Tuesday 1 September 2009

Spring garden and WIP pasta

The spring has sprung
The grass has riz
I wonder where de birdie is
Some say de bird is on the wing
But isn’t that absurd
Because as everybody knows
De wing is on de bird

Yes, it is the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere and time for a bit of pottering about the garden. It is looking gorgeously green and I feel we should appreciate it before the forecasted scorcher of a summer reduces it to a brown and burnt shadow of its current glory.

My first stop is the lavender bush, which is less than a year old. It was flowering when I was given it. Once the flowers left I wondered if they would ever come back. Just a few days ago I noticed a bit of colour on the plant. Hurrah! This looks promising. I am even hoping I might get to cook with some of the lavender if it keeps growing like this.

If we step back to view the lavender with the rest of the garden, you can see it has flourished. The mint is growing like crazy and my other herbs are looking green and healthy, except my bay tree which suffered during last summer and seems to have been pilfered a little too much. My mum has bought me some rainbow chard and kale this year. The kale is looking a little bald because I took the scissors to it for a rather good minestrone last night.

Next stop is the lemon tree. It is a Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree in a pot. There are lots of purple and white buds that we hope will blossom into flowers which will shed their petals to become little lemons.

There are only a few lemon buds right now. The tree is almost two years old so I haven’t allowed too many lemons to grow on it so far. We had quite a few lemons earlier in the year but the poor wee tree lost quite a few leaves that turned yellow. So I gave it a rest from fruiting. I am not sure that it was the fruit. My mum, my garden mentor, told me she heard that lemon trees have been doing that in Melbourne over winter. I hope mine will perk up with the onset of spring.

The lime tree has always been the smaller of our two citrus trees. We had a few blossoms and buds but no fruit. Last summer the lime seemed to really suffer in the heat and its leaves got badly burnt. So I am pleased at how green and leafy it looks after winter. So long as it looks healthy, I am happy, and any fruit would be a bonus.

The weather is not terribly spring-like. It is still a bit gloomy grey. I measure the weather by how well my washing dries. I put the washing out on Saturday and it poured rain but was dry the next day. Today I put the washing out and it dried. So it is improving.

But I thought I should post a springy recipe. Something that is a bit lighter and easy. I made this pasta dish in winter but I think it might work quite well in sunnier weather. I made it because I wanted to use up my facon but I liked the simplicity of the dish and the fact that, without the facon, it could be made by poking about the pantry, fridge and freezer staples. It is still work in progress. I would like to try it again with fresh spinach and a bit less cheese. Maybe some olives and artichokes would work well. Actually, a squeeze of lemon from the tree might be just the lift it needs.

I am sending this to Ruth of Once Upon a Feast for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights (#129). Ruth not only founded and organises the event but she also has an alternate version of the little ditty at the top of my post. I always think of this rhyme at the start of spring and then it reminds me of childhood events like piano lessons and the Puffin Club. No wonder spring makes me feel young again!

WIP Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Facon
Adapted from Lidia’s Italy by Lidia Bastianich via
Serious Eats
serves 3-4

  • 1 dessert bowl of pasta
  • 1½ onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 slices facon (fake bacon), chopped (optional)
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 250g frozen spinach, thawed and drained (or fresh spinach)
  • slurp of white wine
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of cheese (about a cup)
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste
Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet, but cook it less a minute or two than it needs.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large frypan and fry onion for a few minutes til soft and starting to brown. Add garlic, facon and chilli for a minute. Add chickpeas, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, cooked pasta and white wine for a few minutes to warm through (if the spinach is fresh, give it enough time to wilt).

Remove from heat and stir through cheese. Check seasoning and drizzle with some walnut oil.

On the Stereo:

Colour of White:
Missy Higgins


  1. happy spring. hope your garden is very fruitful.

  2. Sigh - I'm jealous. Our summer has gone completely off the boil and spring seems a long way off! At least we have the joys of squashes and pumpkins to look forward to :P

  3. When I was walking around the cricket ground shivering in my Hoodie I heard an Australian man say "yeah its 24 degrees in Sydney mate!" I cant believe youre only just entering spring!

  4. Ah, you welcome spring as I welcome fall. Looks like we'll be swapping ingredients!

  5. Mmmm I love your garden! We planted a few things in posts a couple of weeks back (just tomatoes, chillis, stawberry and rosemary) and are excited that the tomato plant already has 4 of the teeniest most adorable tomatoes ever on it!

    Love the pasta dish too. Delicious!

  6. Hi Johanna,

    I have just found your blog and I am enjoying scrolling through it, some lovely recipes! I am always happy to find new Australian vegan blogs.

    I love your garden. I am hoping to start a fruit and vegetable garden of my own soon, which will be interesting as traditionally I have black thumbs of death when it comes to plants! It's always good to see the sorts of gardens other people have created.

  7. Thanks Maybelle's mom

    Thanks Lysy - enjoy the fruits of autumn

    Thanks Fleur - it was 22 C yesterday which was lovely til we got the thunderstorms :-)

    Thanks Susan - the advantage of swapping seasons is that there is so much inspiration just posted on the other half of the globe

    Thanks Vegetation - your garden sounds great - I hope to plant tomatoes some day

    Thanks Susan - nice to meet you - I am not vegan but post many vegan and vegan friendly recipes - good luck with your garden - I am no green thumb but get good guidance from my mum

  8. Yay for lavender coming back and look at your meyer lemon! Lovely - let's hope today's stunning weather doesn't turn grey like yesterday's stellar morning did.

  9. Your garden looks gorgeous anyway--everything is so lush looking! And I was surprised that you call it "rainbow chard," not silverbeet! ;)

  10. What a wonderful post and gorgeous looking pasta. Thanks so much for sharing it...and your better version of the "Spring Has Sprung" ditty... with Presto Pasta Nights.

    We're about to head into Fall, a beautiful time of year here in Nova Scotia.

  11. I'm determined to start growing things on our new balcony once we move in. I wnat to grow some lovely Meyer lemons and tomatoes. Lovely garden you have there!

  12. Thanks Lucy - I am excited by my lavender - Thursday's thunderstorms were a surprise after the sun - poor zinc was a soggy moggy

    Thanks Ricki - I like the name rainbow chard - it is not something I grew up with (unlike green silverbeet) so 'rainbow silverbeet' sounds odd

    thanks Ruth - am sure you will enjoy the fruits of autumn - any excuse to eat more pumpkin sounds good to me

    Thanks Lorraine - will look forward to hearing how your balcony garden grows - it's amazing how much can be grown in a little space!

  13. I am so jealous because our summer is ending right now! I need to work out a system that allows me to live in the Northern Hemisphere from April-October and the Southern Hemisphere for the rest of the year. This way I will only get to experience the best weather. I love this dish, it has so many great veggies and flavors.


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