Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 New Year: A is for apple

This year, 2010, I aim to highlight one of the fruits and nuts grown in the Blue Mountains each week. A is for apple, which is the most widely found and bountiful fruit in our bioregion. Apple trees can be found neglected but often thriving in public places and old private lands.
Look out for heritage apples. I used to live in Central Victoria close to Badgers Keep, where pomologists Clive and Margaret Winmill have collected hundreds of old cultivars, which you can read about on the ABC Gardening Australia website, here.
There is an apple arbour at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, where our first activity for the year takes place 10.30 am on Saturday 6 February. It is a talk about pests and diseases of Blue Mountains fruit and nut trees.
As with other fruits and nuts, the Horticulture section of the NSW Department of Primary Industries has good, downloadable advice on apples (and other relevant pomes, such as pears).
Recently we had guest to dinner who was avoiding many foods, including dairy and soy products, grains with gluten, and sugar. I adapted the following recipe for apple cake, by substituting the castor sugar with carob and the milk with water (though I thought of trying rice milk). I think it would work equally well with pears though I haven't tried the recipe with them.

Oil a 25 cm springform pan, say with olive (or corn) oil. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
Peel and thinly slice 500 gm Blue Mountains apples.
Separate 130–140 gm eggs (two large or three small ones) into yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.
Beat the yolks with a whisk and fold in 1/3 cup of rice/buckwheat flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder with 1/4 cup of soy milk. Stir the sliced apples in and mix so they are covered in it.
Add a 1 tablespoon of castor sugar and a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat till soft peaks form. (Have the whites at room temperature and make sure the beaters and bowl are clean so nothing contaminates them.)
Fold the meringue into the other mixture, place into the oiled pan and back for around three-quarters of an hour.
When I am baking a cake like this I always try and fill the oven otherwise I feel it is a waste of energy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

From Medlow Bath to Winmalee

Yesterday we went on a 'look see' of reported fruit trees on public land from Medlow Bath to Winmalee. We found the beautiful big chestnut trees that grace the opening of the Medlow Bath park next to the RFS, which has other commemorative trees, such as cherries.
Many of our stations have fruit trees on public land adjacent to them. Among others, we inspected the trees south of the Leura station, which include apples, peaches, pears, elderberries and blackberries. We noticed the sandwich board outside the Leura Gourmet Deli: BACK AT LAST Local (Mount Wilson) BLUE BERRIES Picked at dusk for sale here next morning. Of course, the Katoomba food co-op regularly has locally produced fruits and nuts as well as vegetables and it is great to see them advertised on the street as well as available.
I have mentioned the local theory that apples seem to have been affected by the dust storms earlier this year. Our tour confirmed that apples in the open seem to be less productive than sheltered ones, e.g. differences in the two apple trees on the steep stepped public land that joins the upper and lower parts of Kundibar Street in Katoomba.
Wayne (Lithgow), who will be talking with other experts at our next talk on the first Saturday of February 2010, says that there are 'several possible reasons your trees and others trees did not set fruit this year: the red dust covered the flowers and interrupted pollination, not cold enough for fruit to set, apples have alternating years of heavy or light crops, no bee activity in and around the area... etc, etc.'

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weekend 12–13 December

On Saturday I went to a berry party. Our host, Lizzie, grows wonderful raspberries, boysenberries and red currants. So we rambled through the netted stalks of berries, eating some and collecting more. Then we had afternoon tea with more berries and fruit scones and dreamt of an age starting in 2010 with garden surpluses and street parties and swap markets galore!

To a vegetarian, television chef Heston Blumenthal's medieval feast with 'meat fruit' was a blast. What you see is a crystal bowl of glistening fresh fruit. Once you eat it you find they are meat balls disguised as fruits! Shock. Horror. And Heston shows you how to make them. Great for the omnivorous, but... Well, now you know why there are insects all over the old Van der Ast masterpiece above.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On 'fruit' and 'trees'

Gardening and cook books often start by using a botanical definition of fruits as containers or walls, formed from an ovaries, for seeds which developed from ovules. Horticulture limits such fruits to edible ones, productive for humans; backyard gardeners and orchardists have narrowed the scope of 'fruit' to a subset which is a culinary, cultural, territory. So, famous fruits, such as tomatoes, do not feature in our list for the same reason that they do not appear in Glowinski's Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia (Lothian, 2006), where only the 'tomato relatives', such as tamarillo and Cape Gooseberries, appear in the Solanaceae chapter. When he comes to discussing what a nut is, Glowinski throws up his arms: 'A nut is whatever is usually considered a nut'!
If we plead common confusions round the meaning of fruit, it is not so easy for our network to explain how our list includes not only 'top fruit' grown on trees but also the lovely soft berries that grow on trailing plants and bushes, as well as fruit growing on vines and espaliers. The problem is we inherited the nominal 'tree' in our name and it has stuck, even though we clearly mean plant. Sorry!


We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)