Category Archives: garden + vintage linens

Spring garden and severe storms…

My vegie patch has been going well this spring – I’ve counted 36 tomatoes on the plants so far – and also coming along well is the corn (my first try growing it) and there’s eggplant, pumpkin, figs, plenty of pawpaws, lots of different herbs, nasturtiums, daisies and sunflowers on their way for the bees.

Unfortunately, there are also severe storms predicted and after the tomatoes copped some hail on Sunday, this morning I decided it safest to cover up the vegie patch with netting as best I could, being a short person! (I was also perhaps channelling Nonno Anni and his enthusiastic netting that he used to do for his fig trees! That said, hopefully the tent pegs and clothes pegs I’ve got holding it all in place do work.)

Really hoping the severity of the storms forecast doesn’t eventuate so that not just the garden but people and animals stay safe too. I’ve used this fine, white netting that is best for protection from hail as well as hungry visitors. (The other netting pictured that is black with larger holes is not very effective and it’s cruel as birds and flying foxes can’t see it as well and also get caught up in it and break their wings.)

I also wanted to say congratulations to everyone in Melbourne and thank you for your forbearance! Well done!! You’ve stayed in my thoughts and am so pleased for you all. Enjoy coming out of lockdown! As the Nonnas would say, Sempre avanti. Zoë xx

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Autumn light

Crunchy footsteps, the bright scent of citrus blossoms and red leaves…
such a lovely time of year.

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sunshine and shadow…

About twenty years ago, my mother gave me a little sapling that had sprung up beneath a big, spreading tree in her backyard. She’s been gone for a long while now but that sapling is now a big, spreading tree in my backyard and to sit under it and look up to the sunlight trickling through the leaves is just magic.

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a basil forest…

Amazing how a much longed-for pour of rain a few days ago has brought about a basil forest in the vegie patch! So, it’s all things basil for a bit with this beautiful harvest… homemade pizza with basil, tomato and mozzarella, basil pesto with orecchiette and crispy prosciutto, as well as bruschetta with basil, tomato and balsamic. (Any other ideas for basil are most welcome. As is a little more rain all round for everyone in Australia!) And I have to say that Costa Georgiadis’ gardening tip of pinching the tops off when harvesting basil is a great one. I reckon it has quadrupled the crop. 🌿  

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Water… and figs

Our two birdbaths and various ground dishes about the place are being visited and almost emptied every day by both day and night visitors to the garden. 😊🐦🐝🐞🐾

And the fig update is… the tree net has certainly worked with several of these beauties about ready for picking. We have tank water and are using it sparingly so it’s incredible how generous nature can still be despite the heat, the dry, the smoke and hot winds. Please send us all a decent drop of rain soon… but not floods!! 🌿

(Previous fig tree post.)

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When the past catches you…

Doing things like an Italian you’d never have thought you would when growing up…

“Putting on the tree net to protect the figs.”

Yes, I did this last weekend and those familiar with Mezza Italiana will know there was a time I would never have imagined myself doing so. (Not sure my modest tree and net is any match for Nonno Anni’s past efforts! Although I think Roger’s makeshift stake of a star picket and old piece of hose is in keeping with honouring making do and not letting anything go to waste – no matter how it looks!) 😁😊💛

 

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Small moments of beauty

Granny Maddalena harvesting from her vegie garden before going inside to cook for all the family. Sometimes it’s the simplest things…

#worldkindessday

 

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Australian spring…

Some lovely, spring, vegie patch colours…

and a fellow pretty happy catching insects.

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Aunty Fred’s orchids…

First flowering after five years in wait… orchids from a cutting my godmother, ‘Aunty Fred’ gave me from her garden, from a cutting that was from her mother’s garden.

Have these lovelies on my desk today to remind me that some things can be a long while in the creating but hopefully something worth all the work will emerge in the end.

