Espaliered oranges

Sailing Stones

Death Valley is located at the lowest altitude in the USA and is known for its extreme heat and cold. There’s a phenomena in Death Valley where black dolomite rocks as heavy as 140 kilos mysteriously hydroplane across the desert lake bed leaving trails in their wake. The occurrences confounded scientists since the 1940’s. Some believed that electromagnetic fields generated by UFO’s were responsible. There are even records of the happenings in Native American rock art depicting something unexplained up in the sky.

Modern technology enabled a couple of determined geologist to solve the mystery in 2014. The geologists set up a weather station and recorded the moving stones on camera after attaching GPS trackers to them. It took two years, a lot of patience, and perfect DSC05553winter conditions before they witnessed the rocks move. A day after rain the pond was covered with a thin layer of sheet ice.  The ice formed around the rocks lifting them clear of the lake bed. When the ice started to thaw and break up during the day some of it clung to the rocks forming a floating seat and the wind was enough to move them across the surface.

Winter carries with it a sense of slowing and contracting. There’s a temptation to curl up on the coach with a cuppa and a book. Mornings are crisp and cold and I often wake up in the clouds. Plant growth slows and aside from a little weeding not much happens in the patch. There are of course those ‘other jobs’. The ones I’ve been avoiding as they are as boring as waiting for stones to levitate across the ground. In fact one of them does require moving stones. Hundreds of them.

I have espaliered citrus trees in front of the house that enable me to step out onto the deck DSC05548in winter and pluck oranges and tangelos for breakfast. The trees are mulched using stone mulch as we live in a high fire risk area and I didn’t want to put flammable material right next to the house. It does make maintenance labor intensive however. I’ve been contemplating for over a year the task of taking up all the stones to give the trees a really good feed and compost to boost production. The rock wall surrounding the citrus also needed some repairs where it had subsided.   I finally attended to the tedious task this week. It’s quite meditative but it did make me wish for UFO’s or ice sheets to lend some assistance. Just imagine getting up one morning to find all those stones moved to one side without any effort from me.

Speaking of tedious we are still working our way through all those pumpkins, not to mention the kale. I did grow our first edible pomegranates this year which add a bit of zing and variety to a dish…

Kale and roast pumpkin salad with pomegranate molasses and almonds

Ingredients:

  • Pumpkin peeled, seeded and cut into small wedges
  • Bunch of kale
  • Handful of chopped almonds
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small pomegranate – seeds removed. The easiest way to do this is slice off the crown and expose the white membrane. Score around the pomegranate from top to bottom making four quarters. The score should reach the white membrane without cutting the fruit open. Soak the pomegranate in a bowls of cold water for a few minutes then gently pull it apart and remove the seeds which will sink to the bottom of the water.

Method:

  • Heat oven to 180C (fan forced)
  • Toss the pumpkin pieces with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses to season then tip onto baking tray and roast for 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
  • Blanch the kale in boiling water for a few minutes then run under cold water to stop it cooking. Drain and dry in a salad spinner or with kitchen paper.
  • Toast the almonds in a dry fry pan.
  • Whisk 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix the kale with the dressing and stir in the spring onions.
  • To serve, tip the dressed kale onto plates, place the roast pumpkin on the kale and sprinkle with almonds and pomegranate seeds.

Image: espaliered oranges

Kale leaves

Food fads

A few years ago kale became a ‘thing’. There’s even a cookbook called 50 Shades of Kale that apparently makes kale sexy. Personally I’ve never been a fan of cabbage. Kale is an older relative of the cabbage from the Brassica family and a close relative of my least favorite vegetable, the brussel sprout.

I resisted kale for a long time. I thought it looked like a chewy bitter, fibrous and indigestible green that would leave splinters in my mouth if I ate it. Cellulose on steroids. It wasn’t until a friend offered me some kale chips he’d made that my curiosity was tweaked. What doesn’t taste good with oil and salt after all?

