Autumn is harvest time and for many of us, horticulturally, it is our favourite season. At the annual Horticultural Society of Canberra autumn show, two prize-winning displays of produce, jams, preserves and flowers greeted visitors to the Wesley Hall in Forrest. Both were colourful and included some unusual vegetables and fruits harvested from Canberra Organic Growers Society community gardens in Holder and Charnwood.
As part of the vegetable section of the show inside the hall, the most successful exhibitor was Roger Thomson and we managed to track him down. Roger lives half the time on his property beyond Gundaroo and the remainder with his mother, Jean Thomson, in Yarralumla where his vegetable and fruit growing takes place.
Happily, we met Jean Thomson and her husband Neville in a 2004 Kitchen Garden column, to celebrate them winning the Lord Gowrie Cup for fruit for the previous six years at the Horticultural Society show. The cup had been first presented in 1936. After Neville died in 2010, Roger took over the family vegetable garden and has been a keen grower ever since.
Roger was born in Canberra at the old hospital in Acton and the family lived in Papua New Guinea when he was 18 months old. He completed a degree in environmental science at the University of Canberra and was an active member of Southern Tableland's Tree Growing Association. He has planted thousands of trees on his property.
For the show harvest basket this month he included apples, pears, plums, figs, cumquats, rhubarb, lemons, a small bush pumpkin, zucchini, patty pan squash, tromboncini, cucumbers, carrots, beetroots both red and white, swiss chard, peppers both round and long, a variety of chillies, radishes, corn and potatoes.
Most of his plants are grown from seed. He has two worm farms and large compost bins and buys pellitised poo and uses the lot to enrich the soil. Some winters he grows a wintergreens crop which is dug in later for nutrients. Liquid manure homemade from worm juice is also used.
There are some old fruit trees in the Yarralumla garden including a Jonathan apple, Williams Bon Chretien pear, a Satsuma plum, a Meyer lemon, a cumquat and a green fig. Roger uses netting on the fruit trees to try and minimise damage from flying foxes, possums, cockatoos and other parrots, fig birds and silver eyes. Among the berries are loganberries, raspberries, boysenberries, a red currant bush and there is a grape vine but the possums get them all.
Jean says Roger makes vegetable soups and delicious veggie curries and also great shortbread at Christmas time. Her own recipe for a seasonal sponge follows.
LORIENDALE ORCHARD APPLE DAY
Owen Pidgeon says despite the really extreme weather at the orchard this past spring and summer they have still been able to prepare for the 27th annual harvest celebration on April 1 from 1.30pm to 5pm, 16 Carrington Road, via Hall. At the tasting marquee learn about their 125 varieties of apples, eat apple pies, sip crushed apple juice pressed on a 19th century styled wood-framed press.
There will be Devonshire teas, an organic meat barbecue and live music. See loriendale.com.au/apple_day.htm.
HARVEST OPEN DAY
Railway Park Organic Community Garden (Kitchen Garden January 24), Henderson Road, Queanbeyan will be open on Saturday April 1 from 10am to 12 noon. Learn about growing herbs, the benefits of green manure crops and what edibles to grow through the colder months. Seedlings and morning tea for a gold coin donation. Wear enclosed shoes in the garden.
HARVEST OF ENDURANCE
At the launch of the Canberra International Music Festival in February, photographer and author William Yang spoke about the Harvest of Endurance scroll held by the National Museum of Australia. Yang introduced composer and Chinese instrument scholar Dr Nicholas Ng who played a gourd pipe or flute, to accompany the images on a screen. The 50-metre scroll will be on display at a concert at the Museum on May 4.
Gourds (Cucurbita pepo) make an interesting addition to a kitchen garden and splendid examples are growing on posts among the vegetables in the Discovery Garden at the National Arboretum Canberra. They were purchased as seeds from the Lost Seed Co from Parkwood Nursery in Belconnen and raised to seedling stage for planting out by volunteer Ange McNeilly.
Serves 4-6 for dessert.
half cup caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups SR flour
quarter cup ground almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
quarter cup milk
one-third cup flaked almonds
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs, gradually, whisking well. Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and ground almonds. Fold into mixture alternately with milk. Grease a 23cm fluted, loose-based cake tin or flan ring Spoon cake mixture evenly into the tin. Halve plums, stone them, place cut side down on cake batter, sprinkle with flaked almonds, press lightly into cake batter.
Bake in a moderate oven 180C for 45 mins or until golden brown and springs back when touched.
Serve warm, with pouring cream.
Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.