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Fruits & Nuts: Mediterranean Style  by Malcolm Campbell

The Mediterranean climate is one of the most idyllic for growing fruit and nuts. It is curious in the plant realm that you can bring alpine plants to a Mediterranean climate and they survive, you can also bring lots of tropical plants that thrive and of course many of the cool temperate plants too, but you cannot take alpine plants to the tropics or the cool temperate plants to warm climates. The Mediterranean climate is the horticultural cross-roads and offers the richest variety of fruits and nuts to grow. In Australia it's a region defined as having an annual rainfall of less than 700mm, most of which falls as winter rainfall with hot dry summers. Rates of evaporation are usually three to five times the rainfall and soils are often alkaline and of a heavy clay or loamy texture. Perth and its cereal belt are the exceptions with light sandy soils, but Adelaide and most of the Mallee in SA and Wimmera in Victoria could be termed Mediterranean. The distinguished geographer, Köppen may forgive my broadbrush approach, but I'd define our Mediterranean horticulture as being suited to those areas bounded by Mount Gambier in the south, Horsham and Mildura to the east, then linking up with Whyalla to Ceduna and Esperance, with inland Narrogin and coastal Geraldton the most extreme areas in WA.

This is the domain of the Grape, Olive and Citrus. Plants generally known to be very hardy, in that they will grow and fruit on minimal water, even of brackish content and mostly seem to thrive on little attention.

I've arranged the favourite fruits and nuts from this region according to their hardiness, rather than any botanical features, since most home gardeners are oblivious to Apples and Pears being Pomes and Apricots and Plums as Stone Fruits. They get planted into backyards, with botanical impunity.

Amongst our hardiest fruit and nut plants are Mulberries, Olives, Loquats, Pomegranates, Carobs, Figs, Opuntias, Quandongs, Almonds, Lemons, Pistachios and Quince.

Next I'd recommend Apricots, Peaches, Pecans, Oranges, Grapes, Plumcots, Persimmons, Feijoa, Guava, Jubjube, Grapefruit, Walnuts, Nashi, Pears, Apples, Medlars, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, and Silver Nuts.

Then there are the sub-tropical fruits and nuts that grow well in the Mediterranean areas. This is not to infer that these are tender or hard to grow but they generally come from warm humid areas and as such need mulching to create humid conditions. Plants such as the Avocado, Tamarillo, Babaco, White Sapote, Atemoya and Jaboticaba.

Obviously there are selections and cultivars within each of those fruit and nut varieties that have more hardiness to particular climates or regions, but I'll deal with those suited to the Mediterranean climate. If you live in a cooler or more humid region there will probably be more suitable cultivars of the same varieties. For instance in a Mediterranean climate the 'Hass' and 'Reed' cultivars of Avocado grow best, but the cultivar 'Bacon' grows well even in Melbourne and the range of suitable cultivars for south eastern Queensland is quite large and includes, 'Fuerte', 'Rincon', 'Hazzard', 'Wurtz' and 'Sharwil'.

The hardiest of fruit and nuts. These are the bound-to-succeed varieties. These are the bound-to-succeed varieties.

Mulberries, are often found growing around abandoned old buildings in the outback, that's how tough they are. They are deciduous and fruit very quickly in the spring. The 'Black English' Morus nigra, has long almost black fruits in late spring, the 'Hicks Fancy' Morus rubra, has red berries carried over a longer season in late spring and the 'White Mulberry' Morus alba, has fairly sweet long greenish-yellow berries in late spring. This is the variety which provides leaves for Silkworms. There is also a popular white "King Mulberry" Morus macroura, called 'Shahtoot', with pale yellow berries to 10cm long, that is favoured by rare fruit growers.

Olives, were first grown in South Australia in the 1840's for oil that was used as a lubricant. These days with mineral oils and synthetic oils we wouldn't waste such a fine crop. The wild olives that grow in the region, have become feral, since extracting the oil is a labour intensive and expensive process. I saw an old imported olive press from Spain change hands in Adelaide recently for over $200,000. They are much more sturdy than grape presses, which is why we import most of our olive oil. There are a few local presses, but it's for edible olives that most home gardeners grow olives. The most popular variety being 'Verdale' which is a reliable pickler. I favour the 'Californian Pickler 13A6' which has a huge fruit set of large fruits that are very tasty as green or black olives. When it comes to eating olives I must confess to the locally-pickled low-salt 'Kalamata' as my favourite.

