Carissa berries are commonly known as ‘Num-num’s’. The humble Num-num bush has glossy dark green leaves and big spiky thorns, protecting its delicate jasmine-like flowers and plump, juicy red berries.
When you pick a Carissa berry, you will find a milky latex at the base of the berry– this milky latex is usually a warning sign in most plants – but in the Carissa berry, it is non-toxic.
The berries are rich in pectin, which makes them great to add to jams, preserves and relishes, binding everything beautifully and glossing it with a ruby-red hue. It is also very high in vitamin C making it a nutritious snack eaten raw. The taste of the berries are tart, sweet, with a cranberry like flavour.
Carissa berry, beetroot and apple relish
¼ cup of Carissa berries, sliced
2 apples cored, peeled and diced
4 small beetroots, peeled and diced
¼ cup of sugar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients in a small pot, except for the honey. Simmer over a low heat until most of the liquid has reduced, for approximately 40 minutes. When it starts to look bubbly and sticky, add the honey and simmer at a low heat for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool down. Pour it over a soft, room-temperature cheese such as Camembert or Brie cheese. Try to share it with your friends – that’s if it even makes it out of your kitchen!
How to grow Carissa
Carissa macrocarpa, or ‘Num-num’, is a handsome evergreen shrub with fairly large shiny leaves, and grows to about 2 meters in height. It has thick sharp thorns and can be used to create an effective, impenetrable hedge. Carissa is found naturally in coastal areas from Humansdorp, all the way up to Mozambique. Although able to survive drought and poor soil very well, it grows faster in good soil with some watering. Carissa berry produces beautifully-scented white flowers from spring to mid-summer, and is followed by large red fruits rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Carissa can be grown easily from seed sown in the spring, but it can also be grown
from semi-hardwood cuttings in spring.
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There are many different species of the rose-scented Pelargonium. With the Pelargonium graveolens being my personal favorite, it is the one I most frequently use. Just a mere stroll past a Pelargonium graveolens, and crushing a leaf under your nose can inspire a host of tea-time recipe ideas including iced teas, jellies, scones, cupcakes, ice-cream and much more. Used in the correct way, this delicate fragrance can be carried out into your food. If you simmer the leaves gently in some milk, you will be left with a kind of fragrant milk. NOTE: Be careful not to bring the milk to a boil as this will leave a leafy taste.
Spearmint chocolate cake with rose Pelargonium chocolate-truffle icing
FOR THE CAKE
What you will need:
½ cup of cocoa powder
1¾ cups of flour
1½ cups of sugar
½ cup of oil
1 cup of spearmint tea (simmer spearmint in water for 5 minutes)
2 tbs spearmint, chopped
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs, separated
Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the egg whites. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and then carefully fold them into the cake mixture. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for approximately 40 minutes. Test to see if the cake is ready by gently pricking the cake with a butter knife, and if the knife comes out clean; your cake is ready to come out of the oven.
FOR THE ICING
What you will need:
175 ml of cream
1 slab of milk chocolate, crushed into tiny pieces
A handful of rose-scented Pelargonium leaves and flowers
50 g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
Simmer the leaves, butter and cream over a low heat for 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a metal bowl over the crushed chocolate. Add the vanilla essence and beat with a whisk until smooth. Leave the icing to cool. Once it has hardened slightly, ice the cake and decorate it with the Pelargonium flowers.
What is the difference between Geraniums and Pelargoniums? They both come from the same family or Genus called Geraniaceae. An easy way to tell these two species apart is observing them when they are in flower – Geraniums have five petals all of equal size and Pelargoniums have two petals of equal size at the top, and three of a different size below.
How to grow Pelargonium graveolens
Pelargonium graveolens, or more commonly known as ‘rose-scented Pelargonium’, is an easy-to-grow shrub, and grows to a height of one metre. Pelargonium grows naturally from George, through the Eastern Cape, and northern regions, right up to Zimbabwe. It grows best in moist, semi-shaded positions. Pelargoniums flower right through from August to January. The flowers are easily distinguished by their distinct white, pink or mauve-coloured flowers. Pelargonium leaves can be used to make a tea to treat stomach ailments. The tea or crushed leaves are also good for treating symptoms of insomnia.
Copywrite Roushanna Gray and Gael Gray 2016
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