We were lucky to escape the flooding!

We had some spectacular flooding yesterday. Fortunately our farm was one of the lucky ones and didn’t get swept away. It’s just a bit boggy underfoot. Here’s a video I put up yesterday of the Wairoa river spilling over the end of McNicol Rd (about 50metres down from us!) blocking residents in/out.

Spring is here!

I love the feeling I get when winter is ending and there is that spring feeling in the air. We are franticly getting seed in, cleaning up the farm ready for spring plantings of cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers amongst all the other seasonal vegetables we grow. We know at the markets that people are wanting to get into there gardens but they’re just not quite ready so we need to make sure we are on the ball and we have plenty of plants available for when the madness starts.

We could really do with some more warmer days though as some veges haven’t grown quick enough and are starting to get that yellow look too them. The baby spinach particularly! No matter how hard we try we just can’t grow enough of it during winter. We just have to be patient and wait for that spring growth. We try and explain this to our customers as best we can and fortunately we are lucky enough that they are very patient and understanding about what we do. We work with the seasons, we don’t like to force growth through heated greenhouses and LED lights.

For the last month or so I have been flicking through previous year’s diaries looking at what has worked and what hasn’t. Last year we went a bit crazy with the flower seedlings. This was a lot of fun but we found that customers were more into growing vegetables. So this year we have decided to focus more on the flowers that are companion plants. Flowers that attract beneficial insects such as bees and also flowers that attract the naughty insects such as thrips and aphids, keeping them off your vegetables.

I also look at how we can improve our systems so that we can manage time better and be more efficient. Making sure anything we put our hands on, we know it will be worthwhile. If not, then we have to bite the bullet and stop. This can be really hard especially as we all love what we do and we are very passionate, so cutting something out is not an easy decision but we have to remember that this is a business and we need look after it. For example, last year we grew a lot of cucumbers but we had terrible trouble with pukeko birds eating them, so this year we are growing a very token amount so that we can keep it manageable.

Something we grew this winter which I have been really impressed with is the purple stemmed broccoli. Gosh this is a wonderful plant. Beautiful long tender stems with a deep purple floret. They have been brightening people’s meals all winter. We are also growing miniature purple and green cabbages. These are small compared to the giant ones you get in the supermarket’s but they are solid heavy little things. They have been extremely popular at the markets as they are a more usable size (what on earth are you supposed to do with a basketball sized cabbage??). They’re wonderful keepers as well, i found one at the back of my fridge after about 3 weeks and it still looked perfectly fine, nutritional value might have depleted a bit though!!

It is hard to believe we will be selling tomato plants again soon. We already have a token amount of cucumber, courgette and bean plants for sale for those who have greenhouses.

I am really looking forward to what this season is going to bring us. Will it be as challenging as the last? No two seasons are the same so yes it will be. That’s what keeps us on our toes! Not only does the weather have a big role to play but the market trends change with every season too and I am looking forward to what they will be this year. I just hope that I will be quick enough to adapt to these ever changing trends. Can’t wait!!

What to plant now: lettuces, beetroot, spinach, spring onions, leeks, fennel, peas, mesclun, rocket. Coriander, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives.
Plants coming in the next few months: TOMATOES! BASIL! Beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, chillis, capsicums, sweetcorn, pumpkins.

Come and visit us every Saturday and Sunday at the markets for our full range of seasonal vegetable and herb plants all ready to go for planting in your garden. Please feel free to ask us any questions, we love helping out!

Thank you for reading,
Liz

Weekend markets
Every Saturday:
Howick market 8am-12.30pm
Britomart market 8am-12.30pm
Mt Albert market 9am-1pm
Mairangi Bay pop up stall behind the green gables 8am-11.30am
And also the Clevedon Village Farmers market every Sunday 8am-1pm.

We also sell at our farm gate at 355 McNicol Road, Clevedon.

The days are getting shorter…

We are starting to feel the changing of the seasons on the farm. The days are getting shorter but there is still plenty of work to be done.

