Illawarra Plum

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Podcarpus elatus, also known as Illawarra plum are ripe at the moment. I found a street that had been planted with them as street trees. I grabbed around 3 kilos worth because I wanted to experiment and cook a few recipes with them. They can be eaten fresh, just wait until the flesh is soft and gives when you squeeze it. Remove the external seed by twisting it off, don’t eat the seed. Before eating and cooking I soaked them in vinegar and water just to clean them up a bit. They can also be frozen or dried.

I made fruit leather with them. I used 1 kilo of the last of the apples from our tree out back, 300 grams of the plums and the juice of half a lemon. I put it all on a pot on the stove with 1/2 cup water and cooked on a medium heat. I used the stick blender to puree then allowed it to stew for about 10 mins to bring out some of the sweetness in the apples. Then I placed in dehydrator for 7 1/2 hours at 70C. Make sure it’s completely dried before storing.

Another thing I tried that worked out well was –

Illawarra plum muffin recipe

300 grams wholemeal spelt flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

220 g coconut sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut

400 grams Illawarra Plum, puree with stick blender

1/3 cup macadamia mylk

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pre heat oven to 190C. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Get all the wet ingredients and whisk together until well combined. Then add the wet to the dry ingredients. Stir until it is just combined, don’t over mix the batter.

Place in a 12 hole muffin tin and cook for 25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

 

Beginners guide to pine mushrooms

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I took some friends for a picnic yesterday at one of my mushroom hunting spots. We spent a bit of time searching for mushrooms then ate a picnic lunch and fried up some of the mushrooms we’d found. We were searching for Lactarius deliciosus and hoping for Porcini which also grow at this spot. I realised at one point that I probably take what I now know about these mushrooms for granted so I thought I’d put together a beginners guide to these mushrooms.

So here’s the disclaimer. I’m not a scientist, mycologist, botanist, fungi expert of any kind. I’m just someone who’s interested in all things edible. If you’re thinking about eating your first wild mushroom based on this post think again. Do your research and head out with someone who knows what they’re doing and collect with them. Do some courses and get to know how to identify mushrooms and plants in general. It will give you a discipline to draw from when trying to identify the edible from the not so edible.

Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms are commonly called pine mushrooms or saffron milk caps in South Australia. There are no poison lookalikes that I’m aware of growing here. Mushrooms it might get confused with are Gymnopilus junoniusLactarius deterrimus, Lactarius semisanguifluus, Lactarius torminosus. Be aware that not all people holding workshops or courses are 100% correct all the time. They might say the wrong thing by mistake or have the wrong idea about a particular mushroom. Check and triple check the information you have been given.

The main features are a round orange blotchy depressed cap with concentric circles. The cap can be anywhere from 4 – 15 cm.  As the cap gets older the edges turn up and it’s more bowl shaped. The gills are orange and close together. The stem attaches to the central part of the cap and has blotches of white on it. A few hours after picking it bruises green where you’ve handled it. When you cut the stem it exudes a orange milky sap. In the older mushrooms the stem is hollow.

Here are some of my rules when I go hunting for these guys:

  • If in doubt leave it out

Don’t pick it if you have any doubt in your mind about it.

  • Take children with you

They have eagle eyes and always find the best ones.

  • Don’t pick ones that look a bit deformed or have any weird growth on them.

The deformity could be because they’ve been pressing on a stick or other mushroom as they grow which is ok but other kinds of deformity could be from a disease.

  • Don’t pick bruised ones

These ones have been touched by something. That something could be anything. I don’t really want to imagine what that anything might be.

  • Pick the young ones

These ones are the freshest and most likely haven’t been interfered with by people or animals.

  • Clean as you pick

Take a sharp knife, clean paint brush and damp cloth with you. Use your brush and hands to remove any pine needles from the cap. Hold the mushroom like a you would hold a CD so the cap doesn’t drop into the dirt when you cut it. Then cut the stem horizontally with your knife. Use the cloth to clean the cap and then place gill side down in basket. This keeps the gills clean so you don’t get grit in your mushrooms and also helps spread the spores around as you walk.

  • Always cook them

This should kill off any bad germs that may be on them.

