SWEET LEAF- Herbs for Health- more goodness from the garden

Coming up on Sunday 28th May is this year’s workshop “Herbs for Health” (and goodness from the garden)

I will be featuring 15 of the top plants we can grow all year that have amazing medicinal properties, we will then make some simple recipes, teas and tonics that include them.

Here is just one amazing plant that will be on the list and the menu

Sweet Leaf (Sauropus androgynus)

sweet leaf

Family- Euphorbiaceae
Origins in India / Malaysia
Form- Ground cover herb
Part Used- Leaf
High in vitamins A, B and C with minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.
Tonic and antioxidant.

High in protein 49%, fibre 14-18%

This is a great addition to any salad, stir-fry, green smoothie, curry or soup. It has a pea like taste and also can make a great pesto or herb paste in combination with other herbs. Chickens also seem to love this as a favourite green.

This is so easy to grow from cutting and makes a wonderful hedge of soft deep green leaves that just keeps on giving (a great example is at Lakeside Drive Community garden) It grows all year and does not really die back and especially love the humid wet season.

Fourteen Fabulous Fruit from NOT faraway

Fruit bowlToday the local food supply situation was brought to my attention once again, by an acquaintance and journalist. I have been pretty busy working in our native bush and my local food fascination sometime slides a little to the sidelines. Today I started making contacts about wanting to re-boost our local food stories and featuring local food cooks to inspire others. The above journalist thought I had heard about her complaint- one of a well known cafe, who served her some floury browning pears and apples when ordering a fruit salad.

I always mention that 97% of our (fresh) food is from more than 3000 kms away. I need to get some more startling and well backed up statistics to back up the importance of connecting with climate and getting into local food, but lets just say a f***ing load (like truck and truck and train loads comes from a very long way away, and when those trains come off the rails, the shelves of the stupid markets are empty (yes you know the duopoly market I am talking about) and you may go very hungry and even eat your cyclone kit or suck green ants. I am trying to get some solid stats on this from government departments.

As I have written about before, I do market tours and gently inspire people to slip some sweet leaf in the salad or carve up some cassava for a curry- these are incredibly easily grown, but a little unfamiliar, but tropical fruit – what could you not like about it, and why not embrace it. The commitment to initially planting  a fruit tree, where a lot of the classic sweet fruit grows from, is a little more than a herb box, but in the long run the maintenance is less and you probably end up with a lovely shade tree or some screening from your neighbours.

I get confused when our Tropical fruit is called “Exotic fruit” because lets face it an apple is exotic to Darwin right? Well I would be blown away to see one growing, but for many people it won’t cross their mind, because they stick to what they know and often that is a temperate up bringing.

Fruit platter

And lets get this straight too, before someone makes a comment, any vessel holding the seeds of a plant is fruit, so that means, eggplants, beans, gourds, pumpkins and so on, but in this instance we are talking sweet, generally juicy fruits, which often, but not always grow on trees and can be popped into a salad…(OK geeky plant paragraph over)

So guys get those damn long distance “Exotic fruits”, that are a little bit old from the journey out of your mind and lets  appreciate the amazing array of local FRESH (sweet tree) fruit.

Here is just a snap shot of some lovely local fruit, some familiar, some maybe not, in no particular order, but chosen as they can be added to a yummy fruit salad or desert.

MAngosteens1)- The Mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana. (Guttiferae)

From a tree growing 4- 6 m which takes a long time to fruit, making it kind of pricey. It fruits in or at the end of the dry season.

I put this at number one, because it seems to be a favourite of many and called “Queen of fruits”, but wow, so sweet. It is a tree fruit with a very purple outer thick skin and the most sweet white juicy segment of flesh and is fairly difficult to grow- well it takes a long time for fruit mature. It is a beautiful tree too. They seem to be in season at the end of our dry season in September.

star apple2) The Star Apple, Chrysophyllum cainito (Sapotaceae)

The fruit of a large tree (which can reach 20m), originally from the Caribbean. A sweet juicy almost milky fruit with a sweet taste and very slightly fibrous inside and found in purple and green blush varieties.

pawpaw3) Pawpaw, Carica papaya (CARICACEAE) is probably one of the most well known Tropical fruits, it is hardly a tree and more of a herb as it is not truly a woody trunk. Probably originally from Mexico or Central America this is so easy to grow and fruits within a few months of growing from seed. The plants are either male or female and you need both flowering in an area to get female plants to produce fruit. You can buy tissue cultured bisexual plants that have male and female flowers together. Make sure they are in full sun or they will grow very tall towards it!

The fruit can come in red (more like dark orange) and yellow- a yellow/ orange variety. Many people say the red is sweeter and tastier, I think this definitely seems so. I love ripe pawpaw with a squeeze of lime and not too ripe, sometimes if it is too ripe and not a great variety it reminds me a little of vomit, but otherwise I LOVE it and grow many as an easy crop. When green they can be used like a veggie, with a clear firm taste and roasted, added to soups or grated in a classic green pawpaw salad. The ripe dried seeds can be used as a spicy pepper like condiment.