Loquats, were a fruit that we pinched over the fence and no one every seemed to buy them. 'Chatsworth Victory' is a local cultivar that has a very heavy crop of large fruits in October and November. In most gardens it's the birds that seem to enjoy them most! As with Pomegranates, eating them is an outdoors recreational activity, due to the need to be forever spitting out the stones. The Loquat tree makes a stately evergreen specimen with large leaves and its crop is best grown in the home garden, because when ripe it bruises easily, which is why it hasn't become a popular commercial fruit.

 Pomegranates, are probably more popular as a table decoration than as edible fruits in Australia. My grandfather used to dry them along with oranges in his incubator that he hatched chicken, quail and pheasant eggs in. After a week or so they became as hard as cricket balls and about the same colour. They lasted all year and could be eaten at will. While the brightest red Pomegranate or Melagrana as my Italian friends call them, is the 'Wonderful' cultivar, I favour the "Russian Pomegranate", 'Gulosha Azerbaijani' for flavour and matchless squelchability. Many years ago on the streets of Tehran, I tasted a delicious fruit juice extracted from Pomegranates, but I've never seen it offered in Australia, not even by the Lebanese and Turkish stalls in the markets.

Their small deciduous bushes make a lovely autumn display of yellow as they turn and they even make productive tub plants and some cultivars make charming miniature bonsai specimens.

Carobs, where once planted as a favourite street tree in the Barossa Valley, where today tonnes of Carob fruits could be picked from their street trees, yet we still import over 200 tonnes of Carob flour from the Middle East each year. It is of course used in the confectionery industry as a chocolate substitute. Sheep love eating the fruits and I'm still not able to pass one in fruit in a street without trying them. There are some fine seedling varieties in the Adelaide Parklands and the avenue of Carobs on Barton Terrace opposite the Piccadilly Theatre, has some very tasty fruits. The best locally available cultivar is the self-pollinating hermaphrodite Tunisian 'Sfax', but backyard Permiculture growers are selecting some very sweet fleshy forms that are bound to become more popular in future. They are budding male scions to female rootstocks, since most Carobs have male and female flowers on separate trees, except for 'Sfax' and 'Santa Fe'.

Figs, should not be overlooked as pot plants since even a 300mm terra cotta container will produce a robust plant and set edible figs. Old nurserymen claim that you had to plant a fig on a slab of slate or it would grow too tall and not set enough figs early in its life. I've certainly seen them growing on some very rocky outcrops in Turkey and Greece. The best local Fig to my taste buds is the 'Black Genoa', which is self fertile and has two crops a year. The almost-black fruits are fairly conical and small but very sweet. Another poplar Fig is 'Preston Prolific', which is also self fertile, but with pale amber flesh rather than the rich red of 'Black Genoa' and 'Brown Turkey' and rather insipid to my taste buds. The green fig 'White Genoa' prompts some folk to think it never ripens, but it has lovely reddish-pink flesh that the starlings enjoy long before most folk realise they are ripe. A friend of mine has a tree of 'White Genoa' from which I have made the most tasty jam, laced with Drambuie™ and julienne strips of crystallised ginger. It's pretty expensive jam, but oh so lovely on a cold winter's morning with a pale Darjeeling tea. The trickiest Fig to grow is the Smyrna family of Caprifigs. Not because they are difficult to grow but because their pollination is complex and requires more than a casual interest. They require pollination assistance from the "Fig Wasp", Blastophaga psenes to develop fruit that ripen and really fall into the domain of the enthusiast.

Opuntias, or " Indian Figs" are popular with Italian gardeners who call them foco d'India. To prepare the fruits for eating requires donning leather gloves so the fine prickles didn't prick you and then peeling the skin to reveal the tasty flesh. Local selections are swapped amongst keen gardeners that are variously deep purple in colour or dark red. They are best container grown or on a raised mound with perfect drainage.

