Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Olive tree diseases and their control

Listed are the four main diseases which can affect olive trees in Cyprus and the Mediterranean area:

Olive Knot - (Pseudamonas Savastanoi) are rough swellings caused by bacterial infection and which can develop on wounded area on the trees branches, trunk or leaves. Cut out any diseased area at the first signs of the disease. This disease and all the others mentioned can be reduced by providing good growing conditions and by regular pruning to maintain airflow and sunlight entry to all parts of the tree. Avoid pruning if wet weather is expected and ensure all pruning tools are disinfected before use.

Olive Fruit Fly - fruit fly larvae feed on olives, if you want organic olives you have to accept some damage or the alternative is inorganic chemicals. However, there are some experiments currently being undertaken to develop biological traps which will suit organic growers.

Brown or Black Olive Scale - caused by insects which excrete a sticky and shiny scale on leaves which reduces the trees productivity. Cut out damaged areas and burn and deter the insects by pruning to keep an open and airy structure to the tree. This problem is however very rare in healthy well pruned trees.


Peacock Spot also known as Olive Leaf Spot - A common disease caused by a fungus which leaves sooty blotches on leaves which turn into black circular spots, causing the leaves to prematurely fall. Burn all diseased leaves and ensure you collect all fallen leaves to burn.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Pruning Mature Olive Trees

The Cypriot tradition is to prune mature olive trees, although this can be done any time of the year, after the November/December harvest. The goals of pruning are to promote healthy growth; improve the qaullity and quantity of olive yields; maximize light  entry to the tree by thinning out and to cut out damaged, diseased or overlapping branches.

We have just pruned our trees and after asking for advice and checking  information available we came to the conclusion that whatever way you undertake the task the tree will grow regardless without much ill affect. You will need good pruning shears and a sharp hand saw to undertake the job.

Our pruning's are not wasted, we allow the branches to dry out over the summer months and use the small branches and twigs for kindling and the larger ones for firewood.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Frugal green tomato curry

We being the frugal and thrifty types do not like waste of any kind, especially when it comes to food, be it cooked or uncooked. Some of our thrifty practices are cooking from scratch, turning leftovers into soups, baking our own bread, cakes and biscuits and making whatever we can from jams, to wine to marmalade.

Yesterday we cleared the last of the tomato plants from the vegetable beds and ended up with quite a few green tomatoes. The most obvious use is to make them into a chutney or pickle but after searching the internet we found a variety of recipes to use our green tomatoes. The recipes ranged from a green tomato bread to a cake or a curry. We decided to  adapt the curry recipes to one which made use of the ingredients we have available.

The ingredients we used were:

Enough olive oil for frying
4 garlic cloves - chopped finely
1 onion finely chopped
2 finely chopped peppers
250g of cubed potato
250g cored, green tomato chopped finely
Salt to taste
Curry powder depending on the hotness you prefer
Chopped coriander

Method:

Heat the olive oil and fry the chopped garlic and onion until golden brown

Add all the other ingredients (except for the coriander) and cook for 5 minutes - stirring occasionally

Pour in a cup of water and stir, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes

Once cooled slightly stir in the chopped coriander and serve with rice. A tasty meal on a cold evening.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sowing beans and peas

It was a chilly start to the day but it turned into a beautiful morning and we have been busy in the garden planting four deep beds with peas and beans. We added a sprinkling of lime to each bed, as legumes like a pH of between 6-7, and the soil is much improved in structure with the addition of manure over the last eighteen months. Straw mulches on previous crops have also broken down to improve what was a very clayey soil. The soil is now quite friable and very moist from the rain we have had recently, all of which should help the legumes germinate quickly.

We planted two beds of broad beans, one with french beans and one with peas. Dwarf French beans are usually sown in March but we are experimenting with a November sowing and we will have to see how they develop.

Broad beans are sown 4-5cm deep and 25cm apart in all directions and should germinate in 7-14 days Stakes are needed to support the plants as with the weight of the pods the plants become quite heavy. The tops are usually pinched out when sufficient pods have formed to deter blackfly who love the soft tops. If blackfly do become a problem spray with soapy water, using a eco washing-up liquid. Harvesting is usually undertaken in 140-175 days, small pods can be enjoyed whole or left to mature and dried for later use. Yields usually average 5kg from a 3 meter row.

