The Best Teachers Change Your Life!

Best teachers show you where to look not what to see 446 x 296

I feel privileged to have had just a few teachers who have helped me find the best person I can be. Not least of these was my own Mother.

What good learning experiences have you had because of quality teaching?


Mole Hill

Thought of the Day!

leaf and twig

Ants don’t question
why mountains appear
they simply climb them.

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Tantalising Tamarillo Jam

Tantalising Tamarillo Jam

My favourite thing to do with Tamarillos is jam and I have to share this wonderful recipe that was given to YaYa by her friend Connie. This is now the jam I will make tons of when I next have fruit on my tree.

Waiting on the last of the Yellow Tamarillos to ripen

Waiting on the last of the Yellow Tamarillos to ripen

I decided to add two apples to my eight small Tamarillos because I desperately wanted to make more of this very promising recipe. For the same reason, and because I despise waste, I did not remove the seeds of the Tamarillos, just the skins and the little hard white bit at the top of the fruit and the tiny hard bit on the pointy end of a few. I normally leave the skins on apples when cooking, but decided this jam would benefit from peeled apples.

Peeled Tamarillo with hard spot at top removed

Peeled Tamarillo with hard spot at top removed

What a glorious smell while this was cooking! Absolutely glorious jam. I only got 2 small jars, but they will be savoured.

Tamarillo, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

Yield approx 1 1/4 cups (1 3/4 cup if apple added)
6-8 tamarillos, peeled and finely cubed (remove seeds if preferred)
2 apples, cored,  peeled and finely cubed (optional)
1 vanilla pod split in half
2 lemons juiced and then strained
1-2 teaspoons of rosewater or orange flower water
approx 2 cups of caster sugar (see below)
  • Sterilise 3 small jars (I always sterlise more than I need, you might only use two).
  • Put a small plate in the fridge to cool down. You will use this later, when testing whether the jam has reached a set.
Tamarillos cut for jam

Tamarillos cut for jam

  • Peel the Tamarillos and cut fairly small. I had small Tamarillos so merely sliced and then quartered the slices. If you don’t want seeds in the jam, scoop them out with a spoon before dicing the Tamarillos.
  • If using apples, core, peel and dice, a similar size to the Tamarillos. Your fruit will mostly not break down while cooking, and will be visible in the pretty finished product, so a little care here will make a difference later
Apple cut in fine cube - I used Bonza apples

Apple cut in fine cube – I used Bonza apples

  • Put the chopped fruit into a heavy saucepan, scrape the seeds of the vanilla pod into the pan and add the pods themselves.
  • Add water until it just covers the fruit and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the fruit is tender.
  • Cool slightly. Measure the mixture.
Measure the fruit to calculate sugar needed

Measure the fruit to calculate sugar needed

  • Return to the saucepan and, for every 1 cup of cooked fruit, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar and the juice of one lemon.
  • Bring to a medium boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and it sets when tested.
  • When the jam is ready, take it off the heat and cool for a few minutes before stirring in the rosewater or orange flower water.
  • Bottle in warm, sterilised jars and seal.

To test, spoon a little jam onto the cold plate and allow it to cool. If you push the cooled jam and it has formed a skin which wrinkles, it is ready. If not keep testing every few minutes. As it is getting closer, you might like to take the saucepan off the heat while testing, so you don’t overcook it while carrying out the test.

Ya Ya mentioned in the original recipe, “The jam may look a little too liquid but will further thicken when it cools in the jar.” Even though it looked runny and didn’t seem to be setting on the cold plate test, I bottled as the jam was starting to darken. The set is maybe even a little too much. So, if you are second guessing yourself, worry not; all will be ok.

You can put the vanilla pods in the jars with the jam, if you like the look. I suggest you cut the pod into several smaller pieces at the beginning to make this easier. I think because I added the apple or because I cooked the jam a little longer, I couldn’t really see the pod in my jar, only where it touched the glass.

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

I would love to put this jam into those tiny jars you get in gourmet gift baskets and give some to everyone I know.

Two Bills That Changed My Life

I would like to pay tribute to two men; coincidentally, both named Bill.

The first is a man of quiet and humble ways. A deep thinker who plans things through and minimises his impact on the planet while making a difference.

He opened his home and heart to us while we were building our own home and shared his experience of many things in life. I am a different person today for having spent time with him.
He is Bill Paterson: my children’s Grandad; my friend.

Bill Paterson in 1983.

Bill Paterson in 1983.

He introduced me to another Bill; Bill Mollison, the father of Permaculture – through his book Introduction to Permaculture.

I read and was inspired, encouraged and provoked
I read and I made plans and dreams
I and Bill planned and dreamed together
I found things in this book that were not only possible, but were me.

I lived at Bill Paterson’s home twice – once as a young nieve adult, once as a parent of two children. Bill had planted his fruit trees and vegetables on sloping land using swales and homemade mulch and compost. We shared our thoughts, dreams and experiences and added the principals of Permaculture. We both grew in knowledge and understanding.

It has become a life-time dream to sit at the feet of the Father of Permaculture or to establish a self-sufficient acreage home. Sadly, finances have not allowed and I have had to bow to other priorities.

