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Showing posts with label Organic Gardening - Fruit and Nuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Organic Gardening - Fruit and Nuts. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Patio fruit

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
Since gaining our allotment last year, our patio container garden has fallen by the wayside a little, which I have spoken about before.We have lots of large deep pots standing empty for much of the year, being dug over by cats and colonized by weeds. I have been debating how best to use the patio for some months.

Patios have their advantages and disadvantages as growing spaces. Whilst you are restricted to growing a relatively narrow range of compact crops in pots, high maintenance plants that require specialist feeding or frost protection can lend themselves to container growing. Patios tend to regulate heat over the course of a day, the slabs warming up faster in the day and losing that heat slowly overnight. They may even provide a longer growing season than bare earth.

Our allotment also has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it has deep open rich soil in which most things will thrive with a little attention. On the other hand is a paradise for winged things - everything from sparrows to Canada geese; and the evidence of the war on birds is everywhere. Metres and metres of netting cover fruit trees and in some cases, whole plots are caged. Apart from two very thorny gooseberries that should look after themselves, we have declined to install any other fruit on our small plot.

Back to our patio - there are no winged things, or rodents. Thanks to the huge cat and fox population, my neighbours elaborate bird feeding station has been visited only by a very aggressive magpie. Which makes our neighborhood perfect fruit growing territory from a pest point of view. All manner of fruit can be grown in containers. The cats are less likely to dig over containers with large, perennial plants in than they are seedlings. The trees and bushes will add some vertical interest to the garden and make the most productive use of space. Unfortunately, there is a lag time of a few years before trees will produce fruit, making me wish I had made the investment years ago. As that did not happen, there is no time to start like the present.

The initial investment in large containers, soil and plants is large in comparison with a packet of seeds, but the pay off is a relatively low maintenance, high output garden. Apart from regular watering and some seasonal pruning and possibly some pest or frost protection, the 'gardener's shadow' is less important to success than growing annuals.

This year we have invested in an apple on a dwarfing rootstock, which will restrict its height to a maximum of two metres and a cherry tree of similar stature. Thanks to their height, they can sit against a short north facing wall and catch the sun, turning a cold and dark edge of the patio into something more productive and pretty. This year we plan to add a self fertile kiwi which will be trained up a rose arch. We have added a grape that will be trained as a standard and are now considering a fig tree, which fruit best when its roots are restricted. If I had space to overwinter one indoors, I would consider a citrus tree also.

On a personal note, there is something wholesome and soothing about a tree, especially a fruit tree, something that stirs in me when I look out over the garden and see the twigs starting to bud. Which is a good enough reason as any to go forth and plant.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Limoncello - Concentrated Lemoney Goodness

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese

As spring is now upon us, we have an abundance of lemons on our tree. So what to do with all those lemons?  For a bloke who likes a drink or two, my wife had a fantastic idea.  Here is what unfolded.

About 3 weeks ago, Kim (my lovely wife) was ill and tired of laying in bed, so I trundled her off to the lounge room, threw on the blankets, and she started watching the movie Under The Tuscan Sun.

Half way through the movie, the main character, who was eying up some hot Italian lad, was told about this wonderful drink called Limoncello which she proceeded to drink.  Kim then asked if I could make some.  The reply was of course I can!

With lots of lemons on the tree, and a bottle of vodka in the cupboard, I set myself the task of making this luscious lemon liqueur.  After a bit of research on the net, the consensus was a recipe that goes kind of like this.  I borrowed the directions from an on-line cooking site, however I changed the amounts because I didn't think it was sweet  or strong enough.  So here is how I made it.




Limoncello (Gav style)

Ingredients

9 large smooth thick skinned lemons
700ml bottle of Vodka or Grappa
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
2 cups of water
juice of one lemon

Method

Pick the lemons, then grate the rind of all lemons.  Be careful not to get any pith as I am told it will make the liqueur bitter.


Once you have all the rind place in a big glass container that you can seal or otherwise the alcohol will evaporate. 


Then pour in the alcohol and seal the jar.


Let it rest while you perform the next step.


I love the way it changed colour over the course of a couple of hours.  Note the rind sitting on the bottom.  Some recipes state that you must leave it at this step for 30-40 days to infuse the flavour, however, I stumbled across a few Italian recipes that I translated, and they added the sugar syrup the same day.


