Tag Archives: flavour

Apples, straight from the tree…or why every garden should have one

The apple you see on that plate is the apple I just picked from my tree. I picked it, buffed it against my shirt and bit into it. Crisp but not ‘rock hard’, juicy and…so sweet the flavour was like an explosion in my mouth!

The apple in question is a Fuji, and Fuji are one of the sweetest of the commercial apples, but my home-grown beauty was a factor of ten sweeter because I didn’t pick it until it was fully ripe. Commercial apples are picked earlier and stored in a cool room to increase their ‘shelf life’ in the supermarket. Convenience and greater profits for the supermarket, a loss for the consumer.

How much of a loss?

I can only guess at the nutritional loss, but I can tell you that my apples taste amazing. And! The land on which they grew has not been sprayed for the 16 years of my stewardship. That’s how long we’ve lived here in Warrandyte. As the block was originally a horse paddock, it’s probably been herbicide and pesticide free for much longer than that. For me though, the bottom line is flavour.

I stopped buying commercial apricots the year my apricot tree had its first crop. The flavour of that warm, sun-ripened fruit took me back to my childhood when my Dad grew a few fruit trees in the back yard. The one I remember even now is the nectarine tree. It was big enough for an eight year old to climb without getting stuck, and I’d sit in its branches, eating nectarines.

In fact, there have been home-grown fruit trees in my life for all but a few years in my twenties when I was renting. There have been fruit trees in the Offspring’s life too, and I remember the look of wonder on a young nephew’s face when he picked a ripe apricot from my tree and tasted it for the first time. These are the moments that can trigger life-long food choices, and those food choices can influence life-long health.

Many schools in Australia have created veggie patches for the kids to tend and taste, which is great, but what about the home garden? How many kids get to go home after school and pick a sun-ripened apple for a snack instead of something that comes in a packet? And what better reason for a kid to go outside into the fresh air than to forage in the garden?

“Oh, we’re too busy to grow fruit!”

“The garden is too small.”

“I don’t have time to look after fruit trees. Just mowing the damn grass is enough.”

“Don’t you have to spray them to stop the bugs and stuff? I don’t want the kids to eat stuff that’s been sprayed.”

The excuses are legion, but I believe the root excuse, the one that no one acknowledges is that modern parents grew up eating only commercial fruit and vegetables so they literally have no idea what ‘real’ fruit tastes like. As a result, they can’t see the value of growing fruit trees.

To those parents I say – “Just give one fruit tree a try.”

My apple tree is small, and it has three different apples grafted onto it. For a while I thought the alpacas had ‘pruned’ one of the grafted branches to death, but it came back, and this year it is covered with so much fruit I’ve had to hold the branches up with ropes! Sadly I can’t remember what variety this rejuvenated graft belongs to.

Anyway, my point is that I did not take care of my apple tree for a long time, but it survived and when I gave it some protection [from the alpacas], and a bit of compost and mulch, it roared back with a truly bumper crop. Just in time for autumn/winter.

Feijoas are easy to grow too. They’re the small, dark green fruit in front of the apples:

Fuji apples and Feijoas

C’mon, parents. You don’t need a lot of space to grow one, single fruit tree, and the benefits will astound you. More importantly, you will see that same look of wonder on your kids’ faces the first time they taste fruit that actually has a flavour. Find a sunny spot and plant a fruit tree. Your kids will be the beneficiaries.

Okay, end foodie rant. Have a great day everyone.

cheers,
Meeks


The taste of real food

Strawberries, glorious aren’t they?

The image above came from freeimages.com, and I can only assume the strawberries are store bought because mine look like this:

Yes, that is a bog standard dinner fork for comparison. My homegrown strawberries are truly tiny, and yet…when I bite into one my taste buds sit up and beg for more. No need for sugar, no need for whipped cream. These tiny red gems are so full of flavour, and natural sweetness, they literally do not need anything else to ‘enhance’ them.

To be honest, I haven’t bought strawberries from the shop in years. Not because I was growing my own but because they had no flavour unless drenched in sugar. Ditto tomatoes and apricots. The store bought ones are all big, beautiful and utterly tasteless. We may eat with our eyes, but these commercially grown fruits supply very little to our taste buds. They also tend to be expensive except when they are in season.

So what’s the answer? Grow your own, of course.

Wait! Don’t go.

Even if you only have a pocket sized garden, you can grow one, small apricot tree. They don’t grow very big, or at least the one that has been growing in my garden hasn’t. And they don’t require much care. I do water mine every night while it’s fruiting, but I don’t ‘feed’ it, or even cover it with netting half the time. Despite that, there’s usually enough for me, my little nephews and the neighbourhood wild life.

And this brings me to something even closer to my heart than good food – it’s the look on a child’s face when they first bite into warm, tree-ripened fruit. They blink in surprise, and then their little faces light up with wonder. I saw that wonder on my nephew’s face when his Dad lifted him up so he could pick and eat his own apricot, straight from my tree. I think it was a moment that neither of us will forget.

But what if you don’t even have a pocket sized garden?

