Aug 162011
 

Grapefruit grow on a vigorous evergreen tree that can easily reach a height of 4 metres or more, with a similar width. Pruning will keep them to a manageable size. All varieties like well-drained soil and full sun. You will be rewarded to with kilos of fruit if you choose the most suitable variety for your climate.

All grapefruits are self-fertile and are great eaten fresh when used in preserves or marmalades. Grapefruit trees are excellent for screening or hedging, they make fantastic shade trees and are easily espaliered. Not recommended for pots.

Varieties

Ruby Red

The medium sized fruit has a red blush beneath the yellow skin as it ripens in July / August. The flavour is distinctly sweeter than other grapefruit, but still has that great grapefruit tang. The fruit makes a wonderful juice with its red / pink colour. The tree is dense and bushy and crops abundantly year after year. Originating in the West Indies, this variety has high heat requirements… so choose the warmest position possible. Leave the fruit on the tree to sweeten as long as possible.


Marsh

Being a parent of the red grapefruit it is very similar, but this variety has yellow flesh. A good strong growing tree that fruits consistently. If red flesh is not your thing, this is the grapefruit for you. The large fruit has a thin, smooth skin and a sweet flavour. The fruit has virtually no seeds and is late ripening.


Wheeny

The traditional grapefruit. Originating in NSW, the Wheeny is actually a hybrid of the Pummelo. It has large yellow fruit with a medium to thin rind and a very bitter, acidic flavour. Wheeny is one of the quickest and strongest growing citrus varieties and produces a large tree. Wheeny fruits heavily and reliably. Once your tree is established you will be sharing the grapefruit with the whole neighbourhood in late summer.


Thompson’s Pink

The Thompson’s Pink Grapefruit has a large fruit with few or no seeds. The flesh can vary in colour depending on the area. Under favourable conditions it is a light pink colour. The spring blossom can take up to 14 months to mature, but you must allow the fruit to ripen on the tree as long as possible to develop sweetness. Most fruit ripen in winter.


Pummelo / Shaddock

Similar to a grapefruit, the Pummelo, also referred to as a Shaddock. It can bear fruit to the size of a football. The fruit is not as sour as a grapefruit, but has a very thick rind… often with more rind than flesh.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here

Aug 162011
 

All cumquats are self-fertile, evergreen and will grow happily in either full sun or part-shade. They are also very cold tolerant. Soon after the fragrant, white flowers appear they produce ornamental fruit which stay on the tree for a long period. The fruit can be used for liqueurs, preserves, marmalades, drinks and bottling. All cumquat varieties are excellent for containers, screening, espalier and standards.

Varieties

Marumi (or Meiwa)
This cumquat grows into a small tree (around 3m x 3m). A very persistant fruiting variety that peaks in autumn and winter. The round fruit has a tart flavour and sweet rind.

Calamondin or Australian
A popular variety that is highly ornamental due to its columnar, upright habit and glossy, compact leaves. It is a vigorous grower and can reach 8m x 4m when mature. Will remain much smaller in pots. An abundant fruiter that peaks in autumn and winter. The fruit is juicy and sour with loose skin.

Nagami

A small, elegant plant that can grow to around 3m x 3m. Remains slightly smaller in pots. A variegated form is also available. The fruit is small and oval shaped with a thin skin and it is very juicy and only slightly acidic. The only cumquat variety suitable for eating fresh off the tree. The skin is also edible.

Chinotto
Chinotto is an ornamental citrus that makes a stunning pot specimen. It produces small, bright orange fruit every year that ripen in winter. The fruit isn’t edible fresh as it is very bitter. It can be preserved, but generally this tree is grown as an ornamental. The leaves are attractively arranged in a spiral around the long and upright stems. Possibly the source of the popular Italian drink with the same name.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here

Aug 162011
 

It might just be me, but cherries remind me of a good old Aussie Christmas – prawns, cold meat and salad, backyard cricket and the ever present bowl of deep red, super sweet cherries.  Mum would grab a couple of kilos of cherries from the supermarket and my brother and I would be through the lot in a couple of hours… bliss on a hot, sticky summer’s day!

Growing up in Queensland, having my very own cherry tree in the backyard was an impossible dream, as they adore a cooler, less humid climate and a lovely cold winter. This makes them a pretty good choice for the home patch across much of Victoria, especially those areas outside the Melbourne metro that experience bracingly cold winters (think Daylesford, Kinglake etc).