I wouldn’t say I’ve climbed onboard the fad train. You certainly wouldn’t catch me having kale smoothies for breakfast, but I do grow it now. It’s easy to grow and it tough. It loves the cold and survives just about anything. A few plants I grew last year lasted right through the summer and were the only thing still standing after I’d cleaned out the summer garden. That means the only home grown produce I have ready to eat at the moment are kale, the pumpkins I picked a few weeks ago, kiwi fruit and preserved figs and quinces. Luckily there’s supermarket I can go to.

Melbourne has turned cold all of a sudden and it will take a little getting used to. It’s great to have some rain though. The garlic has popped as have the peas I planted a few weeks ago, but it will be a while till I have some to eat.

I do need to wade through all those pumpkins and like to eat from the garden as much as possible so I wanted to find something I could do with kale and pumpkin. Kale chips are easy but preparing kale for other things can be a bit of a pain. If you want to eat it raw you really need to massage it. Maybe that’s where the 50 Shades of Kale book came from. It’s a vegetable that improves with a bit of rough and tumble. Massaging breaks down the cellulose and the kale becomes more easily digestible. I prefer it cooked myself and I think its particularly good in soups. Here’s the recipe for a pumpkin, kale and broccoli soup I made this week. It’s got loads of garlic as well to keep the vampires at bay.

Pumpkin, kale and broccoli soup

Ingredients:
• 5 Garlic Cloves, crushed
• 1 large bunch Kale – cut out the woody stems and chop roughly
• 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
• 2kg Pumpkin, peel and cut into pieces
• 1 head of broccoli
• 1.25L Stock or well seasoned water
• 1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
• Season with salt and pepper to taste

Method:
• saute garlic and kale in olive oil for 3-4 minutes in a large pot.
• Add pumpkin, broccoli, stock, nutmeg, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
• Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
• Blend ingredients until smooth.

Image: curly kale in the patch

kiwifruit

Autumn fruit

Clunes is a tiny book town in the central goldfields region of Victoria with a main street wide enough to turn a horse and cart, and a colonial streetscape ripe for a gold rush era movie set. Once a year Clunes tiny population of about 1,700 punches above its weight and hosts the Clunes Booktown Festival. As many as 18,000 book lovers, sellers and writers swarm to Clunes to celebrate the book and listen to author talks.

We took our sadness about losing our old dog and decamped to nearby Yandoit which has an even smaller population of only 154 and spent the weekend staying in a beautifully converted old dairy.  It was originally built in the 1860s and set on 21 hectares of pasture occupied by Lola the cow and a mob of kangaroos. At the Dairy we relaxed and, yes, read books in front of the wood fire in between visits to the festival at Clunes. The Italian heritage of Yandoit is evident in the old stone farmhouses and I could imagine myself toiling away in the terraced vegetable gardens. It was a perfect antidote to a difficult week.

Back in Melbourne it was time (a bit overdue really) to get my winter seedlings and seeds in. We removed the large net that covers the summer garden and fruit trees so the parrots don’t eat everything and I harvested about 100 kiwifruit.  I left the smaller, less ripe ones for my colorful feathered friends. Into the beds I prepared a couple of weeks ago I planted garlic, broad beans, peas, snow peas, broccoli, spinach, chard, coriander, lettuce, leeks, spring onions and shallots. Now I just have to keep them safe from snails, cleared of weeds and watch them grow while I focus on getting some other garden jobs done over the colder months.

The name kiwifruit, also known as the Chinese gooseberry, is neither a native of New Zealand nor a relative of the Grossulariaceae family to which gooseberries belong. The fruit was bought to New Zealand from China in 1904 and people thought the flavor resembled a gooseberry.  New Zealand started exporting the fruit in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War when the name Chinese gooseberry would have been a marketing catastrophe and kiwifruit was eventually born in 1959.

This emerald green gem is best fresh and stores quite well in the fridge. Kiwifruit loses some of its great color and sweet flavor when bottled but it’s good for freezing, drying, pickles and jams. I’m partial to a kiwifruit smoothie with some well ripened fruit myself.

Ingredients:
• 2 kiwi , peeled and halved
• 1/2 banana , peeled
• 1 Apple juiced
• 1 cup baby spinach
• 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.

Do you have any suggestions for kiwifruit?

