Millions of Peaches

Millions of peaches, peaches for me, millions of peaches, peaches for free.......

Hearkening back to my not-so-reckless youth, this song lyric by "The Presidents" seemed aptly fitting this autumn. Our tree, upon receiving death threats for its  previous lack of fruitfulness, fronted up with 44 kilograms of delicious golden queen peaches, and that kept us very busy (hey, even Jesus cursed a fruitless tree, read Mark 11 v 12-14), The humid weather was threatening their loss the moment they were ripe, so we preempted the microbes with a ridiculous amount of stewing and freezing - our freezer is now well stashed with dessert-sized servings of peachy goodness stored in plastic clipseal bags. On one particular evening we had four sauce pans simmering away on the stove, and then emptied, refilled and repeated the process to do eight in the night!

One days pick from the peach tree (and a big night of processing ahead)!

This was also the first year I made a concerted effort to grow capsicums properly. Dedicated beds, transplanting out three month old, individually potted seedlings (started inside in the winter), fertiliser,  plentiful compost, and a mulch of pea straw. They took a while, with the first pickings in mid-February, but they are so useful over the summer months being tossed into salads or chargrilled on the barbeque. And we are still picking the last of them in June, so they completely outdid our tomatoes and beans for length of season. I for one am a convert to capsicums, and they will be added to the list of essential summer vegetables I grow every year.

The first capsicums "Dulce Espana" 

With a smallish backyard, I have also been snooping around the neighbourhood, foraging foods on public land. From our kitchen window you can get a glimpse of Hamlins Hill, a large lump of sandstone that protrudes above the houses and industrial estates, and which, thankfully, has remained as a reminder of our suburb's rural past. Hedgerows of historic hawthorn trees cut across the hilltops, and this autumn they glowed red with a heavy crop of fruit. Using trusty Google to find a use for them I experimented with hawthorn jelly - the labour for volume return wasn't favourable, but the flavour was pleasant and quite unique.

Hawthorn berries from Hamlins Hill (Mutukaroa Regional Park).

Boiled then strained using the traditional Martin family method (stocking and an upside down barstool!)

Hawthorn Jelly: the final product (after mixing 50:50 with sugar and simmering for 10 minutes). A great accompaniment to game meats.

Continuing the cost benefit analysis of the garden, the summer months have been very productive. Combined, during March, April, and May, the garden produced $486 worth of fruit and vegetables, after costs were considered (detailed breakdown below). And I don't think this is a particularly extraordinary year - our tomato and bean crops were poor due to excessive rain and humidity, and these are often, by value, the mainstay of our summer garden. Peaches were the highest value crop for March, followed by basil (the half- kilo harvest of basil leaves was used to make a years supply of basil pesto, also stored in the freezer). Capsicums, mesclun, and herbs were the big producers of April and May.  So for the 10 months calculated so far (August - May) the garden has produced, at Countdown prices, $1178 worth of produce (or an average of $3.80 per day). I was expecting about $800 for an entire year, so have rather underestimated the cost benefits of our forty square metres of dirt!

Entirely home-grown salad: lettuce, mesclun, cucumber, capsicum, yellow tomato (an heirloom French variety called Garden Peach), alfalfa sprouts, chick-pea sprouts.

However, even at $3.80 per day (or $117 per month) I forsee the intangible benefits as even greater. Gardening for me is therapy from a stressful day, my kids are growing up learning how to grow food, and knowing where at least some of their food comes from, and I appreciate inclement weather like rain and frosts (I am awaiting the first frosts to signal the start of the parsnip season). So while I have well and truly demonstrated that gardening is great in lean economic times, I suspect I would do it even if it came at a financial cost.

So if you don't have a garden, or if you think your lawn doesnt need to be as big as it is, why not start thinking about feeding your soul and your stomach? The ground is soft and its a great time of year to start.

Till next time,


March 2012
produce weight kg/# packs  retail value
alfalfa 3.00 2.15 6.45
beans 0.50 9.99 4.99
beetroot 0.24 3.99 0.94
raspberries/boysenberries 0.00 41.50 0.00
capsicum green 10.00 1.79 17.90
capsicum red 13.00 1.47 19.11
courgette 1.05 4.99 5.23
lemon grass 1.00 3.98 3.98
mesclun 4.00 3.50 14.00
kaffir lime 1.00 2.99 2.99
spring onion 1.00 1.79 1.79
apples 1.54 1.99 3.07
peaches 41.40 3.99 165.20
rosemary 1.00 2.99 2.99
silverbeet 2.00 2.79 5.58
strawberries 0.00 11.00 0.00
basil 0.52 99.50 51.24
cucumber 4.00 1.29 5.16
tomatoes 2.15 3.98 8.57
garlic 0.00 22.98 0.00
lime 9.00
celery plants 1.39
water 5.00
seeds 14.00
benefit minus costs 289.79

April 2012
produce weight kg/# packs  retail value
alfalfa 1.00 2.15 2.15
beans 0.07 9.99 0.66
beetroot 0.55 3.99 2.19
lemon 0.13 3.98 0.51
capsicum green 13.00 1.79 23.27
capsicum red 7.00 1.47 10.29
courgette 0.30 4.99 1.52
parsley 1.00 2.99 2.99
mesclun 5.00 3.50 17.50
kaffir lime 1.00 2.99 2.99
spring onion 0.25 1.79 0.45
apples 1.91 1.99 3.81
peaches 3.11 3.99 12.40
rosemary 1.00 2.99 2.99
sage 1.00 2.99 2.99
silverbeet 1.00 2.79 2.79
thyme 2.00 2.99 5.98
basil 2.00 2.99 5.98
oregano 1.00 2.99 2.99
tomatoes 0.29 3.98 1.13
bay leaves 1.00 2.99 2.99
water 5.00
seeds 8.97
benefit minus costs 94.60

May 2012
produce weight kg/# packs  retail value
alfalfa 2.00 2.15 4.30
rhubarb 0.62 6.99 4.32
beetroot 0.20 3.99 0.80
capsicum green 4.00 3.99 15.96
capsicum red 5.00 3.99 19.95
courgette 0.40 10.98 4.40
mesclun 4.00 4.15 16.60
kaffir lime 2.00 2.99 5.98
apples 2.44 3.48 8.50
rosemary 1.00 2.99 2.99
sage 1.00 2.99 2.99
silverbeet 3.00 2.99 8.97
thyme 1.00 2.99 2.99
basil 1.00 2.99 2.99
Costs 0.00
benefit minus costs 101.74