Plum Days & Apricots

I’m
inspired now, having left the doubts of the last year behind me. My inspiration
is helped along by a wonderful Christmas present from my Mum of a book called A Fig at the Gate by Kate Llewellyn.
This tale of Llewellyn’s garden adventures, sometimes dressing gown clad,
gladden my heart to know there are others like me about, and just ‘down the
hill’ in the Adelaide suburbs too!

Llewellyn’s
observations of the need tomatoes have for a little shelter from the sun here
in Adelaide, reinforce my own experiences in recent years. Last summer we had a
couple of heat waves with days at a time over 35C and some of my tomato plants
didn’t have any shelter and suffered terrible scorches. The poor things – it
looked painful – and of course stunted their growth. Some ended up with the
chooks.

This
year I’ve staked the tomatoes, self-sown beauties from last year’s plants, but
only a little and now am letting them flop and sprawl wherever they like. They
most likely know better than me what they need.

Over
the years I’ve found it absurd to hear people say that a small paintbrush or
similar is required to pollinate zucchini flowers. However did zucchinis manage
to reproduce before human intervention, I wonder? We are not the supreme
over-lords of the planet, much less a god-creator. It’s our own interventions
that have made pollination such a quandary these days. Pesticides kill bees and
other creatures, while lack of habitat pushes out all manner of life, including
pollinators and beneficial bugs.

So,
I’ve invited them back to our yard and back into the food garden. Some years
ago I planted nasturtiums and hollyhocks (practically an icon of Willunga), and
marigolds (tomato nematode fighters apparently), plus a melaleuca and the
bright pink flowered native succulent, the oddly named pig face. When the
lettuces, parsley, spinach and chard have bolted I let some of them go to seed (the rest
progressively go to the chooks). Together, there are year-round flowers to
attract the bees (European and native), ladybirds, stink bugs and stick
insects, and a huge assortment of critters. Thanks to them we haven’t bought a
zucchini yet this year but we’ve eaten lots and there are four more on their
way right now from just three plants.

A
friend has a beehive in her garden north of Adelaide. The hive’s owner looks
after it and gives her some honey and she gets the pollinators for her vegies.
How wonderful – people and planet working in harmony! There are hives nearby in
our area so I haven’t done that, though I’d love the honey!

The
apricot has finished (about six dozen in this second year of fruiting), and
just a few left stewed in the fridge. (If you want to be a bit highbrow, call
it ‘compote’.)  This weekend the
plums will probably be ready to pick and then it will be all on! Old shorts and
tee, my floppy gardening hat and four or more baskets, then into the kitchen
and the apron on, my hands will go a bit purple from all the Satsuma juice once
I start halving and stoning.

What
to make? I haven’t bought any vinegar or sugar for sauces and jams (though
there’s some in the cupboard it won’t be enough for much). Plus we still have the
lemon butter I made in the fridge along with lots of sauces, welcome gifts from
Christmas.

It
will most likely come down to my favourite again – stewed plums. Done in
batches with different spices each time and into the freezer once they’ve
cooled, ready to extract in days to come. There really is nothing warmer for a
winter breakfast than cinnamon stewed plums on your cereal. It’s the memory of
summer in your bowl that does it; the long, barefoot days, warm earth and
sunshine recalled.

© Text,
Palitja Moore, 2016; and images, Ida Moore, 2016.

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