Tips, questions and strawberries

It’s time to catch up on some of the tips and questions sent in recently by the oily rag community. It’s also time to start thinking about planting strawberries for a bumper harvest in the spring and summer.

Nanna from Whangarei has this recipe for feijoa parcels. “Put 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp grated nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon in a shallow bowl and mix well. Peel about 16 to 20 medium sized feijoa. Make a sweet short pasty, roll out thin and cut into oblongs about 7cm by 12 to 15cm. Place the peeled feijoa in the sugar mix and coat well, then roll each one up in the pasty. I roll them so that the ends of the feijoa are exposed. I place my parcels a little apart on an oven tray with sides, as the parcels may leak. When the tray is filled with ‘parcels’, sprinkle the remaining sugar mix over the top, then bake at 175C for 20 to 30 minutes. Delicious served with milk, cream, yoghurt, ice cream, or custard when warm, but also nice when cold. They can also be frozen in small or large quantities.”

MJ from Dunedin writes, “I grew up with my Mum adding dumplings to soups, stews and stewed fruits. Rationing during wartime Britain was probably behind this but I loved them – very filling!”

Carolyn from Napier has this question. “I have a query regarding staining wooden trellis work. I have extensive wooden trellis sections that I applied a commercial stain to about 8 years ago, costing many dollars! Would anyone know of a ‘home-spun’ method – perhaps using a household oil like linseed or something else? I would be most appreciative of any suggestions.”

NS from Canterbury asks, “Does anyone have any pet-friendly ideas for controlling insects like ants and spiders?”

Jane from Auckland is also asking for ideas. “I have been collecting grey water from the shower and using it to flush the toilet but the toilet bowl is now stained a light rust colour. I have tried vinegar and baking soda and a lot of scrubbing but this has been unsuccessful. Any ideas?”

If you can help any of our oily raggers, please drop us a note or leave your comments on our website,

Now for something delicious – strawberries! It’s now time to plant strawberries and look forward to strawberry treats in the spring and over summer.

Here are some tips for planting.
• Experts say you need to plant at least five plants per person in your household, but strawberries are such a favourite in our house that we have more.
• Space the plants about 15cm apart.

• Plant in a sunny spot.

• If reusing plants from last season then plant the runners as new stock. The runners form roots and become new plants. Each plant should last a few years but the harvest drops away after the first year.

• Plant different varieties so you have a constant supply of fruit throughout the season.

• Strawberries can be planted in well-draining pots, hanging baskets, or directly into a garden bed. The commercial growers use rows of raised mounds about 10cm high for good drainage, covered with polythene to keep the soil nice and warm (up to 5 degrees warmer). Strawberries do not like wet feet. If you do not use polythene as a ground cover, mulch them well using hay or straw.

• If you can, use a homemade liquid fertiliser. We use a diluted seaweed soup.

• Plant in fresh soil, ideally your home made compost.

• In most cases watering is only required in the very hot weather – unless the plants are grown in a container in which case regular watering will be required.

• Cover the plants when in fruit to keep the birds out.

• Do not grow in soil that has been used for potatoes or tomatoes in the previous season as these crops encourage the build-up of root diseases in the strawberries.

• Many commercial growers use varieties called Camarosa or Pajaro. Other recommended varieties include Chandler and Sundae in the North Island and Seascape and Gabrielle in the South Island. Your local garden centre will be able to give you good advice on which varieties suit your area.
A little work now will provide you with a bumper crop of delicious strawberries – it’s worth the effort!

If you have a favourite winter meal you would like to share, please send it to us via this website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.