Rambu blog 24) The Rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum  SAPINDACEAE

From a tree that is potentially huge (up to 20 m tall)  and produces fruit for up to 50 years. This can be grown well in the Darwin rural area, I think the cooler nights help away from the sea. I have managed not grow one (yes I killed it) and have not seen many near the coast but could be wrong. It originates from the lowlands of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Often seen at the markets throughout the wet season (probably not the best tree for a small garden) These fascinating rubbery coated hairy monster fruit are fantastic in salads and can be made into syrups for drinks or put with seafood or chicken in a number of delicious meddles of Asian flavours with salty, sweet, spicy and fragrant herbs.

 

longan long5) Longan, Dimocarpus longan, SAPINDACEAE

The longan can get fairly big (15m) and its fruits are sold in the local markets in Rapid Creek and beyond around January, in the mid wet season, but I have read they fruit twice a year elsewhere, originating in China.

They are fairly similar to the texture and flavour of Rambutan and less tasty than the cooler loving lychee, but are quite thin on flesh. Best sucked of their shiny stone and eaten like that, they can also be peeled, pipped and popped into salads or fancy drinks- like soda, lime, Thai Basil and Longan or cocktails.

Sapodilla table6) Sapodilla, Mailkara zapota, SAPOTACEAE

Grown from a medium tree originating in Central America the Sapodilla fruits a few times a year, and is seen sold in abundance in the mid wet season. It has a taste of caramel, sweet and juicy and can be added to the old classic fruit salad, sucked from the skin or baked into fabulous deserts (including some great raw tarts) and can be made into ice cream and juice. The sap of this tree is the original source of chewing gum!

We are lucky to grow these fruit in the Darwin region as they often do not transport very well and so are not often sold on a grand scale out of growing regions.

 

IMG_05537) Guava, Psidium guajava  MYRTACEAE

A small to medium tree from the Tropical Americas, that has a distinct taste, almost medicinal and a bright pink or greeny inside, with many varieties. It is high in vitamin C, A, iron and potassium and fruit all year, but I have seem them mainly for sale in the dry season.  They can be eaten just as they are o made into drinks, jams and in salad or savoury dishes.

Their bark can be used as a dye!

Jack stool sml8) Jackfruit, Atrocarpus heterophyllus. MORACEAE

Its claim to fame is it is the largest tree fruit in the world! Yes often as large as a very large several month old human baby, these fruit are massive. They cling to the trunk and inner branches of the tree. I have planted one and it fruited within 2- 3 years and prolifically fruits all year. When ripe the fruit has a sweet hum and you have to get in quick before the birds and mammals grab their chance.

The fruit are pulled from the pith in their yellowy amazingness and eaten like chewy sweet bubble gum (that is kind of their flavour). Inside this ripe fruit is an amazing seed that sits loosely in the yellow nose like envelope and can be boiled and roasted and made into crazily yummy and creamy roasted nut snacks, dips or pestos. At the markets you can find the fruit and seeds separated for you, probably by someone more skillfull than yourself and popped into seperate containers. If you do dissect this fruit yourself, be warned of the sticky white sap and cover yourself and your knife in oil so it does not stick to you!

If the fruit is picked small it can be made into savoury dishes and has a chicken like texture to be skilfully added into curries and Asian salads.

 

Pineapple colse yello9) Pineapple, Ananas comosus , BROMELIACEAE

What tropical salad would not be complete without pineapple ?

This amazing fruit is not from a tree, but a bromeliad, a spiky ground level or epiphytic plant that collects water and other nutritious supplements in its leaves. This may sound obvious, but until I moved to the Tropics when I was 18 (18 years ago now) I thought pineapples grew on trees, and had mainly eaten them from cans. What a delight that we can grow them quite easily and on neglect. They don’t need heaps of water and fruit mid wet season. They take about 2 years to fruit from a top cutting and one from a pup- so not especially space saving for volume of fruit per area as they also enjoy full sun. The fruit is famously sharp, sweet and juicy all at once.

 

Passionfruit step
10) Passionfruit, Passiflora edulis, PASSIFLORACEAE

Now how could you not have a truly tropical fruit salad without passionfruit on top?

Originally from Paraguay passionfruit is found growing all over the world in many varieties. It is a vine and as well as having a sweet delicious fruit it also has an very beautiful flower. The pulpy seeds inside can be incorporated into all kinds of sauces for sweets, drinks or scooped out just like that.

In Darwin they fruit sporadically throughout the year and need quite a lot of nutrients and full sun to set fruit.

 

watermelon
11) Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, CURCUBACEAE

Yep in the cucumber family, a vine that grows along the ground, originating from Africa and has its season here at the end of the dry season. This fruit is one of the few grown on a huge scale in large plantation fields (usually near Katherine) and then sent interstate. You can grow your own watermelons or they can be grown on a small scale in raised beds. Generally they are a watery red sweet fruit dotted with a few black seeds inside a giant green ball. I have seen yellow varieties too!. To know if the watermelon is ready you can tap the outside and hear a more hollow sound, too ripe and they become powdery. Incredible in fruit salads, drinks and eaten in chunky slices with drips down the chin and bear chest on a build up afternoon.

