Monday, 27 June 2016

Making It Rain: Rainmaker Gesha Coffee Project.

A couple of weeks ago Supreme Coffee did their first limited release of a very special coffee, the Rainmaker Gesha from La Soledad in Guatemala. They were lucky enough to be visiting La Soledad in 2013 just as their Gesha trees were first able to produce enough cherries to generate a tasting sample. Fast-forward three years; the coffee trees are maturing and producing more fruit, and they received the first shipment of La Soledad Gesha ever exported. The Rainmaker Gesha is a special coffee for several reasons. Mainly for its excellent flavour profile and exquisite quality. But perhaps most importantly, this coffee gives us a window into the process involved in developing new exciting coffee varietals.

I managed to secure a bag to taste when it was released (which was lucky as it sold out within one day of release!). Taste wise is was pretty amazing. Usually i'm not that great at picking out the different notes of the flavour profiles but this one was very clear Apricot, Brown Sugar & Mandarin. I think because Supreme like to roast on the light side for their filter coffees it really helps the fruity, floral notes to really shine through.

Since this varietal of Coffee is so special, i asked Coffee Supreme when i ordered if they could include a few green beans so i could try to grow seedlings from them. 
This page will be the beginning of a process hopefully of growing these Gesha Trees. I firstly soaked the beans over-night in water and then planted them in potting mix. I'll leave them on my window sill covered in plastic to try & germinate them. Fingers crossed!

Gesha is probably the best-known single variety of coffee, this type has been made famous by plots of it being cultivated on land owned by the Peterson family in Boquete, Panama. The Petersons' farm, Hacienda la Esmeralda, has become a kind of a trademark spot for the coveted plant, which originated near the Ethiopian town of Gesha and was planted in Panama as a Leaf-Rust resistant type in the 1950s. Geshas can also be found in Honduras and Colombia among other origins, and they continue to command exceptional prices on the specialty market. The most striking thing about Gesha variety coffees is that they taste nothing like their Latin American counterparts: Instead of the chocolate and mellow-but-crisp acidity that quality coffees from Panama typically express, these are more delicate and intensely floral, not unlike the heirloom Ethiopian varieties. With notes of Jasmine, Orange Blossom, sweet Clover Honey, lightly toasted Green Tea - well cared for Geshas are a stand-out on a cupping table. Rainmaker's flavour-profile is Apricot, Brown Sugar & Mandarin.

Here is some more info regarding Rainmaker courtesy of Coffee Supreme......

La Soledad is run by Raul Perez, and named after Raul's grandmother, Soledad de Carmen. Raul inherited the reins to the farm from his father, who had worked it for the previous 30 years. While Raul has continued the family’s commitment to producing quality coffee, he has led La Soledad a step further by employing processing techniques and cultivating coffees previously unseen on Guatemalan mountainsides.
Raul’s newest project, the Scorpion Selection, focuses on developing small amounts of diverse and exotic coffee varietals that introduce new flavours to La Soledad’s traditional taste profile. And as expected, the coffee is produced with the same high standard of care and processing the farm is renowned for.

The first fruit to come out of the Scorpion Selection project is the Rainmaker Gesha.

In 2007, at a time when the Gesha variety was still a closely held industry secret, La Soledad was lucky enough to secure about nine seeds of the variety to begin their plantation. From these seeds, Raul and his team successfully grew five trees. It would, however, be another five years before these trees were able to produce usable seeds to expand the farm.

By 2013, La Soledad was able to cultivate enough seedlings from their original tree stock to plant one hectare of land. Selecting the right area to establish the Gesha plantation was the next critical step. Raul selected a plot about 1600 metres above sea level that would shelter the trees from wind and maximise their exposure to early morning sunshine.

Raul also decided that the Gesha plantation would be the first section of the farm to be planted in a new grid system that set an equal distance of three-square metres between each tree. The belief behind this formation was that the trees would be better assisted in growing into bigger and stronger plants that could outlast other plantation’s planting systems.

Each row of the grid is oriented east to west to exploit the available sunlight hours. The more sunlight the trees can absorb, the more energy they will have to produce new cherry and develop the full fruit flavours, complexity and sweetness synonymous with Gesha, but with the added La Soledad character and clarity.