  • Read the landscape

These mushroom grow under mature pine trees in the Adelaide hills. Think about the space these trees grow in and how the space is being used. Do people walk their dogs here? Would people use some spaces as a toilet spot if there are no public toilets around? Are they close to paths and roads that would see more traffic on it? Try to avoid picking in high traffic areas. Also, avoid areas near young pine plantations as these get aerial bombed with glyphosate to kill grasses and other plants competing with the young pines.

  • Eat that day

I’ll generally only pick what I’m going to eat that day. If you need to store them keep in the fridge in paper like you would a store bought mushroom. If you love them and end up eating heaps just be aware that your urine will go orange. Much like what happens when you eat a lot of beetroot. On that note, they are very nice but like all new food just eat a little at first you never know, you might be allergic. There are stacks of recipes on the web but I like eating them in mushroom pasta.

 

Bush food tour

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During reconciliation week there were so many wonderful events celebrating Aboriginal culture. My work organised a range of events during the week and of course I couldn’t go past putting my name down to go to the bush food tour held at the Botanic Gardens. Haydyn Bromley from Bookabee tours was our host. He was a very knowledgable guide and we were in very capable hands.

I find bush foods really interesting because there’s alway something new to learn. There are an estimated 30,000 edible plants across the world and people subsist on a tiny fraction of these. Supermarkets seem to sell countless versions of wheat, sugar, corn and rice. It all looks and tastes the same to me. There are so many interesting foods out there and I got to find out about a few more during this tour. Along the way he discussed responsible harvesting and how these plants were part of culture. Some plant highlights from the tour:

  • Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata – edible vermicelli-like core, butterscotch flavoured resin, young whitish parts of leaves chewed to quench thirst, seeds made into damper.
  • Eucalyptus camaldulensis Karransis – animals that lived in the tree were hunted, bees make home in the hollows and give honey, the hollowed out trunks used as shelters.
  • Macadamia tetraphylla – I’d heard there were some trees in the gardens so it was good to finally see where they were.
  • Podocarpus elatus – they were fruiting on the walk and Haydyn described the texture as being like oysters, I like to think they’re more like Turkish delight.
  • Araucaria bidwillii – used as a family home, nuts eaten and also the centrepiece of a festival at harvest time.
  • Cymbopogon ambiguus – used as a tea, particularly to settle the stomach.

Haydyn was such a knowledgable and friendly host and I really hope I get to spend some time walking amongst the plants with him again.

Kalamata olives

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We have a Kalamata tree in the backyard that’s about 15 years old. Each year it gives us a good crop of olives without too much effort. If we don’t water or fertilise it, we still get a good crop. This year we had a huge crop and interestingly I don’t think it was due to the long wet summer because the tree by spring was absolutely loaded with thousands of babies. It was clear in spring that it was going to be a bumper crop. Last winter was quite warm and maybe that had something to do with it.

Olives are a declared weed in South Australia under the Natural Resources Management Act. They grow in many Adelaide parks and conservation areas freely. These wild olives can be collected for pickling or making oil, just make sure they haven’t been poisoned by some well meaning land care group. There are literally thousands of wild olive trees loaded with fruit right now ready for picking. Cultivated olives aren’t too much of a problem as long as all the olives are collected. This minimises it’s spread into the hills by the birds. Although I think the cat is well out of the bag on that front.

I’ve been collecting a bucket from our tree a week or two apart. I’m already up to my fourth 10 litre bucket and will probably get another two or three buckets. In hindsight, this has been a very good experiment to find the ideal time to harvest the olives for flavour and texture. I didn’t mean for it to be an experiment, I’ve just been super busy and that’s how it’s worked out. I hear the best time to pick is when the tree is 80% has turned black and 20% is still green. Then you go back when the last 20% has turned black and do the rest. When Kalamata are picked too late they go soft and aren’t as nice.

This year I am doing some Zen processing of the olives – which pretty much means I’ll find a way to process them in the limited time I’ve got however that unfolds. First, I am soaking them in a 10% salt and water mix for about a week or two then straining. Then preparing a fresh batch of the 10% brine to soak for another week or so. I’ll keep doing this until they taste ok. Then when they’re ready I’ll store in a brine using my mother in laws recipe.

100 g salt per litre of water

20ml red wine vinegar per litre of water

Top jar with olive oil

When ready to eat open jar and keep in fridge, you can add oil, spices, herbs and garlic – whatever you have on hand in the garden.

It’s also nice to hot roast the olives with wild fennel seeds, orange peel and olive oil. Serve warm.

