James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution

Posts Tagged ‘Chilean Guavas’

guavas18

CHILEAN GUAVAS

Posted on: November 8th, 2012 by James Wong 17 Comments

Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, these intensely fragrant berries somehow manage to combine the flavours of wild strawberries, pink guavas and a hint of candy floss. Easily the ultimate foodmile-free exotic fruit!

WHAT ARE CHILEAN GUAVAS?

MY FIRST CHILEAN GUAVA HARVEST IN SEPTEMBER (I WAS SCOFFING THEM UNTIL YESTERDAY!)

Hailing from the wilds of Southern Chile, these impossibly exotic mini-guavas were surprisingly once commercially cultivated all over the South West of Britain in Victorian times. Yet fast forward 150 years and the  only mention of this popular ornamental plant’s berries in gardening texts usually refers to how to get the stains out of your patio!

Funnily enough that doesn’t stop specialist food importers flying them in from the other side of the planet, labelling them as a ‘tropical’ fruit & charging a small fortune for tiny punnets. Strange really since they might already be sitting planted in the back gardens of the customers who pay through the nose for them. :)

A GUAVA BY ANY OTHER NAME….

FROM TOP LEFT: ‘TAZZIBERRIES’ FLOWN IN FROM AUSTRALIA, CHILEAN GUAVA AND QUINCE IN SYRUP AT A SANTIAGO FARMERS’ MARKET & MY UK HARVEST. TRICKY TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE HEY?

Enterprising Aussie growers have now rebranded the fruit  as”Tazziberries” and Kiwi farmers are fighting back with the equally catchy ”New Zealand Cranberries”. In their native country of Chile too there is keen interest in turning this common woodland berry into a major global crop, where they are simmered up into all manner of syrups, jams & liqueurs – often combined with fresh quinces. Yet with the plants positively revelling in the UK’s cool, maritime climate – they after all hail from a similar region to the monkey puzzle tree – why on earth has it taken us Brits so long to catch on to their charms?

HOW TO GROW CHILEAN GUAVAS

WITH STUNNING, SCENTED FLOWERS & SHINY EVERGREEN LEAVES, NO WONDER CHILEAN GUAVAS ARE ALREADY A POPULAR ORNAMENTAL PLANT. WHO KNOWS? YOU MIGHT HAVE ONE IN YOUR GARDEN ALREADY!

Chilean guavas can be grown just like their relatives the blueberries, albeit being far more high-yielding and less fussy about the ericaceous (acid soiled) growing conditions that their super-fussy, super-fruit cousins demand. They have evergreen leaves and deliciously fragrant lily of the valley-like flowers & are even ignored by birds that would otherwise decimate a blueberry patch. Could it get any better?

Their only let down is their slight frost sensitivity, so if you are gardening up North site them in against a south-facing wall and drape them in a layer of horticultural fleece when hard frosts are forecast. If you are a nervous disposition, you can even give them a home in a pot on a sunny patio and bring them a home on a covered porch or cold greenhouse over winter.

CHILEAN GUAVA RECIPES

With a exotic fragrance and familiar strawberry-like fruitiness, Chilean guavas are one of the most versatile berries in the kitchen – not to mention my favourite fruit. I love munching them straight off the plant, studding them through cupcakes, simmering ‘em into jams or plopping ‘em into booze with generous sprinkle of sugar to make truly heavenly liqueurs.

AUTUMNAL FRUIT SALAD WITH CHILEAN GUAVAS

This is so simple it really doesn’t need a recipe. Just tumble the Chilean guavas with a mix of whatever fruit you fancy (here I have used homegrown inca berries and cocktail kiwis) over some really good quality Greek yoghurt, drizzle over some honey & attack with a spoon. True autumnal bliss.

CHILEAN GUAVA HOTCAKES  

With vanilla ricotta & Chilean guava-scented maple syrup

A super-simple twist on the classic blueberry hotcakes, simply press a few fresh berries into the batter of these door-stop-thick American-style pancakes as they cook. True heaven doused with a maple-syrup scented by a quick simmer with a scattering of any extra berries that didn’t make it into the hotcakes.

