Monday, March 9, 2015

Great Chestnut Expedition: 28th March

‘Switch off the light and support Aussie food and farming’

Come and be part of this important day, and show your support for Slow Food Blue Mountains, locally-grown – and Earth Hour Day!  There are three elements to this chestnut-inspired day, and you can choose to be involved with one – or all three!
1.  EXPEDITION TO KOOKOOTONGA CHESTNUT/WALNUT FARM, 247 Mt Irvine Road, Mount Irvine, to collect chestnuts.  A sublime experience! You can choose to meet us there  at 11 am (look for our sign) or be part of a car-pool, meeting in Katoomba at 10 am. (Email  if you wish to car pool, for further details.)
       ‘ Kookootonga’ is one of the original farms at Mt Irvine in the Blue Mountains and has been owned by the Scrivener family since 1897.  The first chestnuts and walnuts were planted over 100 years ago.  The majority of the orchard was created by Bill and Ruth Scrivener (the current owners) from the 1950s.  Find out more  about  Kookootonga, including directions at

If you wish, return to a  ‘secret location’ in Katoomba to help cook, peel and then freeze chestnuts – and taste a few as well as you work!  (Later, these processed chestnuts will be turned into CHESTNUT PATE  and CHESTNUT CAKE  by two local small businesses for Slow Food Blue Mountains and sold  at our Slow Food stall,  during  the Leura Harvest Festival on 3 May, 2015.)

Sitting at communal tables festooned with chestnut leaves, we’ll turn out the lights at 8.30 and savour the delights of hot roasted chestnuts and chestnut chocolate fondue  by candelight! Be quick!  Numbers strictly-limited for this.  Cost:  $25 per person/$20 Slow Food members.  Bookings Essential:  E 0423109270.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Blue Mountains Seasonal Review

Seasonal Notes

It's good to take stock and make notes every season. Fruit and Nut Network members Kris and Marnie share their experiences from different places.

...From the Mid Mountains 

by Kris Newton

My summer raspberries are really getting into their stride, and I’m picking a bowlful every few days; I’m enjoying Jonathan and Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, with the majority of varieties yet to come; and my main crop of figs is starting up (the early, breba, crop of Black Genoa was amazing!).
Unfortunately, the almost sub-tropical environment in the mid- to lower-Mountains is also encouraging all sorts of fungal growths, like black-spot;  I need to make time to get out with the milk spray and get into my fruit trees (and my tomatoes and roses).    

So far so good in my experimental greenhouse - there’s more vegetative growth than anything else, which I’d expect in young trees;  but I do still have one mango left on the little dwarf mango tree, so I’m hoping to try harvesting this soon :-).  

I’ve moved most of my expanded citrus section into large pots, and now have a 'Citrus Annexe' under the eaves (to protect from any frost) along the long north-facing wall of the house.  All have put on significant new growth, and the older (2-3 years) ones are flowering well. the Upper Mountains

by Marnie O'Mara

Summer is the season of plenty here in the mountains.  Our garden has provided us with an abundance of produce over the past few months - we've eaten our fill, shared with friends, swapped for things we don't grow but others do, frozen, dehydrated and bottled enough to get us through the less productive Winter.

At a recent Kitchen Garden Produce Swap we swapped some cucumbers for a large quantity of crab apples. I know lots of people have these in their gardens and think they aren't the most useful of fruits. We brought home about two kilos of crab apples from the swap as we wanted to make enough pectin to see us through the next berry-jamming season. We also used them to make two batches of fabulous fizz, one lot paired with rhubarb. The result was delicious - thirst quenching and not too sweet.

Our three apple trees are very sensible - they pretty much stagger the ripening of their fruit so that when one is finished the next begins (actually, my very practical hubby carefully chose which trees to plant with this in mind). This means we have been able to pick apples every day during January and February - and today, the first day of Autumn, we still have lots of apple days ahead.

This year we have also have a bumper crop of grapes! This is the vine's third season - last year we had a few good sized bunches, and this year there are masses of huge purple/black bunches of beautiful, juicy grapes. I see the birds eyeing them off, longing to get stuck into the fruit, however our garden cage keeps the birds out and our precious bounty safe.

