Holiday and home harvest

Its been a while since my last post as our family went to Queensland for a well earned break.  Fortunately the neighbours offered to water the garden whilst we were away, as we have had a couple of weeks of really hot weather and no rain.

I was keen to sample some local produce from the Sunshine Coast, so we made an effort to visit some farmers markets and local farms to see what was in season and enjoy the tastes of some tropical fruit.

Just down the road from where we were staying was a fig and watermelon farm.  The local owner mentioned that the farm had been there for over 40 years, and the figs had been freshly picked that day, so we bought some trays to sample…

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There is nothing like a fresh fully ripe fig.  The best way to describe the taste is sweet and with a soft texture that melts in your mouth.  We enjoyed some freshly chopped in salads and also as a starter to Chirstmas dinner, wrapped in prosciutto, stuffed with fetta and then lightly baked.

There is also nothing like getting some advice from a man that has grown figs for over 40 years.  I asked why I had a rust like appearance on some of my fig leaves, and the owner mentioned that this was a common problem with figs.  He sprays for the rust prior to the tree fruiting (to minimise exposure when eating the fruit) with a product called Mancozeb.   Mancozeb is commonly used to control fungal diseases like leaf spot and rust on roses.  He mentioned that it has not yet been approved as affective against fig rust, but also that he has not had a problem with the rust since using this product.  My first concern was that this is not an organic product, so I was not keen to use this on my own trees.  It was good to hear that he was concerned about spraying the fruit with this product, to minimise the impact.  I have recently bought a product called eco-fungacide which is organic, so I will spray my trees with this to see if it helps.

Figs grown in Queensland are also attacked by a number of pests so the farm owner also uses insecticide to control them.  He sprays around the perimeter of the farm to minimise the spray on the trees and mentioned that after years of trying different methods, this seemed to work best.  Once again, I was not keen on using the products he recommended and there are not many pests that damage the fruit in our temperate climate (besides the birds!) so I will stick to the organic fungacide and netting for now.

We also visited the big pinapple prior to christmas to pick up some locally grown bananas, mango’s and macadamia nuts.  My job for chrismas lunch was the salads and vegetables.  My best salad was a mix of baked prosciutto, rocket and lettuce mix, dried organic figs, fresh macadamia nuts (individually cracked with a builders hammer!) almonds and fetta cheese.  This one was the favourite with the family as a side dish to some freshly caught and baked moses perch. 

It was really nice to just tour around and visit the local farms and dairies to sample the yoghurt, cheese, fruits and vegetables and made for a very enjoyable holiday.

Purple beans, peaches, apricots, blueberries, nectarines and cucumbers

Back home after a few weeks away and thanks to the neighbours regular watering, the garden was looking great.  A quick run around the garden and this was the harvest…

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The necarines were ripe, but very small.  I think this was mostly due to the curly leaf affecting the tree early on in the season.  As you can see, the peaches are considerably larger and this tree had very minimal cury leaf impact.  The other factor for the smaller fruit has been the lack of water over the past few months.  My 5000L tank has been empty for a while now due to lack of rain, so I am glad that most of my vegetables are being grown in wicking beds this year to minimise the water use.

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I was glad to see that some of the tomatoes have started to ripen.  I have missed the taste of fresh, home grown tomatoes and look forward to a good harvest this year of mini roma, yellow pear, tommy toe and Roma.  Another bonus with the hotter, dry weather has been the cucumbers.  We are currently averaging a couple a day and at $10 plus a kilogram for organic cucumbers at the market, I look forward to a continuing supply from the garden for the next couple of months. 

The purple beans have started producing as well, but they are struggling in the hot dry days, so I don’t expect a huge harvest from these this year.  The purple beans are great fresh in salads and keep the kids interested, as they change from purple to green when cooked.

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The blueberries are producing well for young bushes and its nice to enjoy a handfull of these every couple of days.  Most of them don’t make their way to the kitchen as the kids love to eat them straight off the bushes.

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The tastiest fruit this year has been the apricots.  The tree is only a couple of years old and this is the first year that it has started to fruit.  The taste of this fruit is amazing! We demolished the 20-30 fruit in the first couple of days and my mother said it was the best tasting apricot she had even had – thanks mum 🙂

This variety is Moorpark and is really sweet and juicy.  We found that they were best eaten straight off the tree still warm from the sun.

With all the harvesting of the different fruit and vegetables I have decided to start to take some notes on how much produce we are collecting through the summer to give you all an idea of what is possible in your own homes – the plan is to post this on the website at the end of the summer and keep it updated for each season – so stay tuned for the results!