Dwarf French beans are sown 2.5cm deep, 15cm apart and in rows 45cm apart. It helps to mulch the bean plants once a reasonable size to help retain moisture. The beans are usually harvested in 56-70 days after sowing when the pods are about 8cm long. Regular picking helps to extend harvesting . Yields are usually 6kg from a 3 meter row.

Peas are sown 2.5cm deep and 7.5cm in all directions. Peas enjoy a fertile, deep worked and good draining soil. Ours must be ideal, as we got a very good crop last year. Netting needs to provide to support the peas. Harvesting is usually in 12-16 weeks and regular picking extends the harvest. You can usually expect a 4.5kg harvest from a 3m row.

Remember - a garden is a good friend you can visit everyday.

Our seeds are in and now we await the wonder of nature. Back into the garden this afternoon to sow one more bed of peas, one of dwarf French beans.and some onion sets for spring onions.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Visit to Olive Mill

We took our olive harvest to the mill yesterday, along with quite a few other people, and waited for four hours for our olives to be processed. However, the time passed very quickly and we enjoyed watching the olives being processed and the smell of the mill iwas wonderful. We didn't know there were so many different varieties of olives and they ranged from very large to some very tiny ones which apparently produce a good ratio of olive oil.. Apparently there are thousands of cultivars and in Italy alone over 300 different varieties have been identified.

The weight of our olives was 333kg and we got 50lt of olive oil, with a ratio of 6kg to 1lt which was not as good as last year but the oil looks a lot darker and tastes better. We were so tired when we got home, that a proper taste test to compare 2010 to 2011 will have to wait until the morning. With 50lt and some 20lt remaining from last year we should be self sufficient in olive oil even if we get a very poor harvest next year.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Olive Harvest 2011

We started our 2011 olive harvest on Tuesday 22nd November We learnt quite a few lessons from our first harvest last year. We started last year using our hands to harvest olives but after a short while, and after many cuts and scratches, we purchased two hand held rakes. These permit a quicker and less painless harvest but the only drawback is a lot of time is needed after harvesting to remove the twigs, leaves and detach olives still attached to small branches.

However, we will not clean the olives as thoroughly as last year, when we removed virtually every leaf, only to find when we got to the mill that some people hardly clean their's at all as the machinery removes nearly all the debris before processing.

Another lesson we learnt since last year was to not pick olives that had fallen from the tree, as on investigation we have found that the olives start deteriorating quite quickly after falling and this effects the acidity level of the olive oil.

The biggest plus this harvest has been our purchase of good quality netting, Last year we used a thick plastic sheet and found that that the wind kept blowing the sheet in all over the place and however careful we were it kept tearing and splitting.

We started on Tuesday morning at 8.00 and finished 16.00 and harvested 3 trees which are in a field some 200 meters from the house. We were unable to drive any closer than 75 meters away, so this entailed a lot of carrying from the car and back again. We harvested 140kg and with the ladder, netting and everything else- we spent quite sometime getting the car loaded. This was a big increase on last years harvest when we only got 3kg from the same trees which must have been harvested by somebody by mistake or more likely deliberately.

We started Wednesday morning at 7.00 on the four trees in our garden and finished harvesting at 16.00 but had harvested 171kg,

In 2010 the four tress in our garden produced 214kg so this years total was 34kg less. But each year some trees provide a reduced harvest and others are more laden. For example, one tree had 93kg last year but only  16kg this year, whilst another only had 3kg last year but provided 24kg this year.

We started the cleaning process but will have to finish off the remaining half before going to the mill tomorrow.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Baking Day

We started baking this morning at 9.00 am and have just finished. We made 18 olive rolls, 13 sesame topped rolls, a chocolate cake, 11 Cypriot squash pastries and 5 Cornish pasties.

We have already eaten two delicious Cornish pasties, so there are only three in the picture. A hard mornings work but lots of rolls to keep us in lunches for quite some time.

