My new year's resolution for 2012 is to unwind by spending more weekend hours in the garden working to ensure a more bountiful jardin potager.
According to Peter McHoy in The Practical Garden Companion, the term jardin potager is French for 'kitchen garden', but the word 'potager' has come to mean primarily a kitchen garden that contains both vegetables and fruit. A traditional potager is laid out ornamentally and the garden beds are edged with low-growing hedges, herbs, or flowers, such as lobelia.
Harvesting sweet berries, fragrant herbs, vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp lettuce, cobs of sweet corn and baby cucumbers from your kitchen garden and using these ingredients to prepare a meal can bring a burst of pleasure to the end of an otherwise tedious day. There's something deliciously special about working with such fresh ingredients, particularly those which have been organically-grown. And the flavour of freshly-harvested produce is sublime.
Our kitchen garden comprises three raised beds, currently containing cos lettuce at various stages, a strawberry patch, Lebanese cucumbers, Kipfler potatoes, Dutch baby carrots, beetroot, chilli, Spring onion, parsnip and a dozen or so self-sown tomato vines which are starting to fruit. There is also coriander, rocket, basil and parsley; and we have a bay bush, chives, dill, olives and rosemary in pots in the courtyard. With numerous rainy days, followed by a burst of warmth, all the plants are flourishing and producing quite nicely.
I have put this week's harvest of strawberries to use in this pink (strawberry) lemonade, tweaked and adapted from an old fashioned recipe in The Coronation Cookery Book (CWA NSW, 1941) and minus an egg white. It is perfect as a non-alcoholic refresher for a hot Aussie New Year's Eve. Make sure you serve it really icy cold and add flavours to your taste.
PINK (STRAWBERRY) LEMONADE
a punnet of strawberries
2-3 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons boiling water
Angostura Bitters, to taste
1-2 litres mineral water (ice cold)
mint sprigs, to garnish
lemon slices, to garnish
strawberry slices, to garnish
Pop the lemons into the microwave for about 30 seconds before slicing them, this will enable you to squeeze plenty of juice from them. Slice in half, squeeze the juice and set it aside. Hull and slice the strawberries and puree them, then push the puree through a sieve. Add the strawberry puree to the lemon juice. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water and add it to the lemon and strawberry mixture and mix well. Add the mineral water, 500mls at a time, and take a sip from a spoon to check for a nice and tangy, but slightly sweet and flavoursome taste. Add more mineral water to top up your pitcher. Add a splash of Bitters and slices of lemon, strawberry and mint sprigs. Chill thoroughly before serving.
For those with an interest in kitchen gardening as well as cooking, I wish you a year of plentiful gathering and inspired and happy cooking. Thank you for your friendship and support during the year.
Do you have a jardin potager? What are your resolutions for 2012?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.