 

The last of the pumpkins have been brought in for storing and we are now gradually pulling out the plants to make way for the broccoli. I decided to trial some brussel sprouts this winter, it’s a first so it will be interesting how they go. Some say Auckland isn’t cold enough for them to grow but let’s see shall we..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the seasons change this means we will be seeing the end of some herbs like the beloved basil. This will bring a tear to the eye of some customers but it will only be for a few months when we will be seeding it again. The cucumbers recently finished, not due to the weather. Some pukekos came in and wiped out the whole crop over a weekend. So we decided to pull them out rather than try and fight against them. Nevertheless, when I see any pukekos I grab the closest stick and whack it against the steel bars yelling and screaming at them to stay away from my vegetables!! That’s me playing fair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of vegetables are coming back into season again like the kale, rocket and pak choy. We also picked the first lot of fennel and leeks last week which went down a treat at the markets. It is so rewarding seeing the reactions we get from our customers when something appears on the stall again. These reactions and the lovely comments we receive every week motivates us to continue producing high quality fresh vegetables and herbs.

 

    

 

We are just about prepared for winter, there’s just a few more weeks left to try and get as much vegetables in before growth basically stops in june/july. I am freaking out about the lettuce at the moment as we have been having trouble with getting some of the seed to germinate due to the intense heat we had in February/March. So this week’s job is to seed an extra double lot to make sure we have plenty in winter. It just goes to show I have to be on the ball all the time as every season is different to the last. This is what makes me love my job though. It’s never boring!

 

 

We have a huge range of fresh leafy greens for sale at the moment. Kale is always a big hit due to its ‘superfood’ status. But the other greens that can’t be forgotten about are the watercress and rocket. I love the bitter flavour they give, they taste great in sandwiches with any leftover meats. Yum! And if you haven’t already tried watercress soup, you really must. See below for our go to recipe (it’s my sister, Amy’s recipe and it’s incredible)

 

Watercress Soup

Melt a knob of butter is a large saucepan.  Saute 2 onions, 2 leeks and about 5 cloves of garlic (all chopped) in the butter until soft.

Add 4 medium sized potatoes cubed, 4 rashers of bacon chopped, and a few sage and thyme leaves.   Add enough stock of your choice to cover the vegetables (we used Beef).  Simmer until potatoes are almost cooked.  Add 2 large bunches of watercress and cook until watercress has just wilted through.

Blend soup in a food processor or blender and return to saucepan.  Season to taste.  You may like to add more stock at this point if you like a thiner soup.

Enjoy a bowl with a thick slice of freshly baked bread!

You could leave out the bacon and use a vegetable stock for a vegetarian version of this dish.

 

We find at the markets in autumn and winter it is all about leafy greens so this year we are trialling a few different veges like collard, mustard leaves, purslane as well as a few different types of Chinese vegetables like Joi Choi and Choy Sum. It will be interesting to see what our customers think of them.

 

We are looking forward to the months ahead as the seasons change and we can’t wait to share our bounty with our customers!

 

We’ll see you at the markets. We are there every weekend rain, hail or shine.

 

Thank you for reading,

Liz

Our summer crops are all in full force!

It is our busiest time of year. We have our summer crops all in full force, they need 24/7 care to get through this intense heat. And then we have the mad rush to get vegetables in the ground to see the markets through winter. It’s madness and I love it!

The chilli’s are getting hot, the capsicums are fat and juicy. And we planted a trial of mini sweet capsicums and gosh they have performed well.They are best stuffed with feta then either roasted or pickled. Yum!

You may have noticed our pumpkins are starting to appear back at the markets again. We trialled a squash this year and we had a fantastic response at the markets so we will make sure we grow more next year. You will also be seeing the french, crown and butternut pumpkins appearing over the next few weeks as well. It’s hard to believe that they are in season again!

And then we have the giant pumpkins. This is a first for us, we have been asked every year if we would grow one and finally we have done it. I can’t believe how quickly they grow! I tried two varieties, one is called ‘Show Winner’ and the other is ‘Atlantic Giant’. At this stage the Atlantic Giants are performing the best. It will be interesting how big we can grow them especially with using dad’s 30 year nutrient and mineral recipe!

Dad is amongst the tomato patch every morning and evening while it is cool. Tomatoes demand a heck of a lot of attention and he certainly knows what to do – with his 50+ years of experience and all! There are laterals to be taken out, weeds to be pulled, the dropping of the vines and clipping them back up. And gosh they grow fast, just when you think you’re on top it all, a few days later and it all needs to be done again. Dad does love his tomatoes though. It must bring back memories of his dad and brothers when they grew them in Mangere.

