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Issue 9: Sep-Oct 1998

 

Standards Suggestions

The Editor

I was so impressed with the Australian Quandong Industry Association's Provisional Fruit Standards and Quandong Descriptive Language (portions of which were reprinted in Issue 6) that I decided to begin the process of setting some guidelines for bushfood quality. Obviously, what the industry needs is a nationally uniform certification process which will give buyers some sort of assurance that the product they purchase meets certain criteria. There have been instances in which product was rejected by a buyer after delivery - a costly and unnecessary exercise. Until we have clear and agreed upon guidelines, we should all be seeking to set certain standards for the foods we offer for sale. As I'm in the middle of harvesting them at the moment, I will start with Riberry (Syzygium luehmannii). I will also (with acknowledgements) crib unmercifully from the format used by AQIA. Readers should also refer to the harvesting notes from BTS Australia (on the web page and also reprinted in Issue 3 of the magazine).

1. Scope

Riberry (Syzygium luehmannii) occurs in a wide variety of qualities Fruit which is mouldy, has grub or other insect infestation, is dirty or contains pesticides should never be offered to the buyer. Almost all grades of Riberry are useable for something

- however, it is important that the buyer clearly understands the standard of the product being offered. One area which is not covered in the following is locale of harvesting. In some cities, Riberry was a favourite street tree. Levels of lead and other undesirable elements on the fruit picked from street trees is an issue which will have to be addressed.

2.  Definers:

The following assumes that harvesters will supply fruit which is totally free of dirt and debris.

a. Size-this is judged by a set of gauged sieves.

Large is = 20mm or larger

Medium = 15mm-19mm

Small =  10mm or less.

b.  Colour - describes the general colour ofeach fruit (Riberry fruits can be white on one side and pink to deep red on the other). All red is most flavourful. Top grade full colour means that the fruit is unlformly deep pink to red or purple, Standard grade colouring allows some light pink or white tinged fruit. Medium grade allows more than 50% of the fruit to have light pink or white colouring

c. Maturity - linked largely to skin colour, There is variation in the colouration of mature fruit but it is fair to say that, the deeper the pink/red/purple colour, the more mature the fruit. Full mature means that all of the fruit is fully mature, with light pink to red or purple but no white colouring.

d. 'Seedlessness' - this is a vexed issue. 'Seedless' varieties would be superior for processing reasons but the seeded variety should have its own category for such uses as jellies and syrups where the presence or lack of seed is not critical, Note - Riberries as yet are known to be reliably partially seedless, seldom fully so.

Two catagories only:

Seedless or Seeded

e. Defects - these can be sting marks, bruising, irregular shape (uncommon), over-maturity or shrivelling of the flesh. Nil defects means there are no discernable defects to any of the fruit Minor defects allows 50% of less of the fruit to have some irregularity in shape, small blemishes and some sting marks (but no infestation). Major defects allows all of the fruit to have irregularity in shape, sting marks, blemishes but no infestation. Stemmed and unstemmed Unstemined means that less than 10% ofthe thuit bear stems Stemmed allows all or some ofthe fruit to have stems

f. Post harvest handling - as with any foodstuff minimisation of the time between harvest and chilling/freezing/processing is paramount. Cool fruit quickly after harvest. Forced air cooling is more efficient than coolroom. Avoid allowing any moisture on the fruit. Ifthe fruit is wet when picked, spread and allow to dry before packing. Pack fruits of a uniform size. Handle carefully in hygienic conditions and pack in clean recepticles, clearly marked.

Gradings:

Please note that I have given separate but basically equal gradings to large and medium fruits. The size, though it may be important to some buyers, has little to do with the quality. The same gradings can be used for medium fruits (AAM etc) and small fruit (AAS) The same gradings can be used for seedless fruit (Seedless AAL, AAM, AAS etc) and seeded (Seeded AAL, AAM, AAS etc)

1.    Garnish Grade:

These will be large, mainly seedless fruits (ie fruits selected from trees which are substantially seedless), hand sorted, nil defects, full maturity and colour, no stems, suitable for eating fresh or as a fresh garnish.

2.    Grade AAL:

Large fruits (20mm or more - 100% offruit), top grade colour (80% or more offruit), full mature (80% or more of fruit), nil defects (80% or more of fruit and all remaining defects to be minor), unstemnied (80% or more of fruit).

