What’s in the garden – late summer/early autumn?

From SAGE member Stephanie Williams

Eating seasonally reminds us that non-instant gratification can be sensational because waiting patiently for each crop is a lesson in joyful anticipation. And there are so many colourful, nutritious and delicious fruits and vegetables in the garden that it’s hard to choose between them!

Blackberries – thornless (Rubus fruticosus)

The delicious blackberries, or “brambles” that we used to harvest from the hedgerows in England, are viewed somewhat differently in this country. The Australian Government lists them as Weeds of National Significance due to their tenacity, and their ability to spread rapidly, colonising large areas of land.

Which is a shame because blackberries, along with other dark fruits including black and redcurrants, raspberries, blueberries, dark red cherries and black grapes, are among nature’s most nutrient-dense foods while being low in energy (calories). Sweetly delicious when ripe, they are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins, packing a big nutritional punch. The range of phytochemicals they contain are of the antioxidant type which strengthen blood vessels, especially the tiny capillaries. Fresh, strained blackberry juice is a great remedy for infant and childhood diarrhoea due to its high tannin content.

Flavonoids, anthocyanins, cyanidine and ellagic acid are some of the beneficial chemicals in the fruit, and the leaves have long been used in women’s traditional herbal medicine for their tannins and flavonoids.

The seeds are rich in omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 fats (linoleic acid) as well as protein, dietary fiber, carotenoids, ellagitannins and ellagic acid.

After the small white blossoms fall in mid summer, the fruit forms in hard red clusters called drupelets, which swell in the warmth. They quickly become black and soft and are easily gathered by hand. Many people dislike the seeds, so strain them out and make sweet jams and jellies, but this requires the addition of large amounts of sugar which means you lose the unique flavour of the fruit.

There are many different species of blackberry so do your research before deciding what can be properly contained in your garden. Using a strong trellis in a sunny spot provides tough screening, attractive blossoms and easily harvested food across late summer. Eating fresh blackberries warmed by the sun is one of life’s joys!

CAUTION: since many blackberries in Australia are chemically sprayed in the wild, it is safer to grow your own in good ground or purchase local organically grown berries which have not been subjected to herbicides or pesticides.

Carrot (cultivated) (Daucus carota) and Potato (Solanum tuberosa)

While carrots and potatoes are common root crops available all year round in Australia, the late summer ones just seem to taste better to me!

Young carrots freshly dug or pulled, raw and sweet, make the perfect portable health food snack — ready wrapped in their own fully edible skins, full of beta carotene, the pre cursor to Vitamin A, and lutein for healthy vision, vitamin C and crunchy fibre. Steamed or stir fried, their brilliant colour enlivens any cooked meal. Grated raw, they add delicious sweetness and juicy texture to any salad or wrap. Juiced, they add colour, flavour, fibre, vitamins and minerals to every combination. Roasted with other vegetables like parsnips, swedes, turnips (or rutabagas), pumpkins, kumara and potatoes they become a meal on their own or a wonderful addition to any meat or fish meal. Kumara or sweet potatoes come from different plant families to the carrots, but that’s a mere technicality — they are all nutritious and satisfying.

Year round, a couple of raw carrots added to one’s daily lunch box miraculously aids digestion and elimination.

For cooler autumn days the combination of carrots, fresh ginger, garlic and cardamom in a thick soup is nothing less than magical. Preparing the cardamom takes time — get friends together round the table for this task! Lightly roast whole organic cardamom pods in a dry pan and let them cool before easing out the little flavour packed seeds, which you then grind in a mortar.

If good food is not worth spending time on, then what is? And if most of your ingredients are local and organically grown, so much the better for making this recipe.

  • 1kg fresh carrots washed and chopped in large pieces (which is about a bunch, if you’ve bought from the farmers market!)
  • 1 TBS good quality olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 5 heaped teaspoons of freshly ground cardamom seeds
  • 5 cm cube fresh ginger root, unpeeled and roughly chopped
  • 500ml to 1l vegetable stock
  1. In a soup pot, heat olive oil before adding the cardamom, ginger and carrots. Shake the pan over medium heat before placing lid on pot and simmering on a very low burner for about 20 minutes.
  2. Depending on how thick you want the soup, add half to one litre vegetable stock, return to boil and then simmer for about 40 mins. Lastly add chopped garlic and simmer for further 5 mins.
  3. Remove from heat and let stand a while before using a stick blender or food processor to reduce the mixture to a smooth soup. Freezes well.
  4. For a creamier soup, organic coconut cream can be added just before reheating and serving. The recipe works equally well with butternut pumpkin.


The humble spud resides alongside others in the “nightshade” (Solanaceae) family — they are relied on by vegetarians and include the eggplant, tomato, chilli and bell pepper.
People used to say that potatoes are “fattening” — but they are not — it is what we add to them like butter and sauces and cream! The wonderful thing about spuds is that there are now so many different varieties, shapes, textures and flavours, one could eat a different version every day. So try something other than the common Sebago! Eaten with their skins on, they contain the water soluble vitamins B and C, some protein, iron and magnesium, are low in calories and are cholesterol free, just in case you are wondering.

There are so many good things to do with potatoes but one of the easiest is to bake them whole. Use freshly dug large ones and bake at high heat until soft — no need to wrap in foil if you like the skins firm. Serve with a good quality plain yogurt, some unhulled tahini, a colourful salad, flax seed oil, apple cider vinegar, some avocado and lemon to enjoy an easy and nutritious meal the whole year round.

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