Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rhubarb and Berries Freeform Tart

This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion (Lantern 2010, pp. 562–65).
  • First make a basic shortcrust pastry: 80gm butter sliced and rubbed into 240gm plain flour with a pinch of salt; once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs slowly add very cold water till the mixture amalgamates into a workable dough. Cover and chill for 20 mins in a fridge.
  • Dust pastry board/bench with flour and roll out to a 10"/26cm round form, around 5mm thick. Remove to a baking tray and place back in fridge while you simmer, for just three minutes, 750gm sliced homegrown rhubarb in 1/2 c. each of hot water and sugar, and the juice of an orange.
  • Remove rhubarb to a bowl to cool and keep the syrup. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
  • Coarsely crush 50gm raw almonds, 2T each of sugar, plain flour and toasted oats with a dash of almond essence. Divide this mixture in half with one half going into the rhubarb mixture and the other sprinkled over the pastry base except for a 4cm boarder.
  • Pile rhubarb into the central circle and hold in place by folding back the edges and pleating them into place; it looks like an upside-down beret of fruit!
  • While you bake it for half and hour, reheat the syrup and reduce it over a few mins. Remove pastry and top with several halved strawberries or similar berries/soft fruit. Brush all with syrup and bake for a final ten mins.
  • Brush with more syrup after it has cooled for a few moments. Serve cold with yogurt or cream...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Feral Fruit Maps

There are a few groups who have set up electronic maps of fruit trees, mainly located on public land, available for foraging, i.e. fruit picking. Here's an example: http://www.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=113329138399514125575.00047fff295ddda73bd86 This means that there is a great opportunity for us pinpoint local trees with fruit ripe for the picking. In the mountains many such trees exist along the railway tracks near the station. We're not sure whether the council ever had a policy of planting trees in these locations or whether they tended to spring up there as people ate fruit and tossed away their seeds as they cam too and from the trains. Most of them are pomes and stone fruit: apples, pears, apricots, plums and cherries. If you use the mapping tool for local purposes please let us know.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From a Blue Mountains local in exile

On 25/11/2011, at 9:26 AM, Liz Connor wrote: Oh, I wish I could be at your Collective Sufficiency discussion in the flesh — of course I'll be there in spirit. Good luck! We're embarking on an Extended Family Sufficiency project here: stepson Vern and his wife Fran have the farmland with lots of vegies and fruit, a fair amount of bush and a wonderful creek (Nicholls Rivulet); son Mat has the bush-block with home-made cottage; and I have the north-east facing suburban block close to public transport etc and an almost home-made cottage. We're planning to work together and separately to try and provide for as many of our combined food needs as possible (two vego females and two carnivorous males). Mat intends to keep a blog... I'm also very interested in the fruit butters. I've been making low-sugar fruit spreads in small quantities for a while without knowing what to call them — not sterilising them and eating them within a fortnight ... The Huon Valley is a wonderful place for scrumping beautifully plump and juicy blackberries growing along the roadsides, but the street trees are all non-edibles... I have a bush-tucker ground-cover growing along my front boundary, where I've been allowing natives to self-seed and just taking out the obvious weeds... its very small berries were quite juicy and tasty, and it's spreading out very nicely thank you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sourcing plants, cooking with fruit and AN ADMISSION

Some of the most experienced members of our network report sourcing good plants from Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery, which is located at Geneva in NSW but mails out stock. They have a mail order plants list and their online shop includes lots of useful information about the seedlings, cuttings, and grafted plants that they sell as well as an online forum with questions and space to share your experiences.
Just going through the 'A's in the index of this new locally produced book, Vegan Cooking: Recipes for a Peaceful World, there are 19 entries under almonds, 6 for apples, 10 for apricots and 5 for avocado. Blackheath residents Diipali Lilburne and Amanda Quinn have made their great second cookbook, advocating for organic, locally sourced produce and sustainable diets. Tom Whitton has told me that he and Wendy have just found out that the raspberry plants they have, and have passed onto others in this network as native Rubus raspberries, are in fact an exotic Asian variety! We are very sorry — I have planted two in my garden. We always wondered why the books said the Rubus raspberry fruit was not so good and we had found it delicious. Well, there you are!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last Day of TAFE course

