With warm weather and plenty of rain, late summer is one of the most productive times of the year in the Chiswick Woollahra garden. Head chef Tom Haynes talks about what’s growing right now and what’s keeping the chefs and gardeners on their toes. 

 

We are having such a good run in the Chiswick garden right now. It’s full to the brim with tomatoes, mint, basil, eggplants, celery, watercress, zucchinis and cucumbers.

We had a record pick of 22 kilograms of cherry tomatoes. Pete (our grower) is currently giving the tomato plants some ‘’tough love’’ by limiting their water intake so that they do not give us a batch of “wet” tomatoes. We have to work with the plant in such weather conditions, but it is a labour of love. 

We are winning the fight against the fruit fly, but it is the caterpillars that we are now watching out for.
The cucumbers have been amazing this year and so plentiful, especially the tiny Mexican cucumbers, known as cukamelons. These little joys grow to about 2cm long and are packed full of flavour.

We are making pesto and salsas like mad in the kitchen to use all the mint, rocket, oregano and parsley that’s growing. It is a great way of preserving herbs when we have an abundance of them.

We want to make sure our garden is educating not only our guests, but all our chefs and staff as well. Our avocado propagation is a bit of fun for the guys in the kitchen and a great way to do this.

When avocados are in season and featuring on the menu, we each get a cup and write our name on it. Then we wash the avocado stones in warm water and soak them overnight in water at room temperature. This allows the skin to soften so we can gently peel and remove it. We then put the stone point side up and suspend it with tooth picks in a jar of water so that it is half submerged.  

We normally see the avocado start to split after about 2-4 weeks and then from that a small root appears. We have a bit of a friendly competition  in the kitchen to see whose avocado stone is the first to sprout. Because the root is very fragile we have to take care when putting it into soil, and we make sure it is in a big pot so that it has plenty of room to grow. After that we put them in the garden and let them grow.

It can take from seven to 14 years to get an avocado to fruit, depending on the variety, so I have a few more years yet before we will reap any of the rewards. But if we don’t start, we will never get.