Old brown kelpie standing next to a pile of japla and butternut pumpkins

Smashing pumpkins

It was time to clean out the remnants of the summer vegetable garden this week. The patch had descended into a variety of browned off, shriveling plants and an infestation of weeds. Its quite cathartic bringing order to chaos in the garden. Under the supervision of the brown dog (pictured) I ripped out the dried out corn plants standing sentry, the shriveled tomato plants that will no doubt self seed again next year, and the exhausted zucchini. I picked the dried beans off their vines to plant next year crop and foraged for pumpkins. I compost all the waste.

Once I’d cleaned out the weeds I raked over the beds with a three pronged cultivar to loosen and aerate the top few inches of soil, fertilized with some manure and blood and bone, added a load of compost then covered the beds with pea straw to leave for a week or two.

This year I got a bumper crop of butternuts and kent pumpkins. You need to harvest them when the stem goes woody and preserve about 5cm of stem as it helps to keep them longer. You can store pumpkins in a cool dry place for about 30-90 days. So I’ll be making loads of soup in the next few months. Here is the recipe for the first soup I’m making this season – Pumpkin and roast red capsicum.

Ingredients:

  • 4 red capsicums halved and de-seeded
  • 1/2 large butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • Handful of chopped parsley or coriander

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 C
  • Spread capsicums, onion and pumpkin on a large oven tray, season and drizzle the tablespoon of oil over them
  • Bake the vegetables in the over for about 20 minutes until the edges start to blacken to give the soup that nice roasted flavour
  • When the capsicums have cooled remove most of the blackened skin and chop roughly
  • Heat the rest of the oil in a large saucepan and add the baked vegetables
  • Add the stock and chilli, bring it to boil them simmer for about 20 minutes until all the veggies are soft
  • Blend the soup with a hand blender or food processor

Re-heat and serve with a handful of coriander or parsley. You can also add fried diced haloumi and/or roasted nuts if you want a richer flavor.

Image: Jarrah the brown dog showing off the pumpkin harvest

Three large jars of preserved quinces and five small jars of quince jam. Home made

Preserving my sanity

It’s blowing a gale this morning. I live atop a north facing hill surrounded by bush land. I listened to the sound of the wind screaming through the treetops and rattling everything not tied down in the night until I could take it no more and closed the windows against the noise. It’s unseasonal for autumn in Melbourne which is usually characterized by morning fog clearing to fine, sunny days. A good day to stay indoors and deal with that pile of quinces in the fruit bowl.

I provided a commentary on poaching quinces in my Easter post. This time I’m going to move onto preserving. I currently have 22 fruit and nut trees in the garden as well as a sizeable vegetable patch. My mother in-law dusted off and donated her Vacola kit to me when it became evident that my frenetic gardening was going to produce more produce than we could possibly eat.

The Fowler’s Vacola system uses glass jars, rubber sealing rings and metal lids secured by tension clips to vacuum seal the contents. The Australian system was developed in 1915 – and looks like it. Whenever I get it out I feel like I should be wearing a hobble skirt or harem pants a’la Paul Poiret (who made a great contribution to freeing women from corsets). The fashion of the time was heavily influenced by World War I and the women’s suffrage movement and was a pivotal moment in the emergence of modern fashion.

George Fowler was a soldier who served in the British Royal Army Medical Corp as well as the Regular Army.  George clearly didn’t think much of the battle field quzine offerings and invented field cooking stoves and registered new patents for a food bottling and preserving system. His nephew Joseph Fowler came to Australia in 1912 to set up his own bottling business that grew to become the iconic Fowler’s Vacola Pty Ltd.  Fowlers  advertised ‘bring progress to your home by installing a Vacola bottling outfit‘. I can attest that despite feeling like I’ve gone back in time when I wheel out my Vacola, it has actually driven progress. I can now have home grown fruit and vegetables all year round and have almost no waste.

