Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hazelbrook–Lawson 100 year old apple tree

On Sunday 20 December Maryanne and Chris and I accompanied Father Eugene Stockton for a walk over an old property located halfway between Hazelbrook and Lawson, which was once the site of an orchard. According to Father Stockton, the apple tree shown in the photos was already an old tree when he first saw it seventy years ago. We think that it is probably over a century old. It fruits every second year and he can testify that the apples are very nice stewed with rhubarb.

Friday, December 17, 2010


We have a few reports that cuttings of native raspberry (Rubus Hillii) sourced from the Whitton's earlier this year (see pics in post below) are doing well.

Similarly berries sourced from Lizzie Connor, who used to live in Katoomba but is now a Taswegian, have taken.

The Cloud Farm Community Collective at Mount Tomah reported that red currants, yellow raspberries and gooseberries were already ready last week and raspberries will probably be harvested today.

Blueberries, though, look like they are waiting for the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network to pick on January 2!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dwarf apples

Did you see the ABC's Gardening Australia program last Saturday night (4 December)? There was a great segment on dwarf apples and although the garden was in Tasmania, all the information would be relevant for us here in the Blue Mountains. They discussed pruning, organic manures, trellis's and the apple's love of dolamite. You can view it here. Please let us know if you have a dwarf apple varieties growing succcessfully in our area.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best fruit cake time of year

It's that time of year, which is why writing posts has dropped by the wayside. But, here we are again, with my best fruit cake recipe to share.

You will need a large saucepan and a large cake tin smeared in oil and lined with greaseproof paper oiled on the side of the mixture.

Into the saucepan place 2 cups of raisins, 2 cups sultanas, 1 cup currants, 300gm butter (or 1 heaping cup, 300ml, of oil), 1 and one half cups of brown sugar (or 1 cup, 250ml, honey), 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and 2 cups (500ml) water (or 375 ml if using honey instead of sugar).

Bring to the boil, being careful because the bicarb will froth and foam over if you're not there to regulate the heat. Keep on a brisk simmer, stirring for several minutes, i.e. until the sugar has dissolved. Now leave it to cool, which will take at least half an hour depending on the weather and where you leave it.

Once the mixture is cool preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade. Beat 4 fresh eggs together. To the cool fruit mixture add a couple of teaspoons of finely grated nutmeg or ground ginger and the same quantity of ground cinnamon, and a pinch or two of cloves as well as the beaten eggs. Finally fold in 2 cups of sifted wholemeal plain flour. Don't be surprised at how runny the mixture is, just pour it into your prepared pan.

The cake takes around an hour and a half of baking. I place a lid on it, usually after about half an hour, to make sure it doesn't burn on the top.

We call this the Christmas fruit pudding cake.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Growing your own prevents pesticide exposure

All of us should eat a few servings of fruit everyday. Choice magazine has done several tests over the years on pesticides in fruit (don't think you can wash them all off).

An article on strawberries (29 January 2008) revealed that most conventionally grown strawberries tested by Choice contained pesticides, some relatively dangerous ones. Even though they tested only good specimens, one batch was above the maximum residue limit set by Australian standards, another breached EU standards, some contained traces of pesticides not permitted for use in the source state (the states and territories have different regulations for producers) and 17 contained traces of two or more pesticides, which means consumers risk the often unknown (under-researched) synergistic affects.

Another article (10 March 2006) showed that testing of fruit and vegetables is neither as regular not as rigorous as we might expect — neglecting many (95%) imported products. The conclusion was go organic or grow your own — organically of course!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cloud Farm Community Collective

Despite the shocking weather last Sunday, ten of us braved the rain and toured the Mount Tomah food forest, hosted by the Cloud Farm Community Collective. This collective was formed to preserve a one acre food forest in a massive netting house.

The collective is 'working for food not money'. One of its aims is to share skills and knowledge within our local community. We will go back in a couple of months to give more people the opportunity to tour and do some skill-building and work there.

John outlined the land's history. (John and Judith Chorley established the food forest and have entered into an arrangement for the collective to manage and benefit from the food grown there.) Rob and Gary, members of the collective, filled us in on other details as to how it functions, with people dedicating work and being 'paid' in a proportional amount of food. It's a beautiful work-in-progress.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Quarry Garden Gate, Blackheath

The crew gardening the quarry site in Connaught Road Blackheath have honey, home made cordial and marmalade — as well as other fresh produce and organic vegetable seedlings — for sale at the moment.

The garden looks wonderful right now, so rock up 10am to 12 noon/1pm one Tuesday or Saturday over the next few weeks.

Connaught Rd is off Govetts Leap Rd. Drive to the end and turn left through the big gates. (There's a sign out the front.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

ABC Organic Gardener Magazine

Every now and again I browse the ABC Gardening website. Today i noticed a great article that I missed when it came out in the July–August issue of the ABC's Organic Gardener Magazine: 'Catching Falling Fruit'.