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Backyard summer crop…

Returned to the vegie patch after a spell to find the tomato plants now trees and despite the inattention I must be forgiven as they continue to be generous in the summer heat (the cucumbers trying their best also!!) Always a thrill to harvest such beauties from the backyard…

              

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First of the purple snow peas…

…keeping up with the eggplants (see previous post). Not sure what it is but there seems to be quite a bit of purple produce creeping into the vegie patch this summer. This is the first time I’ve grown these heirloom variety purple snow peas so (apart from eating one to try first up straight from the garden) I’m thinking of putting them in a salad or perhaps a stirfry.

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in the vegie patch…

The first of the eggplants are starting to emerge…

I’m already thinking melanzane involtini, eggplant lasagne, baked, stuffed eggplant and slices grilled on the barbecue and preserved in smoked salt and olive oil!

 

Related article: Involtini di melanzane al forno…

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pomodori verdi ~ green tomatoes…

green-tomatoesUnexpectedly found these beauties growing behind another plant in a pot on the balcony. Completely self-sown! There must be at least thirty cherry tomatoes on the plant. A lovely, surprise present from nature. Can’t wait for them to ripen!

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Stitching, thread and pine needles…

Came across this lovely linen, hand towel, circa 1940s/1950s, hand-embroidered to be a keepsake from Norfolk Island. (The picture frame is circa 1920s that I already had and happened to be a lucky fit!)

As some may know from my books, collecting hand-sewn, vintage linens began for me with pieces I inherited from my Australian and Italian grandmothers. Continuing to collect such pieces crept up on me and took hold after I found myself sorting through a trestle table of vintage linens at a market stall in L’Aquila.

Good sellers of vintage linens will always have them in neat, clean condition, usually ironed and often starched too. I love to wonder about who may have taken the time and effort to have made that item many decades before. Perhaps this one was sewn by someone snug inside on a windy, wintry day on Norfolk Island!

{Linen is from Geordie Lane, Maleny.}

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Spaghettini with lemon, chilli, garlic and herbs…

lemon-basil-and-chilli-spaghettini

 

Looking forward to cooking spaghettini with these lovely fresh ingredients!

The ‘dosa spaghetti’ implement for measuring out dry spaghetti portions comes from a little shop in Orvieto, Umbria.

Still often cook too much though…

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from Italia to Australia…

glory-box-calabriaAnother piece from my Italian great-grandmother, Bisnonna Francesca’s glory box… (Cesca in my books). This hand-embroidered pillow sham from 1920s Calabria travelled in the hull of a ship across the world to a new life in Australia and remained tucked away for many decades… a keepsake of another place and life that might have been.

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flowers and the scent of memories…

carnationsThe first carnations are in bloom in the backyard and have a lovely scent…
I could smell their perfume on the breeze as soon as I walked outside. Decided to grow some of these to remember my great-grandmother, Charlotte who had them in her front garden. (Charlotte got a small mention in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar when I wrote of her scones, along with Granny Maddalena’s frittata, revealing a bit of their everyday lives through what they cooked.)

Perhaps carnations are considered somewhat old-fashioned at present but I never worry about fashion when it comes to things like flowers, to me they’re all lovely and bring a little happiness…

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first fig for the season…

first-figUsually we end up eating most of these picked straight from the tree in the backyard but perhaps this year some might last long enough to cook with…

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with needle and thread…

Another piece from the chest of drawers containing linens sewn by my grandmothers…  since it was last a picture of my Italian great-grandmother’s initialled linen pillow cover (or pillow sham) from 1920s Calabria, it seemed fitting this time to take out this doily with embroidery hand-stitched by my Australian grandmother, circa 1950s in Brisbane – mezza italiana/mezza australiana….
I currently have it on top of a duchess, as in furniture (now there’s a term that possibly makes me sound Iike I’m about a hundred years old!)

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Late winter rain bringing the lemon tree back to life…

lemon leavesChatting over the fence my Sicilian neighbour, who is in her eighties, recommended to put a lemon leaf under polpette (those Italian slightly egg-shaped meatballs) when frying them in olive oil in the pan – not necessarily to eat the leaf but for it to impart flavour during cooking. I haven’t tried that yet however seeing these fresh young leaves I might need to give it a go.

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From the glory box of my bisnonna…

Francesca Carrozza initials

The initials of my great-grandmother, bisnonna Francesca Carrozza, hand-stitched onto this linen pillow cover in 1920s Calabria for her glory box that was to end up in 1930s Australia. I didn’t fully appreciate these linens when I was young but they have since become precious to me.