3.    Grade AL:

Large fruits, mixed colour, mixed maturity, minor defects, unstemmed (80% or more offruit).

4.    Grade BL:

Large fruits, mixed colour, mixed maturity, minor defects, stems

5.     Grade CL:

Medium size fruits, mixed maturity, minor defects throughout.

The same gradings can be used for medium fruits (AAM etc) and small fruit (AAS) The same gradings can be used for seedless fruit (Seedless AAL, AA.M, AAS etc) and seeded (Seeded AAL, AMVI, AAS etc)

References:

Harvest and Post Harvest Handling of Fruit - BTS Australia

Provisional Fruit Standards - Australian Quandong Industry Association Inc

Postharvest handling and packaging of fresh herbs - RIRDC Research Paper No. 97/5 2

The Simplicity of Good Design

A visit to a bushlood plantation that is working

The editor

rubus

I'd been promising myself 3-4 days off for quite some time so an invitation to visit Northern NSW seemed a good reason to get away from the computer and out onto the land. The Northern Rivers district Of NSW is generally fertile and Picturesque region, liberally dotted with tidy macadamia plantations and trial farm forestry blocks. Larry and Dr Barbara Geno, though presently living in Rockhampton still maintain their 12 acre farm in the Lismore area. This was my home base for the visit and it proved to be an education for me. As my own bushfood planting began as a hobby, I admit to allowing a certain haphazardness to creep into the 'design'. Because I'm no farmer, some of the plantings have gone quite feral and others are just hanging in there. The Geno planting, in contrast, is not just well designed but well maintained.

Larry did a BSc (Honours) in Environment Science and then worked with Environment Canada and Agriculture Canada in their Future Studies Section (specialising in Human Ecology) for a number of years before purchasing an abandoned dairy farm and putting some of his theory into practice. Barbara Geno worked with the Science Council of Canada. Before moving to Australia, the couple established a successful tree nursery in an isolated and extremely cold region of Washington State.

In establishing one of Australia's first bushfood plantations, Larry and Barbara wanted their plantation to be ecologically sustainable financially secure and socially just, with few synthetic inputs and as few outside inputs as possible.

Larry had taken Peter Hardwick's course and wanted to put this knowledge 'into the ground' to create a model for a sustainable bushfood planting. He also wanted a design which followed organic lines. In implementing this, Larry has kept the design and the management plan so simple that even I could follow them, yet their elegance and integration impressed me. Plant purchases began 2 years before planting (1993). Although Larry admits he bought 'whatever he could', he stuck to species which he believed would work in the area and were already in the market. His other criteria for species selection was more personal - he chose not to grow anything which was naturally abundant in the wild and he also focused on flavour fruits, with reasonable estimates of yield and price. He avoided species with similar flavours to abundant commercial fruit. A portion of his land is set aside and 15% of the plantable area has been put into cabinet timber production.davos

His bushfood planting currently includes Riberry (Syzygium luehmanni)and some other Lilly pilly species for trial), Native raspberry (Rubus fraxinifolius), Native tamarinds (Diploglottis spp.), Davidson's plum (Davidsonnia jerseyana and D. pruriens), Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), Lemon aspen (Achronchia spp) and Macacadmia. His species mix aims for both production and some trials. The interplanting of Midyem (Austromyrtus dulcis),for instance, was pulled out as it wasn't performing well and was creating mulching problems. All of his plants were purchased in tubes for $1 or less and a small nursery area with shade cloth, gravel base and an overhead watering system was constructed to grow these on as the land was being prepared. Much of his land is sloping or downright hilly and he had the added problem of kikuyu. Minimum ground disturbance was a major factor in his preparation, which consisted of a single ripping and an application of lime and rock phosphate.