Quandongs, or "Native Peaches" are the fruits of Santalum acuminatum that grows as a root parasite in arid areas. Not to be confused with the "Blue Quondong" Eleaocarpus grandis from the east coast of northern NSW and Qld. There are some fine selections of grafted Quandongs on offer from several local suppliers, that have uniform large sweet fruits. The plants are expensive, due to the difficulty with the graft taking. The fruits when dried and reconstituted, make tasty tarts and fruit pies, that are frequently available from Tullock's Copley Bakery when you're next passing through that northern SA outpost. As fruit trees they are best planted in the hottest parts of our region and certainly respond to additional summer drip irrigation. They parasitize Kykuyu grass quite readily, which can be kept mown in an orchard.

Almonds, grew along with lemon trees in everyone's backyard when I was a kid. Sadly today they are much rarer. They are one of the most prolific and valuable crops you could grow in the home garden, providing you can keep the Galahs off them and grow a suitable pollinator nearby. That generally means planting two Almond trees or compliment the neighbour's existing selection. Ever thought of offering to give the neighbour a compatible almond pollinator if you don't have much room for two? With a temporary bird net thrown over your tree for two months in March-April, you can solve your bird invasion problem. A reliable softshell combination is 'Chellaston' and the large 'Johnstone's Prolific'. If you don't have a rodent problem, then the papershell cultivars are ideal. A good combination is the "Californian Papershell", 'Nonpareil' (syn. 'Hatches Nonpareil') grown with the hardshell 'Fritz' or the paper shell, 'Ne Plus Ultra'. The 'Ne Plus Ultra' is unfortunately prone to "Shot hole" on the leaves, but then we don't eat the leaves do we? One of our best local hardshell cultivars is 'Biggs' which is a self pollinator, so it's the natural choice if you only have room for one almond tree.

Lemons, are the ideal backyard crop, where they bare all year round. The trees thrive on neglect, once established and the 'Lisbon' lemon is without peer in this region. It will even grow well by the coast. It does need plenty of room though and will grow to a spreading tree of 7 metres by 5 metres wide. Fortunately it can be pruned in winter mercilessly to 2 metres. I stress winter because otherwise the newly exposed bark can get sun-burnt. Calabrian gardeners paint the trunks with white paint to prevent sun-burn and also to reduce insect attack. The 'Meyer' lemon is really a hybrid lemon crossed with an orange and is ideal for the cooler Mediterranean areas like Mount Gambier or Horsham and on the hills and slopes throughout the region.

Pistachios, have male and female trees and it is common practise in orchards to plant one male tree in the middle of a block of eight females. While it's possible to graft a male scion onto a predominantly female rootstock, so that it bares nuts, better yields will be produced from a separate female tree, with an unproductive male pollinator nearby. Use 'Kerman' as a reliable female and 'Peters Male 19-8' as its mate. Even male seedlings of Pistacia vera provide reasonable pollination for the female 'Kerman' plants. In common with most nut and citrus crops, Pistachios don't establish well when transplanted as open-rooted specimens, but recover best when container-grown.

Quince is probably the ugly duckling of the home garden orchard. They frequently occur in gardens as the result of having been the rootstock of a Pear, that was damaged. The best cultivar for dark red jelly is 'Champion' with its almost round fruit. I remember eating it as a stewed fruit as a kid, but then my parents stewed everything. Quinces are self-fertile and remarkably productive on poor soils.

The must try list.

Apricots, are certainly one of the most reliable fruits for the smaller home garden in this climatic region. They are self-sterile, well at least the cultivars that home gardeners grow are. 'Moorpark' is our most popular cultivar, but it surprises me that so many folk opt for it when it usually ripens both sides of Christmas. As a result I think it's fruit does not get fully utilised fully. An earlier variety with good colour and taste is 'Story' (syn. 'Early Moorpark'), which ripens at least a week earlier. An even earlier variety is 'Trevat', but its pale colour makes it less spectacular for dried fruit, which I think is the Apricot's best use. Some stew them and of course eat them fresh, but a plate of dried apricots or fruit leather brings compliments from every quarter at anytime of the year. For a really early variety try the South Australian-bred 'Divinity', which is at least 3 weeks earlier than 'Moorpark' and has a very rich colour flushed in red. It also needs to be eaten when soft, but makes a stunning dried apricot. There is a problem on very alkaline soil areas in this region with lime-induced-chlorosis that has been overcome with a lime tolerant plum-peach rootstock called GF677, so that local propagators are increasingly supplying popular apricots, plums and peaches on this rootstock. An old cultivar called 'Early Oullins' that I haven't seen in anyone's catalogues for years, is also naturally quite lime tolerant too. A common disease on old Apricots, Almonds and grapevines is what locals call "Gummosis" on Apricots and Almonds, and "Dying Arm" on vines. The culprit is a fungus called Eutypa which causes the dieback. The active fungi are transmitted by pruning implements from tree-to-tree or limb-to-limb during pruning. The remedy is to use a household bleach as a dip for your secateurs or pruning saws between cuts.

