It’s amazing what you can find to eat in a suburban winter garden.
We have a rare fruit tree expert that works at the nursery on Saturdays. His name is Dennis, and here are a few snaps of his winter suburban garden in Melbourne.
The first stop was the amazing Tamarillo tree down the side of his house in what seems like a really shady spot. It literally has over 100 ripe tamarillo in vibrant red. What a ripper !
Walking back I spotted this beautifully espaliered persimmon tree. This type of growing makes great use of limited space.
right next to that was a big bushy macadamia nut tree. It was laden with fruit which Dennis said were a few months away from ripening. Definately something to look forward to. Not all nuts you buy are fresh, but these ones will be.
Dennis has quite a small house block, but has learnt how to grow many plants in pots. He manages to fill in all the spaces. What was this next plant ? I had no idea. I think it is a vanilla bean plant, but will check with Dennis. I can however imagine him making a batch of vanilla bean ice cream. Vanilla is the second most valuable spice after saffron. UPDATE: Message from Dennis – They are not Vanilla Beans but Carob beans, seedling Carob trees are male or female but grafted trees of “Clifford” have both so will crop well at an early age. Beans mature to perfection in Melbourne in summer.
OK, so there was some “normal” edibles like these lettuce growing from seeds and ready to transplant. This mixed non-heading lettuce can be grown all year round in Melbourne, but if you grow icebergs, make sure you choose the winter varieties for growing now.
Round to the front garden and here is some kaffir lime. These ugly looking fruit make great juice and of course the leaves are used extensively in Thai cooking. Both the leaf and the zest of the rind is used.
Back to the more unusual, I see a babaco, which is a type of paw paw that you can grow in Melbourne. Next to it is a fairly inconspicuous green fruit which turns out to be a black sapote or chocolate pudding fruit as that is what the middle of the fruit is like. It is actually a type of persimmon native to the Americas.
Of course a visit would not be complete if we didn’t have a little snack once back inside. But first there was something new to learn. you can keep your mango tree inside over winter and it will grow quite happily. What a wonderful idea. I have seen a cafe do this with arabica coffee plants, but never anyone do it with a mango.
We first tried a pepino which looks a bit like an apple cucumber but tastes more like a melon. It is actually more closely related to the tomato and eggplant family (Solanum). I liked it. It is apparently hard to transport, so you will never taste one as good as this if you ever see it in a fruit shop.
Next was a persimmon. Not sure where Dennis got this from as it seemed totally out of season. It still tasted good though. UPDATE from Dennis: The Persimmon was off the espaliered tree and of the “Fuyu” variety. Great choice as it is Non-Astringent so can be eaten crisp like an apple or left to go soft like an Astringent variety.
To sum up, it is always a joy to pop in and see Dennis’ garden if I am ever in the area. He has a wealth of knowledge, including that gained from when he lived in New Zealand, which is probably an even more challenging environment to grow some of these plants in than Melbourne. Dennis will be ordering some more of the sub-tropical plants for the nursery once it warms up a bit. Now is not a good time to be planting some of these as young plants. You need to nurture and condition them to our cooler climate.
Come and have a chat to Dennis on most Saturdays, down at Gardenworld.
This last photo sums up his garden – a very efficient use of space !