Monday, April 18, 2011

chapter 30: Incy Quincy's and Autumn Opportunities

Hello everyone! we are back on the blog, and ready to get busy again in the garden. In the months ahead, we aim to get a community orchard up and running, investigate aquaponics, and begin a local fruit and vegetable trading co-op at our local markets. We are very excited.

Autumn Opportunities

With Summer well and truly over, the garden is looking a little hagged, and the temperature is becoming more and more crisp and chilly every day. Unpacking our winter wardrobe, Jo and I agreed it was time for a new look. Something to rival the Autumn collection of the Paris catwalks, something that would turn heads, and set the trend for 2011. It was time to go op-shopping!

If the thought of op-shopping is still a little taboo for you, fear not, this is a natural knee jerk reaction prompted by years of hyper-consumer conditioning. Be brave, put on a pair of dark sunglasses and a wide brimmed fedora, and when no one is watching, slip inside your nearest op-shop. Once your in there, work through every item of clothing. this takes discipline and patience, but amidst the plethora of polarised size 8's and 22+ items, hide fashionable and well tailored gems.

Joe and I went on a Vinnie's trawl this week, and boy did we clean up! defying all op-shopping odds, I found a pair of jeans that fitted perfectly... that is, because finding a pair of jeans that fit in Vinnie's is a near impossible. Joe, on the other hand, after a 10 year holy grail search finally found a size 32 pair of brown chords, that were so in during the 90's. he was overjoyed! but alas, his waist line is no longer living in the 90's, and that chiseled size 32 now lies dormant beneath a healthy pair of love handles.  Blinded by denial, he purchased them anyway.

Going Nuts in the Garden
Despite the drop in temperature during April and the garden looking like its still recovering from its summer hangover, one sure fire April delight is finding fallen macadamia nuts each morning before heading off to work. The kids have a competition to see who can find the most and we have gradually filled a basket of them over the past month. This year the nuts are the biggest that we have ever seen them and we are looking forward to adding them into our recipes over the year ahead.

One of the more surprising successes in the garden has been a red paw paw tree, which we inherited from Joe's Dad, who also inherited it from a neighbour in his street who grows all manner of things edible in his garden. Joe refers to him as the bare footed, googly eyed man, because... well...he is bare footed and googly eyed, but incredibly nice all the same. Amazingly this "tropical" plant has successfully established in our front yard.

We have placed it under out green house, and if it survives the winter, hopefully we will be enjoying paw paw by next summer. The red paw paw is self fertile, unlike other varieties of paw paw, which require a male and female plant. Despite being a tropical plant, Paw paws have been successfully grown in temperate climates. They also grow very rapidly in the right conditions, and apparently bear fruit within a year from planting. If you live in a frost free area, it may be worth considering as an addition to your garden. We will let you know how ours goes.

Incy Quincy's

Something else that has been unexpectedly dropping in our front yard are quinces. The front corner of our block is an overgrown jungle of jasmine, wisteria, rose bushes and other vines. It is an untamed and rarely ventured area of the garden that only N and G go to play hide and seek. Whilst pruning the overgrown rose bush, we discovered a thorny, caney shrub with leaves that looked very similar to an apple tree. Much to our surprise we started to find small apple-like fruit on the ground nearby. They appeared like a miniature gnarled cross between a pear and apple. Joe recalled earlier in Spring having seen deep pink blossoms on its branches. As it turns out we discovered it is a quince tree, growing in our front yard.

What's a quince I hear you say? After some Internet research we discovered that the quince tree (other than being a symbol of love and fidelity in Ancient Rome) was once a very common domestic fruit tree in yesteryear.

 Quinces very tart to eat raw, although, if eaten raw, they make for the most entertaining facial expressions. If you have a quince tree and nothing better to do, give one to a loved one (as a symbol of your love), tell them it tastes delicious, then observe from a safe distance. Otherwise, quinces make the most superb jellies, jams and pastes. The first time we'd heard of quinces was Maggie Beer's delicious cabernet quince paste...naturally being the domestic goddess that I am...Joe insisted that I make my own..even though at this stage we weren't 100% sure if that actually were quinces or some other variety of highly poisonous and over-sized native berry... but what the hell, you only live once.

