In My Kitchen. February 2021

As often is the case, my February kitchen post will look a little like a tour of the orchard, as this month is most fructiferous. This abundance is due to a few factors: the orchard is now mature and is producing far more fruit than we can ever use, the garden has finally developed its own microclimate, and most importantly, we have experienced an unusually high rainfall in our locale, the second highest in our 40 years of record keeping. The birds are not so interested in the fruit crops- ripe nectarines have fallen to the ground: no cockatoo or parrot gives them a second glance. The rabbits, the most destructive creatures during years of drought, are not interested in ring barking, and the grass is still green in the paddocks. We now have 64 fruit trees, which includes two nut trees and 10 olive trees. Much of that fruit travels through my kitchen between January and April. Some is left on an outside table for friends and family to help themselves. This season is a rarity, and in these times of the pandemic, where we go in and out of lockdown (another one was announced today in Melbourne), this glut is a blessing. I sometimes feel like Anna Frith, as she roams through orchards of unpicked fruit in that extraordinary novel, Year of Wonders, set in 1665 during the plague in Eyam, England. ¹

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20210206_071741_816-1.jpg Apples ripen in waves, with heritage apples producing in different months. I was mulling over the word ‘heritage’ this morning as I stood in the early morning rain taking photos of my Rome Beauty apples. Has ‘heritage’ become the new wank word of the fruit and vegetable kingdom, just as artisan, bespoke and atelier became overused in the last decade? I’ve become a little suspicious of the word ‘curate’ too, overused as it is in the shallow lands of the advertiser. But here I am with lots of old style apples, so I guess the word ‘heritage’ may stay.

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The pears are nearly ready to pick with only two varieties coming in- the Beurre bosc (a great keeper) and Clapps (a poor keeper). The latter will be be used the moment it’s picked, in pear clafoutis, pear and almond torta ( my handy recipe here), or gently poached in saffron and wine.

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The tomato glut is easier to handle. Three kilos will make a wonderful rich soup ( my recipe here) and another kilo or so lands in a gazpacho. After that, they are sauced, or eaten on toast. I’m happy to have too many.

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Tomatoes and Pimientos de Padron, Galician peppers, good for tapas and grown near Santiago de Compostela. It has taken me years to get these going and they are now very happy in my microclimate. Best picked while young and green, around 5 cms long, they are then scorched in olive oil in a pan and sprinkled with flaked salt.

I feel like a child again when I enter the dark world of the quince tree, the heavy hidden fruit inviting me to dream, not so much of the kitchen but of Renaissance painters of fruit. But it’s not their turn yet….

Thanks Sherry for indulging me in my fruit fantasies, The fruits do get cooked in my kitchen but my photos of them hanging about in their wondrous world, waiting to be picked, looked a lot more interesting than my plates of food. Go to Sherry’s Pickings for more kitcheny things this month.


¹ Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, 2001.

26 thoughts on “In My Kitchen. February 2021”

  1. So much beauty in those fruits, Francesca. Such self-sustainability does require a big investment in time, doesn’t it but the food you eat must be such a reward. I’m looking forward to autumn and less heat and humidity. Powdery mildew and the insects become very frustrating – most of what we plant for this time of the year struggles but the things that self-sow do very well, so I guess it’s the volunteer plants that would fall into the category of ‘heritage’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that term, volunteer plants. They often do much better as they’ve adapted to very local conditions. The heritage apples and pears we grow are rare and many were popular centuries ago. Their fruits can’t be bought commercially. They taste wonderful.

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    1. Hi Pamela, this soup serves around 8 generously and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. The intense flavour of summer comes from using fresh tomatoes so I tend to only make this one in summer. Yes, you can used canned tomatoes but it won’t have the same zing.

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    1. I think we’ll be ok this summer, thanks to the moisture in the trees and ground. We had over 1000 mm of rain in 2020( over 40 inches) which is a lot for our part of the world. Good to hear such positive news coming from USA now. You must be feeling more secure.

