I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.
I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.
The most time-consuming desert
I've long had an interest in edible plants. Most fruit and vegetables that are eaten in modern times require easy harvesting and good shelf-life. Most westernized consumers don't see anything beside these commercial crops. There are plenty of wonderful things out there that can be cultivated, or simply found growing wild if you know where to look for them.
I regularly use some of the more tasty of wild plants in my cooking. Fat-hen (Chenopodium album) is regularly cooked in omlettes; Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), chickweed (Stellaria media) and pigweed (Portulaca oleracea) are fantastic in salads. There's even some wild artichoke thistles (Cynara cardunculus) growing in the area these are delicious, although gloves are required for harvesting and preparation.
One of the most widespread of edible plants is blackberry nightshade (Solanum nigrum). The leaves are edible when cooked, but most importantly the tiny black berries are sweet, and can be happily eaten raw. Blackberry nightshade has almost a worldwide distribution, and a long history as a food plant.
Many people consider the berries of S. nigrum to be poisonous, probably because the plant shares some similar physical characteristics with deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), a plant which is thankfully not found in Australia. This caution is quite sensible: belladonna is very poisonous plant indeed.
This weekend Jacinta and I decided to try our hand at making blackberry nightshade mousse. This calls for a cupful of blackberry nightshade berries, and it should be noted that these things are tiny. Finding sufficient numbers was easy (our garden has a number of plants), but harvesting and preparation was an incredible amount of work.
I think that Jacinta and I easily spent over an hour just removing the stalks from the berries, just to get a single cup. I've come to believe that there must be a better way of doing this, possibly by using a coarse-grained seive.
Once the berries were prepared, making the mousse was really very simple and fast in comparison. Overall the result was definitely worthwhile; the mousse has a sweet and delicious fruity-berry flavour, and one cup of berries makes quite a lot of mousse.