Tag Archives: foraging

Medlars; the moment of truth?

The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?Bletting MedlarsThe two medlars on the left of the photo appeared to be fully bletted (rotted), so I cut one of them in half and discovered this;Are you ready?Gulp……am I really going to eat this?…. why, yes, but not in one gulp!  I take my most elegant teaspoon (so I can convince myself I am tasting something gorgeous and unrotten) and scrape out a small amount of the soft, thick, apple sauce textured flesh. I  gingerly place the morsel  in my mouth……to search for  the moment of  truth; to understand the essence of medlar.    Mmmmmm……Mmmmmm?  Doesn’t smell bad; doesn’t smell anything. Doesn’t taste bad, but how does it taste?  Like a floury, very ripe crab apple, minus any of the sharpness of apple, and steeped with the spices of mulled wine?  Possibly……but there’s another taste that is tickling my tongue; a taste that has been lost with time. Another delicate scrape licked from the spoon and, suddenly, my senses are whiplashed back through five decades, to a place and time about as far removed from my present placing as one can get.  I am in the warm tropics, in the tiny town of my birth. I am with my friend Julie, under the tamarind tree by her garden gate. It is tamarind season and we are sampling the tamarinds. We open the dry pods and suck on the sour, sticky, date-brown pulp, delighting in its acidity. We delight, too, in spitting the big seeds once we have sucked all the flesh from them.  We feel free, and adventurous, gathering sustenance from the ‘wild’. Sometimes, we find a tamarind that is riper than the others. It has a faint mustiness, an otherness to it; not unpleasant, not sweet, not sour, but we toss it aside because it is the sour fruit we crave.

So, a medlar tastes like a tamarind? In a way, yes. A little bit; like one of the musty, over ripe tamarinds, devoid of any hint of sourness.  That is where my taste bud inventory took me; back to the tamarind tree. But, whether or not  it is more like a floury crab apple or a musty tamarind, or a combination of both, it is assuredly an ancient flavour; in the same way as the flavours of the crab apple and the tamarind belong to the ancient realms.  The medlar’s taste belongs to the ages, and, like the best of fine whisky, or aged cheese, needs to be savoured gently to appreciate its uniqueness. That I can vouch for.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you about the flavour of medlars, here’s a photo with a hint of what I am going to do with them next………

Time for the next stepTree notes: If you would like to know more about the tamarind tree, this link to Kew Gardens provides excellent information  http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Tamarindus-indica.htm

© silkannthreades

The appearance of pears

I came home this afternoon to find a bag of pears had appeared on my doorstep, courtesy of my good neighbours who have a pear tree, but don’t much care for pears. Not in their uncooked state, anyway. These are the first pears of the new season.First appearance of the Season

They look ,and are, slightly scruffy and diseased but their less than perfect appearance belies their delicious flavour, once they have been allowed to ripen and sweeten in storage.

Last year, my neighbours kept me well supplied with pears and I kept them busy tasting all my pear inspired baking and jam making. I think, maybe, just maybe, I managed to persuade them to grow a little fonder of pears.

Here’s a photo of my Upside Down Pear Cake from last season’s pears, alongside my neighbours’ first offering of this season’s pears.  Cake appears from Pears

© silkannthreades

Let the feasting begin

This morning, I noticed two tiny monarch caterpillars on the swan plants outside our bedroom window.  Here is one of them magnified.Royal offspring

By evening, the caterpillar population had increased to 8; at least that’s how many I could see in the dusk. If the numbers keep increasing at today’s rate, I may have a caterpillar famine on my hands before the end of the week. I hope not. I am hoping, instead, that mother monarch  has laid the exact number of eggs for the exact amount of food provided by two swan plants. What are the odds of a monarch mother doing that kind of calculation. Probably rather good, because I find it completely amazing that, amongst all the vast foliage of my garden and neighbourhood gardens, she found my two small, swan plants. I saw her come three times. The first two visits were reconnaissance, I am sure. There was no messing about.She flew straight to the plants,  from the direction of the street. When I saw her the third time, she was laying eggs. No Google Maps for this lady; she knew exactly where she was going.  So, if she can identify plants so accurately, and select a laying site so carefully, surely she knows the ratio of eggs to plants to optimise offspring survival. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I have been honing my own version of monarch butterfly life skills, by sourcing more free food.  Today, I came upon two different plum trees, side by side, with their fruit laden branches conveniently hanging over a parking lot fence. One of the plums is a small yellow fleshed variety and the other is a delicious red skinned, red fleshed plum . I love red plums with their crunchy outer skin and firm, tart interiors. I picked a big bowl full. The problem now is that, as I am the only plum  lover in the house,  I need more mouths to eat the fruit. I wonder if the caterpillars would care for some plum when the main course of swan is finished?Plums galore

