Apricot bounty

4 01 2013

Just over 3 years ago I planted a range of fruit trees in my front yard.  I put in a nectarine, peach and pear, all on dwarf stock, and a full size apricot, cherry and plum.  Amazingly the nectarine and peach produced fruit from the very first summer and I continue to get around 20 mid sized fruits from both, which is pretty good.  The pear has yet to produce fruit but gets hammered by sawfly grubs which may have something to do with it.  I recently found a really good article on controlling them which has helped this year.  Check it out here.

As for the full sized trees, they’ve taken a little longer to become productive.  I got a relatively small amount of apricots and plums last year, probably a couple of kilograms from each, and until this year nothing from the cherry.  I was very pleased with a good couple of kilograms of cherries picked in early December even though the tree is still pretty small.  It has suffered from cherry aphids this year which attack the young growing parts of the tree and cause them to curl and stunt the growth.  Unfortunately I was away for many weekends over spring with volleyball and wasn’t aware of the problem until it was too late and the damage was done.  Next year I’ll be ready for them and get the upper hand early on so am hoping for some good growth and additional cropping the following year.

The plum fruited prolifically this year and it’s branches are drooping under the weight of the fruit even though it’s a couple of weeks away from being ripe.  I estimate I’ll get more than 10 kilograms this year and it has grown well each season and gaining size quickly.

So what about the apricot I hear you ask? Well a couple of days ago whilst sitting in my lounge reading a new cook book I got for Christmas (It’s called Whole Larder Love and is about a guy who decided to grow, hunt and eat his own food, very cool) I saw the tell tale signs of the apricots being ready to pick, birds! With the cherries you have to put netting on the keep the birds away because they’ll start eating them a bit before you want to pick and will strip the tree in no time flat.  With apricots however, I use the birds to tell me when to pick as they tend to only come once the fruit is soft and golden.  So I grabbed a bowl (a couple actually) and collected my bounty.


About 8 kilograms all up (not all pictured) which is not bad at all and meant I was going to need to do something with them.  I googled a few ideas and decided on chutney.  Sugar free of course.  I did a 1kg batch to see how it went and was pretty please with the result.  I amended the recipe a little for the next batch of 3kg and it was even better. So here’s how it went then with amounts for a 3kg batch…

First halve 3kg apricots and give them a good wash…DSC_0012

Then toast and grind 5 teaspoons of coriander and 3 teaspoons of cumin.  Add 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 3 teaspoons of seas salt, 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds, a heaped teaspoon of chilli powder and a piece of cassia bark (cinnamon is fine also)DSC_0022

Dice up 3 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 5-7 cm of ginger, 2 zucchini’s and a capsicumDSC_0024

Lastly add 3 cups of palm vinegar and about 1 cup of honeyDSC_0026

Put everything into a large pan and simmer for about an hour until the mixture is syrupy.  Allow to cool and put into sterilised jars, which then go into a water bath for at least 30mins (I use a tea towel in between to prevent breakages)DSC_0029

The finished product should last the whole year in the pantry but refrigerate after opening. Perfect with Indian meals but also great with a simple steak.DSC_0028

How does your weekly shop look?

7 07 2012

Today I’m issuing a challenge and one that might be harder than you think. My challenge is this. Next time you do your weekly (or fortnightly or monthly) shop, instead of putting it all away, lay it out on the bench and take a picture. Now ask yourself something. Are you happy with what it looks like?

Are you happy with how your weekly shop looks?

This is really meant to be a rhetorical challenge and it’s about having a good hard look at what you buy each week.  However, if you’re either proud of where you’re at now, or courageous enough to perhaps post a “before” photo, why not put in on Facebook?  Even better, post it to my Olliemoves page.

You see every day we make choices about what we eat, what we do and how we take care of ourselves, but because they are small decisions we often don’t realise how they add up.  My idea of laying out a weeks, or months food intake out to see is not new, it’s been done on countless diet/weight loss based reality TV shows, but it is still incredibly powerful.

Before going Paleo I used to shop at the supermarket each week and regularly got depressed by aisle after aisle of processed crap that resembles food, as well as what people rolled up to the register with.  Especially the ones with kids.  I mean it’s one thing to feed yourself nothing but “food like products”, but to raise children on that crap?  I’m tempted to take a tangent here and go on a rant about child abuse, but I won’t, cause that’s not the point of this post.  So for at least a couple of years now my weekly shop has been at the fresh food markets.   One of the things I love about the markets is that when you look around and notice what everyone else has in there trolley, they tend to have pretty healthy loads.  I guess cause there’s not much alternative but also cause they are there for the same reason, to get real food.

So the above picture is what my weekly shop looked like today.  It’s not everything I’ll consume this week because I have a pantry full of spices and a garden full of herbs and veggies, but one thing worth noting is the lack of the need for “label” reading.  I tend to work on the basis that if I need to read the label to see if something is healthy or not, it’s not really food anymore!

