Tag Archives: Kitchen Gardeners

TTG Kitchen Gardeners Grape Jam Blog

Kitchen Gardeners' local Grape Jam

Kitchen Gardeners’ Grape Jam (in January)

The first Kitchen Gardeners’ workshop, Jam in January was a huge success with a happy lot of ‘Gardeners’ leaving with one (or three) jars of delectable jam.

Bev Roseveare generously shared her recipe for black grape jam, perfect for the short grape season and a delicious accompaniment to toast or ice-cream!

The 'Gardeners'

The ‘Gardeners’

We learned that berries including grapes don’t have much natural pectin – the ingredient in jam that helps thicken the liquid. This means berry jam is often more sauce-like.

We used jam setting sugar that includes pectin, but we also added a lemon to the pot to help the setting.

The pot early on

The pot early on

Meanwhile, Felicity ran the Kitchen Kids’ Club, its new members making the very beautiful labels for the jam that you will notice in the first photo. Thanks Felicity and the children for your creativity.

TTG Kitchen Kids' Club!

TTG Kitchen Kids’ Club!

And we all shared tips, stories, a few laughs and even a glass of wine while taking turns stirring the pot. Thanks to everyone who made it along and helped with our message of sustainable living and eating in season!

Sharing tips around the jam pot

Sharing tips around the jam pot

Finally, here’s the recipe for those who missed out. Feel free to add your tips in the comments section below:

Bev’s Grape Jam (Local, in-season grapes from the Swan Valley)

Ingredients:
– 4 or 5 kilos of seedless black grapes.
– 4 or 5 kilos of jam setting sugar, or caster sugar plus powdered pectin.
– 1 or 2 lemons, cut in half.

Method:
– Cut all fruit and weigh it before putting it in a large pot. A little water can be added to the bottom.
– Measure out the sugar, kilo for kilo to the weight of the fruit (i.e. 2kg grapes, 2kg sugar)
– Add the lemon.
-Bring the fruit to the boil. Mash up the fruit.
– Once the pot has come to the boil, add the sugar one kilo at a time and stir constantly to keep it from burning.
– Bring the pot to the boil, then add the next kilo. Repeat until all the sugar is in the pot.
– Boil and stir on a fast heat for about one hour, or until the liquid has reduced by about half.
– For the ‘jam test’, put a teaspoon of jam on a cool saucer. Wait until the jam has cooled and run a teaspoon through the jam. If a skin forms, it is ready to jar.
– Jar in cleaned and sterilised recycled jars.

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TTG Kitchen Gardeners’ Jam in January Workshop

Our first workshop for 2015

jam nest garden

It’s jam season again!

After last year’s successful ‘Sticky Fingers’ jam and pickle workshop, we decided to kick off our workshop series in 2015 with another opportunity to learn tips and best recipes for fruit preserves.

The workshop will be run by local Guildford jam maker Bev Roseveare, who will be sharing her recipes and giving a hands-on workshop on jam and pickle making. We’ll cover choosing fruit, preparation, cooking and jarring the jam and pickle. 

While the jam is cooking, we’ll enjoy afternoon tea.

Kids are welcome – we’ll have some relevant children’s activities happening in conjunction with the workshop if your little one/s are too small to join in with the adults.

Please bring:

  • An apron
  • A jar (or three)
  • Something from your garden/kitchen for the sharing table (eg. fruit, herbs, eggs etc)
  • Something to share for afternoon tea if you would like to.

Event details:

RSVP: We want everyone to be able to get their hands sticky. Please RSVP via Eventbrite so we can keep an eye on the numbers. 

Date: Saturday 17th January

Venue: Sian’s place, address on RSVP.

Time: Join us from 1pm until the jam cooks about 4pm.

Each peach, pear, plum…. How to prune fruit trees

We didn’t spy Tom Thumb, but we did have a lovely Kitchen Gardeners meeting on pruning on Sunday 2nd March.  The workshop was led by Elizabeth, with much input from the other Kitchen Gardeners. The afternoon started with a cuppa, some nibbles and a chat, before Elle launched into the specifics of pruning and tree care.  This was followed by a demonstration on the fruit trees in Flo and Tristan’s backyard which got a much-needed prune.

Elle demonstrates how to identify which limbs need pruning and how to shape the tree

Elle demonstrates how to identify which limbs need pruning and how to shape the tree

Before we started pruning, we discussed the different tools required, and talked about safety and pruning hygiene.  Elle had a particularly snazzy set of tools, and Barb brought her trusty snippers and shears along too.  We also discussed Barb’s lemon tree and its miraculous recovery after the application of a fresh cow pat poultice…

Elle started with the mandarin tree, which was still young but already showing signs of neglect!  Although the tree had four small mandarins growing, the leaves revealed the tree had undergone some stress during the heat of summer, and needed a good watering and some trace elements.  There was also whipper snipper damage to the trunk: an excellent suggestion to protect the trees was the use of a piece of PVC pipe as a small collar placed around the base of the trunk.

