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August 2012

Sweets for my sweet - Orange & honey jelly

Orange and honey jelly 2

Did you realise that you can add gelatin to fruit juice to make jelly? We've been using some of the Bulga oranges we recently picked to make orange and honey jelly. 

The jelly is delicious and contains nothing more than orange juice, honey to sweeten, and gelatin. We sometimes add fruit, like the passionfruit we added to the above batch.

I haven't looked at the ingredients for packet jelly lately - but I'm certain it would include loads of sugar and a few artificial colours. 

Orange and honey jelly in orange skins

I've also discovered another use for orange peel - little jelly moulds. 

To make fruit juice jelly

You'll need juice, sweetener (honey or sugar), and gelatine (or agar agar for a vegan version). I use gelatin leaf but I assume powdered gelatine would work just as well. 

Simply follow the instructions on your packet of gelatine. For gelatine leaf I soak the leaves (12 leaves for 1 litre of liquid) in water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile I warm the juice and add a little honey. The gelatine sheets are squeezed to remove all the water and added to the warm juice. Stir until dissolved and then pour into a container to set. 


18 ways to play with bits of nature

Brindle stick swag stick play

1. Make a brindle stick swag

Salvaged stump childrens picnic table

2. sit on a few stumps

Banana leaf kids cubby

3. Build a leaf cubby

Nature sorting

4. Play nature sorting

Create a birds nest

5. create a birds nest

Riding on leaves

6. Ride on leaves

Draw on bark

7. Draw on bark

Wear some feathers

8. Wear some feathers

Story stones

9. Create story stones

Apple bobbing

10. Bob for apples

Leaf puppets

11. make leaf puppets

Fishing with children

12. Go fishing

Stick play camp fire

13. Build a camp fire

Sorting seaweed

14. Sort seaweed


15. Create a treature hunt

Wear butterfly wings

16. Wear butterfly wings

Natural backyard playground 3

17. Dig in sand

Warrumbungle National Park nature art

18. make some ochre paint from rocks

Do you encourage your children to play with bits of nature? 

Foraging Beaded Samphire and some mud sweat and cheers

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 1

I had a chance to taste Beaded Samphire (Sarcocornia quinqueflora) recently. Also known as Bead Weed, Beaded Glasswort or Glasswort, this succulent occurs along the coast of Australia and New Zealand. 

We were on a bit of an adventure when this edible plant was pointed out to me...

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 3

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 2

We participated in a National Parks and Wildlife Service volunteer adventure called 'Mud Sweat and Cheers'. We kayaked to a remote section of Hunter Wetland National Park and helped with much needed weed control. It was a fun adventure and I'll definitely be participating again next year.

To find out about this and other National Park adventures in NSW keep an eye on the Wild Wild World website. There's some great school holiday activities coming up. 

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 4

The Beaded Samphire (the bright red seen above) grows within an ecological community called Coastal Saltmarsh. Coastal Saltmarsh occurs in areas that are intermittently flooded by medium to high tides and the plants are specially adapted to highly saline environments (saltier than the sea). 

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 5

Foraging Salt Marsh Samphire Sarcocornia quinqueflora 6

As you can imagine given its preference for super salty environments, Beaded Samphire tastes - salty.

I only tasted this little bit. Not only did it not taste very nice, I was in a National Park where its illegal to pick plants and the plant is part of a threatened ecological community which is protected from activities like picking and clearing. 

So Beaded Samphire is something I'll mentally file under survival knowledge rather than forage regularly. If I'm ever in the unfortunate and unlikely situation of being stuck in a coastal environment and super hungry I'd eat Samphire fresh or blanch small lengths of the new growth, or if I happened to have some vinegar on hand I'd pickle it. It's apparently most tastiest when steamed or blanched and is described as delicious, crunchy and slightly peppery. Although, it appears there's some variation between species in palatability. Loads of websites rave about how delicious Samphire is - but what is called Samphire in the UK or USA is a different species to what we have in Australia and New Zealand - Sarcocornia quinqueflora. The stems of S. quinqueflora has a fibrous woody core that makes the plant much less appealing as a vegetable or pickle.

Have you been foraging lately? 

This post is part of the Foraging Friday series. I’m on a mission to learn more about foraging and am sharing a Foraging Friday post each fortnight – on the Second and Fourth Friday of each month. I welcome you to join me by sharing a recent foraging experience in the comment section or by leaving a link to your own Foraging Friday post.

Foraging Friday #3 Chickweed

Foraging Friday #2 Native Raspberry

Foraging Friday #1 Prickly Pear

Pick your own oranges, Hillsdale Orchard, Hunter Valley

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 1a

A few weeks ago Little Eco asked me if oranges grew on trees or under the ground. I was a little surprised by her question because we have a couple of lime and lemon trees in our backyard. So I decided that we needed to visit an orange farm.

I’d seen Bulga Oranges at the Newcastle City Farmers Markets and had heard that you can pick your own from their farm. We headed off in search of Bulga Oranges on the weekend. There are only a few streets in Bulga so I didn’t bother finding out any more information before setting off. We started our search at Bulga’s ‘famous’ Cockfighters Tavern (does anyone know what it’s actually ‘famous’ for?). Thirty minutes and six streets later we spotted a small ‘Oranges For Sale Pick Your Own’ sign at Thompsons Road (four km south of the tavern). At the end of Thompsons road nestled in a valley amongst Yengo and Wollemi National Parks we found Hillsdale Orchard.

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 1

We were greeted by Betty who gave us a bucket to fill for only $10. Betty led us to rows and rows of navels waiting to be picked. 

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 2

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 2b

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 3

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 4

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 5

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 6

Pick your own oranges Hillsdale Orchard Hunter Valley 8

Before leaving us alone to pick our own fruit, Betty told me that her favourite moment each day is eating an orange in the orchard straight from the tree. I can see why. 

Hillsdale Orange Orchard
Thompsons Rd Bulga 

Want to find a pick-your-own farm near you?  

Farms are only open when their fruit is in season, so phone first.

Have you visited a pick-your-own farm lately? Do you know of any other pick-your-own farm directories? 

Quiet time pantry pampering

Wearing honey and banana face mask

Little Eco and I are embracing pantry pampering. We recently enjoyed a honey and banana face mask. We mixed a mashed banana with honey, then jumped in the bath and slathered it all over our face. The vitamins in bananas are known to improve complexion and even smooth wrinkles (perhaps I should wear this mask more often!) and when combined with honey hydrates your skin. 

Skin benefits aside, our pantry pampering moments are more about time together than the beauty benefits.

I've discovered that pantry pampering is a great way to calm Little Eco down and trick her into quiet time. I'll head to the kitchen and grab a handful of oats for a nourishing porridge bath, or some honey and yoghurt for a moisturising face mask, or whip up a banana milkshake hair mask. Thirty minutes later, and after lots of giggles about putting food on our face, she's calm and relaxed. 

Are you a fan of pantry pampering? Whats your favourite way of tricking kids into quiet time?

I'm enjoying Maria Hannaford's free natural beauty guide. Its full of loads of pantry pampering inspiration, like using tahini as a face mask for dry skin. It's free if you sign up for Econest's friday newsletter