Perfect Poolside Pineapples and Propagation

It’s a bit exciting that after several years of saving pineapple tops and whacking them in the ground our first pineapple was ready to harvest at 99! Changing through a beautiful range of colours, like below, it then morphed into a yellowy colour, showing it was ready to pick and exuded a slightly sweet pineapple-y smell. We then put it inside for its last couple of days away from creatures.

pineapple close

Pineapples usually take a couple of years to grow from top cuttings and are ready to harvest in the wet season. These guys took 3 years to grow, with some neglect, a sunny spot and a bit of chicken poo compost. They take up quite a lot of space  with their spiky leaves- but the space and wait is worth it! After you harvest the pineapple, the same plant will not fruit again, so pull up the plant and start again with the top.  If you are lucky your pineapple will make little pups on its sides too, that you can break off as they grow and plant.

pinapple 2

So above is the ripe and ready same pineapple and below is our guide to pineapple propagation and enjoyment…..

Firstly get really excited that at last, you have grown your very own pineapple, with the help of sunshine and your very own chicken poo compost and really not that much attention, but after marvelling at it for some time and its’ changing colour and wonderful form you can cut into it and it eats juicy flesh.

excited pineapple

Cut the pineapple, trying to save as much juicy flesh as possible and cut out those husky dots; people in Asian countries are amazing at the craft of pineapple cutting, but if you don’t do it too often then it may be tricky. Cut it into slices and maybe even remove the harder central core too; enjoy by a poolside on a hot Sunday afternoon with friends. If you don’t have a poolside- find a friend’s- sharing pools, rather than everyone having their own, is much more sustainable and you can return the favour in eggs, love and by sharing your first and later pineapples. cut pineapple sm

There are many lovely pineapple recipes, using fresh and cooked pineapple, but with your first harvest you may just want to cut it into chunky pieces and enjoy. That’s what we did and we even froze a quarter for later to make iced pina-coladas, but wanted to wait so we could use our own coconut milk and water so it was a very home grown cocktail!  This pineapple was amazingly juicy and if you are growing from tops or pups (the side shoot babies some pineapples make) the fruit will be genetically the same as the mother, so chances are a good juicy pineapple will make a juicy baby.

Next step- prepare your pineapple top, cut it clean off from the fruit part and start peeling back the lower leaves, so there is room for some rooting. Get a bit excited about this part too! peel pinapple topAfter this pop it in a glass or cup of water, like the picture below (note this picture is a different pineapple top- maybe this pineapple’s mother, but is illustrating decorative bonus)- they can make  great table decorations (who needs cut flowers when you have pineapple tops?) pinaepple top too

After a few days you will see the roots starting to grow. This below pineapple top is from the exact pineapple we enjoyed by the poolside. We gave this to our friends over in Wagaman, to spread the love over the (main) road, so they can have our pineapple babies. If you are in the throws of the wet season you don’t need to do this, you can pop the pineapple top straight in the moist ground. It is fun for kids and adults to watch the roots grow, and when they are established put the the top in the ground, placing it in the soil up to where the dark leaves start (about 2cm) and there you have it the start of another generation of juicy pineapples…pineapple top

Great Green Mango Salad

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden (SAKG) team were up in Darwin, doing kitchen training with teachers or specialists, as 5 new schools have jumped on board the program in Darwin. I ran the program at Alawa Primary School for 3 years and was really happy to be asked to lunch and see what delights were being made and catch up with the crew. The menu was beautiful, made in Driver Primary school’s amazing kitchen and so great to see more primary schools jumping onboard this life changing program. I will write more about it later, but would love to just add in this great salad which was made in the session by Mel. It is very like a green pawpaw salad but uses Mango, and as they are in season is just perfect.

Mango raw saladIt involves some skilful chopping of the green mango, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, palm sugar, chilli, thai basil and that is about it. I will ask Mel for the exact proportions, but it is worth a go playing with the sweet, sour, salty and hot balance of all wonderful Asian cooking. More info on the SAKG program too!

