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!


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)