First harvest

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This week was a pretty special for me – I picked my first lot of ingredients from my little vegetable patch and used them to freshen-up a delicious dinner . . .

Exactly one month ago I bought some bok choy and choy sum seedlings and now, not only are they ready for harvest, but I’m worried they will go to seed before I get a chance to use them all.

I can’t believe how quickly they grew. Our warm days and cool autumn nights in the Australian tropics create the perfect conditions for them power ahead.

All I had to do was ensure they had plenty of compost to start them off and a good watering each morning. Talk about great value for minimum effort!

As you can see in the pick at the top of this post, I harvested a nice bunch of choy sum (middle) and a chunky, white-stemmed bok choy (right) from my garden.

You’ll also notice a couple of eggplant.

These were off a bush that had survived amongst all the weeds right through the summer months, when day time temperatures soar and humidity levels hit 100 per cent.

It was only just hanging in there and was suffering from neglect. However, a quick prune, some Blood and Bone fertiliser, and regular watering and it has bounced back.

Now both bok choy and choy sum are members of the cabbage family, which means the cabbage moths and caterpillars love them. To control these pests, I coat mine with low toxic derris dust every 10 days (its made from the root of the derris plant) and it does a pretty good job.

Sure, the odd grasshopper still has a bit of a chew here and there, but I don’t mind.

I’m growing them for my own table, not a supermarket shelf, so they don’t have to be perfect. Let’s face it, if I have to spray it with a chemical so harsh that bugs won’t come near it, I probably should stay away from it too.

Besides, bugs are part and parcel to growing stuff in the tropics. You can’t get away from them.

So what to do with these three ingredients? I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend cooking the day I picked them. My busy after-work schedule meant dinner would have to be something quick and easy.

In the end the decision was a no-brainer: my beautiful, fresh ingredients were just begging to be thrown in a wok and stir fried!

Here’s the recipe

It pays to cut everything up first so you can concentrate on . . . well, stir frying! It’s important that you keep moving the ingredients around during the whole cooking process.

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Honey soy chicken with Asian greens

Ingredients:

500 grams free range chicken breasts, sliced into strips

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

2 carrots, chopped into batons

1 bunch bok choy roughly chopped

big handful of choy sum leaves, roughly chopped

2 Lebanese eggplants, chopped into 1cm thick pieces

teaspoon of grated ginger

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

450 gram packet of hokkien noodles

good lug of peanut oil

dash of sesame oil

What to do:

Put your wok on high heat and lightly toast sesame seeds then set them aside. Boil a jug of water and pour over hokkien noodles until covered and let stand for two minutes before draining and separating.

Back to the wok and pour in peanut oil and sesame oil, then add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until browned.

Add honey, soy sauce, eggplant and carrot and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add choy sum and bok choy and cook for another 1 minute, or until semi-wilted.

You don’t want your vegetables cooked all the way through or they will go limp and mushy. They need to be still slightly raw in the centre so they have a hint of crispness.

Throw noodles into the wok and mix everything together. Serve onto plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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So there you have it. A great way to use some lovely, fresh ingredients from your garden.

I know one bok choy, a handful of choy sum and two eggplants are just a small step towards growing your own food, but first steps always are.

It’s the start of the journey, and I’m excited to see where it will lead.

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