 

 

The crone

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Deep in the forest lives an old crone. She lives amongst the trees that reach high into the sky. Their roots reaching deep into the ground. She lives in the space between the sky and the earth where all is well.

She made her home many years ago from things she gathered from the forest – stone, wood and mud. It is a beautiful home that has served her well. She is very fat and her fingers gnarled and old. Nobody knows how old she is but she has always been there.

She has lived there as long as anyone can remember and is known by all as a very wise woman. She spends her days walking through the forest and visiting the trees and the animals that share her home. She gathers all she needs to eat from the forest. Enjoying the dandelions and their cheerful yellow flowers, and all the other greens that nourish her.

One day, she was walking by the river and saw a big ribbon gum. She saw signs that there were witchetty in the tree, with their small white eggs on the bark and sawdust spilling out onto the ground. In another place, she saw holes with doors made of sap marking the place the witchetty had made their home, digging in deep and then up the tree.

She knew the witchetty would give her strength so she decided to dig them out. She knew that digging them out wouldn’t hurt the tree, instead it would help it. Those witchetty get greedy sometimes and kill the tree. First, she got a sharp stone and made the hole bigger and higher. Then, she took a hook that she used for many things and pushed it up into the hole, hooking the witchetty and pulling it out gently. Then, she cooked it over hot coals and was full.

On this day some people who had heard of the wise old crone decided to come and find her to gain some wisdom. As they reached deeper into the forest they heard things they hadn’t heard before. The plants started whispering their secrets to them about the things they could do. They told them about the ways they could help them. The animals welcomed them and were happy to share the forest with them.

They didn’t find the old crone that day but left the forest with the wise wisdom of the plants. They always remembered their time in the forest. They remembered to listen very carefully to the plants, and kept that wisdom for all their days.

© 2017 by edibleadelaide. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mushroom pasta

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Mushroom season has started a little late this year. There were some around in early May but I’ve been waiting for the cooler days and the rains to come for them to really start cranking. The Lactarius deliciosus, also known as Pine mushrooms or Saffron Milk Caps are a plentiful mushroom that very easy to find at this time of year. I like to pick them very young when they haven’t been eaten by any other critters. As the Latin name gives it away, they’re delicious. These ones will be cooked up using the following recipe using wonderful South Australian produce. It’s also pretty exceptional when eaten with lovingly made homemade pasta.

8 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 red onion, finely sliced

1 tablespoon Murray river salt

750 grams pine mushrooms, sliced

125 grams b.d farm butter, diced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

cracked pepper to taste

1/2 cup Adelaide Hills white wine

1/2 cup flat parsley, chopped

500 grams cooked pappardelle L’Abruzzese pasta

Preheat a pan to a high heat. Add garlic, onion, salt, pepper. Top with mushrooms then finally add cubes of butter and pour the oil. Cover with a lid and cook on high heat for 5 minutes without stirring. Uncover then add the wine and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. The mushrooms should still be firm but cooked through.

When ready add parsley and stir through cooked pappardelle pasta to serve.

Roasted chestnuts

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I love talking about food almost as much as I like eating it. The other night a friend came over for dinner and we started talking chestnuts. I was keen to get my hands on some fresh local ones. Turns out after 18 years of friendship I had no idea this friend doesn’t like chestnuts but can get them easily from a neighbour that doesn’t like them either. A few days later some chestnuts turned up on my front door step. I also found in my travels a row of chestnut trees growing along a fence dropping nuts on the side of the road. Needless to say I was sorted for chestnuts.

The ones in the supermarket are often not stored properly and can be mouldy. They need to be stored at around 0 degree celsius and will keep for a year and still be as fresh as when they fell off the tree. This is my go to recipe for roasted chestnuts and the way I love eating them.

Preheat the oven to the hottest it will go – mine goes to 230C. Chestnut husks wrap around the nuts like a cactus. Use some strong leather gardening gloves to pry the nuts free. You can also stomp them with your feet and crush the husk off if you don’t have thick gloves. Give the nuts a decent cut about half way through, across the middle of the domed side. Place nuts in a cake tin about one deep. Then add water to almost cover them. Give them a generous sprinkling of Murray River pink salt and roast for about 10 mins. You’ll know they’re ready when the shell peels back off the inner kernal. If you don’t like the flavour of the inner skin they can be boiled a bit longer to make it easy to remove. Peel off the shell and eat while still warm. Enjoy!