey Benne potatoes (a woeful crop, and half of them appear to be Desiree, which must have resprouted from last summer), silver fir potatoes (just a few, and I haven’t eaten any myself yet), silverbeet, sugar snap peas, rhubarb (giant), cabbage, savoy cabbage. Pulled up the only 2 shallot plants still alive, one was trying to flower. I’m hoping they will dry off and at least keep a month or so.

Eating: as above, plus a few blueberries, currants and raspberries. My whitecurrant is most definitely red. That is the second time that has happened to me – how odd. My O’Neal blueberry is completely dead. The others look fine, but then so did the O’Neal 2 weeks ago. Not sure what is going on.

Planting: another Zephyr zucchini and 2 more yellow cucumbers. A couple more tomatoes, just to get them out of the greenhouse.

Lessons for next year: don’t plant sugar snap peas and shelling peas side by side in the garden. Plant more broad beans. Give them some sort of support, or they will sprawl all over the path.


Droolworthy chocolate truffles December 14, 2009

Filed under: Cooking — belladonnabess @ 9:42 pm

It’s that time of year again – I’m making Christmas presents. Chocolate truffles tonight.

I started out with the Edmonds cookbook chocolate truffle recipe, but since when do I follow a recipe? With a bit of adjusting, I’ve ended up with a range of variations using the same basic formula. Here are a few of my recipes.

Total Nutcase

50g butter

100g dark chocolate

1 tablespoon cocoa

1/2 cup chopped macadamia and hazelnuts

1/2 cup ground almonds (and a bit more)

1/2 – 1 cup icing sugar

Melt butter and chocolate (I’m sure you are supposed to use a bain Marie, but I just use a heavy pot on the stove). Stir in cocoa, chopped nuts, ground almonds and some of the icing sugar. Keep stirring in icing sugar until the mixture is quite stiff. Shape into balls (not too big, as these are quite rich) and then roll them in ground almonds. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 30-35, and should keep for a few weeks. But really, what are the chances of them lasting that long?

Jamaican Sun

25g butter

50g white chocolate

1-2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (I use fresh ginger that has been frozen, but ground ginger will give a different taste)

1-2 tablespoons dark rum

1 cup icing sugar (or might be 1 1/2)


Melt butter and chocolate. Stir in grated ginger and rum, then add the icing sugar gradually until the mixture is quite stiff. Shape into balls and then roll them in coconut. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 18.

Arabian Nights

2 tablespoons Turkish coffee (with cardamom)

4 tablespoons boiling water

50g butter

100g dark chocolate

1 tablespoon cocoa (and about 1/4 cup more for later)

1 – 2 cups icing sugar

Add Turkish coffee and boiling water to a plunger, plunge and leave to stand (if you want to, you can make proper Turkish coffee in a pot, but I don’t bother for this recipe). Melt butter and chocolate. Add cocoa and 2 tablespoons of the coffee. Add about a cup of icing sugar. Taste test and add more coffee if you want it stronger. Add more icing sugar until the mixture is stiff. Roll into balls and then roll in pure cocoa. Refrigerate. After an hour or so, remove from fridge and re-roll in cocoa. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 30-35.

A note on ingredients

Good ingredients make good truffles. I assume the opposite applies too: bad ingredients = bad truffles. Don’t substitute butter for margarine in these recipes; it won’t melt and set properly. Use a good strong dark chocolate, although don’t use top quality eating chocolate, because it’s simply a waste to mask the flavour with butter, sugar and flavourings. For white chocolate, use something that actually contains cocoa butter. A lot of the stuff that masquerades as white chocolate doesn’t contain anything at all that came from a cacao tree. Check the label. Nuts are better fresh. I shell the hazelnuts myself, but I draw the line at shelling the macadamia nuts, instead buying them already shelled from my local farmer’s market. If you don’t have Turkish coffee with cardamom, you could probably make really strong, fine-ground coffee and add cardamom, but I’ve never tried that.

A further note about taste testing

Taste testing is essential. One thing that I have found is that flavours usually intensify once the truffle has cooled and sat in the fridge for a day or two.

Last note, I promise

Recipes can be doubled or halved quite successfully. I tend to do a smaller batches when I’m trying something a bit more risky, like rum and fresh ginger (I really wasn’t sure that would work, but I’m very pleased with it).


Happy bumblebees December 12, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:04 pm

Planting: Passiflora antioquiensis, zucchini (Zephyr), cucumber (yellow). All in the mandarin corner. I just remembered now that I was going to net the area because the blackbirds have been doing a huge amount of digging in that garden. Only I forgot.

Freezing: broad beans. I’m at the peak of the crop right now, but they will probably be finished in a week or two.