The article discusses activities, such as our network promotes here in the Blue Mountains, as part of an 'urban orchard' movement.

There was an article in the July issue of the ABC's Gardening Australia Magazine, 'Dwarf Apples', too; many of our members are interested in, or experimenting with, dwarf varieties.

You might want to take a look at the Fact Sheet on Planting and Pruning Berries too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lemons and grapefruit

The Blue Mountains Food Co-op in Happenny Lane, Katoomba, is open seven days a week (P: 4782 5890). The fresh vegetable and fruit area includes locally grown produce by gardeners; currently there are lots of lemons (so you can try out the recipes provided in the last post and on 30 July) as well as grapefruit (red and yellow).

We had to cancel Monday's Varuna pruning because of excessive rain, but plan another visit 10 am Monday 18 October (weather permitting).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fresh lemon sponge

This 'sponge' lasts up to a week. It is a lovely light cake, ideal for serving as a dessert with fresh fruit or a soaked dried fruit compote.
Beat half a cup of corn (or other) oil with one cup of raw sugar. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. Sift in one and a half cups of self-raising flour and a pinch of salt alternately with half a cup of soy milk. Add two teaspoons of grated lemon rind. Pour into a pre-greased and floured round cake pan. Bake in a 180 degree C. oven for three-quarters of an hour, but cover around half way through once the top has browned.
Mix together one-third of a cup of lemon juice with one-quarter of a cup of brown sugar, stirring well to dissolve sugar.
Once cake is 'done', remove from oven and prick all over (say 100 times with a skewer) before gently pouring the sweet lemon mixture over the hot cake. Leave it to cool in its tin and then gently remove.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More pruning at Varuna

Yesterday we pruned again at the Varuna Writers Centre in Katoomba (see photo, below left). This is an ongoing project — we will have another working bee there in a couple of weeks (TBA). The weather is beautiful this time of year. There is some great information about pruning fruit trees at different times of the year for different purposes at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension service website: click here for the page.

The cuttings of the native raspberry that I — and several others — got from Wendy and Tom Whitton's place are starting to establish themselves too (see photo, above right).

There is so much blossom in the air, lots of us are suffering from the allergic affects of pollens. But, the upside is the nurturing feeling of new beginnings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Olives growing in Megalong valley

The photos are from pruning fruit trees at Varuna Writers Centre in Katoomba on Monday 6 september, an ongoing project of the fruit and nut tree network.

Slow Food Blue Mountains has organised two visits to the Glyn Newydd Olive Grove in Megalong Valley for Sunday and Monday 14 and 15 November. A tour through the organic farm will include information about growing olive trees and harvesting olives. Lunch includes a taste of their olive products — dips, oils etc. (The cost is $35/$39.) Take a look at their website.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


It's too late to prune many fruit and nut trees now to improve the summer harvest. However, tomorrow we are pruning at the Varuna Writers' Centre because they prefer to see them 'tidied up' rather than worry about the coming crop. Indeed we all prune out of season sometimes when a tree is damaged by the weather, has been attacked by pests and disease, or reshaping is desired or required because of the trees siting.

A book recently published by the CSIRO, Pruning for Flowers and Fruit by Jane Varkulecivius, has many chapters on pruning specifically fruit trees/plants, including the canes of berries (which we covered in the workshop at Lizzie's in May).

The photo shows Paul at Anne Elliot's yesterday, with some preserved kiwi fruit. Yum!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apple pectin recipe

Here's an apple pectin recipe from Melanie from Bullaburra.
To set one litre of liquid you will need 1.5cl (cl = centilitre; 1cl = 10ml; ml = millilitre) of the following.

Take one kilogram of apples and roughly chop them — don't bother about peeling, coring, or deseeding.
Place them in a pan and cover with water, bring to the boil and cook on a low heat for half and hour.
Sieve by pouring the pulp in a colander lined with muslin over a large bowl and allow to strain for at least 12 hours.
Put the collected juice into a pan and reduce by half.
Seal in sterilised jars.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Citrus workshop

Our Citrus Workshop in the Kihilla (Lawson) kitchen on Saturday 14 August was well attended. Lizzie gave a short talk and led the sharing of citrus experiences, questions and produce.

People brought grapefruit, oranges, lemons and tangellos, including: Frank brought several tubs of citrus — all named — from the lower mountains, Ross brought lemon sorbet and served it in lemon peel cups, Melanie brought a paste and marmalade for tasting and there was a basket of lemons from Gwen (Kihilla).

Frank offered us small slices of a white sapote — a member of the Rutaceae family too.

Kat talked about the cooperative development at Mt Tomah where they have planted many fruit trees, and some nut plants.

Maryanne led a tour of the Kihilla site where the Mid-Mountains Community Gardens is being established — you can join for just $2!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Carob cake

Some have reported growing carob here in the Blue Mountains successfully. Did you know that the carob pods — from which we derive the powder usually used in cooking — are so reliable in terms of similarity in weight that the measure of a carat (e.g. of gold) derived from the carob pod?