So add the sugar and water and stir whilst heating on a medium heat.  Bring to the boil.


Boil without stirring for 3 minutes.  You will find the syrup will thicken a little.  Take it off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and let it cool to room temperature.  Do not add the syrup to the rind mixture whilst hot.  You will burn off the alcohol, which kind of defeats the purpose of this drink.


My syrup cooled after two hours, so I gently poured it into the rind/vodka mixture.


I gave it a gentle shake to mix, and left it at that.  Sealed the lid tightly and tipped it upside down to check for leaks.


I popped it into a dark corner in the kitchen where I will remember to mix it by shaking once a week over the course of a month.  Apparently, it is then ready to drink, however I did see recipes that recommended two months.


As for the rest of the left over lemons, I squeezed them and made a drink for Kim.  We are look forward to drinking the Limoncello on a nice late spring day!  I still have a few lemons left on the tree, so Kim has convinced me to go and buy another bottle of vodka to make another batch.  Might try Grappa this time, to make it a little more authentic.  If it is as good as my Cumquat Brandy, then it should be a ripper!

Has anyone else made this liqueur before?  How did it turn out?  Have you tried to make other fruit wines or liqueurs?  I would love to know.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cumquats

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin.

A friend of mine gave me a couple of kilograms of Cumquats last Friday.  I was not sure about what to do with them all, so I did a bit of research.

A Cumquat is a very small citrus, that grows well in colder climates.  It also grows well in pots or a large container.  Wikipedia states;

"The Round Kumquat (also Marumi Kumquat or Morgani Kumquat) is an evergreen tree, producing edible golden-yellow coloured fruit. The fruit is small and usually round but can be oval shaped. The peel has a sweet flavour but the fruit has a sour centre. The fruit can be eaten raw but is mainly used to make marmalade and jelly. It is grown as an ornamental plant and can be used in bonsai. This plant symbolises good luck in China and other Asian countries, where it is sometimes given as a gift during the Lunar New Year. It's more commonly cultivated than most other kumquats as it is cold tolerant. It can be kept as a houseplant."
Now when they mean sour, well all I can say is that sour is not the word for this fruit.  My tongue is still stinging from the first time I ate one.  The peel is actually sweeter than the centre!

I have kept some aside for marmalade to go with the other citrus I have grown, however I turned a kilo of them (2.2lbs) into something I have been meaning to try for a long time.  Cumquat Brandy!


Here is the recipe;

Cumquat Brandy

You need:
Cumquats, sugar and a bottle of brandy.

Method:
  • 1kg cumquats
  • 500g sugar (you can use 375g sugar if preferred, or more than 500g for a sweeter liqueur)
  • 1 bottle brandy
Prick the cumquats all over with a skewer or darning needle. Place in a large jar with the sugar and brandy. Shake or stir each day until sugar is dissolved (about 10 days).

Leave 6 months before using brandy, at which point the cumquats can also be consumed.
Now, I am yet to try it, but I reckon that it should taste just like Cointreau.  Well here is hoping anyway.  I will let you know in six months time!

Has anyone else tried this type of home made liqueur?  I am dying to find out if it will be worth the wait.

Friday, June 4, 2010

First Fruits of Perennial Plantings

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

It's likely we'll soon see the first tiny harvests from several of the perennial plants we put in over the last couple of years.  We took just a very modest harvest of asparagus in April, since our plants are now only two years old and so cannot support a full harvest.  Cherries, blueberries, grapes, elderberries and pears should also grace our table this year - sometimes in very small quantities.


I counted seventeen cherries on our Mesabi cherry tree.  It's covered in netting to keep the birds away.  At this stage they look like Maraschino cherries.  I hope they darken a little more.


This will constitute our entire blueberry harvest this year, provided the birds don't get them first.  I pinched off all the blooms last year, the year we planted our first blueberry plants.  I probably should have done the same this year, to let the plants put all their energy into just growing.  A harvest of seven blueberries (there are a few behind the visible berries) is hardly worth the name anyway.


