Irrigation hibernates for winter
Bring tap timers and hose fittings that you’ll not be using over winter in out of the upcoming frosts. Left on and full of water, in a frost the water will expand and break the seals. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years on tap timers. My favourite version is now a cheap $15 dial you manually turn on which automatically ticks down the set time and turns the water off. The more expensive electronic versions that turn on by themselves are great in theory but you have to wait a full cycle to ensure they work. So if you want your garden watered at 5am, you have to set it at 5am, and wait until 5 the following morning to check all is working correctly. And if the batteries go flat, someone has turned the tap off or a fitting has broken, you don’t realise until things are starting to shrivel up.
I’ve decided gardening is not that automatic and it is easier to turn on the tap when needed and use the timer to ensure it gets turned off. I just wish I could find one with shorter and more precise timing. Be sure to pierce the shell if roasting them as, excitingly, they can explode. I toss them in a bit of salt and oil before roasting over the fire or in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
Alternatively, place them in cold water and bring to a simmer for 15–20 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Shell while warm and freeze to use in stir-fries, stews and casseroles over winter.
Ginkgo nuts come from the fruit of the female ginkgo tree which has an aroma some liken to vomit. It is not that bad and the fruit are quickly removed in water before leaving the nuts to air dry. Store the nuts in the fridge and be careful to never consume too many (more than 10) in a day. A few are very good for you – too many can be toxic. Roast and boil them before eating.
Walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts can all be left to dry in their shells. Keep them somewhere dry and cool and well out of reach of rats. Drying time can be as little as three to four days with good airflow, so crack one occasionally to see if the kernel is brittle.
There are a huge range of nut crackers out there and I amsure everyone has their favourite. My husband favours his vice grips, but for bulk cracking you can purchase a drill attachment that can be adjusted for any size nut and which sits over a bucket. ‘Monovale’ almonds have a particularly hard shell – make an indentation in a board to stand them upright and hit them with a hammer.
Once cracked, store the kernels indefinitely in the freezer to keep them fresh. The common, large ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ walnut goes rancid quite quickly (about three months) if left in the shell at room temperature. The feijoas are starting to fall and though I amsure I will be sick of them by the end of the season, at the moment we are still eating as many as the tree drops in a day.
‘Unique’ is in full flow now with ‘Apollo’ starting and just a few of the ‘Wiki Tu’ dropping to allow us a taste comparison. ‘Triumph’ is loaded but the fruit will come later.
Tasting the varieties all at once like this highlights their difference in both flavour and grittiness, and it is not just because it is the first each season that ‘Unique’ rates the best for me flavour-wise. Unfortunately it is not the best tree-wise. I have had trouble with brittle branches, and half the tree snapped off last year with the weight of the fruit. I amnot sure if that is a nutritional or varietal problem but since I like the fruit so much I persist with judicious pruning and a funny-shaped tree. I have considered planting other varieties that apparently fruit even earlier, but I want to taste them first. ‘Apollo’ has a sweet, mild taste that others love, but which I find insipid. However, their huge size makes them great for processing. A good dose of compost around the tree earlier in the year is really paying off as the fruit are huge enough to eat with a dessertspoon and plentiful enough to feed friends and extended family.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that feijoas should be pruned to allow birds to fly through the canopy. Feijoas have a lot of other pollinators and do just fine left alone. They flower and fruit at the base of new growth, so if you wish to prune or hedge them, prune one side each year so the other side still produces. I just take enough branches off the bottom to allow easy collection of the fruit. It’s the lateseason apples, like ‘Granny Smith’, that store well, keeping till spring in a cool, dark place. I’ve left my ‘Grannies’ on the tree until now and they have become so sweet that they’re delicious to eat raw, though they are unfortunately covered in an unsightly black sooty blotch. To reduce this fungal growth, this winter, I will prune the tree to allow more airflow and will also give it a good dose of compost and spray it with fish fertiliser.
For years I’ve scorned the 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 need to grow an apple just for cooking, saying that the multipurpose ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Monty’s Surprise’ provide more cookers than I need. But a true cooking apple dissolves into a light, fluffy texture when stewed and has
an intense, acidic flavour, rendering the sweet eating apples insipid and tough in comparison.
Last year a friend sent me some ‘Granny Luisa’ cookers. The resulting fluffy, flavoursome pie had me requesting a tree immediately. Last week another friend gave me a ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ to try. Stewed on top of my Weet-Bix this morning,
I’m inclined to get a tree of that too. Another friend claims ‘Ballarat’ is the ultimate cooker, while yet another claims ‘Peasgood’s Nonsuch’ is the one to explode into fluff and multipurpose ‘Gravenstein’ is the ultimate in applely flavour. How many cookers do I need?