Canberra artist Julie Ryder's productive kitchen garden

Susan Parsons
Julie Ryder's freshly harvested raspberries.
Julie Ryder's freshly harvested raspberries. 

A bowl of freshly harvested raspberries sings of Christmas.  In the Aranda garden that Julie Ryder shares with her husband Dr Chris Bourke, the first picking of this season yielded 278 grams of raspberries, not including the ones that missed the container and went straight into Ryder's mouth.   Her sculptor friend, Mary Kayser, gave the canes to Ryder three years ago.

In 25 square metres of vegie garden, Ryder has 15 rhubarb plants, three olive trees, peach, lemon and fig trees, a large passionfruit vine and several yacons that are a root vegetable known as Apple of the Earth.  

There is a separate long plot for beans and 50 garlic plants that produce enough bulbs to last until the following harvest. During November, Ryder filled buckets with broad beans and sugar snap peas and says with bemusement, "I may have overplanted this year!"

Kipfler seed potato ready for planting.
Kipfler seed potato ready for planting. 

Ryder's neighbour thinks their cherry tree is a 'currawong variety' because neither of them planted it yet the tree appeared a few years ago on the fenceless border between the two properties.

Ryder is a textile artist and designer and she says going into the garden every day saves her sanity "and provides me with the time to let my mind wander and think creatively about making work".

  She has two works in the exhibition Bespoke:  Design for the People at MOAD (Old Parliament House) until November next year.

Massive: Joyce Wilkie's Gallipoli tomato.
Massive: Joyce Wilkie's Gallipoli tomato. 

In Political Cover-up a chaise longue, previously used by politicians or their staff, she has made a patchwork blanket of pre-1988 newspaper political articles.

Outside Ryder's shared studio in Pialligo is an old, heavy enamel bath that was lying around the horse agistment property for years until they had the idea of using it for growing supplementary crops.  From Rodney's Plant Plus along Beltana Road, Ryder bought certified organic seed potatoes, Nicola variety.

They have been growing well until early December when possums chewed the tops off some of the plants so these are now netted and growing back.  She uses extra horse manure to act as mulch and to keep the soil topped up as the potato plants grow. 


Spuds for the new year

Growing potatoes is a fun activity. On a recent visit to Cronulla, looking at Kathy Lette's Wanda sand dunes, collecting pumice off the surf beach and tasting salads from Cronulla Fruit Fair, I met a number of Sutherland Shire locals.  They said HAM (Harry and Mario) in Gerrale Street was the best place for coffee, Bassett Espresso roasted by a former World Barista Champion.

Displayed on a communal dining table in the kitchen was a large bowl of Kipfler seed potatoes and I was given one to bring home.  The eye was bright and ready for planting so it went into a large black plastic pot filled with my homemade compost.  The foliage appeared within a week and, when it got going, the potting medium was hilled up. It has just flowered. My spuds may have a Cronulla tan.


Following our column about asparagus lettuce (Kitchen garden, November 19)a reader said its alluring smell is like pandan. Asian Provisions at 54 Colbee Court Phillip and Freska Fruita at Westfield Woden get in fresh pandan leaves each week. They smell like cooked jasmine rice. At the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Harding's paintings of Pandanus growing along the north coast of Australia were a highlight in the recent "Arcadia" surfers' exhibition. 

Gallipoli tomato

Years ago, a Turkish immigrant to Australia gave the seed of a tomato to Joyce Wilkie and Michael Plane of Gundaroo. The man went out once a week to work on their farm and encouraged the couple to grow the productive tomato that was a favourite in his area of Turkey.  Several years ago, he returned to his own farm on the Gallipoli peninsula and that inspired the name it has been given, the Gallipoli tomato. 

Last summer, the 1.2 kilogram Gallipoli tomato in the photo ended up in the kitchens at the National Arboretum where the chefs marvelled that such a huge fruit could taste so good.  This season, Wilkie has distributed hundreds of seedlings of the Gallipoli tomato in the Canberra/Queanbeyan district and hopes gardeners will save the seed.   

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.