For the full recipe check out my new book Homegrown Revolution

RUMTOPF WITH CHILEAN GUAVAS

In their native Southern Chile, the most popular way to enjoy these little berries is steeped in a sugary blend of rum & sliced quinces – an interesting fusion of the region’s German & Spanish foodie heritages. All you need to do is fill a Kilner jar with layers of sliced quinces & sprinklings of guavas (all whatever fruit you fancy) and top up with a mix of 1 part sugar diluted in 3 parts rum. Leave to sit in a cool dark place for 6-8 weeks and scoff spooned over a decent quality vanilla ice-cream.

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Chilean guavas check out pg 259 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!

Octoberslider

MY OCTOBER HARVEST

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by James Wong 8 Comments

Get the low down on what’s growing on at my trial ground this month. From musk melons and Asian pears to Chilean guavas and golden huckleberries, autumnal eating could be so much more exciting than spuds & swedes.

MY HARVEST ON 9th OCTOBER

FROM TOP DOWN: MUSK MELONS, CHILEAN GUAVAS, ASIAN PEARS, INCA BERRIES, GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRIES, TOMATOS, INCA GHERKINS & TOMATILLOS.

The leaves might be falling, but October is still a hugely productive season in the fruit & vegetable garden. Here are a quick couple of snaps of the harvests from my tiny 5x5m suburban front garden, all grown outdoors in a soggy Croydon summer.

MY HARVEST ON 23rd OCTOBER

FROM TOP DOWN: SQUASH ‘SUNBURST’, TOMATO ‘ORANGINO’, PUMPKIN ‘WINDSOR’, CUCAMELONS, INCA BERRIES, CHILEAN GUAVAS, GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRIES & DWARF TAMARILLOS

With the first frosts forecast I dashed out to gather all my fruit crops before they got clobbered. Notice that while the tomatoes (widely thought of as an easy-to-grow common veg crop) weren’t able to fully mature outdoors, the more exotic stuff ripened up absolutely fine.

TOMATILLOS (Physalis philadelphica)

Deliciously tart Mexican tomato-relatives that taste like a cross between a zesty lime and a beefsteak tomato. These guys are truly spectacular in salsas, dips or spreads & absolutely essential to the culinary arsenal of any ‘South of the Border’ food fanatic.

Fantastically easy-to-grow, and with a single fruit costing up to £2 in fancy ethnic delis, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular with us Brits. Fancy giving them a go? The seeds are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.

CHILEAN GUAVAS (Myrtus ugni aka. Ugni mollinae)

Reputedly Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, Chilean guavas are infinitely easier to grow than a boring old blueberry yet far more delicious. Once cultivated commercially all over the South West, their flavour somehow combines the fragrance of exotic pink guavas with the fruitiness of ripe red strawbs, ending in a curious candy floss like sugariness. Pure heaven for the incorrigibly sweet-toothed.

MUSK MELON ‘EMIR’ (Cucumis melo ‘Emir’)

Thought growing melons outdoors in the UK was an impossibility? Well think again! A new generation of early-ripening, ‘personal sized’ melons like the variety ‘Emir’ have been specifically bred for the UK climate, which will fruit outdoors quite happily given a warm, sunny site.

Chose a grafted plant & give ‘em the shelter of a cloche while establishing (OK, I know this is slightly cheating) and outdoor melons a real possibility throughout pretty much the whole of the UK – not just the balmy south.

Fancy giving them a go? The seeds are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.

 INCA BERRIES (Physalis peruviana)

MY TWO INCA BERRY PLANTS, EACH OF WHICH KICKS OUT UP TO 100 BERRIES EACH SUMMER.

The impossibly exotic shiny, golden berries each come wrapped in their own papery ‘chinese lantern’. Combining the flavours of pineapple, kiwi & peaches, hailing from Peru and originally domesticated by the Inca, you might think they were impossible to grow in the UK without a Eden Project style biodome.

