Category Archives: Edible Landscaping

The miracle of the American paw paw in Australia

Not as ripe as it looks

Last year we planted two American paw paw trees. By the start of this year they had both disappeared. Sad, but true. Probably eaten by deer, or maybe just not watered enough. Whatever the reason, it makes what I’m about to tell you seem a little weird.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been harvesting American paw paws. Not from the dead trees, I hasten to add. But around five years ago, it turns out, we bought an American paw paw seedling from a nursery in Warragul. We planted it, and more or less forgot about it, imagining that the burgeoning bush behind our rampant kiwi fruit vine was a noxious weed.

So when we saw large yellow fruit on the ground around its trunk, we imagined these were random quinces that had been mysteriously transported from the top paddock, where – if truth be told – they have performed without distinction. This attractive looking but so far entirely tasteless fruit turns out to be the Asimina triloba.

What I want to know now is whether anyone has ever actually eaten one. I’m going to follow up myself with Kentucky State University, which runs the world’s only full time (American) paw paw research program. The fruit we’ve tried so far has been less than ripe, despite its luscious appearance. But it’s June, and to be honest, at this time of year, any kind of harvest is remarkable enough as winter tightens its grip. Especially for something we’d given up for dead.

If you’ve ever eaten or even seen this fruit before, please let me know. I want to know what to expect next.

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Quince buds – an early sign of spring

It’s still the first half of August, and Icy Creek’s elevated enough to experience something approximating a period of winter dormancy. But today there were signs of spring, and not just the precocious daffodils and the exhuberant weeds. The budswell on our quince trees suggests that those awesome white/pink flowers might be about to unravel.

It must be spring - almost

It must be spring - almost

Also planted ten chesnut trees today  – an air of mystery surrounds the identity of the varietal, but I’m betting that they’re called Bouche de Betizac. I’m tagging the name, ever so hopefully, in case anybody else has heard of them.

Also planted this weekend, some Alinta strawberries, thornless blackberries (no, they’re not digital devices), and a couple of marionberry plants to boot.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s partly because of the aforementioned dormancy (which I enjoy) and also because of a new publication a few of us have set up at La Trobe University called upstart – it’s an online magazine which is specifically designed to publish student and staff work, and to become a resource for emerging journalists. Our twitter address is http://twitter/upstartmagazine

The Chinotto – an improbably frost-friendly citrus

Sour tasting, but they don't complain about a bit of frost

Sour tasting, but they don't complain about a bit of frost

It sounded like a dumb idea. A stand of chinotto trees in one of the coldest places in Victoria. Well, maybe the global warming factor is kicking in, but I’ve also seen these handsome citrus specimens stand up to minus five frosts. They don’t shiver. The fruit doesn’t drop off. The leaves don’t turn pale yellow.

The fruit never tastes any good straight off the tree, but it’s not meant to either. And while it might be a relative newcomer to the citrus family, the Italians have ensured that chinotto is an essential ingredient of several beverages, including Campari, and in Australia it’s possibly best known as an ingredient in a soft drink called Bisleri Chinotto, which is owned by Coca-Cola Amatil.

The fruit looks juicy, but ours aren’t. Still, the peel turns out to be a star if chopped into a pot of poached pears or quinces, and I’m sure we’re going to end up making the world’s best marmalade with them if we ever get around to it. But even if their culinary uses turn out to be slight, the beautiful fruit and fragrant spring blossom makes them more than welcome in our midst, especially on those dull, dormant winter days, which I’m pleased to say we still seem to get our fair share of.

American pawpaw trees go into the ground at Icy Creek

Just planted: a pair of American pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) which we bought at Yamina Rare Plants at Monbulk. These trees have long been celebrated in North America as “tropical” trees for temperate climates, and there’s some very interesting posts about them at The Fruit Blog, we as links to newspaper articles about them including this 2005 piece in USA today. The two cultivars we purchased were a Pennsylvania Gold, which was developed in 1982, and and Louis, which Yamina describe as a “large fruited form”.

As our climate at Icy Creek is a milder version of that experienced in the tree’s native New York State, it will be interesting to see how well they fruit. Certainly, the frost and occasional snow we get in winter shouldn’t be a problem.

In the meantime, if anyone else has experienced growing these trees, we’d really like to here from you. How big do they get? (According to the Flora of America site, can get as high as 14 meters, but Daley Fruit Tree site says they mostly grow to only 5 to 10 metres.) How long do they take to start fruiting? And – now here’s one I’m sure I don’t need to know yet – do they taste like bananas (which Istrongly dislike) or mangoes (which are my favourite fruit)?

Quinces, the first taste of autumn

 

drought survivors

A few weeks ago we were worried that even these notoriously hardy trees would be too stressed from the heat to hang on to their small crops. But by the end of the first week of March, we realised that the fruit, which turns the most intense of yellows as it ripens, had managed to cling on. We placed them all in a large pot along with some of our very ripe chinottos (this is a citrus, and they loved all the summer heat), and left them on the kitchen stove all day. More about our quinces here.

Shipova Trees in Australia?

I recently read about the shipova tree in Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden by American writer and “farmder” Lee Reich and was wondering if anyone had tried growing shipova trees. As Reich puts it: “Although shipova (X Sorbus auricularis) is a fruit that has been known at least since the 1600s, it is rarely planted. It is one of those rare intergeneric hybrids, in this case between European pear and whitebeam, a relative of mountain ash. It resembles a small, yellow pear in appearance— somewhat rounded with a red blush on the side kissed by the sun. The flavor is also pear-like but with a little something special, as well as a most pleasant meaty texture.”

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has grown this tree, and especially keen to know about any Australian suppliers. There’s an interesting account of their place in one garden by Larry Rettig in Dave’s Garden blog, but so far I haven’t been able to find any evidence of their availability in Australia.