Strange Cucumber Fruits

horned melon new zealand

I’ve seen these things in the store recently but with a price tag of $5, I wasn’t about to try it out. However, yesterday my boyfriend wanted to go buy some ‘treats’ and happily threw it in the basket. I had no idea what to expect. I figured with those spines on it, whatever was inside HAD to be delicious. It sort of reminded me of the dragon fruit I had in Oz that I liked a lot. It also reminded me of a microscopic germ on steroids.

microgerms

This fruit goes by many names. The label said ‘Kiwano’ and claimed it was from here. Seemed to me it was probably not a native and a quick search confirmed it was originally from Africa. Also called a horned melon, jelly melon, African horned cucumber and hedged gourd…native to the Kalahari desert. It apparently contains a lot of water, which comes in handy when you’re in the desert! It grows as a vine and is a member of the cucumber and melon family.

What I saw inside was not what I had expected:

seeds in horn melon

I can see the resemblance to a cucumber as far as the seeds go and it certainly was juicy! I tried to dig a spoon in it to get it out but that wasn’t happening…it was too tough. So I took a knife around the edges and it still didn’t want to release until I cut all the way around it.

inside horned melon

horned cucumber seeds

I scooped around the edges with a spoon so I could get a taste of this and was not pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t sweet at all and as you can see, was very gelatinous. The seeds were tough…more so than a cucumber and the flavour was reminiscent of one. After reading that it was quite nutritious, I felt like I should at least slurp some down. My boyfriend was NOT having anything to do with it. Visually appetizing, it was not. It reminded me of something from a Ridley Scott movie.

jelly melon seeds

So I drank/ate a few spoonfuls because I hate throwing away $5, even if it wasn’t mine. I put the rest in a container and will figure out what to do with it. The guilt is taking over if you couldn’t tell. I would’ve felt better about buying the $8 raspberries…at least I would’ve enjoyed them!

A day or two before, I was in an op shop which often sells local fruit that people bring in as a donation when they have too much of it. As I was paying for my item, I noticed a basket that had some odd looking things I had never seen before so I asked what they were. She said they were apple cucumbers.

apple cucumber new zealand nz

“Do they taste good?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re sweet. I’ve seen people start eating them as they’re walking out of the shop.”
“So you don’t have to peel them or anything?”
“Nope…just eat them as is.”

Well, the skin didn’t look too appealing to me so needless to say, I took it home and let it sit until today. I figured maybe this would make up for the kiwano. So, I cut into it, as my stomach rumbled.

inside apple cucumber nz

The first thing that hit me was the smell of cucumber and look at those seeds! Vaguely familiar, I’d say. Ok, so this should be sweet then. I went ahead and bit some of the skin off along with a chunk of the seeds and jelly inner. Not sweet. After a few chews, I got that drying, bitter banana skin taste and I made a face. I dug into the center and had another go. Bleh. Well, for 50 cents, I suppose it was worth a try.

Now to find something substantial for lunch!

 

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A Wild Turkey Thanksgiving

Wild turkey roadside new zealand
Run away! Run away! You’re not safe in late November!

If you know me, you know my plight every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. Scrounging up money to buy a turkey that’s about the size of a large chicken at 4 or 5 times the cost. To a turkey lover, such as myself, it’s a necessary evil. All year round, I think about Thanksgiving…waiting for it to arrive. THAT’S how much I love turkey and the great memories it brings of being with family and friends. I stock up on the jellied cranberry sauce from the American store in Auckland and look forward to turkey sandwiches for a couple of days after the shindig.

We drove to the beach one day, which is a good 35 minute trek through gorgeous rolling hillsides with happy, grass munching sheep and I spotted a flock (or rafter) of turkeys in a field! Our mouths started to water and I kidded how I was going to make a mental note of where they were when November rolled around. As we drove a bit further and rounded a bend, a huge black turkey was perched on a fence post. I’d never wanted to have an animal jump in front of the car as badly as I did right then. I would have gladly taken that piece of roadkill home and saved us $65.

A few days later, I was with a couple of friends and asked if they knew of any turkey farmers in the area so I could get a cheap one for Thanksgiving. Liz said there were wild ones all over the place and to just go out and kill one. HAH! I didn’t actually realize they were wild…I had heard of farmers who had them so it never occurred to me that these were free roamers. I blew off the idea because I couldn’t actually kill an animal and clean it. I recall getting ill in biology class when we had to dissect a worm. I was promptly dismissed from my duties when the teacher saw how white my face had turned.