Saturday 12 November was the last day of our Introduction to Growing Fruit and Nut Trees in the Blue Mountains TAFE Course. Sue Girard wound up with basic information on pests and diseases and how to protect your plants against them, as well as a pruning session. You can see (in the photo) that we had an extra participant at the community gardens where the course was held. I brought some muffins made from Rubus (Native Raspberry) blackberries given to me by a network member in Katoomba — last summer Wendy Whitton (Megalong Books, Leura) gave some of us cuttings from her plants and I now have two growing successfully in our front garden.
Jed wants to spread the news (see right) about bagging fruit trees against birds and other animals eating the forthcoming fruit at the gardens this coming Friday from 10.30 am RUBUS (NATIVE RASPBERRY) MUFFINS Sift 1 cup rye flour and 2 cups cornflour into a bowl with 6 teaspoons of baking powder and 3/4 cup sugar. Beat 3 eggs together and then beat in 3/4 cup soy milk. Pour the wet mixture into a depression made into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Quickly mix all together. Finally, and again working swiftly and lightly, add two heaped cups of raspberries. (Mine had been frozen from last season so I left them for an hour at room temperature before using.) This mixture will make around 15 medium-sized muffins. I prepare the tray by simply inserting a square of greaseproof paper in each muffin hole. I had set the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade and they took around 30 minutes. My suggestion is to check them after 15 minutes and wait till they are firm and spring back when lightly pushed on top.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Second Saturday of TAFE course

It was a bit drizzly yesterday but we still got some practical work in on the middle Saturday of our TAFE introduction to fruit and nut tree growing in the Blue Mountains course, as the photo shows.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

EcoFair North Katoomba Primary School

The EcoFair (aka Fooprint Festival) held on Saturday promoted sustainability initiatives throughout the mountains, such as the Alternative Technology Association, Climate Action, solar panel businesses, plant and seedling sources, Slow Food and our own BM Fruit and Nut Tree Network. We shared a stall with Slow Food Blue Mountains. That's Anne Elliot who runs our preserving fruits workshops seasonally in the photo of the stall.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TAFE course Day 1

Yesterday Susan Girard started the TAFE course introducing the basics on fruit and nut tree growing in the Blue Mountains. She took us on a tour of the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens where the course is being held. Then Sue talked a lot about the appropriate soil and local weather conditions, the geology of the Blue Mountains, testing the soils in a garden, creating soil suitable for healthy plants, aspects created by our movement around the sun throughout the seasons and precipitation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hazelbrook Food Forest

Given the wet weather only a few of us made it to the Hazelbrook food forest last Saturday morning but it was well worth it: evidence that a Blue Mountains block can be turned into an edible nursery by following permaculture principles. We had another recommendation that Daleys Nursery is a reliable source for fruit stock, and I notice good words from Katoomba and Springwood residents in their testimonials. Their stock includes bush food, about which we know too little. The local lillypilly is probably our most obvious indigenous fruit but I have native raspberries (shared through cuttings from others in our network). Please post a comment or email me with other experiences of indigenous fruit and nut plant growing in the mountains, as well as reliable suppliers.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Festival of Joy, 1 October

The Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens held its annual gathering yesterday, which was pretty bad weather, as you can see by the sky in the shot of the hazelnut grove. But the apple and other fruit tree blossoms are out — see heritage apple walk pic. And the berries are producing beautiful green shoots, worth a visit to check out their trellis. If you can make it during the week, they are open every Friday morning for working bees on the garden.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preserving fruit with Anne