On the other hand, seven pears from our Collette pear tree is worthy of the name "harvest."  These beauties are so tantalizing.  I know there are still plenty of things that could happen to these fruits before they ripen.  But I'm hoping, against my better judgment.


One of our two elderberres is blooming, and another is getting ready to bloom.  Oddly, the blooms on this particular plant have little fragrance.  This plant died but then grew back from the rootstock.  So we really have no idea what qualities the fruit will have.  I've begun harvesting the blooms in stages, as they open fully, to make elderflower cordial.  I'll let a couple of blooms from each plant set fruit if they can, to see what we get from each one.  Again, removing most of the blooms allows these young plants to concentrate most of their energy on development of roots and branches.


The grapes have decided to produce this year.  We'll see if any fruit makes it to a harvestable stage.  My husband put in five wine variety grapes two years ago.  This will be our first harvest, and possibly our first small batch of real homegrown wine.


The figs are growing exuberantly in their self-watering containers.  No sign of fig drupes yet, so we may not get the promised small harvest this year.  But at least the plants look healthy and happy.  So do the hazelbert plants in the same containers; we don't expect any nut crop this year though.  That's one of my self-watering. potato buckets next to the fig, with shallots and garlic behind them.  The garlic plants are still sporting their scapes, soon to be harvested.  And almost totally obscured in the back right, some of our raspberry canes - more perennials.  These produced insipid fruit last year.  They're getting one more year to prove themselves since they were young and 2009 was a bad year for gardening.  If the fruit isn't much better this year, they'll be replaced with something else.


While I caution my eager gardener's heart not to count on these tiny first harvests, it is satisfying to see our work in establishing these edible perennials begin to bear fruit.  It has been a heavy workload over the last few years.  The motivation that I used for myself is that though the perennials take more effort to plant, they only need be planted once, and then will give returns for many years.  We're still not done planting all the perennials we'd like to have, so it's a relief to see the returns starting.

Any perennials in your garden?  Or plans for some?  What perennial food crop would you most like to add to your garden?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not just for wreaths

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Maybe you just read Sadge's recent post on grape vine pruning or are coveting a neighbors grapes, or that grapevine you see on your walk in an old vacant orchard gives you a sly look every time you pass by. This is the time of year to take cuttings for rooting, and bring that special grape to your small fruit orchard.

I know grapevines are abundant in catalogs and garden centers, but propagating your own is a skill that will stand you in good stead. It's fun, easy and a very inexpensive way to get more plants. This tutorial is about grapes, but the process is the same for other small fruits like currants, gooseberries, and kiwi, just to name a few.

Now is the time to take hardwood cuttings of last year's growth. If your neighbor is pruning his grapes he will have an abundance of trimmings that will be headed to the craft room or compost pile. Just ask. It only takes a stick or two to make a new grape vine.

Items needed:
Grape cuttings
Sharp Pruners
Large nursery pot with drainage holes
Well rotted compost or potting soil
Pencil or clean stick or dowel
Positive attitude

Optional:
Bored dog

A rooted cutting from last year.


Your cuttings will root and put out new growth over the course of a year and be ready to plant in a nursery bed or row by the next spring.


Grape vine prunings, make sure you only keep last year's growth for your cuttings.


Well rotted compost works well for a rooting medium. Or native soil will work with a little sawdust mixed in to ensure that the soil will hold some moisture. You don't want the cuttings to drown or dry out - strike a happy medium.

The process isn't as boring as he makes it seem... .



All the vines look dead at this time of year, if it is confusing, look at the cut end - if you see green, the vine is dormant and you're good to go, if it is brown, discard it, it is a dead vine.

To discern the top from the bottom, look at the buds - the buds grow up, not down.


Angled cut at the top of cutting.

I like to have 3 buds per stick for my cuttings. Top, middle and bottom.

Starting at the bottom of your pruned vine, make a straight cut about 1/2 inch below the first bud. Count up three buds. This will be the top of your cutting, make a 45 degree cut about a 1/2 inch above the bud. That bud at the top is where the new growth will appear. The angled cut helps the cut shed rain, since this baby grape vine to be will be outside for a year, rain or shine.

Move up to the next bud and make a straight cut about a 1/2 inch below it. If you make straight cuts on the bottoms and angled cuts on the top, it helps you tell the top from the bottom. Continue in this manner until you have made all the cuttings you will need.