Wishing for water, ok watermelons

So the build up continues and we all wish the water to fall from the sky, but the suspense will continue. Luckily to make up for the hot and humid sweaty wait, almost everything is season in the veggie gardens of the top end- OK the cucumbers and tomatoes may be suffering a little, but they are hanging on and the watermelons are here, and what is nearly as refreshing as putting your head into the freezer a little is wonderful sweet juicy watermelons combined with other delicious bits and pieces!

I was inspired to write this after seeing my friend Sophie write about a curious watermelon and cider vinegar tonic, on her blog The Invisible Cook.

Watermelon can be used in many ways. Of course it can be cut into huge chunks, and enjoyed with a hard day working in the heat or made into funky salads. watermelonThe salad below is a watermelon salad, with feta, local mint and Australian kalamata olives. Just add a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice and a grind of black pepper. So easy and delicious. I f you want to add some grains I reckon some Australian quinoa or couscous would go down a treat, lightly mixed through! The cheese in this picture is local and amazing buffalo ricotta, which is not being produced right now, but any soft white cheese like feta, or halloumi would be amazing, and of course better if at least it is Australian so it has travelled less distance, which also goes for the olives.

watermelon and f

Watermelons are only in season this time of year and need to be grown from the beginning of the dry season to get nice and big ones, they grow along the ground and are best planted on mounds and fed with organic fertiliser, like seaweed solution, cow and chicken manure mixtures and watered well and be in full sun. When the watermelon is ripening it is best to lift it off hard ground and put hay under the fruit. You can harvest the fruit, when the underside starts to go yellow, you can tap the fruit and if it sounds hollow it is ready. Try not to let them ripen too much or they will go flowery inside. The fruit and the rind is rich in vitamin A and D, and the fruit can be made into great salads and juices, but the rind, the white part between the green skin and the red flesh, can also be cooked into soups and curries- so save it too.

If you haven’t grown any this year, many are sold at the side of the road around Darwin and are from rural farms and I have seen them in Nightcliff 5 star at $1.29 kg- so that is around $9 for one giant watermelon!

It’s a miracle

Recently Lilly contacted me, who lives in the suburb of Tiwi and grows miracle fruit. I had heard of miracle fruit before, I had even tried these little fun fruits, when a farmer from the rural area bought some in to town. So what is the miracle about this fruit? Well Miracle fruits make sour things taste sweet and I went to check out how they grow, in a back yard amongst her chooks.

berry

 Miracle fruit comes from a shrub, Synsepalum dulcificum, that is native to tropical West Africa. This shrub grows up to six-meters tall, and has brown flowers with small red fruit or berries. If you pop one of these berries in your mouth, you chew on it and spit out the small seed, your tongue is then coated in the fleshy residue, you can then swallow the rest. The actual taste of the berry is not particularly sweet, just fairly neutral and a little weird. Now if you try a lime or lemon it will taste sweet not sour- it’s pretty wacky and well worth a go for the novelty. After I had got a few from Lilly we also tried beer, which changed its flavour, it is also suggested that you can try vinegar, wine, stinky cheeses and all kinds of sour things.. The effect will last up to half an hour.

miracle fruit on benchSo how does this miracle work? Well the fruit contains a glycoprotein called Miraculin, which rewires how the taste buds perceive sour flavours. Miraculin attaches to receptors for sweet taste without activating them until they are subjected to acid. Acids induce a change in the miraculin-attached receptors resulting in activation of the receptor. Hence, miraculin makes sweet receptors react when subjected to acids (Kurihara, 1992; Wong and Kern, 2011)

Miracle fruits are highly perishable and do not last long off the bush. In the US flavour tripping parties using miracle berries and a spread of combined sour or bitter foods to try after are popular.

lilly and fruit

If you want to try one, Lilly in Tiwi grows many trees in her back yard and they are fruiting maybe for just one more week! She sells them for $2 a try and small plants, so you can grow your own from $10. She has pots and pots of them and an orchard of them amongst her chooks. You can pop in on Sundays at 347 Trower Road, Nakara, or contact Lilly on 0405027697. or at  topendmiraclefruits@yahoo.com.au.