It was an excursion to check on Australian limes (citrus australasica) at the National Arboretum Canberra but first there was breakfast in the Discovery Garden. A perfect house-baked flaky croissant with rum, almond frangipane and toasted almonds atop with an Ona coffee. Then a walk in a stiff westerly with people kite flying, cycling, walking dogs (and a pat for German shepherd, Onyx) and others picnicking. The forests were glowing with red and golden leaves.
The cheerful team from Ginger Catering took orders in the Terrace Room where trestle tables held pumpkins from Ingelara biodynamic farm near Michelago and cooking was outdoors, led by head chef Marie Koenig, wearing a jaunty red and white bandanna around her head. There was takeaway roast pumpkin soup made with rosemary, thyme, garlic, creme fraiche and a crisp sage leaf floating on top.
Parents, observing good distancing, were showing children edibles growing in the Kitchen Garden section, including nasturtium leaves and flowers, finger-shaped purple and white eggplants, Rapunzel tomatoes, the leaves of beetroot and artichoke and parsley. No plants, fruits, nuts or leaves can be picked at the Arboretum unless under authorised supervision.
Volunteer gardener Ange McNeilly said there is one Rainforest Pearl finger lime tree, which she donated, and two Australian Red Centre limes which are hybrids with small black round fruit, purchased by the Harvest Group. The thorny young trees are growing in movable planters and surrounded by plantings of strawberries, Warrigal greens and sage.
Home gardener Dr Leo Dobes, of Griffith, said hail and heat destroyed most of his potential finger lime crop this year but a section of the 15-year-old bush was sheltered from the hail by a tree. He got in touch to offer me some of the remaining 20 fruit. Leo eats his au naturel so I cut one in half and sucked the tiny pink "caviar pearls" out of the skin. They were quite tart with a grapefruit tang. Finger limes are high in Vitamin C and the antioxidant Vitamin E.
Finger limes are thriving at the Australian National Botanic Gardens along the Aboriginal Plant Use Trail from Pollen cafe but the gates are currently closed.
Plant pest card game giveaway
Entomologist Carol Quashie-Williams is participate in the STEM Professional in Schools volunteer program, helping students with their vegetable gardens. For 2020 International Year of Plant Health the theme is "Protecting Plants, Protecting Life". The focus is on preventing the spread of pests and diseases which impact our crops, our environment and our way of life.
As a promotional resource to celebrate the event, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment launched a playing card game based on Australia's National Priority Plant Pests to provide school students with an educational tool to learn about biosecurity threats to Australia's plant health. Carol Quashie-Williams, with teachers Kathryn Glanville and Kate Elliot and research by students from Farrer and Mawson Primary Schools, have developed a set of playing cards as an educational tool.
The FAO has requested a set of the cards which are being given away globally. They are suitable for Year 3 children to adults. Almost all the pests and diseases depicted on the 52 cards as relevant to produce and plants in the ACT region. Number 1 rated disease Xylella can affect wine grapes.
In our photo, Carol Quashie-Williams is holding a daikon or oriental radish which relates to Fusarium wilt (five of spades) and fall armyworm (three of Hearts), the latter a recent invader to northern Australia which feeds on 300 host plants including everything grown at Farrer and Namadgi Primary School vegie gardens.
Student Poppy Rowe (12) is holding a Halloween pumpkin and cards related to that plant include Oriental fruit fly (king of Diamonds), whitefly (nine of Hearts) and Phytophthora blight (Jack of Clubs).
Poppy was in Year 6 at Farrer Primary School last year and she researched wheat rust (10 of Clubs).
We have six sets of the cards to giveaway. Email your name, address (and age if a student) to: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what pest or disease most affects the edibles in your garden or in your life.