Saturday, 12 April 2008


Never park under a Bunya Bunya tree. Seven of these monsters landed last week..
About 20 years ago Diane and I found one of these wonderful Bunya Bunya cones under a tree at Point Cook Homestead, we planted it in a pot and promptly forgot about it.
About 5 years later it finally sprouted and is now a majestic tree about 15 metres tall.
I have since learned that they first make a tuber and when conditions are right they put out a sprout. Native to Queensland these trees are very important to the traditional Aboriginal diet and provided the occasion for traditional ceremonial feasts.
They bear heavily every 3 years, can be eaten raw, baked or boiled. They can also be made into a type of bread. They are just like a giant prehistoric pine nut.
The tree is very spiky and also makes a safe haven for birds’ nests, some of which unfortunately also came down in the recent winds. Thankfully we planted the tree away from anything that might not appreciate a 5 kilo projectile landing on it.

The last of the autumn harvest is coming in.

The bees have performed their magic. I am overwhelmed by the amount of honey they have gathered over the last 3 months. Alfred our beekeeping neighbour came and showed us how to harvest the honey. We simply cut away a couple of full combs from a few of the frames, carefully leaving the brood undisturbed. These full honeycombs were then mashed and very gently heated to about 40 degrees Celsius over a water-bath and left to settle and cool. The wax floats to the top and sets so it can be removed and the resulting honey is then filtered through a fine stainless steel mesh.
The melons are in, and the pulp frozen with some of the honey and lemon for sorbet and syrups. But mostly they are being eaten with the new honey and yogurt. Next year we can serve them fresh. Seeds are drying now.

The tomatoes were spectacular this year and are now safely stashed as about 200 litres of sauce, a heap of semi-dried tomatoes in olive oil and some also fully dried.

We prepare the sauce by heating whole tomatoes until they burst and become soft, then moulli them and reduce the liquid till a slightly thickened emulsion happens.
I do not add anything to this at all preferring to have a pure tomato flavour that can be adapted to many uses as needed.
Some preserving methods discard the seeds and light jelly that surrounds the seeds but I feel that that loses half the flavour. The clear liquid is full of complex tomato tastes I feel its a bit like the sum of the peel and the juice of a lemon two parts of the whole. When they get to the right consistency I then process them in Fowlers Vacola jars.
The market price of these wonderful Aussie icons has dropped over the years and we can pick them up in the op-shops for less than 50 cents each. Supply and demand, I fear it’s a generational thing . These jars are very well made, heavy and last for many years. New rubbers and stainless steel lids are available at hardware stores or at the Fowlers shop in Racecourse Road Flemington. [Worth a Detour]

The Tomatillos went berserk this year and we ended up with over 5 full wheelbarrow loads from the seedlings of two self-seeded plants. The dilemma was how to preserve them?
I made some traditional Mexican salsa verde but there is only so much of that that you can make, so then I pickled them in slices and tried to give away the rest. The pickling mix was made with vinegar, jagerry sugar, fennel seed [our own] chilli [ditto] some coriander seed [ditto] some rose-hip syrup and a touch of rosewater and cinnamon. I poured the boiling hot pickle over the sliced tomatillos and vacuum packed them hot. The acid in the vinegar and the heat will protect them for many months out of the fridge. I think they will go very well with duck livers, or perhaps avocados? They will be paired with anything rich that needs a strong sweet and sour accompaniment for balance.

The pumpkins are always spectacular. I am working on a sweetmeat recipe using pumpkin to go with the coffee. Any suggestions for unusual uses will be gratefully accepted.
The larder is starting to look good.
The last crop to be picked will be the olives; it will be touch and go whether the oil pressing or the restaurant opening is first. Luckily the winds did not harm them too much but the 30 new citrus trees planted before Christmas copped a bit of a beating.
I always feel the year begins at the end of autumn with the beginning of a new cycle.
Time to start thinking about planting the garlic.
If you need some good seed, try the Argentinean garlic now available at the market. I don’t often use or recommend imported vegetables but unless you grow your own seed, good garlic at this time of year can be scarce. It is well flavoured, untreated and importantly knows which way is up and what time of the year it is, as it comes from the southern hemisphere. Leave the Chinese garlic alone.
When the restaurant opens the garden will be virtually starting from scratch but lots of seedlings are on the go and as ever we pray for rain.
The tanks are almost full but the dams are at less than 20% and the cracks in the ground are long and deep.


Stephanie said...

Great stuff George! So what are you going to do with the bunya nuts??

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Opened one of the seed pods up today and it was hollow! might not have been pollinated? Will keep you posted.

grocer said...

one of everything for me please!