For the record my shop includes includes; Extra virgin olive oil, coconut water, coconut milk, fennel, pumpkin, royal gala apples, oranges, a lemon, onions, garlic, Kimchi, grape tomatoes, broccoli, parsnips, cauliflower, bok choy, eggplant, a couple of dozen eggs, red capsicum, green capsicum, carrots, bananas, pears, lebanese cucumber, zucchini, mandarins, leek, ginger, orange sweet potato, white sweet potato, kale, mushrooms, Pork belly, butter, lambs liver and bacon.

What would you feed an “orphaned” animal?

10 06 2012

Suppose one day you came across an orphaned tiger and it’s only chance of survival was for you to intervene and take care of it.  What would you feed it?  Let’s say it was already weaned and not reliant on it’s mother so it’s really just a matter of working out what a “natural” diet for a tiger is right?

I bet the answer is pretty obvious.  A tiger in the wild hunts and eats prey so providing for a tiger would mean finding raw meat, organs, bones and if possible, maybe even some live animals for it to capture and kill.

What about if the orphaned animal was a deer?  Again most people would think about what a deer might eat in a natural setting and realise that they need pasture, grasses and open space.  It’s not exactly rocket science and you could repeat this process for virtually any animal you could think of.

So why is it that when humans think about food we don’t follow the same logic?  Why don’t we think about what a human animal would eat in a natural setting and then feed that to ourselves?  Is it because it’s not available any more?  Is it because it’s hard or costly to find?  Or is it because we simply don’t see ourselves as a biological animal because we have somehow evolved past the need to be biologically sound?  I blame religion for a lot of our dietary problems 🙂

The fact is that humans have evolved to be opportunistic omnivores.  We can eat both plants and animals and in a natural setting would take advantage of pretty much any situation we came across.  Pigs, chickens, goats, rats and humans, we’re all great at eating pretty much any available food on offer.  Yet somehow we’ve become removed from this natural and instinctive pattern and an ever saddening proportion of the worlds population only eat food that comes out of a package.  Most people now days will cringe at the thought of eating liver, hearts or brains, but will gladly scoff down something wrapped in colour despite it being produced in a chemical factory.  I am truly saddened by the knowledge that many people have never, ever, picked fruit off a tree, or harvested vegetables from where they grow let alone caught and slaughtered their own meat.

Getting back to a “natural” human diet isn’t really that hard and just takes a bit of conscious thought and nature can be a great teacher here too.

My loves of omelettes means I go through a lot of eggs, around 6 a day, and so I have chickens in my back yard.  My chickens have a healthy appetite for a whole range of plants and animals in my garden including a love for weeds and plants.  They will literally strip bare a whole range of weeds and plants over the course of normal feeding.  Every now and then however I let them into the front yard where they normally cannot roam. Here there are stacks of the very same weeds and plants that they greedily strip in the back yard every day, yet the run straight past them.  Why?  Because they are looking for meat!  The opportunity of fresh hunting grounds means that there are all sorts of bugs, grubs and insects available to them so vegetable matter is of little interest.  They’ll do the same when presented with kitchen scraps in that they will eat kale, spinach and lettuce before even looking at other lowly items like tomatoes, carrot or fruit.  It’s literally like they have a priority list inside their head that will not let them eat a “lower” order food if there is a “higher” order one on offer.

Ironically it’s this very same food “order” that is at the heart (pun intended) of the obesity epidemic and the cause of so much of the worlds health problems.  For generations now we’ve been force fed the food pyramid claiming that whole grains and cereals are the primary food we should be seeking, followed by fruits and vegetables, then moderate amounts of meat, seafood and nuts, and only very small amounts of fats.  What complete and utter bullshit!

Any animal worth a pinch of instinctive advantage knowns that when you make a kill you fill up on the fattiest, most nutrient rich parts of an animal first and only eat the rest if you can.  In fact Grizzly bears, one of the largest animals in the world and one with only a limited feeding season hunt salmon but only eat the skin and eggs and discard the rest because it will only fill them up and not provide enough nutrients.  Our food order needs to be drastically re-callobrated to ensure that we are eating bone marrow, organs and fat as much or even more than lean meat.  I like to think of it this way.  In a survival situation, would I only slice off the rump of an animal and throw the rest away?  Well aren’t I in a survival situation every day?

Now there is an element of balance needed in the modern world because food is so easy to come by now.  If we only ate the top of the food order foods we wouldn’t eat anything but that now, and that’s not natural.  In a natural setting we wouldn’t make a kill every day so we would also eat fruits and vegetables, in fact tubers and salads would make up a huge proportion of our natural diet as this is what would be readily available.  Accordingly we need to ensure that we are getting a good balance of nutrient dense food and natural staples to ensure a more realistic and natural diet.  Seasonal eating supports this well.

So next time your thinking about what you “should” be eating.  Ask yourself this.  If I was to find an orphaned (weaned) human, what would I feed it?