December Catch-up

Wow, some rain at last. It may not have been much but it least it settled the dust for a day. My hay-fevered nose is grateful. Despite the lack of recent rain our garden is growing very quickly in the warm weather.

The three sisters bed has really taken off. In just a month the scarlet runner beans are reaching the top of the trellis


and they are also using the young blue popcorn plants as additional supports. So far the pumpkins are growing, in a restrained fashion, but I don’t expect that to last for long!


December garden discussions can’t go past the subject of tomatoes. I’m really pleased to see that the newest variety that we are trialling, the Pink Thai Egg tomato, is showing lots of fruit and is well in advance of all our other varieties.


Sure we won’t be eating these for Christmas lunch, but it’s the closest we’ve managed to date.

Speaking of ‘new’ things in the garden our newest fruit trees are delivering surprising results. We bought a White Adriatic fig a few months ago and already it’s putting fruit out. Yes that small knob where the leaf joins the stem. I will have to be good and remove the fruit to allow the tree to develop well in its first year, but it’s good to see it making such a good start.


In May 2011 I took delivery of two native lime trees. Both are growing in pots and both have now survived two winters protected in our ‘grove‘, that fantastic growing process promoted by Jackie French. The fingerlime has really taken off and I have allowed some of it’s fruit to grow on this year (I removed about two thirds of the original fruit).


As you can see the fingerlimes are growing strongly and I have my fingers crossed that I will get good quality fruit. The plant will be transplanted to a larger pot later in the year.

As Christmas is approaching I couldn’t resist buying ‘Christmas in a pot’, my NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum.


Buying a plant is still better value than buying the branches as cut flowers from the florist. I’m hoping that I can persuade this frost-tender native to survive tucked up to over-winter next year alongside my citrus plants.


If you are also seduced into buying a Christmas Bush keep in mind that its a case of what you see is what you get. Buy the plant with the red-est flowers, they won’t change colour at a later date.



As an early birthday present I’ve received two lime trees, but not your Tahitian Lime. At long last I’ve been able to get Australian Native Limes. One is a Native Finger Lime (Citrus australasica ‘Rainforest Pearl’) and the second, a Finger Lime cross with a mandarian called Red Centre which has been developed by the CSIRO. The one thing they do have in common with other citrus are very long spikes! Now I just have to wait as the growing instructions say remove any fruit in year one and two of growth before you can start harvesting.


We are not taking any chances with the limes given the frosts that we can expect, according to the weather bureau, any day now. They have been tucked away in our ‘grove’ of Snow Gums and Kurrajong which will provide overhead protection for the plants. TB has also added several bales of hay around them to help with the insulation.


I’ve also tucked in with them a pot of a native mint (Mentha australis) which I bought at the Bellevale Open Garden Fair. Its looking quite happy since its been moved there. This mint can be used just like your introduced culinary mints. Slowly my list of native bush tucker plants is growing! Our greatest success in this area is a Spear Lily (Doryanthes palmeri) which is a native of the Great Dividing Range up on the NSW/Qld border. Its very happy after several years of living in this spot.


The Spear Lily is on the left (as you look at it) side of the picture and the mint is growing in the pre-loved olive oil tin. There are some strawberry runners I dug up from the new broad bean bed also over-wintering here.


A ‘languishing’ of limes

I don’t think there is a collective noun for the sad collection of limes that I found at the bottom of our fridge this week. You see when I was looking at Annette Macfarlane’s new book last week, I found her recipe for Native Citrus marmalade. It was then that I remembered the native finger limes we’d bought at the farmer’s market about a month ago. Of course they had by now been reduced to the desiccated dark pink things in the photo. There were clearly not enough for the recipe so I went looking for something else to add, which is when I found the Tahitian Limes that were of a similar vintage, that were grown in my friend’s sheltered courtyard garden. I also decided to chuck in a lemon to make up the weight. Not a promising start.


Because, in my usual fashion, I had not read Annette’s recipe correctly, I’d asked TB to buy me some orange juice, when what she’d actually asked for was the juice of four oranges. Who to turn to for advice? The blessed Sally Wise of course! So here is my conjoined Annette and Sally recipe for my ‘Left Behind Lime Marmalade’.


500 grams of sharp flavoured citrus – finger limes, limes, lemons (finger limes are superb if you can get them and really add a fantastic flavour to this marmalade)

6 cups of orange juice (preferably with no added sugar)

1.5 kilograms of sugar


  • Slice your citrus thinly removing the seeds as you go (finger limes have stacks of seeds so be thorough), if using lemons you may want to cut them into quarters to get slices similar in size to the limes
  • Using 6 cups of orange juice cook the sliced citrus in a large saucepan, for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft (the pith will look transparent)
  • Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve and boil briskly for 20 minutes (at this stage test to see if it is starting to set by placing some of the marmalade on a saucer that has been placed in the fridge, put it back in the fridge for 2 minutes. Push your finger through the marmalade and if the surface wrinkles then it is at the setting point). If your marmalade isn’t quite there keep boiling for a few more minutes, but don’t let it go too dark.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mix stand for 10 minutes before bottling into sterilised glass jars.

 You can eat this marmalade as soon as it has cooled.

I won’t beat about the bush; this is the best marmalade that I have made so far. I think that the finger limes (the small circles of fruit in the picture) really ‘make’ the taste of this marmalade so do try them.