The kikuyu forced him to strip spray in order to defend his trees in the first years. Machinery access and the need for sun were the two major criteria for plant spacing. The planting is quite intensive, with some plants a mere 1m apart and rows wide enough for sun entry at maturity (3m). The low inputs concept means a fertility maintenance system which utilises on-site mulch, in line with the philosophy of appropriate technology for small farms, a tractor-slasher with side throw is used between the rows to cut and throw the grass for mulch. A two wheel tractor-powered side delivery rake is also used to place mulch in the rows. In order to establish his rainforest species, Larry had to create an 'artificial forest' from the start. For the NSW Davidson's plum, Larry interplanted with Pigeon pea, which was later used as mulch. The interplanting of sun-hardy species such as Diploglottis also gave the Davidson's some shade during establishment. As the trees mature, there is a recycling of deep nutrients and a certain amount of self-mulching and self-pruning. The cabinet timber species give some shade and also act as a windbreak. Depth and width of mulch is an important factor sometimes overlooked by planters (such as myself). A good, deep layer of mulch should be laid at least two bales wide in the rows. Larry pointed out that many people think that small trees need only a small strip of mulch - in fact small tress, with their shallower roots, need a wider girdle of mulch than established plants. Most of the 7000 plants were put in during the first year. All of the block, except the ridge areas, is irrigated, a considerable expense but one which proved worthwhile as his initial planting coincided with some of the worst drought years the area has seen. The ridge areas were maxi mulched and watered by truck at establishment. Pest problems seem minimal (Larry pointed out that he had the advantage of being quite a distance from horticultural areas and thus buffered to some extent from commuting pests). There were some thrips on his berries, but, by the second year, the spiders had moved in to clean them up. Larry believes that bats could be a future problem and a difficult one to overcome. Various (and reasonably expensive) methods have been employed for fruit such as peaches, with mixed results.

The ultimate deterrent - orchard wide netting - is expensive. Larry has a pragmatic approach to the threat of bats and other 'unwanteds', 'Some people will pull out the big guns as soon as they spot something getting to their crop but I go by the 'level of impact' strategy. If the bats or birds or whatever aren't impacting on your financial viability leave it be. When they do, then begin to look at the logical deterrents you can use.' I asked Larry how he handled his raspberry 'Discipline it.' was his simple answer.

His method is to 'hedge' the rows by walking along with a slasher and modified brush cutter and cutting the growth back at the sides and at head height to form a relatively easily harvestable hedge. He 'skirts' his trees, pruning away small branches at the base of the tree. The raspberries were his first crop (year 2). During my visit he was harvesting Native tamarind in reasonable quantities (year 3 and 4 plants), NSW Davidson plum, a small amount of riberry and a few out of season North Queensland Davidson plum.

There was, to my eye, a sellable quantity of Tamarind harvested but Larry juiced these, keeping the seed for propagation. He gifted me the 4 litres of incredibly sour juice (see drink recipe below). Extensive records are being kept on harvest time and methods in order to work out the optimal method. Larry made it clear that they were only half-way through their ten year 'experiment' and that premature conclusions or recommendations could be dangerous. However - some of the good advice I picked up during my stay: Plan it. Make it simple and make it workable. Think ahead to what machinery you will be using (and here Larry's advice is 'keep it small' - this will be the topic of a future series of articles), how you will be harvesting, where your water is coming from and how you will be managing the crop. Leave yourself leeway to pull out those plants which aren't working (Larry's Burdekin plums simply didn't adapt to the conditions and thus he had to pull them out).

Here again, there is a clear line between the hobby farmer and the production farmer. Mix some trial species in with the market favorites - the market is not a static entity and it is literally through trial (and error!) that it will expand. All in all, a great visit and a lift to my spirits - a living example that bushfoods can be farmed in a sustainable, environmentally friendly and, eventually profitable fashion and that it is not that hard to do.

Riberry!!!

(Or - Good Morning! Juice - a Riberry/Tamarind cordial).

Tamarind juice, great as it smells, is sour enough to make your eyes roll. I combined some with riberry cordial for a fabulously refreshing and very interesting drink. And it's easy.

Boil the riberries in just enough water to cover for around 15-20 minutes. Remove and either put through a juice press or hang in a clean muslin bag overnight. Squeeze to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Return liquid to a saucepan and add as much sugar as your taste requires. Boil this briefly, or, if you want a syrup, keep it on a simmer till it reduces. Chill, add juice of native tamarind juice and enjoy.

I imagine riberry cordial would mix well with most acidic fruits if you get the chance next season, try it!

Larry Geno

News

Northern Bushfood Association

Bushfood enthusiasts in Northern Australia are invited to contact interim organisers to pursue the establishment of a regional bushfood organisation covering Northern Australia.

Over the last few years, the industry has begun to organise itself on a bio-regional basis, with the greatest activity in the southern and eastern regions. At present, no representative body exists for the massive northern half of Australia.

It is critical to address common needs of networking, training and industry development and participate at a national level for finding liaison, standards and labeling, promotion and international liaison.

