Kitchen gardener Maria Adams with her recently harvested garlic.
Kitchen gardener Maria Adams with her recently harvested garlic. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

When Food & Wine reader Maria Adams saw Edwin Ride's recipe for broad bean dip (Kitchen Garden October 28) she was inspired to pick all her broad beans, make the dip and email the photo to us. Those Coles Early Dwarf broad beans were bearing a second crop a month later when we visited the Adams' garden in Kambah.

Maria and her husband Chris Adams were raised in Wollongong, married and went to Darwin in 1971, where she started growing edibles. George Brown was curator of the botanic gardens, which are now named after him, and he gave Maria good growing tips. She grew mini bell capsicums from seed, in pots, and discovered if you dug a hole and sowed pawpaw seeds, 12 months later the pawpaw tree would reach the eaves and you needed a kitchen stool and laundry basket to harvest the crop.

After Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve in 1974, the Adams were evacuated from Darwin and they have been living in Kambah for 40 years. Their home is in a fine location, looking to Mount Arawang from the front and facing McQuoids Hill to the south. The 2003 bushfires came to their fence. Their part of Kambah is surrounded by horse holding paddocks, a pony club and an equestrian trail, so the Adams walk out the back gate and collect horse manure for the garden.

Maria Adams' worm farm.
Maria Adams' worm farm. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

They have put in a large rainwater tank and have a reed bed to collect and clean grey water from the house. Gypsum, blood and bone, Dynamic Lifter and compost have been added to soil in raised garden beds that are mulched with lucerne from Powells Stockfoods in Phillip.

Maria's trick with her worm farm, a Can-O-Worms layered black plastic product from Bunnings, is to "keep it simple!" Place the worm farm near a tap, under shade. Add kitchen scraps to the worm farm every couple of weeks, then just run the hose into the top layer and place a plastic sieve over a bucket to collect the worm wee from the bottom. Pour it, diluted, around growing vegetables.

Currently the Adams have a bed of Pontiac potatoes, silverbeet and Roma tomatoes. Other vegetables, raised from Mr Fothergills seeds from The Garden in Weston, include Oregon dwarf snow peas, crystal apple cucumbers, golden nugget bush pumpkins and Gold Rush yellow zucchini. Kiwifruit vines in flower and fruit cover the fence.

Maria Adams' garlic heads.
Maria Adams' garlic heads. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

The Christmas highlight is garlic. Six years ago a friend of Maria's bought a garlic plait from Braidwood for $35. Maria decided to try making one herself. She grows Australian purple and a white variety that forms a scape or flower bud, all obtained originally from the Heritage Nursery at Yarralumla. She also bought garlic from a stall run by Collector's Allsun Farm, who produced a concise booklet explaining when to plant, harvest and dry garlic.

Maria's garlic is planted at the end of March/early April as cold weather intensifies the flavour. She saves some of the best corms for planting the following year. After harvesting, the garlic is left to dry for three weeks and then she plaits it. This year there are five plaits with 15 garlic heads on each. These are Christmas gifts for the family – the Adams have five adult children.

Their Christmas lunch will be seafood, including garlic prawns barbecued by Chris, followed by turkey, marinated overnight and cooked on the large "turbo" barbecue with herb and garlic roasted vegetables. Maria uses a recipe from Curtis Stone in a Christmas Magic booklet published by Coles four years ago, brined with her own garlic, coriander seed, rosemary and lemons.

Kiwi fruit flowers.
Kiwi fruit flowers. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Brined roasted turkey

Brine:

9 litres cold water
4 cups sugar
3 cups salt
quarter cup coriander seeds
quarter cup black peppercorns
3 heads garlic, halved
10 sprigs rosemary
3 lemons, halved

Place one litre of the water in a large pot and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and salt and stir until both have dissolved. Add the coriander seeds, peppercorns, garlic, rosemary and lemons to the pot and remove from the heat. Pour the hot brine into a plastic container large enough to hold the turkey and add the remaining eight litres of cold water to cool the brine. Place the turkey into the brine, making sure it is entirely submerged. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 16 hours or overnight. Next day remove the turkey from the brine (discard the brine) and pat the skin dry with a tea towel.

Note: the turkey is rubbed with olive oil before roasting, trussed and stuffed with a cup of carrots, onions and celery cut into 3cm pieces. A five kilogram free-range turkey will take about three hours to cook.

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.