Dad and tomatoes

Meanwhile, mum is just across the track weeding all the beetroot (as well as everything else!) which is growing like mad at the moment. We have been seeding double lots for winter therefore there is twice the amount to do. Dad spoiled her the other day and bought her a lovely set of knee pads. So romantic! Just in time for valentines day!

As for me, aside from the general running of the business, I am constantly planning ahead trying to make sure we have plenty to sell over the months ahead. This means lots of flicking through previous years diaries, taking note of the do’s and don’ts. What to grow more or less of. When is the best time to seed the extra lots taking into account day length and temperature changes. And timing the switch to the winter seed is always a trick too! I do this individually for the thirty odd different types of vegetables we grow as well as our selection of herbs, seedlings and flowers. So my brain doesn’t get much rest! But fortunately I have had about four years of experience now and gut instinct and the knowledge I have gathered is steering us down the right track, well most of the time anyway! Sometimes I just wing it and hope for the best! Ha ha.

So that’s it for now, I hope you are enjoying the blogs. I never know what to write but once I get going it seems to all come out. I just hope it is worth the read!

Thank you for following us, 

Liz

Our farm shop is open!

Our farm shop has now been open for 2 weeks!! And by shop, we mean, there is a gazebo at the front of the shed with fresh produce and herbs underneath!

So if you need to refresh your fridge with fresh vegetables and herbs during the week, pop in and see what we have on offer. It is open 24/7 with an honesty box at the door.

This is a new thing for us so please bare with us while we adjust to this new venture!

An idea of what we have at the gate:

Lettuce $2 each

Tomatoes $5 a bag

Celery $2 a bunch

Cucumbers $1 each

Beetroot $4 a bunch

Carrots $3 a bunch/bag

Our selection of herb pots are $3 each (basil, parsley, coriander, thyme, chives etc) all suitable for growing or for the kitchen bench.

Plus a fresh selection of our other seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers!

Everything you see at our stall is what we grow ourselves. All are hand seeded and hand picked fresh for you. All are either organic sprayed or spray free too.

Quality is extremely important to us so if you find you are not happy with something you have purchased at the stall, please let us know!

Pre ordering is available Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-4pm, simply email us at info@clevedonherbsproduce.com with your order list with a date and approximate time of pick up. We will confirm the order with you including prices and total cost as well any adjustments that might need to be made.

If our opening times do not suit you, email us and we can see what we can do.

EFTPOS is available Tuesday-Friday 8.30am-4pm. There is almost always someone in the shed that will be able to take the transaction for you. If not, leave your contact details behind with the amount owed and we will send you our account details so payment can be made.

Our farm shop is located 3.5km along McNicol Road, Clevedon.  On the left just before the Whiteside Lane intersection.

Cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers!

Thank you everyone for all the lovely comments we received at the markets about last week’s blog. It was quite nerve racking sending that out but with all the positive feedback it has inspired me to get another one going!

There is so much happening on the farm so it is hard to keep this short and sweet but here we go…

Weeds!

We might not be enjoying this rain but the farm is absolutely loving it! The pumpkins and melons are soaking it up and doubling in size every week. As much as this is a wonderful thing, it can be a struggle to keep up with it all. This is the most critical time of year to make sure we take good care of all our crops.

My mum, Jenny is chief weeder around here. If it weren’t for her the farm would collapse and succumb to the dreaded weeds. With everything growing so quickly, we all have to get stuck in and try and keep up with it all. We will lose a crop or we won’t get the full yield out of it if we don’t take good care.

IMG_20160112_125325

Jenny weeding the carrots

Cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers! 

I am sure we are getting a higher yield on these compared to last year. Which is surprising as the bees have been late this year. Nevertheless, we have a variety of these on offer. We have the firm favourite, the lebanese short green cucumber. They are popular as they are about half the size to a telegraph therefore customers don’t have to waste a half eaten telegraph. They’re great for juicing as well because they have a high water content and you can pop a whole one in at a time.

