Fig jam

fig

It’s fig season and they’re delicious fresh and in salads and deserts. Our neighbour on one side has two massive trees and we usually get some given to us. They prune them very hard and while they are quite old they aren’t much taller than a person but are very wide. This makes for easy harvesting of the fruit and easy netting. The neighbour on the other side also has two fig trees. The big one is quite tall and the birds tend to get most of those fruit as its really hard to pick from it. The small one is growing over our side of the fence and the fruit is delicious. As well as drying the fruit to preserve, it also makes a lovely jam.

1 kilo figs, peeled and quartered

200 grams sugar

4 tablespoons water

Select figs that are just ripe and are firm. Peel and quarter the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and the water. Add the figs to the boiling syrup and cook on medium heat until gelling stage is reached. Put into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes to preserve.

Advertisements

Harvesting walnuts

There are plenty of old walnuts trees growing around Adelaide. Some kind souls probably planted them for the generations to come. I don’t think they’d come up on their own. The one growing next door gets visited regularly by a flock of white cockatoos who have a great time munching away on them. There are also a few trees I know about on public land that can be foraged. I went to one of those trees to see if they were ready for harvest and managed to collect a full bucket in about 15 minutes.

walnuts

It’s better to collect them while the whole husk is green as the rotting husk damages the inner nut and shell.  Before you start thinking about dehusking the nut make sure you keep in mind that the husk will create a pretty permanent dark brown stain on any surface it comes in contact with, including your hands so use gloves. To dehusk, get the shell and roll it under your foot on a hard surface. The husk will crack and sort of lift of the shell. If you add too much pressure the nut will crack. Once you’ve rolled it around a bit pick it up and peel off the husk. Most of it should come off. Then place it in a bucket of hot water. Soak the nuts in the hot water for a couple of hours. This will soften any left over husk and the ones that sink are the good ones. Scrape of the rest of the husk with steel wool or a knife and place in a tray to dry.

hulled-walnuts

Let the nuts cure for a few weeks in a shaded ventalated space outside. Protect them from rats and birds but ensure they get good ventilation. The lighter ones in the above photo were the one from the green husks and the darker to black ones had more rotting husk on it they are most likely no good for eating but the light ones should be good.

 

Passionfruit

passionfruit

Passionfruit can be difficult to grow but once its established it’s well worth it. They like morning sun and are heavy feeders. I’ve been told if you have a roast chicken put the left over chicken carcus under the vine when it’s first planted. I haven’t tried this though. My little vine got attacked when it first went in and got nibbled down to next to nothing. I got a plastic pot and cut out the bottom of it and pushed it into the soil to protect it from whatever was eating it. Eventually it started growing again. Mine is growing up the fence of the chicken run with a nectarine tree and bronze fennel to keep it company.

While it was getting established I kept a good amount of compost around the base and gave it a 9L bucket of water once a week. I used a grafted vine so had to remove any shoots that grew from the root stock. The vines only live between 4 – 7 years but can die unexpectedly at any time. If you want a continous supply of passionfruit it’s best to plant another vine once the first vine starts producing fruit.

To harvest the fruit wait for it to fall of the vine. If there are none on the ground give the vine a little shake and the ripe ones drop off. We haven’t had the problem of having too many ripen at once to worry about preserving them and they are being eaten fresh. If you are saving the seed I have heard that they are only viable for about a year.

Passionfruit kombucha

pulp of one passionfruit

1 litre kombucha

A small amount also goes a long way to flavour kombucha. Add pulp into the kombucha when doing the secondary ferment. Seal in an airtight bottle and check each day until you are happy with the flavour and the fizziness. Store in fridge when ready to drink.

Start of blackberry season

blackberries1

The Adelaide Hills are full of blackberries right now. Big, juicy and flavoursome berries free to anyone who doesn’t mind being spiked repeatedly in the hands and having their clothes pulled and torn while picking them. This is just part of the fun of the harvest. It reminds me a bit of the kids game ‘Operation’, where you have a pair of tweezers and need to pull out the different bones without touching the sides or the buzzer goes off. You feel a great sense of achievement picking the berries without touching any other part of the plant. You know straight away if you have touched anything as the buzzer in this case is the spikey thorns.

The spikes are the least of your problems, the real danger to picking them is making sure the plants haven’t been doused in poison. Blackberries are a weed of national significance. They are on the hit list of councils, national parks and private land owners – but with approximately 9 million hectares of it across Australia it physically can’t all be sprayed.

Try to pick them on private land and talk to the person who looks after the land about how they are managed to know if the berries are safe to eat. This patch above was like a wall and was taller than me and fairly deep. I harvested along the edge. If the patch was shorter you can beat a ladder down or a piece of timber on top to create more edge to harvest from. Take a little hook to pull out any bunches hanging just out of reach.

Stay away from patches growing along roadsides as the probability is higher that these would be sprayed by councils. Anyhow, these wouldn’t be as good as those berries would be more dusty from the passing cars. Apparently, a dye is used so you can tell if it’s been sprayed recently. The spray is said to smell like kerosene so stay away if you smell this or anything unusual. Another tell tale sign someone has been poisoning it is if the branches have been slashed back or leaves are dying back.

Blackberries don’t ripen after they are picked so make sure you pick ripe fruit. It’s ripe when it’s all black and shiny. Don’t pick the fruit that looks a little dried out, it’s old. I don’t mind a bit of tartness so I’ll also pick the ones with a few pinkish cells. Use a baking tray or large shallow container when collecting so the fruit doesn’t get squashed. The fruit freezes well for use throughout the year. It can also be made into jam and wine amongst other things.