Recently I adapted a recipe from Alan Wakefield's and Gordon Baskerville's The Vegan Cookbook (Faber&Faber 1996 edn).

To start with I smeared the inside of a 7 inch (18 centimetre) round pan with virgin olive oil and set the oven to 180 degrees C.
I sifted 1 cup of light carob powder and 2 cups of self-raising wholemeal flour into a large bowl, finally mixing half a cup of sugar through.
Then I added half a cup of oil, a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a heaping cup of warm water to the dry ingredients and beat it all in well.
The mixture was just a bit more moist than dough and so I made a bit of an indent after pouring it into the baking pan.
It took a good 50 mins to cook through, though you will find the size and shape of your cake tin as well as the temperature of your specific stove make a difference. I needed to cover it after about twenty minutes so it wouldn't burn.

Wakefield and Baskerville suggest a topping. We liked it as it was as well as with butter. We dreamed of ice-cream and the kind of fruits and nuts that might match the full and dark richness of its unique taste — dark cherries, figs, apricots and walnuts. I might try mashing an avocado for a future topping.

You can find out more about the carob plant at the Purdue University Centre for New Crops and Plant Produce site.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lemon marmalade and history

We'd love to hear from people who know about the history of fruit and nut trees in the Blue Mountains, records of:
the pre-settlement Indigenous plants that local Indigenous people ate and that kept them healthy through their medicinal properties;
the early settlers who farmed and gardened to feed themselves and provide produce for small local markets;
twentieth century developments.

In a little tome that is a cross between a volume of local history and a cookery book — The Blue Mountains Olde and New Ways Cookbook by Juliette Palmer Frederick (Katoomba 1992) — there is a recipe for a simple lemon marmalade that follows.

Take four lemons and cover with water (under 600 ml) in a saucepan.
Boil till the lemons are tender and switch off heat.
Remove, halve and de-pip the lemons, then dice or slice them finely.
Return chopped fruit and juice to liquid in saucepan.
Add 500 gm sugar and boil fast for, say 15 mins, i.e. till setting stage is reached.
Place in sterilised jars and seal.

This is the kind of information that we'll be sharing at our next workshop at Kihilla on Saturday 14 August. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Organic Gardener Essential Guide — Fruit

The ABC's Organic Gardener magazine has just released a special Essential Guide to Fruit. It's 124 pages and just under $10. Both the Organic gardener website and the ABC website's gardening section have great information on citrus growing (see the ABC on dwarf apples).

Take a browse in preparation for our Citrus Show and Tell coming up Saturday 14 August at the home of the Mid-Mountains Community Gardens at Kihilla in Lawson starting at 10.30 am.

This will be an opportunity to share information, samples and stories of citrus growing in the sub-regions from Meyer lemons in the upper mountains down to grapefruits, limes and oranges and their hybrids in the lower mountains. You can bring produce to share, swap or sell. There will be a mean home-brewed lemonade to taste, and more!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Indigenous raspberry

In the 'Berry Similar Plants' section of the Blackberry page on the Blue Mountains City Council site Weeds of the Blue Mountains Bushland, there is a discussion of some of the Indigenous raspberries found locally. One of them is Rubus hilli. Wendy Whitton potted cuttings of this plant, which grows at their place in South Katoomba, so that several of us can now try to grow it in our gardens. We will share our knowledge of the best sites and soil, and ways to maintain them. If you have some experience, please let us know by writing in the comments box.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Orange preserving workshop

Following the very successful medlar preserving workshop at Melanie's and Alexander's in Bullaburra, our next activity is there on Sunday 18 July — again for a demonstration and talk but this time about making orange marmalade, candied oranges and peel, orange curd and orange cordial!

The orange (Citrus spp. Rutaceae) is one of the oldest fruit trees cultivated by the human species being a hybrid of a pummelo and a mandarin. It is a wonderful winter fruit growing well in the lower mountains. The Seville orange is able to survive higher up where it is colder more often.

We're particularly interested in hearing from local growers of their indigenous plant relatives, such as the Australian finger lime (Citrus australasica). The indigenous varieties seem less susceptible to pests and diseases that bother the kinds brought by European and Asian settlers, and are generally drought and salt tolerant. CSIRO has trialled grafting the indigenous varieties onto the more plentiful commercial varieties. All make very good marmalades and fruit juices, cordials and sauces.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Non-monetary exchange; the way things 'were'

The Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network runs by processes based on 'olde worlde' values that we hope will contribute to new ways of being in a sustainable future world. All of our activities — the sharing of information and skills — are run as much as possible by volunteer workers at no or minimal costs to participants and volunteers.

We try to have activities in locations that are close to public transport or car share. We like to use local community gardens and other communal resources and peoples homes as places for our activities. We promote sharing surplus through exchanging goods and services directly, even if delayed over time, e.g. surplus fruit for value-added jam or other surplus fruit later.