In the meantime I have:

  • Mulched as I pruned;
  • Smoothered manure and compost with paper and mulch (hey, it keeps the smell down in surburbia, too);
  • Tried a few ideas out successfully (and learned lessons from my less successful ideas);
  • Made bigger gardens then I ever thought I could look after alone;
  • Shared my love of the garden with my children – a connection to my own Dad (no longer with us);
  • Eaten fresh and even unusual foods grown with love;
  • Always known my neighbours and have shared my interests and knowledge with them (hard to not keep up with the neighbours if you are desperate for mulch and compost materials or if you have a bountiful harvest);
  • Learned from literally thousands of wonderful people in the Permaculture community mostly via books and the internet.
Bill Mollison life pics

Bill Mollison life pics

I have grown gardens that are:
1) healthy
2) beautiful
3) easy care
4) edible and useful
5) water efficient
6) low on chemicals.
7) encourage bees and butterflies to visit
8) grow snacks for kids
9) grow trees to climb
10) nurture garden worms, good bacteria and microbes
11) look after themselves if I can’t
AND most importantly for me:
12) are simple and affordable… I can take this as shallow or as far as I like!

I am blown away that it can be so easy to do
And that I would never have known – would still be double-digging and weeding (yuk)
If not for the two Bills that changed my life.

Bill Paterson and Bill Mollison
The world is better for having you in it!!! Bless you both xx

The Fragrant Garden, The Tamarillo Tree and Me

The Fragrant Garden, The Tamarillo Tree and Me

Why would anyone grow fruit that they don’t even like to eat? What draws me to this fast growing, fast fruiting and usually quite short lived little fruit tree?

Some of the yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

Some of the yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

Many years ago, I was first introduced to Permaculture and the idea that “easy” gardening is better for the soil and for the planet. There was a lovely and inspirational business in our local area which was called The Fragrant Garden. Set on a few acres, with a mud brick building complete with sod roof and waterfall window; amazing and delectable plants that were not available at ‘normal’ nurseries; truly fragrant help-yourself barrels of pot-pourri; beds and planters with informational plaques giving advice and ideas. I never had a lot of money so appreciated being able to buy unique edible plants in teeny pots. The mud brick building was a shop which my children liked, full of fairies and goblins, hand crafts and brick-a-brack. I liked the seed collections; some standard, some a little out-of-the-ordinary.

We often visited The Fragrant Garden and I was creating food forests and picking gardens and vegie plots and keyhole gardens and having all sorts of fun. I had my borrowed mulcher (chipper) and all the prunings went in and straight on the gardens. I worked under the premise that if it wasn’t edible, great for mulch or attracting beneficial insects to the garden, it had no place in my garden. If it had multiple functions, it was a prize.

Gorgeous flowers under an umbrella of large leaves.

Gorgeous flowers under an umbrella of large leaves..

I happened across the Tamarillo tree in it’s tiny pot one day and took it home (along with itsy bitsy carob trees). Planted it in the corner of my garden with my white mulberry, mandarin and macadamia nut trees and off it went. In no time there was a beautiful umbrella shaped tree covered in beautiful flowers, followed by dozens of pendulous fruit. The strange thing is that, of the whole family, only one of my children liked the things straight off the tree. Life’s an adventure

The sod roof was once planted out and the waterfall window spectacular

So I headed off to the local library to pore over recipes, photocopy and head home with ideas to use all these fruit. I can almost taste the jam, even now. Delicious and completely different to the ‘standard’ jams. Sadly, after only two years my tree just died; no idea why. I have yearned for Tamarillo jam ever since. I’ve even bought Tamarillos at the supermarket once or twice to make it. That’s expensive. Sadly, The Fragrant Garden eventually closed, too. My second husband and I were married there on the steps of the beautiful white gazebo, but the place was a shadow of it’s former self by then and closed shortly after.

This tree took quite a battering during a recent heatwave but hung in there.

This tree took quite a battering during a recent heatwave but hung in there.

I recently bought a second tree which was planted May 2012, lopped to approx 1 metre high to encourage branching out and with a bag of Bokashi buried beneath it for slow release soil nourishment. The label said it was a Red Tamarillo, but it definitely has yellow fruit. I think the fruit is a little sweeter than the red and the smell when you cut open a ripe one has a distinct passionfruitiness about it. Although the tree lost many leaves during our recent heat wave, which caused half of the fruit to be burned and drop off, I still got about 30 tamarillos.

What I’ve learned (about the tree itself):

  • Tamarillo (Tree Tomato) is a native of Peru and is a sub-tropical tree which does alright in cooler areas if the temperature stays over about 10 degrees C (50 F).
  • It is a good idea to lop the top of the tree at about one metre to encourage branching out. The tree continues to grow taller while the branches form so the eventually height will be over 2 metres.
  • The tree is a soft wood with big soft leaves and won’t take kindly to constant wind.
  • Young Tamarillo trees need to be protected from frost. Just leave planting until after the chance of frost has past.
  • The trees need water but will not survive being waterlogged. They like a free draining soil. Mine is growing in a raised sheet mulched garden. Otherwise, consider planting on top of a mound or swale.
  • My tree was growing straight and proud when it just started leaning over. Perhaps the weight of the branches, leaves and fruit was enough to tip the scales? Putting a stake either side of the tree and using a wide, soft material tied between the two stakes will support nicely without hurting the stem.
  • Tamarillo trees are easily propogated from seed or from cuttings. Apparently those grown from seed grow taller and where the cutting comes from on the tree will determine the growth of the new tree. I have shoots low on the trunk of my tree (it isn’t a grafted one). I am going to pull these off the tree so they have a ‘heel’ and, although they will probably take if I just plant them in the garden or in good potting mix, I’ll put them in water until I see the roots starting (at least the first time, just to be sure).

I will include some recipes and ideas for using the fruit in another post, soon.

I know why I love Tamarillos; we have history!