Saturday, 5 July 2014

Shakespearean Idylls with Wattle Capers and Correas

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Ian Hemphill from Herbies

Acacia pycnantha
Did you know that there are nearly 1000 Acacia species found in Australia?
Have you ever thought of eating wattleseed? 
Not all wattleseeds are edible but those that are can be eaten cooked or dried and milled into a flour.

Acacia pycnantha is on the list as having edible wattle seeds.
The seeds of this genus, or group of plants has been used by indigenous Australians for thousands of years.
They crushed the seed into flour between flat grinding stones and cooked  cakes or damper with it.
Let’s find out what how we can use it in cooking.
You might be surprised to learn that wattleseed has been commercially used as a flavouring component in some foods since 1984.

The main species  that have been  used traditionally as food and now for seed harvest are

• Acacia aneura – Mulga Wattle
• Acacia pycnantha – Golden Wattle
• Acacia retinodes – Silver Wattle
• Acacia longifolia var. sophorae – Coastal Wattle.
So it turns out that wattle seed tastes like chocolate, coffee and hazelnut.

It’s often added to ice cream, chocolates and bread, but don’t stop there,- you can use it in whipped cream and other dairy desserts.

There’s even a beer brewery that makes Wattle Seed Ale.
The best thing is that Wattleseed contains potassium, calcium, iron and zinc in fairly high concentrations so it’s really good for you.


I’m going for something out of the ordinary, and it’s capers.
Capers that you buy in the supermarket look like little green soft fruits that sometimes come in a brine and sometimes are packed in pure salt in jars.

Capers or Caparis spinosa sometimes Caparis spinosa rupestris, is actually a bush which is called caper bush.
Caper bush with flowers and buds
Caper bush plants are readily available and grow as a hardy shrub originating in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
If your region can grow olives, grapes, almonds, and pistachios, then you can also grow capers.
Have you ever eaten Spaghetti alla Puttanesca,- that’s chockers with capers, what about Penne with anchovies, capers and toasty crumbs?
Ever heard of caper butter on crusty bread with vegetables and meats, or used in stuffing for fish?
The possibilities are endless.
For a bit of history, did you know that capers are an ancient food and legend has it that Cleopatra served capers at feasts intended to win the love of Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar.
So why grow them yourself?
Did you or do you still pick capers from a dish if they’ve turned up in something you’ve ordered?
No surprises really, because, we’ve been used to a much inferior quality that’s not been packed in the right medium.
What you really should have is a plumper olive-green bud that adds a lot of flavour to your food.

Another reason-Ever heard of organic capers?
No? That’s because there aren’t any, so if you want to avoid the high toxic residues that some imported capers carry, you need to grow your own.
Plus because you’ve grown them and pickled them soon after, the flavour of your capers will be more intense and firmer than the imported kind.
Did you know that Australian Capers are grown with minimal water on the dry rocky slopes of the River Murray?
In fact they’re grown commercially in both South Australia and Western Victoria.
Strictly speaking capers don’t belong in vegetable heroes because they’re neither a fruit or a vegetable.

So what are Capers?  

capers are the unopened flower bud and you might be surprised to learn that they’ve been used in cooking for over 5000 years!
The bush itself only grows to a metre, and it’s a pretty tough plant needing no extra water after it’s established.
Apparently they’re as dry tolerant as Eucalypts and Wattle trees because like gum trees and wattles, capers have a deep tap root that can search for water as well as a surface root system that picks up the morning dew.

Growing capers.

Well drained soil is the best kind for this bush and adding good compost and lime to the soil will also help the caper bush along.
Although capers love hot temperatures, frost is no problem during the active growing season.
Caper bush flowers
The flowers are white with long purple stamens and usually only lasts for one day.
But if you want to use them in cooking, capers need to be picked when the bud is still tight.
You’ll get buds every couple of weeks during the warmest months.
That’s not all that you can use from the caper bush.
If the flower opens, leave it on the bush so it can grow the oblong shaped berries that contain quite a few seeds.
These berries can also be pickled.

How do you pickle your capers?