Pamplemoues12) Pomello, Citrus grandis, RUTACEAE

A giant sweet grapefruit with origins in Indonesia and immensely popular in Pacific Islands. Breaks open the pithy segments and pull the sea creature like tentacle which are sweet sacs of citrus. Fabulous in seafood salads, sweet and sour fruit salads or any fruit salad really. IN the photo above the pomelo is on the left, they can be pink or yellowy and have a huge pith. On the right is a pink grapefruit rather than a pomelo. There are many fantastic citrus to be grown in the Darwin area, lemonade fruit, various slimes and lemons. The main season for citrus variety is the early dry season in May.

Star fruit13) Starfruit, Averrhoa carambola

Native to South East Asia these have got to be one of my favourite fruit, and as well as being very tasty they look stunning in a fruit salad, getting their name from the star shape they take when sliced. Oh you can them into very pretty arrangements and they are so sweet and tasty with a crispy crunchy and juicy taste when ripe. They can be used just less than ripe in a great variety of savoury dishes.  The medium tree (5- 8 m) is stunning with tiny pink flowers and weeping branches, which fruits throughout the year in the Darwin region. Some varieties taste better than others and often it is hard to stop little insects  getting inside them.

You can make great wine and drinks from them too.

Rose apple14) Rose apple, Syzygium samarangense  MYRTACEAE

Last but not least this little perfumed powdery number, one of my favourites. In the Lilly Pilly family, but from Asia, apparently Java. There are a few types of fruit called “Rose Apple” and all Syzygiums. These are another fruit that don’t travel too well, so better fresh and probably not seen taken too far from where they are grown. They grow from an attractive medium sized tree.

Diced with a squeeze of lime they give a fragrant taste and a hint of coulour to any salad. You can eat the middle of the fruit, just under the bell is a little harder than the rest of the fruit and can be cut off, they also add a crunch and slight sweetness to savoury salads. If you don’t want to grow a tree yourself they are sold at markets at the end of the dry season and I think they fruit throughout the year.

If you want to buy fruit trees the best place is Tropiculture Darwin run by the incredibly knowledgeable and long time fruit grower Chris Nathaniel. 

Tropiculture
110 Horne Rd, Bees Creek NT 0822
Chris is open on Saturday mornings
My favourite Tropical Fruit book is Tropical Fruit by Desmond Tate (available online published in Singapore) It has wonderful illustrations. 
Tropical fruit
I also have a few fantastic books I collected in the Pacific Islands,  from Tahiti and Vanuatu, including-
Fruits de Tahiti et ses isles
and Fruits of Oceana
I hope you get to enjoy a local Tropical salad soon!

 

Top Ten of The Top End Bush Tuckers (plant based)

Just now it is an amazing time to be out and about in our native landscapes, which I have been doing over the last few weeks, with work and bushwalking. Our native plants are incredible and many are flowering after the last rains. Sadly I did not take my good camera walking, but nearer town I have and I have been spotting some wonderful flowers and fruits and watching the spear grass change telling us that the seasons were turning.

I have been trying more bush tucker and experimenting with it, as it seems to bridge my interests of the native landscapes and yummy local food. There are lots of bush tucker products in Australia, like the famous Tasmanian mountain pepper and salt bush, often used as fancy seasonings, but few come from the Top End, probably as most of the market (and research) is in more populous areas. Many of these fruits and plant parts are still collected on country by traditional owners when they are in season.

Once again the Kakadu plum or Billy Goat plum are loading their trees in the woodland, the spear grass has seeded and has been knocked down.

As  I pondered all the fruits, I felt I would like to give a list of what I think are the Top ten plants as bush tucker (that I have tried) in the Top End.

There are many edible native fruits and flowers that have some form of nutrition and won’t kill you, but a lot taste pretty bad. There are some amazing ones, loved by native animals including birds, mammals and humans. I have given the list in order of (my) preference, but you can get into the bush and try for yourselves!

PS. All the photos are taken by me in either the Darwin region or Arnhem land, except for the one of me (taken by my partner) and indigenous words are taken from CSIRO / TRACKS calendars and Plants of the Tiwi / Jawoyn Plants books.

1) Green plum  (Buchanania Obovata)- Anarcardaceae

 This fruit could be argued to be one of the tastiest bush fruits that we have in the top end. It is a medium tree with smaller rounder fruit than the Kakadu plum (Terminalia) but also found in the woodland. Its leaves are large round and obovate, but variable- they are thinner over in Eastern Arnhem Land and fatter nearer Darwin.

The fruit ripen around October and are ready through until December, they have a really distinct taste and are in the Mango family. It is known as Yankumwani in Tiwi, Elu in Malak malak, Kerewey in Matngala, Munydjutj in Yolngu. The Yongul often use a stone to crush the fruit into a paste to feed to older and younger people with less teeth. Last year we took the GULP project to look into the potential of this great fruit on a homeland in East Arnhem Land.

