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spring-fruit

Back in June, I posted a picture of my new very beautiful Yule gift of this fruit bowl, filled with mid-winter fruit – lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, grapefruit.  Yule bowl

Now it is strawberries and pawpaws in my part of the world.  They make my very favourite breakfast smoothie.  (Maybe I lie there.  I have many favourites – custard apple and orange is a strong contender too, and our mango trees are laden with babies, so no doubt at New Year I’ll be telling you it is mango and yoghurt, or maybe mango and pomegranate).  If you are keeping calories down, paw paws and strawberries both have the added advantage of being surprisingly low.

pawpaw-and-strawberry-smoothie

And they make the best fruit salad, especially if you can find a late orange to add too.

Paw paws don’t travel well, so if you are not in a tropical or sub-tropical region, you will probably be as disappointed with any you buy as I am if I ever make the mistake of thinking I will find good apricots in northern NSW. But up here, we are in paw paw heaven this time of year.

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pawpaw and strawberries

Let me count the ways:

My kids are better than me.  What’s the good of a load of money to spend on private schools and giving your kids every advantage, if you still end up thinking you’re better than them?   “None of the plaintiffs (her children) has the requisite capacity or skill, nor the knowledge, experience, judgment or responsible work ethic to administer a trust”.  I think my kids are amazing.

I get to be a grandma.  In a few weeks my first grandchild will be born and I’m a tad overexcited.  Poor Gina doesn’t get to play with her grandkids. Doesn’t get to tell them stories and bake them cakes and take them mulberry picking and have those conversations that become immortal, even if you aren’t.

I get to be a grandma together with a grandpa, who I know doesn’t love me for my money!

I produce. I do work that I believe in, that makes the world just a tiny bit better,  another kind of immortality.

I like my odds for living longer. I have a dodgy knee and a shoulder that I broke some years ago and skin that has seen too much sun and bad genes for heart attacks, but still I like my odds a lot better.  A bit of physical work in a life is a very good thing.

I have a lot more security.  Come the zombocalypse I have a fair range of survive and thrive skills. I can grow food, build a house, cook, clean, fish, patch up wounds, kill and pluck a chook, start or put out a fire, get together with my neighbours and make a plan. There’s a lot to be said for working class experience.

I go to better parties.  I even put on better parties.  When you want to let your hair down, you want to be amongst people who accept you as you are, even when you dance like a dork.

I eat a lot better. Which is what set me off on this train of thought.  Fresh pawpaw straight off the tree and garden strawberries for breakfast, with home-made macadamia granola and yoghurt.  Pawpaw doesn’t travel at all well, and tree ripened all the way is so superb I caught myself thinking, you couldn’t buy this even if you were Gina.

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We picked the first of the season’s paw paws this morning (papaya in USA).  And Brian brought me a bucket of mulberries from their magnificent tree – the earliest around.  After months of citrus and custard apples, the berry season is here!

You don’t get to enjoy mulberries unless you have a tree (or know someone like Brian, or can find an unharvested neighbourhood tree) – one of the many fantastic foods that have never made it into our commercialised system only because they are too soft to transport and store.  Mulberries are  hugely healthy – most foods with that deep colour are rich sources of anti-oxidants, and mulberries are also a really good source of iron along with a batch of other vitamins and  minerals.

The best way to eat mulberries is to be ten years old and sitting up in the fork of the tree,  near naked to save clothes from stains, maybe with some other kids to chat with or maybe just with your thoughts, selecting the fattest purple berries to go directly from tree to mouth.  Failing that though, paw paw, strawberry, mulberry and citrus fruit salad is one of those made-in-heaven combinations.  With home made yoghurt and oat nut crumble….

Oat Nut Crumble

Get all the ingredients assembled before you start.  This cooks really quickly and is easy to burn.

Put a heavy bottomed fry pan on over a medium-high heat.

Add just 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon macadamia oil, then, as soon as they are warm and mixed,

  • 2 dessertspoons rolled oats
  • 3 dessertspoons seeds and nuts – I used one each of pepitas, sunflower seeds, and macadamias.

Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until they brown and the seeds start popping.

Best fresh made, and it only takes a minute.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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We celebrated New Year’s Eve at a barbeque with neighbours. It’s one of the things I love about living in a functioning community – socialising within walking distance.  I could go on about greenhouse footprints but really it’s enough that I can drink half a bottle of red wine and wander home in the starlight wishing happy New Year to the owlet nightjar that lives on the way!

I took kangaroo kebabs to the barbeque.  Normally I buy kangaroo fillet steak to make kebabs – it’s so cheap compared to beef fillet, and you really don’t use a lot of it in kebabs. But there was no fillet steak this time, so I bought diced kangaroo which is much tougher and usually best suited to long slow cooking.

It is the very end of the pawpaw (Carica papaya) season here.  We’ve been harvesting several every week for four months now, all from one really prolific tree.  But the bounty is almost over and the wet weather is causing them to develop a fungus disease called anthracnose if we let them completely ripen on the tree.