A couple more photos from our bottling workshop with Anne Elliot. I like the one where Anne's hands are clearly clapping for attention, and we're all laughing as we work. And, of course, the great demo of pouring the syrup over the freshly cut pears, yum! Anne will do another bottling how and tell workshop at the Katoomba North Footlight Festival, a local eco-fair where Anne and I will have a stall for Slow Food Blue Mountains and Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network. The date for that is Saturday 22 October. The Saturday before and after are the first two sessions of the TAFE growing fruit and nut plants in the Blue Mountains course being delivered by Sue Girard at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, also in North Katoomba.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I'm getting lots of reports, and have personally experienced, that lemon (and other citrus) trees here in the mountains suffered badly from the severe winter and cyclonic winds this year. It's important to try and protect lemons from frosts and winds because they damage bud growth and rip leaves off the plants. Remember you can always remove lemons when they are still green and ripen them inside. Lemons are one of the most frequently used kitchen fruits. At the recent preserving workshop that Anne Elliott held — and will be delivering again at the North Katoomba Footlight Festival 22 October — we almost-quartered lemons (i.e. cut them right down to the nipple but kept the fruit intact), stuffed them with course sea salt, laid them in a big glass jar and covered them with lemon juice and more salt (as in the photo above). After this, the jar needs to be inverted daily to make sure the salt dissolves well and the mixture is evenly distributed over the lemons (as in the photo below). These preserved lemons/lemon skins are rinsed on removal and make wonderful additions to all kinds of dishes, especially any time your lemon tree has no fruit left on it for you to use. (Both photos were taken at the recent workshop.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Scrumpers are foragers or gleaners. Where fruit fly exists people who pick fresh fruit from trees on land that isn't owned or cared for perform a social purpose as well as enjoying the fruits of their labour. Check out Scrumpers Delightwe can add trees from the Blue Mountains. The tool for establishing the scrumper's map is drawn from the Live Local Experiments in Local Living site, which offers other ways to share information too. The Urban Orchard project is yet another site for sharing your fruit and nut swap and stall activities. Write the date of the Eco-Fair Footlight Festival (see to the right) in Katoomba in your diary.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bottling Fruit

The bottling fruit with Anne Elliot last Saturday proved very successful. Bottling is so easy!

We went over all the sterilising: first make sure the bottle has no chips or cracks; wash jars, elastic rubber rings and sound metal lids and rinse all well; place in 150 degree C oven for 20 mins; fill bottles with fruit while still warm; Anne suggested using a medium syrup (1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of water)* over the packed fruit; cover and clip the bottles and set in the steriliser (pressure cooker, large pan or special equipment — see below); cook as recommended (different times for different fruits). Depending on your equipment the syrup will be cold (in special equipment, 10–30 mins, see below) or hot (quick deep pan method 2–20 mins; or pressure-cooked, 1–5 mins). There are oven methods too. I advise consulting a book.

*Fruit can be bottled in water, and honey, stevia or golden syrup can substitute for sugar.

Preserved lemons — simply bottled in salt were another delicacy we learned to make. Again, so easy!

Lindsay, in Katoomba Country Brewer, Shop 2, 101 Katoomba Street (i.e. behind Katoomba Street), stocks Ball and Fowlers Vacola bottling equipment, bottles, wax, pectin, etc. Contact him on (02) 4782 3000 or katoomba@countrybrewer.com.au

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bits and bobs...

Funky Front Yard Farmers and Crop & Swap

Along with growing lots of vegetables, Jo and Joe from Springwood have recently initiated a community orchard in their local street (see http://www.funkyfrontyardfarmers.blogspot.com for more about them).

They have also initiated a community food swap, which will begin in November. The Crop & Swap will start on the second Saturday in November at the Faulconbridge Community Hall (see http://www.cropandswap.blogspot.com). See you there.

If you're interested in food foraging, read this article, which recently appeared in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/us/15forage.html

Apple Pruning Workshop

There will be an Apple Pruning Workshop at the BM Organic Community Gardens this coming Friday 26 August, 11am to 1pm Developing a pruning strategy and pruning technique. Cost: $8. Contact Jed for more information: jw99@pnc.com.au

Chestnut Blight

On Friday 19 August the ABC Radio National program Bush Telegraph ran an item in their Food on Friday segment on the chestnut blight. You can hear a podcast, read some brief notes (and find some chestnut recipes) here:


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hazelnuts and Oranges

The BM Food Coop has a lot of locally grown citrus and pecans and hazelnuts in their shells for sale right now, which inspired me to find recipes to use them.