Mundtj in hands

Mundtj on tree

2) Kakadu Plum (Terminalia ferndinanadiana) – Combertaceae

This is also known as Kakadu plum or Gubinge or Billy Goat plum and various indigenous names inlcuding Nghul Nghul, Murunga, Marnybi and Manmohpan. The fruits of this tree reportedly are the highest natural source of vitamin C. The fruits are often made into powder and sold for large amounts at health food stores! We are lucky enough that right now this common tree is fruiting in our back yard. It is a slender tree (up to 25m) found in savanna woodland, our most common landscape type across Northern Australia.

The fruit are found on the trees at the beginning of our dry season (April- May) and are small, about 1 cm long, oval with narrower ends and light green in colour. The fruit are quite sour and ready when they are soft to touch.

The fruit can be added to smoothies, made into jam or relish and sauce or pickles, the skin is a little astringent.  There are a wonderful indicator of seasonal change!

While out bush doing work I have found quite a few fruit, just about to be ripe. I have also planted a tree on my “Native nature strip” but it is not yet mature enough to fruit. If you would like to plant one, you can either grow a tree from seed or buy them at a native plant nursery.

plums in hand 2

Terminalia on tree

3) Red bush apple (Syzygium suborbiculare)- Myrtaceae

This beautiful fruit is found in the bush in the build up season, Syzygium suborbiculare or Red Bush Apple in English, Bemburrtyak In Malak Malak, Gorokkorokkin in Waigaman, Mindilima in Larrakia, Migemininy in Nauiya and Jaruk in Jawoyn. This fruit comes from a pretty plant that is in the mid layer of open woodland and starts of with shiny oval leaves and red petioles. It only fruits at this time of year, but is found across the whole of northern Australia and will catch your eye if you are in the bush, either on the ground or hanging on the tree. It’s a splash of colour amongst the fresh new green growth that is making the rather humidly warm but wonderful woodland landscape look delicious right now. And like many common English names for bush tucker “Bush Apple” makes a comparison to a temperate fruit- but is in the Myrtaceae family, like all our Eucalypts, Paperbarks etc.

 Syzygium genus are a whole bunch of plants often called ‘Lilly Pilly’ and are found all over Australia and Asia and have edible fruit. It only vaguely resembles red of some apple varieties and there the similarity ends. (For your information the cooler loving apple is in the Rosaceae family!) As the fruit is from a small tree, you can pick it from the branches and eat it straight away- the seed is large and only a few mils of flesh is on the outside, which has a fluffy texture on the inner side and a crunchy texture on the outer side with ha tangy flavour, not too unlike a rosella, maybe with a hint of bitterness. Apparently there is a pink variation on Tiwi which is sweeter. It can be made into a great salad.  

A handful of Larini

red bush apple on tree

4) Bush Apricot (Meiogyne cylindricarpa.)- Annonaceae

This native rainforest plant is usually found in monsoon rainforest and riverine margins in the Top End and Western Australian tropics. The plant itself is a pretty specimen, enjoying part shade, part sun and loves water all year around, reflected by its natural habitat as a lower story rainforest plant and growing to just over 2 meters. It has a sporadic distribution, with plants being found near fresh water and most of its distribution being in Central and East Arnhem Land.

This plant makes a great ornamental specimen, having quite a symmetrical branch formation with glossy opposite small elliptical leaves and the intriguing looking fruit forms sporadically throughout the year. The fruit is one of the tastiest bush tucker fruits I have tasted with a long cylindrical orange to red seed pod containing a sweet fleshy inner and several small round seeds. I have personally only eaten fruit from plants in cultivation, which some people have in their gardens in the Darwin region.

The skin of the seed pod and the fleshy inner can be eaten and the taste is said to be similar to an apricot. This can be eaten off the tree, or made into salad dressings or relish, as shown below and enjoyed with local banana cake, made by Grusha.

The fruit for certain would sustain bats, birds and small mammals and would probably also have an indigenous history, but I cannot find an language names for the fruit.

meiyogyne hand

IMG_9099

5)) Native Peanut Tree (Sterculia quadrifida)- Sterculiaceae

Peanut Tree– Sterculia quadrifida in the family Malvaceae also known as the peanut tree, is a small tree from 5- 10 m with pretty leaves and very striking deep orange dry oval fruit which split to reveal black seeds. The tree is commonly found in our open woodland in the Top End. It is these seeds which are edible. The seeds really do taste like peanuts- hence the name. The seeds can be eaten raw and there is a little bit of dry papery skin around them which you don’t need to eat. In the Darwin region the fruit seems to ripen during the dry season and into the build up. The tree is known as Dundil in the Larakia language and Malikini in Tiwi.

The tree is found across the whole top of northern Australia and in Timor and Papua New Guinea.

Peanut tree table 2

Peanut tree

6) Cluster Fig (Ficus racemosa)– Moraceae

Cluster Fig- Ficus racemosa is a striking tree found along rivers and in coastal monsoon vine thicket. It grows up to 20m and often has multiple branches usually stemming from quite low down. The fruit ripen to an orange colour, from green and grow all along the trees branches in clusters.

