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.


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)