Hazelnut and Vegetable Crumble
(from Rose Elliot's The Supreme Vegetarian)

Turn the oven on to a moderate temperature (180 degrees Centigrade).
Prepare 1 kilogram of several different kinds of homegrown or cheap and fresh in-season vegetables (such as pumpkin) and steam till tender, reserving the water.
Mash one third of the mixed vegetables with one tablespoon of olive oil and some of the reserved water to form a puree, and then mix back into the rest of the cooked vegetables with a vegetable stock cube or other favourite seasonings, and place in the base of a casserole.
Place 75g rolled oats, 75g sliced hazelnuts and 75g crushed* hazelnuts with a grated onion, one crushed bulb of garlic, and some thyme or similar fresh/dried herb into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Add 50g olive oil and stir to a crumbly mixture.
Cover vegetables with nut crumble and bake for half an hour or so, till the crumble browns.

*I crush shelled nuts by placing them in a paper bag and belting/rolling over them with a rolling pin.

Hazelnut Cake
(from Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy)

Turn the oven on to a moderate temperature (180 degrees Centigrade) and grease and line with greaseproof paper or dust with flour a 20cm round cake pan.
Beat a tablespoon of baking powder into 3 egg yolks. Add 200g sugar, 125g butter/margarine/olive oil, 200g plain flour, and 200g hazelnuts (which have been skinned if you're sensitive to their taste, roughly chopped and quickly toasted in a pan or in the oven), the grated rind from one lemon and 4 tablespoons of soy/cow's/rice milk. Mix it all together well.
Beat the 3 egg whites (which need to be at room temperature) with a pinch of salt till they are stiff and fold through the rest.
Bake for a good half hour, taking out once brown and cooked through.

Orange Granita
(from Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy)

Squeeze enough oranges (or other fresh in season citrus) to make up one litre of juice.
Add either the juice from one lemon or 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water.
Add 4–6 tablespoons of castor sugar (adjusting amount to taste), stirring well to dissolve sugar.
Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
Blend ice cubes in food processor till a granita texture is obtained, and serve immediately.
Any uneaten mixture can be frozen again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


This time of year we have lots of questions related to pruning, which differs in terms of different fruit plants and nut trees. June/ July is a good time for pruning deciduous trees.

The Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food has some great general advice, which can be downloaded, on growing fruit and nuts, and on pruning:


I find referring to some ABC online print and video resources useful:

On grapevines, see:

For general advice on making fruit trees more productive through pruning:

On citrus pruning:

On deciduous fruit tree pruning:

On apple trees:

A transcript of a television program, which includes some pruning tips:

This program transcript includes some tips about pruning. More than that some good words to say about the humble carob and some other handy advice:

And if you look deep into the program some snippets on berry cane cutting from Peter Cundall:

More advice can be found here:


Let us know which advice you found most/least useful, so we can improve our resource access advice.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Citrus — Oranges

In the lower mountains we have lots of citrus, which have been or are being harvested. Elsewhere in Australia, there is a glut of oranges so you might get some cheap and use them straight away, store in a cool place or preserve them. Depending on the variety, one orange usually yield 1/4–1/3 cup of juice.

Here are some ideas:

# eat fresh or use fresh juice with other fruits as a salad or compote
# use on grated carrot or beetroot as a dressing
# use orange instead of lemon juice when making hommus or guacamole dips
# use up to a cup orange juice instead of the same quantity of water for every cup of rice you next steam up
# serve with fish (instead of, i.e. as you would for, lemon)
# grate fresh rind and freeze spoonfuls in small packets in your freezer
# pare the peel finely, dry well and grind or chop and use in baking, or as a base for liqueur*
# make orangeade or orange squash
# freeze the juice with a little sugar
# prepare clean segments and freeze in a light syrup or dry pack
# make an orange sauce, e.g. for pancakes
# make orange marmalade
# make orange souffle
# make an orange (instead of lemon) pudding
# make orange muffins, loaf or cake
# make orange ice/gelato

If you have your own tree, or can access orange flowers and leaves, you can use the 'neroli' oil for flavour and scent. Dried petals can be pounded with castor sugar (1:2) and stored for use in sponges and other baking.