The fruit is called Ali in Malak Malak, Warwi in Matngala and has always been eaten by indigenous people.

This is probably the best of all our Top End native figs. It still has a fluffy non-descript taste, with a hint of sweetness. I got an idea from a book to make a sugar syrup and slightly coat them in it and this made them pretty interesting.

If you are in Darwin and not in the bush there is a big planting of these in a park in Karama.

Ficus fruit

cluster fig close

7) Wild grape (Ampeloccssis acetosa)- Vitaceae

This vine shoots up as the wet season starts and is commonly found not only in the Darwin region but across a few parts of northern Australia, including Cape York.

Now don’t get too excited it is not a really fat grape like the commercially grown wine varieties, but it is a wonderful plant that is often prolific in areas of our Savannah woodland that has small edible juicy grape fruit that is ripe now (and is from March to May ish) and yes it really is a grape cousin,  in the grape family (Vitaceae).

It has, like all our native plants been named first in indigenous language including Turukwanga (Tiwi) and Makorlkorl (Jawoyn)

I have been advised that you should not eat the skin, as it is bitter. The fruit grows in bunches and ripens from green to black and has a juicy sweet taste, with a  little hot or bitter after taste but is perfectly harmless. I have read that Jawoyn people rubbed the fruit first in sand to get rid of the cheeky after taste; I did not try this but I presume you then brush off the sand to avoid a gritty crust! The little grapes each have about three seeds in.

Wild grape green Wild grape on plant

8) Cocky Apple (Planchonia careya)- Lecythidaceae

The Cocky Apple, also known as Wulngum (Malak Malak), Pindaylany (Matngala), Mangal or Pamkujji (Jawoyn) has a botanical name of Planchonia careya is in the family Lecythidaceae. It is a common understory plant found in our beautiful savannah or open woodland landscapes. It is a calendar plant and only fruits once a year- which is  as the first rains start (October/ November) and that bright green flush goes through the bush; it fruits over a couple of months, from the build up or Dalirgang in Larrakia seasons and then into the rainy season.). It is a very pretty tree and the flowers are also very attractive, large fleshy pink and white with numerous stamens. And if you would like some technical details- The tree grows to be between 4 -10 m tall and has smooth broadly ovate leaves that often are a reddish colour when newly developing- they are smaller leaves than the green plum (Buchanania obavata) or Kakadu plum (Termnalia ferdinandiana)

Planchonia 5

Planchonia long

9) Milky plum (Persoonia falcatta)- Proteaceae

This is a common and beautiful small tree/ large shrub with long falcate leaves, that almost look like an acacia and pretty yellow flowers. It is known as jimijinga in Tiwi, This plant is found in the woodland and the fruit is ripe at the start of the wet season and through to Christmas time. The fruit are small and very round, juicy and pretty tasty and would probably make great preserves.

perssonia in a bowl 3

persoonia tree 3

10) Fern Leaf Grevillea- Grevillea pteridifolia is a beautiful small tree that loves sandy soil and wet areas in the Darwin region. It flowers in the late dry season and early wet season nearer the coast and flowers a bit more sporadically more inland. The beautiful orangey flowers fill with nectar that attract many birds, like rainbow lorikeets, that almost get drunk on the nectar. When the flowers glisten with nectar they are also pretty delicious to humans and are often sucked on by children, like a bush lolly. The nectar is  sweet and fragrant with a malty flavour and the whole flower can be dropped into water to make a cordial. It can also be steeped in hot water to more effectively release the sweet juices and make a honey like juice/ tea that other local herbs could be added to.

Grevillea jar

IMG_6567

Grevillea suck

Bitter bite into a sweet dish

So tomorrow I am doing my second only market tour of Rapid Creek markets, for those not familiar with the produce…

One of the produce always asked about is the Bitter gourd/ bitter melon.

I have yet to perfect this into a dish everyone likes, but I have transformed this curious fruit into a few things I think are yummy. First up here are some facts-

bittermelon2

  • Also known as bitter cucumber, bitter gourd or balsam pear this fruit is in the cucumber family
  • This plant originates from South East Asia where it is still eaten the most in China, Thailand and India. It is also found in cuisine in the Pacific Islands and Africa.
  • The Bitter melon is the fruit of a climbing vine
  • It is eaten green, but when ripe it is turns bright orange in its outer flesh and inside has bright red seeds
  • It grows all year and loves water
  • bittermelon seeds

How to grow

  • Bitter melon is easily grown from seed. Fruits will develop 6 weeks after planting. The vine can go wild. The fruit has to ripen and then produces bright red fleshy seeds. Wash off the flesh!
  • It needs a trellis to climb up and likes a full sun position.
  • Fertilise with organic fertiliser occasionally

When to plant them/ grow them

  • These can be planted all year round, but loves humid conditions (wet season) especially.

bittermelon noodles

How to eat them

  • The fruit is eaten when 5- 10 cm long when pale green in colour.
  • When younger the fruit can be boiled and served as a green veggie, when old the bitterness increases; this can be reduced by salting and squeezing out excess moisture.
  • Bitter gourds are popular stir-fried (particularly with egg) – Chinese and Thai style, but they are also stuffed and baked, often with pork mince. Indian cuisine stuffs the gourds with spicy tomato and veggies.