If your after something a little different though, try our Apple Cucumbers. They are a short round white cucumber with a bright white flesh. Some people find it hard to digest the normal green cucumbers but for some reason they can eat this apple variety. But they are also sweet and juicy. So give it a go!

All of them are picked and sold fresh so they have a high nutrient water content. I found one in the back of my fridge once and I’m sure it was over 2 weeks old and it was still good enough to eat!

Liz with cucumbers

Lastly, we have the lovely gherkins. We are growing more and more of these every year. There’s nothing like fresh pickled gherkins in the pantry. Customers come in and buy bags and bags of them as you can’t find them anywhere else. We even have people say they don’t bother pickling them as they are tasty on there own. I guess because they are so fresh they are full of flavour. Just watch out for those prickly bits – ouch!

Gherkins

Gherkins

Summer plants that we have for sale now

Lettuce, spinach, beetroot, silverbeet (ford hook giant and rainbow), spring onions, beans (climbing and dwarf), mesclun, rocket, snow peas, sugarsnaps, cucumbers (telegraph, apple, lebanese and gherkins) and zucchinis. As well as our full range of herbs and flowers.

See you at the markets this weekend!

City Farmers Market at Britomart

Howick Village Market

Mairangi Bay Farmers Market

Clevedon Village Farmers Market 

If you would like to order online for pick up at one of our markets then please click HERE.

Happy New Year! – A bit of history, Roma tomatoes and more

It is the year 2016 and I have just been inspired to revive the blog.  Gosh this is exciting! My mum did the latest blog but that was quite some years ago. So lets not waste any time and lets get stuck in… Be warned, it’s a long one, being the first and all…

I guess the best way to start this off is to introduce myself. My name is Liz and I am a fourth generational vegetable grower. I, along with my parents and our amazing bunch of staff grow seasonal vegetables and herbs selling them fresh at markets around Auckland, New Zealand. This is my passion. It took me a long time to find it but it’s better late than never right?

Phil, Jenny and Liz picking Roma tomatoes

     Phil, Jenny and Liz picking Roma tomatoes

A little bit of history
It would be fair to say that the art of growing a vegetable from seed runs through my veins. My great grandad grew seed onions in Te Papa and created the ‘Pukekohe Longkeeper’ which is still grown today. My Grandad was one of the first greenhouse tomato growers in New Zealand, my uncle’s then turned it into a hydroponics system. My dad, Phil along with my mum, Jenny became a pioneer in becoming one of the first hydroponic fancy lettuce growers in New Zealand. I feel so proud about my growers heritage, it’s no wonder I love this job so much. But i have to say I do feel the pressure immensely!
I often have people comment on how great it is to have younger people getting involved in the horticultural industry. This is great especially as I will be knocking on the 30s door in the next few weeks. Eek!

My aim
What I aim to do with this blog is share my learning’s and hopefully I will learn something from you in return. There will be blood, sweat and tears. Successes and failings but much more successes! I will get annoyed about pests and diseases that will test our spray free & organic spray attitude. But it is all worth it when on a Saturday morning and the trucks are loaded with all our bounty, we know our customers are going to be there waiting at the other end, coming back every week for our fresh vegetables and herbs.

The farm
We are half way through the growing season and the farm is looking full and lush. The most exciting part is our tomatoes are starting to ripen. They are so sweet and delicious, I have truly missed them, along with our customers at the markets (there patience will be paid off as of this weekend). No heated greenhouses on our farm, just a roof to protect them from any harsh weather. We also only use organic sprays on them so I know my customers can enjoy a great tasting, fresh and healthy tomato, no questions asked! Try them with our fresh basil.
So there it is, my first blog. I have to say I didn’t expect it to be this fun. I just hope in this crazy busy time of year I can find the time to write many more.

Any advice, suggestions would be warmly welcome. Let me know what you would like to hear.

Your local amateur market gardener (parents are the pros)
Liz

Credit to my sister, Amy for sorting out the marketing side of the business. If it weren’t for her we would still be stuck in the dark ages! Also the rest of the family for always being there for us and helping us out especially when things can get a bit sticky! Can’t forget my other half, Andy too. If it weren’t for his support, I honestly couldn’t do this job. Love to you all xx

We are back at the City Farmers Market at Britomart, Howick Village Market, Mairangi Bay Farmers Market and Clevedon Village Farmers Market this weekend.  We look forward to seeing you there.  If you would like to order online for pick up at one of our markets then please click HERE.