Oranges go well with a range of spices (such as allspice, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg) and seasonings (such as chives, garlic, mustard, pepper, sage and tarragon).

* In their great book Fruit For the Home and Garden: A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivation and Culinary Use (1985, A&R: 186), Leslie Johns and Violet Stevenson recommend:
squeezing 6 oranges and paring and finely chopping their peel;
blending the juice with 2 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of coriander and adding the finely diced peel;
pouring the blended mixture into a jar and pouring 4 cups of brandy (or some other white spirit) over it;
covering and leaving for two months or so to infuse;
filtering the infused mixture and bottling it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Apple and Hazelnut Cake

On the weekend I made the following Claudia Rodin Apple and Nut Cake (Apfelnusstorte/Torte di Mele), from her The Food of Italy collection. It proved a success.

Oil and line with grease-proof paper a deep 20–25cm cake tin. Set the oven at 180 degrees Centigrade.

Chop 100g hazelnuts in half (the recipe says to blanch them but I left the skins on). Toast them in a little frying pan on your stove (doesn't take long).

Slice 6 baking apples (6 if they're big Granny Smith style apples, more if they're smaller). The recipe says to peel them but I left most of the skin on and just tossed out the central core.

Beat 4 egg yolks with half a cup of brown sugar. Add juice of one lemon (I used an equivalent in orange juice because they are so cheap and plentiful at the moment). Finally, slowly beat in a heaping cup of wholemeal flour.

Beat 4 egg whites (easiest with room-temperature eggs and a pinch of salt). Fold these into the cake mixture with the toasted hazelnuts.

Pour half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Layer half of the apple slices on top and repeat process. Cover top with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter and a sprinkling of 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

Cover the top once it brown and leave in the oven for up to 90 mins (i.e. 'until a skewer pushed into it comes out clean').

Sunday, July 10, 2011

TAFE Outreach course on Fruit and Nut Tree Growing

Introducing the Basics and More! This Blue Mountains College (TAFE Western Sydney Institute) Outreach course on Fruit and Nut Tree Growing in the Blue Mountains has been developed in partnership with our Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network

The workshops will cover:
Establishing fruit & nut trees in the Blue Mountains
Maintaining trees, pests and diseases, nutrition
Harvesting, storing, preserving and sharing

The venue is the Blue Mountains Organic Community Garden, Harold Hodgson Park, in Katoomba

When? Three Saturdays: 15th October, 10.00am—1.00pm; 29th October, 10.00am—2.30pm (bring lunch for a half hour break); and 12th November, 10.00am—1.00pm.

Interested in this free Course No 9070 Statement of Attainment in Access to Work & Training? Register now.
Contact Denise at TAFE on 4753 2039 or email denise.newton3@ tafensw.edu.au, or contact Anitra on 4782 9003.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Boston Tree Party

Amongst hundreds of community initiatives around fruit and nut tree growing is one that Kat (Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens) has drawn our attention to — the Boston Tree Party. Take a look.

Fits is well with Maryanne's idea of a fruit and nut community orchard. Perhaps we could distribute samples of heritage varieties and Indigenous fruit and nut plants in small islands throughout the mountains — just as they already appear in certain places near railway stations and even public parks (see Medlow Bath).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cheriras Community Orchard

Lucy and Rob are key members of the Cheriras Community Orchard in Mt Tomah. This photo of Lucy and Rob and their little family was taken at the Bilpin Garden Club who invited us to talk about the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network at one of their monthly meetings earlier this year. Right at the moment the orchard is selling bare-rooted raspberry canes and strawberry plants!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


If, like me, you have some olive trees then over the next few months you'll be harvesting them. You might be interested in hearing about the commercial olive harvest this year (in the 27 May ABC Radio National Bush Telegraph program).

