April update

Autumn is one of the best times in Melbourne—I love the way the bush looks on misty mornings :

As we move into the cooler months, work in the food garden mainly involves cleaning up the remains of the summer crops—removing tomato plants and climbing beans and getting the tubs and wicking boxes ready for winter crops.

I harvested Jerusalem artichokes. These are some of the bigger ones. There were many smaller ones which I’ve replanted :

Jerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes. They don’t store very well—about a week in the fridge say most sources, so I’m investigating drying them with a view to using them in casseroles. I’ve sliced some and dried one lot without blanching and another lot with blanching—dropping the slices into boiling water and removing them as the water comes back to the boil. The unblanched ones didn’t go brown, which is helpful as blanching is an extra time-consuming step I would rather not do unless necessary. I tried them roasted—scrubbed but unpeeled—they took about 20 mins to soften and were quite acceptable, with crunchy skins. In the past I’ve just cut them into thick slices and fried them until soft. The carbohydrate in sunchokes isn’t starch as in potatoes; it’s inulin. Wikipedia has this to say:

Inulin is indigestible by the human enzymes ptyalin and amylase, which are adapted to digest starch. As a result, inulin passes through much of the digestive system intact. It is only in the colon that bacteria metabolise inulin, with the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and/or methane. Inulin-containing foods can be rather gassy, in particular for those unaccustomed to inulin, and these foods should be consumed in moderation at first.

The production of gas in some people without the correct intestinal bacteria is the reason why they’re often referred to as Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’. I can’t remember having any obvious problems, but then I don’t pig out on them. I just see them as a valuable additional food source that is easy to grow.

There are four pumpkins ripening—Naranka Gold and Kent—two on each plant :

Cherry Guava are ripening. They soften quickly after being picked so I need to find a way of preserving them :

I picked a few pears. Although both trees flowered well, only the Williams variety set fruit and despite trying to get a net over most of it, the birds (or possums) got most of them :

Seeds were collected—garlic chives and Purple King climbing beans :

Kindling wood was chopped for winter fires (actually it’s an ongoing job) :

This is Redbor kale direct-sown in a wicking box. Two different leaf shapes have appeared—not surprising, as this was collected from plants last year and Redbor is a hybrid form, so it looks as though some plants have reverted to the parent forms :

Tamarillos are ripening :

Carrots direct-sown in a wicking box. Looks like I’m going to have to pull up a chair and do some thinning. I over-sowed because the seed was old. I didn’t expect such good germination :

I planted garlic and some cloves didn’t sprout. Haven’t had much luck with garlic the past couple of years, but I keep trying :

Persimmons are ripening. I’ve got them covered in the little nylon socks at the moment. They’ll be more obvious and in danger from bird and possum attack when the leaves have fallen. Last year I picked them when they had some colour in them like these and they ripened inside. I might try that again this year. Every one of these beautiful fruits is more precious than gold :

Asparagus fern is starting to die back. When it’s all dead I’ll cut it back to the ground and fertilise the area ready for spring. I can’t wait for the season to begin again. Last year I was eating fresh asparagus every other day :

Warrigal Greens survived the summer and has taken off with the recent rain. I wonder if I could harvest it and interest a local restaurant in buying it?  Unfortunately, not many people know about it as a nutritious native plant and spinach substitute. Anyway, it makes a useful ground cover :

I haven’t found many mushrooms so far. I missed seeing a huge one the size of a dinner plate. By the time I discovered it, it was infested with slaters. I’ve picked and dried a couple of smaller ones.

Melbourne’s average rainfall for April is 53 mm and we had 89 mm. The first couple of weeks were warm and sunny, but temperatures have dropped into the teens now.

Onwards to winter and warming casseroles beside the wood fire. Bye-bye salads.


11 Responses to “April update”

  1. narf7 Says:

    Another post redolent with autumn promise Bev. Any chance of a few cherry guava seeds? I used to love guavas on the mainland and reckon they would grow well here. Do you make jam out of them? If not, I would try drying them. We didn’t get a single pear this year, much to the disgust of the local parrots that turned up ready to feast and ended up with empty bellies. I put it down to a ruthless late spring/summer and weird weather. I had best collect my garlic chives before they drop and fill up the wicking beds that they are planted in! Excellent reminder Bev. I am going to plant some kale in my wicking beds. I already have broad beans growing and now it’s time for some winter greens. I went to a sustainablity workshop about ‘what to grow in your winter gardens’ and ended up leaving early as it was not very well organised and the ‘winter veg’ talk went for 5 minutes and didn’t tell me anything. I get much more from your site and I don’t have to travel 100km to get that information!

    I still have Pepino’s ripening here. We are about a month behind you. Is it time to sow carrots?! I am still picking the ones I sowed in early summer! I haven’t even planted out my garlic yet and am going to just poke it in amongst the greenery up in Sanctuary. It’s not as wild as it has been in the past few years up there, we harvested ‘something’ and it has all in all been an excellent learning curve. I mulched everything heavily up there and it paid off and kept the water in. I will be doing this regularly. I have several large bags of saved grass clippings from the park over the bridge and am going to heap them up at the back of Sanctuary as I need to keep the soil that is left up there covered. I think we might have to hire a big mulcher and mulch some greenery around here to stockpile for mulch next year.

    I am SO envious of your persimmons. I think I might have to ask for a persimmon tree for my birthday this year. I adore them. I completely understand you saying that they are more precious than gold. I had never tasted them till last year when my daughter bought an entire tray of them as she loves them so much and one went a bit too squishy for her and she gave it to me. It was like the most fragrant sweet puree you could ever get. I think I might actually ‘need’ a persimmon tree!

