When I asked if the Davenports of Melba had Canberra's largest lemon tree (Kitchen Garden, March 15), the first response came from Dave Rowell of O'Connor who said an arborist had recently said their orange tree was the biggest he'd seen in Canberra.
On the International Day of Forests on March 21, a friend and I were going for a walk to the Eucalypt Lawn at the Australian National Botanic Gardens so, first we visited Dave Rowell, a geneticist who specialises in terrestrial invertebrates. At home, he is a plant person, raising dozens of Kurrajongs and Bottle trees (Brachychiton species) and, beyond his outdoor breakfast table, are dozens of mosses and carnivorous plants. Their house was built in 1952 and they moved there in 1990.
The orange tree is planted in the ground of the "guvvie" next door but, at about 5.5 metres high, it overhangs Dave's roof. We were greeted by the neighbour, Loulu Roswati, who picked oranges to share with us and she peeled one by hand, as we did later at home. Very juicy, perhaps a milder flavour than previous years due to all the rain. Dave makes marmalade from the fruit to a recipe from the Commonsense Cookery Book (1973) which he bought at a Lifeline Book Fair.
A friend told me about an article in New Scientist (March 5, 2022) called The Slug Hunter in which Brendan Knapp interviews associate professor Rory McDonnell, a specialist in gastropods at Oregon State University. For years, McDonnell has been looking at ways to control invasive slugs and snails which eat our precious crops.
In Oregon, as in Canberra, the first fall (autumn) rains activate them to come out of aestivation. Home gardeners know that metaldehyde can kill dogs and cats and blue tongue lizards. Accessible online, I took a hard copy to read for pre-lunch homework and I mentioned the topic to a friend who said, "Susan, you have to respect snails and at least give them beer." As I explained to him, in our garden, half skins of oranges were filled with beer at dusk but our dachshund drank the lot.
Teams in Hawaii, Montana and Oregon tested different attractants: potatoes, lettuce, cabbage and lots of different beers and found the best attractant was bread dough which remained attractive for eight days.
So a 500g box of Lighthouse Bread Mix (pizza and focaccia) was purchased and the dough mixed in my kitchen. I then rolled it into 18 balls the size of a large walnut. I threw nine around the garden beds and a second lot were placed in a takeaway container and covered, to give to the pal who told me about the article. Of course, the dough rose (I had never made yeast bread previously) so had to be re-shaped. At daybreak the excitement was replaced by amazement - all the dough balls in both gardens had disappeared (apologies to bloated possums in both suburbs).
I emailed Rory McDonnell who, generously, replied promptly. The dough needs to be placed in a trap and, for their studies, Rincon-Vitova snailer traps were used - these are similar to those online from Pestrol Australia. As an alternative, you can put out the dough at sunset then pick off the snails/slugs as they arrive to feed.
For the COGS Cook gathering (Kitchen Garden, April 5), Margaret Stock made friands filled with a finger lime confit from fruit grown in her home garden. She has shared the recipe which has been adapted from an Australian Women's Weekly recipe from about 12 years ago.
1 kg native finger limes (fresh or frozen)
2 litres water
1/2 cup brandy
Wash finger limes and slice as finely as possible. Don't worry about the seeds. (If using frozen limes just hope they were washed before being frozen!) Place in a bowl with water, cover and stand overnight. Next day, place lime mixture in saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about one hour or until rind is tender. Push through a coarse sieve. Discard pulp when all possible juice has been removed. Measure juice and return to saucepan. Add one cup sugar for every cup of juice. Stir over high heat without boiling until all sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil. Boil uncovered as rapidly as possible without stirring for 20 minutes or until gel test is positive. Stand for five minutes, store it in brandy. Pour into hot, sterilised jars, seal.
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