While the wind was blowing I preserved quinces. I used Fowlers preserving jars for this, but you don’t need to have a Vacola itself, just the jars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large quinces (multiply the recipe if you have more)
  • 300 ml white sugar
  • 300m warm water to dissolve the sugar

Method:

  • Place the whole quinces in an oven dish and bake at 160 C for 2.5-3 hours until the skins blister. Remove from the oven to cool.
  • Wash and sterilize preserving jars and lids
    To make the syrup dissolve the sugar in the water in a large saucepan and boil it until it thickens
  • Cut open the quinces and discard the peel, core and seeds and cut into large slices
  • Add the quince slices to the syrup and simmer for 10-20 minutes
  • Fill the warm sterilized jars with fruit and syrup, seal and keep somewhere cool for a delicious winter dish with porridge or yogurt.

Image: Preserved quinces and quince jam

12 fresh picked quinces arranged in a circle

Old food

Never one to shirk a challenge, I took up surfing aged forty-nine. It all started on a romantic week away to Byron Bay for my partners birthday. We tried hang-gliding but found it a bit boring as we could only be passive passengers.  Then we went for a surf lesson and were hooked. We stumbled across this guy called Rusty Miller who taught surfing at The Pass. Rusty is in his seventies and originally from California. He was a world champion surfer and is a great teacher as well as a politically astute and fascinating man. He runs a surf school with his daughter Taylor who is also a great surf teacher. That trip was the start of an annual winter pilgrimage to the iconic Byron Bay to learn to surf on the long, slow, reliable warm water waves.

Easter weekend is exactly three years since those first surf lessons with Rusty and we took our boards and headed down to Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria with some surfing buddies. Easter brings with it a big moon and king tides which drive large rolling waves. My Liquid Shredder surfboard, fondly referred to by a friends husband as the ‘floating footpath’, is an advanced technology soft hybrid long-board made in Peru. It’s easy to ride and can handle any surf that I can. On those big waves rolling in, I hang on for dear life as the board is caught and rushes forward with the wave, then I get to my feet as it gathers momentum. It’s such a thrill and a great way to play. Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks I say.

Speaking of old, the quince tree in my garden was full of ripe fruit at Easter. Quinces were highly prized by ancient civilizations though I only discovered them fairly recently after I planted a tree in my garden. The tree itself grows like a image in a Dr Seuss book. It produces the most beautiful delicate white-pink flowers in spring followed by giant yellow woolly fruits that have a surface as irregular as a boxers nose. I always preserve some of them, but we were having friends from Torquay over for brunch over Easter so I took a bag of quinces with me. There is nothing quite like the aroma that slow poached quinces infuse throughout the house. They develop a great pink-red color as they cook and are delicious served with Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • Six large quinces
  • 1 cup rice malt syrup and six cups of water or equivalent volume of sugar syrup (two parts water to one part sugar)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
  • 12 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 24 black peppercorns

Recipe:

Place all the ingredients except the quinces in a heavy baking dish. Bring slowly to the boil over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the syrup. Peel the quinces (keep the peel) and cut each into 6-8 wedges, leaving the core intact. Add the quince to the syrup in the pan. Tie the peel in a piece of muslin and add to the pan, pop the lot in the over on 150 C for three hours until the quinces are soft and a rich red color. Serve the quinces with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of the poaching syrup. Sprinkle with pistachios and cardamon.

What’s your favorite quince recipe?

Image: Quinces from my garden

Collander filled with lots of fresh figs

Fig that

In his poem Figs D H Lawrence wrote

“The proper way to eat a fig, in society,

Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,

And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.”

The fig tree in my garden is laden and it delivers over ten kilograms of fruit. More than I could ever consume by Lawrence’s method.  I’ve been on the hunt for 101 ways to eat and preserve figs as one does when there is an abundance of produce. This has included fig, tomato and prosciutto tart; fig and walnut bread; fig compote; burnt fig jam as well as dried figs and fig leather in the drier. For leather cut up the figs and turn to mush in the blender. Spread on kitchen paper on the drying trays and leave on over night. Great for a sweet snack – just don’t eat too much at once.

When I go travelling I love to learn as much as possible about the local food culture and cuisines. A great way to do this is to eat your way around town on a walking food tour which many places have or to attend a cooking class. When I visited Turkey a few years ago we did three of the walks hosted by Culinary Backstreets to get immersed in the local food scene. We also went on a kebab crawl to try and find the best kebap seller.

