Saturday, 1 July 2017

Delicious Plums, Crispy Lettuce and Rarest of Peppers


Selim Pepper,  Xylopica ethiopica

Are you a bit of a kitchen whizz with a kitchen garden full of exotic herbs?
Or do you just rely on the same old staples of spices like, rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage, maybe some chilli pepper or paprika occasionally.
To be confident about using other spices you need to know a bit about them and sometimes, a bit of advice on how to use an unusual spice will give you the kick a long that you need to try something in that casserole or stew that you always make.
So let’s find out more about one such spice. 
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill, spice guru and owner of who has also written the Herb and Spice bible.

Selim pepper is also known as African pepper, Ethiopian pepper, Grains of Selim, Uda Pods, Guinea pepper, kimba pepper and Senegal pepper.

Not only is this spice hand picked but it’s possibly one of the rarest spices that Ian’s company has sourced for some time, so that in itself is something to want to try at least.
To use this spice crush the pods in a mortar and pestle then separate the fibrous bits out and use the remaining powder.
Xylopica ethiopica
You can just throw in the whole pods then remove them when cooking has finished.
Ian says the flavour won't be as strong if you do that.
Selim pepper is not as hot as Grains of Paradise and is good in long slow cooking as with the African Buka stew made with beef.
The plant is not grow in Australia and it's unlikely that your supermarket will have the spice, so you’ll have to order it online from Herbies Spices
If you have any questions about Selim Pepper, or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


WINTER LETTUCE or Lactuca sativa 

You might think it too boring to be a hero, but did you know that the earliest mention of lettuce in history is a carving on an Egyptian temple? Lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Egypt.

On the other hand the Greeks used lettuce as a medicinal plant to induce sleep.

Lactuca sativa or lettuce is just everywhere and thought to have originated from the wild or prickly lettuce, found as a weed in the Mediterranean.

Did You Know?
The flavour of lettuce is lost in as little as 24 hours, and there's no way supermarket lettuce is only 24 hours old.

The Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae.. great in salads, tacos, hamburgers!

But here’s the thing not all kinds of lettuce are created alike!

Iceberg, Cos, and Butterhead are Winter Lettuce
This is the time to be plant all those hearting lettuce like, Iceberg, and Butterhead, Cos or Romaine.
Iceberg lettuce

These varieties do best in the coolest months because the upper temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 25°C so they’re not going to bolt to seed now.

Did you know that there are four main types of lettuce grown commercially in Australia and these are three of them?
In northern Victoria the main growing season for these types is May until October.
Butterhead lettuce
When to Grow Lettuce
A lot of people think lettuce is a summer crop but the best growing temperatures are a maximum of 25°C during day and 8°C during the night.
In cool districts, you’ve got until end of May, then again in September until the following May.
In arid areas you have from March until October, in sub- tropical and temperate areas, we’ve hit the jackpot because we can grow lettuce all year round.
Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that they need water and food.
Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily. You must keep up a steady supply of water because any set back will at least, make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you!
But at the cooler times of year, it’s not so much an issue.
Iceberg lettuce seedlings
Where to Plant
Don't plant them in deep shade, like under a tree. They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them.
Sowing Lettuce
To sow lettuce seed, either spread the seed very thinly along a row and cover lightly with soil, or sprinkle it over a bed and just water or rake it in. For all you balcony gardeners, any largish pot will do for 3 or 4 lettuce seedlings.
Cos lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seed is very fine so you'll get a few clumps. Thin them out, you know the drill.
If the weather is very dry and your soil sandy, you will need to water every couple of days.
Stick your finger in the soil if not sure. Lettuces have a very shallow root system.
By the way, lettuce seed doesn't germinate that well at soil temperatures over 250C. There should be no problems at this time of year.

Once your lettuce seedlings start appearing start giving them side dressings of compost, worm tea and so on.
Lettuce that seems to be growing slowly, or are starting to show signs of going to seed even though you’ve watered them, is a sure sign that they’ve run out of food.
Did you prepare your veggie bed with enough compost? Of not there are plenty of organic type liquid fertilisers that you can add to your watering can and use on your leafy vegetables.

So why is it good for you?

Lettuce is very good for digestion and promotes good liver function.
Lettuce has good levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre.
Lettuce obviously won't lead to weight gain as many varieties have over 90% water and are extremely low in calories.
Lettuce contains the sedative LAC-TOO-CAREY-UM (lactucarium) which relaxes the nerves without affecting digestion.
So I’m going with the Greeks on this one-remember they used lettuce as a sedative, probably eating it with their evening meal.
As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green. For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. By varying the greens in your salads, you can boost the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.


Greengage Plums

Today’s plant of the week is in the productive side of gardening.

If you like making preservers, jams and jellies, you might want to grow this heritage tree, whose fruit is unavailable in supermarkets or greengrocers.
Don’t know why, because it just has the most superior taste of all fruits of the same kind.
Let’s find out more…I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal

Greengage plums-small and delicious.
Did you know that the first true greengage was bred in Moissac, France, from a green-fruited wild plum originally found in Asia Minor; that original greengage cultivar is known as the cultivar 'Reine Claude Verte'
Yalca fruit company write in their website that
“The Green Gage plum is an amazing eating experience – sweet and very richly flavoured but balanced with perfect amount of acidity.
Singled out by the author of the Australian Fruit Tree book, Louis Glowinski, as his favourite fruit overall (a big rave, given his book covers a fairly significant proportion of the fruit kingdom) but this is a great plum.”
Sounds delicious.
Anyone fancy an almond and greengage plum crumble?


Continuing the series on "plant blindness' by Liza Harvey.

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