You can now pre order for the Mairangi Bay market on our website!

Are you normally rushing to get to our stall before we close or sell out of some lines?

 

Why not place your order on our website by clicking HERE so it is ready for you to pick up when you arrive at the market.

 

Simply place your order before 5pm on the Thursday before the weekend markets and we will ensure that we have everything set aside for you behind our stall on market day.

 

We grow everything from seed ourselves and only use organic sprays.

 

Conditions:

  1. Payment is only available via cash on pick up.
  2. This service is currently only available at the Mairangi Bay Village Farmers Market.
  3. Must be picked up before 11am unless prior arranged.
  4. Orders must be received by 5pm on the Thursday before the market.

Saffron Spinach Risotto

I have always shied away from making risotto’s until I saw this recipe!   It so easy…thank you Annabel Langbein!  I threw in a whole bag on our baby spinach, yum!  You can also view this recipe of Annabel’s website.  Please click HERE.

 

Saffron Spinach Risotto

Saffron-Spinach-Risotto-hero

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ cups risotto rice
½ cup white wine
salt and ground black pepper
25-30 saffron threads
5-6 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
4 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup grated parmesan
1-2 tbsp butter
Heat oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan and gently fry onion and garlic until soft but not browned (about 5 minutes). Add rice and stir over heat for 2 minutes to lightly toast. Add wine, salt and pepper and cook a further 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

Add saffron threads to 5 cups hot stock, then add to rice mixture. Stir to combine, cover and simmer over a very low heat until almost cooked (about 15 minutes). At this point, test the rice –
it should have a tiny, hard, white core in the centre of each grain, which means it is nearly ready. If the core is bigger, cook another few minutes. It needs to be almost cooked before you add the final ingredients. If the rice begins to dry out, add another ½-1 cup of hot stock or water – it should look very soupy.

Stir in the spinach, parmesan and butter, cover and cook another 2-3 minutes until the rice is fully cooked through but still al dente (it will continue to cook once removed from the heat, so take care not to overcook it). Remove from heat and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Kale Chips

Kale is in season!  We are often asked how to cook this great vegetable.  Raw is of course always best to ensure the maximum nutrient uptake but we just love Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe for Kale chips.   See below or click HERE to go to the recipe on her website goop.com.

This superfood is extremely high in,

Vitamin K (100g 800% of recommended daily intake)

Vitamin A (100g is 85% of recommended daily intake)

Vitamin C  (100g is 50% of recommended daily intake)

We have Curly Kale available at the markets for $2.00 a bag.  We cut the leaves just past the baby stage.  We also sell the seedlings in a 6 pack (2 x Curly Kale, 2 x Russian Red and 2 x Cavolo Nero) for $5.00.  Once you have planted the seedlings, you should be  harvesting about 6 weeks afterwards (weather dependent).  Remember, the flavour improves with frost!

 

Kale chipsKale chips 2

 

Slow-Bake Kale Chips

Ingredients

• fresh kale, washed and roughly chopped

• olive oil

• sea salt

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

2. Drizzle kale with olive oil until coated.

3. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly browned and crispy. Season with sea salt.

Beetroot and Carrot Raw Salad

We love the Revive cafe and its cookbooks!   This is a great tasting raw salad.  We recommend that you wear gloves to grate the beetroot and carrot or use a food processor though!  Click HERE to go to their website where you can order their cookbooks.

 

Revive raw salad

Makes 6 x 1 cup serves

1/2 cup sultanas

2 medium beetroot

4 carrots

10 mint leaves

cup sunflower seeds

Orange dressing

juice of 1 orange (or 1/2cup orange juice)

2 Tbs

balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs honey or date puree

1 tsp salt

4 Tbs oil

 

1 Put the sultanas in some boiling water before you start, to fatten them and make them juicy.

2 Grate the beetroot and carrots by hand or in your food processor using the grater attachment.

3 In a cup mix the orange dressing ingredients.

4 Drain the water off the sultanas.

5 Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently. Make sure you add the juice that comes off the beetroot when you are grating it.

Revive Raw Salad