The ABC TV1 Gardening Australia site also has a fact sheet on pruning olive trees, which we'll need to be doing later in the year. You can watch an ABC TV1 Gardening Australia program on grafting olive and apple trees too.

There are olive farms in the Megalong Valley (see post below). Poor soils, well-drained soils and cold winters are the olive's natural habitat. But the high humidity characteristic of Blue Mountains' weather is an enemy of olives. In places, such as the upper mountains, where an olive tree might not get full sun and many weeks of it they will not thrive.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bare-rooted raspberry canes and strawberry plants

Cheriras Community Orchard will have bare-rooted raspberry canes and strawberry plants available soon for purchase by locals — you can find advice on planting them at the UK BBC gardening site. The BBC recommends Autumn Bliss, amongst others, and this is a variety Cheriras can supply — generally they produce a strong harvest. Another site worth looking at is UK GardenAction. Our link takes you right to the raspberry page.

If you want advice on tending the strawberry plants try the Vegetable Patch site. Also the ABC's Gardening Australia has three items on growing strawberries: a 2003 fact sheet by Colin Campbell; a 2007 fact sheet by Janea Edmansont; and, an item from a 2007 issue of the Gardening Australia Magazine; And, if you're heavily into strawberries or have had problems growing them, consult the Berries page of the NSW Department of Primary Industries horticulture site.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Preserving workshop

The pic says it all — the fruit preserving workshop on the weekend was a great success and will be an annual (if not even more regular) event.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Feral Fruit Melbourne/Blue Mountains?

Take a look at Feral Fruit Trees Melbourne — why don't we make a map like this for our area?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May in the Mountains

Remember that on Saturday 14 May 11.30 am Anne Elliott (Slow Food Blue Mountains) will present a workshop on preserving fruit using Fowlers Vacola equipment on Saturday 14 May in Katoomba. Entry is by donation. Bookings are essential.

Kat Szuminska reports that they've just bulk ordered fruit plants for the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, also in Katoomba. See their website for some recent activities involving citrus planting: http://bluemountainscommunitygardens.org/ If you'd like to be involved with planting the new stock, contact Kat directly.

The ABC TV program Gardening Australia, which screens at 6.30 pm every Saturday evening, has announced that next week (Saturday 14 May) they will feature the grafting of fruit trees. This is a subject of great interest in our network and we hope to hold a workshop later in the year on it. Meanwhile watch the program — see http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Permaculture Day

This weekend there are numerous activities in the Blue Mountains for Permaculture Day. Notable is the Katoomba Organic Community Gardens, which is open 11 am to 4 pm (up to 2 pm for specially guided walks, including through the heritage apple path which features around five to six dozen apple varieties!)

On the SBS website, leading up to our preserving fruit workshop, take a look at the Gourmet Farmer's advice and at Costa's planting fruit tree guide, and the moroccan dressing for a salad of fruit of your choice (local, of course).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fowler Vacola fruit preserving workshop coming up

On Saturday 14 May, starting at 11.30 am Anne Elliott (Slow Food Blue Mountains) will present a workshop in Katoomba on preserving fruit using Fowlers Vacola equipment. Entry is by donation and bookings are essential.

If you want to find out a bit more about preserving home produce with Fowlers Vacola before registering for the workshop, see a personal view at cartoonist and John Ditchburn's site: http://www.urbanfoodgarden.org/main/processing-garden-produce/fowlers/fowlers.htm

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kookootonga Chestnut and Walnut Outing

It was a beautiful day at Mount Irvine on Sunday when we visited the chestnut and walnut farm that we go to each time this year, to collect and roast chestnuts. Unfortunately, our photographer's camera was stolen after the visit so we have no pics — though last years' best ones are still up (see below).

Last year there weren't any walnuts to collect but this time there were. Walnuts fall inside a fleshy fruit that quickly blackens and becomes slimy. Ultimately, the sun and rain ripen and wash off this thin outer layer but meanwhile there is a tendency for mould to develop and invade the nut. Therefore walnut picking up requires skills in checking the probable quality of the walnut and then scrubbing the dark outer flesh off to leave a lovely shell like those we're accustomed to in shops.