Continue reading »

Aug 162011
 

Clausena lansium

Commonly grown in S.E Asian backyards and gardens, the wampi is a slender evergreen tree that can reach 10m in a tropical climate and is grown for its clusters of brownish grape-like fruit. It is high in vitamin C and can be used to make jams, juice and desserts.

The tree foliage is attractive and aromatic, with bright green leaves and clusters of white flowers giving way to generous bunches of fruit in summer which are borne on the tips of branches. It requires little in the way of pruning and maintenance and grows into a slender tree.

Fruit is harvested when fully ripe, as it will increase in sweetness when left on the tree for longer. The fruit have a thin, brittle skin that is split open and seeds removed for its juicy flesh.

The wampi prefers a sunny and warm position with moist, well-drained soil and requires similar growing conditions to the citrus family (of which it is related). Whilst it is originally from tropical Thailand, wampis can withstand low winter temperatures to a minimum of -2 degrees Celsius and will recover from light frost damage.

Feed with well-rotted manure and compost only.

Varieties

Guy Sam
Sweet and tangy with brown skin, this variety has grape-sized fruit.

Yeem Pay
A yellow skinned variety with large, elongated fruit. This variety is very sweet and crops heavily.

Aug 162011
 


(Syn: Champagne Fruit) Carica pentagona

A versatile and remarkably easy to grow subtropical: the quiet achiever of the Carica genus, there is the papaya, but then there is the babaco – the champagne fruit – which will thrive in Melbourne and delight you with its wonderful fruit.

The attractive golden torpedo shaped fruit have a light refreshing effervescent flesh giving it the name ‘Champagne fruit’. The subtly tangy flesh has hints of strawberry, pineapple and papaya flavour, is white to yellow, fragrant and juicy. The fruit is easily made into a fabulous tropical fruit smoothy, a chilled fruit cocktail, or added to a fruit salad (there are no seeds and the thin skin is edible). Slice (so they look like stars), sprinkle with sugar, leave in fridge for a few hours and serve – too easy. The unripe green fruit is delicious used as a green vegetable in curries and chutney. The whole fruit, skin included, can be used in jam, or added to fruit pies. Add to all this the excellent keeping qualities (4 weeks on the shelf, longer in cool storage) of the babaco and it is verging on the perfect fruit.

Growing

Babaco is an herbaceous shrub growing to approximately 2.5m, large palmate leaves on stems which radiate around the trunk, a distinctive and attractive look. Useful if you want to get that subtropical look in your garden. The average life of a leaf is 4 months, they will be start to look shabby over winter and will shed.
It can tolerate mild frosts (-2ºC), but will need protection from heavier frosts. It may lose some leaves in frosts, but will recover. Also protect from wind and the hot afternoon sun.

Babaco is susceptible to root rot, so good drainage is non-negotiable. It is very well suited to container growing with a good free draining potting mix. A fast growing, heavily producing shrub, therefore you will need to fertilise well. For optimal results use a good quality fertiliser, mulch and water well during the growing and fruiting seasons, but keep water, mulch and fertiliser away from the stem. Composted chicken manure makes a good mulch.

Babaco has no tolerance for salinity, and as a precautionary measure, avoid gray water as well.

Shoots form around the base of the trunk and should be removed. Around September allow one of these shoots to develop (it will become the trunk for the following year). This shoot will grow rapidly but will not flower and interfere with the current season’s fruit set. After harvest, prune the main stem back to 20cm and the remaining shoot will now develop and become the next main stem/trunk. Allowing only one stem to grow gives maximum trunk size to a single trunk which in turn leads to maximum fruit size.

Fruiting & Harvesting

The flowers are all female (hence no seeds) and form on the developing trunk during the growth phase of the tree. The fruits set immediately after flowering, and start to expand fairly rapidly. The fruits are 5 sided, pointed at the apex and rounded where they attach to the stem (often referred to as ‘torpedo’ shaped). As they ripen yellow patches will appear over the green skin and these will spread until the whole fruit is yellow and ripe. Fruit can be picked when still patchy and they will fully ripen off the plant. The lowest fruit ripen first and then ripening progresses up the trunk.

Aug 162011
 

Actinidia arguta
(Syn.: KiwiBerry (marketing name) or Baby Kiwi)

Known as the Hardy Kiwi because it is frost hardy, (however new growth is frost tender). Produces very sweet grape sized fruit with a smooth skin and flesh similar to the better known Kiwi fruit in appearance and taste. Needs male and female plants to produce fruit, and will not bear fruit until mature (5 years minimum). Very vigorous vines growing several metres in a year. Best in well drained soil to avoid root rot.

