Rod Teakle has lived in Watson since 1991 and Bernadette Hince joined him there in 2017. Readers met Bernadette as a Kitchen Gardener at her home in Queanbeyan (October 4, 2016) and, since she and Rod started gardening together, they have added lots of compost to the soil in Watson and several years worth of leaves from the street tree, Algerian oak (Quercus canariensis), which broke down into excellent mulch. They have added dolomite as the soil is "anorexically thin".
A year ago they installed three 3000 litre water tanks which have never yet been full. Vegetable seedlings are purchased from many sources, particularly from Paul from Bungendore's plant stall at EPIC Farmers' Markets. Their favourite tomato is Jaune Flamme - even though it is yellow/gold not red - because the flavour is great and it yields well and, this season, they bought two seedlings from the Merici School tomato sale.
In the mid 1980s Bernadette joined the Australian Garden History Society (then her mother joined too). The AGHS's aim is to promote awareness and conservation of significant gardens and cultural landscapes. The Canberra group holds regular meetings throughout the year with specialist speakers and suppers, informal activities and visits to historic district gardens. Bernadette has been editor of the Australian Garden History journal since April 2015. In the January 2020 issue there is an article by a young indigenous woman who talks about Aboriginal food plant use.
On Moon Walk Anniversary Day in July this year, Bernadette and Rod were married at University House in Canberra. A gift to celebrate that occasion was a baby Ginkgo tree raised from seed from (stinky) fruit, with its edible kernels, from one of the magnificent female Ginkgo biloba trees in the Courtyard at University House.
During the past months of local drought, they have been travelling for work and pleasure and their garden has suffered. However they have a young apricot tree, a blood plum, a scrawny cherry plum, two feijoas, a Cornish Aromatic apple tree and several fig trees from which Bernadette makes glace figs.
Vegetables include broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes and asparagus and there are berries - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, white and red currants and a "laughable number of gooseberries of stunted size".
Among the herbs are basil, chives and garlic chives, thyme, rosemary, sorrel and red-veined sorrel which are doing well as they were planted in lines where the overflow pipes from the water tanks have been buried. French tarragon is turned into aromatic vinegar by stuffing leaves int a bottle of Cornwells' apple cider vinegar, leaving for a few months, and straining into a Champion's vinegar vintage bottle. Fennel is allowed to go to seed for harvesting in autumn and Bernadette makes Spanish fennel seed tortas, crisp olive oil biscuits (no yeast) dusted in sugar to serve with a glass of Australian bubbles.
Decades ago a friend gave Bernadette a recipe for his "Christmas cake of the East Indies". She has greatly adapted it but always found it a winner.
Cake, formerly known as Christmas cake of the East Indies
450g tin of Australian canned pineapple chunks in syrup
1.2kg dried and glace fruit (Bernadette uses 100g currants, 200g each of raisins, sultanas plus glace figs and chopped plum paste)
300g glace ginger
125ml dry sherry
Empty pineapple and the contents of the can into a saucepan. Simmer gently, uncovered for about 20 minutes, until syrup is absorbed and pineapple has become glace pineapple. Watch carefully towards the end as it can burn. Set aside overnight to cool. Separately, measure out the dried fruits into a large bowl. Pour over the sherry, mix gently, cover and leave overnight to plump up the fruit.
6 eggs, separated
250g cumquat marmalade
1 tbsp vanilla essence
250g fine semolina
250g ground cashews
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp cinnamon
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one by one. Stir in marmalade and vanilla essence (mixture will look curdled), then stir in semolina, ground cashews and spices. Stir in the undrained pineapples and marinated dried fruit, including any juice. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the mixture. Turn into a lined 30cm cake tin. Put the cake into the oven then turn on the oven to 160C (140C fan-forced). Bake for two and a half hours or until the top is a good golden colour. Test with a thin bamboo skewer. When cooked, the skewer will come out of the cake without wet mixture on it, but the cake will be moist. Let cake cool in tin on a rack before turning out.