Turkey is the biggest producer of figs in the world and at the right time of year their distinct perfume wafts through the streets of Istanbul. A days cooking class in Istanbul taught me how to make some mouth watering Turkish dishes including fig and walnut desert.  This is the recipe.

Incir Tathsi (Walnut stuffed figs in syrup) – serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 12-18 dried figs (kuru incir)
  • 100g Walnuts (ceviz)
  • 1/2 lt/1 cup water (su)
  • 250g lemon (limon)
  • 12-18 cloves (karanfil)

 

Preparation:

Prepare a syrup by bringing the water, sugar, cloves and lemon (squeeze the juice and throw in the peel as well) to the boil.

Meanwhile, stick a little knife into the side of a fig and cut through to a little beyond the centre, then turn the knife in a way that a little less than half of the fig gets opened on its side (big enough to stuff a walnut half inside). Stuff the opened fig with half a walnut, the bulbous side of the walnut under the stem of the fig. Close back up, making the sides stick back to each other. Repeat procedure for all the figs.

Add the figs with their stem up to the boiling syrup (just covering). Simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn them mid-way through the cooking process and then turn again 5 minutes before the end to give them some colour on each side. Take off the heat and let hem cool in the syrup. Transfer the figs to plates plate, leaving behind the syrup. Decorate with ground pistachios and/or grated coconut. Serve at room temperature with kayak (heavy Turkish cream) on the side.

Variation: add Turkish tea and bay leaves to the syrup.

What to do with the leftover syrup:

  • Figatini: Cool and shake over ice with vodka (half/half) – tone down with soda water if too sweet. Serve in a shot glass next to the figs.
  • Boil down into a sweet thick sauce and drizzle over things that are not too sweet such as yoghurt, porridge, a fresh white cheese, pancakes, fruit tart, etc

What do you do with your figs?

Image: Figs from my garden

Homemade rustic tomatoe pie with fresh basil

What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. An oldie, but a goodie. Essentially if it has seeds, its a fruit (tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, legumes as well as apples and pears). Vegetables are the non-flowering bits like leaves (spinach and kale), roots (carrots and turnips) and tubers (potatoes). We tend to talk about fruit and vegetables more from their culinary use – vegetables are savory, fruits are sweet, but botanically speaking this distinction is not correct. Confusing, I know.

Speaking of old, I discovered the pure joy of growing bucket loads of tomatoes when I discovered heirlooms. There are so many varieties, from bite size cherries to big whoppers for hamburgers. A personal favorite, at least aesthetically, is the black and red (pictured in an earlier post). I can’t go past a yellow tomato to add an extra sweet taste and color to a salad, and as a crime fiction lover my personal name favorite is the Tomato Ananas Noir, because who doesn’t love a noir right? The Noir is huge and delicious, just like a good book, and gets darker as it ripens. The tomato even wrote its own thriller back in the middle ages. Wealthy people often ate from pewter plates, but items with high acid content like tomatoes made lead to leach into the food, causing lead poisoning and death. Tomatoes were considered toxic for about 400 years after that.

Of course growing bucket loads of tomatoes, one needs to find creative ways to serve and preserve them. There’s nothing quite like eating paddock to plate, but it does require research to fossick out new recipes so you don’t feel like you are eating the same meal three times a day, day in, day out. My most recent new find was the shortcrust tomato pie. Easy to make with a nice rustic finish (pictured).

Shortcrust tomato pie

Oven temperature: 220/220 Celsius fan-forced

Pastry:
• 2 cups plain flour
• 150g butter
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tblsp chilled water

Mix flour and butter in  a food processor till it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add egg yolk and chilled water.  Process until the mixture almost comes together.  Add a little extra water if needed.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to about 30cm and refrigerate for 30 minutes on a backing tray.

Pie:
• 1 tblsp olive oil
• 1 clove garlic
• 1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs
• 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 450g small tomatoes (I use cherry or other small varieties and cut in half)
• 1 lightly beaten egg
• basil leaves

Combine the olive oil, garlic and herbs in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the pastry, leaving a 3cm border. Arrange the tomatoes over the parmesan.  Spoon the oil mixture over the tomatoes and fold the pastry edges in over the filling.  Brush the pastry edge with egg and season the pie with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the tomatoes are tender. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve.

