The Hobart

Seasonal Eating During The Hungry Gap

by Ollie Benson
Seasonal Eating During The Hungry Gap

Phil O’Donnell and Jimmy Zerella run Gardners Bay Farm, a market garden and orchard 10 minutes out of Cygnet. Originally established to supply the restaurant at Port Cygnet Cannery, the pair are now leasing the farm and selling their produce through vegetable box subscriptions and to restaurants.

This time of year is known as the hungry gap by market gardeners. The winter crops are coming to an end or starting to run to flower, and the new season’s plantings aren’t yet ready to harvest. But at Gardners Bay Farm, Phil and Jimmy are finding creative ways to have produce available for their customers.

Included in their veggie boxes this month will be elephant garlic. Part of the allium family, it is technically more of a leek than a garlic. The white parts can still be treated like garlic, and it has a similar heat or spice to regular garlic when eaten raw, however the flavour is milder and sweeter once cooked. Like a leek, the whole plant is tender and can be eaten; it can be halved lengthways and char-grilled, or sliced and used as a base to dishes like you would an onion. Elephant garlic is rarely available in shops, however more small-scale growers are now selling green garlic, essentially garlic that is fresh, uncured, and harvested before the bulbs develop, and this too can be used like elephant garlic or the more traditional leek.

An added benefit to growing elephant garlic is its perennial nature. Last year, after harvesting, Phil and Jimmy left the roots of the plant in the ground, and they also allowed nodules that grew off the stem to fall on the ground. Over winter a crop of carrots was then sown in the same bed, and now in between the carrots Jimmy and Phil have another crop of the elephant garlic.

It’s this knowledge that Phil brings to the business. He has been farming in the Huon for over 20 years and helped establish the garden at Fat Pig Farm. He enjoyed the process of setting up the garden there, so when the opportunity to do something similar at Gardners Bay came along, it was too good to refuse. “Phil has forgotten more about farming than I know,” laughs Jimmy. Although it’s fair to say he’s not joking. Phil has always loved the science behind farming, and is passionate about soil biology, utilising several influences, from permaculture principles to Korean Natural Farming methods, that help build healthy soils and nutrient-dense produce.

Jimmy, a chef by trade, moved to Tassie three years ago, landing work at the Cannery. Staying at the property adjacent to the farm he started helping with the growing and harvesting, and before long he was hooked. He has now fully transi­tioned from chef to farmer, and between them, Phil and Jimmy are hoping that this year the farm will be financially viable for them both. The combination of a farmer with experience and a passion for science, and a farmer who is a chef is clearly working wonders.

Elephant Garlic

Eggs Florentine

Phil enjoys having a chef working alongside him – lunch breaks have never been so good! Jimmy’s recipe for Eggs Florentine makes the perfect seasonal meal.

For the pastry:

4 large eggs

1 cup broad bean leaves

Olive oil

1 Elephant garlic leek, sliced keeping the sliced green tops separate (for oil)

2 tablespoons butter

3 large egg yolks

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

1/2 bunch chopped chives.

Method: First prepare the oil. Place equal amounts of oil to the sliced Elephant Garlic tops by weight into a saucepan. Heat on low heat until sliced tops stop bubbling, then blend in a with a stick blender until smooth and strain. Next prepare the hollandaise sauce. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice until frothy then place the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk the egg mixture while slowly pouring in the melted butter until the sauce thickens and remove from heat. Stir in the chopped chives and season to taste. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat, add the sliced elephant garlic leeks, and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Season, remove from heat and set aside. Poach the eggs for about 3-4 minutes and toast some sourdough bread. Assemble the dish by spreading the sautéed leeks on the toast, arrange broad bean leaves over the leeks and then the eggs on top. Drizzle hollan­daise sauce generously over the eggs and garnish with chives and the oil.

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May 2024

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