Monday, April 24, 2006

Carboot sale (One fine autumn day)

I have always been interested in how car boot sales are being conducted. Several times, David and I planned to participate in the local one, (in fact, he has put together some old stuff--pre-loved things we could not find use for anymore--in a big box ready to go into the car boot any time), but the not-so-pleasant weather every time, would always prevent us from going.

Last Sunday, we decided to go for a drive to Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton, (a 30-minute drive from our place, Featherston), where we hoped to get some good photos of autum leaves, or at least of those fallen ones being tossed and turned by the autum breeze. On our way, we called by a mushroom farm and bought a box of huge, flat, fresh mushrooms!

It was mid-morning when we reached Masterton but had to stop first at the car boot sale on Essex street. It was in a large vacant space where several cars' boots were opened and makeshift stalls were set up, and just about anything was on sale.

Car boot sales, according to Mr. Google, "are a mainly British form of market in which private individuals come together to sell their unwanted household items".

Since some of these people want to get rid of old stuff (like books, kitchen utentils, used toys, used clothes, pre-loved books, old tools, magazines, memorabilia, plants, herbs in pots, etc,) almost everything was sold at almost knockdown prices.

In New Zealand, the car boot sale has evolved into a combination of a garage sale and a flea market, where not only private individuals who want to get rid of their unwanted household things participate but commercial sellers as well. Like, Jack, who was selling eggs from his chookie farm. When we found his car at around 10:30 a.m. he had already sold at least 40 trays of his eggs. It was also brisk business for a group who were selling fresh veggies like cabbages, water cress, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., which were unloaded from a truck in several plastic crates.

Wandering around the area, we found several items of interest to us. David fancied a plate made of alluminum with interesting old photos of a lake in Queenstown printed on it. I was delighted to find an old couple who were selling at least four kinds of nuts harvested from their garden--chestnuts included. The chestnuts were not being "roasted on an open fire" though. They were fresh. Just the same, I bought a kilo for myself.

David bought for me a pack of figs, a kind of fruit which has a bulbous shape with a small opening (the ostiole) in the end and a hollow area inside lined with small red edible seeds. I have never seen nor tasted this fruit before so he wanted me to give it a try. But I was more excited about my chestnuts (it's been years since I last had a taste), so soon as we arrived home, I tossed a handful into a pot and roasted them on the stove top. The old woman from whom we bought them told me to toss them for about ten minutes, so I did, humming "chestnuts roasting on an open fire...". It was just disappointing that they were not as fragrant as the ones we see being roasted in big woks in Quiapo or elsewhere during Christmas season. Anyway, they were still uncooked after ten minutes, and since the pot where I cooked them has burned at the base, I thought of just giving them a wee zap in the microwave. Which was a bigggg mistake! A few seconds after pressing the start button, the chestnuts started popping up like firecrackers being fired up, giving me a wee fright. Lesson learned, never, ever cook chestnuts in the microwave.

Dinner that day was baked mushrooms, tomato soup and toast, plus popped chestnuts.

Here's how to make those yummy, baked flat mushrooms:

4 flat mushrooms
4 tsp olive oil
4 tbp grated cheese

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Lay mushrooms upside down on a baking tray. On each piece, sprinkle a teaspoon of olive oil. Then top with grated cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

By the way, strolling at the Queen Elizabeth Park at this time of year is just amazing. Each time the wind blew, huge trees would let go a rain of leaves in red, gold and yellow, adding to the pile of already crisp, brown leaves that has carpeted the lawn. And as the winter season approaches, more leaves will let go of their hold on the twigs to give way to new growth next spring.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Feijoa (Also known as Pineapple Guava)

First to fall on to the ground were a couple of medium sized fruits from the tree by the veggie garden. That was March 27. Every day thereafter, we gather an average of one and a half kilos a day. Almost a month since then, we still gather as much amount of feijoa every day, but expect the quantity to gradually diminish until the feaijoa season ends in June.

The first time I saw a feijoa fruit in 2004, I got really excited because it looked very much like the guava, which I love and sorely miss to this day. I wasn't particularly impressed the first time I was introduced to its taste though. My husband, David, cut one feijoa in half and scooped the jelly-like pulp in the center and asked me to try it. It didn't taste too bad, but found it a little bland and unappealing. Or probably, because it looked like the guava, I was expecting a sweet taste with a hint of tartness that we find in most of our fruits back home. It did not meet my expectations so I did not give it another try that year to my husband's disappointment. He soooo loves the feijoa --on its own or with ice cream and whipped cream (!!!) and wished we would enjoy it together.

The following year, there were just too many fruits falling on to the ground, it was a pity I couldn't appreciate them. But David never gave up asking me to give it another try. So I did, to please him. But this time, instead of cutting it in half and scooping the jelly-like pulp, I peeled the thin skin, sliced it thinly and sprinkled a little salt like I would with guava or mango. And it worked! It tasted so much nicer than the first time I tried it. I have since been enjoying the feijoa with my husband, although, I still do not like it with my ice cream.