Oddly enough making quince paste is not that dissimilar to making jam and as you might recall jam making is one of my most astute skills.

Quince Paste Recipe


1 cup of quinces
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup of cognac (to sip whilst takes bloody ages!)

Peel, core and chop quinces. Then bring them to boil in water. Once soften, mash into a pulp. Turn to a low heat. Add sugar and lemon juice and stir whilst painting nails and putting hair in curlers (as we all do all day long). Consume cognac whilst waiting for nails to dry...keep stirring. Eventually you will notice the colour turning darker and the mixture appears to be coagulating (thickened). Pour into ramekin and allow to set in the fridge.

The Taste:
The taste is closest to the zesty, sweet zing of a sherbet stick or possibly the best marmalade you've ever had in your life. Incidentally the word marmalade is derived from 'marmelo' which is the Portuguese word for quince.

Community Orchard
Speaking of fruit trees we are in the final stages of preparing the launch of our community orchard. After approval from our local council, ourselves and our neighbours will soon be planting between 9 and 12 fruit trees in our lane way. We are lucky to have a very wide nature strip on a quiet lane way. We are considering citrus, coffee, pomegranate and fig. If you have any other possum proof suggestions let us know. The planting day is yet to confirmed but we will be sure to fill you in on how it goes.

What we've planted this season:

St Patrick's day marked the sowing of all things beans. We planted all of our dried broad beans as well as some heirloom dragon's tongue (pink and white) beans which we found for sale in one of our local fruit shops. We've also planted garlic (after the equinox), beetroot, shallots, leeks, onions, orange carrots, lettuce and silverbeet. After the full moon we intend to plant some more purple carrots, beetroot and onions.

Next Blog, we are making our own marshmallows to roast by the fire, and begin phase one of the Community orchard. Nice to be back gang.


  1. Can't wait to try making quince paste next year. I had quinces but didn't know what to do with them!Love the sense of community you are creating with the orchard.

  2. Love the idea of the community orchard. One word of warning - do you have flying foxes? I'm a huge fan of these beautiful animals and welcome them to our garden but have long ago given up any ideas of harvesting figs. At the moment they are eating our guavas, and they've completely polished off the banana passionfruit. We have possums but they don't do nearly as much damage as the fruit bats. Pleased to see you back.

  3. Thanks Kim and Carol...the community orchard is set for a week is exciting and many of the neighbours are getting on board. Carol, interestingly we have never have flying foxes...and are hoping they will continue to stay away, cute but anti-community orchard. The possums like to eat our figs if we leave them long enough but our plan is to plant quite a few citrus, pomegranate, avocado, fig and a few others. We will fill you in on how it all goes after the day!

  4. Hi again - good to see things are going well for you! My garden is looking pretty good right now - I've got beetroot, masses of snow peas, lettuce, coriander and have put in broad beans, turnip, cabbage, brussel sprouts, garlic and leek! We've been eating the beetroot and lettuce and our 10 year old grabs some snowpeas every time he goes by the patch. I made some microwave jam the other day - I used some figs, grapes and strawberries (this is what I do when I have small amounts of fruit left.) Just wash and cut them up, then mash them a little with a potato masher. Into the microwave for some three minute bursts (medium high) and when they are all nice and mushy, measure the fruit. For each cup of fruit add 3/4 cup of sugar, mix it all through and then back in the microwave for two minute bursts, stirring each time. After about four or five bursts, put a little on a plate into the freezer to see if the jam is ready. While the plate is in the freezer for the minute, leave the jam waiting to see if it needs more cooking. When the jam is done, ladle it into a sterilised jar and shut down the lid. After a while the lid will pop in and there you have it - some yummy home made jam! Our jam is always slightly different because it is a different combination each time! (I just realised I posted this on the 'friends' site by accident, so I'm re-posting here...)

  5. The microwave sounds like such a good idea, and no doubt much easier than the method we once used to make jam... Will have to try this out. Thank you so much.

  6. So very cool to have your cyber garden back up! Sounds as though as ever you are busy little gnomes.. The community garden sounds awestruck! Look forward to updates! Nice photoworkz joe! Could of listened to you talking op-shop talk all day, we here have NONE! They are a many bless-ed thing! Microwave Jam.. lordy! Even I could do that! Thanx as ever Manu xxx