Sapodilla in season

SapodillaDelicious Sapodillas are ready and available at the Rapid Creek, and probably other local food markets.

Sapodilla, or Manilkara zapota, is a small brown rough skinned fruit resembling a (soft) small potato. It has a rich sugary malt like flavour and is from the Americas. It is grown in the Darwin region.

I have now put up this recipe, in the recipe section, which came from Erin, at our last workshop- it is a raw dessert with coconut cream and oil and is delicious…

Raw food seems to be all the rage, so here is a truly yummy recipe with a special locally grown fruit. I am sure you could also experiment with Black Sapote (a totally different species of yummy goopy fruit) and other fruits that catch your fancy with a similar texture.

Raw Sapadillo tart 2

Ingredients

For the filling

 2 cups sapodilla flesh
¼ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
3-4 banana flesh
¼ cup coconut nectar (optional)

For the base

 ½ cups coconut meat
2 cup activated raw almonds
(soaked in filtered water overnight)
1 tbsp. Organic Honey
1 tbsp Almond butter
¼ cup Organic Virgin Coconut oil
1 pinch of Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

The base

  • Place the base ingredients into the food processor and blitz until well combined.
  • Using a flan tin, scoop out the mixture into the tin and press firmly until the mixture is tightly packed. Place into the fridge to set.

The filling

  • Make sure all the seeds and skin is removed form the fruits, place all ingredient into a blender or food processor and puree until no lumps are present.
  • Pour the mixture onto the base and pop it in the freezer until set.
  • Dust with cocoa powder and serve.

Download recipe here- Raw Sapadilla dessert recipe.

Toad legs- the new delicacy in feral food?

toads in a heapIn the past the GULP team have discussed the various contents of the cook book that will emerge from this wonderful community based local food project.  We would like to set the book out to be produce focused and look at the ingredients that we grow, then from this the recipes are written, and include a ‘star rating’ of how local the recipe is overall. The subject that has arisen a lot, is if we should include meat. Aside from the fact a couple of the team are veggie, semi- veggie, we want the book to appeal to all tastes and reaslise and a lot of people do want to eat meat. The problem is at the moment in the Top End there is no abattoir and the Brahmin cattle that are run in the bush are  (sadly) live exported overseas.

 Many people keep chickens and we would like to include how you can kill and eat these. Many people catch fish and wonderful local fish and seafood is available, so we would love to include this and what ‘sustainable’ seafood is. From here though the two other sources of meat are wild hunted and road kill- unintentionally killed animals, native or not that can make good tucker. In the Territory and Top End there are many feral animals, buffalo, pigs, even goats and donkeys further towards Mataranka- all fair game for hunting and eating (OK- so you need permits, heck out the land you are on etc. but you get the drift). One feral animal that is often overlooked as something to end up on your plate is the cane toad.

Cane toads,  (Rhinella marina) formerly Bufo marinus, are native to South America and were introduced to Australia as another awesome idea at the time, but now disastrous for our biodiversity, introduced by Australian Government in 1935. The department of Sugar Experiment stations  was responsible, trying to keep the cane beetle under control in Queensland. Unfortunately these unfortunately ugly beasties went feral, covering the whole of Queensland by 1980 and reaching the NT in 1984 in South Kakadu, they made it to Darwin by 2004. There are reports that they are spreading further and further and studies show they are more numerous than ever before dispite various programs to stop their spreading and breeding and have just made it over the WA border. These ugly fellas parotid gland produces milky toxic secretion or poison that is dangerous to many species (bufotoxin) and kill other native species such as Northern Quolls, goannas, frogs and snakes. They outcompete other frogs and reptiles and are pretty detrimental to a lot of native animals.

So these guys are pretty easily disliked, adding to that is the fact they are dam ugly too, maybe it is their reputation that adds to the ugliness. People swerve to run over them, get them with spades, you name it, it’s kind of iconic or  ironic (especially in Queensland apparently)

Anyway friends of GULP live further from Darwin, outside Adelaide River and have always been keen on experimenting with the cooking of road kill, including snakes and wallabies and also had an interest in the use of these ugly toads as food.

 

Every year, at a wonderful ‘Fire Party’ social gathering that involves fire management- an early burn off in selected areas to protect later more intense fire, much great food is prepared and is often a bit of a focus. It is great to share food with friends. This year it was encouraged that meaty road kill or feral animals were prepared.Amongst the amazing dishes prepared were buffalo and wallaby stews and an array of toad dishes.