Surveying our garden this morning I see that we'll soon be picking kiwi fruit and cape gooseberries.

Have seasonal notes for the lower mountains or elsewhere in the mountains? We'd love to hear from you! More news from the Fruit and Nut Tree Network.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Great Strawberry Jam without Pectin?

Strawberry Jam Recipe by Marnie O'Mara


You can’t get jam to set without pectin of some kind and strawberries don’t contain this essential ingredient. Making strawberry jam get a good set is tricky, especially if you don’t want to make a mixed fruit jam or buy pectin.

In the spring newsletter we heard about soaking extra citrus pips and pith overnight to get good marmalade set. Marnie has a slightly different technique, as she explains  “I don't like to use a lot of sugar in my jams (if 1kg of fruit then only 1/2 kilo of sugar) and I don't like the flavour of lemon to take over the flavour of the fruit, so my 'trick' is to include lemon pips (saved in a container in the freezer) tied in muslin (and pounded gently once or twice) when the fruit is boiling. I prefer to let the mix bubble away for longer to reduce the liquid - a lesser bounty, but a thicker one which is has a far more concentrated fruit flavour.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Potted History of the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network

By Anitra Nelson, with updates from Anne Elliott and Kat Szuminska

It started with The Fruit and Nut Tree Register The Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network was started several years ago by Anne Elliott, as the Slow Food Fruit Tree Register. This spread to become a National Slow Food initiative. The register was designed to identify, record and preserve old varieties of fruit trees as well as the whole culture of fruit tree growing and harvesting.

Growing, harvesting, storing and cooking In 2009, Anitra Nelson, with support from Anne Elliott and others, including members of Permaculture Blue Mountains Lizzie Connor and Sue Girard, in the form of a wider network connected by an email list and blog. They designed new activities to support local residents to share knowledge and skills in growing, harvesting and storing fruit and nuts in their gardens, in community gardens and other appropriate public land. We have had a free or as-cheap-as-we-can approach to these activities, which children can often participate in.

Workshops and field trips, online and off Over the last few years we have organised a range of workshops and field trips. Our newsletter now goes out to 300 email addresses, some including groups of people and many couples. We also have had inserts in the Blue Mountains Gazette alerting people to our existence and promote single events in the Gazette the week before they happen.

Working for food Activities for 2011 began on 2 January with berry picking at Cloud Farm Community Collective (Mt Tomah). This collective was formed to preserve a massive one-acre netted food forest, which included dozens of different kinds of fruit and nut plants. The collective was ‘working for food not money’ and one of its aims was to share skills and knowledge within our local community. By year’s end it had disbanded, but was a useful experiment and provided an ongoing venue for our network’s activities while it lasted. Besides events organized by our network we promoted opportunities such as for individuals and small groups to pick figs there and to collect manure as a joint exercise. Tours with benefits of hand dug berry canes and a variety of other propagules from our very generous hosts Judith and John Chorley.

Winter Pruning
Twice in July the network pruned apple trees in McRae’s Paddock (public land). In 2012 Brian, Wayne and Sue ran a pruning workshop at the community gardens, over 50 people took part, and in 2013 Barry Jarrott ran a pruning workshop in Katoomba (pictured above). Anne also presented regular, seasonal, workshops on preserving fruit using Fowlers Vacola equipment. There is a healthy resurgence of interest in canning & bottling and these workshops are popular. Also new in 2013 Maggie facilitated a workshop with eager participants sharing their experiences on the art of dehydrating foods.

Partnering with TAFE A partnership with TAFE since 2011 has resulted in a variety of successful outreach courses. While all result in a No 9070 Statement of Attainment in Access to Work & Training, the contents have extended across a range of fruit and nut growing and harvesting activities, including: establishing fruit and nut trees in the Blue Mountains, maintaining trees and food forests, pests and diseases, nutrition, harvesting, storing, preserving and sharing fruit and nuts. They've been held at the Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens at least twice a year and range from 10 - 18 hours training altogether. Local permaculture expert Susan Girard runs the TAFE courses.

Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Trees Beginning 2012, each March/April Anne Elliott leads a group visit to Kookootonga Chestnut and Walnut Farm in Mt Irvine to collect chestnuts in season and enjoy a picnic lunch. The farm provides buckets/bags for nuts. We look forward to this annual treat. In 2014 a Sid from Lushious created a fantastic chestnut pate which was eagerly snapped up in the first couple of hours going on sale at Leura's inaugural Harvest Festival.

In 2012, Anitra travelled overseas,  and then subsequently relocated to Victoria. That's when Anne Elliott and Kat Szuminska took over responsibility for organizing and promoting activities, updating this blog and sending out the newsletter. New activities included a series on Collective Sustainability in the co-working space 2780 in Katoomba. We invited local foodies and food writers to share their recipes and local food stories and histories.

Swapping and sharing Gathering chestnuts, sharing surplus citrus fruits and fig cuttings, pruning fruit trees at Varuna (the Writers’ House), Mt Tomah and Katoomba Organic Community Gardens, holding preserving workshops, promoting swaps and trade in local fruit and nuts through our food co-operative, the foragers' network on facebook, swap tables at local permaculture and transition town events, and even dedicated swap meets. Most recently Kris organised an open day of food forests in the mid mountains. 
These are all the kinds of activities organised and promoted through the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network.

The Fruit and Nut Tree Network is Slow Food Blue Mountains initiative

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mid Mountains Open Forest Gardens Day in review

by Kris Cervelle

At the end of November, with the support of Slow Food BM, we held the inaugural  

‘Food Forest’ Open Day in the the Mid-Mountains.  

Six gardens took part (including the Mid-Mountains Community Garden) - some following ‘pure’ permaculture methodology, others following the general principles.

Between 30 to around 60 people visited each garden.  Given that it was a bright, hot day, we were very pleased with this 

turn-out, and a good time seemed to be had by all.  One of the Open Gardeners commented:

I had a steady stream of people visiting all day, and even the neighbourhood diamond python came out to show off in the morning :-).  

Even more impressive was the fact that most visitors did not simply wander quickly ‘round the gardens;  almost all were keen to get the ‘guided tour’, ask questions, find sources for materials and plants, etc.  Some were ‘yet-to-begin’ gardeners, looking for some pointers on where to start;  others were seeking inspiration for designing their productive garden or extending what they had.

Participants said:

Congratulations on the superb Food Forest Open Day in our mid mountains. Thanks and congrats to all our wonderful garden hosts.  Just brilliantly diverse gardens and so many ideas and tips to bring back home. Loved the raspberries at “Tarraleah”.

It was great to see the different approaches employed across a range of well-organised productive gardens.  I came away with many ideas to help me set up my own garden, especially around setting up raised beds, constructing soft surface paths, and protecting produce from birds and other pests.  All the display gardeners were very generous with their advice and are to be commended on their fantastic bountiful gardens.

Thank you for the first 'Food Forest’ Open Day.  It was just fabulous.  I didn't get to all the gardens, but was blown away by the productivity in each.

Since hearing about the food forest open day I had great expectations of seeing gardens of Eden and learning how to grow anything. My dreams were partly realised as, within just a few kilometres of each other, the six gardens exhibit  features of permaculture and intelligent design;  optimising climate niches, soil types and the unique character of their creators. I still don't know how to graft a plum tree, but I did score some great jam, and I know who to ask. Looking forward to next year.


There seems to be some enthusiasm for holding a ‘ Food Forest' Open Day on an annual basis. In 2015 we may focus on productive gardens in the Lower Mountains - so if you have a productive garden (or know someone else who does) around Faulconbridge/Springwood/Warrimoo way and would be interested in participating, please get in touch with Kris (;  0458 626210).  The following year, we might go to the Upper Mountains;  then perhaps back to Mid-Mountains, or to Glenbrook/Blaxland area;  so that eventually we cover the whole Mountains, and visitors can get to see the progress in the gardens on their return.


We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)