A handful of cuttings. Plan on at least 50% to make it. You may get more, and maybe a little less. If more root than you need - a plant you propagated from just a dead looking stick makes a great gift for a gardener or foodie. A little provenance never hurts, a gift of an heirloom grape vine can be more meaningful than one purchased at the home improvement store.

Here is where the pencil or dowel comes in. You need a dibble to make a hole in the soil to stick the cuttings. Insert your dibble, make a hole.

Insert the cutting at least half way into the soil. The roots will form in several places along the stem under the soil line, as long as the soil is kept moist.


After your cuttings are stuck, water them in. Place your pot out of full sun, and in a place where you won't forget to water it. Most gardeners have nursery area like this. Come spring you should see the buds start to push and grow. And hopefully underground, the roots are doing the same. By mid summer it will be apparent if the cutting has rooted. Resist any temptation to pull out the cutting to check on the progress. Instead, watch the leaves on the new growth - if they wilt and die, the cutting did not root, if they are growing along, your cutting rooted.

The rooted cuttings should stay undisturbed until at least fall. At that time you could re-pot them or just leave them until planting time the next spring.

Happy propagating!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rosellas


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

It's summer, and one of my favourite things to grow here in summer is the Rosella, or Malvacea – Hibiscus sabdariffa.

The rosella is an attractive bush with dark green sparse foliage and beige to yellow flowers with a scarlet throat. The woody stems of the bushes are scarlet also. It is native to West Africa and prefers a warm climate.

Plant the seeds around March in the tropics, so long as it’s not raining so much that the seeds will wash away! In sub-tropical and temperate areas, plant at the beginning of the warm season. Sow at least 50cm apart as the bushes reach up to 2 metres in height.

Rosella leaves, also known as Red Sorrel are edible and useful in salads, stir-fries or steamed.

Abundant hibiscus flowers attract beneficial insects to your garden. After the petals fall away, pick the rosella fruit for use in the following recipes before the seedpod inside turns brown. You will get a few harvests of rosellas during each season. Harvest when the calyxes are plump and juicy to get the best results in your cooking.

Rosella Cordial
rosellas (whole)
water
lemons
citric acid

Harvest a large quantity of rosellas. Wash and two-thirds fill a saucepan with the fruit. Cover these intact rosellas with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft and the red colour has faded from the calyx. Strain the red liquid and throw away all fruit and seeds etc. For every cup of this red liquid add a cup of sugar (a litre of liquid = a kilo of sugar).

Heat gently until all sugar is dissolved, stirring continually. Take saucepan off the heat source and add the strained juice of lemons (approx. 3 lemons to a litre of syrup). Stir in two tablespoons of citric acid (optional, improves keeping quality). Pour into clean, dry bottles and seal while hot. This keeps for a long time in the fridge, and may be stored in the pantry. This cordial makes a delicious pink drink enjoyed by adults and children alike. We mix with soda water for birthday parties, freeze in ice-block moulds, or drink as a refreshing cold drink in summer. Recipe originally from Green Harvest.


Rosella Jam
1kg rosella husks
1 litre water
2kg sugar (I use organic raw sugar)
or any 1:1:2 ratio of these three ingredients

Remove husks from rosellas and discard seeds etc. This is time-consuming and can be a little prickly, but worth the effort! Weigh the husks. Boil these with an equal amount of water for about 10 minutes. They should be very soft. Add the sugar slowly over a medium heat and stir well. Boil for around 20 minutes. Test the jam on a cold saucer – can place into freezer to cool. When it is cool, it shouldn’t run off the saucer when tipped up. Pour into sterilised jars, seal and label. This keeps well and is like no other jam available - sweet, tangy, perfect texture and a deep red colour.

Rosella Tea
Remove the outer fleshy husks of each rosella. Discard seedpod and stem. Dry in a slow oven or dehydrator until fully dried. Store in an airtight jar. Rosellas are the main ingredient in the popular red zinger teas and taste wonderful with a little dried or fresh lemon grass. This tea keeps for a long time without losing colour or flavour and is a great source of Vitamin C.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Well-Mannered Grapevine

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
A grapevine can be a wonderful addition to your permanent landscaping, and to your food supply. But this is not a relationship to be entered into lightly. Grapevines are remarkably long-lived. A deep taproot both protects the plant through a wide range of weather conditions but also means moving an established plant is not advised. Research what varieties do well in your area (including susceptibility to local diseases), think about how you plan to use its produce, and take a long, hard look around for the best place to put it.

