Micro / Macro | 01

I’m really excited to share this new series with you all tonight! This is something that I’ve been brewing up for a while now and it combines two of my favourite hobbies: growing things and macro plant photography.

I’ve penned the new series Micro / Macro, where I feature the beautiful delicacy of mother nature, zoomed in and out. I am always in awe of how fine and superb plants are, when you look up close, you’ll notice the intricate details, the tiny hairs… it’s amazing. This series will allow me to share the wonder I have for plants with you, as well as giving me an opportunity to improve my photography!

So here goes, the inaugural post of the series is kicked off with the lovely jacaranda plant:

jacarandajacaranda

Genus: Jacaranda | Family: Bignoniaceae

The jacaranda is known for it’s stunning purple-blue foliage that blooms in late Spring/early Summer. I was surprised to learn that it’s actually native to Central and South America.

This seedling originally gifted from a colleague, has been under my care for a few months now. It’s been going on strong since I transplanted it, much to my surprise. I’ve been so mesmerised by the tenderness of its new leaf growth every few weeks. You can’t blame me for not being able to resist taking photos of it before it had the chance to unfurl, right? :)

I hope you enjoyed the first post of Micro / Macro! Don’t be afraid to let me know if there’s a particular plant you’d like me to feature, I’ll do my best to find it.

Have a great start of the week everyone! x Helen

Growing Your Own Potatoes

If you’ve been reading my past few garden updates, you’ve probably noticed that I’m attempting to grow some potatoes!

This is the first time I’ve tried this, so it’s been a great learning experience so far. I started by doing some online research to understand how to get started. It turns out that it’s pretty easy. You need to find yourself some ‘seed potatoes’, which are essentially potatoes that have ‘eyes’ (i.e. they’ve started to sprout tubes) and are certified disease-free.

I recommend purchasing seed potatoes from my favourite Aussie online seller, Green Harvest, or you can try letting your standard potatoes ‘go to seed’ naturally.

seed potatoes

I decided to try the latter option because it’s more exciting! I purchased a few small organic Kipfler potatoes from the Marrickville food market and let them seed.

You’ll notice when they’re seeding when they look uber deformed and wart-like. From memory, this took around a month, but I also got a bit lazy and could have certainly planted them out a bit sooner than I did.

seed potatoes

Once you have these visible sprouted ‘eyes’, you can plant them out. It appears you can do this in two ways: either plant the potato whole into the ground or slice the eyes off as pieces and just plant the eyes.

I chose to go the former and planted them whole in a large container. Plant them around 10-20cm deep - I recommend if the larger the size, the deeper they should go - and 20cm apart from each other.

seed potatoes

Now you can pile the soil back over the potatoes and water in. Make sure you don’t fill the container completely with soil to the brim - I’ll explain why below.

growing potatoes

You’ll notice that the potatoes will begin to sprout and shoot out leaves quite fast. Once this happens and there is visible foliage above the soil, begin piling more soil to cover the foliage.

By piling more earth over the plant, you create a sort of mound burying the leaf growth and minimising sun exposure. This reduces the potential of producing toxic ‘green’ potatoes due to sun overexposure.

Continue doing this as it keeps sprouting, the more you bury into the soil the better. Eventually you’ll run out of container room for more soil, at which point just leave it be and let it go wild!

growing potatoes

That’s where I am now with my potato growing! It’s still growing more leaves. I water it in well about once a week and I keep it where it can get some partial sun in the mornings.

It looks to be doing really well so far, look at how green it is! I hope this is a good sign.

Apparently now I just let it grow out and it will eventually the leaves will wilt and die off. Once this happens, it’s a sign that I can begin foraging for new potatoes beneath the soil.

I can’t wait to see how it goes. I’ll blog about this when I get to that stage and hopefully have a whole load of homegrown Kipfler potatoes. Fingers crossed! 

Have any of you tried growing your own potatoes? I’d love to hear how you went! 

Mamasita, Melbourne

mamsita melbourne

Back late last year, when we ventured out to Melbourne to tour around and I was suffering from the worst and longest cough I’d ever had in my life, we dined at Mamasita!

You know one of those relatively new restaurants that your friends on Facebook rave on about?

Yeah, it was one of those, so obviously I didn’t have high hopes for it. Seriously, how often do hyped up restaurants actually meet expectations? Hardly ever, in my experience. Particularly when it comes to Mexican cuisine, seeing as I haven’t had a great deal of “awesome” Mexican food in Australia.

mamsita nachos

But. I was wrong. And super happy to be wrong, because the food packed a punch! 

In my eyes, this was the best Mexican I’ve had locally. The prices weren’t overly inflated, the decor was clean and shiny, the staff were lovely and prompt… and the best thing, we arrived at 5.45pm (as recommended by my friend Jo - thanks for the tip girl) and we JUST beat the evening rush. 

When we arrived, Mamasita was already fairly busy, I’m quite sure we were one of the last few to be seated without having to wait. But by the time we left around two hours later….. the queue was ridiculously long. It trailed all the way down the stair case from the restaurant down to the street entrance, and along the foot path. INSANE! I probably should have a taken a photo, damn!

mamasita

This dish in the photo just above was my favourite. Luckily it’s still on the current menu so I managed to find the name of it: Buñuelos de garbanzos.