The recipe for Cypriot squash pastries was in an earlier blog - for the recipe go to http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/cypriot-squash-pastries-recipe.html The rolls were made using our bread recipe - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-bread-and-pitta-bread.html. The Cornish pasties were made with shortcrust pasty and have a filling of minced lamb, cubed potato, carrot and pumpkin with sliced onions and seasoning. The chocolate cake is made with cocoa powder and will be sliced in two to add a chocolate filling.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Build a wood fired earth oven (Part 1)

We started construction of a wood fired oven by building a square dry wall base up to waist height to make using the oven easier. The stones had to be transported by wheelbarrow about 100m and it took quite a few trips to get enough stone and quite some time to select stones with a flat enough sides to use.. The top layer was leveled off by using a spirit level placed across each wall on a long beam and although it's not perfectly level - it's pretty level.

The next step was to fill the center with more stone (thankfully of any shape or size) and any other available rubble. Once the center was filled to within 25cm from the top, the next layer was added which was mixture of straw and soil, mixed to a mud, to provide an insulation layer. Small stones were used to fill in any gaps in the walls and finally thick stone tiles were placed into the center to provide the oven floor. The gap between the oven floor and wall edges were filled to the same level as the oven base with a mud mixture.

We will now leave Part 2 of the oven construction until the Spring which will allow time for settling and when it will be warm enough to start building the earth oven, allowing the mud mixture to dry well..

Wood fired ovens (fourno's or firin's) are seen throughout Cyprus and have been used for many centuries. They are fired-up traditionally using olive and carob wood and once white hot the ashes and charcoal are swept to the edges of the oven. Once up to temperature the oven is ready to use for the next four to ten hours. Traditionally used to bake bread or kleftico (translated as stolen meat) which is a lamb which has been basted in olive oil and oregano and then cooked with garlic, onions and new potatoes. A wood fired oven reaches 370c and this high temperature when baking bread causes dough to rise very rapidly producing a wonderfully thick crust but at the same time trapping air bubbles inside to produce a light and very airy bread. And the even heat is ideal for cooking kleftico and other casseroles or to provide fast pizza.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rain, rain and more rain

We have had rain showers overnight for the past few nights but it started raining hard at 10 this morning  and has now been constant for nearly five hours. Everything is sodden and puddles are starting to form as the ground cannot absorb anymore water but the fruit trees are getting a thorough watering.

The olive picking season is upon us, so the olives will be dust free and well washed but it will be at least a week of dry and windy weather before we will be able to get started as the soil will need time to dry out.

I was planning on sowing, broad beans, peas, chickpeas and french beans this morning and was just going to start when the rain began. At least the soil should be nice and moist when sowing can be done.

We started building an earth oven yesterday by erecting a dry stone wall base up to waist height which will, once filled in, provide the floor for the oven to be built on. The base is half way built and transporting the stone by wheelbarrow from about 100 meters away was tiring. There is plenty of stone available nearby but finding the right shape with flat bases is the difficult part but the wall looks good.

Hopefully, the rain will stop soon but it's so dark and dismal outside that I think we have a few more hours of rain to come.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Red Pumpkin Soup

Red pumpkins are in season at the moment in Cyprus and besides making the lovely traditional squash pastries they can be used to make a delicious soup.



Ingredients needed to serve 2 are:

(1)  500g of diced red pumpkin
(2)  1 large onion sliced
(3)  Salt & pepper to taste, a bay leaf and some lemon juice
(4)  A quarter cup of milk and 2 cups of water
(5)  Olive oil for frying

Method:

(1)  Heat the oil and fry the onions until softened
(2)  Add the red pumpkin and the rest of the ingredients
(3)  Cook on a low heat until the red pumpkin is soft enough to mash
(4)  Add additional water to achieve a thick soup consistency

Chopping Wood

We are approaching our second winter in Cyprus and our main source of heating for the living room and kitchen is a wood burning stove which we used for about 6-8 weeks last winter. The heat generated was remarkable. We even boiled a kettle every evening for a hot drink.


We bought a wood stove for a number of reasons. Living rurally there is lots of wood to collect locally, especially when the olive trees are being trimmed, and this is a sustainable heat source.  We have also been busy collecting wood which has resulted from the Council knocking down some of the derelict houses in the village and we have managed to get home, using our wheelbarrow, some really large roof beams. Collecting wood becomes an obsession and whenever we go for a walk we return with some wood. We probably have enough wood for the few next winters. 


