tales from urban dilettantia

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Lemons, Limes & Radio Silence

Ahem. There has certainly been radio silence around here recently.

Mostly that’s because I haven’t been doing (or thinking) anything particularly interesting lately – all of my energy has been funnelled into healing up from a surprisingly serious and mobility-impairing accident, acquiring and guzzling painkillers, recovering from surgery and job hunting. Thank you to the friends who have gone out of their way to visit, go on pharmacy runs, and cut up my food while I haven’t been able to get around!

So all, it’s been a good few months for very gentle gardening projects around the cottage if not for much else.

angrygoat and I have South African Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa) bushes at the community garden, and they’ve been prolific and delicious. The flower calyxes have been used in Australia over the past few hundred years to make jams, cordials, syrups and teas, and are particularly easy to cook with since they contain their own pectin. They’re also the same flowers you may have seen in the fancy, super-expensive champagne cocktail syrups, something I’ve found very simple and inexpensive to make at home.

Since being instructed to take long, slow walks, I’ve been also profiting (well, saving money at least) by foraging fruit, herbs and garden plants that I find along the way. I’m turning the tiny front yard of the cottage into a wild garden this spring, planting everything I’ve been able to scavenge from verges and empty lots – tiny button daisies, groundsel, wild radishes, bittercress, alyssum, dove’s foot, fumitory, wild nettles and wood sorrel. All the bulbs I’ve planted over the last couple of autumns are coming up in-between, as are tiny sprouts from the handfuls of random flower seeds I scattered a few months back. The hope is that everything will sprout up and flower in a wild tangle by the time spring arrives. (And if not, there’s always next year.)

Button Daisies in the wild garden.

The back lanes, empty lots and council verges have also provided quite a bit in the way of food. Last week I came home with an assortment of lemons, kumquats, wood sorrel, nettles and rose hips.  The kumquats are now on their way to becoming crystallised, the nettles and some of the sorrel were transformed into a delicious green soup, and the remainder of the sorrel has been dehydrated so I can use it to make infused gin later in the year. This morning further yielded a handful of tiny mandarins, and two big pomegranates. The seeds of the latter are now in a big glass jar, packed with sliced limes and raw sugar, and topped up with some of my vanilla vodka; while I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the result, I’m seeing great deliciousness in its future.

Wood sorrel, lemons, rose hips, nettles, kumquats.

And finally, a request for my friends in Perth: if you (or your family or friends) find yourself with an excess of fruit, herbs, plants or vegetables, I will happily pick them if necessary and certainly take them off your hands, rather than letting them go to waste. I’ve got a dehydrator, countless preserving recipes and access to substantial amount of freezer space, so I’ll take almost anything and will be happy to repay you with some of the final result. Lemons, oranges and vegetables are welcome of course, but I’m also interested in things you might have planted for ornamental reasons – olives, pomegranates, rose hips and kumquats for example. (Or indeed things like stinging nettles, that you may not want around at all.)

Chopped wood sorrel in a colander.