Yet incredibly these plants were once widely cultivated outdoors in Victorian Britain (they actually fruit quite poorly in the warmth of a greenhouse). Mrs Beeton even had a jam recipe for them, calling them by their Victorian name ‘Tipparees’. Look out for a post on my 21st century take on this in a few weeks. :)

The best thing about this food-mile free exotic fruit? Kept in their papery calyxes (cases) and popped in the fridge they have a shelf life of up to 3 months, making them the only homegrown berry you can eat fresh on your Christmas dinner table.

Add to that their ridiculous resistance to drought, pests and even light frosts, not to mention their sky high vitamin content & this has to be one of the most foolproof crops that can be grown in the UK.

Wanna get hold of the seed? They are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.

GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRIES (Solanum villosum)

These guys were new to my trials this year & boy did they prove their merit. Combining a rich apricot-like flavour and mega-productive habit, so far just three plants have thrown up over a kilo of berries. A relatively new introduction from Africa these plants are closely-related to our native common weed the black nightshade and have proved (for me at least) to be equally indestructible.

My only complaint about them is that the berries have a habit of bursting when removed from their little clusters, which can make them a little fiddley to prepare. It is also important to only harvest them when they have turned bright orange and are on the soft side, as half-ripened yellow fruit have only a bland, tomato-like flavour until they reach their full golden ripeness. In fact, I had initially dismissed them as flavourless and boring when I first picked them in July, until tasting them again several weeks later to discover that they had miraculously gone from watery to apricot cordial in a fortnight or two.

Wanna get your hands on some? I got mine from Plant World Seeds, who have a great range of weird & wonderful edibles. Definitely a site worth checking out for the experimental foodie grower.

PUTTING THEM ALL TOGETHER….

MY MUSK MELON, INCA BERRY, CHILEAN GUAVA & GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRY HARVEST IN EARLY OCTOBER.

FOOD-MILE FREE FRUIT SALAD 

A rinse, slice and sprinkle of homemade lemongrass cordial later & here was what I was scoffing: all the flavour of a pool-side cocktail, grown outdoors in sunny Croydon.

TOMATOES!

Never let it be said that I’m anti-conventional veg. I’m no exotic crop Nazi & love growing traditional stuff like heritage tomatoes, sweetcorn, beetroot & fancy coloured carrots alongside more exotic fodder. If it’s easy-to-grow and more exciting to eat than its supermarket cousin, I’ll give just about anything a go.

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Tomatillos, Musk Melons, Chilean Guavas & Inca Berries Cucamelons check out my new book Homegrown Revolution!

Cocktail Kiwis Slider

MINI KIWIS: NATURE’S HARIBO

Posted on: September 15th, 2012 by James Wong 31 Comments

Mega sweet, fuzz-free mini kiwis that hail from the frozen wastes of Siberia? No I’m not making it up. Intensely sugary, super easy-to-grow and even hardy down to -35C, if haribo reinvented the kiwi this would be it!

WHAT ARE COCKTAIL KIWIS?

Cocktail Kiwis

Coming into season in mid-late September, the deliciously sweet, tangy berries of cocktail kiwis (Actinidia arguta) are summer’s last gasp of glory. Growing on little bunches, much like a grape, they are far softer and sugarier than the regular  giant fuzzy type & without that nasty acidity. A single plant is capable of producing up to an astonishing 400 mini kiwis once established! The good news for UK exotic fruit lovers is that they are perfectly hardy even in the most Arctic winters, shrugging off chills 7C colder than the UK record low.

GROWING MINI KIWIS

These guys don’t just look like kiwis, they are simply a different species (closely related the to fuzzy supermarket kind) that hails from far further north, right up into Siberia. Don’t worry there’s been no geneticist’s tinkering going on here…

THE HUGE DIVERSITY OF KIWIS: IMAGE SOURCE: THE SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL – BMC GENOMICS (CLICK PIC FOR LINK)

In fact of all the 9o different species of kiwis, the conventional kind is probably the least flavourful, hardy and nutritious! So all the more reason to opt for the adorable ‘cocktail’ type.

