Our query about stripped lemons (Kitchen Garden, August 24) stirred home growers. Dr Ben Walcott of Red Hill has two Meyer lemon trees and observed a brown rat eating the rind and leaving behind the "naked" hanging fruit.
Jennifer Spalding says possums are perfect lemon peelers without breaking the fine membrane around the flesh. Peter, of Chifley, and his neighbours watch possums stroll along their back fences and help themselves, leaving the exterior stripped. June McKenzie has the same problem as did Josephine Kulesz. Max Bourke of Campbell says it is impossible to defeat the possums which, this year, have "smashed our calamondin and have started chewing on the lemon".
Eileen Hogg, of Bruce, watched sulphur-crested cockatoos expertly peel lemons at their house at the coast. At two metres high, the tree eventually went feral with long sharp spines so it was removed and replaced with a Meyer.
Then we heard from Peter Forster, of Curtin, father of Andrew Forster who was head gardener at Floriade from 1997 to 2020 and a horticulture apprentice there from 1988. For years it was Peter's practice to put citrus peel under the lemon and grapefruit trees following advice from a Mildura orchardist about the three Ps - poo (chicken), pee (urea) and peel. This started disappearing and friends in Deakin told him they had seen rats on their lemon tree eating the peel but not the flesh.
Peter put down wax blocks of bait which kept disappearing and he removed the peel from the ground. This has been a prolific rat-breeding season and the current generation goes and a few days later the next one arrives for a feed. Recently the supermarket bait shelf has been bare - he says toilet rolls are not the only thing in demand. Last summer his sweet corn was stripped from the cob so he consulted his niece who is an entomologist (PhD from Berkeley) and she concluded from photos that the culprits were vermin.
During 55 years in their garden, Peter Forster (Kitchen Garden, October 5, 2011) says the most important thing he has learnt is the need to replenish the soil. He is obsessed with collecting autumn leaves from local gutters and mixing them with manure - sheep, horse or cow. Being a user of the lake - Peter has been a member of Canberra Yacht Club and YMCA Sailing Club since 1966 - he is pleased to remove some of the leaves that would otherwise wash into the waterways.
The Forsters have an upright, compact Maypole crab apple tree from the "Ballerina series", from which his wife, Ailsa, makes crab apple jelly. The Waltz apple and pear tree provide stewed fruit for breakfast throughout the seasons. Netting the trees is the best defence against codling moth and he also uses pheromone baits in each tree so the fruit is clean.
Growing in the vegie garden are silver beet, onions, broad beans, curly parsley and garlic.
Tomato seeds have been sown in pots under the pergola to catch the sun. Black Russian is a favourite tomato but he is also trying "Daydream" and "Cherokee Purple" heirloom varieties. Seed of "Snow Gold Bicolour" sweet corn will be sown soon plus yellow and green zucchini - the former easier to find among the foliage.
With a nod to Floriade, Ailsa Forster has been flower arranging with camellias and bulbs this spring. A treat on any dining table.
Our recipe comes from Simply Healthy - The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Cookbook (1999, 2000 JB Fairfax Press) and it is so good that Laine Lawson from Nimmitabel made it twice last week using the trusty AGA cooker.
Rosemary, lemon and pine nut bread
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tbsp dried rosemary)
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup grated parsnip (or potato)
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp plain flour
1. Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly brush or spray a 14x22cm loaf tin with unsaturated oil and dust with flour.
2. Place lemon zest, rosemary and pine nuts in a bowl and mix together.
3. Combine flour, parsnip and parmesan cheese in a separate bowl and make a well in the centre.
4. Beat together buttermilk, oil and lemon juice. Pour into well in flour mixture. Mix quickly and lightly to form a soft dough.
5. Press half the mixture into the prepared tin. Scatter with half the pine nut mixture. Top with remaining mixture.
6. Add plain flour to remaining pine nut mixture and sprinkle over surface of the loaf. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.