The ancient Egyptians valued watermelons so highly that they entombed Tutankhamen with a stash of them. In colonial NSW, that sweet ruby flesh was hardly less prized – as a story from the early years of Vaucluse estate goes to show. Continue reading
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.
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.
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
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?