Bearing fruit in autumn, each individual vine can produce over 25kg of fruit. Fruits can be eaten whole, no need to peel. The fruits are aromatic with a cocktail of flavours (kiwi, strawberry, banana and pear) wrapped up in one delightful package.

A lot of work is currently being done to produce new cultivars, NZ have 3 commercial cultivars: Takaka Green, K2D4 and Marju Red, and no doubt more will be developed. Currently they do not have a long shelf life, so it is not easy to find them at a fruiterer or grocer (best chance is mid Feb to Mid April), much better to grow your own.

Aug 162011
 

Apples are one of our most popular fruit. They are also a tree that many people don’t try to grow at home. But you should be! Melbourne has an ideal climate for growing apples. Apples require regular maintenance to bear a successful crop in the home garden. However it is worth the effort, particularly if you chose your favourite variety or a variety that is not available in your supermarket. There are many different varieties to choose from, most with superior taste to commercially grown apples, (selected partially because of their long keeping qualities). In addition to the fruit, you also get a beautiful spring display of blossoms as well as a wonderful shade tree in summer. For those of you with smaller gardens you can plant a dwarf variety (with full sized fruit) or try your hand at Espaliering.

Cultivation

Apples require a sunny open position (at least 5 hours of full sun a day), and a fertile, moist but well drained soil. Add gypsum to heavy clay soil and mix compost through the soil prior to planting.
Ensure an even supply of moisture throughout the growing season.
Fertilise in spring with a general purpose, slow release fertiliser.
Annual pruning in winter, firstly to develop a strong framework, and thereafter to encourage fruit bearing branches.
Regular pest and disease control measures should be carried out. Coddling moth and woolly aphids are common pest problems on apples in this area.
We keep a large range of apples in stock all year round here at BAAG, read on for the full list of varieties and their pollinators.

In addition to the apples listed here, we also keep a large range of Heritage Apple Trees.

Pollination

Some people are put off by the fact that apples need to be pollinated with a different variety. Remember this does not mean you need room for two apple trees. There are many multi-graft varieties available with cross-pollinating varieties on the one tree. You can also plant two apple trees in the same hole if space is an issue in your garden.

Full Size Traditional Trees

(all varieties generally grow to 4m x 4m)

Cox’s Orange Pippin
One of the oldest apple verities, Cox’s Orange Pippin is a large sized apple best suited to cooking. The fruit is a gorgeous golden colour with a pink to orange blush. If ripe fruit of this variety is shaken, you should be able to hear the seeds rattle inside! Suitable pollinators: ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Pomme de Neige’. Matures early season.

Gala
Has a wonderful flavour, great eaten fresh. Bright red colour over yellow. Tree grows to 4m x 4m. Suitable pollinators: ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Red Fuji’, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Cripp’s Pink’. Dwarf available.

Golden Delicious
Great cooking apple with sweet flavour leading to a slightly tart finish. Gorgeous yellow fruit that store well. Suitable pollinators: Granny Smith’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘Red Fuji’, ‘Red Delicious’. Matures mid-season

Granny Smith
Everyone loves a Granny Smith! Bright green, crisp fruit, with a delicious flavour, great for eating fresh and cooking. Suitable pollinators: ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Cripp’s Pink’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Gala’, ‘Jonathan’. Matures late-season.

Jonathon
The original bright red apple. Tasty, bright red, medium sized fruit with a slight tartness. Suitable pollinators: ‘Gala’, ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Golden Delicious’. Matures early to mid-season.

Pink Lady
A tasty, medium sized apple with a delightful pink to scarlet skin. Top eating flavour. Suitable pollinators ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Gala’, ‘Red Fuji’. Matures mid to late season. Dwarf and miniature available.

Pomme de Neige
Mottled bright red skin on areas exposed to the sun. Snow white crisp, juicy and sweet flesh, maturing late March to April.  Use as fresh fruit, for cooking and drying. Small sweet apple ideal for kids. Cross pollinators are Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin & Jonathan.

Red Delicious
A well named apple, this one is both bright red… and delicious! Large sized apples. Suitable pollinators: ‘Gala’, ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Cripp’s Pink’, ‘Red Fuji’. Matures mid-season. Dwarf available.

Red Fuji
Delightfully sweet aromatic fruit that is a muted red in colour. Great for eating fresh, and keeps well left to hang on the tree. Suitable pollinators: ‘Gala’,’ Golden Delicious’, ‘Pink Lady’ ‘Cripp’s Pink’, ‘Red Delicious’. Matures mid to late season.