The Australian Walnut Industry Association claim that walnuts grown in our country are free of pesticides and chemical treatments, and fresh, i.e. always sold within several months of harvest. If you go onto the Austnuts: Australia's nut directory site, and click on the walnuts section, you will find masses of useful information, including Perry's Fruit and Nut Nursery Home Garden Cultivation Notes and walnut recipes.

The Austnuts: Australia's nut directory site also has similar information on chestnuts and, of course, other nuts which can grow here in the Blue Mountains, such as almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fig Preserve

Issue 65 of the Permaculture Magazine (UK) had lead articles in it on 'Transition Trees' and 'Useful Trees in Public Spaces' on networks and activities like ours. On page 14 there is a great recipe for preserving figs, as follows.

Wash and core — or scald and peel, and core — 2.4 kg of fresh figs. Make a syrup by boiling together 500 ml vinegar and 500 ml water with 2.4 kg sugar for ten minutes. Now drop the whole fruit into the syrup and very gently cook for three to four hours. Bottle in sterile jars while hot and seal after cools.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Orange and its fruit and nuts

The annual Orange F.O.O.D Weekis on again in April. Orange represents a great neighbouring bioregion for fruit and nuts and is definitely worth a visit. Find a list of local producers at the Orange Farmers Market site.

Note in the Blue Mountains Gazette this week, that the council is treating blackberries so the advice is to avoid eating spray with your berries by going without when you see berries grown on public land. Also go to the council's website to notify the Noxious Weeds team leader if you need to be put on its Chemically Sensitive Register to be notified when they spray nearby.

Friday, March 4, 2011

BM Food Co-op turns 30

The Blue Mountains Food Co-Op is the easiest place for residents in the upper mountains to share, sell or buy surplus fruit and nut produce. When I browsed on Friday there were blackberries, hazelnuts, pears, apples, and more ... all grown locally.

Now the biggest and longest opening outlet of its kind in Australia, it is located in Shops 1 & 2 Jones House, Ha'penny Lane (under the Katoomba Post Office). Phone: 4782 5890.

Our NFP food co-operative specialises in organic wholefoods, encourages local produce and minimal packaging. There are transparent mark-ups and bulk discounts.

The co-operative will celebrate its 30th birthday Saturday March 12th at Phillip Hall & Park in Blackheath, 10am–10pm. Slow Foods has a stall where you can see BM FNTN flyers and can sign up to our e-list for bulletins about our activities.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Other projects like our own...

If you didn't hear it on the ABC Radio National's Bush Telegraph or Country Breakfast this week, go to —http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bushtelegraph/stories/2011/3145462.htm to find the audio to listen to and the transcript to read. And for more on the Growing Abundance project, see — http://www.cch.org.au/growing.shtml — it's so like our own Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network!

Friday, February 18, 2011


With fruit picked at the Mount Tomah Cheriras Orchard (see photos in posts below) I've made marmalade and chutney this week. Given many of you might well have, or have access to, lots of little apples this time of year — too many to eat — I'll share my method for making chutney. You can add chopped up onions, or other delicacies at hand, as you wish, e.g. substitute some apples with windfall pears.

Into a very large saucepan (e.g. the bottom part of a pressure cooker) place 5 cups of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of allspice, 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 kg raw sugar. Stir well and then occasionally, as you bring it to the boil, making sure the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile wash 2 kg apples, peel where necessary, roughly chop and add all to the simmering liquid mixture.

Bring back to the boil and, after a few minutes, add 350 gm sultanas, 250 gm of finely sliced preserved ginger. You need to stir it well for the next 15–25 mins as you keep it at the boil to thicken. Make sure your jars are sterilised and pour into 8–10 medium sized 'jam' jars.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bilpin Garden Club

Last Saturday Rob and Lucy, from the Cheriras Community Orchard in Mt Tomah, and I spoke about our network to the Bilpin Garden Club in the Bilpin Hall. Before we went, we picked blueberries with some other families. I took these photos of the figs and prima apples in the orchard. We expect the figs to be ready in March sometime.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


See the ABC story on a new national organisation facilitating landsharing, i.e. having other people use your land productively and you working on someone else's land to produce food you eat.