Peaches, are mostly self-fertile so they don't need to be planted in compatible pairs such as apples and almonds. By far the most popular peach for the Mediterranean is 'Elberta', which as a kid I remember was always ripening as we returned to school in February. Kids return to school in January these days, so they have to go without 'Elberta' for a few weeks. It is prolific from mid February till early March. 'Elberta' is the classic round yellow juicy freestone, with the red blush where it gets the kiss of the sun. Taste one in a northern winter even at 90p a fruit and I guarantee you will taste that South Aussie sunshine! It can be dried, stewed and of course for the sensory treat of the season, eaten fresh outside, where you can let the juice run over the garden. What a treat! A new white-fleshed cultivar that is proving popular is 'Tasty Zee™'. It ripens from early February in Adelaide and has a uniform dark red skin, with firm juicy freestone flesh, that is very sweet. I have to confess that I find it too sweet, but it dries well and looks a real treat as fresh fruit. I must mention that the yellow freestone 'J.H. Hale' is self-infertile and needs a pollinator such as 'Blackburn Elberta', which has caused gardeners a lot of grief over the years. The 'Peacharine' is a smooth skin cultivar akin to a Nectarine in appearance, but tasting like a Peach. It has a yellow freestone flesh and firm juicy fruit that ripens in February. They have become popular as a fresh fruit, due to their long self-life, but not widely grown in the home garden.

Nectarines, are self-fertile so they can be grown as solitary fruit trees and they can be contained to a small tree of 4 metres in height. I would not look beyond the sweet white-fleshed red-fruit of 'Goldmine' that ripens first week in February.

Oranges, or sweet oranges to be more precise are one of the most reliable crops from the home garden. The seedless 'Washington Navel' is a sure winter crop that bears over a long season every year and with minimal effort will bear for fifty years. There are other 'Navels' that are grown commercially, but not seen much in home gardens. The 'Leng Navel' grows well in the Riverland and Sunraysia, where it colours earlier than 'Washington Navel' has a finer texture in the flesh and thinner skin. You will probably have bought it from a green grocer thinking it to be a 'Washington Navel'. There is also a 'Lanes Late Navel' that will hold its fruit until almost Christmas. There is a lot of selection going on at present to come up with a 'Navel' that is sweeter and ripens later than 'Washington Navel', but due to the Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) involved we are unlikely to see those cultivars released to home gardeners for many years.

For a summer orange 'Valencia' is still the standard. A pale skinned orange that would surely be more popular if its skin was a richer colour and if it didn't have seeds. It does however make up the bulk of juicing oranges, due to its superior flavour and better keeping characteristics than 'Washington Navel'. 'Valencia' has a biennial fruit set pattern, with one year setting a heavy crop followed by a small or non-existent crop next year. The 'Maltese Blood Orange' is popular with that ethnic group. Its distinctive flavoured red flesh is only secured when grown inland, because in coastal areas it can be almost indiscernible from a sweet orange in colour at least. In California there are cultivars of 'Blood Orange' that have a deep maroon flesh, such as 'Moro' and 'Tarocco', but I have never seen them offered in Australia. The various 'Seville' or sour oranges and the 'Poorman' are principally used for making marmalade jam, where the rind is extracted and cooked.

Grapefruit, grow on fairly large bushes or trees and are frequently planted too close together in home gardens. In common with all citrus they need plenty of sun and lots of air moving around them, so they cannot be cramped up against a back fence. The 'Marsh Seedless' is an outstanding almost seedless grapefruit, that ripens in April and May. The 'Thompson' has a pale pink flesh, with the same appearance and taste as a 'Marsh Seedless'. Grapefruit are an acquired taste and there are those that love their astringent taste, while others revile it. In common with all citrus Grapefruit are gross feeders and you cannot overlook fertilising then at least three times a year in their growing season with a balanced citrus fertiliser and a foliar spray of Magnesium nitrate on a warm summer's night.