Don’t believe they will grow in the UK? Well here’s a pic from a recent trip I took up the my mates Sue and Bleddyn at their wonderful nursery Crug Farm Plants in North Wales, which regularly experiences freezes down to -20C! Plus pictures of commercial plantations in Belgium and Canada. As of September 2012 there is even a kiwi ‘vineyard’ in Herefordshire!

HOW TO GROW COCKTAIL KIWIS

All they need from you is a strong support to scramble over, a site in full sun and a a handful of 10-minute pruning sessions over the summer to keep their mind on fruiting. There are full details on exactly how to do this in the homegrown revolution manual (i.e. my latest book) & even a handy little video on exactly how to do it here:

BUYING THE PLANTS

Want to know where you can get your hands on one? Check out these little plants available from the lovely plant geeks at Suttons Seeds.

HOW TO EAT COCKTAIL KIWIS

Now here comes the good part!

These little fruit can be eaten in all the same ways as their larger, supermarket cousin – just being far tastier and with no fiddly peeling. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

AUTUMNAL FRUIT SALAD WITH COCKTAIL KIWIS

Simply slice the kiwis in half and mix with whatever fruit you have to hand. I’ve picked homegrown inca berries and Chilean guavas (look out for posts on these in the future). Scatter over a really good quality Greek yoghurt and drizzle with honey – pure heaven.

WINEGUMMY COCKTAIL KIWIS

I first got the idea to make these sticky sweet treats when I stumbled across this fascinating picture of sun-dried cocktail kiwis, which are apparently a hugely popular snack in Japan and China, on Kazuo Ichikawas great Flickr site (Click pic for link). After a bunch of experiments I think I have finally cracked how to do it at home.

Dried Cocktail Kiwis

1) SLICE  your cocktail kiwis in half and scatter them over a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

KIWIS BERRIES

2) BRUSH them with a little elderflower cordial to seal in their sticky gumminess. This also really complements their fragrant gooseberry-like sweetness.

Cocktail Kiwis

3) BAKE them in the oven on a really low setting (50C-80C) until they are just beginning to collapse. This will take roughly about 3 hours depending on your oven. Be warned though leaving them in too long or over too high a temperature and you will end up with a brown, shrivelled up mess. (This is the voice of experience talking!)

Cocktail Kiwis

4) COOL them on a kitchen worktop for 30 mins, which will see them become firmer and more ‘gummy’ as the jelly-like pulp starts to set.

5) SCOFF them just as they are or scattered over muesli, ice-cream or homemade granola. Bloody marvellous!

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Cocktail Kiwis check out pg 226 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!

September Harvest Intro

MY SEPTEMBER HARVEST

Posted on: September 6th, 2012 by James Wong 4 Comments

Check out what’s growing on at my trial ground this month. From fiesta popcorn & green tea, to chickpea ‘edamame’ & inca berries, September really is the the month of plenty in the 21st century veg garden.

MY HARVEST ON 19th SEPTEMBER

September Harvest

THE RESULTS OF A 15 MINUTE FORAGE IN MY 5X5M FRONT GARDEN. ALL GROWN OUTDOORS IN WHAT WE ALL MUST AGREE WAS A PRETTY MISERABLE SUMMER EVEN FOR THE UK!

The haul includes fiesta popcorn, inca berries, tomatillos, Chinese chives, Chilean Guavas & cocktail kiwis (all available – or soon to be available- through my Suttons Seeds range). Other bits and pieces include Squash ‘Sunburst’, Chickpea ‘Edamame’, Tomato ‘Hundreds & Thousands’ & several fancy Chili varieties.

‘JADE BLUE’ CORN

Blue corn

I’ve had loads of questions about these little guys. Bonsai-sized, ‘Jade Blue’ corn that instead being sugary (notice I don’t call ‘em ‘SWEETcorn’) have a deliciously starchy texture, like a cross between roast chestnuts and waxy Jersey royal spuds. I had ‘em grilled on the BBQ and rolled in butter and parmesan. Total foodie heaven.