After almost ten years, La Soledad is able to harvest just enough green coffee to be able to share it with their closest allies and friends who have invested in growing strong relationships with the farm.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Taste Test: Kusaie Lime

I've had this Kusaie Lime now for about 3 years. I brought it by mistake as i thought it was another name for Key Lime which i have heard good reviews of. It is however, a different Lime. When i first tried one i used it as a wedge for a Corona and instantly disliked it due to a weird Camphorous flavour. It was then banished to the back of the garden. Today however i noticed the tree is laden with about 20 fruits so i thought i would give him another chance. So i juiced three with my Lime squeezer and made some Lime-onade with the Soda Stream. When just using the juice only, the lime is actually really good similar to maybe a spicy Meyer Lemon in flavour. Sweet, floral and spicy. I think it is the peel that is the source of the medicinal, resinous flavour so i recommend avoiding for lime wedges or zesting. I'll be definitely using the rest of the fruit on the tree now and taste them further. I went on to make a Mescal Margarita that night and it was exceptional! I have to say though, Tahitian Lime is still the favourite for flavour in my opinion. The elusive Key Lime though, is still yet to be sampled. Kusaie is also quite an ornamental fellow if just grown for that purpose alone. Lots of pinkish-white blossoms and then yellow fruits to follow.

Kusaie should be regarded as a yellow-fruited form of the Rangpur and therefore called the Kusaie Rangpur.  The tree is indistinguishable from other Rangpurs and the fruit differs significantly only in colour. Almost certainly this variety originated in India. It was introduced into Hawaii from Kusaie Island, of the Caroline group in Micronesia in 1885. Kusaie is said to have local importance as an acid fruit in the Hawaiian Islands.  Elsewhere in the United States it is a collection item or oddity.

Avocado - Avo-geddon

As many Aucklanders may be aware we are currently in the midst of Avogeddon. Where for some it seems like the end of the world has arrived where they can't enjoy their usual Avocado & Vegemite on Vogel's toast without shelling out up to $9 each for an Avo! Avocados have become the Uber trendy essential ingredient of the minute with the Active-wearing, Almond Mylk Latte, Green Smoothie sipping types. And it's this popularity that is driving prices up and creating scarcity. This is compounded also by a lot of our NZ Avos going directly overseas as exports, further creating scarcity back here in NZ. We are only just now in my cafe finding relief with new season Avos trickling in but usually Haas won't officially mature until July.
One of the most longed-for fruit trees by home gardeners is an Avocado. Being a native of Central America, Avocado culture is very ancient and was a staple diet for many cultures. The fruit is great in so many dishes including one of my favourites: Guacamole (recipe below). Unsurprisingly, given their Central American ancestry, avocado trees only thrive in warm locations. A light frost will burn any tender growth, and anything cooler than -3°C will kill a young tree. The best growing areas in NZ are Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay & Bay of Plenty where the majority of NZ Avo farms are in Katikati. 

At home i have one grafted Haas Avocado tree planted inground and another two that grew out of the compost randomly that are in pots. My thoughts are i'll only have the one inground as they grow in to quite large trees eventually and can use the potted plants as pollinators perhaps.

Below ground, the roots are very sensitive. The deep-growing tap root (a long slender root, similar to a big carrot) loathes heavy, clay and wet soil. The roots are susceptible to the fungal disease phytophthora, which thrives in difficult dirt. Avocado trees need excellent drainage, which means free-draining soil or, if unavailable, planting into a raised bed.
Site selection is very important to provide a warm, sheltered position for your valuable avocado tree. As well as the soil requirements, the site should be protected from wind and be warm and sunny. 
The best time to plant avocado trees is in late spring when the soil temperature is warming, which also reduces the likelihood of wet feet. This is also the main time of year that most avocado trees arrive at garden centres, probably to ensure the greatest chance of success when planting. Take care when lifting your new avocado tree from the garden centre or nursery. You should pick up the bag, not using the trunk as a handle.
Around the world, the most popular variety for commercial growers and in home gardens is
the pebbly-skinned 'Hass'. With its long harvest season, excellent flavour and good flesh-to-seed ratio, 'Hass' has dominated production since it was spotted as a seedling in a Californian orchard in the 1930s. Hass is still considered the best option for the home gardener, usually supplying fruit from July until the following February or March. If you have room for two trees though,
'Reed' (ripening from February to May) has fantastic quality fruit with delicious, creamy flesh.
This is a green skin fruit with a hard shell-type skin, so it can a bit tricky to know when it's ripe. With a thicker skin than 'Hass', the flesh will only give very slightly when gently pressed. 'Fuerte' is another good variety, which has large fruit with a nutty flavoured flesh, ripening from August to October. 
Avocado seedlings are one of the easiest seeds to germinate. I think everyone has tried the avocado stone, toothpicks, cup and windowsill technique. Unfortunately, though, these seedlings can take up to 10 years to fruit, and the resulting avocados are likely to be of poor quality & not the same as the original fruit that the seed came from. The seedlings can be raised, however, until the stem is around pencil thickness, then grafted with a selected variety, such as 'Hass' or 'Reed' if you have such skills. Or else grafted Avocados are available at the Garden Centre but these are one of the most expensive fruit trees you'll see.
Avocado trees have an unusual flowering system, in that the flower has both female and male organs. The female opens first for a couple of hours, closes, then the male opens for two or three hours, then the flower closes.
Avocado varieties are split into A and B types. In the A type ('Hass' and 'Reed'), the female opens on the morning of the first day and the male opens on the afternoon of the second day. In the B type (like 'Fuerte'), the female opens on the afternoon of the first day, and the male on the morning of the second day. Temperatures during this process are critical – dropping below 21°C  will make the flower opening more erratic.
Avocado trees have a prolific flowering period, with large clusters of blooms. Bees and other insects move the pollen between flowers. Flowers that are successfully pollinated form fruit. In commercial avocado orchards, pollinator varieties are planted, but in a home garden situation, usually one tree is sufficiently self-fertile.
Once fruit has set it takes up to a year for the fruitlets to mature – one of the longest times from flowering to fruiting in the orchard. The fruit will be mature, but interestingly, won't actually ripen until harvested.  They should be clipped from the tree using secateurs, to avoid damaging the skin and keep the stem "button" in place. 
Once established, avocado trees require very little care: simply pruning to the desired size and shape. Bear in mind that avocado trees produce fruit on new growth, so clipping around the periphery of the tree will lower yield (although that trimming may be necessary to control size). Most Avo orchards i see will prune out the centre of the tree to let in as much light as possible into the canopy and to keep it at a manageable size.