Mandarins, are probably the most unreliable of the citrus family in this Mediterranean climate, mainly because most of the cultivars do not thrive on alkaline soils, which are a common feature of the region. I have yet to see a true seedless mandarin, with good flavour that grows on a slightly alkaline soil, so I advise you to plant Tangelos.

Tangelos, are a cross between a 'Duncan Grapefruit' and a 'Dancy Mandarin'. They grow larger than Mandarins, seem more tolerant of alkaline soils and certainly taste better than both of their parents. The 'Minneola Tangelo' is one of the finest tasting, with what is a mildly astringent grapefruit taste, that I find very refreshing. It unfortunately has a biennial fruit set from July to early September, but fruit set is improved with cross pollination by a 'Dancy Mandarin'. The 'Seminole Tangelo' has a more astringent flavour, but is self pollinating.

Grapes, in this region are grown on their own rootstocks, because luckily we don't have the Phylloxera fungus. They are easily propagated from 200mm long hardwood cuttings, taken in winter and lined out where you want them to grow. The seedless 'Sultana' is still by far the most popular table grape grown by home gardeners. There are quite a few new cultivars, such as 'Black Marroo' which looks to me like a seedless black 'Sultana' and certainly tastes the same. 'Blush Seedless' is a new large fruit type that is very tasty and sure to be more popular in the near future. 'Waltham Cross' is an old popular variety with large fruits that turn a rich brown when ripe, but I find it a bit too sickly sweet. "White Muscatel', also known as 'Gordo' to winemakers is a very heavy cropper so that there's usually enough left to eat after the birds have cleaned up.

Plums, all need a pollinator, so they need to be planted in pairs of compatible plums. If you like the red fleshed Japanese plums such as 'Satsuma' then you will need 'Santa Rosa' as its pollinator. Curiously 'Santa Rosa' is partially self fertile, but don't bank on it. 'Satsuma' ripens in early February with a succulent rich maroon flesh, that is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. Its co-pollinator 'Santa Rosa' ripen much earlier in the first week of January. I like the old 'Green Gage' European plum and that needs another European green plum such as 'Coe's Golden Drop' as its pollinator. 'Green Gage' ripens at the end of January and 'Coe's Golden Drop' in the last week of February.

Persimmons, make a lovely autumn display with their rich red leaves and ripe fruits that remain on the tree providing you can protect them from the birds and intruders! The fruits need to be picked and allowed to after-ripen until quite soft, before eaten. Otherwise you get that woolly Vodka taste on your teeth. There are two distinct types, the astringent older varieties where one doesn't eat the skin and the new non-astringent varieties, where the whole fruit can be eaten without the Vodka after-finish on the ivories. The cultivar 'Dia Dia Maru' sets lots of fruit without cross pollination and it's a large flat astringent fruit that is very sweet when fully ripe. A good non-astringent cultivar is 'Fuyu', which also produces a good fruit set without a cross pollinator. 'Izu' is a very early non-astringent Persimmon with tasty fruit but needs cross pollination. All of the other suitable varieties, which is a large list because they all thrive here, require cross pollinators, so be sure to get a compatible Persimmon.

Feijoa sellowiana or the "Pineapple Guava" as is it sometimes called, is an almost invisible fruit on the bush until it falls. The leaves and the fruit are the same colour and shape. Often grown for its ornamental flowers in spring, the fruits are often an unexpected bonus. They need to be after-ripened and often the falling process bruises them so they sweeten up. I prefer rolling them between the palms of my hands as you would warm up Plasticine® and then nip the top off and suck the flesh out, being careful not to eat the very sour flesh. A single Feijoa in a bland twin fruits fruit salad makes it very memorable and provides a very fragrant autumn dish. 'Nazemetz' is a cultivar with very large and tasty fruits, that outshines the seedlings that proliferate most of the nursery trade.