Miniatures, Dwarf and Ballerina

Ballerina apples are a range of beautiful trees released by Flemings Nursery. Ballerina are columnar apples, meaning they will grow to a height of about 3.5m and 600mm wide. They are a great choice for pots and smaller gardens, or that tricky, narrow spot along the fence line.

Ballerina Bolero
A tasty little tree that produces sweet flavoured fruit. Light green in colour with a slight pink to red blush. Great eaten fresh, or used in cooking. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Maypole’, ‘Waltz,’ and ‘Polka’ or traditional ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Jonathan’. Matures mid-season.

Ballerina Charlotte
Bright red, juicy fruit great for both eating and cooking. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Maypole’, ‘Waltz,’ ‘Bolero’, ‘Flamenco’ and ‘Polka’. Matures mid-season.

Ballerina Flamenco
A beautifully sweet and juicy eating apple, Flamenco bear medium sized bright red fruit with a slight green tinge. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Waltz’, and traditional ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Gala’. Matures mid to late season.

Ballerina Maypole
A gorgeous compact Crab-Apple, Maypole puts on a floral display in spring that is not to be missed! Oh, and the crab apples aren’t bad either! Maypole is a great little pollinator for the bulk of the “Ballerina” range. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Bolero’, ‘Flamenco’, ‘Polka’ or ‘Waltz’. Matures mid-season.

Ballerina Polka
Pretty green apples with a slight red blush. Fruit is sweet, crisp and juicy and great both fresh and cooked. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Maypole’, ‘Waltz’, and ‘Bolero’ or traditional ‘Jonathan’, ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’. Matures mid-season.

Ballerina Waltz
Deep red, small to medium sized fruit. Great flavour with a slight tang, Waltz is great both fresh and cooked. Suitable pollinators: Ballerina ‘Maypole’, ‘Polka’ and ‘Bolero’ or traditional ‘Jonathan’. Matures mid to late season.

Pom-For-You

Cross pollinator: Pompink
Bright pink red over yellow green background autumn apple. These are columnar apple trees, or “ballerinas of the second generation”. Characterized by strictly upright growth, very rich and robust blossom followed by masses of uniform excellent quality apples. Firm and juicy, excellent flavour, can be eaten straight from the tree, cool stored, or used for cooking (also can be used for cider). Ideal for the gardener as it has very low susceptibility to apple scab, cancer, fruit rots and aphids, a very low maintenance apple. A fabulous tree for landscaping purposes with durable showy blossom, disease free generous foliage and attractive fruit. Provides a strong vertical element and looks stunning when mass planted.

Pom Pink

Cross pollinator: Pom-For-You
Yellow green base colour with stunning bright purple red blush over the top. A second generation ballerina with improved blossoming and fruiting characteristics. Known as a columnar apple and characterised by strictly upright growth with rich robust blossom, followed by masses of superb apples. Apples are medium to large, firm and crisp with creamy white flesh, aromatic and juicy with an excellent flavour. Can be used as an eating, cooking or cider apple. Excellent cool storage characteristics. Ideal for the gardener as it has very low susceptibility to apple scab, cancer, fruit rots and aphids, a very low maintenance apple. Fabulous tree for landscaping purposes with durable showy blossom, disease free generous foliage and attractive fruit. Provides a strong vertical element and looks stunning when mass planted.

Gala “Trixie” Miniature
Just like the traditional Gala, this miniature is an absolute treat when eaten fresh. A gorgeous bright red coloured fruit over a lighter green background. “Trixie” Gala grows to about 2.5m x 2.5m. Suitable pollinators: ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Red Fuji’, ‘Pink Lady’ ‘Cripp’s Pink’. Matures early to mid-season. This is a grafted tree.

Pink Lady “Trixie” Miniature
A tasty, medium sized apple with a delightful pink to scarlet skin. Great eating flavour. Tree grows to 2.5m x 2.5m. Suitable pollinators: ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Gala’, ‘Red Fuji’. Matures mid-season. This is a grafted tree. Matures late season.

Pinkabelle Dwarf
A true ‘dwarf’ tree, Pinkabelle is a variety of Pink Lady apple. Growing on a neat 2m x 1m tree, the fruit is sweet, full sized and tasty. Partially self-fertile, but would love a friend to pollinate with. Suitable pollinators include: ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Gala’, ‘Red Fuji’. Matures mid-season. This is a grafted tree. Matures mid season.

For more information on Heritage Apple trees click here
For more information on selecting bare root fruit trees click here
For our fact sheet on getting the most out of grafted trees click here
For those with small gardens check out our factsheet ‘Fruit Tree Espaliering Basics’

Aug 162011
 


The past decade has seen a wide recognition of the benefits and qualities of heritage and non-commercially grown fruit and vegetable varieties.

