Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ode to the pinus...

Little baby stone pines

Sometimes we like to play a little game where you have to decide what foods you'd take if you were going to live on a deserted island and you can only take five things.  My list usually looks something like - tomatoes, eggplant, pine nuts. eggs, pears.... How good are pine nuts? I so love their creamy deliciousness. Pine nuts in a basil pesto are a pretty perfect classic flavour combination. However, despite my deep pine nut love we don't eat so many of them these days. When I'm at our local co-op and I'm confronted by the conventional pine nuts from China or the organic almonds from Australia I always err on the side of the latter. I guess I just think that we can do without something that has had to travel so far for us to be able to eat it. Though having said that, we are not total locavores. Increasingly we are, because it's so easy to eat so well with food that has been made or grown so close to us. However we still buy some food from far away. My thinking around this is that it's important for us to support farmers in developing countries. So we buy fair trade sugar, chocolate and coffee, all generally from South America and when we really want to lash out we might get ourselves a little organic Basmati from Pakistan. But really, I don't want to stand up on my food ethics pedestal. Food ethics is complex and complicated terrain and the reality is that it is the terrain of the privileged. We can make choices about what we eat because we are just so damned privileged. Sometimes I worry about what happens when all us privileged types exercise our privilege in particular ways. What happens to the farmers and workers in the Chinese pine nut industry when we all decide not to buy pine nuts from China anymore?  I worry a little about the anti-China stance that so many 'good' lefty (including myself) types take. I can't help but think there's a tinge of racism there. A bit of broad brushstroking whereby China = toxic + workers oppression and we can all pat ourselves on the back if we just avoid this stuff but really we make not one iota of difference to anyone's lives except our own because we think we're so good. So in thinking through my response to the Chinese pine nuts I have mused on my own internal racism, my own snobbery, my fear of chemicals in food and so on.... And my conclusion is that now it's not so much about avoiding some things, it's more about supporting things I want to see flourish. We need local food because we need food that is produced and distributed with the least carbon input. We need resilient local food systems if we are to survive climate change and peak oil.  Someone told me the other day that, in the event of a major catastrophe preventing transport into Sydney, there's only 3 days worth of food available at any one time for the entire Sydney population. Holy shit! If that's not enough to start (a) creating edible gardens, verges, roads... and (b) hoarding... I don't know what is. 

Oh but enough of my incomplete ranty rant. I could go on forever about local food, food security, sustainable farming etc etc... But like everything it is complicated and my head is too tired for anymore ranting. 

For now, in response to my pine nut love we have gone and gotten ourselves three Pinus Pinea or Italian Stone pines. They are native to the Mediterranean region and are a coniferous evergreen that can grow to almost 25 metres. Word is that is it a very dry tolerant and wind tolerant hardy kinda tree. Given we know nought of what our changing climate will be like in years to come, I am liking the sound of the hardy Pinus Pinea. It takes about 10 years for the tree to start producing cones and then it takes 36 months for the cones to mature! Yep so we are in this for the long haul. Annie and I jokingly decided we couldn't let our kids ever sell this land because there will be so such abundance in years to come. Yeah so we'll keep you updates on the Pinus Pinea but don't hold your breath, the next instalment could be more than a decade away. 

The Pinus is a perfect little Christmas tree. Post-Christmas we will plant it in our burgeoning Stone Pine grove. 

In other news from the farm, 

Oscar loves to chop things up. We have quite the zucchini crop and each day he chops up a couple for me while I work out how to use them - salad, pasta, fritter, fry, frittata....

The raspberries are here! Hurrah.  Having our own just feels like the ultimate garden decadence. 

We shovelled A LOT of recycled crushed brick gravel down to our burgeoning fire pit to create a comfy space for gozleme and conversation around the fire.

Thank you, that is all for now. 


  1. I like your idea of 'supporting things I want to see flourish' Genevieve.

    We don't always buy local either... or organic....or fair trade. The motivation for each purchase varies. For example I like to buy East Timor Coffee because its a country I'd like to support.

    I LOVE that you are planting something you can't enjoy for over a decade :-)

    1. Thanks for your words Tricia. I so agree with you about the importance of delayed gratification. Good lesson for us adults and an important learning opportunity for the kids too I reckon.

  2. I agree with Tricia, that your idea of 'supporting things I want to see flourish" is actually a better approach.

    I once made the error in stating my desire to not buy plastic crap/toys for our son to a neighbour, who has since read that as an invitation to give me her 'new world order" riff every so often....very anti-Chinese. Not good!

    Pine nuts, have sadly been off our menu for years but I reckon macadamia nuts make a good substitution.

    Inspiring that you are growing your own. The trees are very handsome too.


  3. Thanks Nada. Yes the trees do become very lovely in their umbrella-like state. Macadamias are indeed delicious and maybe I should start to utilise them in cooking a bit more. We tend to just eat them, as is.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    all the best