In autumn we make our own special liqueur which we’ve named ‘Bellis gin’.
The recipe is adapted from the traditional English Sloe Gin recipe, which uses the fruit of the Sloe bush, Prunus spinosa. The Sloe is a prickly, deciduous, small-leaved, native shrub that’s related to plum. Occasionally farmed, the fruit ripen in autumn and have a highly astringent flavour, hence the added sugar. Together they form a delicious, fruity liqueur.
Australia has the unique Davidson’s plum, a small, upright, rare and very ancient tree surviving in pockets of uncleared east coast rainforest in northern NSW and QLD. In ideal conditions in the wild this slender tree may reach 10 metres high, but this height is rare in cultivation.
Davidson’s plum are pollinated by bees, and my stingless bees do a thorough job. Trees may start fruiting three years after planting (they did in my garden). As always, the degree of success depends on the climate zone, the site, soil health, the prevailing weather, and the care provided by the gardener. It’s quite possible to grow and fruit them inland as far as Tamworth, NSW, in the right frost-free microclimate.
P. Wilson of Murwillumbah (NSW) says: “There remain a few ancient, isolated specimens of Davidsonia pruriens within the Murwillumbah district. Some are in graveyards, or along railway tracks and they have escaped the large scale clearing of the rainforests. I’m doing a bit of ‘guerilla gardening’ with their seedlings in an effort to renew some of these stand alone specimens.”
This is a BRILLIANT project. Those genes are now ‘limited editions’ and this is exactly what needs to be done to conserve remaining diversity. This is the kind of community-led conservation work Australia’s Seed Savers’ Network hopes to inspire. Bravo!
In my experience, Davidson’s plums like regular watering in dry weather – I water deeply once a week in drought – and they thrive in compost-rich, slightly acidic, well drained soil. Shelter and light shade are important.
Davidsonia pruriens is commonly cultivated and used to make conserves. Old trees produce fruit by the bucket-load each year. The best examples I have seen in a public landscape were growing at Wollongbar TAFE, NSW.
The NSW Herbarium recognises two to three species, Davidsonia pruriens, D. jerseyana and D. johnsonii in the Cunoniaceae family. They all produce astringent, plum-like fruits.
Never throw away the seed – grow your own. Remove any remaining flesh from the seed, rinse in water, and then sow immediately in fresh, freely draining propagating mix. Keep warm and damp in semi-shade. Seeds germinate in approximately 10-12 weeks, depending on conditions.
Trees grow slowly and their beautiful new foliage makes them great houseplants or small, distinctive courtyard trees.
To each litre of gin add:
100 ml (equivalent by volume) of chopped Davidson’s plum;
100 g castor sugar;
Remove the flat Davidson’s plum seeds before chopping the flesh into bite-sized morsels. Add plums and sugar to the gin. Invert the bottle until the sugar dissolves. Wait three months and your liqueur is ready…
Director, Seed Savers Network
21st April 2008