What’s your favorite tomato dish?

Image: Shortcrust tomato pie

ripe grapefruit on espaliered tree

Grapefruit

Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival officially begin today.  The zodiac system has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago and 2018 is year of the Earth Dog. The Dog occupies the eleventh position in the Chinese zodiac, after the Rooster, and before the Pig.

Zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture, and can be used to determine your fortune for the year. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremony to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. Like any good festival, food plays a central role. The exotic giant citrus, the pomelo, an ancient ancestor of the grapefruit holds a place of honor on the New Year table. The pomelo symbolizes prosperity and hope and is presented with leaves and stems in tact to ensure wholeness and balance.

I bought what I originally believed to be a grapefruit some years ago, but am suspicious its actually a pomelo due to the massive size of the fruit with thick pitted skin.  Though the fruit does grow in clusters like a grapefruit. The answer is possibly academic due to the close relationship between the two species. The pomelo looks like a grapefruit on steroids and is a non-hybrid citrus native to South-East Asia. The grapefruit is an accidental hybrid between the orange and pomelo originating in Barbados. China is one of the top producers of both.

I planted my grapefruit/pomelo facing north and espaliered it into a green wall that reaches some 4-5 metres from the ground to a deck which I can step onto and pick the high fruit.  I can also enjoy the beauty of the giant yellow orbs from the lounge-room. The tree is prolific, though only fruits every second year, probably due to the exhaustion of its alternate production. The fruit cling to the tree like great yellow balls for months. I only picked the last one in early April. I like to leave them on the tree as long as possible as they become sweeter with extended ripening and make a great breakfast juice. On hot days one must be wary walking past the tree in case it casts one of its fruits off onto your head. Death by grapefruit would be a bitter way to go!

I have not ventured past juicing or eating the fruit whole, but believe they are a great with salads (avocado, red onion and spinach) or segments added to fish before its baked. What are your great fruit (grapefruit) ideas?

Image: espaliered grapefruit/pomelo

 

Three red and black heirloom tomatoes

The summer food store

Plunging your hands into fertile soil is such a sensuous experience. The garden is my physical creative space and where I retreat to recharge and to think. There is a meditation created by the rhythm of the seasons. Gardening puts you in touch with the beautiful but harsh reality of the cycle of life. New seedlings are planted with such tender hope and there is joy in the budding of new fruit. There is also loss when pests attack, flocks of birds and other animals raid your fruit and vegetables, rain comes when it is not welcome or there is no rain at all and the scorching sun shrivels your produce.

I live on about a third of an acre of tough clay ground on a steep north facing hill. The whole area was mined for gold from the late 1800’s through to the 1960’s, so the soil was quite depleted when I moved here. Over the twenty years I have lived in Warrandyte I have gradually built up the soil and the garden to be productive enough to provide over 50% of the household food. There are twenty-one fruit and nut trees, and the only flat piece of ground on the block has been dedicated to the vegetable garden. I also have kiwi fruit, passion fruit, raspberries and herbs growing.

This year I lost all my apples from one tree in an afternoon when a flock of Crimson Rosellas swooped in the day before I planned to net the tree.  The tree convulsed for about ten minutes emitting a cacophony until they had eaten the lot, leaving only apple cores hanging on stalks. I have had a bumper crop of about twenty kilos of tomatoes though. I have frozen and pickled tomatoes and sought out recipes to eat them in a variety of ways, most recently with the abundance of green beans growing. A very simple but tasty combination is cooked as follows:

  1. lightly cook the beans in boiling water
  2. add olive oil to a non-stick fry pan and throw in several thinly sliced cloves of garlic (had a great crop of garlic last year which hangs in the shed till we need it)
  3. stir in the beans then push them to the outside of the pan and fill the middle with chopped tomatoes till they are cooked (you can also throw in some chopped zucchini if you have some growing)
  4. stir in some parsley and basil if you have any. Add salt and pepper.

I’ve been serving it with a bit of grilled or lightly fried chicken and some corn on the cob from the garden. Yummo.

What’s happening in your patch?