 

 

 

Muntries aka Kunzea pomifera

I planted some muntries in my front yard in the hope of plentiful summer berries just out my front door. In retrospect they are in the totally wrong spot and it’s amazing they are still alive. The patch has other native shrubs which mean they don’t get a huge amount of sun. Muntries like full sun and sandy soil. Mine have shade and clay soil where they are growing. So they haven’t sprawled out like they do in the wild and they haven’t fruited either. Nonetheless, given that they are content I’ll be leaving them there to see what happens. I’m really keen to have my own supply and will be experimenting with a growing some more up a trellis in full sun later on.

It’s the start of muntrie season at the moment and for now I’ll have to be content to just admire this little patch I came across while down the coast the other day.

Apparently, muntries were traditionally pounded into cakes and dried like fruit leather. These cakes were then traded with other Aboriginal groups for goods. Like any berry they are a delicacy and take time to pick but the taste is well worth it. These would be delicious dried and included in muesli or added fresh to recipes in place of sultanas or berries. They have a crisp apple flavour when fresh.

Tomatoes

This year had a very long winter and my tomatoes have been very slow going. I really hope the tomato season gets going soon. In previous years the tomatoes have been pumping at this time of year starting at the beginning of December and finishing up around March.

tomatoes

Previously, I grew these cherry tomatoes on a simple tent like bamboo structure which worked well. The only downside was the ones growing on the inside needed specialist picking, luckily I had the perfect person with keen eyes to find them. The six plants were very prolific and supplied us with plenty of tomatoes.

tomato-harvest

Later in the season at the end of March I bought two big boxes of South Australian sauce tomatoes from the local fruit shop to make into tomato passata. There are lots of ways to make it and everyone who does make it seems to have their own special way to do it. A few of the ways to do it ask for the skin and seeds to be removed. I much prefer the idea of using all the fruit so that’s what I did. Also, I read that there is a spike in hospital admissions of people that have had sauce bottles explode in their face and burn them so I took that into account when experimenting with my first rather small batch of 20 kilos. I tried a couple of ways to do it and settled on a recipe I was happy with.

Twenty kilos sounds like a lot but it was so good we used the passata in everything. The flavour really was pretty amazing and I can see now why people devote a whole weekend to preserving this beautiful fruit. To work out how much our family uses in a year I have been saving all our passata jars to get an idea of exactly how much of this we actually eat. I will recycle these jars and use them to preserve the following years supply.

Passata recipe

passata

1 kg of tomatoes will make around 750 ml passata

Wash the tomatoes well and cut of any bad bits. Slice tomatoes in big chunks eg – four to six pieces, and place in big pot. Put pot on stove on medium heat. The juices should start being released from the tomatoes. Once they have released enough tomato juice get a stick blender and puree. Simmer the tomato puree until fragrant, 15 – 20 mins or so. Put puree into pre-washed and sterilised jars and seal lids. I used a combo of fowlers jars and supermarket passata bottles, you can also use beer bottles.

Get a preserving unit. I used an old one I picked up off Gumtree that has a built in thermometer. Our next door neighbour uses a large drum over a fire. Use whatever you have. Put a towel at the bottom of the unit and then start stacking the bottles in with tea towels, cloth, rags, newspaper (whatever you have on hand) to separate the bottles so they don’t break when the water is boiling. Fill the drum with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. I heated up my unit on the BBQ. Using the BBQ kept the kitchen cool and meant that I didn’t have to move it when hot to use my stove. Make sure the water boils for at least 30 mins and then turn the heat off.

Don’t try to remove the bottles at this stage as you might end up in hospital. Leave the bottles in the unit overnight and remove when cold the next morning. Store bottles somewhere dark until ready to eat. Enjoy.

Pumpkins

My neighbour dropped over a few months ago and brought me three little baby pumpkins seedlings that had self sown in her compost heap. I planted them determined to give pumpkin growing one last shot. I have never had much luck with growing pumpkin in the past just getting lacklustre vines and no fruit. It was a little frustrating as I had read that early settlers in America would plant them and pretty much leave them alone and still get a crop. So…I knew I was doing something wrong.

This time around I prepared the soil really well with compost, cow manure, gypsum (I have heavy clay soil) and some organic fertiliser pellets. I soaked the roots in a dilution of Seasol (seaweed fertiliser) and water. I find this helps all my seedlings get off to a good start. Then I planted them and covered the soil around the plant with lucerne hay.

Once the plant got going I pinched out the first two runners from the main lead runner. This is supposed to stimulate the plant so that you get a good mix of male and female flowers. Only one seedling survived as we had some pretty hot spells in a row and I am not all that great at watering. That one little seedling has now taken over the garden and has heaps of fruit on it as you can see from the picture below.

pumpkin compost

Feeling confident about my pumpkin growing now I decided to finally plant the giant pumpkin seeds I have been hanging onto for a while. I’m not sure how they’ll go but for now I’ll be enjoying the butternuts as they ripen.

With the first pumpkin that ripened I gave it to the neighbour who gave me the seedling. The second one to ripen I made pumpkin soup. I picked the fruit a little early. Apparently, it is better to wait until the vine starts to die off and wither, then you can be sure the fruit is ripe. The one I picked was still a little green on the skin where it attached to the vine, but it was still pretty tasty.

Curing them in the sun to harden off the skin is supposed to help them keep for longer storage. Some ways to eat pumpkin are in soup, baked, and used as a sweetener. All parts of the plant are edible and the ends can be pinched off and cooked in a stew.