One of the unavoidable parts of growing your own tasty veggies & fruit is the enviable arrival of free loading insects that also enjoy our home grown delights.. I've mentioned a few different methods we use to control some of these pests in a previous blog.. There is also another less hands on method I think that some might find useful, that is attracting predator/beneficial insects into the patch.. While predatory insects may take a while to build up in number to be an effective weapon against the pests, I do think it is worth encouraging them into the patch..
One of the easiest ways you can achieve this is by having flowering plants in the patch, a lot of which can be edible..
Some of my favourites are French marigolds, dill, buckwheat, pineapple sage, lavender, coriander/cilantro, lucerne/alfalfa & the basil family of herbs.. Broccoli is another plant that I've noticed brings a lot of bugs into the patch, so always like to let a few florets go to flower..
Here's a bit of a run down on some of the most common beneficial insects we get in the patch..
The common ladybug is the one beneficial bug we see the most of in the patch.. They tend to show up here whenever we have an outbreak of aphids..
The adults will feed on a number of garden pests like aphids, mites, scale & mealybugs.. One of the reasons I like these bugs so much is that the larvae are also voracious feeders & can polish off up to a dozen aphids a day.. When you consider that a ladybug can lay up to 50 eggs at a time, that's a lot of pests being devoured every day.. The parents also do their fair share consuming up to 60 aphids a day.. The adults of some species also like to feed on pollen which is also a bonus for the patch..
Lacewings are another garden helper that likes to feast on a number of the smaller pest insects..
This time round it's the larvae that do most of the hard work consuming aphids, whitefly, mites scale & mealybugs.. The adults feed on nectar & pollen so are also great workers to have around the patch..
I haven't seen many adult parasitic wasps around the patch but have seen the handy work of their young.. These fellers help out in a slightly more gruesome way by laying the eggs under the skin of caterpillars.. One variety of these fellers we see a lot of belong to the Braconidae family of wasps.. These guys like to target the cabbage butterfly..
While they allow the caterpillars to continue to feed on your brassicas for a time they do kill their host before they mature into butterflies.. The young wasps then emerge to mate & then target more cabbage butterflies..
Paper wasps may be considered a pest by some & I've done so myself in the past..
These fellers also perform a beneficial roll in the patch by collecting caterpillars & depositing them in the nest for their young to consume after they hatch.. The adults also play a role in assisting pollination of plants around the patch.. I first noticed these orange wasps when the pigeon pea was in bloom out the front & there was a number of the wasps hanging around the plants.. I must admit that I do prefer these yellow ones over the more aggressive black wasps we get here..
Preying mantis would have to be one of the best hunters we have here in the patch.. I've seen them eat anything from an aphid to adult grasshopper & was very pleased when Bianca found the cocoon that was mentioned in my last blog post..
My favourite would have to be the many skinks & other lizard we get around the patch..
Fast food from the patch..
Thai cuisines would have to be one of our favourites to cook.. As we like Thai so much, a few years ago we decided to plant many of the spices & herbs that form the base of many Thai meals..
Thought I'd share this light Thai inspired soup that uses a basic blend of home grown spices & herbs.. We also use this paste as the base to a lot of our Thai & Indo style meals..
This meal gets served a fair bit here but how its prepared can vary depending on what we have available in the patch at the time.. I have just harvested the water chestnuts from the bathtub so decided to add a decent handful of them this time along with some prawns/shrimp.. We have also enjoyed this soup with chicken & think it would be just as tasty with only the veggies if you ate a vegetarian diet..
I find this recipe is quick to prepare as the bulk of the work is making the paste & if you have spare time you can make bulk & put in the freezer for later.. The veggies can quickly be prepared while the soup is on the stove..
The recipe below is enough for 2-3 servings..
Galangal & coconut soup with Prawns..
2 thumb size pieces of galangal , chopped
4 med cloves garlic, peeled
2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thinly
1-2 Chillies (or more depending on your preference)
1Tbsp of oil
1Tbsp water if needed..
Add paste ingredients into food processor & blitz until it forms a paste.. I've found that the small "Rocket" or "Bullet" style blenders are better for small amounts like this.. You can add a bit of water to help the paste process better..
Set aside to add to saucepan..
Just a note,
I find processing these ingredients helps to make it small enough to be consumed with the soup, nothing wrong with a bit of extra fibre ;-) You could also slice the chillies, garlic, galangal & lemongrass thinly & add them.. Just be warned that the galangal & lemongrass may not to be very tender, even after boiling ;-)
½Tbsp of cooking oil
Spice paste from above
1L chicken stock (Certain tinned chicken stock powders are vegetarian friendly BTW)
Coconut milk, 400ml tin (I used powdered coconut milk & water)
1 kaffir lime leaf
400-500g peeled & deveined prawns (Diced chicken also works well)
Thai basil, 20-30 leaves shredded
Small tin of sliced water chestnuts (I used 11 of our freshly harvested chestnuts)
1-2 Tbsp Fish sauce. Pays to add a bit then taste test before adding more.. (I always add extra after serving as I like the flavour it adds)
Green onion greens, sliced into 10mm/¼" sections (thinly sliced onions or shallots could also be used)
Handful of your favourite greens** sliced thinly
½ small capsicum/red pepper, sliced into thin 40mm/1½" lengths
Large handful of snow peas, sliced into thin strips
Extra chilli for those that like it hotter, dices finely
Lime juice, to taste
** Asian greens like pak choi, choy sum, Kang kong go well in this dish as do silverbeet/chard, cabbage, amaranth leaves, Warragal greens/NZ spinach, kale or broccoli leaves.. I used Okinawan Spinach as we have loads of it growing in the patch at the moment..
- Heat 1Tbsp of cooking oil in a saucepan then add in the spice paste & stir for a minute to help release the flavours.
- Pour in stock, coconut milk, toss in the torn lime leaf & bring to a slow boil.
- Once the soup is at a slow boil you can add in the water chestnuts, prawns & Thai basil.
- As the soup comes to a slow boil again turn it down to a high simmer for 5 min.
- Stir through the fish sauce, taste & add more if needed.
- While the soup is cooking prepare the vegetables & add them into the serving bowls.
- Serve hot soup over the veggies in the bowl adding lime juice to taste. I also add in extra chilli & fish sauce at this point ;-)
Hope you enjoy the soup if you get the chance to make up a batch..
That's about it for this month.. Have a few harvests I'm looking forward to over the coming weeks so hope to share them with you all next blog..
Cheers all & have a fun in the patch,