Weed­ing takes a bit of a back seat and that feels like a hol­i­day

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

boy­sen­ber­ries and cher­ries, some­thing we pre­fer to ice cream.

The main veg­etable area is a mass of lush and vi­brant green as crops bulk up be­fore com­ing to ma­tu­rity in an­other two or three months. The gar­lic pushes up twin­ing, twirling flower heads, the pota­toes and pep­pers be­gin their flow­er­ing, the com­frey, corn, parsnips, car­rots, beet­root and zuc­chini race ahead while the pump­kins and mel­ons sprawl over the ground at a rapid pace. It’s a jun­gle.

Weed­ing takes a bit of a back seat, blocked out by the surge of growth and that in it­self feels like a hol­i­day. It’s the party and fes­tive sea­son so I’m hop­ing we all have a fun and safe hol­i­day time, and that our gar­dens con­tinue to give us joy and plea­sure and heaps of yummy meals.

In gar­dens there are tracks and paths so we can get from A to B. Around coun­try gar­dens and house ar­eas, tracks of­ten evolve over time as the log­i­cal – that is, the quick­est – way to get from the green house to the ve­ran­dah, to the back door to my writ­ing hut, across the lawn to the work­shop, or out to the horses and chooks. There is the walk to the vege gar­den and av­o­cado trees, the way past the south end of the green­house and the track through the pad­dock, past the line of fruit trees, down to the swing bridge. Then there are the bush and river tracks and be­yond. The lawn ar­eas are just wide laneways too be­cause they all lead us some­where.

Tracks around the so-called civilised ar­eas here are mown grass, shin­gled ve­hi­cle roads or the prover­bial beaten track, worn down by 30-odd years of boots and bare feet mov­ing along them. Th­ese are tracks wide enough that trac­tors, ve­hi­cles, horses and push bikes can be used as we move about the property on a daily ba­sis.

What de­lin­eates the tracks are the plants on ei­ther side, from grass and wel­come vol­un­teers to those pur­posely planted for a cer­tain ef­fect. The en­hance­ment of the vol­un­teers in many cases meant the dis­posal of bar­berry, black­berry and gorse.

Land­scap­ers and de­sign­ers talk about var­i­ous ef­fects, forms and out­comes, and it’s true that paths and tracks cre­ate long views. When they curve around cor­ners they also add an el­e­ment of sur­prise.

But my best tip is to go with what you like, and with what evolves in your spe­cial spa­ces.

Put a sliver of galangal in your mouth – if you dare – and you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence a curious, sharp, sweet taste on the tongue. Then you’ll feel ‘the burn’, more pow­er­ful than gin­ger.

How­ever, the flavour is more com­plex than gin­ger. Our Sin­ga­porean friend and avid cook Lil­ian Loh de­scribes it as a ‘clean, pep­pery bite with pun­gent spici­ness.’ Think mus­tard rather than gin­ger, with a shade of lemon, a trace of pine nee­dles and hints of trop­i­cal fruits.

What she is de­scrib­ing is the flavour of greater galangal (called kha in Thai), one of four types of galangal. It’s used with great rel­ish in Thai cui­sine, al­most to the ex­clu­sion of gin­ger, and is some­times known as Thai or Si­amese gin­ger.

In some Thai dishes, galangal is the star per­former as in tom kha gai (see page 71) which trans­lates as boiled galangal with chicken. More of­ten it plays a sub­tle role, com­ple­ment­ing rather than dom­i­nat­ing the flavour. It is one of the key in­gre­di­ents, along with other spices and herbs, in Tom Yum soup (my ab­so­lute per­sonal favourite) which fea­tures the won­der­ful sweet, sour, salty, spicy com­bi­na­tion of mukrat (kaf­fir) lime, lime juice, chilli, lemon­grass and fish sauce.

Galangal is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent of most curry pastes in­clud­ing Malaysian asam laksa, Cam­bo­dian sam­lor kor ko soup and var­i­ous In­done­sian dishes such as spicy beef ren­dang. It is of­ten in­cluded in seafood dishes as it bal­ances out ‘fishy’ flavours.

You can tell galangal is re­lated to gin­ger by its tall stems and flag-like green leaves. Dig down a bit and you’ll find gin­ger-like rhi­zomes just be­low the sur­face.

But if you are tempted to sub­sti­tute gin­ger for galangal in recipes, don’t! When it comes to galangal, only the real thing will do. The dis­tinct pep­pery flavour is what makes Thai food so dis­tinc­tive, and noth­ing beats fresh galangal.

But find­ing the real thing may not be so easy as there is a lot of con­fu­sion about what is ‘real’ galangal, and not ev­ery­thing sold as galangal is cor­rect.

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