It is proposed that an association be created at the broad scale, with the specific aim of encouraging local and regional groups to emerge as critical mass evolves within specific areas.

There is potential for sectoral interest groups to form covering specific environments; monsoon tropics, dry tropics, interior arid and rainforest.

Interested plantation producers, wild harvesters, processors, nurseries and native plant enthusiasts are invited to contact

Paddy Delalande

P0 Box 4703, Yeppoon or phone 0749 393 936 to register their interest.

Bushfood Flavours

The Product Makers of Australia (located in Melbourne) have developed a range of bushfood flavours including Kakadu plum, Wattle seed and Rosella, with two or three new flavours in the pipeline. These flavours are targeted towards the dairy and confectionary markets providing great tasting chocolate and ice cream products.

For further information phone:

03 9798 8911.

RIRDC News

RIRDC has approved the appointment of Dion Dorward (SA), Juleigh Robins (Vic), Margaret Bailey (NSW) and John King (QId) to serve on their bushfood R&D Advisory Panel for 1999.

The first meeting (to evaluate Preliminary Research Proposals for the 1999/2000 funding round) was in Sydney on 28th January.

Clippings...

The Australian New Crops Newsletter. Issue 10, July

1998: 39-43.

Birmingham, E.M.(1998).

Australian Native Citrus: wild limes from the rainforest to the desert.

This article covers native citrus very fully and also clarifies some current misconceptions. Native citrus is currently undergoing a reclassification.

Both Microcitrus .spp. and Eremocitrus glauca are being reclassified back into Citrus! This may present a challenge for the bushfood industry in marketing new native citrus crops and products.

The author, Erika Birmingham, is about to launch her provisionally PBR protected variety of Pink-pulp Finger Lime 'Rainforest Pink Pearl' and has chosen to use the following original botanical name: Citrus australasica F. Mueller var sanguinea F.M. Bailey.

Small is bea-utiful, Baby!

midyimClose your eyes and try to recall the images of your foraging for tasty fruits in the bush. Think of the flavours as well, if you can. How any of these had a diameter of less than 20mm,? 15mm? 10mm? At a guess, quite a few were below 10mm. Now, consult the well known bushfood references to find the commercially relevant species, noting how many exceed 20mm. Very few would be smaller, although it would include Muntaries (Kunzea pomiferia), Mountain pepper (Tasmania lanceolata), Riberry, (Syzygium leuhmannii), Akudgera (Solanam australe) and desert lime (Eromocitrus glauca). Now, consider for a moment the dried fruit industry around the world and the importance of the various products in our diet and our cooking. The word 'currant' springs to mind as well as any other and it is the smallest of the dried fruit. In fact, the word is used in two contexts: first, currant as an unqualified term refers to the dried ripe fruits of a small, seedless Greek grapes originally growing near Corinth (corrupted to 'currant') and now growing in many other places worldwide (for instance, Mildura). Being a true grape, it is a variety of Vitis vinifera (family Vitaceae) to which same family several genera of our native grape belong. On the other hand, the term red, black or white currant refers to an entirely different group of plants in the genus Ribes of the family Grossulariaceae, of the species rubrum, nigram and album respectively. There are no members of this family in the Queensland flora and probably none or few in the rest of Australia as it is not one of the Gondwana ancestors but derived from the super family Saxfragaceae, found across the Northern part of Europe, Asia and the North American continent in which zones the red, black and white currants (variously) evolved. Back to Australia and some definitions. A 'berry' could be described as a softish, juicy fruit with small seeds. A drupe, on the other hand, while soft and juicy, has a largish seed which is hard and presents problems in processing. The point of all this is that it is time for us to think seriously about using some of our smaller native fruits in the ways established for centuries overseas. The yarn about currants is relevant as it suggests two options for some of our smaller fruits. Any fruit with reasonable levels of sugar and flesh lends itself to drying. The (red, black, white) currants do not seem to have been dried but rather used for jams, sauces, fermented drinks etc. Now refer to Bushfood magazine Issue 6 in which we looked at jams and seeds in jams. Obviously, drupes create more difficulties in jams than berries but both can be dried. Seed removal is a commercial practice of long standing. There are technical problems for aspiring food processors but these are not new ones - the information is available in mainstream food technology.