Using a wood burning stove, and probably most importantly, is largely carbon neutral, as growing trees takes in carbon dioxide which is then released when the wood rots or is burnt.
Cleaning the stove daily is a bit of a chore but it soon becomes part of your daily routine, as is reloading it with paper and kindling ready for lighting. The ash generated is not wasted as it is useful in the garden. It comprises of about 10% potash, 1% phosphate and has traces of iron, copper and zinc but the largest component is at 25% calcium carbonate which is a common liming material. Adding ash to acidic soil, like ours, is of great benefit and raises it alkalinity.
Stove technology has really moved on and modern stoves burn very efficiency and our model burns at 72% efficiency. Modern stoves get the most out of your fuel by burning the smoke. To achieve this efficiency and best smokeless performance go for a stove with a turbo baffle or similar mechanism which creates a process called tertiary burning. The baffle directs the smoke through the fire again and again, creating an internal circular gas flow that continually mixes the exhaust gases with fresh oxygen. This mix is drawn through the base of the fire allowing the gases to reach temperatures that would not normally be reached, and then they re-burn further adding to the heat of the stove. You get remarkable bright blue, green, red and orange flames as this process occurs which is better than watching TV on most nights and very relaxing.
We purchased a Horse Flame HF-717 Elessar cast iron stove with a glass front which produces 18.5kW or 63,000 BTU and weighs 196kg. It's a large unit but it means we can use quite large logs with no problem. The suppliers installed it and it took four men to remove it from the trailer van and move it to it's location. We had the flue pipe outlet installed high up on the wall directly into the chimney breast which means two metres of piping are in the room but this provides added heat as the pipe gets very hot. 


The stove we bought, although efficient, gets through a lot of wood and a constant supply is required. When you have to cut and chop this amount you really know about it and it warms you up on a cold winters day. We needed about three full wheel barrows of wood a week to run the stove. Sawing this much wood by hand was hard work and some of the larger logs were too difficult so I purchased  a small petrol chainsaw. Spent all day today using the chainsaw to cut the large logs we have accumulated and we have plenty of chopped wood. It's still warm enough at the moment and although we have a lot we will only start using it when absolutely necessary. I'm sure we will collect plenty more on our travels and walks to keep the pile topped up.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Magical Garlic

It's now the perfect time to plant garlic. Plant you cloves with the flat end down, about 10cm deep ad 18cm apart. Your garlic bulbs will be ready for harvesting when the stems turn yellow and brown and die back. Dry your harvested cloves in the sun for a few days before storage.


Garlic has been revered for its culinary and medicinal uses for centuries and is a true superfood but not for its vitamin and mineral content but because of it's sulfur containing compounds which give garlic it’s pungent aroma and flavour.


Recent research into these sulfur compounds has found that they assist in lowering blood pressure, reducing artery clogging, improve blood flow, help to lower cholesterol levels and by there antibacterial and antifungal compounds help to support the body’s immune system against bacterial infections, colds and flu.


Do your body a favour and get planting some garlic and you can never have too much with it's many uses in the kitchen, to make your own medicines or use as a pesticide or insecticide in the vegetable garden.


A clove a day keeps the doctor away.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gardening in Cyprusr - Tasks for November

November's weather in Cyprus is autumnal when the temperatures drop noticeably and the rainy season begins. Daytime temperatures average 22c to 24c during the day and 11c to 14c at night. The daytime temperatures make it the ideal time to enjoy countryside walks and are ideal gardening weather.

The following are jobs you might want to undertake during the month.


Plant out onion and garlic sets.

Trim Vines

Plant peas, broad beans, chickpeas

Sow beetroot, salad leaves and leeks

Plant out artichoke plantlets

Sow spinach, chard, rocket, coriander and parsley

Sow sweet peas

Fertilize fruit trees

If you have a guava or mango tree cover in late November in case of frost

Plant spring bulbs, deadhead flowering shrubs and plants and do autumn weeding and hoeing

Collect seeds from herbs and other plants

Harvest olives for curing and olive oil, citruses and persimmons

Happy gardening and harvesting for the month and if you require any further information go to
www.cyprusgardener.co.uk or http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home