Dealing withbountiful produce
EASY DRIED APPLES
I love autumn, with its fruit and produce aplenty. I hate autumn with its overwhelming number of kitchen duties. Thankfully, a hint from a lady reduced my apple drying process immensely a couple of years back. I used to core and peel and slice and salt and lay each piece of apple on the dehydrator to dry, which was a lot of work since I use a lot of dried apple in cooking and make a year’s worth of muesli. I don’t peel my apples any more – most of the nutrients are in the skin so why throw it away? I wash, core and slice my apples, skin and all, with a mandolin to get nice even thin slices. I dip them in lightly salted water to stop them browning, then slide them onto a stick, space them out and either put them in a low oven (if it is raining and humid) or, preferably, outside to dry with a fly cloth over them. Depending on the weather they can take maybe two days to dry outside. I don’t dry them until they’re hard, preferring them a little bit chewy. Then I bag them and keep them in the chiller or freezer until needed. They certainly last well enough in the pack or pantry, but when I want dried apple six months later, I don’t want to find it has gone mouldy or musty.
FRUIT TREE PERFORMANCE REVIEW
Trees can improve with age – but like us, they do have a set lifespan. Peaches and nectarines in particular have short lives – 15–25 years. Take stock of anything that hasn’t performed this autumn and consider what you need to do improve it.
First, I always recommend compost as it solves most problems. Whether you’re using in situ compost with weeds and mulch, a manure or a perfectly balanced high-heat compost, it doesn’t matter – it is all feeding the soil life which feeds the tree. After that, look at your trace minerals. Boron and magnesium are two elements New Zealand soils are lacking in that are essential for tree health. Seaweed and Epsom salts supply these respectively. After that, if all nutrimental needs are being met and there is adequate pollination and you are still not getting a crop, try chainsaw therapy. Year one: you start the chainsaw up beside the tree and tell it how it is. This year’s poor performance may have just been climaterelated – give it one more chance – but if you have room, get a replacement tree going just in case. Year two: if there’s still no fruit make good your threat and prune it at ground level. Honestly, a new tree (with compost) will produce something in two years and a crop in three, and you may be waiting that long for your loser to perform.
PLANT GREENS FOR WINTER SMOOTHIES
It seems weird to be thinking of salads as the days start to shorten but I like my daily green fix in winter (to be honest, by winter my liver needs a break and a good cleanse). It is time to start planting up for it now.
Seedlings of rocket and mizuna mix and a punnet of mixed lettuce are a fast food (in gardening terms) but I amnow also planting up for my winter smoothies. Spinach is one of my favourite greens but you need a lot of it, and it doesn’t matter how much I plant, I never seem to have enough. Pasta and quiche and cannelloni and green smoothies all require their share so spinach, kale, lettuce, rocket and mizuna are given a lot of space in the garden and a whole bed is dedicated to miner’s lettuce. I saw this growing beside the Otago Rail Trail where bridge builders had once lived. It is hardy enough to survive the deepest winters and complete neglect, which makes it a winter mainstay in my garden. Each autumn it regrows en masse, and as long as I don’t get tidy and weed it out I soon have a lovely soft and subtle green leaf which I can cut again and again for everything from smoothies to salads. Just remember to let it go to seed again in spring and you will have it forever.
PLANT A STONE
So you ate a really nice peach/ nectarine/ apricot off your grandma’s/neighbours’/friend’s tree. Did you keep the stone? Stonefruit grow pretty much true to parent, unlike pipfruit (apples, pears, etc) which are more like humans where a cross ofMum and Dad produces a teenager so alien you think it came from another planet.
I have also had old-timers (a term meant with full respect) inform me that seed-grown trees are a lot more resistant to disease – particularly leaf curl and brown rot. My experience is backing up
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz
these anecdotes. I amplanting out seedlings wherever I can find room, with the view that inferior ones will be eliminated at ground level.
So far, four out of five peaches and nectarines have passed muster, with stones from 2013 fruit planted out in 2015 producing a few fruit in 2017 and a decent crop in 2018. That may sound a long time to you, but trust me, it went really quickly! When you eat a stone fruit you really like spit the stone into a pot of free-draining soil, push it down to the depth of your first finger joint, label it and then put it outside to catch the winter chill and rain. Keep it moist but not wet.