Satsuma plums

plum-garden

Plums are one of my favourite fruits and I have great memories of eating plums as a kid. I only planted this tree 18 months ago and have had my first harvest. The fruit was actually pretty juicy and better than any plums I’ve ever tasted before. They were very much enjoyed while they lasted.

The tree is still small so the bird net did it’s job and I hardly lost any to birds. However, a bird did get it’s foot caught in the net and died which was pretty awful. I’m not sure how to avoid that happening again. This post is actually late as the fruit all got harvested a couple of weeks ago. I got about 8 kilos of fruit and most of it was eaten fresh but I also made jam.

Plum Jam recipe

1 kg pitted plums

500 grams sugar

juice of one lemon

This recipe works with any quantity of fruit. It’s a ratio of 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. It makes a loose jam.

This fruit was large so I cut it into eight pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pot and cook on low heat for an hour or so. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat as the sugar will burn. Take off any frothy impurities with a spoon. Freeze a small dinner plate so you can test when it’s ready. It’s ready when you take half a teaspoon out of pot and it sets a little like toffee on the plate. Pour mix into steralised jars and then seal. Boil jar for at least 10 minutes and let cool. Store in dark cupboard and eat within the year.

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Silverbeet

SILVERBEET.png

Picking the silverbeet the other day I realised that I’m self sufficient in it. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve been saving the seed but it’s been at least four years. The seed originally came from a Diggers punnet. I noticed that it grew exceptionally well in my garden and so I let it go to seed. After that, it just kept popping up by itself in the same patch and has naturalised in that spot.

This patch above is in different spot in my garden and is growing in full sun. It also gets hammered by the hot westerly afternoon sun. This photo was taken the morning after a 40+C degree day and it’s looking pretty happy to me. That day it was over 40C again and around 7pm it was still looking pretty perky. Three days into the heatwave and it’s handling it like a boss.

It’s sweet, tasty, hardly needs any water and is very slow to bolt to seed. If any does bolt after this heatwave I’ll pull it out so that characteristic isn’t passed on to the next generation. I feel a great need to continue to save this seed and keep this little plant going. It can be cropped for months on end by picking the large outer leaves as needed which makes it a highly productive space saving addition to my kitchen garden.

Mallow

mallow-seeds

Spotted these mallow seeds in the garden the other day and ate them fresh. I also fried them up for a few minutes with some small mallow leaves in a little b.d farm butter and Murray river salt as a little snack. Pick the seed heads while they are still young and green. They are still ok when turning mauve but once they are brown and dry they are too tough to eat.

There’s a saying in southern Italy ‘La malva da ogni male ti salva’ meaning Mallow saves you from every disease. Mallow has been used extensively across the planet as both food and medicine. In China they have used mallow as a staple vegetable for over 2500 years. The Egyptians and later the french also used the mallow Althaea officinalis to make a marshmallow dessert. This was the healthy precursor to the modern factory made sweet of the same name.

Malva negecta and over twenty other similar Malvas are edible. In the garden it:

  • acts a a nursing plant to seedlings
  • breaks up and aerates heavy clay soil
  • retains moisture in the soil.

The young leaves can be used in salads and older leaves can replace spinach in recipes. Leaves can be added to pesto and green juices. The young green seed heads can be pickled like capers, eaten fresh, added to any salad or cooked dish, or fried in butter and salt and added as garnish to dishes. The root can be used like a potato. The blended root can be used as an alternative to dairy milk. Mallow leaves can be dried and made into tea with a clearer stimulant effect on the body than caffeine. Any part of the mallow can be eaten including the flowers.

Beyond food, older stems and roots of mallow can be prepared into fibre. Soak in overnight and crush the roots, the fibres break apart and can be woven together to make twine. Mallow has also been used as medicine all over the world as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant, anti-bacterial, and an emollient to name a few uses.

Mallow root milk

1 cup mallow root, chopped

3 cups water

1 teaspoon, homemade vanilla essence

1 medjool date or 2 tablespoons of honey

optional – 1/2 cup almonds, soaked overnight

Blend all ingredients and strain. Store in fridge and use in place of dairy milk.

 

Ruby salt bush (Enchylaena tomentosa)

ruby-salt-bush

Ruby salt bush is really easy to grow and it’s part of my bush tucker garden out the front yard. It likes full sun and can survive off rain fall once established. While it was growing I pinched out the top growing branch to keep it short as it’s known to be top heavy and can fall over and snap. Mine is a low sprawling 1 metre high shrub.

