Winter mornings

Chilly mornings on Mulberry Tree Farm bring a special magic to the garden. Jonquils and daffodils bloom, and the trees make majestic silhouettes in the mist.

And the past two morning have brought a new feature – an ice skating rink, for the birds! The birdbath has been frozen solid, much to the dismay of the wrens and lorikeets!

But the birds are enjoying the biscuit and bread crumbs we put out for them. Scone crumbs are a favourite, so I’m pleased my winter baking is proving to be a hit with the locals!

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The Preservation Society

We love preserving things at Mulberry Tree Farm, especially when they taste good! Our homegrown quinces have been quietly curing in the larder, and Hubby decided to do what he does best with them – make quince paste!

And this time he discovered something else – after boiling with a lemon rind and whisking them in the blender, he came over with a teaspoon. “Taste this!” he beamed.

I’d never thought to try puréed quince, but it is a beautiful, complex and delicate flavour. And the best bit is, there’s no added sugar!

So Hubby set some aside for us to warm up for breakfast with a dash of yogurt … And it’s amazing.

And, by the way, so is his quince paste. We can’t wait to find some delectable cheese to sample it with!

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The good oil

Olives and their oil have been treasured for centuries, and every year at Mulberry Tree Farm we harvest our olives with great pride. And unfortunately to date, we haven’t had much to celebrate post harvest.

I’ve tried curing buckets of the beautiful, bitter fruit but not with much luck. Hubby suggested we make our own oil so we started researching – at the local café in town.

Sure enough we were very lucky to be introduced to a local treasure who is an olive expert and lives two farms down from us. Mr Fratelli came to the Goulburn Valley in his twenties. He fell in love with it, bought a small plot, and met and married a beautiful girl who helped plant the groves. He now has his own olive oil press and supplies the top restaurants in Melbourne with his liquid gold. His oil is so good that he even puts his image and name on the bottle!

We learned from him that certain olives are best for oil, and others are prime candidates for preserving due to the amount of oil they yield. A good oil olive will yield 16% oil. Some olives yield 3% and these are the ones for preserving.

We were shown that pH plays a big part in preserving olives – just add a splash of vinegar to fresh water to keep the olives from becoming mushy.

Some of ours preservers were ready, so they’re in sterilised jars and we’re changing fresh water every day for 10 days before adding that touch of vinegar.

And our oil olives are still maturing, so we’ll leave them a while until we take them down the road for pressing.

So now there’s no excuse for anything but restaurant standard olives … But, just quietly, I might be doing the tasting before putting my name to these!

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We Love Different

When you grocery shop, have you noticed the perfect fruit and vegetables on offer?

I admit I never did until I started to grow my own. The produce that makes the cut in supermarkets and green grocer’s displays is like the last ten standing in a beauty pageant. Only the “best” go on show?

But what about the slightly imperfect, quirky or funny ones? When it’s fresh produce, they taste better than the one’s in store. And when they’re your own, you love them just as much… And some of them love you back too!

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Not-so-slim pickings

Things are looking particularly rosy in our veggie patch at the moment. The tomatoes are ready and ripe for the picking!

We’ve had a very productive season with last year’s left over tomatoes sprouting themselves! Nature has a wonderful way of rejuvenating itself that I think even Lana Del Ray would appreciate!

With these plentiful pickings, our family and friends love us! And with this beautiful seasonal produce, soon I’ll be sourcing tomato passata recipes in readiness for winter stews and pasta dishes to enjoy these blushing beauties year-round.

Here’s this week’s haul.

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Street Food

We’ve just returned from a trip to the Big Smoke and were super excited to see street trees beating fruit!

A beautiful apple tree was fully adorned with fruit in one of the high streets.

And a pear tree was laden, making me dream up a poached pear with cinnamon and ice cream dessert.

Street foraging is already popular in California, USA, and I think it’s fabulous.

If you have a nature strip that’s needing a little TLC, why not plant a fruit tree? It will brighten your place with its foliage, and even more so with the conversations you’ll have with passers by admiring your tree. You might even make a new friend, because there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when someone gives you food of which they are the custodians!

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Summer Lamb Roast

Last night was such a beautiful summer evening and we decided that dinner needed to be outside!

Hubby had been slow roasting a shoulder of lamb all day after being inspired by a Mediterranean recipe.

When I think of roasting, I think winter warmers with crispy potatoes and lashings of gravy. But Hubby has shown me a whole new way to eat roasts in warm weather!

Rather than veggies, we “summerfied” our meal with:

Easy zucchini and mint salad
– two grated zucchinis
– zest and juice of one lemon
– a handful of fresh chopped mint
– one chopped chilli
All placed in a salad bowl and mixed together by hand

And a fresh mint sauce to accompany the lamb
– a handful of mint
– a teaspoon of sugar
– a dash of boiling water to mix these together
– a quarter of a cup of Apple cider vinegar
Placed in a sauce jug

And, I must say, it was delicious! Summer evenings are wonderful when spent with lovely company and excellent food!

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