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  2. This was such a beautiful post, Francesca. We are slowly heading to spring here, so I am excited about the tiny leaves on branches and the little swells on my roses, which I cut back this afternoon. All those overused words…..and ‘local’…which doesn’t mean as close to home as I think it should. But still I buy. Have to support my local farmers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes,’ local’ has had a big resurgence as a word lately. It’s good to support local businesses but the word gets stretched as little and begins to lose its meaning. I’ll add that to my annoying word list.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a delight to see the end result of all your hard work ! Not only in quantity but delightful quality ! The ever practical me just wonders whether some could not be turned into extra dollars and cents for the days one can safely travel past one’s front gate ? Have forgotten – can you turn the olives you produce into oil ? Ten maturing trees should produce a fair amount of the best possible . . . ? Hoping for a brief lockdown for you . . . how can anyone foresee some of the problems which may arise . . . ? best . . .

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    1. The olives are still young at around 8 years old. The birds do knock off quite a few along the way, usually they start this annoying habit in late march. Test one, spit out, peck another, throw on ground. We net all the fruit trees but not the olives, as we’re usually worn out by olive time in April. I do cure all that I pick.
      Fortunately I don’t need to indulge in commerce these days. Just more work.
      Strange times we live in but thankful for strong leadership in our State.

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  4. Your photos are beautiful and luscious. I would love to have some fruit right off the tree here and now, but we have snow all around us, and a long time until even a few early green shoots appear. Have a wonderful month of harvesting your bounty!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  5. Am aghast at the totally unfair flak Dan Andrews is copping ! Ignorance ? Stupidity ? And the tennis players were invited here . . . now they are at fault also . . . Meanwhile love your description of the goings on in your olive orchard . . . . methinks some energy has to be saved for the netting next year 🙂 !

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  6. As well, your IMK posts net me great book recommendations… I’ve added Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks to my list. I would love to grow more fruit but as I can eat very little there doesn’t seem much point. I do love that heritage plants are saving us in some way from an avalanche of generic produce. Most anything home grown tastes better than store bought. I love the photos… so real and evocative of la dolce vita

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    1. I think you’ll enjoy Year of Wonders. It’s a remarkable book and some years ago, was studied by VCE students, and consequently it often turns up in op shops for a song. If you’re familiar with the Eyam’s village story, that’s the setting and the characters are taken from those historic records. It stands out as one of my favourite reads of all time.
      Thanks for your encouraging comments regarding the photos. My love/hate affair with blogging may be over thanks to a new chair.

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  7. it’s a pleasure to see all your produce francesca. how marvellous to pick your own:) I read that book many moons ago; i remember it being fabulous. good luck during lockdown! take care and thanks for joining in IMK.
    cheers
    sherry

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  8. I am loving the stone fruit at the moment. Plums in particular. It is such a shame to hear of crops that can’t get picked because of labour shortages. You have me musing on the word ‘heritage’. Maybe it is a necessary word to use to alert people to the dangers of GMO foods and seeds that can’t reproduce and to remind us there is a world of produce beyond that presented to us in the supermarket.
    I love your photos too, especially the quince. It is like a Caravaggio painting.

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    1. Thanks Anne, yes, I agree we need to use the heritage word to distinguish our free seeds from those hybridised seeds made by chemical companies. I was beginning to notice though that the word has become a marketing tool, like that word, artisan. But I am such a cynic. During lockdown I became obsessed with french linen sheets, and longed to buy some, ( was the linen really french and did it matter?) Until I noticed the same company began marketing some novels, ‘carefully curated’ to place beside the bed. That was it for the bed linen and that company. Instantly cured my lust.
      The fruit glut and the picking scene here in Australia is such a shame, all that fruit wasted and left to rot. The industry needs an overhaul. There was a huge shortage of labour in Florence after the plague, due to death primarily. This led to an improvement in worker’s conditions. Here, the labour shortage is not based on an absence of people, but poor working conditions. Maybe this industry needs more government support, which is often handed out to other farmers in difficult times.
      Thanks for the high praise re the quince pic. Coming from an artist, with such an eye for light in nature, I value your Caravaggio comment.

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  9. Your wonderful photos have inspired me to get out in our garden with my dusty camera! I won’t talk about my tomatoes or peaches 🙂 Wow 64 fruit trees! How is the preserving going? If you want any plum recipes I’m the girl! Hugs xx

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    1. I need a few more extra plum recipes and I need Bill too. I hope he’s well and safe. Some of those 64 trees are mini self seeded peaches, but I’m nurturing them hoping for some cling peaches. My camera is dusty too, I’m a phone camera convert. Happy picking my friend. Xx

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