At this time of year the little red berries are starting to ripen up. To harvest just place a your hand under the branch and tap the berries with your fingers. The ripe berries knock off really easily and fall into your hand. They can be eaten fresh by putting them whole into your mouth and mash lightly between your teeth. Suck the juice then spit out the seed. I don’t break the seed in my teeth as it’s a bit bitter. The flesh has light delicate sweet flavour with an undercurrent of saltiness. Small amounts of the leaves can also been eaten, preferably after boiling to remove some of the oxalic acid.

Ruby saltbush kombucha recipe

A handful of ripe ruby salt bush berries

700ml kombucha

Prepare the first ferment of kombucha like you normally would. Remove your scoby and set aside in your scoby hotel. Prepare the berries by washing them and removing any damaged ones. Place them into a bowl then crush gently with the back of a fork. Put the berries and any released juice in the bottle leaving 3cm of air below the lid. I use a recycled Bickford soft drink bottle for this. Secure the air tight lid on the bottle and place overnight at room temperature in a dark cupboard.

It will gain fizz, a ruby red colour and the delicate sweetness of the berries. I strain the fruit out using a tea strainer and decant into a new bottle and refrigerate. If the berries are left in it will progressively get saltier and lose any sweetness.

Dolmades

dolmades

Grape vine leaves are in abundance at the moment and are sending out lots of growth. I’ve seen grape vines growing in lots of public places and it wouldn’t be difficult to forage some. I’m choosing to pick the vines growing over our fence that come in from our neighbours yard because I know they aren’t sprayed. Pick young leaves around the size of your hand for this recipe. Don’t pick any damaged leaves as the stuffing will just fall out. Try to pick in the morning and don’t pick leaves that are providing grapes with shade. Pick one or two lighter green leaves from each branch/shoot from the under story of the vine. Pick the leaves in early summer. Older leaves are tougher, more fibrous and can be bitter.

40 vine leaves

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion

100 gm uncooked basmati rice

50 gm quinoa

50 gm pine nuts

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon five spice

1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mint, chopped finely

50 ml lemon juice

600ml vegetable stock or water

enough tomato to line base of pot

Wash the vine leaves and cut off stem with scissors. Blanch in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and then set aside in a tea towel. The leaves will turn a dull olive green.

Fry the onion gently until translucent. Mix dry ingredients and mint together in a bowl. Add cooked onion. I used whole cherry tomatoes to line the base of the pot. You could also line pot with sliced larger tomatoes.

Place a heaped teaspoon of the stuffing on each vine leave and roll up leaf. Start rolling from base of leaf upwards, then firmly tuck sides in. It’s ok to overlap smaller leaves to get a better rolling surface. Pack each rolled leaf firmly next to each other with the flap of the leaf on the bottom. This will stop it unrolling while its being stacked and while its cooking. Keep adding layers until all the rolls are packed in. Put a plate on top layer of the vines to stop them from moving in the water. Mix the lemon juice and stock and pour over the plate and bundles.

Bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the pot before removing.

Minestrone soup

At this time of year I can’t go past whipping up a pot of minestrone soup to get a hit of all the flavours from the garden right now – garlic, bay leaves, parsley, basil, tomatoes, zucchini, silver beet. The recipe changes depending on what in season.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 onion

1 red capsicum

4 carrots

4 zucchinis

1 bunch silver beet

2 cups over ripe cherry tomatoes

1.7 litres of stock

1/2 cup chopped herbs (parsley, basil)

2 fresh bay leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 cup rinsed red lentils

Put pot on medium heat. I chop as I go, wandering in and out of kitchen into garden to find more things to add and this gives time for the vegetables to fry and caramelise a bit which gives extra flavour.  Add olive oil and onions. Dice the red capsicum and add to onions. Stir as you add each ingredient. Peel and dice the carrots, add and stir. Dice the zucchinis, add and stir. Rinse the silver beet, dice and add. Its fine to add the chopped stems. Stir. Get the cherry tomatoes point the hole where the tomato was attached the plant downward. Squeeze the seeds into the pot and twist the tomato and drop it in the pot all in one action. Do this for every cherry tomato. Don’t blend the tomatoes as the broken seeds will add a bitter flavour to the soup. Use your hands for this.

Add stock (I use vegetable), herbs, bay leaves, vinegar, garlic and lentils to the pot. Bring to boil then simmer for 3 hours. This makes the most unbelievably delicious hearty vegetable soup. Serve on it’s own or with sourdough and b.d farm butter.

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.