Sharing: broad beans (ok, I’ve got quite a few). I’ve been sending them over the fence to the neighbour – today he sent back some lemons. That was actually most fortuitous, as I’d used all the ones I had for German Christmas cookies. I wanted to make more, but had forgotten to buy the necessary lemons. So it was a great bonus to get them.

Eating: more cabbage, silverbeet, sugar snap peas, carrots, broad beans, onions, raspberries, strawberries, herbs.

Flowering: borage, Phacelia, meadowfoam, Nemophila, Calendula, chervil, clover, mustard, runner beans, oca, Jersey Benne potatoes… I have happy bumblebees.


A week of firsts December 11, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:44 pm

Today was mostly sunny, but the gale-force winds and the imminent arrival of Christmas diverted me into the alternative activities of shopping and baking.

Eating: blueberries. First ones from my little Southern Highbush plants. I had one or two berries from each (the plants were pretty small so I picked off almost all the developing berries a few months back because I thought they needed to put their energies into leaves).

Eating: cabbage. First one I’ve grown (ever). I’ve got a couple more coming on. I don’t think summer is really cabbage weather,  but the spring was clearly cold enough.

Eating: one gooseberry and one redcurrant. Both the first for the season.

Eating: zucchini. Also first. Not very big, but I’ve notice the plant has really got bigger in the last week, so hopefully some bigger ones will be on the way.

Eating: raspberries. 10 or more a day, mainly from the Waiau, with a few Marcy and Autumn Bliss). I even froze some – the first time I’ve had enough to even think about that. Blackcurrants, although I don’t have many fruit this year. Strawberries, again not lots. I think I need to redo some of the nets.

Eating: carrots, broad beans, peas (mainly sugar snap and some snowpeas), lettuce, silverbeet, onion, “walking onion”, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme.

Last week I bought one bunch of asparagus, same this week. I also bought some potatoes last week. But that’s it. I’m back to eating mostly from the garden, and even having some to share.

Baking: German Christmas biscuits (lemon hearts and cinnamon stars, although they were acutally diamonds as I don’t have a heart-shaped cutter). I also made white chocolate and passionfruit truffles.


Crazy seasons December 4, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 9:40 pm

Last week was like the third winter of the year. Today was summer. I’m confused, but not half as confused as my plants.

Bolting: one of the silverbeet plants planted this winter has already bolted. Since silverbeet is supposed to be a biennial, the poor plant clearly thinks that the cold weather in October constituted its second winter. But it isn’t just the silverbeet…

Flowering: onions. Not quite – they have all sent up flower heads but haven’t opened up yet. Again, onions are biennial, so shouldn’t flower until after their second winter, or not at all if things go to plan, because they are harvested as dormant bulbs in the summer. But not mine. October gave them enough chilling hours to convince them they had endured a second winter. That’s the last time I grow onions from Auckland (Pukehoke long keeper). IF I try onions again (and that’s debatable right now), I’ll try something from northern Europe that needs a real winter to flower.

Rotting: most of my shallots. I’m not sure if I can’t grow shallots or it has just been an exceptionally bad season. It isn’t entirely surprising. Most years I’m starting to see my grass start dying off in early summer, in fact I’ve seen it happen as early as November. But it is in full growth right now and no sign of slowing.

Potting: tomatoes (ladybug, black cherry, currant and random), capsicum (red and green), chili (Hungarian wax and cayenne). I’ve put them in good potting mix in big pots and put them back in the little greenhouse. I’m not sure about my chances of getting a decent crop outdoors this year, might as well try the greenhouse.

Digging: I dug out the weeds where I wanted my garden bench and put the bench into its permanent spot. It looks great. I’ll try to get a photo tomorrow.

Budding: my gemini feijoa as well. I’ve nearly got a calendula open. My cherry tomatoes are also starting to bud, as are a couple of the chilies.

Nearly ready: I’ve got a cabbage that looks close to harvest. Not sure how long to leave it – I’m afraid it will bolt.

Eating: more raspberries, a few blackcurrants, beet, carrot, lettuce, broad beans, celery, a few sugar snap peas, herbs.

Sharing: lettuce, silverbeet and a few raspberries

It’s not a great picture, but here’s my garden looking a bit more lush than previous pictures.


Last weekend December 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — belladonnabess @ 9:07 pm

Last weeked, in desperation, I gardened in the rain and cold. Unfortunately I was too busy to write it up.

Planting: Zephyr zucchini, yellow cucumber. The older zucchini plants looked like that might have had a virus, but they seemed to be recovering, so I planted them out in the hope they’re ok. The smaller zucchini plants and cucumbers looked ok.

Also planting: more tomatoes, a couple of basil plants, a couple more of the chili plants, lobelias and a random selection of flower seedlings.

Constructing: a very robust windbreak around the zucchinis.

Eating: baby carrots, broad beans, lettuce, pak choi, sugar beet thinnings, sugarsnap peas and RASPBERRIES

I’m so excited. Did I mention raspberries?