Which means they’re perfect for green paw paw salads and tenderising diced kangaroo. Pawpaw has an enzyme called papain which is the main ingredient in commercial meat tenderisers.  Green pawpaw has more of it but ripe pawpaw has enough to work as a marinade.

The Recipe:

An hour or two beforehand:

Soak 20 kebab skewers.

In the food processor, blend together

  • a small pawpaw (200 grams or so), thinly peeled and de-seeded
  • several cloves of garlic
  • knob fresh turmeric
  • an onion
  • a chili
  • two dessertspoons of lemon juice or some other acid – I still have Eureka lemons fruiting, but you could use verjuice if you have unripe grapes, or wine.
  • some sweetener.  I prefer treacle, but you can substitute honey or brown sugar.  Somewhere between one and two dessertspoons – more for a green pawpaw and less for a ripe one.
  • a dessertspoon of  soy sauce

Massage the marinade through 1 kilogram of diced kangaroo meat, cover, and leave it in the fridge.

Dice a small eggplant into cubes a bit bigger than the kangaroo.  Sprinkle with salt and put it in a colander.

An hour or two later:

Rinse the eggplant and squeeze out the moisture.  It will have shrunk to roughly the same size as the kangaroo cubes.  Thread the marinated meat onto skewers, alternating with eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and mushrooms.  Pour the remaining marinade over the skewers.

Cook on a hot barbeque for a few minutes each side.

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Paw paws are in season and we are picking several a week at the moment.  If you live in their climate zone and grow pawpaws, you probably also have a glut.  If you don’t, sadly this recipe won’t be for you.  Pawpaws don’t travel well and those picked green for supermarkets are not worth buying.

If you do though, pawpaws are another of those orange coloured fruits rich in carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids that are potent antioxidants and protective against a whole range of chronic diseases.  They also have fibre, folate, and a good range of minerals.  But their special power is a group of  protein-digesting enzymes including papain, that are anti-inflammatory and good for reducing allergies.

These biscuits (or cookies for US readers) easily satisfy the Muesli Bar Challenge rules:  easy enough for busy parents and even kids themselves to be bothered actually making, routinely, for daily school or work lunchboxes, not too loaded up with sugar or fat, based on real whole grains and in season produce, and robust enough to survive being bounced around in a school lunch box. Let’s see if they meet the other criteria: approved by my school age reviewers .

The Recipe:

Makes 2 dozen biscuits

Turn your oven on to heat up. Grease two biscuit (or cookie to US readers) trays.

  • Cream together
    • 4 dessertspoons of butter (100 gm)
    • 4 dessertspoons of brown sugar
  • Beat in:
    • an egg
    • 2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
    • 2 teaspoons  (or more) of ginger powder, depending on how fresh your ginger is and how gingery you like it.
  • Blend or puree half a cup of paw paw pulp and stir in.
  • Sieve together and stir in
    • 1½ cups of wholemeal plain flour
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • pinch of salt

You should end up with a dough that is sticky, but using wet hands you will be able to roll it into small balls and arrange them on a greased biscuit tray.

Using a wet fork, flatten the balls into a biscuit.  Sprinkle a pinch of raw sugar crystals on each one.

Bake in a medium hot oven for around 25 minutes until they are lightly browned.

Cool on the tray (they will crispen up as they cool).

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My current favourite breakfast – paw paw and citrus fruit salad with homemade yoghurt and toasted pepitas (and a few strawberries to top it off).  Paw paw and citrus flavours go so well together, and luckily I have the last citrus of the season – late mandarins and pomelos – still picking.

I hesitated to post this one, but I think it’s good to remember that good food doesn’t need to be complicated.  We are picking three or four paw paws a week at the moment, all from one prolific tree – and the creatures are getting one or two as well! I propagated seed from it last year, and I have half a dozen young trees ready to plant out this week.  Half of them will be male and only good for the gorgeous flowers, but half are likely to be females.

If you have only ever eaten bought paw paws, you are unlikely to really love this fruit.  It is one of the (many) crops that are totally suited to real localvores.  Too soft to transport when ripe, commercial crops are picked very green and hard and never develop the sweetness and flavour of tree ripened paw paws.

To love them, you really need to grow your own.  Paw paws are a really good garden tree in tropical, subtropical and even warmer temperate climates if you can find the right spot.  They won’t cope with frost and they need a long warm summer to bear well, but if you have a north facing fence or wall, you should be able to grow them right into southern NSW. The tree is not too large and it’s really attractive with its large green leaves, so if your front yard faces north, all the better. The roots are not too invasive and won’t dig up paths and pipes.

They’re fast growing and (relatively) short lived.  You will get your first crop within a year, but they will only live for 5 or 6 years.  If you have limited space, you can go for the bisexual varieties but if you have enough room and are willing to gamble a little on getting females, the sexed kind will bear more heavily and you can easily propagate your own from seed.  You will need one male for every half a dozen females.

Other than that, they just like good drainage, a bucket of compost or worm pee a few times a year, and enough water. Chop the tree off if it starts to get too tall, and put a can or icecream bucket over the cut end to stop the hollow trunk filling up with water and rotting. It will sprout several new trunks out the side and gain a new lease on life, at a more pickable level.

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