Now for some species. There are several families offering tasty, small fruits but I will begin with Myrtaceae, a very Australian family. By coincidence, two of our most delectable, small, sweet native berries occur naturally in two small coastal zones - Muntaries (Kunzea pomifera) in South Australia and Midyim (Austromyrtus dulcis) in South Queensland. Muntaries are cultivated for the market and are widely known and used. Midyim, on the other hand, has been seen and tasted by fewer Australians, and while commonly used as a landscape plant, is not marketed by nurseries as an edible species and is not yet a serious crop.

In fact, there are six other species of Austromyrtus, all with small berries and all tall shrubs. Midyim is a low, sprawling shrub with the best fruit and the best prospects for cultivation. Muntaries are a member of a large genus, not many of which offer interesting prospects. The so-called Silky myrtle (Decaspermum hamile) is the only Australian member of about 30 species found in SE Asia and the Pacific. It occurs in the eastern parts of SE Queensland as an attractive shrub or small tree producing numerous black berries of up to 8mm in diameter. If any proof of delectibility is needed, watch the staff at Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens (Brisbane) sampling them mid year. Nurseries which sell them promote the attractive form, foliage and flowers but not the fruit. The genus Rhodamnia contains some of our most attractive myrtles, mostly shrubs to small trees (there are trees over 20m) with very distinctive foliage and flowers. The berries, which turn black from

red range in size from 6mm (R.rubescens) to 11mm (R. whiteana). The Rhodamnias are found in various types of rain forest but are hardy and adaptable. There are ten species in Australia, six of them in SE QId, with a number of related species in SE Asia and the Pacific. Like most of our rainforest species, Rhodamnias are hardy and adaptable. In my garden, (Brisbane), Rhodamnias pubescens is flourishing in half shaded moist conditions. The genus Pilidostigma is endemic to this country alone. There are five species, two of them in SE Queensland, in wet Eucalypt or rainforest margins. They are shrubs or small trees and have attractive foliage, form and flowers with succulent purple black berries. The fruit of P. rhytispagmum can be up to 10mm and P. glabrum up to 14mm, available winter-spring. In the reorganisation of the Myrtacea some decades ago, we were left with only one Eugenia out of the world's thousand. Our sole Eugenia, extends northwards from the Burnett River in Northern NSW to Cape York.

Enough of myrtles. Earlier this year, the editor was asked by a reader to suggest a use for a bumper crop of Psychotria loniceroides. Does the name ring a bell? psychotriaThink for a moment of the family Rubiaceae, represented in many parts of the world, often by very elegant shrubs with shiny foliage, perfumed white flowers and colourful fruit. There are 25 genera/170 species in Australia, some with small, edible fruits. Psychotria loniceroides is a widespread coastal shrub with pubescent leaves, cymes of small, white flowers and sweet, yellow drupes to 8mm. P. daphnoides is smaller and more of a rainforest species, with smaller fruit. P. loniceroides performs well in my garden. The genus Canthium (still Rubicaceae) has seven species in SE Queensland, all with small, sweet drupes, less than 10mm in size, except C coprosmoides (10mm,red) a traditional Aboriginal food.

Enough. This article does not pretend to be exhaustive but merely introduces the idea of experimenting with the smaller fruits, some of which may be suitable for more extensive cultivation, processing and consumption.

A future article will deal with several other significant groups:

Diospyros, Rubus, and Cirtriobates. Perhaps the editor will respond to requests for more information on the suggested species...

John Wrench

14 Ennerdale St,

Chermside West 4032

 

Contents
Hibiscus & Hibiscus Like Plants - Colleen Keena
Formation of National Body - from the Editor
Letters
Research Results
More on a National Body - Margaret Bailey
More on Hibiscus - Colleen Keena
Not Just a Beautiful Bloom - Colleen Keena
A Look at Standards - some suggestions from the editor
Simplicity of Good Design - A look at a bushfood plantation
News
Small is beautiful - John Wrench
The Atherton Raspberry - Larry Geno, grower
Wonder of Raspberry - Larry Geno
American Wild Foods - John King in the US
Observations: Warrigal Greens - The Editor learns by experience
Suckers, Sex and Seedlings - Dr Barbara Randall on the Quandong
Marketing the Bush food Industry - Vie Cherikoff reports
Comment - Larry Geno
Book reviews - 'You can have your permaculture and eat it too'
Book review - The Quandong Recipe Book
What's Fruiting Now?
Famous Palates (Olivia Newton-John etc)
More research News
Recipes
 
 

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