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“Share, dear, be nice.”   “But muuuuum, they’re my favourites.”

Generosity is one of my core values. I live by it nearly all of the time. But not when MY fruit is ripening!

IMG_8890_1Out comes the bird netting, tied in elaborate festoons over the grape vine.   Strung over the raspberries. Fully enclosing the fig tree.

In a total failure of a tepee over the blueberry bush. Even in an attempt at an upside-down-umbrella to catch the feijoas before they reach the ground and the gathering beaks of the pukeko.

They’re mine!

Ripening... tantalising... disappearing!

Ripening… tantalising… disappearing!

 

Earlier, I’d flung the netting over the weeping mulberry tree. Each year, it’s had a few tantalising fruit. I watch and wait. And they disappear. Perhaps I’ve managed to eat half a dozen in a season.

Mulberries are the taste of childhood. On the old farm we had a monstrous black mulberry tree in the backyard. It had been planted by my great grandfather, and it was huge.

Now, remembering that tree I think I know why I’ve been losing my mulberries. The fruit drop when they’re ripe. We could never have reached the branches of that old mulberry tree. Instead we – and the chooks – scratched around in the dirt and grass beneath, to get our share.

And yes – it was the same when I found an avenue of white mulberries in Italy – the fruit was thick on the ground. I smelt them before I saw them, and was instantly back fifty years and half a world.

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So – the mystery of the disappearing mulberries may be simple – and nothing to do with the birds.

This autumn, the mulberry will come out of its pot where the ground is obscured by French sorrel, and into the open garden … and I’ll find another way to net my share!

IMG_9761_1Now, imagine how I felt to head away on holiday just when the grapes were blackening, and our first ever watermelon was soccer-ball size but not ready to pick.

“Share, dear….”

Solution: neighbour Rosalind (bless her yet again) undertook to monitor the informal orchard and distribute its largesse around the neighbourhood.

Then, reconciled to returning to a passionfruit vine that had dropped all its purple pleasures, and a grape-vine reduced to a few late bunches, imagine my joy when we got back to find that time had stopped! The watermelons were still there. Rosalind had diligently tapped them, and determined that they were not ready to pick. She had passionfruit aplenty waiting in a basket. And yes -the grapes were only really truly ripening!

Passion fruit flower - with admirer

Passion fruit flower – with admirer

Mine!!

It has been a wonderfully fruit-ful season.

The passionfruit started producing at the end of January, and only now has dropped its last ripe fruit. But wait – there’s more! Eight large green globes are hanging there from a late flowering. Are there yet enough warm days to come to ripen them?

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The absolute last - for this vine, this season

The absolute last – for this vine, this season

Yesterday I picked the last of the grapes, scraping off the drunken drowsy wasps sucking the juice out of the berries that they’d managed to breach. A thrush scolded me: it was probably her who’d discovered how to fly up under the net, and get out again stuffed with sweetness.   But, I was happy to share. There had been enough for her, and friends, and neighbours, and the gardeners, and the recycling man, and, yes, the wasps.

IMG_9750_1 There are still a couple of green figs on the tree – but I’ve uncovered that now. Lesson for next year: make some kind of a cage to put the net over. Birds worked out how to perch on the twigs and press the net onto the fruit. Peckable!   I’d look out and see some figs just about perfectly coloured. Tomorrow’s treat. Tomorrow… well, another lesson in sharing. One for Mani, one for me, and one already half-eaten!

Forced to choose only fruit to eat for the rest of my life, would it be grapes (real grapes, from the vine, not the supermarket), or feijoas, or figs? I wrote about my love for figs way back.

And now – thanks to Helen and a large plastic bag from a friend – I’ve discovered green (as in unripe) figs, and a way to preserve them.

Sikalaki Gliko - green figs in sweet syrup

Sikalaki Gliko – green figs in sweet syrup

The last half watermelon is still in the fridge… we swear we’ve never eaten sweeter.  And now the grapes are gone, it’s the fragrance of the feijoas coming from the bowl.

Mexican Guavas - how can something so small perfume the whole garden?

Mexican Guavas – how can something so small perfume the whole garden?

Ah, fragrance!   The tiny Mexican Guavas – the ones some folk call New Zealand cranberries – are ripe too. They announce their readiness by making the whole garden smell as if someone is cooking jam.

Last year we tried making a liqueur from them. Problem.    Like quinces, the juice is determined to set. We have bottles of gloriously alcoholic jelly – some quince, some guava.

But nothing is ever totally disastrous: think of poached pears and icecream, with guava jelly liqueur shaken from the bottle… that works.    I suppose if I were really organised I could warm and decant it and re-set it in a jelly mould. Or I could just keep shaking the bottle, and call it exercise!

 

Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

John Wooden

 

 

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