Thursday, 2 June 2011


“How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.” - Benjamin Disraeli

Today we had a salad that was made only from produce of our garden. Although most of our garden is devoted to flowers, we also cultivate seasonal vegetables and herbs, almost as a decorative addition between the clusters of rose bushes, clumps of bulbs and flowering shrubs. The vegetables, herbs and flowers coexist happily and the added benefit is that we always have fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs for our table.

Presently, we have lettuce, spring onions, ochrus vetch, radishes, nasturtiums, broccoli, a variety of herbs (dill, rosemary, parsley, mint, peppermint, oregano, thyme, perennial basil, etc) all growing happily and cropping. Add to that the ripening citrus and the bright red tamarillos and you will see that a salad was there crying out to be made!

I suspect you may not be not familiar with ochrus vetch (Lathyrus ochrus), so I shall provide some explanation. This is a pulse that has been in cultivation for millennia in the Mediterranean region. The Minoans of ancient Crete cultivated it as a vegetable nearly 5,000 years ago and modern day Greeks still enjoy its distinctive flavour. It is available here in Australia although you may have to go out of your way to find it!) and I am sure that it is also known in other parts of the world. The best way to always have it on hand it sow some seeds in the garden in autumn and pinch off the young growing tips to use in salads.

The tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) is a very rewarding fruit tree, which requires little care and crops heavily (suits us very well!). It is native to the Andes of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Today, it is still cultivated in gardens and small orchards for local production, and it is one of the most popular fruits in these regions. It is also cultivated widely in South Africa, India, Hong Kong, China, United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  The first internationally marketed crop of tamarillos in Australia was produced around 1996, although permaculture and exotic fruit enthusiasts had increasingly grown the fruit around the country from the mid-1970s on.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) of course, is a popular herb and is a standard ingredient in Greek lettuce salad. It has a highly distinctive flavour and is another plant that has a history of thousands of years of culinary use.

The salad below is an unlikely combination of ingredients that was dictated by the availability of the produce of our garden, but which nevertheless works well!


    • Half a lettuce
    • 2 handfuls of young ochrus vetch tips
    • Several young dill shoot tops
    • Three ripe tamarillos
    • 2 spring onions
    • 1/3 teaspoonful dry mustard
    • Olive oil to taste
    • Lemon juice to taste
    • Salt to taste

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and heart. The tender stem is chopped and added to the finely shredded leaves.
Wash the vetch leaf tops and add them to the lettuce, stirring through.
Chop the dill finely and add to the salad.
Wash and clean the spring onions, chop finely and add to the salad.
Peel the tamarillos and half them lengthwise. Then slice thinly and add the salad.
For the dressing, combine the oil, lemon juice, salt and mustard and pour over the salad, tossing well.


  1. I'm one who hasn't heard of vetch, Nicholas, so I'm going to have to look into it. Thankyou for a lively and sensory post!

  2. I'm another who has never heard of ocrus vetch, but the history is quite amazing.
    I am sure the salad tasted great! I love tree tomatoes!