Commercially grown fruit and vegetables must have certain qualities such as uniformity, ease of harvesting, good travel and storage qualities all of which can be ignored by the home gardener. There is no need to compromise on flavour, texture, colour, aroma and fun when you grow your own. Heritage varieties have been around for centuries because people have enjoyed eating them, with the less appealing varieties disappearing over time. The end result is some simply stunning varieties to chose from, often with wonderful quirky characteristics. There are new cultivars being developed or found (nature did the work) by dedicated gardeners and horticulturalists all the time.

There is great charm and satisfaction in understanding, growing and eating fruit from your own garden. Researching the history of the variety, appreciating its specific qualities and how and when to eat it, all deepen the indefinable enjoyment of sharing the fruit from your garden with family and friends.

A more pragmatic reason for maintaining our heirloom varieties is genetic diversity and the knowledge that once a variety is extinct, it is unavailable for any future use and any potential benefits lost forever.

Worldwide there are thousands of heritage fruit varieties. In Australia there are far fewer, but still many to choose from. At BAAG, we are developing our range of heritage and uncommon varieties, trying to pick ones which will do well in Melbourne / Victoria and are both interesting and useful.

In addition to the Heritage Apples listed here, we also keep a large range of Modern Apple Trees.

Apple – Huonville Crab

Pollinators: Mid to late season apples such as Pomme De Neige, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Jonathan.
Because of their prolific flowering, crab apples are regarded as great pollinators for apples. Ripens April to May

Discovered in Huonville, Tasmania, producing deep scarlet apples which have deep pink flesh right to the core. The leaves of the tree are purple, as is the stem. Probably a hybrid between a crab apple and a cultivated apple, resulting in the small fruit (bigger than crab apples). It would also explain it’s vigour and prolific bearing. Great to eat, great cooked or juiced and makes a very acceptable cider.

Apple – Lord Lambourne

Self fertile
Ripens mid season (March to April)
Lord Lambourne was introduced in 1907 and is very much in the tradition of classic English high-quality dessert apples. Compact easy to grow spreading tree producing beautifully rounded fruit with an orange flush over green and a touch of russet. On biting into a Lord Lambourne the first thing that strikes you is the juice and acidity. The flesh is creamy-white and quite crisp, and the flavour is pleasantly strong.
Like many of the aromatic apples, Lord Lambourne is a very good juicer.

Apple – Opalescent
Cross pollinators: Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Sturmer Pippin, Lord lambourne, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Gala.

An American antique apple (c. 1880) of immense worth. Big, aromatic, primarily dark glowing crimson red and hefty. A fine and satisfying apple, a mildly tart and sweet crunchy stunner. Cooks superbly. Has been around for 130years and will be around for much longer, a great addition to any home orchard.

Apple – Sturmer

Pollinators: Court Pendu Plat, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Lord Lambourn
Very late ripening variety.
A popular Victorian dessert apple variety, notable for its exceptional keeping qualities.
Also called Sturmer Pippin, this is an English heritage variety from the village of Sturmer in Suffolk from the early 1800s which has become quite popular. It matures very late in and is great for cooking and cider. If left on the tree for long enough they are also very good eaten fresh. Stores extremely well which means they can be kept well into spring. A crisp, almost hard apple with a very high vitamin C content.

Most authors agree that it is not even worth trying to eat until February, and at its best probably around March – clearly a very useful attribute at a time when refrigerated storage was not available and people had to rely on seasonal produce.

Apple – Court Pendu Plat

Pollinators: Mid to late season apples such as Pomme De Neige, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Jonathan.
Ripens late season
This is considered the oldest apple known, introduced into Europe in Roman times. Small in size, yellow skin flushed with orange and red, sometimes russet. Brisk acid flavour when first picked, mellowing to sweet and fully flavoured as it matures. Flowers late (avoids frost) and just superb considering it’s about 1500 years old!

The flesh is very dense, not soft but not crisp either. Cutting into it with a knife feels a bit like cutting into a hard cheddar cheese. There seems to be very little juice, and it is not really apple-flavoured at all. The flavour is fruity and strong when picked, and sweetens as it ages. It is not actually very appealing when you first bite into it, yet is strangely “more-ish”, with a flavour which is hard to define. It can also be used for cooking.