Guavas in the Mediterranean region aren't generally those large yellow fruits you get in the tropics, although some keen folk do try to grow them. In this region it's the small "Yellow Cherry Guava" Psidium littorale var. lucidum that is the favourite. It makes a lovely evergreen shrub, with its shiny Ficus- like leaves. Another close relative is the "Strawberry Guava" Psidium littorale, which has maroon fruits that are white inside. They are quite astringent, but I love them and they thrive on our alkaline clay soils, fruiting in early autumn.

Jubjube is the name of a delicious fruit that grows on a small deciduous tree to 5 metres in this region. Its botanical name is Zizyphus jujuba and I can't for the like of me figure out why it is not more widely grown locally. It thrives here, produces delicious fruits the size of an olive and is doted upon in every country where it is grown. They are widely sold in markets as a dried fruit in India, China and the Middle east. There are some excellent selections available locally, so plant one, you'll never regret it and they fruit much faster than Carobs!

Pecans, pronounced 'peckarn' by the Texans, who grow more of them than anyone else, so I guess they should know! The Pecan has both male and female flowers like the Walnut and most need a pollinator for a reliable set of nuts. The cultivar 'Shoshoni' leaves the others for dead with its heavy nut yield, but it does need the Pecan 'Cheyenne' as a pollinator. 'Shoshoni' also out-performs most Walnut cultivars too, since it is less susceptible to fungal diseases and tolerates our alkaline soils with relish. You can expect to wait at least 7 years before the tree acquires a stature and maturity enough to bear good yields.

Walnuts, are a most valuable tree, both for the nuts they regularly produce as well as the exceptionally fine and expensive wood the tree will yield for your grandchildren. The most popular variety here is 'Willsons Wonder' (syn. 'Wilson Wonder seedling') yet it is quite susceptible to fungal disease that can ruin a standing crop following some light autumn rains, since the fungus can enter the nut and spoil the flesh. 'Willsons Wonder' needs two trees to reliably set good nuts. It is often sold as a seedling and you can expect 10-12 years for first fruit from such plants or as a patch-grafted container-grown plant. They are very sensitive to having their roots disturbed and many an expensive Walnut has died from having its roots teased out! You have been warned! That's one reason some folk establish their own 'Willsons Wonder' from seed sown en situ and stand back and wait. The cultivar 'Geisenheim 139' is more resistant to the fungus than 'Willsons Wonder' and crops more heavily too so it deserves to be more widely grown. 'Freshford Gem' is a self pollinating locally-bred cultivar that has good resistance to fungal diseases and crops heavily in alternate years.

Pears, thrive in this region, but they all need cross pollinators. My favourite is 'Beurre Bosc' the brown pear with the long neck. It needs 'Sensation' or Williams' as a pollinator and since 'Sensation' is both an attractive red pear as well as a very tasty pear to my taste buds. I'd match them as a pair anytime. The 'Williams' or 'Williams Bon Chretien' (syn. 'Bartlett' and 'Duchess') is a fine pear, but it's so abundant as a giveaway crop, that I'd recommend the 'Sensation'. The Japanese "Nashi Pear" is also popular these days and there are some fine cultivars around, which all do well locally. These were originally selected to be very firm and tart fruited, but modern cultivars are quite soft, sweet and succulent. 'Nijisseiki' is a very heavy cropper with pale yellow-green fruit, that are sweet, until you get close to the core. The 'Williams' pear is a good cross pollinator for the 'Nijisseiki' "Nashi", but reasonable crops result without a pollinator too. An interesting and fairly rare pear that does well here is "Lemon Bergamot', a self pollinator, which you'd think would be more in demand, since it sets a large round and tasty fruit, that has a red blush as it ripens in February-March.

Apples, are a bit of a worry locally. They favour the more pH neutral soils of the region. They all need a cross pollinator so no one plants one apple tree unless it has been multi-grafted. I don't recommend multi-grafted apples because one of the varieties invariably takes over due to its vigour. A better solution if space is at a premium is to plant two compatible apple cultivars into the same whole. A very popular commercial variety today is 'Royal Gala' which is PBR protected, but the variety 'Gala' is very similar and available for public domain propagation. It's a lovely golden fleshed apple with a red striated skin. Pollinators are 'Granny Smith' (just in case a neighbour has one), 'Red Fuji', 'Pink Lady' and 'Lady Williams', all of which are great eating apples, except maybe 'Granny Smith', which is a bit tart. The favoured apples these days are those that have more disease resistance than 'Jonathan', which is fairly prone to powdery mildew. Although the above cultivars are susceptible to black scab in the eastern states that is very rare in the Mediterranean south and west.