 

There are just so many cane toads it is mind boggling, but they are also surprisingly easy to catch. The most humane way reported is to catch them by the back legs and whip them into a dark airtight canoe bag and freeze them, you don’t want to stress them out, so after you have a few (they only have little legs) pop them in the freezer. After sufficiently frozen thaw these guys out. With a meat clever or sharp knife, cut off their legs.

toad leg cutting Because of the fact these creatures contain poison in their back (and skin) you want to skin them and avoid the upper body. Apparently the more stressed, the more the poison is dispersed, so give them the most calm end possible! Anyway we discarded the body and put it in a hot compost- great blood and bone! Then we skinned the legs- which is really easy.

leg skin one

Several recipes had been made with the GULP team, I tried marinating them in soy, garlic, ginger and chili. marinating legsAfter a couple of hours (in the fridge) I sautéed them in sesame oil and served them with heaps of local (Vietnamese coriander) and random salad greens, including sweet leaf and rosella leaves.

legs on plate

Other recipes include –

 

Salad of toad legs with Kang Kung and galangal (Cole)

8 toad legs with skins removed
4-5 knuckles of galangal, finely chopped
3 leaves of Thai coriander, finley chopped
2 large handfuls of kang kung, washed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
Splash of soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season

Method

Heat sesame seed oil in a wok on a medium heat.
Fry toad legs for a couple minutes, add galangal and coriander, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes stirring continuously.
Add kang kung and mix with plash of soy sauce until stems cooked.

 

Serve as an entre for 2 people or meal for 1.

Canapés of toad legs in garlic butter (Rod)

8 toad legs with skins removed

2 table spoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh baguette sliced
Garlic chives, finely chopped

Method

Melt butter in a heavy based sauce pan and fry garlic until soften
Add toad legs and cook in butter until tender
Lightly toast the baguette
Serve two toad legs on a piece of baguette, drizzled with garlic butter and garnished with chives.

mmm on a platter

 

So guys, don’t just get out there and swerve for them or shovel these guys, if you are going to try some pest management, you might as well get some protein from this unwanted visitor. Just remember, allow them to have a quick death and treat them well, it isn’t their fault they were bought here!  Secondly don’t poison yourselves, be very careful with skins and dispose of the body in a closed compost bin, away from other animals.

la cane toad

Oh and what do they taste like- well a bit like gamey chicken.

 

Disclaimer- GULP and members of, take no responsibility for people licking toads, these are cooking suggestions and we are just sharing our story. If you try, well that’s up to you!

Cane toad licking

12 and a half ways to crack an egg (dish)

I am not sure if this is slightly inspired by Easter and conversations and traditions arising about eggs, but I have had the urge to share the wonderful things you can do with eggs. I personally did not grow up with egg traditions (or religion) at Easter, beyond hunting for chocolate eggs. My interpretation of these happenings is that in the northern hemisphere Easter and Spring coincide and Paegan or general celebrations of new beginnings entangled themselves with the story of Jesus, feasts, some rabbits and chocolate. Well whatever you believe, I believe it is always good to get together and share food- and that’s what we did! So back to eggs-

A bowl of eggsIt is so good to keep chickens and with some love, a good house, some perches , you can have protein converted from your veggie scraps and some extra grain and some furry friends that you know are treated well. I have written all about suburb chooks here- ..

There are no official commercial egg producers in the Darwin region (The Berry Spring Eggs are only packed there!) So they journey a long way if you don’t find a backyard grower or orchard producer. Greenie has eggs that work in a system fertilising his lime orchard, and you can do the same integrating poultry and fruit production !.

IMG_2536 Because we have 12 and a half chooks (one is bantam), of all colours and none are too old to lay, we get about 5-6 eggs a day (they produce less as they get older) and along with a lot of (not so local) grains and a hint of cheese and kangaroo, this is our main source of protein. So in honour of our 12 and a half chooks, I have come up with 12 and a half of the most simple and delicious ways to use an egg or two and I found a great stash of photos illustrating all of these-

 

1)   Boiled and then steeped in tea

Egg art feb- for webBoiled eggs go a really long way, but how about cracking then gently and then re- boiling them in tea and leaving them to cool and steep in the tea. This has amazing effect, adds a little tea hint to the eggs and is fun (and a little fiddly) These are known as Chinese Tea Eggs

 

2)   Boiled and then curried

Curried eggs 2There are so many variations of this, but one the best ways is with fresh chilies, ginger, garlic, sugar and tomatoes.

3)   Boiled and then added to awesome salads and sandwhiches

egg in wrapHow about this wrap- home made flat bread, and seasonal (this was dry season) roast veggies, like pumpkin tomatoes, heaps of herbs and a dash of spring onion- oh yeah!

 

4)   Boiled and then pickled

Pickled eggs best smThis is actually a huge tradition in the UK, where in every good traditional pub there and fish and chip shop there is a jar of pickled eggs. In the pub you have them in a bag of crisps (chips) with your pint. I love them and when we first got our chooks and had less dogs to share our eggs with we would pickle the excess. You can toast up pickling spices (star anise, pepper corns, all spice, cumin and coriander seeds) and then add to apple cider vinegar to be really flash. Put the cooled boiled eggs in , in a preserving jar and leave. The flavours and vinegar seep through to perfect pickling perfection after about 4 weeks. I was under the impression that pickled eggs could be pickled forever, but in Darwin where that noted ‘cool dry place’ is often hard to find I think 6 months could be the maximum for pickling. When I worked at Alawa Primary the students and I pickled eggs and then forgot them, a couple of years later, they had gone past their best and king of dissolved. Having said all this I highly recommend this amazing snack.

