The bountiful late-summer produce from the farm includes a Babylonstoren favourite….prickly pears in all colours. Delicious, versatile and easy to grow from a single leaf (with good selection and tight control), the prickly pear promises to be back on the foodie scene.
Prickly pears have such a rich past in South Africa, that they are considered by many as “South African”, but in fact the prickly pear (or cactus pear) hails from Mexico and Central America, and was brought to our southern shores in the late 1700’s.
Apart from the prickly pears in our garden’s famed prickly pear maize, we have no less than 11 varieties of Opuntia ficus- indica growing on the farm, and they are in season now! This “cinderella” of the fruit community has countless uses; we’re also trying our hand at ink-making, using the deep purple-coloured fruits of Opuntia robusta from the garden.
Hannes, our farmer, invented this handy contraption to harvest the prickly pear. But the old-fashioned way of harvesting, with a tin attached to a stick, still proves to be the most effective for those hard-to-reach delicacies.
Tip: Get rid of most of the spines, by rubbing the skin of the prickly pear with newspaper, alternatively use protective gloves when working with this cheeky fruit.
Just some of the varieties that are fruiting now, and the chefs, farmers, and garden team are in agreement that the “Messina” and “Zastron” variety has the best flavour, whilst the “Meyers” variety has the most beautiful colour – a vibrant, hot pink!
How to peel a prickly pear:
- Stick the fork in the side of the prickly pear.
- Cut off each of the thorny ends and discard.
- Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear. You need to cut through the skin of the prickly pear and not into the flesh of the fruit.
- Peel the skin off the fruit using the knife and fork.
- Place the peeled fruit in the fridge and enjoy a few hours later, ice cold!
Subscribe to our channel for monthly how-to videos.
We’ve received so many requests from guests to share the knowledge of our experts. OK, we can’t do all, but here’s what’s coming up in 2015.
6 March – Pumpkin Carving
Bring the kids for full moon fun carving pumpkins and wood-fired pizza. R75 pp. Starts at 17h00
22 April – Olive Workshop
This is Olive Month so the famous Linda Costa will teach the characteristics of extra virgin olive oil and table olives
20 May – Distill Workshop
Come and light the fire under our copper kettle at the cellar and distil seasonal fruits from the farm.
10 June – Artisan Baking
There are two options in June: Join us in the cozy farm kitchen with our celebrated artisan baker Karen Pretorius and learn more about the art of baking.
24 June – Biltong Making
Face the knives and the cold as Karen Pretorius shows you how to make your own biltong.
8 July – Mushroom Workshop
Love mushrooms…come and inoculate shiitake & oyster mushrooms to grow your own.
5 & 12 August – Pruning Workshop
With Spring peeking, Liesl van der Walt, curator of our garden, and master of secateurs Anton Roux will present a workshop on the Pruning of Trees in August
19 September – Clivia Talk
Get a better understanding of where and how clivias grow naturally, find information that will make you proud to share the soil of South Africa, and help you to grow them in your own garden.
Workshops are from 10h00 – 16h00
Cost 450 per person (Includes lunch at the Greenhouse Restaurant)
For bookings & enquiries email email@example.com or phone 084 275 1243
For a secret crush, for a declared significant other: let the Babylonstoren shop help you delight. You can get these by visiting us on the farm.
Middle pic: romantic silk throw with Delft blue design, available by the meter.
Above: ideas for that special meal – Babel cookbook by Maranda Engelbrecht. And a ridiculously giggly tipple: as a special Valentine treat, our winemaker created an Elderflower sparkle. (The little red heart you see is cut from beetroot, also adding colour.)
At the moment The Snail at Babylonstoren is all over Instagram. Many a selfie features the green metal structure richly hung with all sorts of pumpkins, gourds, calabashes and maranko … but how do they do this? And why do the veggies look so healthy? And can I try my hand on that old trellis at home?
Sure, but first things first: picking the right varieties. Now, while pumpkins ripen and show off their shapes and colours, is a good time to make a selection…speckled swan gourds, African calabash or tasty Turks Turban with its knobbly texture? One can harvest your own seeds from a ripe pumpkin, but it’s easier and rather fun to scour catalogues of seed companies during the dormant winter months. Try The Gravel Garden in Somerset West or Livingseeds. Seeds ship easily by mail.
We start planting our first seeds in pots, in late spring. This in the greenhouse, where early warmth boosts germination. Then we transplant the new seedlings into the garden. From middle-October pumpkin seeds can be sown directly into the ground – but always into soil enriched with compost and manure as pumpkins are greedy feeders.
As the summer days turn hot, pumpkins speed up growth. Remember that while these outjies readily sprawl, they have limited climbing apparatus. So to trail them over climbing structures, the tips of the runners need to be tied gently every second day to guide in the right direction. They love regular watering and generous feeding (think rugby props at table: spare ribs rather than tofu). And to prevent fungi discolouring the large leaves, water in the morning and preferably on the roots and not not onto the leaves.
You’ll discover an incidental benefit: with the veggies suspended safely up in the air, rotting is minimal, and unwelcome visitors like mice and creepy crawlies find it hard to reach the tasty treats.
Most pumpkins mature 3-4 months after sowing and can be stored for many months if well-ripened before picking.
Now whatya waitin’ for, Pumpkin?