For many of us, when we were young, this is how our neighbours, friends and extended family operated. They swapped and shared, gifting and receiving gifts of garden cuttings, seeds and produce — helping the exchange of ideas and information on growing, preparing and cooking fruits and nuts.

Today the Internet provides a great new means for sharing information. This blog, our e-list and all the links we make with local media — and groups far away, but with the same values and vision of a sustainable future — facilitate and enhance our operation based on traditional values of caring and sharing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pruning and bare root fruit tree planting

Lizzie C alerted me to the Sustainable Gardening Australia site, which has a great page describing the hows and wheres of bare root fruit tree establishment and maintenance — Bare Root Fruit is Beaut. As they say there: 'winter is the time to get down and dirty with deciduous fruit trees'.

Another member of our network, Tom P, has sent through advice on pruning red and black currants and gooseberries (a topic addressed at our recent workshop in Lizzie's garden). They need to be planted out during May to September:

'Prune currants and gooseberries when plants are dormant in late winter or early spring once frosts have ended. Remove branches that lie along the ground and branches that are diseased or broken. Fruiting is strongest on spurs of two and three year old wood.

'After the first year of growth remove all but 6 to 8 of the most vigorous shoots.

'After 2 years of growth leave 4–5 of the best one-year-old shoots and up to 3–4 two-year–old canes.

'At the end of the third year prune so that c. 3–4 canes of each age class remain.

'By the fourth year the oldest set of canes should be removed and new canes allowed to grow.

'Each winter shorten long stems that have grown too scraggly. Do not prune after spring growth commences. This system of renewal ensures that the plants remain productive because young canes always replace those removed. A strong healthy and mature plant should have about 8 fruit bearing canes, with younger canes eventually replacing the oldest.

'Prune red and white currants back to an outward facing bud, as is normal for most plants. Prune back droopy gooseberries to an inward and upward facing bud. Keep centre open to air and sunlight, leaving a few regularly-spaced main branches. Cut away any laterals that are crossing, drooping, or otherwise misplaced, and shorten for fewer larger fruits.'

Good pruning!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Medlar workshop

Last Sunday, 6 June, Melanie (and Alexander) ran a wonderful medlar workshop for our network in Bullaburra. The demonstration centred on medlar preservation for the pantry and medlar preparation for the table: medlar jelly, medlar cheese, medlar paste, medlar and apple chutney, medlar tart, and medlar comfit.

Medlars have been described as a cross between a pear and a quince. Lizzie is right in saying they have a texture and even taste like dates, though they are nicely tart in comparison to dried ones.

They have a thin skin, like but even thinner than the skin of a kiwifruit. Similarly, you can scoop out the medlar's flesh to eat raw, but the seeds are large.

Like pears, medlars need to be ripened off the tree. The ripening process of medlars is commonly referred to as 'bletting'. One workshop participant reported making jam and stewed from medlars picked straight from the tree, i.e. in their hard and tart state, and the product was successful.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Berries and more

This last weekend we ran two very successful workshops. On Saturday, we ran one on berry (and more) growing alongside a unique-to-the-Blue-Mountains hanging swamp vegetation (see photo).

Lizzie, who ran the berries and more workshop, loves raspberries etc. because they are such easy plants to start growing and having your own fresh produce is so sweat. if they make it to the kitchen, here are some very easy recipes too.

British cookery book writer Rose Elliot has a raspberry or blackberry coulis (sauce) recipes which goes like this: blend 350gm fresh/thawed frozen raspberries/blackberries with 1.5T water and 1.5T caster sugar. Sieve. Bring to boil for a minute to clarify and give a shine to the sauce. Refrigerate.

Lizzie's favourite is with rhubarb as a lovely caramelised sauce. Place trimmed and cut rhubarb stalks in a lidded heavy saucepan or frying pan with the water it was washed in and a sprinkle of sugar. Dry-fry, by closing the lid and cooking over a low heat for 2-3 minutes, and turning off the heat to finish cooking.

Finally a three-minute loganberry/raspberry/boysenberry jam. Place 5 cups of berries and 4½ cups sugar in pan. Stir to dissolve sugar as bringing to the boil. Boil for 3 mins. Pour into hot sterilised jars. Thickens over the following days.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Share the surplus

Thanks to a donation of two boxes of surplus medlars, which were grown locally in the Blue Mountains, we have a wonderful workshop on making medlar jelly, paste, tart and cheese coming up this weekend.

There are many options for dealing with surplus fruit and nuts. We hold workshops on storage, cooking with and preserving them. We promote sharing through our network too, and email any offers through our e-list.

But you can arrange to give away, exchange or trade through the Blue Mountains food cooperative in Katoombaa, which is open every day of the week, or the Blackheath Primary School Community Market held on the first Sunday of every month (contact Deb by emailing:, or at the Lawson Primary School Community Market held on the third Sunday of every month.(contact Cheryl on 47591823).

