During my usual late afternoon walkabout I found a large flat field mushroom in the paddock – the intense aroma took me back to my childhood when we picked wild mushrooms that grew prolifically on the farm in our autumn months of March to April. Mum simply stewed the mushrooms with a knob of butter in the saucepan and used cornflour to lightly thicken the juices. Never knew whether to call it a soup or a stew – it sure tasted good. Sometimes the mushrooms were were sauteed and served with grilled bacon. I have the impression field mushrooms are not as prolific as they used to be. I have wondered if it’s because of the applications of artificial fertilisers and/or chemicals the soil has been subjected to – or could it be climate change? I’ve been reading about growing mushrooms in Patrick Whitefield’s How to Make a Forest Garden (2002). Guess where this thought is headed?
I snapped some photos to capture some colours of the early autumn harvest.
Top left to right: the weight of the Captain Kidd crop of apples is bending the branches. It’s sweet and juicy to eat raw and cooks exceptionally well to a smooth puree – we find there’s no need to add sugar. Buttercup pumpkins are a favourite with us. It has a dry, orange-coloured flesh and has a sweet flavour. I use it in different ways including roasted as wedges (rubbed with with olive oil, seasoned with sprigs of rosemary and black pepper), pureed for a fine soup, cubed into pasta dishes or salads. The cos lettuces give salad variety.
Middle left to right: work in progress on new growing beds being established in the paddock. I experimented by planting this Cherimoya in 2002. It is sited in a warm, sheltered spot. The fruit is is large, white, creamy, juicy and is eaten raw. We loved this fruit when we first tried it. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the occasional light frost would not upset the tree – so I’m delighted to see these young fruits have made it into our gardenworld. Another of my experiments has been to grow a Cranberry bush. About two weeks ago, I picked almost one kilo of fruit. I’ve dried some of the berries, juiced some and frozen the rest. I’m not quite sure how to use these to advantage – last season we enjoyed a roasted turkey stuffed and seasoned with my first crop of cranberries.
Bottom left to right: apple cucumber is a personal favourite. Love to combine this with feta cheese in a salad. The grape vine was already established when we came here and there are two other table varieties – pink and white grapes. The vines grow well here. More than a century ago in this region, wine grapes were planted by settlers to this country – by Dalmatians who migrated to New Zealand to dig for kauri gum and also by French Marist missionaries.
Finally, the strawberries have been exceptional this season and just keep fruiting. I haven’t done anything special – except to apply some animal manure. The site is well-sheltered from wind, gets full sun morning and late afternoon. My friend is hanging out for the Strawberry Jam – I add a good splash of cointreau instead of water to the saucepan in which 1.5kg fruit is simmered until soft. In accordance with the instructions, I add 70 grams commercial pectin-based jam setting mix before disssolving 2kg sugar and boiling for six minutes. I pour this jam into small jars. A fancy label and it’s a nice gift to give from my garden.
Number Two son’s plantings have flourished since he became a gardening convert late last year. His peas are almost finished and the sweetcorn is ripening. There are no hard or fast rules in his gardening style – flowers and edible plants mingle as they do in my garden. I’m amused to note he too has taken to going walkabout in the garden with mop-haired two-year old pea-picking son in tow.