The plants too are super-dwarf, growing only to 40cm high, yet produce a good 2-3 cobs per plant. Perfect for containers. Definitely passed my tests! Don’t believe me? Here’s a pic of a plant from one of my favourite US websites…

JADE BLUE CORN PLANT – (Click pic for link)

I got mine from Tradewinds Fruit in the States – bought over the net. OK the delivery here is a little pricey, but if you buy enough packets it works out OK.

COCKTAIL KIWIS

Cocktail Kiwis

Grape-sized, super-sweet kiwi fruit that are hardy down to -35C and commercially cultivated in Herefordshire. Want more info? Then check out my blog post on them.

MANUKA 

Manuka Flowers

Although normally in season in the late-spring and early summer, this year the cool weather has triggered mine into a second flush of flower right now. Their leaves add a richly herbal bay leaf /eucalyptus fragrance to all manner of sweet or savoury dishes, including my homespun ‘Mock-nuka’ honey. You don’t need a hive, just steep them in shop bought honey to create a pretty convincing counterfeit blend that will taste just as good as the stuff that costs £15 in fancy supermarkets imported from the other side of the planet. There’ll be a blog post on exactly how to do this soon…

CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’

CHICKPEA HARVEST

Love those deliciously nutty pods of edamame beans you get in Japanese restaurants, but frustrated you can’t grow them in the UK? Well I think I have gone one better with super easy-to-grow chickpea ‘edamame’! Check out my blog post on how to grow, cook and eat ‘em.

QUINOA GREENS

Quinoa

OK so the delicious, gluten-free seed heads might not be all quite ready to harvest just yet, but the stunning flowers have been cheering up my garden for weeks. Related to spinach, the tasty leaves have a flavour which is virtually identical and are SO much easier to grow.

Wanna track down the seeds? They are available as part of my Suttons Seeds range.

JAPANESE QUINCES

Chaenomeles

This is a widely planted ornamental plant, a favourite of council roundabouts and supermarket carparks, yet produces masses of little ‘mini-quinces’ for next to no effort and can be used in the same way. In Japan they are highly prized in scented liqueurs, believed to be good for the voices of public speakers. Hopefully they’ll come in handy as I continue my national tour of talks!

OREGON GRAPES

Mahonia

Recognise this? Yes, it’s Mahonia aquifolia, the enormously popular, ‘thrives on neglect’ garden plant. What us Brits haven’t cottoned onto though is that those powdery blue fruit are a popular ‘wild food’ staple Stateside – hence the common name ‘Oregon Grapes’. Simmered up into jams, jellies, syrups and sauces, cooking magically transforms their tart, pea-like flavour when raw into sticky, gooey blackcurrant-scented goodness.

INCA GHERKINS (AKA. ACHOCHA)

Achocha

A newcomer to my trial ground this year, these vines from the cucumber family stunned me by their ability to swallow up my beds and borders in scrambling branches loaded with hundreds of curious hedgehoggy fruit – even in this chilly, soggy summer.

You cook ‘em just like a green pepper, with a delicate cucumber flavour and rich, roasted pepper texture.

 CHILEAN GUAVAS 

Chilean Guavas

Reputedly Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit and once widely cultivated in the UK. They have a flavour like a cross between pink guavas and wild strawberries, with a sophisticated myrtle-like fragrance. Hardy down to around -10C, they have to be one of my favourite air-freight free exotic fruit, producing 100′s of berries on just 3 small plants. They are at least twice as productive as blueberries and half as tricky to grow. They are lovely in an autumnal fruit salad with homegrown cocktail kiwis and inca berries. Here is my recipe on how to make it (scroll about half way down the link).

PUMPKIN ‘WINDSOR’

Squash

Don’t ever let it be said that I am against all conventional fruit & veg. Plenty are brilliantly easy & much tastier and cheaper to grow than they are to buy. This year I am growing an infinite variety of tomatoes, dwarf pumpkins (like this little guy in the pic above), runner beans, Florence fennel, beetroot & even some purple carrots and raspberries.