Pedal to the Produce- a tour of Rapid Creek Markets and community Gardens- Next Sunday

Pedal to produce. Join me (Taste of the Top end) and Mark from Darwin Bike tours on a scenic loop of 3 community gardens and 2 Sunday markets and a bit of seascape on this Sunday with tastes and talks along the way; meet some producers at Rapid Creek Market and end with a drink at Pour cafe. 3.5 hrs. Bikes are available to borrow if you don’t have one.

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Supported by City of Darwin and all for $25. More info at weblink in bio or here and Book here https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/pedal-to-produce-rapid-creek-markets-tickets-37171067664?aff=es2 

 

 

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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!

 

Market Tour and Taste

For the last year or so I have run some occasional Market tours through “Healthy Darwin”, which is a City of Darwin, council program that subsidises the tour. We came up with the idea to connect people to their food more, by connecting them to local growers and familiarising them with the sometimes more ‘unusual’ local produce and I take participants for a tour of Darwin’s largest local produce market, “Rapid Creek Markets” and then onto the nearest community garden- “Jingili Community Garden”, just across the creek.

I take up to 15 Darwin residents on a produce experience, from garden, to market, to taste or vice a versa. Many of the people who come along have lived in Darwin for a long time and even go to the market, but wonder what some the items are and would love to know how to use them. Often the stall holders are understandably too busy to explain more than ‘stirfry’ or similar. Most growers have small farms in the rural area outside Darwin, in Humpty Doo, Virginia, Howard Springs and Bees Creek, and drive in for the Sunday market. Not everything is local, so it is good to know what is in season and all stall holders will tell you straight up where the produce came from, if it sprayed and so on…

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The idea of the tour is to familiarise people a little more with the local produce sold at the market, to explain  the uses of the different produce and how it is grown, and to meet some of the growers and hear their stories. It is so valuable to connect people to the produce they consume, know who grows it, how it grows and even inspire people that to grow a little yourself is not that hard.

After many years visiting the markets I have built up a pretty good relationship with a lot of the stall holders, who are often very busy and work really hard, so we try not get in their way too much and I am always appreciative of any of them who can spend a couple of minutes with us.

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After a walk through the markets we then take a chilled walk to the nearby Jingili community gardens to see some of the produce growing, the participants can find out how to get involved in local community gardens, or just get inspired to grow a few things at home.

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We then sit in the workshop area and taste some of the items, that either I have brought along, or those on the the tour have selected and bought with some their returned “tour fee” – a kind of show and tell. We try these raw or lightly cooked on a simple camp stove set up I bring along with some basic ingredients.  I give ideas about how to use produce to the create delicious dishes and hopefully the tools to take way to experiment with the plant parts (ok, the veggies and fruit).

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We are looking to do a few more tours and maybe one that starts at the market and moves on to different gardens around the Northern Suburbs. If you are interested, get in touch and I can put you on the communications list.

I am always too busy to take photos, these shots are  kindly taken by  Lina of Malak Market place, who came on a market tour last year, we hope to work with her at Malak Market next year. Thanks also to Healthy Darwin for subsidising the tour!

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More Mango madness

mango on treeMangoes, so sweet and wonderful- the most abundant fruit right now, in markets, veggie shops, road sides and on your trees! MAny of course are grown to be shipped interstate, but we can make the most of enjoying them freight free. Now going for $2.50- $3.00 a kilo or $25 a box, so if you don’t have a friend with a mango tree, or orchard, fear not they are affordable and in some places just falling to the ground, some people in the rural area will let you pick fruit for a small fee, r trade, so ask around. Some commercial growers can use a lot of spray, so just ask about how they are farmed and pick those using minimal sprays or fertilisers to help our natural environment (and your health).

MangoesAbove Mim from Rapid Creek Markets shows off a great pair of mangoes grown in Darwin River, below are just some of the locally grown varieties available (can you name them?) mango leafSo you can of course just cut the cheeks off, by cutting down the sides of the stone and then score this into cubes, then fold the skin inside out and eat the mango from the skin.  If you are freezing or blending mangoes into daiquiris or just wonderful non alcoholic smoothies, then you can scoop out the cheek with a large metal spoon.

cut mangoOn Friday night at The Mulch Pit’s “Eat Local Feed Global” campaign Louise made a lovely mango salad with lime, toasted coconut, mint macadamias and walnuts- it was delicious.

Below is a green mango salad made with very similar ingredients to a pawpaw salad – finely sliced mango, chilli, lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce and palm sugar with heaps of Thai basil.

raw mango

The above green mango salad is great if you fancy a mango delight which is a bit less sweet, green mango can also just be enjoyed cut into pieces with a salty sweet dipping sauce or paste, this is really popular in South and Central America! The best variety for this is a sour Thai mango. (see below)sour mangoThe salad below, can be made at the start of mango season when a few cucumbers can be harvested too, add chilli, lime, mint and fresh coconut.mango smallerI try and enjoy a mango every couple of days while there in season and freeze as much as possible in takeaway boxes in our little freezers for the rest of the year to make mainly smoothies and sorbets…. mmmm mmmangoes!

What the Fruit?- Sour Gooseberries!

 I came across these little fruits at Rapid Creek Market last week, and if there is anything I have never seen before (which is now less and less likely) I always get it and give it a try. This fruit is really sour and although I had ideas of making a pickle or jam, time ran away and most of them were still in the fruit bowl this Sunday- It is Sour Gooseberry, Phyllanthus acidius.

Sour gooseberry

I went back to the stall and Moy who grows this tree at her place in Humpty Doo had made some sweet and Indian style pickles to sell to show what you could do- I tried both and bought the Indian one and it is pretty good- the only down side is that each little fruit has a stone in, which slightly alters the eating experience of it. I did a bit more research and found its origin is unknown, but may have come from South America, but it is now found commonly in South, Central and North America and Asia. It is a medium tree to 9m, and as most trees likes full sun and plenty of water and not to dry out.

sour gooseberry pickleIn India it is used in Ayeverdic medicine and as a liver cleanser, blood purifier and to prolong life in all kinds of ways and improve brain function- Wow I should have bought 5 trays and start growing a forest of it! It has a high content of vitamin C and can be made into syrup to take as medicine! I imagine it is easily grown from seed. OK that’s it- curious fruit of the week mystery solved!