Tales from Garden to Table
Are you curious about using bushfoods but don't know where to start? Are you struggling to keep up with the tomato harvest? Or are your zucchinis getting away from you? Then join us as we bring you tales from our garden with bushfood and other seasonal recipes, tips on harvesting and storing your produce and stories of our tears and laughter as we grow our nursery and garden into our patch of paradise.
|Posted on 14 April, 2016 at 1:55||comments (14)|
By Claudia Green
Austromyrtus dulcis, commonly known as either Midyim or Midgen Berry, is one of those plants that really deserves a place in any garden and hopefully we will be seeing a lot more of it in the coming years. It is a lovely shrub with a variable growth habit, sometimes growing prostrate as a groundcover, other times as a shrub up to 80cm. In their original environment of coastal NSW southern Queensland, they are known to get up to 2m tall but are unlikely to reach those heights in the cooler southern climates.
The coppery new growth gives it an attractive colour year round and in a good year it may be covered in flowers anywhere from November through to February. Flowering times probably depend somewhat on climate and location – I have seen them flower in spring and fruit in summer in the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens whereas those in our nursery in Kinglake which is cooler and probably slightly wetter, they flowered profusely in February and are now covered in little green fruit which will become white to violet when ripe.
This plant is also proving quite adaptable to different soils and climate conditions meaning it can grow in a wide range of environments. Our plants, both those in pots and in the ground, survive both the cold and frosty winters as well as the hot and windy summers without ever looking the slightest bit sad. In fact, so far the only things to hurt them are the rabbits.
Originally from coastal environments they grow well in sandy soils as long as they have adequate moisture. However, they also adapt quite well to heavier soils provided the drainage is good. In really heavy clay you can try adding gypsum, organic matter or some sandy loam and raising the garden bed slightly.
Midyim Berry fruit are quite small – about 5 to 8mm – so if you want to grow them for fruit you will need quite a few plants for a decent crop. On the upside they can be extremely productive once they get going after the first year or two of growth and are a fun snack for children. Try growing them as a low hedge instead of the old Box – they are both prettier more useful.
The fruit itself has a sweet flavour with a slightly peppery after taste that is quite unique. They are probably best eaten straight off the plant but if you get enough of them try adding them to both sweet and savory salads or as a topping for ice-cream. I think they would pair particularly well with raspberry or coconut ice-creams or just to give the old favourite vanilla a bit of a kick.
If you would like any more information on Midyim Berries or other bushfood plants, produce or recipe ideas you can check out the website forgottenfoods.com.au or contact Claudia at [email protected]
|Posted on 29 January, 2016 at 0:05||comments (1)|
It really is amazing how many of our native plants offer something edible. The following list of common garden plants represents just a tiny proportion of native plants that have edible roots, fruit, leaves or seeds.
- Brachychiton populneus or Kurrajong is a beautiful small tree that makes a great feature in the garden and, even more impressive is that the seeds can be roasted and eaten whole or ground into flour.
- Bursaria spinosa or Sweet Bursaria, Boxthorn and numerous variations around these common names, is a variable medium to large shrub that is common in bushland throughout Victoria and NSW. I only found out today that the both nectar and seeds are edible with the seeds being yet another useful source of bush flour.
- Clematis aristata or Old Mans Beard is a light climber found throughout forested areas throughout Eastern Australia. It is an attractive plant with a lovely spring flower display and masses of fluffy seed heads in summer and has edible tap roots that can be roasted.
- Hardenbergia violacea or Native Wisteria is another attractive climber with lovely violet flowers in spring. Early settlers apparently brewed a tea substitue from the leaves.
- Kennedia prostrata or Running Postman is a fabulous little groundcover ideal for rocky gardens where it can wend its way amongst the rocks. The flowers contain sweet nectar and the leaves can also be used for tea.
- Lomandra longifolia or Spiny Matt Rush is such a commonly used plant it is getting a bit boring. However, it certainly has its uses as a filler plant in difficult spots and as an added bonus you can eat the leaf bases which taste like peas. The nectar is apparently also edible but how you would get past the spines is beyond me. There is some sketchy information that also suggests the seeds ground for flour. You could also try some of the other species of Lomandra some of which lack the spines on the flowers which would make nectar tasting far easier.
- Viola hederaceae or Native Violet is a great little groundcover for shady spots in the garden. It does prefer moist conditions and may disappear over summer if it is too hot and dry. The dainty little flowers make a pretty addition to a fruit salad or icecream.
- Xanthorrhoea australis or Grasstree was used for food, weapons and basketry. The flower spikes are rich in edible nectar and the leaf bases may also be edible.
- Dianella caerulea or Blue Flax Lilly is a usefull filler plant where you want something tough and tufting. The purple flowers are a pretty feature as are the edible blue berries. The berries of most Dianella species are apparently edible with the possible exception of D. tasmanica although it depends on which reference you read. If you're wanting to try any of the berries start with a very small amount and see how they smell and taste and obviously use common sense and don't eat any more of them if you feel in any way unwell.