Guacamole Recipe

3 Avocados.
1/2 Red Onion.
Chilies - Jalapenos or Hot Sauce.
1 Tomato.
1 or 2 Limes (or Lemon).
1 bunch Coriander.
Salt & Pepper.

1. Peel & roughly mash Avocados
2. Finely dice the Red Onion then rinse under water in a sieve.
3. Core & Dice the Tomatoes.
4. Juice the Lime
5. Finely chop the coriander.
6. Finely chop the chilies add to taste.
6. Add all the ingredients into a bowl & stir.
7. Season well with Salt & Pepper.
8. Garnish with extra Coriander & serve with Corn Chips.

For an added authentic flavour add in 4 large roasted Tomatillos. If you haven't tried Tomatillos i highly recommend looking into them for your mexican recipes. For more Mexican inspiration, check out my book "Viva la Mexico" it's a free download at

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Currently In Season: June

With all this cold weather lately we can now say its officially winter. The cold temperatures have also started to colour up all the citrus especially the Oranges which are all starting to be ready to harvest. As they become ripe i will give a review below of the taste & look of each that i try.

Cipo Oranges are a unique weeping selection of orange with sweet and juicy fruit with a slight pineapple tang that are ready from late June. Ideal for pots to show off its weeping form. 
I tried one on the 9th June still quite tart and would say they need a few more weeks to sweeten up. Really just regular Orange flavour so far none of the promised Pineapple flavour notes that i could tell. I will try another soon & report back. Fruit size was on the small side but it is its first fruiting season. 
June 29th: Good amount of sweetness now. Fairly normal Orange flavour as you would taste in supermarket Oranges. Will wait another few weeks to see if the flavour develops more.


Cara Cara
Cara Cara oranges are a early to mid-season navel orange. Initially they were a cross between two navels and a mutation then occurred on one branch of Washington navel orange tree, it was discovered in 1976 at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela.  Now, they're largely grown in California.
Cara Caras have the same round shape and bright orange rind as traditional navels. What really sets these oranges apart is what's on the inside. Cara Cara oranges have distinct pinkish-red and orange flesh this is due to Lycopene. It's not just their beautiful color that makes them stand out, they have a remarkable taste that goes right along with it. Compared to traditional navels, Cara Caras are sweeter, slightly tangy, and less acidic, with a hint of red fruit, like cranberry or blackberry. They are also seedless.
I tried the one below on 13th June it has the signature dark orange, slightly pink look to the flesh that you'd expect from a Cara Cara. Taste was still a little tart & puckery these guys will also need to wait a few weeks to sweeten up.
Update: June 28th: Good amount of sweetness now & interesting berry flavours have developed.


