At this time of year something really special happens on the coast. I have fallen in love with all the gorgeous edibles that grow over the hot summer months. Muntries, karkalla, boobialla, coastal rosemary and many others are singing a beautiful song right now. This little shrub Leucopogon parviflorus sang out to me, drawing me in to taste its sweet fruit. This one truly is a little gem. Eat when white and pearl like. Plant in sunny spot in sandy soils.
Wreath making has been done by many cultures for thousands of years. While the symbolism varies between individuals, for the materials it’s best to use what’s on hand and in season in the garden. This wreath made today symbolises for me the circle of life continuing throughout time. The end of the year is fast approaching with a new year soon to come. The spring growth of the grape vines have a bunch of forming grapes as a promise of the summer harvest to come. The olive leaves were used to symbolise peace with some baby olives as a promise of the autumn harvest and winter pickling to come.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Karkalla (Carpobrotus rossii) is an abundant summer fruit that should be part of every Adelaide garden. I have some growing in my front garden as a ground cover but it has never fruited. It does have cheery iridescent purply pink flowers and puts on a great show each year so for now it stays. It likes sandy soils and can survive off rainfall.
While down in Goolwa the other day I saw it growing everywhere. I saw some growing in a half wine barrel spilling over the sides which seems like a good use of space in the garden. To harvest the fruit it will be pink or reddish colour when ripe. Pinch from where the fruit attaches to the plant being careful not to squeeze the body of the fruit. Then hold the open end in your mouth and squeeze the other end. The fruit will then pop out. It tastes a bit like mandarin with a kiwi fruit texture and slight salty hit at start.
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.