It’s pretty easy really.
Traditionally the caperberry is pickled by soaking in salt water for a day, then washing the salt off and storing the berries in white wine vinegar.
Another method to pickle your capers is to add coarse salt to the picked capers (40% of the weight of the capers) and stir occasionally for about 10-12 days, when the liquid that forms on the bottom is drained off.
Add salt again (half the original amount) for another 10 days or so.
Then the capers are ready to use, just wash off the salt, or stored in dry salt. They can be made ready for use by soaking in a bowl of water to remove the salt.

Gourmet delights with capers.

Scatter a small handful into any fish dishes
Sprinkle into a potato, green or tomato salad
Add when you make your favourite pasta sauce.
Blend with butter and dab on crusty bread, grilled meat or vegetables

 Why are they good for you?

Being flower buds, capers are in fact very low in calories, 23 calories per 100 g.
Capers are one of the plant sources high in anti-oxidants.
The spicy buds have healthy levels of vitamins A,  K, niacin, and riboflavin.
Niacin helps lower LDL cholesterol.
Capers also have minerals like calcium, iron, and copper in them.


Shakespeare inspired garden design.
Ann Hathaway's cottage-Stratford on Avon

Do you like a good play or going to the theatre? If you do you might know that one of the world’s greatest playwrights, William Shakespeare, was a dab hand at incorporating plants into his plays.

He seemed to know so much about them that it’s thought he was an avid gardener.

For example in Hamlet he uses fennel, columbines, rue, daisy and violets – I love that mix of 3 lovely flowers, an aromatic foliage herb and an edible plant

Midsummer nights dream

I know a bank where the wild Thyme blows,
Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious Woodbine,
With sweet Musk-Roses and with Eglantine

For all the readers and lovers of Shakespeare. You might have a favourite piece of prose, or remember a particularly touching poetic line – he was and remains the most prolific author to use references to plants and flowers.
In fact if you visit Stratford Upon Avon where Shakespeare retired to, I fancy you might see a Shakespearean garden at Ann Hathaway’s cottage.
There are even a number of public gardens using that theme around the world.
Let’s find out what this is all about.  
I'm talking with landscape designer Louise McDaid
  PLAY: Unusual Themes_Shakespearean gardens pt3_2nd July 2014

In Shakespeare’s time, gardens would’ve been formal as in the Elizabethan period.
Ann Hathaway's garden-Stratford On Avon, England
What a great theme for a garden.
You could even put signs near the plants that provide the relevant quotations.
Ophelia says in Hamlet “There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance, Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies that’s for thoughts.’
Of course from Romeo and Juliet, the best known quote or misquote- "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
If you have any questions about Shakespearean gardens why not write in otherwise all information will be posted on the website



Do you like the trumpet shaped but diminutive flowers?

Then this next plant is one for you.
Correa reflexa

Some of the newer varieties have cute names like Capuccino, Coconut Ice, Fat Fred, Dancing Lipsticks, Incognito and Federation Belle.

In fact there are now so many hybrids that I lost count after one hundred.

Some of the common varieties found in Nurseries are, C. reflexa, C. glabra, C. alba, C. pulchella, and also the many hybrids/cultivars.

Caring for your plants

 Correas have 4 petals fused together in a pendulous bell tube, with colours ranging from yellow, red, green or combinations but also has white flowering forms.
Plants range in size from the prostrate form but most are about 1 metre to 2 metres in height.
Good drainage is a must for best results and raised beds could be an option in clay soils.
Correa glabra
Correas respond well to tip pruning after planting and can be made into compact bushes by clipping, with either shears or a hedge trimmer and hedges are quite common. T
his clipping should be timed so as not to interfere with the flowering time of the plant otherwise flowers will not form.
Very little maintenance is required with these plants apart from a trim once a year and don't let them dry out in warm weather if you're on sandy soil.
Fertilise your correas with something for natives only as they're phosphorus sensitive.
These fertilisers have an average N.P.K. rating of 17.9 : 0.8 : 7.3 and are safe to use on your Correas.
Grow them in a row and trimmed like a hedge, singly in a pot or in the garden?
Correa pulchella
For autumn and winter colour, these plants fit the bill lower down to the ground.
Correas prefer a soil that’s moist and well drained.
But they tolerate full sun and even partial shade.
If you like your plants looking neat, trim Correas twice a year but not during their main flowering season.


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