Think Chickpea fritters, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini & jalapeño herb sauce… and all of this in your mouth at the same time? I normally can’t do much spice but the herb sauce wasn’t too extreme, so the zing was just perfect!

Now this Mole rojo con pato was rather memorable. Why? I couldn’t really eat much of it (hate it when that happens), as I found it too spicy for me. Edit: Gareth did NOT love this one, I thought he did. But he typically has a better memory and he tells me he “hated it”, as it didn’t taste good. I still don’t know what ‘mole’ is in Spanish, will need to google this for future avoidance.

mamasita mexico food

Now moving to better tasting things: I remember this quesadilla being really nice and not too cheesy, Quesadilla de Huitlacoche. It contained mushrooms, cheese, herbs and salsa with layers of soft tortilla. So simple but so good:

mexican foodmamasita

Ahhhhh, and how could I forget to mention the Sangria? Yes, I know, I had a bad cough and was very sick… but it’s not like I’m in Melbourne all the time, so I dove right in! ;)

I highly recommend this dig, I would definitely go again if I’m ever in Melbourne next. I would avoid the Mole dish and have loads more sangria! Meanwhile, I’m going to be dreaming and savouring about Mexican food some more as I’ll be in the US in September, yay! Mexican food trucks with delicious and large sub-$10 tacos and burritos! #comefillthybelly

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

What’s Growing? | June 2014

tulips

It’s incredible to think that we’re half way through 2014. I know I keep saying it, but seriously, in a blink of an eye, it’ll be spring soon!!

The garden’s been plugging along quite well lately without too much hands on care required, which is fantastic. It gives me a bit of a downtime from the garden and I can just passively admire it from afar.

I spent some time taking a heap of photos as things have begun to bloom and given I finally have a macro lens, this update is going to be so much fun and pretty! By the way, that photo featured up top is one of my many pots of tulip bulbs, isn’t it exciting?

Apart from tulips, I’ve also got one set of irises that I’m growing and they’re surely but slowly beginning to sprout. They’re so cute:

iris

Okay and before I go into my usual spiel of what I’ve been doing in the garden…. are you ready for this?

MY ORCHIDS HAVE BLOOMED - AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! #sodamnexcited

I am simply jumping for joy.

These Cymbidium Orchids are just gorgeous, like pieces of art! The flowers last a couple of months, so the plan is to cut them in a few weeks so I can admire them constantly indoors :)

orchidorchid

Okay… now that I’ve finished gushing, off to the more pragmatic updates of the month.

In June, I harvested some peppermint, bok choy leaves and parsley. There’s not much else since I don’t have many edibles growing at the moment. 

And remember the broad beans I tried growing for the umpteenth time? Another fail so I’m just going to let it die off and maybe try again when I have some proper land one day. I still haven’t figured out what I’m doing wrong with them but I can’t be bothered since I can concentrate on other things that are doing well.

As for my pot of greens, I’m super happy that the kale seedlings ended up perking up over the course of June. I thought they were going to die off originally since they weren’t looking very healthy, but hey presto (on the left, next to the large mustard leaves):

lettuce

Before I forget, check out the potatoes! I originally planted some seed potatoes in May and look how they’ve grown. Pretty incredible. This is the first time experimenting with spuds, so it’s exciting.

After the first green shoots sprouted, everyone was telling me to add more soil to the tub. You do this by piling more earth over the plant to create a sort of mound, essentially burying over the leaf growth.

By increasing the soil here, you are minimising sun exposure on the developing potatoes, thereby reducing the production of toxic, ‘green’ potatoes.

growing-potatoes

As for planting things, June equated to more bulbs and something ultra special:

  • Fringed Valery Gergiev tulip bulbs
  • Synaeda Show tulip bulbs
  • …Pitcher plants!

Say hello to this beautiful fellow. I decided to give some small pitcher plants a go and purchased two species.

I’m really not sure how well they’re going to grow but I’m hoping for the best and trying to make sure that their environments are constantly damp. If they survive this month, then I think it’s going to be good, so we’ll see.

pitcher-plant

This month, I have a short to do list. I plan to grow some Coriander and hopefully, Hypoestes from seeds. It’s been a while since I’ve done seed growing - I remember when I used to do this nearly weekly over spring last year. Maybe just a bit too obsessed? Ha!

Other than that, more bulbs planting this month and a general clean up of the garden. Things are getting a bit windswept due to weather lately and I’ve been a tad lazy.

I’ll try to carve some time out to harvest some more aloe vera too. When I did this for the first time several months back, I cut the plants down quite a bit so it’s taken a while for more leaves to grow. It’s looking good recently so I think it’s time for another buzzcut:

aloe-vera

I also have a single, gorgeous rose that is just beginning to open. It’s too pretty not to share, so here she is!

I’ll be snipping her off this week and popping her into a vase, so I’ll be able to cherish her from my desk :)

rose

And to top of my monthly garden update, who could forget about my succulents?

I adore every single one of them and they’ve all been growing and propagating like crazy.

succulentssucculents

So.. how does your garden grow??

What’s Growing? is a monthly post that tracks the progress of my balcony garden in Sydney, Australia.

It’s also my contribution to The Garden Share Collective! Check out the wonderful gardens of all the members!

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