Kitchen Garden Guides

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Two new seasonal tastes in my garden

Plus one from the sea....

First, "Tassie Berries" or Chilean guavas have been in abundance even on my small bushes planted only a year ago. Because they grow so well here, someone is marketing them as Tassie Berries as once New Zealanders chose the name Kiwi Fruit for the Chinese gooseberry. They grow soooooo easily from cutting taken now too. Chilean guavas are ripe right at the end of autumn/early winter and explode in your mouth with a taste of summer. Evidently they make superb jam but I have so far only eaten them fresh. They are tiny and very tasty and you just pop them in your mouth, a bit like those tiny alpine strawberries. Everyone at the community garden enjoyed them when I picked some and took them to the tea table.

I want to get people to try whatever is in the garden that they maybe did not know was edible or have never eaten before. At the moment we have lots of Asian greens waving their hands in the air, saying "Pick me, pick me!" but hardly anyone is! So one day we all sampled the different parts of the plants, as the flavours and intensity vary from flower (usually the sweetest part) to stem and then to young leaves and finally old leaves (strongest). Its worth knowing this, then you can choose which part to use to suit your own tastes. And, unlike a lot of European vegetables, Asian greens do not, on the whole, become stringy and bitter when they go to seed and can be eaten at any stage. Furthermore, the green seed pods of, especially, the daikon radish are, I think, the best part of the whole plant. Throw them into a stir fry and they stay crisp like water chestnuts and are very mild.

image Next is oca or the New Zealand yam, which actually is not native to NZ either! It is from the Andes and is in the oxalis family. Oca is ready to dig once the foliage dies off. This is now, in my garden. They are very popular here in Cygnet and I am looking forward to trying them tonight. They say you just cook them as you would potatoes. It was quite delightful to push the fork into the soil, lift the clod and see so many, beautifully coloured tubers. Mine are pink but they evidently also come in yellow and purple, a bit like sweet potatoes.

Third, is seaweed. It is sad they are called a weed, when they are perfectly lovely, native sea plants. Yesterday I went for a walk on what is left of the beach at Randalls Bay. After the south-easterly storm last week, most of the sand has gone and in its place, is a mountain of kelp and other seaweeds. I have often tasted seaweeds on beaches in SA and I must say that this one was very edible and rather nice in comparison! Not only is now a good time to collect it if you are growing asparagus or making liquid manure, but it must be the perfect time to eat it too, as there it is, free, tossed up at us. We must be crazy to think that food originating in a foreign land (mostly Europe) is more worthy of consumption than what is under our noses. If you don't want to eat it raw, dry some, crumble it up and use in soups. This is an idea gathered from the Japanese who do this a lot with sea plants.


Robert said...

I kep trying to grow oca, but with little success as our seasons aren't long enough. The only real hope is to get lots of varieties growing side by side, save the seed, and select like mad.

JOC said...

We've had a few meals with oca now and my favourite is baked. It reminds me of Jerusalem artichokes in that regard. I put some in a stew too and they changed from pink to white or transluscent. I do know that they are typical spreaders in the garden and can get away from you - but who cares - the more the merrier I say.

africanaussie said...

those berries look lovely, and it is so true that we need to be more adventurous. I thought only some kinds of seaweed were good for eating. I do put it on my garden for mulch and activating the compost though.

Bruise Mouse said...

I remember eating oca when we lived in NZ. I had never seen them in Australia and was up for trying something new. If I recall correctly they have a very strong, but pleasant, flavour.
Happy cooking

Cathy x. said...

wow i can't wait to taste a chilean guava! (hopefully one day soon) they look amazing! i only started gardening two years ago but i've been trying to get my hands on things that i've never seen before like white sapote, midyim berry, brazilian tree grape, purple asparagus and sour morello cherry. i can't wait for them all to become established and start producing crops. :D

Dave said...

Were would I source a tassie berry plant or even a cutting?

Love Oca. I had no issues growing it. plant in may and leave for a year until the first frosts the next year when it dies down and dig for the delights. make sure the soil drains well though and does not get water logged. Gypsum will be your friend in that situation plus a raised bed.

Kate said...

What great comments.

Dave, my original Chilean guava came from the local Mitre 0/10 (someone gave it to me as a present). Now I have taken cuttings and they all struck so if you can find someone near you with one, you'll be fine.

I didn't know when to plant oca but since I now have a pile of them in my kitchen, I guess it means that now is the time! Same with Jerusalem artichokes. Nice job for the weekend.Thanks for the growing advice.

Dave said...

Thanks for that. I am close to cygnet also so will try the mitre 10