Herbs for Health Workshop; featuring Rosella

Another fantastic botanical addition to any garden, which also grows wild- The Rosella- fruiting now – both the fleshy red calyx that surrounds the seed pod (yep the red bits) can be used in array of teas or raw to add colours in salads, it can be dried or frozen and used fresh; the leaves are also a fabulous fresh and zingy addition to any salad;

Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Family- Malvaceae
Origins in Africa and Asia
Fruits and leaves eaten
High in Vitamins A, B and C. Contains minerals zinc, silicon, calcium, potassium and iron. Rich in selenium.
Used as an anti-oxidant and a digestive.

Rosella boardFind out more about Rosella and get some great ideas of how to incorporate it into delicious dishes at the workshop coming up

If you are interested in the Herbs for Health workshop this coming Sunday, there are just a couple of spots available–  Book by email (greenbeingnt@gmail.com)

Alawa Primary School- 2.30 pm- 6.00 pm

$20/ $10

Seasonal sides for a Festive Feast

Back by popular demand – Seasonal Sides for a festive feast; plus Gifts from the Garden.

seasonal_sides_and-gifts-from-garden-2016

Are you sweating it out in the Top End this festive season? Well come along and learn how to make the most out of local produce, growing now in gardens or in Darwin region farms and turn it into delicious seasonal sides and gifts from the garden for your festive feast…

The session will be lead by Emma Lupin of Taste of The Top End at Karama Primary School kitchen.

The session will go through delcious ingredients growing now and ideas how to use them and then you will get to prepare dishes in the workshop to share and taste. These will include healhy and tasty side salads and veggies, drinks, tasty root dishes and more. There will also be a session of creating home gifts from the garden using seasonal produce..

The cost is $20 ($15 concession)- bring this along. There are limited spaces. So book by emailing greenbeingnt@gmail.com or phone 0448 214 716

Drinks ideas and more posts about the awesome content of this workshop coming soon……

Herbs for Health and Goodness from the garden

So many people look to store bought superfoods, but we grow so many beneficial foods right here in Darwin. If you don’t grow them yourself we can connect you with where to support local growers..

Learn here how to incorporate the Top 12 into everyday cooking, teas and drinks, and learn more about their nutritional values. 

This is run by Emma of Taste of The Top End and supported by Healthy Darwin.

The 12 focus plants include- Turmeric, Ginger, Rosella leaves (and sepals), Thai Coriander, Sweet Leaf,  Amaranth, Gotu Kola, Mint, Lemongrass, Lime (leaf and fruit), Thai and Lemon Basil, Pawpaw, Snake Beans and Sweet Potato leaves (plus other seasonal fruits and veggies)

Herbs for Health in Everyday Cooking June 2016 (1)

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

The Food of Love

Wedding

What better way to celebrate love than with food; whether it is a romantic meal or a wedding, a family meal or a special feast, food brings people together and is cooked with love! Food is such a central part of every culture, and there are traditions, even if it is a family favourite or a dish kept for special occasions cooked in a certain way.

 abby and kokonda

 OK, so this (not so) little piece is not entirely set here in the Top End, but it features awesome local food, and a food story that stems from our Darwin garden and journeys elsewhere. I would like to credit the above group wedding shot and the below wedding photos which are taken by the very clever (and helpful) Sooz of Illuminating Photography (photos 1,3,4,5,6,7and 10).

kimmy and justin

All ceremonies and cultural celebrations accumulate in food and it is now a year since our good friends held an amazing wedding with amazing food, food from the heart. I have been meaning to write about it (with their full endorsement) since and what better way than on the (now belated) anniversary.

Wedding Kimmy and Justin, although living far from us here in Darwin are a couple that have very similar interests and a way of living to us, giving consideration to the environment with the food they eat and the items they consume. Justin works with native reveg. and Kimmy in sustainable living and they love circus, being creative and making things (like all the matching wedding outfits!)

Wedding

They came to Darwin for our wedding on the beach (now over 50 moons ago) and performed at the ceremony and helped prepare some of the (local and fair) food, so it was just wonderful to travel to visit them to celebrate their joining! They had their ceremony at Black Butt look out in the beautiful national park, up a winding road under a wonderful large gum tree right next to the most amazing look out in to the ranges. We then all went back down to a community built hall, called Hanging rock hall, where we were camped.

kimmy and justin

kimmy and justin We enjoyed circus shows from Kimmy and Justin’s circus group at our tables- which were decorated with the most incredible detail- all hand made decorations, circus flags and lamps, native flowers and under the stars and a string of fairy lights; organic wine from Temple Breuer vineyard, beer from the nearby Byron Bay Brewing Company and native saplings as table decorations, doubling as guest presents and great company…

night table

The party continued on into the night with dancing and merriment..

bar

 kimmy and justin Ohhhhh and the food was incredible…

So what was so special about the food? Well it was that the guests cooked it. The gift to the bride and groom was that everyone bought their favourite dish to the wedding and the guidance given- whether it was to be sweet or savoury. There were 2 amazing long tables of food, home cooked with love, all with little labels saying what each dish was. There were quiches, bowls of salad from the local community garden, lasagnes, spinach and feta pies, and an amazing array of sweets, fresh fruit….and so much more I can’t even remember.