Medlars, are not everyone's idea of the perfect fruit. For starters they must be picked and allowed to after-ripen, which with Medlars is called bletting. The 'Dutch' medlar is best locally, with its stunning autumn display it would have a place in most gardens even if no one ate the fruit.

Chestnuts, never cease to amaze me. I've seen wonderful crops under drip irrigation even in Whyalla, but the essential feature to grow them successfully is perfect drainage, regardless of soil type or pH. 'Luciente' is the best home garden variety locally, although there is no reason why you couldn't grow you own from large chestnuts collected from productive trees. Fleming's in Monbulk sell a seedling Spanish chestnut collected from selected trees. The big advantage of sowing a few from chestnuts is that you don't suffer any losses with root disturbance, but you may have to wait 3-5 years for edible chestnuts, but at least chestnuts mature to produce quality fruit from seedlings, unlike almonds. They live to a great age and even after 10 years you can expect 30 kilograms of chestnuts from a cultivar such as 'Luciente'. My recommendation for cooking chestnuts is to put 20 into a twist of aluminium foil, in the coals of a fire and take them out when the first one explodes. That way they are all cooked to perfection.

Hazelnuts, are generally associated with cool climates, but they produce lovely winter crops of tasty nuts even from seedlings. Although there are some named cultivars available, all of the best ones I've seen have been seedlings! They all need cross pollination, but if you plant several from hazelnuts you already have the genetic diversity for pollination.

Silver Nuts, are collected from the female Ginko biloba or "Maidenhair Fern Tree". The fetid fleshy coat needs to be removed in warm water and the silver nuts are then dried in the sun. When cracked, they have a delicious nut in them, prized for Chinese and Japanese wedding decorations. They ripen in early January locally and a very prominent specimen is found in the Adelaide-Himeji Garden in the south parklands of Adelaide, just near the entrance.

Worth trying.

Avocados and seafood cocktails are made for each other. There are only a few cultivars that grow well in a Mediterranean climate, such as 'Reed' and 'Hass'. They are both partial self pollinators and not able to cross pollinate each other, but planted together there fruit set seems to be enhanced against the technical expectation! 'Reed' is an almost round fruit that has a thick skin and luscious fruit with a fairly small stone. 'Hass' is the warty looking elongated avocado that turns a deep purple-black when its ripe. Both are large trees to 8 metres, but can be pollarded at 3 metres every few years, to make picking easier. They need perfect drainage and a rich organic mulch with regular dressings of a complete mineral mixture fertiliser to produce plenty of flower and set good crops.

Kiwifruit or "Chinese Gooseberries" have male and female plants and if your male plant flowers too far from the receptive female flowers that will produce the fruit, then you need to help the process. Cut off the male flowers and place them in a lemonade bottle with some water to nurture them and they will supply the pollen for the bees to effect the pollination, until they fade. The only home garden cultivar that I'd recommend is 'Hayward', due to the fact that it is able to pollinate better than other cultivars, at present.

Tamarillo or "Tree Tomatoes" are grown easily from seed. There are maroon, red and yellow forms, with the richest flavour on the darker coloured fruits. They can be grown as perennial shrubs, but in frost prone areas they are best treated as annuals. Fertilise with Tomato fertiliser and you'll need to carry the fruit away in buckets. It makes a lovely additive to vanilla ice cream.

Babaco, or "Mountain Papaya" is about as close as you will get to growing tasty papaya or paw paw in a Mediterranean climate. They grow fast and fruit over a long season and what's more, never seem to be without a fruit to pick in season.

White Sapote, Casimiroa edulis tastes very exotic to a southern palate, but no doubt a bit ho-hum to Queenslanders. The cultivar 'Pike' is the best locally. They make a small evergreen tree or rounded bush to 4 metres, with their large fruit concealed within the canopy, or else they are prone to sunburn. A plant that is becoming increasingly more common due to the efforts of the Rare Fruit Society of SA and local nurseries who have responded to the enquiry.

