Jennifer StackhouseBounty of autumn – limes, herbs & feijoas

WELL I’m in hog heaven. I’ve had a brilliant day scavenging fresh produce and then cooking the proceeds. I scored my first scavenge at a committee meeting for the Sydney group of Open Gardens Australia. Committee Chair Ros Andrews, had brought a basket of limes to share out. The committee meets at Ryde College of TAFE. In the kitchen adjacent to the committee room was a box of chokos pleading to be taken home. I took a couple, adding them to my stash.

Ripe feijoas

Ripe feijoas

Finger lime

Finger lime

One the way home I stopped to collect some feijoas offered by a neighbour. Some of the fruit had been stung by fruit fly, but the rest was fine. I took the fruit fly-affected fruit for my chooks along with the perfect ones to make jam, chutney and a crumble.

As I headed out the gate I snaffled a couple of bay leaves and a finger lime that had fallen to the ground. Finger limes make the best lime marmalade you could ever taste!

Back home I harvested yellow button squash, cos lettuce, parsley and armloads of basil for pesto all from my vegie patch, along with eggs from the chook house. On the weekend I had also bought fruit from the roadside stalls at Bilpin (our local apple-growing area), so I had fresh apples to add to my haul of local produce. No need to trouble the Fresh Food people this week with autumn’s bountiful harvest ripe for the picking!

Feijoa fruit Photo Ros Goody

Feijoa fruit Photo Ros Goody

Feijoas are not a popular fruit. Too often they’re neglected and the entire crop can be ruined by fruit fly. So, if you are growing feijoas, keep up the fruit fly baiting to reduce crop damage. I have had good success this year using Eco Naturalure around my tomatoes and it would be effective in the orchard as well.

If you do have fruit-fly affected fruit, collect, bag and allow it to stew in the autumn sun before disposing of it so that the fruit fly larvae are killed. Alternatively, let the chooks out to forage under the bush.

Feijoa flower

Feijoa flower

Feijoas have benefits other than their autumn-ripening fruit. They grow as dense shrubs about 2-3m tall and 3-3.5m wide with summer flowers that are a pretty combination of red and white stamens and petals. The evergreen leaves and bushy shape is tolerant of sea winds and the shrubs also thrive in the extremes of temperature away from the coast.

Cooking ideas
So what do you do with a bag full of ripe feijoas? According to the feijoa’s number 1 ‘non fan’, ABC radio’s Simon Marnie, there are 1001 things to do with feijoas and none of them, opines Simon, make them edible. He says you can cut them in half, in quarters, in eighths, in sixteenths… I think you get an idea of where he’s headed, although I have heard him mention he has a bush planted in his new garden.

Feijoa bush

Feijoa bush

Don’t be put off by their strangeness and unfamiliarity. Feijoas are tasty eaten fresh off the tree. Ripe feijoas are easy to peel or break open so you can eat the cream coloured, slightly pulpy flesh and discard the green skin. They taste like…well, they taste like feijoas. Pushed to describe the flavour I’d say they have a tropical, fruit salad taste with an edge.

You’ll get more ideas on how to use feijoas from New Zealand than anywhere else. The Kiwis seem to grow more feijoas than anywhere on the planet. To make feijoa jam I followed a New Zealand recipe I found on the net. It combined many of the items I scavenged – feijoas, apples and citrus – so was ideal. Better still, the recipe was for microwave jam so I knew I’d have jars of jam in no time at all.

Feijoa fruit Photo Ros Goody

Feijoa fruit Photo Ros Goody

The recipe called for 2 cups of feijoas (peeled and chopped), 2 cups of apple (also peeled and chopped) and the juice of two lemons. I substituted the juice from Ros’s limes. There was also half a cup of water to go in. This was all cooked into a pulp in the microwave oven.

As the fruit cooked, the kitchen filled with the fragrance of feijoas and lime. It was a lot like lemon meringue pie. After 20 minutes I stirred in 3 cups of sugar (quite a lot), boiled it for five minutes and then simmered it for a further 10 minutes on medium power in the microwave. It set well and has a sweet fruity taste that would be delicious on scones.

I love the challenge of cooking with what’s available and not letting home-grown produce go to waste, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. So tomorrow I’ll whip up the feijoa and apple crumble I’ve been talking about and attempt feijoa chutney (see Annabel Langbein’s recipe)…she’s a New Zealander.

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

10 thoughts on “Bounty of autumn – limes, herbs & feijoas

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    A fellow feijoa fan here. They also make excellent sorbet. Just peel, then pulp the fruit in a blender and mix in a little bit of lime rind. Take the pulp and follow the usual process for making lemon sorbet – it’s hit at dinner parties!

  2. Aren’t they a lovely green colour?
    Wish I was there for feijoa and apple crumble, Jennifer. On this chilly night, I would like it warm, served with cream.
    I have never eaten feijoas but think a Kiwi friend once spread some feijoa jam on my toast, but I cannot recall the flavour.
    Like the sound of James’ sorbet, too.

  3. Hello Jennifer
    I have a feijoa planted – now about 4 years old. I still remember the flavour of the fruit having tried it at least 30 years ago. The smell of the fruit is a timely reminder of the flavour to come.
    My shrub flowers but still hasn’t set fruit. There are many opinions around about the fact that you need a pollinator etc – is this true, or do I just have to wait for the shrub [now about 2m tall] to grow bigger?

  4. Feijoas usually are best with a pollinator. My neighbour Ros Goody has a grove planted and masses of fruit!

  5. I had never eaten a Feijoa until a couple of years ago when we were staying in Eastern Beach near Auckland and we kept passing a house that had bags of them sat on the wall, with a sign saying ‘Free’. Well after my first bite I was hooked, just the most delcious, unusual fruit I had ever eaten. We are now intending to plant a Feijoa tree this year.

    As for Chokos, I have 4kgs given to me by a friend, they are ready to be made into Choko relish, hopefully this week!
    I am a huge fan of Annabel Langbein’s recipe books and her program, with that amazing scenery…..

    • I hope your tree is bountiful! Do plant several to make sure you do get a good crop and also, depending where you are, invest in the fruit fly baits.

  6. We have one Feijoa but have never had fruit… I see flowers but nothing else…BUT I don’t mind I love the flowers and usually when Feijoas are fruiting a friend in our Cacti an Succulent Society brings in loads of them along to our meeting so I end up with plenty then and they are huge…I think I might miss out this year though as the meeting next week when I think he will bring them I will not be there as I have a choir concert on Mothers Day and practice is on that night…I will have to hope they are not ready yet 🙂 They are not my favourite fruit but I do like them in jam…The above recipes sound nice… 🙂

    • Hi Diane – you may get more fruit if you plant a companion tree. I would definitely be asking your mate in the cactus society to save some for you as I think they will be ready and available at the meeting. In Victoria where there’s no fruit fly the fruit lasts longer than it does here in NSW. The jam is lovely and I’ve noticed it has matured even in the short time since I cooked it up. For other feijoa fanciers try local markets and keep your eye out – there may well be ‘Help yourself’ signs at gates as these plants are so bountiful there’s plenty to share. All the best Jennifer

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