Cider apple – Yarlington Mill

Pollinators: Partially self fertile
A famous old cider apple from the village of Yarlington in Somerset. A strong growing tree, beautiful elongated pink/yellow apples and the juice is rich with lots of good tannins, sugars and acidity, a very good cider apple, good cropper but like many cider apples tends to be biannual.

Lightly striped dark red skin; smooth, slightly waxy, yellow.
Flesh white, reddish below skin, slightly crisp with some astringency.

Can be espaliered to 1.5m – 2m or left to grow to a natural height of 2.5m – 4m.

If you want a heap more great info on Heritage Apples, written in a very personal way, head to Adam’s Apples at adamapples.blogspot.com.

Aug 162011
 

Absolutely fabulous native fruit, rapidly gaining favour not just with local provedores but also by our top chefs and leading restaurateurs. Containing up to four times the level of antioxidants of blueberries, these little berries are about to take off.

Continue reading »

Aug 162011
 


Solanum sp.
This large genus provides the world with tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes. It has representatives in the Australian flora. The so called “Bush Tomato or Desert Raisin” is Solanum centrale (also called Kutjera) which inhabits the dry inland areas of Australia. It is the tomato found in native food cuisine. Locally, there is S. laciniatum and S. aviculare (Kangaroo Apple). The fruits of these plants were eaten by the local Aboriginals, but only when ripe. This is an important point, as the fruits are poisonous when green and were used as an abortive by Aboriginal women. The toxic alkaloid solasodine is responsible for this side effect, and is in fact extracted and used as a base material for the production of steroid contraceptives in some countries today.

Cultivation
S. laciniatum and S. aviculare will grow readily in Melbourne. In fact, they often pop up in gardens as birds eat the ripe fruit and spread the seed. They will both grow from full sun to full shade. They are tall shrubs with glossy green leaves shaped a little like a kangaroo paw.

The central Australian Solanum centrale is another thing altogether. A small suckering shrub, it is difficult to grow in Melbourne. It has been suggested that you should plant S. centrale in an old children’s clam shell sand pit, filled with washed sand with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. It requires very little water. The above ground part of the plant will die back with the first frost, but if the root stock has had time to grow, it should re-shoot once the warm weather returns. You should ideally plant in spring to give the root time to grow, or try and protect the plant from frost. Over-wintered in a glass house (with little to no water) might be a necessity Melbourne.

Harvesting
The berries on Solanum centrale are ready for harvesting when they have dried out and resemble raisins. In central Australia, this happens in Autumn/Winter. I’ve never seen a S. centrale grown in Melbourne to tell you when you might expect fruit!

The fruits of S. laciniatum and S. aviculare must ONLY be eaten when they are absolutely ripe – deep orange/red in colour. It is probably best not to eat any Solanum species if you find yourself in the bush, especially in central Australia, as there are many species of Solanum, some resembling S. centrale which are definitely inedible. Approach all with caution!

Uses in the Kitchen
Only S. centrale will be discussed in this section. The Australian native flavour wheel says that the flavour of the Desert raisin (Kutjera) is like “The savoury caramelised aroma of carob; some cereal notes”. It has a spicy aftertaste which lends itself for flavouring meats, casseroles, stews, and used to make sauces and relish. It can easily be sprinkled on baked vegies or added to bread mixes.

Recipes

Kangaroo and Kutjera Stroganoff
Taken from
http://seasonwithsaltbush.blogspot.com/2008/01/kangaroo-and-kutjera-stroganoff.html

The meat I use for this recipe is Macro Meats’ herb and garlic kangaroo steaks (I slice or dice them), but I imagine you could use beef or veal or whatever if you like. Just keep in mind that the marinade affects the flavour, so I have no idea what it would taste like with an alternative meat!

Only taking about 20 minutes to whip up, this is a great weeknight meal.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter / dairy spread
2 small onions (or 1 large), diced
3 teaspoons ground Kutjera
1 teaspoon paprika (mild, I used Hungarian this time, but whatever you have handy)
1/3 cup plain flour
Approx 400gm kangaroo steak in herb & garlic, diced or cut into strips
220gm tin of mushrooms in butter sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Mountain Pepper Flakes or Ground Mountain Pepper
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sour cream

Step 1

Using a large saucepan or medium frypan, saute onion in half the butter until soft and slightly translucent. Scoop the onions out with a slotted spoon, leaving any remaining butter behind. Set aside.

Step 2

Combine the plain flour with the paprika and ground kutjera. Thoroughly coat the pieces of meat with the flour mixture. Melt the remaining butter in the saucepan before adding the floured meat, and brown all over.

