Thursday, August 16, 2007

Haddon and Margaret

Today I returned a borrowed exercise bike (unused) to Haddon and Margaret. We had a cup of tea and lots of discussion about worldly matters and when I was about to leave I was given some seeds and seedlings of various plants. There were some seeds from a very nice red flowering Canna, a Cape Gooseberry plant and some seedlings from some sort of 'spider' plant. As you can see I am not an exotic plant gardener. They have a great back yard...very Baliesque with a Bali style retreat. They are into plants, but I am into edible plants...silver beet (Swiss chard) is my fav. and of course, tomatoes.

I also love Cape Gooseberries (Phisallis peruvian) and have had much success growing them in the past. They are a weed and thrive on neglect. It would seem that cultivation is the last thing that they need. The other common name for them is Chinese Lantern Fruit because the fruit is encased in a lantern-type shell. They are almost bitter to the taste and make wonderful tarts covered with ice cream and cream. That taste makes them safe from nasty insects. There is a trade-off there! I have always thought that they were named Cape Gooseberries because they came from South Africa like lots of our plants, but no. Google (Aus) tells me that the lantern shell around the fruit is a 'cape'. Is Google ever wrong?

When we lived and worked in Papua New Guinea I took Cape Gooseberry seeds back and planted them. They grew, but the fruit never ripened. One thing I did take back that was a success was silver beet seeds and the students were able to grow enough silver beet to offset their school fees. It seems that people did not know that Australian vegetables like silver beet would grow in the tropics. My boarding school students made good money selling their produce to Australians starved for familiar vegetables.

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