Little Miss and the Gooseberries
January in Melbourne and we are in the thick of summer harvest. The garden is bursting at the seams with growth in every corner and there are splashes of colour amongst the varying shades of green where ever I look. The patch looks amazing and full and my squeals of delight can be heard whenever I walk out into the garden. Everything is growing so fast that each new wander reveals something new. It is my Little Miss four year old whose ears perk up with eager anticipation with every one of my squeals of delight and with each squeal I will normally see her running towards me, usually in nothing but her underwear, barefoot, doing her 'tip-toe' run thing that she does trying her best to avoid a bindi-eye in her foot!
Summer in Melbourne is synonymous with bindi-eyes and as a child I ran barefoot through the park daily against my mothers orders, spending more time stopping to pick out the prickly bindis than actually playing and yet I never learned my lesson. Now, despite my constant reminders for Little Miss four year old to wear her shoes in the garden, she too disregards my requests and instead spends her days hopping around like some kind of rabbit standing on hot coal doing everything in her power to avoid the 'prickly grass'. Lucky for her I have mulched most of the garden! The moment she enters the veggie patch and her feet land from the grass to the safety of the mulched patch, she picks up speed and runs waving her hands calling out eagerly... "is it the gooseberries mum, are there any gooseberries?"
This kid is a foodie. She wanders through the garden and munches on anything she knows she can (my kids have learnt to ask me what is safe to eat in the garden and they are all aware that the leaves and unripe fruit of the cape gooseberry are toxic!) and the more unique, the more excited and eager she is to try it. For us this summer, it is the Cape Gooseberries that she finds most intriguing. Interestingly, growing in their natural environment of Mexico and Guatemala these grow like weeds, however, for us, we relish in the excitement of their delicate lantern shells and the sweet flavour burst with each tiny mouthful.
We happened to come about growing this 'super chock full of health benefits' food thanks to a quick google along the lines of... what should I grow in the garden this summer. Just a regular night of googling on my behalf which led myself and my unwillingly husband and three children on a wild goose (berry) chase the very next day, driving from nursery to nursery all over the Yarra Ranges on a mission to find some Cape Gooseberries!
Funnily once we got them home and planted, it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what to do with them. Hmmm. First time ever I have grown something that I didn't know how to use! A reach out to fellow home growers taught me that Cape Gooseberries make a delicious jam and also a lovely steamed pudding. However, in all truthfulness, we haven't even come close to bringing these inside, let alone entertain the notion of accumulating enough to make a jam, for her little fingers peel off the outer shell and her little mouth gobbles them up faster than I can say... save a few Little Miss! Her excitement is so much so that I dare not mention she needs to save any.
She even manages to call out to her brother in between each little mouthful... "Julius, Julius, come Julius, mum found some more gooseberries". He barely manages enough interest to glance from the sand pit, where his monster truck is bulldozing some smaller trucks off the edge of the playground, but does manage a muttering and shoulder shrug to the effect of 'I don't care'. Oh dear, surely he can not have reached the age of nonchalance just yet, he is only six! But Little Miss calls out again... 'And Julius I can see the special cucumbers are ready too'. And with that he jumps up dusting the sand off his hands and runs in beside his sister where they stand side by side eating some crystal apple cucumbers and I sigh in relief that I still have his interest in the garden for a little longer.