Jam and romantic notions

I have long held on to the somewhat romantic notion of feeding my family from our garden. Of being more self sufficient. Of tuning in to the seasons. Of providing fresh, pesticide free produce with few food miles. Of noticing a difference in our food budget. Creating a cycle of adding nutrients to our soil to be taken up by plants, whose leaves, peelings and seeds will be added to the compost to break down before being added back to the soil. A cycle repeated throughout the seasons. Cycles that, combined with hard work, experience, knowledge and the will of mother nature, produce enough in the way of fruit, vegetables and herbs to eat, share and preserve. 

With each tomato harvested, each watermelon picked, each aubergine cut, each carrot pulled, each sweet potato dug, that romantic notion has become a little more of a reality. Recycled jars now house dried herbs, pickled vegetables or jam made from the gardens offerings. We acknowledge at each meal which part of it has come from our own garden, or been traded with like minded friends and neighbors. Cohen may ask, "is this tomato from the garden?" Or I will say for the one hundredth time, "Tinned beetroot has nothing on home grown pickled beets." The sense of satisfaction is difficult to explain to the uninitiated. 

Another long held dream of mine has been to grow enough strawberries to make jam. (In old Mason jars, of course.) And though I planted a dozen strawberry plants last year, and we were at times getting a punnets worth each day, the jam did not eventuate. Particularly not with a toddler who knew only too well how to pick them himself. The profusion of strawberry runners in the garden currently may make jam a more likely prospect this year, but in the meantime I have found a seemingly fail safe alternative. Rosellas. Cheap to buy - four seedlings for $4, easy to grow in Queensland - I didn't use any chemicals or fertiliser, and tart prior to cooking - which discourages little people from stealing and eating them all. Yesterday I harvested my first fruit off the three remaining shrubs (hubby pulled the fourth seedling out, thinking it was a weed:) and made jam using this recipe. And I must say, Rosellas produce a beautiful jam. It looks, smells and tastes wonderful. Sort of plum flavored and deep red. The fruit becomes soft and translucent.

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The first flush of Rosellas from my three plants

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A cup of tea and a lot of peeling - removing the calyx from the seed

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The seeds are saved, covered in water and simmered for 20 minutes to remove the pectin, which helps the jam set

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The seeds once the pectin is removed

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The calyxs, an apple and the pectin water, ready to be simmered until soft, then have the sugar added

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Five jars of beautiful jam in recycled bottles

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The same sweet potatoes from three weeks ago, and some Rosellas drying on the windowsill for the purpose of making tea

There are plenty more fruit ripening on the bushes, so I intend to try my hand at Rosella cordial and flowers in syrup next. 

Do you have a similar dream of growing herbs or fruit and vegetables?
Have you ever grown or eaten Rosella before? Any recipe suggestions?
What's happening in your garden at the moment?

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