If you plan to hold a local stall or regular market opportunity for sharing surplus fruit and nuts, please let us know.

Monday, May 24, 2010


With winter descending we turn to the kitchen fire, away from the garden with its sleeping bare trees. Besides our workshop on berries, which will include a short discussion of preserving and cooking them, we have had two boxes of surplus medlars donated for a workshop which will be held later in June. Medlars used to be classified in the pear (Pyrus) genus and also have similarities with quinces. They need to ripen (blet) off the tree.

Anyway, this week we're talking carob. A lot of people turn their noses up at carob; they think of it like decaffeinated coffee, i.e. a poor substitute for the real thing (i.e. chocolate). In fact, I think you should get to know it on its own terms. Carob is carob.

The fleshy pods need to be dried out in a slow oven and ground in a 'coffee' grinder! Finely grind powder for a drink. If you use as much as you might cocoa and add the same amount of sugar as you would to make a chocolate drink, I think that you will find it overpoweringly earthy and sweets. You need to experiment. I use around two-thirds the quantity that I would normally use of cocoa and half the amount of sugar. I find it tastes best with brown sugar or honey and with soy rather than cow's milk.

You can make a sweetmeat out of it: place 2 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup of carob powder, 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan. Stir together while bringing to the boil and continue stirring to thicken. Once it has reached soft ball stage remove, add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and beat well. Once it is thick pour into a buttered pan and cut into cubes once cold.

If you must compare it with cocoa (and many cooks do because it can used for similar recipes) think in terms of fewer calories (60% less than the same weight of cocoa because cocoa has a much higher fat content) and its higher nutritional value. Carob has more natural sugars (carbohydrate) and is higher in iron and potassium.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fresh/preserved fruit cake

Yesterday I made 'breakfast cake' using home garden quinces, which had been bottled in a low sugar syrup, and an old Italian recipe which I have adapted over the years. You need to preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. I like to fill the oven so the energy is not wasted. This one can be placed in the oven alongside baked vegetables or whatever.

Beat three eggs with a spare cup of castor sugar. You can use less and/or brown sugar but it takes longer to become foamy.

Add two tablespoons of virgin olive oil (or another vegetable oil, if you prefer).

Add the grated zest from 1 or two oranges or a couple of lemons.

Add three cups of self-raising flour, cup by cup, carefully and quickly folding in.

Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of orange/lemon juice and some orange pulp with one to two cups of drained stewed or preserved fruit. Our local quinces, pears, apples or stone fruit are ideal. Keep the juice/syrup aside for another dish or incorporate some instead of the orange juice. If you used wholemeal flour you will need to add more liquid anyway. The resulting dough should be relatively stiff, more like a bread than a sponge cake mixture.

If I don't have fresh local oranges or lemons I have used dried citrus peel instead of rind, and orange blossom water and water in place of the juice. If I am using plums I prefer to use plum juice instead of citrus ingredients and like to add a spice such as cinnamon. Once you've made it once and are happy with the result you can experiment.

I usually use a square 20 cm pan or a deep round cake dish but you can place the mixture in two sponge pans, cook for less time, and serve with jam between the two.

It takes around 50 minutes to bake. You usually need to cover it after twenty minutes, i.e. once it browns enough. I look at it after 40–45 mins and see if it springs back to the touch in the middle and remove once it is done.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fruit and nut trees growing adjacent to a National Park

We live in a treasured natural environment with glorious Indigenous landscapes and vegetation. Our last workshop at Blackheath addressed some of those issues. The second house we visited has all its 'back yard' dedicated to Indigenous vegetation, with a preference for locally Indigenous plants. That's partly because the back deck enjoys wonderful views. Remember that there are fruit and nuts amongst Indigenous plants. You will find a list of local groups that distribute plants and information about them at the Blue Mountains City Council's Sustainable Blue Mountains website. Also, there are areas at the front and side of the house that we visited where fruit and nut trees can be grown and already there are herbs and vegetable plants yielding produce.

At our next workshop 5 June, in Katoomba, we will talk more about the significance of Indigenous vegetation at a home which features the unique vegetation and ecology known as Blue Mountains Hanging Swamp. Find out more about that vegetation at the Blue Mountains Conservation Society website. The Bureau of Meteorology has climate statistics to inform a site analysis for the development, redevelopment or extension of your fruit and nut orchard at home too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sunday 2 May workshop

Eight of us participated in the workshop held at Helen's in Blackheath on Sunday 2 May. Helen's garden acted as an example for applying permaculture principles and processes to redesigning a well-established residential site with potential to improve its productivity. We started with Helen outlining her wishes and needs and took a tour round the garden. Our permaculture elder, Lizzie, guided the morning, which took into account other people's interests and questions about their own gardens. That was made easier because we all came from the upper mountains (Wentworth Falls to Blackheath). We ended up round the corner at Christina's garden in the early afternoon, after a shared lunch. We scoped our ideas with Christina who shared home-made dried fruit scones with us!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fruit and nut trees growing at community gardens

Recently we visited the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens to collect information about what is growing where. The garden has a wonderful apple arbour. This photo of the apple arbour was taken by Anne Elliot a couple of years ago and the trees are much better established now. Sixty-seven different apple trees, including heritage varieties, have been planted along with six crab apple trees.

