Seeing Orange...Above Top: Persimmons with Helichrysums. Bottom: African Horned Cucumber or Jelly Melon.

Persimmons are another new discovery for me. They just weren't on my radar back in England. I know Mark from Otter Farm (check out his blog by the way...think he just won best horticulture blog of the year 2011) is growing them, and I think Martin Crawford is too in his forest garden on the Dartington estate. I'd be really interested to hear from anyone in the UK who has them. There are two kinds Fuyu and Hachiya. The former you can eat like apples, skin and all. They are crunchy, subtly sweet and delicious. Sorry if I am preaching to the converted, but they are new to me and I can't get enough of them. The Hachiya are bigger, more oval shaped and should be left to ripen until soft and mushy. The pulp can be used for baking with - tarts, cakes, cookies - you name it. I made the mistake of biting into a Hachiya thinking it was a Fuyu and won't make the same mistake twice! Unless they are fully ripe they are horribly astringent and drain your mouth of all moisture. We have a bunch of both kinds growing at the Huntington and they look magical suspended on the branches - like little orange lanterns. They blend beautifully with the turning colours of the trees this time of year, and feel like the embodiment of fall to me.
I grew Helichrysums (common name Straw Flowers) at the Ranch this summer. They performed well in the scorching temperatures. I first learned about them at the Lost Gardens of Heligan where they were harvested (without stems), dried and then strung into garlands to adorn the Christmas tree. I have done the same this season and have them in a little wooden bowl in my living room.
The weird looking orange thing is an African Horned Cucumber or Jelly Melon! We grew it on a trellis at the Ranch, more for novelty than anything else. It took a lot longer to ripen than all our other melons and cucumbers and gradually turns from green to deep orange on the plant. The flesh is green, full of seeds and very gelatinous! It tasted like unripe bananas to me, but I guess it was kind of refreshing in its own way! My boyfriend wasn't a fan of the texture at all. Too slimy. I don't know that we'll be growing it again, but it was fun to try. Also known as Kiwano, it is native to the Kalahari desert. Apparently it is considered to be the ancestor of other cultivated melons so I suppose we have a lot to thank this rather funny looking plant for!

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