Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Adventure to the Botanical Gardens.

Botanical gardens may seem boring, and not adventurous, but I like them.  Especially the ones in Townsville (we have three) where pretty much anything grows.  A few bored weekends ago, Andy and I took a walk up to the Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, which is ironically the one closest to us and the one we have been to least.

According to the pamphlets, there is a Tropical Fruit Orchard somewhere amidst the plantings, but on our previous visit we didn't manage to locate it.  So we made it our mission on this trip to find the damn orchard and bring some fruit home.

First, we had to make our way through the Cape York section of the park, which was dark and jungly and quiet, but full of biting mosquitoes.

Then we moved on to the lakes, which are quite shallow but host lots of small fishes and piles of ducks, ibises, and other peculiar water birds.

From there, we made our way through the trees and across the grass and eventually found ourselves standing under a pummelo tree.  Snooping a bit further, we found confirmation that our mission was accomplished.

There were lots of trees around -- every kind of citrus, custard apples, sapotes, Australian natives, exotics, bananas, etc.  I didn't get photos of any of the trees because I was too busy protecting myself from mozzies.  A lot of them were not labelled, which is a bit sneaky.  And even more of them were not in fruit -- apparently autumn isn't the best time to go scavenging for tropical fruit.  However, we did not go home empty handed.

Here you see our haul -- the big one is a pummelo, the dark ones are Burdekin Plums (a local bush food).  The lighter coloured greenies to the right of the plums are canistels.  Below them, two lemonades (we thought they were lemons, as they were unlabelled, but on juicing realised our stroke of good fortune).  At the centre/bottom of the photo is a Mitchell River Lime, and the group of five are regular (Tahitian?) limes.

However. Andy and I are not fruit experts.  Apparently we picked our pummelo way too early, because when I cut into it, the pith was about 4 inches thick -- I kid you not.  There was about a lime-sized amount of fruit inside, which was inedible.  FAIL.

We googled the burdekin plums, having never heard of them before, and found out that we should put them in a paper bag in a dark place to soften before eating.   Apparently they don't ripen on the trees and shouldn't be eaten straight away.  So we did this, checking them periodically.  But, before they softened, they moulded.  Ew.

The Mitchell River Lime was another unknown, and we googled and googled but came up with nothing.  So we cut it open, out of curiousity.  It oozed a big pile of sticky, bright yellow sap, and went straight into the bin.  Boo.

The limes and lemonades were good, if not very juicy, and saved us a few dollars, so the trip wasn't a total waste.  Plus, we managed to succeed at the two canistels.  They get very soft and yellow when they are ripe.

We cut them open to find a creamy, almost boiled egg yolky texture with a not-really-sweet flavour.  I didn't love it, but it was good.

Later, Andy made smoothies with one of the canistels, which enhanced its sweetness and was far more pleasant.

Regardless of all the fails we had with our fruit, it was still a fun adventure -- scavenging our own food felt pretty badass (though I'm fairly certain it's not illegal, otherwise why would they advertise that it's an orchard?).  Now that we know where it is, we'll be going back to see what else comes into season.


dreaminitvegan said...

How cool to have a tropical orchard near you. I've never heard of custard apples before. You'll have to go back when more fruit is ripe so you can tell us all about how they taste.

Hannah said...

If at first you don't succeed... do you think you'll go back and have another go?

Also, I think Botanical Gardens can be mighty adventureful. When I was little, a friend and I got lost in Canberra's one... once we spotted our mums, we ran towards them absolutely bursting with relief and happiness.

You know what happened?

They yelled at us for getting lost. (It's a strong memory.) So, you know, botanical = eventful :P

Dee said...

Pomelo always has a 4cm pith, but it also gets WAY bigger and turns yellow when ripe. It tastes like a not bitter grapefruit and is worth seeking out.

You need limes, come round to my place. I also have lemon myrtle (better than lemon grass) and kaffir lime leaves and fruit. I love my code: smanoge Almost mango - How fruity!

Theresa said...

Dreaminit - custard apples are only okay, in my opinion, but they are nice and creamy and mild. Funny looking though. There were a few small ones on the tree when we went so we may go back and have another scavenge and I'll try to get photos.

Hannah - we will definitely go back. Probably regularly... it's within walking distance. That's a funny memory. Usually mums are so so glad to have their little people back, sounds like yours weren't too worried ;)

Dee - We will have to try again. I love pummelos but clearly don't know how to pick them. I've just updated this post with a photo of the insides, it was severely disappointing. I've bought some that size before so assumed it would be good, but nope. Your place sounds like a tropical paradise!! If you want to add some ceylon spinach to your mix, let me know. It kind of propagates itself so we've got plants up the wazoo right now.

Hannah said...

To be fair, they probably didn't believe we'd really got lost. A few years later that same friend and I went back and *tried* to lose our way, and it was impossible...

Vaala ◪ said...

This sounds like so much fun! Can't say I've heard of any of the haul you managed to get but perhaps that's the best part of it.