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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.