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Last of the summer basil…

Pizza MargheritaTime for an Italian classic…a take on Pizza Margherita.

I can’t claim any credit for this one – it all goes to onorario italiano Roger who has perfected pizza dough alla casa.

For the topping this time…San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and the last of the summer basil from the vegie patch.

Buon appetito!

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Backyard harvest…

grape harvestFrom the Isabella vine that grows over the pergola, some of the grapes harvested this year (in one of Nanna Francesca’s salad bowls circa 1960s/70s.) Each year the grapevine yields enough to make about half a dozen bottles of wine…a modest, homemade vintage but a tiny bit of Italy in an Australian suburban backyard.

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shelling peas…

PeasEach day the peas in the vegie patch are getting plumper and I can’t wait until they are ready to be picked, not that any will make it to the pot. Since childhood, I’ve loved fresh peas straight from the garden. And peas seemed to have worked their way into both my books: Nanna Francesca, her mother and grandmother in Calabria, sitting on their balcony overlooking the sea, shelling peas and feeling the breeze as lightning licked the horizon… And the pea patch Nonno Anni grew in his New Farm backyard in my childhood… Even now, though both my grandparents are gone, when I look at my own, much smaller, pea patch, I’m reminded of happy memories being a child among their pea plants that were taller than I was – my own little forest. Winter sun warm on my shoulders as I would make my way along the rows, eating the peas, my grandparents not far away…

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Rosen in Deutschland…

Beutelsbach flowersSpring in Australia starts today {although the equinox is a few weeks off yet}. I wish I’d grown these myself but I took this picture during the northern hemisphere’s spring – in Beutelsbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where I was doing research for a future book. It seemed every window box and garden were growing beautiful red flowers.

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a lovely spot for lunch…

Lavendula cafeLavandula – the Swiss Italian farm at Shepherds Flat not far from Hepburn Springs in Victoria, Australia. The air was filled with the scent from fields of lavender growing nearby and a friendly flock of geese (not on the menu!) kept us company.
http://www.lavandula.com.au/

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the melanzane are here….

black capsicum, basil, eggplant and silverbeet picked from the vegie patch… to eggplant parmigiana.

Eggplant and capsciumEggplant parmigiana

Related articlethe melanzane are coming…

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After recent rains…

the coffee flowers are beginning to bud…

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Spring greens…

I know it’s a modest harvest yet I was thrilled to pick the first greens grown in our kitchen garden and make a salad for lunch with red and purple lettuce, parsley, basil and stevia leaves. I also added some cherry tomatoes (from the farmer’s market not the vegie patch, though I noticed the tomatoes I planted have some baby ones starting to form!)

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an edible bouquet…

il bouquet perfetto for Valentine’s Day
that by evening may become
dinner for two.

Recipe for carciofi alla romana…

Take four fresh artichokes.
Peel the tough outer leaves and remove the choke,
then trim the stem to about six centimetres.

Immerse in hot olive oil until golden brown and crisp.
{The artichoke will open like a flower.}
Serve piping hot, seasoned with salt and pepper.

On the side of the plate add a dollop of mascarpone
mixed with some lemon zest and
a couple of lemon wedges to squeeze over the carciofi.

Buon San Valentino!

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Next step in the coffee process… dehusking.

Each bean must be done by hand. Grazie mille to R for a great ‘dehusking’ effort over many nights in front of the television!!  {Many more than pictured here.}

Left – dried beans (seeds) from inside the coffee cherries.
Centre – the outer husks once removed.
Far right – the green beans…

… ready for roasting next!

Related articles…
Coffee bean harvest… (zoeboccabella.com)
Coffee beans drying in the sun… (zoeboccabella.com)

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Coffee bean harvest…

It’s coffee harvest time again… these we picked from our backyard tree. Then, by hand, R extracted the beans from inside the coffee cherries and the beans are now spread out on wide sieves drying.

Next comes the {lengthy!} husking process followed by the roasting, the grinding, and then the drinking!

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