Fruits of our labours

The relentless heat of a Perth summer is easier to bear when the work you put into your garden starts to bear fruit, literally.

Plum-tastic

Two years in a row now, we’ve been rewarded with a deluge of plums from the old tree of unknown variety we inherited when we bought Edgefield six years ago. This year we knew what was coming and prepared accordingly, completely covering the tree with two separate fruit fly nets and purchasing a shiny new Fowlers Vacola professional bottling unit to preserve the harvest.

 

And preserve we did: 25 bottles of poached plums to open in the depths of winter when all memories of summer delights are gone (if they last that long). In addition to gorging on fresh plums, we dried them, cooked cakes and puddings, and made spicy plum sauce to pair with Peking roast duck for Christmas Eve dinner. Yum!

Peachy keen

To my great delight, our Crimson Rocket columnar peach tree, which has gone gangbusters since we planted it 18 months ago, is bearing fruit for the first time. I ducked under the netting yesterday and, like a kid in a candy store, clapped my hands and sung a little tune as I gently squeezed the fuzzy bums of my first golden red peaches. Checking their ripeness has become a morning and/or evening ritual (depending on whether there’s a glass of wine or coffee in hand). As the boughs bend under their weight, I don’t think it will be long before the moment of truth arrives.

Is there anything better than a tree-ripened, organic, juicy peach grown in your own backyard? I’ll let you know.

I remember, as a kid, my parents used to stop at roadside fruit stalls to buy peaches, nectarines and plums several trays at a time. Mum would bottle them, just as I am doing, in her old Vacola system and we’d have a pantry lined with stored sunshine that we’d open most mornings to put on our cereal for breakfast or have with homemade custard for dessert. But best of all was biting into the soft flesh of a truly ripe, fresh peach and quickly slurping as the juice cascaded down to drip off your elbows.

Is growing your own food worth it?

It’s been decades since I’ve eaten a peach like that. It’s a distant memory in the world of industrial food, where fruit is picked green and stored for months, even years, in cool rooms and then sprayed with ripening agents before being stacked on shelves where it never actually softens at all because it’s a shadow of its real self. Fruit that looks vaguely as it’s supposed to but tastes, smells and feels nothing like it.

Every time I go into the grocery store, I am disappointed. It’s one of the main reasons I grow my own produce. I certainly don’t do it because it makes financial sense. I pour money and time into my garden. But for me, it’s worth it, especially at this time of year when I harvest basketfuls of food EVERY DAY and it’s fresh, organic, tasty and has zero food miles.

This time last year I gave an appreciative friend a single Ananas Noir tomato when he came over for a coffee one day. The next time we caught up he gushed with reverence over the utter deliciousness of that tomato. His daughter was in raptures and begged for another.

That’s how good a perfect piece of unadulterated natural food can be. Why have so many people forgotten that?