A kitchen garden in spring

A bee in the borage in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House. Photo Helen Curran © Sydney Living Museums

This Sunday 11 October, Vaucluse House is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a house museum with a free community open day. It’s also the 15th birthday of our recreated Victorian kitchen garden – and it’s never looked better! Amid the spring abundance you’ll find heirloom tomatoes, tender sugar-snap peas and colonial favourites like white icicle radishes, sugar-loaf cabbages and salsify.

Continue reading

Punch drunk on guava jelly

Photograph of cherry guavas and flowers

Cherry guavas and flowers from the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House, September 2015. Photo Helen Curran © Sydney Living Museums

There’s a special pleasure in tasting a fruit straight from the tree. Just a few months ago, the cherry guavas in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House were tiny, unpromising-looking green orbs. This week, the first of them ripened: little rose-coloured marbles of sweet-tart deliciousness, each a perfect mouthful – and the perfect ingredient for a clear fruit jelly.

Continue reading

Sea captains and shaddock jam

Citrus maxima, or shaddock (detail), colour plate from B Hoola van Nooten, Fleurs, fruits et feuillages choisis de l’ille de Java: peints d’après nature, 1880. Image courtesy Missouri Botanic Garden

In the winter months, you’ll see them dangling from the branches of a tree at the bottom of the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House, by the compost heap, like bright baubles. These days, the shaddock (also known as pomelo or pumello) is less well-known than oranges and grapefruit. But in colonial Australia, this outsized citrus was a thing of wonder. Continue reading

Custard apples and cherimoyas

Photograph of a custard apple with other fruits in a market display

A custard apple among the avocados at the Marrickville Organic Food and Farmers Market, August 2015. Photo © Helen Curran

One of the things that’s surprised me most about colonial gardens is just how exotic they were. I like to think of myself as relatively broad-palated, but when I stumbled across a list of fruits available in NSW in 1824 my jaw dropped. Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and plums. So far so expected. But the Chilean cherimolia and alligator pear – what on earth were those?

Continue reading