Atemoyas, are a variety of "Custard Apple" that are cultivated in Israel and tastes like a very rich home-made icecream. The best cultivar locally is 'African Pride', (syn. 'Kaller'), which fruits prolifically without other pollinators.

Jaboticaba, or "Tropical Grape" is Myciaria cauliflora from southern Brazil. It makes a charming evergreen bush to 3 metres that crowds its older branches with marble-sized black fruits, twice a year. I would rate it as tasty as a Mangostene, which is high praise indeed. I have only ever seen it available from Perry's Fruit & Nut Nursery at McLaren Flat, SA

Not even worth trying.

Mangoes, Mangostene and Durian really are beyond even the keenest gardener down south, but hey we've got a fruit shop full of varieties that are reliable, so you'll still have to buy your Magostene, I'm afraid.

Further reading

An introduction to Pistachio growing in Australia, by D. H. Maggs, CSIRO, 1982., by D. H. Maggs, CSIRO, 1982.

Fleming's Decidious Fruit and Ornamental Trees, by Dawn Fleming, published by Fleming's Monbulk Nurseries Pty Ltd, Monbulk Vic., 1992 (03) 9756 6105, rrp $29.95., by Dawn Fleming, published by Fleming's Monbulk Nurseries Pty Ltd, Monbulk Vic., 1992 (03) 9756 6105, rrp $29.95.

Fruit for Australian Gardens, by Paul Baxter, Pan Macmillan Publishers Aust., Chippendale NSW, 1991, rrp $14.99., by Paul Baxter, Pan Macmillan Publishers Aust., Chippendale NSW, 1991, rrp $14.99.

Fruits in the Home Garden, by Edwin L. Hastie, Department of Primary Industries, Qld, revised edition 1994, rrp $12.95., by Edwin L. Hastie, Department of Primary Industries, Qld, revised edition 1994, rrp $12.95.

Growing Citrus Trees, by Geoff Godden, Lothian Publishing Company Pty Ltd., Port Melbourne, Vic. 1988, rrp $17.95., by Geoff Godden, Lothian Publishing Company Pty Ltd., Port Melbourne, Vic. 1988, rrp $17.95.

Growing Nuts in Australia, by Anthony Allen, Night Owl Publishers, PO Box 242 Euroa Vic. 3666, 1986, rrp $19.95., by Anthony Allen, Night Owl Publishers, PO Box 242 Euroa Vic. 3666, 1986, rrp $19.95.

Some Avocado varieties for Australia, by D. McE. Alexander, CSIRO, 1978., by D. McE. Alexander, CSIRO, 1978.

The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, by Louis Glowinski, published by Lothian Books, Port Melbourne Vic., 1991, rrp $75.00., by Louis Glowinski, published by Lothian Books, Port Melbourne Vic., 1991, rrp $75.00.

Suppliers

All of the cultivars mentioned in this chapter are variously available in season from these suppliers, but no supplier has them all.

Balhannah Nurseries, Wicks Road, Balhannah SA 5242, (08) 8388 4244 work hours, wholesaler only., Wicks Road, Balhannah SA 5242, (08) 8388 4244 work hours, wholesaler only.

Fleming's Monbulk Nurseries Pty Ltd, Fleming Lane, Monbulk Vic. 3793, (03) 9756 6105 work hours., Fleming Lane, Monbulk Vic. 3793, (03) 9756 6105 work hours.

Lavender Blue Nursery, 176 Anzac Road, Mount Hawthorne, WA 6016 (08) 9444 4826 work hours, no mail order., 176 Anzac Road, Mount Hawthorne, WA 6016 (08) 9444 4826 work hours, no mail order.

Perry's Fruit and Nut Nursery, Kangarilla Road, McLaren Flat SA 5171, (08) 8383 0268 work hours. , Kangarilla Road, McLaren Flat SA 5171, (08) 8383 0268 work hours.

Peter Taverna Nurseryman, Upper Sturt Road, Upper Sturt, SA (08) 8339 5930., Upper Sturt Road, Upper Sturt, SA (08) 8339 5930.

The Rare Tree Company, Lot 41 Hummerston Street, Mount Helena WA 6555, (08) 9572 1311 work hours., Lot 41 Hummerston Street, Mount Helena WA 6555, (08) 9572 1311 work hours.