Step 3

Add the tin of Mushroom in Butter Sauce and the cup of water. Return the onion to the saucepan, and stir in the tomato paste. Add the Mountain Pepper Flakes, and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Step 4

Stir the sour cream through the sauce, and remove from heat. Season to taste with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve alongside basmati rice and steamed greens, such as broccoli or green beans. Optional extra: sprinkle a bit of Sea Parsley over the stroganoff.

Aug 162011
 


Citrus australasica

Finger limes (Citrus australasica & Citrus australasica var. sanguinea) are native to the rainforests of SE Queensland and northern NSW.  A naturally thorny 6m tall understory tree producing the highly desirable 6-12cm long finger shaped fruit; they are highly adaptable and commercially are grown in poor soils.  Finger limes are genetically very diverse and it is this diversity that has resulted in the wide range of named cultivars displaying many and varied colours.  Grafted trees (root stock is Citrus trifoliata) will give you true to name fruit and will begin fruiting in year three, and will be fully productive at year six – producing up to 20kg fruit.

Position

Find a spot that has some protection from hot afternoon sun which can burn the fruit

Fruiting

The development period from flowering to harvest is around 5 months. Make sure trees have sufficient water at flowering and fruit set, and over the fruit growth time.  As with most citrus, fruit drop can occur naturally early in the season if more fruit is set then the tree can carry. Fruit may also be shed during very hot dry and or windy conditions.

Fertilising

Finger limes require a lot less fertiliser than other citrus, possibly due to smaller leaves and reduced canopy. Commercial growers apply only 25-30% of the normal amount of fertiliser.  The majority of feeder roots tend to be in the top 30-60cm of soil and a low phosphorus fertiliser is recommended, applied in small amounts 2-3 times in the growing season.  Over fertilising can cause dieback.  Do NOT apply fertiliser from flowering up until the fruit is a minimum of 1cm long or fruit can abort.

Pruning

Avoid pruning in hot weather as the exposure to the sun may burn the fruit. The trees like regular light pruning – heavy pruning can kill a fingerlime.  Cut back any vigorous water shoots and suckers from rootstocks, and try to establish an open tree with 4-6 main branches. Once mature, an annual prune after harvest to renew fruiting wood and to keep trees to a manageable size (hard to get the fruit when they are 5m off the ground…).  Removing crossing branches and excessive growth helps protect the fruit from damage by nearby thorny branches.

Cultivars

More new ones come onto the market every year, as well as new hybrids, crossed with mandarins and cumquats.  Generally bred for colour and degree of seediness, new cultivars range from pale green to dark red.

New Cultivars

‘Autralian Blood’ (syn ‘Australian Red Centre’) is a hybrid with blood red rind, flesh and juice.

‘Australian Sunrise’ another hybrid producing pear shaped orange fruit which makes a stunning marmalade.

‘Australian outback (syn ‘Australian Desert’) a variety producing small green juicy fruits ripening late December.  Wonderful in fruit sauces and as a garnish.

‘Pink Ice': Slightly bitter – think of grapefruit – wonderful as a garnish in drinks or seafood

‘Red Champagne':Red skin and flesh, amazing bouquet of flavours: Spiced apple, berry, apricot

‘Chartreuse': Gently acidic and lime flavoured, excellent lime/lemon replacer for seafood, garnishes, in your G&T.

‘Crystal':  Green skin, green ‘caviar’ – very fresh, very juicy

‘Crimson Tide':  Amazing deep red caviar, almost black skin

And loads more coming onto the market all the time…

Uses in the kitchen

The juice of this lime is similar to exotic limes, but the juice is held in compressed juice vesicles which look a little like caviar. When the thin skin of the lime is cut, these vesicles can be removed and added to drinks, canapés (oysters for example), desserts, fruit salads, and used as a garnish or decoration. The vesicles will bounce up and down if added to carbonated drinks, which is sure to be a conversation starter at your next party. Juiced, the Australian finger lime can be used as a Tahitian lime substitute. For example, in south-east Asian cuisine. Finger limes can also be pickled or made into marmalade.

Recipe

SUMMER CURED ATLANTIC SALMON WITH AUSTRALIN NATIVE FINGERLIMES.

Ingredients :
400 g Atlantic Salmon (skinned and boned)
2 Lemons, juiced
4 Australian Native Finger limes
40 ml Mirin
25 ml Rice Wine Vinegar
1 stick of Lemongrass (bashed with a mallet)
Pinch of Sea Salt
Pinch of White Pepper
½ bunch of Coriander
4 Bamboo skewers (soaked in water first)
Bunch of Rocket
Splash of Soy Sauce

Method :
Cut the salmon into finger-size lengths . Skewer the salmon length ways so you end up with long salmon kebabs .
Mix lemon and Australian Native Finger limes juice and pulp, mirin, rice wine vinegar , sea salt , pepper and lemongrass in a bowl .
Place salmon skewers in a shallow dish and pour liquid over the kebabs . Refrigerate for 5 minutes .