salad by night

food line up 3

spinach pie food line up2

The food journey story…

Back in Darwin we thought about what our favourite special dish would be and hands down it is namas, kokondo, pouisson cru or whatever you care to call this awesome dish. We have grown to love this from travelling through the Pacific and into Darwin, where it is quite a favourite. We don’t eat fish that often, if everyone in the world ate it all the time our sea would be a less amazing place, so we tend o eat friend caught fish- just occasionally; and on special occasions- like weddings.

kokonda finish Usually we make kokonda with Jew fish marinated in Greenies Howard Spring limes, soak it, drain it and add it to firm but ripe pawpaw, cucumber, spring onion, coriander and maybe capsicums if they are in season and then home made coconut milk. We wanted to take a few special home made ingredients with us, so Jon made coconut milk from our back yard coconuts, put it in a jar and put it in a bag with an ice brick for our journey. We also squeezed limes from the orchard, popped that in a jar (I love jars) to take a little bit of Darwin to the table. We knew we would have a day before hand, as we were heading to the back of Nimbin in the Shannon and could track down some ingredients- luckily most of the produce involved also grows down in northern New South Wales..

We hit the coast the day before and tried to get fish from the small fishing boats- but they didn’t have any for sale.

sold oot

So we went to a small fishmonger near by at Tweed Heads and bought, I am pretty sure, Jew Fish (you need firm fish that stays together) then ate chips that we had also got, and got crazy seagulls after them too- mm good fresh real made chips- man I miss them in Darwin, but of course we have plenty of other great things to make up for it!

Sea gulls

We headed into the hills, to our home stay in the Channon and happened to drive past a small organic farm, in Uki, So we dropped in- it was perfect to find some crunchy accompaniments to our Jew fish, to chop and mix into the fresh coconut ensemble. Layla, a lovely lady working there showed us around and the small farm nestled into the underside of Mount Warning and in tunnels at the back were rows and rows of feral climbing chunky vine tomatoes.

organic guide

We walked around with the basket and picked the produce straight from the plants!

tomato picking

In the lower gardens were capsicums, cucumbers and even artichokes- it is such a magical experience being able to visit a small farm, see where your produce is being grown, be happy with the process and buy it right there. It is a small step away from growing it yourself, but sadly not as possible in Darwin, as farms bring produce to market and communications between buyer and grower are often limited (but hey we are trying to work on that!) So we got onions, capsicums, tomatoes and cucumbers.

artichoke

pyo toms

Happy that we had all the ingredients needed we headed off to our homestay, and if you are in the area this is a fantastic place to stay, permaculture principles and a warm family atmosphere- Eternity Springs Art Farm– run by Amanda.

Amanda at Eternity

Produce all around, pretty flowers and a great vibe.

Eternity

Oh yeah and the biggest Mulberry tree I have ever seen – loaded with mulberries

mulberries mulberry jam

and turned into the most mazing homemade mulberry jam for brekky

So while relaxing in the colourful surroundings we marinated the fish overnight in lime juice, topped up with fresh Eternity springs garden limes.

kokonda ingredients smile emma chops chopped stuff

We cut up all the ingredients. We usually use ripe but firm pawpaw and cucumber with spring onion at home in Darwin but chose to leave this out as we had an array of great ingredients- you can really use what you like.

food label

We then wrote and decorated a little story about the ingredients and drove through Nimbin to the organic co-op to get local coriander – if you fancy you can use Thai Basil, or Vietnamese coriander or Lemon Basil.

And that is the story of the wedding food dish. We spent the rest of our time hanging out with Kimmy and Justin drinking the left over Byron Bay beer at their gorgeous house near Mullumbimby and enjoying fresh yummy food from the garden, visiting other friends and camping around the area, which is full of produce honesty boxes, national parks, farmers and of course some hippies!

jon kokonda

kokonda in line up

Byron beer byron beer 2

growing organic kids honesty box nnsw house

Thanks guys and happy (belated) anniversary

Tasty Tomatoes

Enjoy enjoy, tomatoes are here, we have just a few in our garden, but I have seen them pumping in many other gardens, our lovely neighbours Meegan and Nung gave as a heap of them when they went away for a week. There are just so many huge zig zags  of them at Karama Primary school and Pete the Tree climber has a whole load going on. Ok so everyone knows about tomatoes, but in your own garden they are pretty special, and are only here for a few months before the humidity kicks in.

They taste 1000 times better than any trucked a long way (and picked green) They really need to be in raised beds, plenty of nutrients- some horse or cow manure or sea weed is great and this cooler weather does wonders…. Cherries and romas do especially well and renewed soil is needed each year.

Staking them or attaching to a vine is pretty necessary…and getting in quick before someone/ thing eats them

And the best way to eat them- as simple as possible

Fresh local rocket, a little parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper, mmmm

More tomato picks and recipes coming soon…….