The next picture is about a lesson i learnt in relation to young citrus trees. We've all heard the nerdy nurseryman telling us to take off all the young fruit in the first year or two. I would scoff at such talk thinking i want to try that fruit as soon as possible! This year my young Cara Cara worked really hard to produce about 6 Oranges for me. Unfortunately the fork in the central leader couldn't bear the weight of them all even though it was staked for support it split the tree in half. A sad day indeed. Now i will have to prune off that whole side & wait for new growth to balance out that side. Luckily i have another larger Cara Cara as a back up for next year. Lesson to be had was let your tree grow to a point that it is strong enough to carry the weight of its fruit. If not you must thin the fruit to a sustainable amount or support the limbs with adequate stakes. I also figure that in its first few years that it would be a better idea for the tree to focus its energy on building its root system and structure than to produce fruit.

Mandarin: Scarlett Burgess
I tried one today as the fruit are almost completely coloured a bright deep orange with only a few tinted green. The fruit i tried was beautifully sweet with good rich mandarin flavour. Only negative would be the seeds: about 3 per fruit. I ate a supermarket Mandarin to compare afterward and it was pale in comparison for its watery flavour and wasn't as crisp & fresh no surprise.


Blood Oranges: Moro & Sanguinelli
As at 19th June still yellow in colour looks like maybe late July will be ready.


As at 19th June still light green

Monday, 6 June 2016

Pomelos: The President of the Citrus Club.

If you've ever been to the supermarket and seen a giant, soccerball sized citrus then you've probably come across a Pomelo. 
Pomelos, or Citrus maxima, are native to Southeast Asia.  They are the largest of the citrus fruits, and most closely related to grapefruits. They may look intimidatingly large but these oversized fruit are mostly all pith (much thicker pith than other citrus varieties) and once peeled are a much more managable size. 
They have a textured rind ranging in colour from pale green to yellow when ripe with pulpy flesh that's creamy white, bright pink, or somewhere in between. They also have a very thick albedo (rind pith) which needs to be peeled away before eating. Like many of its relatives, pomelos can vary between being filled with seeds, to having very few or no seeds. It is a large citrus fruit, 15–25cm in diameter, usually weighing 1–2kg.
 Pomelos are like a mild version of grapefruit (which is itself believed to be a hybrid of Citrus maxima and the orange) though a pomelo is much larger than the grapefruit. They're sweeter and don't carry that occasional harsh bitter tang. It has very little of the common grapefruit's bitterness, but the enveloping membranous material around the segments is bitter, considered inedible, and thus is usually discarded. 
Next to the interesting flavour, what I like about eating Pomelos is that it feels like an adventure. It takes work to get to the sweet, pulpy flesh. Though once you do, the reward is deeply satisfying and worth every second of your efforts. After removing the thick rind and peeling the membrane from around the segments, pomelos can be eaten out of the hand, tossed into salads or salsa, made into jam, or juiced for a cocktail. You can candy the peel it, or use it to make marmalade. My favourite recipe for Pomelos was inspired by my travels to Cambodia a few years back. Here's the recipe:

Pomelo Salad

1 Polemo.
1 Capsicum.
1 Carrot.
1/2 Cucumber.
50gm Peanuts.
1 small handful of Coriander or Thai Basil
1 Radish.
1/2 Spring Onion or Shallot.
1 small Red Chilli.
50gm Fresh Coconut.
1 Avocado
1 Lime, juiced.
2 TBS Fish Sauce.
1 TBS Soy Sauce.
1 tsp Palm Sugar.

1. Peel the Pomelo & remove each segment from its outer membrane. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the Fish sauce with the Lime juice & Sugar. Stir to dissolve the Sugar completely. Set aside.
3. Crush the Peanuts into little pieces.
4. Peel & discard the skin off the Carrots & Cucumber. Then make long strips with the peeler.
5. Using a Mandoline thinly slice the Capsicum, Fresh Coconut & Radishes. Thinly slice the Spring Onion. Finely dice the Chilli.
6. In a large bowl, toss ingredients with the dressing. 
7. Arrange a mound on a plate. Garnish with the Coriander & Peanuts.

This recipe is from my book "Cook & Be Cool" its available as a free ebook here:

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Kaffir Lime

Photo: Will Luo
Kaffir Lime leaves bring an elusive, slightly floral flavour to Thai food. But how do you use the bounty of this thorny brut?

Native to tropical Asia, Kaffir lime is a fragrant member of the citrus family. The tree is small and shrubby with distinctive leaves that have a petiole almost as large and wide as the leaf blade. Both the leaves & pungent, knobbly fruit are key ingredients in the cuisines of South East Asia, particularly Thailand, where they form the sensory backbone of so many curries, soups and spice pastes.
It is best summed up as the elusive, floral and resinous quality lurking beneath the surface of many famous Thai dishes. The two-lobed leaves are added to curries, and the rind of the fruit is used widely in spice pastes. They have very little juice which is bitter & sour, & never used in cooking, but it is said to make a good shampoo which i have yet to try. Both leaves and rind are assertively aromatic with notes of Citron, Damask Rose and Violets.