Grapes are not for those seeking instant gratification either. Patience is needed, as it can be three to four years before you see your first harvest. In the meantime, careful shaping and pruning will set the stage for bigger and better crops in the long run.

I've seen many an arbor, cracking under the weight of an unpruned grapevine. Underneath, in what could be a lovely shaded spot on a hot summer day, is a spider-haven thicket of dead branches; the grapes, if any, are small and bitter - left unpicked, they can contribute to mildew and other diseases. A well-mannered grapevine, on the other hand, takes only a few hours spread out over the season to maintain. Thoughtful planning, training, and pruning can turn a scary nook into a valuable asset.

I have a red seedless Reliance grapevine, now almost 20 years old - initially chosen for its ability to withstand our frigid winter temperatures and still bear reliably. Each year, I harvest around 50 pounds of grapes - enough to eat fresh for months (Reliance does very well in cool storage - bunches spread out on trays in the cellar will hold at least until early December), some frozen whole to use like blueberries, and the rest dehydrated into about 20 pounds of wonderful raisins. Planting it on the east side of a chain link dog run provided the growing vine with support, welcome shade inside the dog run (used as a chicken brood pen), and makes it easy to wrap with a long piece of netting to protect my crop from the birds.

I need to get out there now to prune away last year's branches. I trained this grapevine into a four-arm kniffin, the best shape for the expected vigor of this particular variety, the type of support I was using, and the best use of the leaves for shade. Other shapes may be more appropriate for how you'd like to use a grapevine in your landscaping. Here is a good overview of the various pruning styles, plus getting-started instructions.

I did make one mistake in the earliest days of growing my grapevine. The four arms are supported by loops of old pantyhose tied to the fence. I didn't notice that one of the arms had woven itself in behind a piece of the chain link until a couple of years too late. Although I weave each year's branches through the fence for support during the season, they are cut back close to the arm, to a single bud late each following winter. Eventually, I'll have to either cut this arm back to where it loops behind the fence, or figure out how to unravel the chain link up enough to free it. I keep putting off doing either. I don't want to destroy the dog run, and this particular arm is the strongest one of all four. Plus, it wraps around the south end of the dog run, providing much-needed shade inside at the height of the summer heat.

It's best to start training your grapevine early, and keep up with it annually. But if you've inherited an overgrown mess, don't lose heart. Start by trimming the dead wood underneath away - anything that doesn't show a layer of green beneath the bark is dead. Cut back to green wood, leaving a bud or two to sprout in the Spring. It's best to prune grapevines when they're dormant, before the sap starts to rise in the spring, before or after the coldest part of winter. If your grapevine is severely overgrown, you might want to make this a 2-3 year project. The end goal is to have only a framework of support arms; each year's fruiting branches removed before the next year's growth begins. Allowing air and sunlight to reach every part of your grapevine will produce better, tastier crops and lessen disease.

I also have a 3-year old Golden Muscat just getting started in front of my deck. The first year was mainly devoted to getting a good root system established - the growth clipped back to a few inches above the ground the first winter. The second year, the main trunk was clipped when it reached the final height I wanted. Last summer, I started training two arms, one going each direction, where the main trunk tops out. This next year, I'll train those two arms to wrap around the outside of the deck, tying them to each post as they grow. I'll be able to wrap netting over and around the deck railing when my plant starts to fruit, and it will provide a privacy screen for the deck. I might even make my own dessert wine some day. Is a grapevine in your future?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Watching My Veggie Patch Grow

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin.

It has been about 2½ years since I first seriously started gardening.  It was about the same time that I had been watching a UK BBC2 show called, 'It's not easy being green', which is a story about the Strawbridge family who give up their semi-detached house in the city and move to Cornwall.  They buy a dilapidated old farm on about 3 acres and start attempting to live sustainably.  The first thing they built was their veggie patch, and I was so impressed that I decided to give it a go myself.  This was mainly to reduce food miles and I had become extremely disheartened with the taste of vegetables available from our supermarkets.  Tomatoes just didn't taste like I remembered as a child. 