There are three cherry trees, five quinces, a Japanese plum — and probably more pomes — as well as a row of raspberries on vines runs south to north.

Eight chestnut trees are planted at the entrance (to the south) of the gardens along with white and black walnuts. Six hazelnut trees have been established in a grove (line) to the north of the gardens.

Its definitely worth a visit. Visitors are welcome. A good time to learn more about the gardens is to turn up at the weekly working be on Friday mornings. (See their website for more details.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

From cherries to figs

I've taken a while to put up this post. Besides other distractions, we took out a couple of days to take down a very old cherry tree (see image) to make way for two fig trees, which we plan to get from figs grown by a network member in Winmallee later in the year. We waited till it was time for the council chipper to come round (next week in South Katoomba) and have chopped the whole tree into tidy sections. The wood is beautiful (as is well known by furniture makers). It was a bit saddening. Cherry and plum trees are also known for their dainty yet strong ornamental appearance. The cockatoos loved the tree and we were happy for them to monopolise the over hard fruit it produced in its senescence. But now we will prepare the ground for the figs. The terraced area is ideal as it is bounded by sleepers. These conditions are good for containing the figs's roots.

The latest (April–May) issue of the glossy magazine Blue Mountainslife has half a page on our network in the Mountain Gardening section (see 'Blue Mountains goes nuts on p. 22).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Merry month of May

Two activities for Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Networkers will take place on the first weekend in May in the upper mountains.

On Sunday 2 May there is a free design scoping workshop after a short blackberry pulling out task, 9.30 am to 2 pm (light morning tea provided but bring some lunch to share). The design scoping workshop centres on providing our host with ideas for further developing her fruit and nut trees, among other productive vegetable and herb beds and Indigenous plants in her Blackheath garden. The workshop will allow experienced permaculturists to share their knowledge and provide a learning experience for those wishing to know more about permaculture principles and techniques. Contact Anitra for more details

Also, Wayne Levi and Susan Girard are holding a workshop at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens in North Katoomba on preventing pests and diseases in fruit over winter on 1 May 2010 (10.00am to noon) They will discuss safe organic treatments etc. For more details contact 4782 5810 — $15 donation (hand lens included).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chestnut Outing

As planned last Saturday 27 March we visited the Kookootonga Chestnut and Walnut Farm at Mount Irvine. There were about 25 of us, including organisers and children and even one purple fairy! We picked lots of chestnuts and then Anne set up her roasting equipment so half of us stayed and enjoyed roasted chestnuts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Katoomba Garden Club

A couple of days ago, on the night of Wednesday 24 March, Lizzie Connor and I spoke to a meeting of the Katoomba Garden Club about the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network. It was great to hear who is growing what and their experiences.

We handed out our new flyer and the following form (the copy below has had the multiple lines removed from after each question 2–5). I thought I'd include it here because local residents can always email me responses through the address. Also for anyone setting up a similar group in their area, this is one direction to go in...

Please fill out this form if you have useful information to add to our database or if you would like to be placed on our e-list for notification of activities etc.

Your name: __________________________________________________________
Your township (include north or south etc.): ________________________________
Email address: ________________________________________________________
Phone number: _______________________________________________________

Please circle points relevant to you and fill out responses below.

1. Please add me to the Fruit and Nut Tree Network e-list.

2. What kinds of fruit and/or nut trees/plants are you growing successfully? Add any points you think relevant about their age or ways you care for them.

3. What kinds of fruit and/or nut trees/plants have you tried to grow but think were unsuccessful because of our local climate or soils? Add any points you think relevant about why you think they might have died or do not fruit well.

4. If you know of fruit and/or nut trees growing on public land, please tell us what they are and their location.

5. If you are willing to share your skills and knowledge about fruit and/or nut growing locally, please identify those skills and knowledge so we can contact you over leading an interactive talk or workshop.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Orange

Click on the Orange Food Week website, where you can download a program. The festival takes place 9–18 April. The program includes information about the 100-Mile Diet and being a Locavore.

Orange is well beyond the bioregion of the Blue Mountains but their fruit and nut growing is impressive and some of their activities are worth the visit. Besides umpteen wine-oriented events, and a cider-tasting, there is a 'hands-on cider making class', heritage apple walks and tours through a Forest Reef's hazelnut farm. This gives us some ideas for Fruit and Nut Tree Network field visits in the future.