But here is a better way to enjoy feijoa:

250 gms feijoa peeled and chopped coarsely
1 cup milk
2 cubes glazed ginger (or a thumbnail size fresh ginger)
1Tbsp honey
2 cups cubed ice

Put everything together in a blender and process to a smoothie. Adjust sweetness according to taste.

Rich in Vitamin C with a sugar content of 6 percent, the feijoa usually falls on to the ground before it is ripe. So they have to be gathered and held in store until their flavor has fully developed. When the fruit has turned slightly soft and the jellied sections in the center becomes clear, (which may take 2 to 5 days after natural fruit drop), it is ready to be eaten. the feijoa is still unripe when the jelly-like pulp is still white, but past its best when it starts browning at the center.

I don't really know how to describe the taste, but the jelly like substance in the center of the fruit has a distinctive sweet/sour flavor and the flesh around it is granular and a bit tart. Its other name is "pineapple guava", and some say it has a rich, guava-like flavor with a hint of strawberry and pineapple, but I can't really tell.

Depending on its variety, the feijoa, which is about 5 centimeters long, may be oblong or round and looks very similar to the guava. It is green in color even when ripe, with a thin, tough, waxy skin. Cut in half, the fruit has white or yellow-green flesh around a jelly-like pulp, in which very tiny seeds are embedded. The feijoa, byt he way, is native to southern Brazil, northern Argentin,a western Paraguay and Urugua. In the 1920's it was intoroduced to New Zealand where it is now grown organically.
posted by Mel @ Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 6, 2006


Tamarillo (The fruit that tastes like tomato)

The sun struggled to come out this morning after what seemed to be endless wintry blasts that brought about heavy snow in the South Island and in some parts of the North Island as well. Green pasture farms turned to vast snow fields. Farmers in the highlands had to use helicopters to gather and feed their stock. Over here at the Wairarapa area, incessant rains caused heavy flooding, damaging roads and cutting bridges, isolating some communities. There was loss of fragile lambs too, for some farmers.

It was a welcome relief to finally see the sun after days and days of dark clouds and pouring rain. I had the chance to go out to see how the garden was doing. The hothouse was under water--the ampalaya vine which I had been keeping inside with the hope of it surviving the winter was showing signs of surrender, the pepino plant's leaves were eaten by frost, exposing its fruits, most of which were yet to get ripe. On the positive side, the garlic bulbs and the shallots we planted on the first week of June have started to spring up. They seemed to love the cold and the wet weather. Even the broad beans looked happy despite wet feet.

Under the tamarillo trees were several of their fruits that fell onto the ground. They were either forced by the wind, or maybe, they were about ready. Like the feijoa, the tamarillos are not picked off the tree, they do a natural fruit drop when they are about ripe.

With its oval shape and an outer skin that is either red or purple toned, the ripe tamarillo really looks nice and appealing. Cut cross-wise, the fruit reveals an orange-y flesh and an interesting dark pattern formed by its edible seeds. But the thought of a fruit tasting like a tomato and using it as a dessert, did not really appeal to me. Well, at least, the first time I tried it. But David really, really loves it as a topping for his hokey-pokey or vanilla ice cream!

Like the feijoa that I also did not like initially, I tried the tamarillo as a fruit shake. Cutting the fruit into half, I scooped the flesh out and prepared the rest of the ingredients. I was surprised to find a very appealing purplish colored smoothie that was a hit for both David and me.

Tamarillo Shake

2 pcs ripe tamarillo
1 cup soy milk
2 cups cubed ice
1 tbs honey or brown sugar
( Variation: You can use a ripe banana if you do not want to use honey or sugar)

Put together all ingredients in a blender and process to a smoothie.

Tamarillo Tidbits

The tamarillo (Cyphomandra) is a member of the Solanaceae family, with the potato, tomato, eggplant and capsicum peppers as relatives.

These egg-shaped fruits were formerly called tree tomato, and were originally from South America, until New Zealand's Mr W Thompson of the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotion Council coined the term "tamarillo", from a combination of the Maori word "tama" and the Spanish word "amarillo" for the color yellow. The term stuck and has been in use since then.

There are two varieties: one is the yellow/orange toned and the red/purple toned. Red tamarillos are more acidic (tart and tangy ) than yellow or gold tamarillos. The difference can be likened to non acidic tomatoes and normal tomatoes. And speaking of likeness with tomatoes, tamarillos can also be skinned easily like the tomatoes by blanching the fruits in hot water for a couple minutes or so, then rinsing them with cold water. The skin should come off easily after this.

Both types contain edible seeds, and the flavor of the flesh within the two types vary considerably. Because the red or purple toned tamarillos have a more tart taste than their yellow or orange toned counterparts, they are more frequently used as a vegetable than as a fruit.

I have yet to discover the other uses of this fruit/vegetable, although one book I have read said that the red or purple toned tamarillo can be used as you would a tomato--peeled and sliced and served as a cold side dish, added to sandwiches and salads, baked, frozen or eaten raw. The yelllow or orange one can be sliced and added to fruit salads and other deserts.

For the meantime, we would have to enjoy the tamarillo as a fruit shake. And yes, as fruit topping for David's vanilla ice cream.