So, this was my blank canvas at the time back in early 2008.



A mostly dead lawn that I couldn't water, and everything was over grown.  There was an old peach tree stump that had to be removed, and a half dead nectarine tree that I was standing next to when I took the photo.  This was taken about 3 months before I built the veggie patch.

I decided to build raised beds as the soil was hard clay in the summer and slippery clay in the winter.  Not a lot grew well.  So, after lots of hard work I cleared the yard, got rid of the bushes on the left hand side and made my garden beds.  After two weekends of clearing this part of the yard of bushes and old rotten sleepers and the stumps of two old trees, we were able to begin building.



A fair difference.  We could actually see the brick wall to the left, and used redressed, recycled redgum sleepers to make the frame for the beds and constructed them 2100 x 1200 x 100 cm and spaced the beds 70 cm apart. This was enough space to lay some pavers for a little path between each bed. The beds were fastened together with 100 mm galvanised nails with a butt joint, and the wood was so hard that I had to pre-drill each nail hole. During the construction I managed to hit my left shin with the full force of a hammer blow! It swelled up like a melon. Nice and sore for the rest of the day, but some ice helped the swelling go down.  It pays to wear jeans when building, and not shorts like I was!

The next day, we filled the beds in this order.  The first layer was a cover of cardboard and newspaper about 5 sheets thick. This ground cover was to kill the weeks, grass and provide food for the earth worms. Next was a 10 cm layer of either lucerne hay or pea straw. I chose pea straw and Amy and Megan laid it for me. The third layer was a 2 cm layer of Dynamic Lifter (you can use well rotted manure). For the four beds I finished off an entire 25 Kg bag of very smelly Dynamic Lifter. I then covered it with another 5 cm layer of pea straw and then a layer 20 cm thick of mushroom compost garden mix. I think it was a 50-50 mix of mushroom compost and a loam type soil. It was filled with organic matter and was very suitable for the purpose of growing vegetables. I ordered 2 cubic metres and used it all! Adam lugged most of it from the roadside with the wheelbarrow, and Kim and I raked it level in each bed. Lastly, I topped it off with a 5 cm layer of sugar cane mulch, to help conserve water by stopping evaporation. You can read about what I planted in that first autumn here.

About 3 months later, we had saved up enough money to revamp the old courtyard area.  We put in a new veranda and decking.  The veranda was steel (not very eco friendly, I know but I didn't have much choice.  The decking however was FSC certified wood as were all the border latice work.  We put down metres of weed matting to stop grass growing through all between the beds and the path, then laid down paving stones and about 3 cubic metres of tuscan pebble mix to dress the ground.  This is the nearly finished yard.



You will notice that the large black pots against the wall are empty.  Into those I planted four citrus trees as the wall retained a lot of heat in the afternoon, so I knew they would do well, which they have.  A bumper crop in the 2nd year.

We continued to add to the garden, by adding some herb pots against the front of the decking and just went crazy with pots and a little plastic greenhouse and lots of ornamental plants on the deck.  This is what it looked like last summer just before the three day heat wave we had of 47ÂșC temperature, two days before Black Saturday.  Most of it survived except for a crop of sweet corn I had planted in the front yard.  I remember that it was about the same time I drained the rainwater tank because I simply had to keep it all alive.



As you can see it was an edible jungle!  I am very proud of what I have achieved in these past few years.  Also during that time I planted 10 fruit trees in the front yard, which is now my fruit orchard and all trees are doing well.  I also established a large pumpkin and bean patch on the east side of the house after pulling down some runaway jasmine bushes.  Also, the chickens provide the fertiliser and I make all the compost myself in 3 large bins.  You can read about all my gardening adventures on my site here.  It has been so much fun, and I highly recommend building even a small veggie patch to anyone who is even thinking about it.  Once established, it takes a few hours a week to maintain and it is a pleasure to have soil in you hands!