A week after pruning, the trees are clearly improving although mineral deficiency is still evident in pale leaves

A week after pruning, the trees are clearly improving although mineral deficiency is still evident in pale leaves

The diseased, dead and damaged material was removed to promote growth: new growth produces fruit.  The tree was pruned into a vase shape to allow more light and air into the middle area, thereby reducing fungal infection, allowing a better view of the tree for monitoring pests and improving access for pollinators. The vase shape may produce more fruit for less height on three or four main branches rather than one trunk.

Pruning can be done during any season, but winter pruning is best for revealing the form and shape of the tree when all the leaves are gone. The tree is dormant at that time, so the wounds take somewhat longer to heal compared to pruning after a tree has fruited.

The plumcot tree (a plum-apricot hybrid) was the next to be pruned, and here we discovered collar rot at the base of the trunk.  The advice was to move away any mulch touching the trunk, and to treat the tree with trace elements and Epsom salts.  Other than the collar rot, the plumcot tree was healthy growing vigorously.  Elle again chose to prune into a vase shape and reduce some of the tree’s height to make it more manageable.

The peach tree was a little more tricky. Unfortunately the grafted peach had died, leaving only surviving root-stock.  As the peaches being produced by the root-stock were not too shabby, we decided to perservere nurture the tree.  Normally the root-stock is pruned off, as this is usually unproductive growth that sprouts from below the graft. In this case, one branch from the root-stock was left while the rest from lower down on the trunk was pruned off.  Elle showed us how to prune by cutting on an angle to avoid water pooling on a wound or on wood and causing rot.

Other fruit trees that were pruned on the day included a healthy pear tree and two young citrus trees, a lemon and lime.  The plum tree was not pruned as it had suffered significantly during the summer and extra care and recuperation first. The olive tree didn’t need pruning as Flo had done this some time ago.

The afternoon was a great success, and much knowledge was shared.  Following the workshop, Flo applied all recommended treatments to the trees, including trace elements, extra watering, Seasol, and epsom salts. All trees, especially the plum tree, are clearly looking much better. Flo had some massive rockmelons and watermelons growing under the fruit trees, and during the week following the workshop these ripened and were picked.  There were 10 delicious rockmelons and five massive watermelons (the first one picked was 15.7kg!!)

Nothing beats home grown watermelon, seen here doing double duty providing shading to preserve soil moisture around the base of fruit trees

Nothing beats home grown watermelon, seen here doing double duty providing shading to preserve soil moisture around the base of fruit trees

Here are a few extra tips on pruning and tree care from Robert Brock:

  • To avoid collar rot, don’t mulch right up to the trunk.
  • Don’t mulch with wood chips or uncomposted mulches: as they break down they draw nitrogen from the soil.
  • Thick mulch all year round can suffocate the soil. Soil is alive: it needs air, water, food and light so that soil microbes can live. They create humus and wonderful rich moist colloidal soil.
  • Feed trees with well-decomposed compost spread around the drip line.
  • Too much of anything is bad: raw manures can force growth in a tree or plant, much the same way that artificial fertilisers do. The plant puts out new growth to restore balance from being overfed nutrients and minerals.
  • Don’t dig around your trees, you’ll damage the roots.
  • Feeding and watering the tree too much on the surface will encourage roots to remain at the surface. You want your tree to send its roots down for water, nutrients and stability. The roots anchor the tree: like a fence post, you want t bury them deep not shallow).
  • Artificial fertilisers and pesticides can disturb natural balance and lead to more problems. If you kill all insects then the wasps that eat scale and the lady birds that eat aphis will be gone too. Know which pests to watch for and how to control them, e.g. ants which can farm other pests such as scale.
  • Pests are only a problem when they are a problem: one or two spots of scale will cause little harm. In contrast, fruit flies can be highly damaging and should be exterminated with baits while ensuring timely removal and disposal of struck fruit.
  • There are several simple, effective natural remedies for a range of pest problems. Examples include soapy water for drowning aphids, and homemade white oil  which is easy to prepare and takes care of a range of pests.
  • Companion plant around your trees to attract beneficial insects and deter pests. For example, nasturtiums and citrus go well together as do hyssop and grapes, horse radish and apples.

Thanks to Elle our workshop leader, Florence our hostess and guess blog mistress, and Robert our expert tree pruning advisor. If you’d like to read more about pruning fruit trees, have a look here and here.