Citrus Enzyme Cleaner

I hate waste and am always looking to re-use, recycle etc wherever possible. I also only use natural cleaning products, so the glut of citrus fruit recently has been a real bonus to my cleaning supplies in the form of Citrus Enzyme Cleaner.

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Left over citrus peels mixed with warm water and sugar and left to ferment for 3 months. I put mine in a clip-top jar because it’s easy, and you have to release the gases twice a day for the first few weeks, otherwise it’s likely to explode, without letting too much air in which will cause the mixture to go mouldy. Just releasing the clip ¬†twice a day without opening the lid achieves this perfectly.

After a couple of weeks, or when the mixture calms down put it in a dark warm place to ferment further, I usually leave it until I need to use it, minimum 3 months, and then strain into a spray bottle

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Although this is called “Enzyme” cleaner, there are probably no enzymes in it al all (Wendy Howard gives a good account of this on her blog ‘permacultureinportugal’) but it’s likely that the fermentation produces an ¬†alcohol based solution, in any event, it makes a wonderful, non-toxic cleaner for just about everything, and it smells great.

I’ll going to add a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus oil to the next batch and use it spray the animal housing to deter flies and mites.

 

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Quinta update 2

Having been at the quinta now for a few months it transpires that we have many more trees than we first thought.

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Antonio, our vendor, told us that we have 260 olive trees. That’s a lot of trees, but unfortunately we didn’t get any oil this year. The olive harvest was bad all over our region, and our local press didn’t even bother to open. By the time we arrived on 28th November, all the trees were bare, and the olives on the ground. Hey ho – I’m sure next year we’ll have a bumper crop.

We have 4 mulberry trees, double what we originally thought, which is very good news, mulberries are nutritious and delicious, and chickens, ducks and pigs love them. I’ll make mulberry jam and the animals can eat the rest.

We have 15 fig trees, both white and purple varieties, 20 orange trees, mostly navel type, and they have no pips, which is great, and a few bright yellow ones ( no, they’re not lemons!). Additionally we have 12 tangerine type trees, mandarins, clementines, tangerines etc, not sure how to tell the difference. Some are really sweet and some are horrendously sour. 32 orange trees is probably double what we need as they are all heavily cropping, as you can see in the photo, so the plan is to chop down any that don’t taste good or keep well, and replant with other fruit.

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We also have one peach tree and one apple tree that fruited last year, and 3 fairly immature trees that appear to be cherry, and probably have grown from seeds dropped by birds, as they are in improbable harvesting positions. We’ll move those to the orchard when we know whether they are worth keeping.

Additionally, we’ve also planted some trees in December – 2 lemons, a lime, another peach, an apricot, 2 nectarines, 2 red plums and 2 dark/damson type plums. We intend to plant cherry, persimmon, pear, apple, avocado, elder, hazel, sweet chestnut, almond, kiwi and soft fruit bushes next autumn.

We have about 50 grape vines, and this years prunings have been stuck in the ground to create about 100 new plants. They will take about 3 years to started producing in useful quantities.

My wonderful nephew, Chris, bought me moringa seeds and ash seeds for Xmas, and I’ve sown some in cloches. The moringa for food and medicine, the ash to be coppiced for firewood.

I’ve counted around 5 hawthorn trees in the hedgerow, so will take cuttings of those. Hawthorn is good for hedging and the prunings make excellent firewood. The Haws are a great source of food for wild birds over winter, and apparently makes good jam. I hope it doesn’t taste like the Chinese haw sweets my girls loved when they were younger, they taste like putty

We have at least 30 oak trees at different ages and sizes, and a small coppice of mimosa, which I expected to be a problem, it’s incredibly invasive, but actually is great for firewood, one large mimosa log will burn all night, so they can stay and we’ll harvest the larger trunks for firewood and the smaller saplings for pea and bean supports.

Candied/crystallised Peel

February is the season for oranges in the UAE – 7 dirhams for 3 kgs at the farmer’s market, that’s just under EUR 0.5 per kg. So today I made marmalade. Although technically marmalade should be made with bitter Seville oranges, any citrus fruit will do. I leave the pith on my fruit, essentially because I don’t have the time or patience to de-pith kilos of fruit, but also because it imparts a slightly bitter flavour. I used 2 kgs of oranges (8 fruits), I thinly sliced 4 and peeled and chopped the other 4, adding just the flesh to the marmalade. I squeezed the juice from 2 lemons and added that to the pan, marmalade underway- but what to dowith the leftover peel……?

I’d read that crystallised peel was easy to make, so thought I’d give it a try, and easy it was! Being lazy I threw the peels into a pan of water as they were and brought to the boil for 10 minutes. I drained, refilled and did the same again, so total of 20 minutes boiling ( I poured the 2nd lot of water into the marmalade for extra flavour!) and then drained in a colander. When they were cool enough to handle I scraped the leftover flesh and pith off the lemon peels and then sliced all the peels into thinnish strips. Much easier to do when soft.

I made a syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of raw sugar and boiled for a couple of minutes before adding the peels ( see photo below) and boiled for 45 minutes.

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45 minutes later the peel was translucent and the syrup had almost been absorbed. The peels were drained, rolled in sugar and put on a rack to dry. Some recipes recommend drying in the oven at 200F but my oven doesn’t go that low, so my peels are drying overnight at room temperature, and they taste amazing. However next time I won’t bother with the additional suger coating, they are already sweet enough. These should keep for about a month in an airtight container, or several months in the freezer.

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Update 8th May

the peel had mould growing on it after 3 weeks of being in an airtight jar on the kitchen shelf, so will definitely keep them in the freezer in future

Food Forest in the Desert

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Not only do vegetables grow quickly here, so do trees. The banana plants in the photo above were planted a year ago and have doubled in size since. They’ve only produced one bunch of very small bananas on one plant so far, which means their energy has been concentrated into vegetative growth.

We have 5 mango trees in the garden that were planted 4 years ago, so they should be flowering this year. We’ve cut them right back to ‘shock’ them into flowering, and also to let some sunlight reach the plants growing below them, fingers crossed we get some mangos. They don’t look so great (aesthetically) right now because of the hard pruning, so I’ll post a photo when they are in full bloom.

The orange and lemon trees flowered well last winter, their first year after planting, and then had severe bud fall due to 3 days of unprecedented bad weather in April. We eventually picked one lemon, someone else helped themselves to the single surviving orange! Let’s hope we have better luck this year.

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The pomegranate tree above was planted last year and has about 50 small fruits already, so looking forward to eating some of those.

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The fig tree that was planted last winter is laden with fruit, literally hundreds. This isn’t the best photo but I was trying to also capture the papaya tree in the background, it can just be seen in the top middle section of the photo. We’ve had little success with papaya trees so far, they wilt and die after a few months, they are either too shaded or too exposed, so this one, planted in the middle of the fig and palm trees, and shaded from the mid day sun by the damas trees in the background, is doing really well. We need to plant some others near by and in similar conditions as they are not self pollinating.

The plan is to under-plant all of these trees with edible shrubs, perennials and herbs, hence the title of the post. We planted aubergines around the base of some of the palm trees last year and they survived the intense summer sun, we’re doing the same with peppers and tomatoes this year. I’d like to plant some berry bushes and strawberries in the next month or so, and some self seeding plants such as amaranth.