Following reference to a peach tree grown from a seed by Betty Cornhill and still producing a good crop of peaches in the Canberra Organic Growers' Society garden now named after her in Curtin, Sue McCarthy of O'Connor said the photo of the tree by Minh Chu (Kitchen Garden, September 22) "resonates with me because, just like Betty Cornhill, all of us gardeners have limited time to leave a more lasting impact. Trees do that."
In a local nursery recently a young man from Downer was consulting a book while looking at trees for sale. His choice was between the tulip tree (liriodendron tulipifera) and the sugar maple (acer saccharum). Both need extra water in Canberra and tulip trees suffer from hot winds. There is a sugar maple forest at the National Arboretum planted in 2009. The sap from mature trees is used for making Canadian maple syrup.
Original property owners in this district often planted bunya pines (araucaria bidwillii) near their homesteads. There is also a bunya forest at the Arboretum, historic trees at Lanyon homestead, one on the corner of Kings Avenue, another in Weston Park's English Garden. In March, below a tree near the gates to the Australian National Botanic Gardens was a fallen cone with its edible seeds.
On September 23 in a letter to The Canberra Times, a woman from Belconnen wrote, "What blissful rain washing the stench of our flowering plum trees out of the air. A pity we missed the hail, it might have knocked their flowers off as well. Why do we continue to plant these trees which smell of rotting fish in so many Canberra streets?"
Do flowering plum trees have an unpleasant smell? I have not noticed it. The blossoms have been described as having a "fantasy floral note with a fruity nuance". Jo Malone London created a scent called plum blossom, "a floral, woody, musk fragrance for women".
However I have been guilty of saying white blossoms of the double row of Manchurian pears beside Lake Burley Griffin smell like "fox's urine". Ridiculous because I have never smelt urine from a fox. It reminds me of a Canberra woman who says the pinot I drink "tastes like cat's piss" .
Last year I read The Overstorey (2018) by Richard Powers which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is a novel about nine people in America and their experiences with specific trees. It led me to a grove of the western yellow pine (pinus ponderosa), in a heritage forestry/CSIRO precinct in Yarralumla, just to smell the bark. In four seasons on sunny days there was a warm kitchen scent of butterscotch and vanilla. The tree has "plates" of bark which are beautiful and aromatic. In America the fragrant resin of P. ponderosa has been used in perfume, candles and soap.
For home gardeners the most often planted tree with edible fruit must be the lemon. This winter has seen a citrus bounty and new fruit is currently forming. Recently I was given a jar of lemon curd. For brunch at Ricardo's in Jamison share the hotcakes with a friend - they come with maple crumble, soft meringue, blobs of lemon curd, blueberries (for health!) and ice cream.
My lemon curd recipe (which follows) came from Entertaining with Tovey - How to Star in Your Own Kitchen (1979) by restaurateur John Tovey MBE. I first made it in 1981 and wrote "delicious and perfect" beside the recipe. It takes a long time to cook. Stephanie Alexander in The Cook's Companion (2004) prefers to cook the curd directly over medium-high heat (not slowly in a double boiler) which gives a fresher fruit flavour and simmers for only five minutes.
200g caster sugar
grated rind and juice 2 lemons
4 egg yolks
Sterilise jars. Melt butter, sugar and lemon rind and juice together in a china bowl set over a saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water and beat until quite thick using a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg yolks and continue cooking (simmer water only), stirring occasionally, until mixture coats the back of the wooden spoon (ie take spoon out of mixture, run finger along centre back and indentation remains there). Do not overcook as mixture sets and thickens further when cooling. Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Once opened, store in the fridge and, preferably, use within two weeks.
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