- Banksia marginata or Silver Banksia is a good feature tree or screening shrub for coastal and dry gardens. All banksias produce copious amounts of nectar which can be sucked straight from the flower or made into a drink by soaking the flowers in water for a few hours.
|Posted on 17 August, 2015 at 3:00||comments (0)|
Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citriodora – is undoubtedly one of the most versatile of bush food plants. Its lemon scented leaves can be used to flavour both sweet and savory dishes, they can be used fresh or dried and as an infusion for a subtly flavoured yet very refreshing herbal tea. In addition to its culinary prowess it is also very high in Vitamin E, calcium and folate. Its unique lemony scent is also finding its way into cosmetics, soaps, scented candles and laundry detergents.
Despite being a subtropical rainforest plant it does surprisingly well in Melbourne, ours having come through this winter with no sign of frost burn or stress. Personally I think it would make an excellent street tree where passersby could pick a few leaves for their dinner or dessert. A small to medium evergreen tree it also puts on a lovely flower display in summer and if you’re looking for something to bring in the bees to pollinate your pumpkins then this could be just the ticket.
This recipe is an adaptation from and Italian ricotta cake that is, in my opinion, one of the best cheesecakes ever. It is light and luscious and very, very moreish. One thing I love about the Italian food philosophy is the way it embraces whatever ingredients are available. The Italians have never been scared to try new things and adopt new ingredients into their cooking. It is a cuisine that lends itself very well to experimentation with novel foods and its natural simplicity means it is easy to replace one ingredient for another as I have done here. I simply replaced walnuts with macadamias and a spoonful of ground wattle seeds, and the orange rind with lemon myrtle and you have a cake with Italian origins but a uniquely Australian flavour.
Lemon Myrtle and Macadamia Ricotta Cake
150g unsalted butter softened
150g caster sugar
5 eggs separated
250g ricotta (fresh if possible)
1 tbsp finely chopped lemon myrtle leaves
40g plain flour
115g macadamias toasted and roughly chopped
1 tsp roasted, ground wattle seed (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C, grease a round baking tin and line with baking paper.
Cream the butter and 115g of the sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time continuing to beat between each addition.
Beat in the ricotta, then add the lemon myrtle, flour and wattle seed (if using) and stir to combine.
In a separate, clean bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form then beat in the remaining sugar.
Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the ricotta mix and mix in gently using a large metal or wooden spoon. Add the remaining egg white in two batches and stir just enough to combine being careful not to overwork or you will lose the air in the mixture.
Poor into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30-40 mins. until fork comes out clean and the cake is springy.
Allow to cool in tin then spread with a little warmed jam (use lillypilly if you can to continue the Australian theme).
Serve with wattle seed tea or coffee.
ENJOY (I bet you can’t stop at just one piece).
|Posted on 19 May, 2015 at 0:30||comments (0)|
I made this cake for one of my Bushfood classes and it went down a treat. The wattle seed adds a unique nutty, slightly chocolatey flavour to the cake while the Lemon Myrtle adds a twist to the traditional lemon syrup.
100g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarb soda
125g caster sugar
1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp. ground roast wattle seed
1 tbsp. lemon myrtle leaf finely chopped (fresh or dried)
1 tbsp. lemon rind
100g caster sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3-5 lemon myrtle leaves
Pre-heat oven to 180oC. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Cream butter and sugar till well combined then add eggs and beat until light and creamy.
Sift flour, baking powder and bicarb soda into the egg mixture.
Gently stir in the milk, wattle seed, lemon rind and lemon myrtle.
Spoon batter into prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes our clean. Prick the top of the cake all over with a fork and pour the syrup over the hot cake allowing it to soak in.
Gently heat sugar, lemon juice and lemon myrtle leaves until sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy.
Remove lemon myrtle leaves before pouring over hot cake.
|Posted on 8 May, 2015 at 2:00||comments (0)|
The humble Pepino (Solanum muricatum), is in the same family as the tomato. When trying to grow this in Belgrave I never had any luck as it just wasn't getting enough sun. This year in Kinglake is the first time I have had success with Pepino and I have discovered what a real garden gem it is.
In the right conditions Pepino is a dense, low shrub that grows to about 40cm high but spreads up to 1m wide. Because of its dense growth and large leaves it quite successfully shades out any competing weeds and it actually forms a really attractive low shrub or groundcover with lovely little purple flowers. And when it's happy this guy is a real producer. So far our one little plant has produced in excess of 40 fruit and has only just finished flowering. The other upside is that the fruit ripens when a lot of other fruiting plants have finished so you get something sweet in late autumn.
The fruit starts out green and very much resembles a Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum) to which it is closely related. However, the fruit ends up considerably larger than Tamarillo fruit, our biggest weighed around 400g. As the fruit ripens it changes to a pale orange with purple stripes and is quite attractive in the garden in itself.
Pepino fruit have a flavour, colour and texture very similar to that of a rockmelon but are infinitely easier to grow. The thin skin and soft flesh mean that they are easy for kids to eat (skin and all) and they keep surprisingly long once picked. I have had a bowl full sitting on the kitchen bench for two weeks and they are still in excellent condition.
The only downside to these fruit are that they seem to be favoured by caterpillars and occasionally birds but only if they can find them under the dense green foliage. Caterpillars seem to only do minor damage however which can easily be cut out.
So, what to do with Pepinos other than simply enjoy them fresh? Well at the moment I am testing out a batch of Pepino jam. I used 1.5kg chopped Pepino fruit, 800g sugar, about 1 cup of water and the juice of half a lemon. I'm not sure yet whether the sugar content will be enough to set the jam but if not then it will make a lovely syrup as the flavour is really coming through already.