Full of plums

The colours of plumsColours plum and blue

Footnote: I wrote this post yesterday but WordPress was being angry and wouldn’t let me insert my photos,so I couldn’t publish. I haven’t counted the caterpillars this morning but I did see a monarch butterfly hovering around the plants. I wonder if it is the same mother returning to check on the progress of her offspring?

© silkannthreades

The Lavender Lady

Near the airport, on the side of one of the busiest roads in Christchurch, is an oasis of calm and loveliness. It is the Avice Hill Reserve, so called because the area was bequeathed to the city by Avice Hill, the Lavender Lady. It is also  home to the Avice Hill Crafts Centre, the Canterbury Potters Association and the Canterbury Herb Society.  We visited today and had the entire Reserve to ourselves; except for the birds.

The birds, many and varied, were concentrated in the plum trees. One of trees was over laden with small, yellow, sweet and ultra delicious, plums. Some went in my mouth and some in to my pocket, and they were so good I need to collect some more.

Are they Mirabelle plums?Plums a plenty

Free fall plums and mind where you tread!Over flow

The herb garden was full and flourishingTo the Herb Garden

and here, for a moment, you could catch up with timeThe Herb Garden

for it was very still.On Time

Once rested, there were treasures to find like this pot in the herb garden (oh dear!),Pot amongst the Herbs

and trees to loveTrees of the Reserve

Willow

and benches to rest upon ( in comfort?)Bench

and then information to read. Notice, I am on a wayward path again because the information board is at the entrance to the Reserve and I am reading it on my way out!

This is Avice Hill. She was born in 1906 and died in 2001.

Avice Hill

Here is part of her story.The Story of Avice

She worked as an entomologist in the 1930s and 40s. She was one of only a few female science graduates at that time.

More of the story

She bequeathed the land to Christchurch City in 1989 to provide an art and crafts facility, a potters’ room and a herb garden and to protect the mature trees on the property.

Lavender was Avice Hill’s great love and the Lavandula angustifolia “Avice Hill” was named after her. It is, apparently, a very fine lavender. Strangely, there was very little lavender to be seen in the Reserve and none was labelled,as far as I could tell. Perhaps, one is just supposed to know one’s lavender.  Whatever is the case, I am thankful to Avice Hill for her gift to our city.Lavender for Avice

© silkannthreades

It’s a little bit magical

Remember that little bit of free fruit ?pretty plum jewels

I put it in a pot and added a little bit of unfree fruit

Apples and Lemonand simmered them together for a while. Then I strained the cooked fruit,  in my usual rough and ready manner, and mixed the juice with some brown sugarBrown sugar, rose bowland boiled the mixture for 10 minutes, and a bit, and the result was a little bit magical; a small dish of utterly delicious, delectable and delightful apple and plum jelly.  Apple and Plum Jelly

YUM, JELLY!Magical

© silkannthreades

Free Food Time © silkannthreades

On my early evening walk with the dog, I noticed that it is already time to gather free food/fruit.  Last summer I exhausted myself foraging. This season,  I will try to restrain my enthusiasm for nature’s bounty. Sigh….but I hate to see it going to waste. Even the birds can’t keep up with the summer’s offerings. Here are some red plums. red plums

CherriesWild cherries

Green plumsgreen plums

The crab apples are thriving. The crab apples on this tree are absolutely delicious. I think someone else knows about them because I have to be quick to get any once they ripen.crab apple divine

A bowl of admirable restraint…..this is all I brought home with me, though I did eat a few plums during my walk.pretty plum jewels

Some of the photos suffered from the fact that I had the camera in one hand and, in the other hand, a dog straining on his leash because he wasn’t very interested in stopping to admire fruit. Fruit, what’s that! Actually, he does like apples and pears and I know where I can find those come the season  🙂

© silkannthreades