The Orange Food Week website also provides some of Adelaide Harris's great recipes using apples, walnuts and beetroot — all of which grow well in the Blue Mountains. She includes simple apple tart, pickled apple and cabbage, and spiced walnuts recipes.

The photo was taken at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, which includes this hazelnut grove.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SLow Fruit National Register

Late last year a campaign started to create a visual Slow Fruit National Register to preserve information and stock about our declining diversity of varieties of fruit and nut trees. Using this information, Slow Food has a plan to work out which varieties might be reintroduced for garden (and orchard) production. The register was launched by the Australian Ark, Food Cultures, Traditions and Biodiversity Commission.
Take a look at their website to collect a form an details about how to contribute information and images of old varieties from the Blue Mountains ( or mail Slow fruit, Post Office Box 721, Kalamunda, Western Australia).

Note the item about our network on the SBS Hunter and Gatherer website.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Drying chestnuts

Drying chestnuts is useful because they do not store well otherwise. A high moisture content means that they will start drying out, unless in ideal conditions. Even in ideal conditions they only keep for weeks, not months. Dried and stored in a sealed container chestnuts will keep for up to a year.

You will need to soak dried chestnuts in boiling water for 12 hours to cook (boil) them as you would fresh ones for around 20 minutes to chop or mash for for eating. You can grind roasted chestnuts into flour using, say, a nut mill. Apparently they make delicious pancakes. I'll let you know when I try later this month after we visit the chestnut farm (as detailed in blog below).

Chestnuts Australia Inc. advise that: 'Using a conventional oven, chestnut halves should be dried on a wire rack at about 125°C for up to 10 hours. (Fan forced ovens take less time, so test for dryness after 8 hours.)' If you have a drier, you will need to halve freshly picked chestnuts with a cleaver and place on drier trays cut side down. After being at a medium heat for 8 to 10 hours, the shell comes off easily and the pellicle can also be taken off relatively easily too.

Let's know how you go.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

C is for chestnuts

Besides the note about our flexible Calendar and Cumquat tree in the blog below, C is for chestnuts and this month, Saturday 27 March 2010, Anne Elliott is leading a visit to Kookootonga Chestnut and Walnut Farm at 247 Mt Irvine Road, Mt Irvine, where we will meet at 11 am. Pickers need to bring rubber/gardening gloves because the chestnuts are picked off the ground and very prickly. The cost is $8 per kilogram. We will car share. Bring some lunch and drinks. Anne will bring roasting equipment and talk about all the uses of chestnuts in the kitchen. Contact Anitra if you want to join us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

'Fruit and Nut Tree Liberation Front' blackberry blitz

We had a blackberry blitz in Blackheath yesterday to free some apple, plum, pear and orange trees of bramble. Our host called our team the FNTLF: the fruit and nut tree liberation front! Our 'carrot' was to harvest blackberries before we started. The photos show Lizzie working and an apple from one of the trees.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

C is for calendar

No sooner had we announced a calendar — meeting on the first Saturday morning of every month February to November — than we have found it unworkable. Nature works seasonally and plant (fruit and nut) growth responds to so many factors that our human calendar with its strict and simplistic linear divisions means we could not do activities at the most appropriate time. This month we had a talk and have a working bee for blackberry gathering and eradicating tomorrow. In March we have several activities lined up whereas later in the year we are likely to hibernate with the winter. Watch the top right hand corner of our website for future activities still hatching as I write.

At the moment you will be harvesting apples (as we saw at the community gardens ten days ago), some blackberries have survived the deluges, rhubarb (unless its going to seed, in which case Lizzie reminds you to cut off the stalk asap), and my cumquat tree is so burdened I feel sorry for it (see photo). Many peaches are ready to be picked now too. Beautiful fresh and raw they are wonderful for crumbles, chutneys and rocket salads (with almonds and fennel or spring onion).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday's talk

In the last thee days Katoomba has received 266mm of rain, almost half of it in the 24 hours since 9 am this morning! Fortunately for all the people (there was around 40 of us) who turned out yesterday to the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens — to the talks by Sue Girard, Wayne Levi and Stafford Lowe — it was only raining lightly much of the time. The rain did stop us inspecting the gardens' fruit and nuts trees for pests and diseases and the topic was not exhausted, so we will hold part two of this session at 10.30 am to noon on Saturday 6 March. Even if you did not attend the first session yesterday I am sure that you will get a lot out of the next one.

The session yesterday stressed preparing soils and other conditions for plant growth so as to prevent and avoid pests and diseases and to implement integrated pest management. As well as participants wanting pests and diseases identified, Sue and Wayne brought examples and handed round devices used to get rid of pests (such as sticky paper) and to scare pests (such as birds) away.

