Pruning them prunes

Pruning them prunes

You have most probably never heard of Masanobu Fukuoka. Other than the rather unfortunate western pronunciation of his surname, he will most probably slip out of your short term memory quite quickly.

Well, let me introduce him to you. Born in 1913 in Japan, he is celebrated as a philosopher and creator of many natural farming techniques. He was a simple farmer, but his love of the land and of the way nature works, made him a proponent of no-till farming, no-herbicide cultivation and natural farming. One of his philosophies is called “do-nothing farming”, but is not the sitting-on-the-stoep-drinking-beer kind.

He believed that there is a difference between nature and non-intervention. When he left his citrus trees unpruned, they did exceptionally well in the beginning, as the balance between growth of roots and verge was re-established. However, soon enough, entanglement and insect attacks crippled and eventually killed his trees.

He found that if fruit trees are grown from a seedling and not pruned at all, they grow into a natural shape and maintains this shape, which leads to higher yields as well as healthier trees.

Pruning fruit trees

Pruning fruit trees

Enter reality.

My fruit trees have not grown into natural shapes and have a tendency to over-extend themselves and to break branches when they bear fruit. For this reason I have to prune.

Pruning boosts the budding process as well as the bearing of good quality fruit. If done well, entanglement is minimised and you can get to the fruit with ease. Furthermore, since I am genetically endowed with a ladder built it (according to my mother I was made on a long weekend), it is not only more comfortable to move under pruned trees, but it also keeps the smaller folk from stripping the trees before I got enough to cook my jam with. (Selfish, but nice).

And then, as I love my mulches and compost, I take these cuttings and put them through the mulcher. Interestingly, one of the best sources of organic food for trees is wood. So sad that the winter batch of poodle puppies chewed off the electrical wire of my mulcher. Ai, the work never stops…Correct Pruning Cut

Nature’s sweets

In science and engineering there is a field called bio-mimicry.

Gooseberry wrapped

Gooseberry wrapped

This is where some of the models and designs of nature are studied and copied for industrial applications.

Sweating away in the veggie patch, I munched my way through a nice quantity of cape gooseberries, and realised that these are also bio-engineering models in its finest.

Gooseberry unwrapped

Gooseberry unwrapped

Imagine this, a perfect little fruit, all wrapped up in its perfect little wrapper – and absolutely bio-degradable too!

And what an excellent wrapper! It does not touch the fruit, and as it is puffed up, the fruit does not touch the soil. It stays “afloat”, away from the ground and even thwarts insects wanting to get to the succulent little treat.

And how happy we are – the sweet and tart little treat is delicious to just pop into the mouth as you are labouring on the spring veggies.

Saldy, none get to the kitchen to be preserved. But then, life is for the living. Why store everything when you can munch and enjoy them now?

Since winter has never really arrived in Bashewa, it is nice to walk around the garden and enjoy some of the skeleton of the cottage garden that refused to die. (Similar to Pretoria, some of my annuals have become perennials). It is even nicer to have some of the winter fruits to munch on! I am so looking forward to extending the gooseberry patch this spring with all the seedlings that are bound to spring up around the bushes.

Time to prepare for winter (cough, cough)

Yes, it’s that time of the year. And as winter arrives suddenly in Bashewa (I always look for autumn but seem to miss it, other than the cosmos in Garstfontein Road and the Golden Amber trees changing colour), we need to prepare ourselves very quickly for the colds and flu’s.
What better way to do this than with nature’s medicine chest?

There are two plants in my garden that has a lot of power in this regard: My humble garlic (Allium Sativum) and my Cone Flower (Echinacea pupurea).

garlic1. Garlic
Even Louis Pasteur documented the anti-bacterial properties of garlic in 1858.
Garlic has been used in many cultures to treat diarrhea, coughs and colds and heart conditions.
(It does have some side effects, though, as those among us with sensitive noses may agree).
Garlic has been proven to be very effective in preventing colds and coughs.
How to use:
As it is a delicious culinary herb, the best way too take it is in food.
As cooking does lessen the effect of the garlic severely, the best way to take it is like a capsule, popping a whole clove in your mouth and swallowing it.
for the less adventurous, crushing it in olive oil and adding lemon and using as a salad dressing is the better way.
Remember, the effects of the fat bulbs of “Chinese garlic” (Allium Tuberosum) are not the same as Allium Sativum. (Especially if you want to pop one in your mouth and swallow it – you could choke to death!)
Then you also get
echinacea2. Echinacea (Cone flower) Russian garlic or Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) which is actually a family member of leeks. Delicious, if you can find it, but not really garlic at all.

Other than being a very attractive feature plant in my herb garden, this is a giant amongst medicinal herbs. It is one of the most studied herbs in science. Interestingly, the studies do not prove that echinacea can prevent you from getting a cold. It is curative, and can cut the effect of the cold down as well as the duration of the cold.
How to use:
Steep 1 or 2 teaspoons of echinacea leaves or flowers in 1 cup of boiling water.
Alternatively boil one teaspoon of root 1 one or two cups of water for 10 minutes.
Sweeten with honey and enjoy!

Jamming a little?

My Mother taught me how to make jam. jammingNot because she planned to; she always thought that I would burn down the house if I cooked. But I never did (yet). She thought this (most probably) because I’m a man. But then, as I grew up, I found that most well-known chefs were men. And I felt better.

I learned how to make jam by observation, as I was the little man on the stove-top who had to stir (the bubbles, it’s all about the bubbles).

And this was a wonderful summer of jamming. (Whatever happened to all the tannies that would cook jam all summer long? Whatever happened to the jam contest at the Church fete?) Starting with Apricots and ending with fig, the larder is full, the friends love me to come and visit (with the obvious gift).

But what are the secrets to the perfect jam?

1. Never, never, never leave the pot! For one batch (that took me a day and a half), I left the pot to get a new song going on the iPod-powered sound system, and the entire batch (5kg) was burnt. Thirty seconds in a two day process!

2. Test the whole time. If you stop the process a little too soon, its sauce, not jam, a little too late and its burnt or sweets (tammaletjie, as the tannies would say).

And the recipe?

Well, I study a lot of recipes for interest sake, but I can tell you this: The simple recipe is the same amount of sugar as fruit.

That’s it.

For the advanced course, keep your eye on the “food glorious food” section. :-)Daniel

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