Our one month of Spring is already half way done. Hot weather could be around the corner but so far we have been blessed with some rain to start the growing off and, of course, we hope for more. In the bush, native plants are flowering: clematis vine, orchids; and the fireflies are lighting up the twilight in such numbers this year. I do miss the scent of the native Scrub Turpentine, which rarely flowers any more due to its susceptibility to the scourge of Myrtle Rust.
And when I head into the garden there are flowers galore too. Citrus trees are covered in blossom and the scent is heady, petals rain down constantly and bees buzz loudly. Macadamia blossoms hang and compete well for attention above the clamour of the citrus blossom scent. Pomegranate, Jaboticaba, and Lychee are all showing the promise that flowering fruit trees give. Mango, Jakfruit and some varieties of Avocado too. Early low-chill or ‘Southern Highbush’ blueberries are well on the way to setting their first fruit, as well as low-chill stonefruit and mulberries.
Well, mulberries… they are well on their way into bowls and recipes and tummies already. This fruit has to be eaten fresh from the tree. The fruit is soft and juicy and easy to bruise so you’ll never find this in a supermarket. This means it's the perfect tree for your backyard. I remember times spent gorging on this fruit as a kid, eating and spreading the magenta stains all over hands, face and clothes. Today’s varieties are cutting grown or grafted females, all clones with fantastic eating qualities and being only female, they won’t set seed to be spread throughout the bush. For our area, the Dwarf Black and the Dwarf Red Shahtoot Mulberries are great for small backyards, with flavourful berries. The Shahtoot, a long thin fruit, has more of an aromatic flavour to it too, and is very sweet. These trees are well suited to throwing a net over to prevent the birds making off with them. Mulberries can be beautiful large shade trees as well . This includes the White Shahtoot mulberry - it is delicious, and a large spreading shade tree for big backyards.
Flowers can be enjoyed for eating and cooking too. Nasturtium and violas can be added to salads, banksia and macadamia flowers can be used to flavour drinks. And orange blossom can be used to make a scented water used in baking, much like rose water. The flowers of the Seville orange are traditionally used but any orange variety will do, really. Obviously, don’t pick too many or you’ll limit how many oranges you’ll have next winter. The orange blossom water can be distilled even without fancy equipment, but there is a simple method you can use, it just won’t keep as long.
Pick the flowers in the morning before the sun has dried them out. Pick off any insects or dirt, or browned flowers you can see, you can then put them in a colander to rinse them under the tap. Crush the orange blossoms in a mortar and pestle until they are a paste. For the next step you will need distilled water. Put the petal paste in a glass jar and cover with distilled water. Let this sit for a couple of weeks and then strain through a cloth. Keep your orange blossom water in the fridge.