Persimmon passion has its rewards
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: getgrowing.co.nz 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.