'Currant' flavour of the month
Sometimes the best plants are those that you do not have to grow yourself!
Living on a bush block in northern Tasmanian, we are lucky to be surrounded by native plants, including some edible species. Take the Prickly Currant Bush (Coprosma quadrifida) for example. This plant is one of several edible coprosma species in Tasmania. Luckily for us, it is growing abundantly where we live and is currently fruiting. So, I decided to set out on a little harvesting expedition yesterday.
Whilst out harvesting, I only wanted to find the female Prickly Currant Bushes. This species is dioecious. Put simply, that means that these bushes either have only female flowers or only male flowers, i.e. different sexes. Given I wanted to find fruit, I needed to find female plants. And I want to know where they are for next year too. The block we live on is 70 acres so you can get lost if you don't know where you are going. So, I decided to take along a GPS to record the locations of the female plants, i.e. those I picked the currants from.
I was fairly prepared for this task, or so I thought. I had a sunhat on, a big pot strapped around my waist for fruit to fall into (not attractive, but very practical), and gloves to protect me as I picked the fruit. It's not called the Prickly Currant Bush for nothing!
Readers: There was one thing that I forgot to consider. Can you think what that was? (Answer below this image).
Yes, a long-sleeved shirt!
I ended up with a few scratches on my arms. Nothing major. However, I also saw lots of little spiders and other insects. Next time, I will wear long sleeves. It also pays to pay attention to where you are walking. Snakes are out and about at the moment, so if you want to go out harvesting these currants, make sure you are safe. If you have gators, wear them.
Back at the house, I then had to clean the currants. The first layer of inedible debris came off quite easily by allowing it to float to the top of a container in which the currants were soaked in water. Obviously this matter was lighter than the currants. Yep, a free science lesson as I am that way inclined today! In the end I resorted to sorting other flotsam and jetsam by hand as it did not want to separate out easily in the water. For example, immature/unripe fruit. That took a little time, but the final result was worth it.
All 759 grams of currants!
This small harvest may not seem like a big deal. However, I am stoked that we were able to find so many currants so close to home. I only ventured 200 metres from the house. There are many more plants around, so I think I will go out next weekend too. However, I will remember to leave some fruit on each plant for the wildlife to enjoy.
Now what to do with these currants? Rees Campbell, local author aka The Feisty Tasmanian, has a recipe for Bush Berry Pie on page 131 of Eat Wild Tasmanian. I might adapt that recipe to make it plant-based, i.e. sans eggs or cream. I am not sure how that will work! Otherwise, we will just eat them fresh by the handful. Ludovic made a sauce using these currants last year. However, that takes a bit more work removing the seeds from these small fruit (5-10mm diameter). We need a more heavy duty strainer to be able to tackle this task.
Did you know that there are over 150 edible native plants growing on this island? !f you want to know which species are edible and how to use them, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Rees' book. Also, come along to the Tasmanian Garlic and Tomato Festival in Selbourne on Sunday 21 March 2021. Rees will be conducting two workshops and a cooking demonstration where she will describe some of the more useful plants, how to grow, harvest and cook with them.
I got involved in the Tasmanian Garlic and Tomato Festival as I just love garlic and tomato and cannot imagine life without them. Anyway, more on that in my next blog. I am going to take some time out for 'afternoon tea' and enjoy some of these beautiful currants.