The following is a quote from the Landshare website:

Landshare is for people who:

+ Want to grow vegetables but don't have anywhere to do it
+ Have a spare bit of land they're prepared to share
+ Can help in some way — from sharing knowledge and lending tools to helping out on the plot itself
+ Support the idea of freeing up more land for growing
+ Are already growing and want to join in the community

Great idea and even easier to apply for fruits and nuts. That's happening around the mountains. The Quarry Garden at Blackheath is one example and the Cheriras Community Orchard is another. Think about expanding the idea.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


An update on fruit-picking at Cheriras Community Orchard at Mt Tomah — they have begun harvesting apples outside the large netted area 'due to intense interest from the birds'! Watch out for these apples, which are on sell regularly now at the Katoomba co-op any day of the week or at the Quarry Garden Gate, Connaught Road (off Govetts Leap Rd) in Blackheath, between 10am and 12 noon/1pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. (Turn left into Connaught Rd off Govetts Leap Road, drive to the end and turn left though the big gates.There is a sign out the front.) For more details contact Deb Hurley 4787 7429

Leura Goodies has fresh-picked (daily) blueberries from Mount Wilson suppliers for sale at the moment too.

This means that the up coming BM FNTN activity will focus on figs: 'the second (autumn) crop should be amazing and plentiful'.
We might get a fortnight notice time but it is likely to be March. Watch this space and, if you are a local to the Blue Mountains, make contact to get on our e-list so you get notified instantly!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It's a new year and Cheriras Community Orchard is the new name for the Cloud Farm Community Collective (see post below, 1 January), where we expect to pick apples and figs once they are ready — probably February. 'Cheriras' is from the French 'to cherish' (chérir) — very cutely Google asked me if I meant 'cherries' when I searched it on the Internet!

Meanwhile Blue Mountains Slow Foods have a series of Summer Harvest Kitchen workshops. The following should be of interest to fruities and nutters:

Good enough to bottle – Tips for preserving using Fowlers Vacola equipment. Thurs 3 Feb, 10 am–1 pm and 2–4 pm @ Cloudlands, Katoomba. Cost: by donation. Bookings: 4782 7376
Learn the simple steps for using a Fowlers Vacola Electric Sterilising Unit. Look at equipment required and take home practical, step-by-step sheets to keep. A hands-on component as well, bottling antipasto vegetables. Light morning/ afternoon tea will also be provided.

Chooks Tour: an excursion to small, integrated backyard chookhouses/runs in the Blue Mountains: Sat 5 Feb, 9.30-2.30pm @ Various Chook yards across the Mountains. Cost $10. Bookings: 4782 7376
Small group visits to 6-8 backyards and talk with owners about their chooks, chookhouses and yards. Finish at Sun Valley Produce with display of equipment and feed for keeping hens, and chickens for sale. (Heavily booked, so contact presenter for date of 3rd excursion.)

Notice too the campaign to save the bees.

I made some brandied cumquat and orange marmalade in November — from our own cumquats, sadly we don't grow our own oranges in our Katoomba garden — and now we're having it on Hominy toast each morning for breakfast — yum!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cloud Farm Community Collective and Love's Harvest

About 25 people came to the Cloud Farm Community Collective open berry picking day today. It was great weather, but a little hot.

We took photos at the entrance of the one-acre netted food forest (left) and from inside, where garlic and other herbs grow adjacent with fruit trees and berry plants (above right).

Next month there will be other fruit to harvest, stone fruit will be ready in a number of weeks. The apples will take longer. To receive notification of such activities please register your email on our e-list.

On 31 December 2010 SBS screened one of a four-part documentary series, called Love's Harvest, on the experiences of organic farmers. The half-hour part on New Year's Eve was on a couple who established a commercial raspberry patch at Yandoit in Victoria. Especially if you like raspberries, and raspberry growing, it is worth a look.


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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