Cherry pie

A rainy day in summer means a day in the kitchen preserving fruit, and if you’re lucky enough to grow (or have access to) cherries, then cherry pie is a wonderful place to start.

But there’s plenty of other ways of preserving cherries as well. One of our regular customers Christine got us inspired with this photo of the fruits of her labour in the kitchen.

From left to right, – Rainier (white cherry) conserve, Lambert (dark cherry) conserve, Rainiers in cognac and Lambert in cognac

Aren’t they gorgeous?  It’s so satisfying to see home-grown produce prepared so beautifully—thanks for sharing Christine, they look amazing.

Feeling inspired at a time when we had a team of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) staying with us one rainy summer, we got to work on the cherries that had been set aside for home use.  We started with modest ambitions of drying some cherries, and did two batches – one in the electric dehydrator and one in the oven.

Kirsten (aka Rosie the Riveter) about to put a batch of pitted cherries in the oven to dry
We had to use the oven on this occasion, as we couldn’t use our trusty home-made solar dehydrator in the rainy weather. (Click here for instructions on how to make your own solar dehydrator.)

Next was a batch of cherries stewed with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, which we bottled (though the Americans insisted on calling it ‘canning’).

Then the baking started. Oh, my goodness – dried cherry and oatmeal cookies (so named by our American guests), two types of muffin (cherry and chocolate, and cherry, peach & coconut) and cherry and peach scones. Hmmm, so that was morning tea taken care of.

Then thoughts turned to dessert. Chef Laura got excited about making a cherry tarte tatin, which started with sugar, dotted butter and some fantastic Sam cherries in a frying pan. They simmered away until the liquid reduced to a delicious syrupy consistency.

cherry_pie

The pie dough then goes on top of the cherries…

and into the oven, and once cooked, the tarte is upturned on a plate, and eaten with creme anglaise. Oh yeah…..

For most people, that would have been enough, but we still had to have (as promised at the beginning of this blog) cherry pie. Two cherry pies, in fact. Melissa braved the elements to pick some rhubarb to make a rhubarb and cherry sauce to serve with the pies, and Kirsten and Laura got creative with some divine lattice work – note the cherry on top of one pie, and the goat on top of the other, in honour of our friends at Holy Goat cheese.

January is diet month!

Find out more about how to save money with home grown and hand made with our Fabulous Fruit Preserving online short course.

Tiny, annoying Rutherglen bugs

A couple of years ago we (and everyone else trying to grow fruit on the east coast of Australia) had a plague of these tiny bugs—have you seen them on your fruit?

They’re called Rutherglen bugs. They are tiny and a nuisance, and unfortunately there’s very little you can do about them. They’re a sapsucker, and if there are enough of them they can suck the juice out of your fruit and cause it to shrivel up.

The year we had a plague, some of our peaches had so much juice sucked out that they weren’t usable, but most were. The bugs can leave a slightly sticky residue on the fruit as well, but this washes off.

Interestingly, we’ve barely seen them since, which is often the way with ‘plagues’—they’re really just the result of an imbalance in the ecosystem that has temporarily favoured one insect over another, but they usually quickly get back into balance and numbers go back to normal (i.e., hardly , any).

Why does this happen? Mainly because they have a lot of predators, and nature tends to get these population explosions under control all by herself, as long as we have decent biodiversity in our gardens, and IF we don’t mess things up by using pesticides.

But, in the meantime, when you are experiencing an outbreak it would be nice to protect your fruit, right?

 

There’s a few things you can do:

  1. Hose the tree when it has a large swarm of bugs on it. This should discourage the bugs on the tree at the time, but if there are lots around in the garden the tree will probably be re-infested;
  2. If you have chickens or other poultry, confine them to the area around your fruit trees if possible – they will make short work of the bugs but, as above, if there are lots of bugs around, the tree may be re-infested when you
    remove the chooks;
  3. Protect the tree with a very fine net—the same sort you would use to prevent fruit fly getting to the fruit (because as you can see in the photo below, they easily get through regular size bird netting);
  4. As an absolute last resort, you can try a home-made organic spray, but be very careful if you do this, it’s easy to do more harm than good by accidentally killing the predator insects that will be eating the Rutherglen bugs, and you may just be perpetuating the problem.

So, the key message is don’t worry too much about them as there’s little you can do!

Concentrate instead on the long-term solutions for these bugs and all the other pests as well, which are (1) continuous soil improvement, and (2) continuous biodiversity improvement. In our experience if you stick to those principles, most problems like this are short term.

We go into more detail about the lifecycle, identification, prevention and treatment of Rutherglen bugs and 14 other common pests of fruit trees (including some recipes for home-made sprays) in What’s Bugging My Fruit?