Saturday, August 28, 2010

New plantings

'Spring is about to sprout,' as my 4-year-old daughter Ivy said to me yesterday while we were working in the garden together.

We have planted two new fruit trees, a lychee - not sure how it will go with the frost - and a new variety low-chill apple tree.

I have put the lychee right up against the polly water tank, in hope that the tank will keep the surrounding temperature above zero. The theory is that the water in the tank will never drop below freezing point, so the air around is 'might' also stay above freezing point when the frosts hit, although, we had no serious frosts this winter anyway. I will also cover the tree during frost session for the first couple of years and see if I can mollycoddle it along. The children love lychees and so do I. We shouldn't expect to see any fruit for the first three years, I am told.

Now to the apple tree. I don't know anyone who has experimented with low-chill varieties, but when I saw them in Daleys' catalogue ( I couldn't resist. They need a another tree for cross pollination. The tree I bought was a malus domestica, which needs to be crossed with a Golden Dorset or an Einshimer - neither were in stock. I have put it on the crest of the gully to see how it goes, although in the gully probably would have been better in terms of better exposure to frost. I am not sure how many frost hours it will require, but I have an old pear tree here which is a prolific bearer.

I have three weeks of holidays from my job and plan to use a lot of it in the garden.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bushfood- bunya nuts

After spending this morning thinking about what to do with the bunya nut my neighbor gave me, I decided to invent bunya nut hash browns.
I was pretty excited about the idea of cooking with a bush food, especially locally grown.

Bunya nuts are currently in season and where I live in Northern NSW people load them into a wheel barrow and sell them out the front of their homes for as little as 50 cents.

They bunya nut is a traditional Aboriginal food and grows predominately in South Eastern Queensland and Northern NSW around the great dividing range. Most bunya trees were lost due to land clearing but some early settlers planted the tree around their homes and this is where most of the supply of the nut comes from.

They are an ancient food dating back to the Jurassic era 180 million years ago. The nuts are contained in the conifer which needs to be broken apart. It is surprisingly easy to pull the cone apart and break open its segments to get at the nuts.

Once this is done, boil the nuts in salty water for 30 to 40 minutes. This should cook them through and also crack open the nut-shell a little. Once cooked and cooled the nuts need to be shelled, which is a little laborious. The nuts taste a bit like a cross between potato, brown rice and a nut.

Here is what you need to make the hash browns

20 shelled bunya nuts
3 free-range organic eggs
1 onion
salt and pepper

Grate the bunya nuts and the onion and then mix them with the eggs. Grind in some salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet and coat with olive oil. Scoop some ingredients onto the skillet and press down with an egg lift. You want it to be thin, like a pancake. Cook till crispy, then flip.

You can serve them with some aioli or use them as a base on which to serve lamb or moussaka.
The nuts can also be used as you would eggplant or zucchini as a filler in casserole as they absorb flavours well.