Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Day by daylily: one week in Katoomba

Over the last week of camping in our hideaway location on the edge of the township of Katoomba, we left the bikes at camp and walked everywhere, observing the ancient landforms that brings people from all over the world to this special place.

During the week Meg turned 40, on a day that nearly paralleled that number in degrees Celsius. We hid out in a shady park butressed by a cool and stately old stone wall. Happy Birthday Meg!

Meg's parents, Vivienne and Ross, came to visit to help celebrate this special occasion, and we did a number of touristy things due to their generosity. Thanks Bee and Ra!

Vivienne and Ross also took us out for dinner where we played Hepburn Heads, a version of Celebrity Heads only replacing celebrities for members of our community.

On most days throughout the week we bought food from the Blue Mountains Food Co Op, which is the oldest food co op in the country, and the best we've ever seen. Because we belong to our own food co op we received the same member discount as the locals. Thanks BMFCO! Of a morning we bought organic Aussie oats and some local juice and set up breakfast outside on the communal table.

But with all our walking we also came across non-commercial foods, ripe for the picking. The last hot spell helped ripen the first wild apples we've had on our trip.

They may be small for lack of nutrients, but we're often amazed how delicious and free of disease wild apples are. This is probably because they are generally growing in diverse ecologies where pests can't plague due to the number of variable competitors. Wild apples are excellent for making cider and cider vinegar, and the very easy to make vinegar is an essential alkalising tonic for both internal organs and the skin. It is a great general antidote to the very acidic western diet most of us eat. Every autumn we ferment enough to last the year and this special gift of the autonomous gods costs us nothing.

We collected many more blackberries that had overnight ripened because of the heat of the previous week.

And because of this rich hit of vitamin C we were well prepared for the cold wet weather that came in leaving us quite damp but nonetheless invigorated.

But the greatest revelation of the week was the inclusion of daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) to our growing list of desirable edible hardy weeds that grow throughout temperate Australia. They are very easy to grow or forage for, and in some regions they're known as ditch lilies because they'll grow almost anywhere, including ditches.

Several weeks earlier at the Moss Vale Community Garden, permaculture teacher Jill Cochrane had sung the praises of daylilies as a source of food. So when we came across great swathes of them in Katoomba we were determined to find out for ourselves just how edible they were.

We hung out for some of the wet in the Katoomba library, researching the plant. From a compliment of websites, stitching together a myriad of culinary experiments, we found out that depending on the time of year almost the entire plant is edible:
Young leaves – spring to early summer, eaten raw in a salad.
Shoots – late winter to early spring, eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a vegetable.
Flowers – late spring to summer, dried for soups, remove pistil and stamens before use.
Flower buds (about to open) – late spring to summer, lightly sautéed.
Tubers – autumn to winter, sautéed, mashed or roasted. Similar to a sweet potato.
Because it is mid-summer and there are plenty of flower buds around we harvested these, and to our delight every good thing that has been written about them was confirmed.

They were delicate and sweet sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic. We can definitely recommend this plant for any perennial food garden, for their flavour, hardiness and beauty. 

We look forward to sharing more free food treats with you again shortly. We hope wherever you are you are you're eating delicious free food that you've found growing right under your nose.

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