Serve on a bed of rocket with a little soy sauce drizzled over the top , and finish with picked coriander (This method of cookery is French and requires the acid in the citrus to slowly cook the fish) .

Picture – Daley’s Nursery (www.daleysfruit.com.au)

Aug 162011
 

For anyone who loves Asian, or Asian-inspired cooking, coriander is an absolute must have in your patch. This fast growing annual, with a head a bit like Italian parsley, is an awesome backyard buddy.
Continue reading »

Aug 152011
 

(Smallanthus sonchifolius, Syn.: Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia)

Cultivated for centuries in the Andean mountains this root vegetable is relatively new to Australia. Yakon produce two types of roots, the rhizomes which develop just under the soil surface and produce the aerial shoots and the large edible storage tubers which are attached to the rhizomes.

The plants are a vigorous herbaceous perennial up to 2m tall, with large triangular leaves which die back over winter. Tough: tolerating heat, drought and poor soils. The plants need 220 frost free days to produce the large tubers. The plants flower at the end of the season, after which the foliage dies down and then the tubers are ready to be harvested. For good production, protect from the heat of the hot afternoon sun and keep moist.

Why grow Yakon?

They are a wonderful crunchy crisp texture (similar to water chestnut) and a flavour described as a cross between an apple and watermelon. They can be eaten raw or their own or finely sliced and mixed into salads. They can be chipped, baked fried or pickled.

Like Jerusalem Artichoke (a close relative), Yakon contains fructooligosaccharides (an inulin). These taste sweet, but are indigestible and have a low caloric value – so great for those watching their weight. In addition they have a prebiotic effect (used by ‘friendly’ bacteria, promoting the growth of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria). They are reported to increase the absorption of calcium and possibly magnesium. (Note: Consuming large quantities of inulins can cause gas and bloating, and people with fructose intolerance should avoid them.)

You’re not likely to find this rare vegie in the supermarket, but now you can grow your own supply at home!

Aug 152011
 

Ipomoea batatas

Also known as Kumera, a perennial trailing tuber, developing over the warmer months. Plant in spring and harvest 4 to 6 months after planting. Highly digestible, rich in vitamin C, just as useful as ordinary potatoes in the kitchen, and have a distinctive sweet flavour.

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow but they do need a few things to grow really well. They need well dug, compost rich soil, and good drainage (essential). Plant in raised beds or on mounds 15cms high. This will avoid tubers rotting in wet weather. Before inserting the cuttings, spread a handful of all purpose fertiliser (avoid high nitrogen fertilizers or you will get lots of leaves and not enough tubers). Sweet potatoes don’t need much water and are vigorous with a habit of scrambling through the garden like pumpkin.

Harvest once the leaves start to yellow. The longer you leave them in the ground the better, but must be lifted before any frosts or tubers will rot. Dig up carefully to try and avoid nicking or slicing into the tubers. Leave in the sun to dry for a few hours. Sweet potatoes can be used fresh from the ground but will be sweeter if cured. This is simply storing in a warm (30ºC) airy space for 7-10 days. You can line boxes or baskets with newspapers and leave in a greenhouse or any space where the temperature is stable. After curing, store in a cellar or basement, ideally at around 12ºC.

Aug 152011
 

Colocasia esculenta

A perennial, tropical plant primarily with large arrow or heart shaped leaves. Primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, but also as a leaf vegetable. Taro cannot be use raw.

The corms can be roasted, baked, fried, steamed or boiled, used in stews and soups, and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavour. The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.

Growing Taro
Plant taro as soon as the frosts have finished in spring and the soil has warmed. They require a minimum of 200 frost free days to mature, so get them in as soon as you can. Space 40cm – 60cm apart in rows at least 1m apart.

Taro corms can be planted in dry or wet settings. In Asia taro is often planted in wet paddys. In dry setting, taro corms are planted in furrows or trenches about 6 inches (15cm) deep and covered by 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) of soil. Keep very moist and feed with a lot of compost and a rich organic high potassium fertiliser.

Tubers are harvested around 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die. Lift the roots before the first autumn frosts. Leaves can be picked as soon as they open, but never strip the plant of all its leaves, just pick a few at a time.