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hardy Kiwi in the garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Not one for planting much in the way of exotic fruits, when Hardy Kiwi's became available about 20 years ago, I dove in head first. I loved the taste of the fuzzy kiwi, but the crop was hit or miss in my climate, the tender plants preferring the warmer temperatures of California. However, the Hardy Kiwi plants can withstand winter time temperatures down to -25F.

I moved mine several times, never really giving them a chance to excel. They have been in their final spot for 7 years now. I originally had two females, and one male, but one female has died, so now I have just the couple. It is recommended that the male plant is needed for pollination, but my male and female never bloom at the same time, and there is always a heavy fruit set. the variety I planted was Anna and I purchased the vines at One Green World in Oregon. Our organic inspector was a kiwi hobbyist and she experienced the same thing, that Anna (also sometimes known by her full name Annanasnaja) would put on copious crops without pollination. It is recommended however, to buy a male and female. Another great nursery with many unusual edible fruits in Raintree Nursery. And if you're so inclined the hardy kiwi propagates easily from cuttings taken during late winter. So if you have a friend that has a kiwi you have been coveting, ask for some cuttings and you will be in business!

Usually when you think of kiwis, food comes to mind. But, I think this plant is under-rated as an edible ornamental, it can be very useful in permaculture type applications. The plant's rapid growth would very helpful in shading a porch, the dark green heart shaped leaves are beautiful in their own right, and the fragrance when the vines bloom is delightful. The pollinators love it too, the vine is always abuzz with bees and hummingbirds. When fall arrives the leaves provide ample color on gray days, and in our land of conifers, any fall color is appreciated.

The plants are pest free in North America, lending themselves to organic gardening, and are relatively low maintenance. After they are established, all they need is a application of compost each year and minimal irrigation. And they also thrive under neglect. I only apply stable manure once a year to mine, never water them, and proper pruning for heavier crops has escaped me. I can't imagine having a heavier crop, actually. They are very prolific!


But back to the food aspect, who can resist these smooth skinned beauties that you can just pop in your mouth? High in Vitamin C, with flavor like a blend of strawberries and pineapple they make a great addition to the fall fruit diet. Great in smoothies, made into jam, or ... . The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.


Since they are an unusual fruit and expensive to buy if you can find them, I make kiwi jam for Christmas gifts. It is always a pleasant surprise in a gift basket, and very tasty.


To make the jam, just remove the blossom end and stem.



Chop kiwi. If you're using the hardy kiwi you can just cut in half. If you have fuzzy kiwi, peel and chop and dice. Or if you are like me, or have small children, after measuring you can just squeeze them with your hands like you're making wine. I made two large batches of jam yesterday and by the time I was into the second batch, I was cooking dinner at the same time and didn't have time to cut all those kiwis, or to take pictures of the smooshed ones! And the usual warning applies - make sure the kiddos have washed their hands thoroughly before the smooshing fun begins.

After a brisk cooking, the jam is ready to ladle into jars.



Water bath for 10 minutes.



Summer goodness put away for winter enjoyment.



Kiwi jam cooling. The rings will be removed, jars washed and labeled before putting in the Christmas cabinet for gifts or just for stocking our pantry.

KIWI JAM from the Ball Blue Book of Preserves
Yield: about 4 half-pints

3 cups chopped and *peeled kiwi
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 package of powdered pectin
4 cups of sugar

Combine kiwi, powdered pectin and pineapple juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes boiling water bath.

*Peel only if using fuzzy kiwi, and the easiest way to do that is to actually cut the kiwi in half and just scoop out the flesh instead of peeling. Hardy kiwis have tender skin so no need to peel.

Most jam recipes are too sweet for us, and don't let the flavor of the fruit shine. So I cut the sugar quite a bit in my batches. The result is a softer jam, or spread, but the trade off is well worth it. We just have our biscuits on a plate and if no one is looking we lick the plate if a little jam escapes!

My changes:

6 cups of chopped kiwi
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 packages powdered pectin
2 cups sugar

These changes are mine and since this is a high acid product it is perfectly safe for canning. Low sugar pectin or Pomona's Pectin are good choices too. But I had the powdered pectin on hand and wanted to use it up.
I almost forgot. There is one more use for kiwis in the home orchard :)


Proper pruning would alleviate this "problem" if you so desire.


Busted!!

Could hardy kiwi be in your future?