All of the following pictures were taken on my deck. It’s about 2.5 x 6 [metres], so a decent size, but even if you only have 1 x 1 metre, you can plant one big pot with both a tomato and a strawberry in it. Both like a fair amount of water and seem happy to share. That is precisely what I’ve done here:

If you look to the left of the tomato, you can see the strawberry plant that shares its pot.

I invested in some big terracotta pots, but you don’t have to go to that much expense, a big plastic pot will do just as well. Size is the important thing because smaller pots dry out too quickly.

This is a pic of my basil pot, with a foot thrown in for comparison. There’s also a small tomato plant and some weeds. 😀

 

I’ve been harvesting that basil all summer for homemade pesto. Talk about a delicious, ‘free’ meal!

So what else do I have growing in pots?

I don’t have a great deal of lettuce at the moment, and little green caterpillars ate most of my rocket, but I do have heaps of continental parsley:

I’m also trying something new – watercress:

True to its name, watercress likes water, so I’m growing it in the bottom half of an old worm farm. This is where the worm ‘tea’ is supposed to collect so you can drain it off via the small tap at the bottom:

[In case anyone’s wondering, I released the worms into the garden first].

The watercress ‘pot’ is sitting on top of bricks so I can capture the excess water [it’s full of nutrients] and reuse it on the other pots.

Now, a word about costs. The lettuce, parsley and tomatoes have all grown from volunteer seed – i.e. from plants that were allowed to go to seed. This means they are expert survivors, and they cost me nothing but a paper bag to store the seeds. I bought the strawberry plant, but the basil and watercress seeds were donated by a family friend – thanks Alice! I’ll save their seeds for next year.

The only other costs were my time, water [getting more and more expensive] and a couple of bags of potting mix, so my deck plants are very economical. Unfortunately, my fruit trees are another matter. I have:

1 apricot

1 plumcot [apricot & plum hybrid]

1 apple

1 quince

1 fig

1 Morello cherry [new]

1 kiwi [she needs a male but they keep dying]

1 lemon

1 lime

2 feijoas

5 peaches [each a different variety]

Between them, these 16 fruit trees require so much water that I’m not even breaking even in terms of fruit vs costs. But…we get to eat unsprayed, tree ripened fruit for about 5 months of the year. For me, that’s enough to justify the time, effort and cost of keeping these trees alive. Plus, I kind of think that the water may also help to keep a bushfire from ravaging the place the one day. That’s probably wishful thinking, but we all need our illusions. 🙂

So, should you grow your own? Really?

I believe that everyone can grow something, even if it’s just a few herbs, or a tomato/strawberry shared pot.

I also believe that everyone would benefit from growing something, no matter how small.

But…I’m convinced that kids need to learn what real food tastes like, and if they learn how to grow their own, all the better.

As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you grow your own? What? How much? Has it made a difference? Please share. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks

 


The new, improved #BBQShapes – YUCK!

The name on the pack says ‘Arnotts’, but that venerable Australian biscuit maker was bought out by Campbells some years ago. At first, nothing seemed to change, and flavours such as BBQ Shapes remained a family favourite, at least in this family. Then the little flavour sprinkles on the shapes became thinner on the biscuit, making each Shape taste blander.

Cost cutting?

XX number of flavour sprinkles less per biscuit probably did add up to a dollar saving over squillions of biscuits…

-sigh- We grumbled a little but continued to buy BBQ Shapes because less of a much loved flavour was still better than no flavour at all.

And now this…

BBQ shapes throw up

In the interests of my own breakfast, I took a screenshot of this VINE instead of displaying the original* [he really does throw up, not pretty]. Sadly, the point he makes is all too true – the new, improved BBQ Shapes are revolting. I know because I bought and tried them yesterday.

So what’s so very wrong with them? Two things:

  1. savoury biscuits should not taste sweet – the new BBQ Shapes do. I know Americans are used to having everything much sweeter than we do here in Australia – I remember being shocked at the sweet aftertaste of scrambled eggs during a visit many years ago – but why would Campbells buy out a highly successful Australian company only to homogenize the product to something the original customers will hate?
  2. the new flavour plastered over the back and front of the biscuit is like…I don’t know, those horrible Maggi instant noodles? I can’t quite put my finger on the flavour but it overpowers the ‘proper’ flavour with a really unpleasant aftertaste. To me, the flavour tastes like something concocted in a test tube – chemical and…horrible.

And the biscuits now look disgusting too. Okay, I know that makes three things not two, but who’s counting? The new, improved Shapes look as if they’ve been sprinkled with kacky brown ‘dirt’.

I was going to show a before and after shot of the BBQ Shapes, but in searching online for a ‘before’ pic, I discovered that THEY have brought back the original flavour – obviously in response to public outrage. Unfortunately, I don’t know where the new stocks have gone because at the moment, my local Coles only stocks this disgusting rubbish.

Anyway, whilst it’s nice to know that Campbells has bowed to public demand, I’m still outraged at having to go through all this in the first place. One box of Shapes may not cost much, but I buy very little processed food so I may never buy another box – even if the ‘original’ does come back.

-grump-

Meeks

 

*If anyone is desperate to see the entire thing, Google ‘Christian Hull’ or ‘#bbqshapes VINE’.

 


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