    Asparagus is all over the place here but it grows so quickly I never manage to harvest the stalks. Maybe next year I will get my act together and go on an ‘asparagus hunt’ before it all turns to ferns. You have a LOT of warrigal greens! I have 2 small plants that I dug up on one of my dog walks and they are starting to take off in Sanctuary. I let them grow underneath the raspberries and avocado trees that I planted out. I figure they will act as an excellent green mulch and keep the moisture in the soil.

    It’s mad mushrooms all around here. I even spotted some just down at the bottom of the driveway this year. I, too, am looking forward to winter casseroles and soups as the temperature has decided to take a nosedive and it’s 6C here this morning (it was 2C yesterday) and I am actually sleeping under a feather doona and loving it even with Brunhilda pumping out her weights worth of warmth. Thank you for sharing your posts with us all Bev. I get very excited whenever I see a foodnstuff blog post in my RSS Feed Reader 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Fran, I’m extracting and drying guava seeds at the moment so some will certainly be winging your way. I’m not into jam (too much sugar…trying to go low carb) so I might try drying them. At the moment I’m putting them on my mueslii and nibbling a few every time I pass the bowl. The birds have been having a go too, so between us we’ll get rid of them. I might try them on the chooks…they like cherry tomatoes so will probably think they’re more of the same.

      I still don’t know what is the right time to sow carrots….I was throwing out old seed and had a spare wicking box so threw them in. So much for the books that say carrot seed must be fresh! I must order some of those little round ones that Steve grew….they’ll probably be more successful in a wicker.

      And….I must get another persimmon or three. I would be devastated if this one died!

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf7 Says:

        I keep asking at nurseries and it’s always the same story “we had one a few weeks ago…” I think its all bollocks. I don’t think they get them in at all here! I might have to put an order in with a mate that works at Bunnings in the horticulture department for a couple of them and call it my birthday prezzie as I truly think I need a persimmon or two in my life :). I have no idea when you are meant to plant most things. Succession planting eludes me and I am more of a bung it in and see if it will grow type experimenteralix to be honest. I have some kei apple seedlings that are slowly growing that I want to train into a hedge and I took some Luma apiculata cuttings the other day. There’s an excellent edible food that people just don’t grow much and Luma’s are awesomely hardy, will grow without much water at all, make an excellent and beautiful (their trunks are stunning when the bark peels like copper) hedge and the berries taste like blueberries. The seeds are a bit resinous but as they are part of the myrtaceae family that’s to be expected. I think a hedge of Luma apiculata along our back fence would be a most excellent thing. They also grow quickly and make excellent topiary specimens. Now I just have to get Earl to agree to not pee on them till they get a bit bigger!

        Liked by 1 person

        • foodnstuff Says:

          I don’t know Luma although Louis Glowinski mentions it in the Complete Guide to Fruit Growing in Australia, so I must have seen it there and forgotten. I’m also growing Chilean Guava (Ugni molinae), sometimes called Murtilla, but my current plants haven’t flowered yet, so will send you seed when they do. I turfed out the one I had in a pot (it fruited there) and took new cuttings and they’re in the garden now. I got the seeds of Ch. Guava originally from Phoenix Seeds so he may be still selling them. They germinated readily and grow even easier from cuttings. Would love some Luma seeds if you get some.

          Liked by 1 person

          • narf7 Says:

            Luma is a much bigger version of Chilean guava with a better tasting fruit in my opinion. I didn’t realise the fruit tasted so good till I saw a hedge a few weeks ago with fruit on it and decided to taste it (as I knew they were edible). I was surrounded by chattering birds so obviously I was invading their personal bounty patch. I have a stack of drying luma fruit so no problemo on sending you some. I love this swapsie thing! I picked my last pepino yesterday. It’s almost ripe but I couldn’t leave it any longer as it’s starting to get really cold out there and I am a bit worried that we might get frost, even here and that we are going to have a really cold winter this year. I wanted at least one pepino that something hadn’t sampled before me. Luma grow like topsy from both seeds and cuttings and make a truly lovely tall hedge.


  2. Frogdancer Says:

    I miss my warrigal greens. I sowed some seed and cuttings in a wicking box but they’re not happy there… looking stunted and unhappy. I had warrigal greens everywhere in the old house.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      I could dig up some seedlings for you if you like. I’ve never sowed seeds because it just comes up everywhere and I’ve never tried cuttings because, well, it just comes up everywhere. Maybe wicking boxes aren’t a suitable growing medium. It has fleshy leaves so will tolerate a bit of dryness, but not ultra dry. Let me know if you want some seedlings potted up.


  3. kayepea Says:

    Loved your misty morning photo Bev. Here’s a good internet link for a lot of useful recipes for cherry guava from the Pacific Islands where they grow them a lot. There are plenty of recipes on the ‘net but mostly for Jelly, which I know you wouldn’t be interested in for the sugar factor!


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks for the link, Kaye. I didn’t know they were so rich in Vitamin C…a real bonus!


  4. Chris Says:

    Oh my, the colours in your garden! Beautiful. I’d love some of that fruit at my place. I have two guavas, and trying them in a new location (after living in pots). Yours look so tasty though.

    So much production, and I bet you didn’t share it all 😉 . Autumn is the perfect time of year to work in the garden though. The summer temps turn down, but its not as cold as winter. Things still grow!

    Good luck with your garlic. 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      The colours of the persimmon leaves are spectacular at the moment….I must remember to take a photo for the next update before the leaves all fall.

      I envy you the fruit you can grow that I can’t…..mango and avocado….I guess the grass (and the fruits) always looks greener on the other side of the fence!

      The guavas have been VERY slow-growing….quite suitable for pots.

      I do share as much as I can with a very dear friend who is too old to maintain a vegetable garden….I think she appreciates knowing how it’s been grown.


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