Per­sim­mon pas­sion has its re­wards

Taupo Times - - FRONT PAGE -

SH­ERYN CLOTH­IER I grow ‘Fuyu’, a very at­trac­tive small tree that pro­duces loads of non-as­trin­gent per­sim­mons with very lit­tle fuss. At the mo­ment it is an is­land of colour in the or­chard with au­tumn-coloured leaves and globes of bright or­ange fruit. I don’t net my tree but pick the fruit daily, just as it starts to turn a deeper or­ange. Any that are too ripe are left for the wax-eyes. They are very well be­haved and eat only the over­ripe ones.

I en­joy a fresh per­sim­mon peeled and sliced thinly as a snack with a glass of wine, or grilled on toast un­der camem­bert or with ri­cotta, but most are peeled, sliced and dried in the de­hy­dra­tor. Dry­ing con­cen­trates the sugar and they make such a yummy walk-past snack

I have trou­ble get­ting my jar full! I don’t dry my fruit un­til it’s crisp and hard, pre­fer­ring them to have some mois­ture con­tent. I don’t use a preser­va­tive, so I store them in the chiller or freezer to stop them from go­ing mouldy. As well as for snacks, I use dried per­sim­mon as

I use dried apri­cots in bak­ing and muesli. While we may be more in­clined to eat sal­ads in sum­mer, let­tuces ac­tu­ally grow bet­ter in the cooler win­ter weather. Heat causes them to bolt to seed and brings bit­ter flavour into the leaves – con­versely cool weather may make them grow more slowly but they are sweeter and have a nicer flavour.

I plant my sum­mer let­tuces in the shadi­est spot in the gar­den, but am putting my win­ter ones straight out­side the back door – in full sun (what there is of it) and un­der the flood­light if I need to pick in the dark.

I favour leaf let­tuces – to me they have much more flavour than an ice­berg head let­tuce and I can pick straight from the gar­den as much as I need each day. One pun­net of mixed let­tuces will last us the win­ter.

I leave both the very out­side leaves to pho­to­syn­the­sise and feed the plant and the cen­tre core to keep pro­duc­ing. This means I take a cir­cle of leaves from the side of the plant as and when I want them and can keep on pick­ing un­til the plant sends up a cen­tre seed­head and starts to flower – which is when the leaves get tough and bit­ter. If in doubt, nib­ble on one in the gar­den.

Let­tuce leaves are ap­par­ently best picked in the morn­ing while they are still crisp from tak­ing up mois­ture dur­ing the night but I don’t like salad for break­fast. I lit­er­ally take my salad bowl and a pair of scis­sors into the gar­den and rip the let­tuce leaves straight into it. Cut off some baby rocket, mizuna, miner’s let­tuce or corn salad to toss through, finely snip up some pars­ley, slice up some spring onions and sprin­kle some flow­ers (vi­o­lets, for­get-me-nots, cal­en­dula and veg­etable flow­ers all grow in my gar­den) and your salad is done.

The last thing to hit my gar­den was rain­wa­ter so I don’t see the need to wash my salad greens. Just watch out for live­stock. Guests seem to ob­ject to their salad crawl­ing over the edge of the plate. When ev­ery­thing is drip­ping with wa­ter, it’s hard to re­mem­ber to ir­ri­gate – but the glasshouse still needs wa­ter­ing and the best time

to do that is when it is rain­ing out­side.

One rea­son for this is be­cause the rain re­minds you, but the main rea­son is that plants seem to re­spond bet­ter to be­ing wa­tered while it is rain­ing.

Plants up­take wa­ter from their roots and tran­spire it up and out of their leaves. This trans­porta­tion of wa­ter through the plant is the equiv­a­lent of our heart pump­ing blood around us – it trans­ports nu­tri­ents to where they need to go. So if leaves don’t ab­sorb mois­ture from the air, why do plants re­spond so much bet­ter to rain?

Google tells me it is be­cause tap wa­ter con­tains dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents to rain­wa­ter but since stored rain wa­ter is all that comes out of our hose, that is not the dif­fer­ence here.

My dad tells me it is be­cause there is ex­tra ozone in the air from the rain, which opens up the stom­ata in the leaves. Stom­ata are the pores, mostly on the un­der­side, of leaves, where mois­ture evap­o­rates and car­bon diox­ide is ab­sorbed. But I haven’t been able to find out how that process could be en­hanced by ex­tra ozone.

How­ever, I do know cut flow­ers and wilted leaves can be re­vived by mist­ing, and some stud­ies show fo­liar feeding is very ef­fec­tive, so maybe more is ab­sorbed by the leaves than I re­alise. I am plan­ning two new gar­dens for spring. One, be­side our glamp­ing site, is for straw­ber­ries, blue­bells and cur­rants. This is a sandy loam bank which I orig­i­nally planted with wild­flow­ers but which has evolved into a weed patch.

First I am lay­ing black plas­tic over the whole area to block out the sun­light and kill off all ex­ist­ing weeds. I am not a fan of plas­tic – the air­less en­vi­ron­ment it cre­ates must kill a lot of the mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy in the soil, but the clover that has re­placed the wild­flow­ers is quite per­sis­tent. I want it to­tally erad­i­cated be­fore I start plant­ing as weed­ing clover out of straw­ber­ries is not fun.

I’ll leave the plas­tic un­til ev­ery­thing is dead. It would have worked quicker in the sum­mer with the heat of the sun but I didn’t want to lay it un­til we had closed the glamp­ing site for the sea­son. The ques­tion is, will it be ef­fec­tive enough dur­ing win­ter to kill not just the green top, but the roots as well?

The sec­ond gar­den is a new veg­etable gar­den for an­nual crops like pota­toes, yams, ku¯ mara, corn, chook maize, etc. My cur­rent one has be­come over­grown with fruit trees and as­para­gus. For this gar­den I am col­lect­ing news­pa­per and any old silage, hay or straw I can con out of my farm­ing friends. I will lay this down thickly over the ex­ist­ing grass and couch in spring. I tri­alled this method last year and it worked well.

I’m also mak­ing com­post to 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: get­grow­ dig into the top layer of both gar­dens. So far I have a good pile of car­bon-rich wood shav­ings from a goat farm. I need to in­crease the ni­tro­gen lev­els with some green­ery, so for once I am keen for hubby to mow the lawns and I’m also har­vest­ing weeds that have grown undis­turbed for years. By spring it should be nice and wormy.

Next I need to de­cide on bed size, paths and edg­ing for the veg­etable gar­den. I’ve de­cided there will be no gar­den-to-grass bor­ders due to the main­te­nance in­volved so some hard land­scap­ing will be needed. I’ll coat ac­cess paths with pine nee­dles as I have un­lim­ited ac­cess to these and they can be topped up as re­quired. They’ll also re­tard weed growth.

I’d like a de­fined edge so I’m con­sid­er­ing bit­ing the bul­let and pay­ing (choke, cough – ev­ery­thing around here is re­cy­cled!) for a tim­ber edge low enough to bounce the wheel­bar­row over but high enough to keep the soil off the path. Hope­fully a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive will come my way be­fore spring.

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