Wayne suggested a particularly good book on the topic: What Garden Pest or Disease is That? Organic and Chemical Solutions For Every Garden Problem by Judy McMaugh, New Holland Publishers, Sydney. The book advises on avoidance, organic controls and is structured around an A to Z in the three key areas of 1) plant care, 2) pests, 3) diseases. It has lots of illustrations for identification.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

B is for

Before we begin Berries, have you Been to Braidwood (half way Between Bateman's Bay and Canberra)? Of course, it's a long way from our Bioregion But the Old Cheese Factory there offers a great service: you can take apples to be made into juice or cider instead of wasting them! If you produce share 50:50 and assist in the operation it doesn't cost you to have them juiced! Tom Whitton (Megalong Books, Leura) alerted us to this.

Does anyone know of an apple pressing service in our bioregion or a neighbouring one? If so please leave a comment with details.

Now B is for Berries and we have lots of different kinds growing in the Blue Mountains: take a look at the harvest calendar below and please remember that we are trying to update our lists of what is growing where (columns on the left).

Blackberry (Rubus fructuosus) a noxious weed but this time of year, if you can pick some unsprayed blackberries, they make wonderful jams, pie fillings and jellies, especially when mixed with apples. (Including red ones improves the pectin content too.) When you've removed the fruit — you can freeze any surplus — get stuck into removing the canes. However, there are some more contained varieties that you can purchase from suppliers such as Diggers. The blackberry is ancient, a native of three continents and widespread throughout the world today. Ancient Romans used blackberry leaf tea as a medicine. All berries are, in fact, aggregates of drupelets botanically speaking.

Blueberries, like raspberries etc., like sun (filtered, where it gets too hot) and acidic soils (pH of 4.5–5.2) , so they befit from local pine tree mulch. You need to obtain the right species for your location as chilling requirements vary from around 400–1100 hours. Once established they don't seem to require much attention but be sure to net them.

Remember to come to the talk at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens in North Katoomba at 10.30 am on Saturday 6 February, when we will advise people on other activities coming up in the next few months. The apples in the photo for this week come from the community gardens. The photo was taken about ten days ago.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A is for avocado too

No, the photo isn't of avocados but rather fruit laden branches at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, where we will hold a talk on pests and diseases of fruit and nut trees grown locally on Saturday 6 February starting at 10.30 am. The gardens has many apple trees too with ready-to-harvest or already dropped apples.

Now for avocados: I like the idea of growing them from seed. This means propping a stone from an avocado (that was lovely, you know because you just ate it) conical part upwards in a jar with a wide mouth that you have filled with water or placing it in moist sawdust. I love the look of the root and shoot growing. Once that happens you can simply pot it up in organic potting mix. Germination is amazingly simple.
However, problems with avocados grown from such seedlings are legion even though it is possible to do it successfully. You have to make sure that you 'nip' out the central shoot once it has a few leaves and turn the plant to benefit from sunlight in an even way so it grows into a rounded plant. You will have to wait several years, perhaps tenor so, for it to fruit. (Grafted trees will fruit in just a few years.) It might not fruit or it might not fruit well. A grafted tree will be a more practical size (say 8–10 metres); avocado plants grown from stones tend to take up more space. A good compromise is to graft the seedling plant to a good variety.

Fruit and art

Just reading #19 of HEAT (the University of Western Sydney Writing and Society Research Group's literary journal, which you can borrow from the Blue Mountains City Library) and found some wonderful colour reproductions of Robyn Stacey's photographic art works.
On page 117 appears the 'Untitled (Walnuts)' broken and whole nuts with the flesh gnarled like old roots glistening under the photographer's light.
The next two pages feature Mr Macleay's Fruit and Flora: flowers, a bunch of young carrots, cumquat, avocado, passion fruit and stick insect (just like one clinging upside down outside my window as I type).
Further on is another tablescape of flowers, vegetables and fruit — bananas, lemons and olives — and 'The First Cut, after Robert Spear Dunning', featuring an ornate knife sitting deep in the flesh of a watermelon, in the hole where a small triangle of flesh has been cut and sits nearby ready for eating, red and green...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Apricots and almonds

While I was away I bought a copy of Discovering Fruit and Nuts: A Comprehensive Guide to the Cultivation, Uses and Health Benefits of Over 300 Food Producing Plants, a large 480 page book by Susanna Lyle. It was published a couple of years ago (2006) by Landlinks Press, which is a CSIRO Publishing imprint, though its coverage is not limited to Australia/New Zealand.
This book is a useful reference for home gardeners. It has illustrations and general as well as particular details about grafting, layering, pruning and training. In terms of our fruit and nut for this fortnight — the apricot and the almond — the book describes their ancient origins and ornamental use due to their colourful spring blossoms. The apricot is a native of China and it is speculated to be the forbidden fruit that Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Although the almond is a native of the eastern Mediterranean, it too was cultivated in China three millennia ago.
In the BM neither grow prolifically due to humidity because they are both susceptible to fungal diseases.
See the ABC clip of how to prune apricots — The Almond Board of Australia has provided our images for this week.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

B is for Break

B is for Break and ours is right now. But we will be Back in a week. So I will resume the Blog then...


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)

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