Photo: Robyn Jay

Fresh Kaffir leaves can only sometimes be found at premium supermarkets or fruit stores. So it is probably best to grow your own little tree for the rare occasion you need some. Fresh, tender young leaves are the preferred choice for salads. To slice the leaves for salads, slice on either side of the stem, which is tough and so best removed. Then tightly roll up and thinly shred. Whole leaves are leathery and largely inedible so remove before serving. The fruit eventually ripen to a spongey, dull yellow but are best used when hard, shiny and green. The riper they are the lower the essential oil content and therefore flavour.
Most garden centres stock the trees these days and given a warm, frost-free & sunny spot they will keep you well supplied with leaves and fruit for many years. They are very thorny trees, so take care where you plant them.
Last time i was in Koh Phangan, Thailand i did a cooking course & learnt how to make Thai Red Curry from scratch. Here's the recipe:

Thai Red Curry

Paste ingredients:
1 thumb Galangal
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Shrimp Paste.
3 cloves Garlic
2 Shallots
2 Coriander Roots
2 Lemongrass stalks
1/2 Kaffir Lime, zested.
2 dried Red Chillies, rehydrated.
400ml Coconut Cream
4 Kaffir Lime leaves, shredded.
2 TBS Fish Sauce
1 TBS Palm Sugar
3 sprigs Thai Basil

1. Finely chop all the ingredients. Then pound well in a mortar.
2. Fry the Paste in oil.
3. Add the Coconut Cream & Kaffir Lime leaves. Simmer for 3 mins. Season with Fish Sauce & Palm Sugar. 
4. Add in the Prawns, when they are cooked add in the Thai Basil.
5. Move to a serving bowl & garnish with Kaffir Lime leaves & Thai Basil leaves. Serve with Rice.

**Note: The word 'kaffir' is a highly offensive racial slur of colonial South African origins. It was originally directed at black Africans. The popularity of the fruit among these slaves is thought to have led to its common name. It's unfortunate that this name has stuck but if you must use the 'K' word, try to mispronounce it, e.g. 'kaff-eer', never 'kaff-uh'.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Meyer Lemons vs. Regular Lemons

In the depths of winter when there's nothing much happening in the garden except mud & rain, there's a bright yellow beacon of flavour. Lemons, just when you need that vitamin C hit. There are many different varieties such as Eureka, Lisbon, Ponderosa, Yen Ben, Lemonade, Villa Franca. But it is Meyer Lemons that are NZ's most popular. But just what is it that makes these lemons so special? And are they really that different from regular lemons?
If you've ever wondered about the difference between Meyer lemons and regular lemons, here's what you need to know.
Regular Lemons
When we talk about regular or common lemons, we're usually referring to Eureka or Lisbon lemons. These are the two most common lemon varieties found in the produce section.
  • Appearance - Compared to their Meyer counterparts, regular lemons are noticeably larger in size and pointy-er, with thick, textured, bright, sunny skin, and medium yellow pulp.
  • Taste - Regular lemons are highly acidic. They're slightly sweet, but known for a tang that will make your mouth pucker.
  • Availability - While there are certain times of year that trees will bear more fruit, regular lemons know no season. You'll find them readily available in the produce section all year long.
Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons were first introduced to the U.S. from China in the early 20th century by Frank Meyer, from whom they also got their name. This sweet(ish) winter citrus is thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. And that's what really sets it apart.
  • Appearance - Meyer lemons are smaller and more round than regular lemons, with smoother, thin, deep yellow to orange skin, and dark yellow pulp. The skin is more fragile to tears also. The differences are very distinct, especially when you see both varieties side by side.
  • Taste - While they're moderately acidic, Meyer lemons don't have the same tang as regular lemons. Instead, they're much sweeter. Their rinds also have a more complex scent than regular lemons — a spicy bergamot fragrance that tastes and smells more herbacious.
  • Availability - While regular lemons are readily available all year long, Meyer lemons are more seasonal in the shops. At home on an established tree though, you will seldom be without a lemon as they are prolific croppers. They are also more tolerant of cold than other lemons.

    Bearing this in mind i have both inground at home. A Eureka & a Meyer Lemon. The Meyer i have enjoyed many Lemons so far but the Eureka is just fruiting the first time this Winter.