Saturday, November 30, 2013

Jeff and Wilma on cooking Canna tubers

I've been growing and eating Canna rhizomes for several years now but they've always seemed like survival or filler food. I've always thought there must be better ways to use them and sure enough I've found Youtube videos where Jeff and Wilma from Buderim have nailed it. The simple trick is to boil Canna rhizomes for at least 20-25mins before adding them to stews or soups or before frying. In other words they're much better when pre-softened. This is something of a no-brainer really but it's actually quite hard to find information on cooking with this plant. So thank you Jeff and Wilma for showing us how you do it. And as they demonstrate in one of these videos Canna can make quite good mash when cooked thoroughly enough.

Abyssinian Banana at the end of spring

Much happier now!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Abyssinian Banana

I've blogged about these before but here's a picture of my specimen after a mild but weirdly frosty winter (for Melbourne that means about five nights where it got to 0 degrees Celsius - the end of the world!) ...I'll post what it looks like now in late spring soon...

I don't feel so good at the moment

In Praise of Feral Plums

In Melbourne there are many 'plum trees' that come up in gardens, along train tracks and in parks and creeks. My own garden is part of a property that has always been rented. In that way that tenants rarely get to make big changes to a backyard, nature often takes up the slack and I have eight plum trees, most of them self-sown over the 90 year life of this house. The trees are largely a kind of generic green, in foliage and plum colour although the fruit does get a flush of red as they ripen. One small tree has apricot flavoured plums while another with exactly the same habit and form and plum shape was entirely flavourless - I have since removed it. The best specimen is the classic purple leaved Prunus cerasifera with dark red fruit which is just beginning to ripen. (The late winter blossoms are beautiful too.) The fruit bats and lorikeets are already into them, not in a feeding frenzy yet, but with enough enthusiasm that as soon as the plums are ready for humans I will pick as many as I can for stewing.

We've had good winter and spring rain this year and there is a large crop but even last year with drier conditions there were more than enough plums to go round for humans and wildlife alike. So I rate these tough old trees that can survive and thrive with zero inputs. No extra irrigation, no fertilising and no pruning...perfect!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Melbourne

It's been a long, hot summer and there's lots to tell about my garden and how lots of different plants survived and thrived or otherwise. Let's start with Sweet Potatoes. The truth is that I picked up two small seedlings at Bunnings and planted them around October, almost as an afterthought. Here is the harvest from one of those plants, gently dug up over the weekend on April 13...I was rapt to say the least, especially considering that I had already bandicooted one large tuber in January.  I had already taken a lot of comfort from the following blog - - where a local grower had proved you could grow sweet potatoes in Melbourne. But still!

I have friends from the tropics who regard sweet potatoes as so easy to grow they're almost boring, but I'm still in the first flush of total joy that the harvest was so good. It's always like that when a food plant is regarded as marginal for your city or region and then, exceptionally hot summer aside, you show that it works as a fantastic crop.

And of course what's so great about sweet potatoes is that they're perennial plants, easy to strike from cuttings or via layering (which the species does itself naturally) and the young shoots are edible - I've been cooking with all summer. It's time to make sweet potatoes "mainstream" in Melbourne and perhaps, one day, boring...