5)   Fried

fried eggWho can resist a fried egg, especially on a Sunday morning. My localizing suggestions are to add local garden greens, like Amaranth, cosmos leaf, Basil and many more depending on season. I have had home made baked beans made with Jackfruit seeds in tomato sauce, but these are not the ones in the picture and yes this fried egg has a funny form, it is fried just not too an oily crisp! Don’t forget the cup of tea- garden tea if you fancy.
 6) Poached

poached egg 2The more healthy option over frying, use vinegar or lime juice in the water and twirl it into a little vortex so that the egg stays together, it only takes a couple of minutes in boiling water until cooked enough and still retaining the dripping yolk. Don’t forget the garden greens and a splash of olive oil, lime juice and or soy sauce, chilli is also a great topping.

  And in the later dry season, with local tomatoes, garden basil and olive oil!

poached egg and tom on toast

6.5) Poached with hollandaise, served on splat- chat sweet potato

hollandaise 2This is one of my favourite decadent breakfasts. And below is a dish I served on Christmas day- a great day for a fancy breakfast, with champagne (must explain the slightly dodgy photo) Hollandaise is basically butter melted in a pan and then added to whisked egg yolks, which are whisked while being heated over the stove, then when it all becomes really thick and fluffy, lemon juice is added, along with pepper and salt. Its all very rich and involved heaps of eggs. The whites can then be used for meringues, or even Jon’s favourite- Whisky sours (a cocktail with egg whites, whisky and lemon!) which happened this day, as it was Christmas.

hollandaise christmasI used to make this dish all the time and serve the eggs on what is known as ‘Chat potatoes’ – Boiled potatoes, smashed or squashed flat, so some of the middle splats out, in an oven tray with olive oil, slat and herbs and then roasted. This is then the base for the eggs and topped with sauce. WE cannot of course grow potatoes, so our local root of choice for this is sweet potato. I got small (orange) ones and did the same and it was delicious and sweeter and yummier (but not quite as crispy) as with potatoes and I served it on wet season salad greens, including cosmos. You can also use steamed local spinaches (Ceylon, Brazilian etc) which is also fabulous and has some fancy name like “eggs Florentine’ but of course this is a sweet potato Tropical twist, so we need a new name, like eggs Darwinese…

7)   Scrambled eggs

scrambled eggsOk, so before we get into anything too fancy, the old classic, whisk all eggs in a bowl, and pour into a pan, move around, turn off while still not quite soild (in colour) and they will finish themselves off. The best local twist on this is to add heaps of home made garden basil pesto and herbs- yum!

8)   Frittatas

local food week frittataFrittata, possibly also known as Spanish omlete, and with a pastry bottom known as quiche. Basically eggy slice type thing, with yummy veggies. These can be made in the pan or oven. Fry, saute, roat or all the bits that go in (eg onion, spinach, pumpkin, eggplant, etc. Then iin the pan add in eggs whisked with milk and spices, add cheese if you wish and finish off in the grill, or pop the whole thing in the oven (in a baking dish) after pre sauteing all the ingredients. Alternatively grated veg can go in raw and will cook much faster because they are smaller.

Frittata warm 9)   Egg in Soup

Egg and loofa soup

Asian styley- add into clear broths, whisked first and allow to cook in soup, like this egg and loofa soup that the Burmese ladies taught us to cook through My Sister’s Kitchen and the GULP project.

10)  Asian omelette – thinly sliced

asian noodle saladEgg in stir-fry dishes or noodle salads. Whisk eggs with tamari and rice wine vinegar and cook thin simple Asian Omelettes, slice thin and add to stir-fries, noodle soups and even add to Sushi or rice paper rolls.

Rice Paper rolls

 11) Omelette

pesto omlete landsc 2Pretty much anything can go in omelettes, whisked eggs, in a pan over pre sautéed filling. Allow to cook through and then fold in half or roll. Below is a very simple pesto omelette with feta. Other fillings can be feta and spinach, roasted veg etc.

 12)  Crepes/ Pancakes

The simple crepeA batter of eggs, flour and milk is made, in different consistencies make crepes or pancakes- crepes poured thin, pancakes fat- sweet or savory! Your perfect opportunity to fill them with local fruit, below a simple crepe with Red Dhakka banana and local honey filling.

Below was an experiment for the local food challenge, using only local ingredients, so no flour. I used home made coconut milk and coconut fluff- it was quite rich but pretty good!

cocnut pancake fluff

 

12 and a half?) Don’t forget the mayo!

MayonaOk so we may have gone past 12 and a half already, but you can’t forget this classic and pretty easy to make. I am still perfecting getting this thick, but it is egg yolks, olive oil and lemon, whisk whisk whisk. Perfect with Cassava chips!