No more than two days later, there was a knock at my door and Liz stood there, looking quite sporty in her hat and gumboots. She proudly proclaimed that she had a turkey for me! I was like, “Huh?” Her son and husband had shot four of them and asked if I wanted one. I went to the truck and they opened the back of it…lying dead as door nails were four big, black turkeys.

Now I felt guilty. There was no way I could bring myself to plucking and gutting the thing and so I offered to pay them if they did it for me. They were kind enough to oblige and once the shock wore off an hour or two later, I asked her to get pictures for me so I could blog about it.

wild turkey new zealand

plucked wild turkey new zealand

Not for the squeamish, right? Liz’s husband works for the meat packing plant so this is just another day at the office for him. I’m still feeling slightly bad about it, though.

Liz cooked up her turkey soon thereafter and gave me some white and dark meat to try. As an interesting aside, she said that you shouldn’t hunt turkeys in the late spring or summer. Apparently, they eat crickets and that changes the taste of their meat. She let me know that there were no crickets in the gizzards so that was good to hear. I will say that the dark meat was not like the turkey I was used to tasting. It was very ‘gamey,’ as they say (even though I don’t eat wild game, I can see what they mean now). I wouldn’t have thought there to be a difference, but I was wrong! As one local told me, “Keep the breast, toss the rest!”

I took the turkey from them after a week or so…they had kept it in their large freezer for me. It now fits snugly in the bottom section of our freezer and takes up the entire space, unlike any turkey I’ve ever had in New Zealand (and I struggle to remember the last time I cooked one this large in the States). I’ll defrost it a few days in advance and hope it fits ok in the oven. Yes, everything is smaller here…refrigerators AND ovens, alike.

wild turkey new zealand
Wild turkey hiding in the grass.

We’re now spotting turkeys everywhere we go, it seems. The other weekend we took a drive to see a small man-made lake just 10 minutes away. On the way out, there was a turkey on the side of the road looking like he wanted to get on the other side of the fence. We slowed down and stopped…waiting for him to run out in front of us! Hah…ok, not really. He stayed in the grass, possibly noting my American accent and tried to blend in. We laughed it off and kept driving…still feeling badly having one of his relatives in our freezer. This one was safe…from US, at least.

So the day has finally arrived and even after 4 days in the fridge, the turkey was still frozen the night before Thanksgiving. I woke up early today and took it out to unwrap and thaw some more and to test the size in the oven. Uh oh…

turkey doesn't fit in the oven

I tried to bend the legs back, to no avail. The neck was pretty much still on there (covered by foil). I stood there at 6:30 a.m. wondering if I should try to hack it off and said, “Nahhhh.” I couldn’t stomach it, regardless of the time. I’m not entirely sure how to shove the butter under the skin but I’ll tackle that later.

wild turkey thanksgiving
Looking mighty uncomfortable in its own skin

Heck, I even made a butter pie crust for the first time in ages last night!

butter pie crust

chocolate pudding pie

As the time grew closer to stuffing this bird in the oven, I figured I’d better hack off the neck. Two knives later (and fingers still intact), it was off! I moved it to a sturdier roasting pan and then tried to put it in the oven. Didn’t work. I tried tying the legs together and pushing them in but this was the best I could do. Tin foil will be my friend today.

wild turkey in the oven
I hate small ovens.

Thanks to the small oven, it cooked in about half the time it should have and the legs were a bit, shall we say, overdone. However, the breast was still semi-juicy and only slightly tougher than the plastic wrapped counterpart I’m used to. It wasn’t the most attractive turkey I’ve come across, but hey…whatever works, right?

Didn’t like the dark meat, anyway!

The turkey was too big to fit on the table, plus I had nothing to even put it on. The breast was smaller than I would have expected for such a large turkey, but there was still plenty leftover. Liz brought over a pumpkin cake and a bottle of bubbles and she cleaned her plate on her very first Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the turkey, Liz and hope to do it next year too!

 

 

 

Lambs and Dragons

meanee new zealand lambs

Ohhhh yeah…it’s Spring finally. Daffodils and lambs, what’s not to love!? The place we lived when we arrived on the North Island had a herd of sheep and almost all of them had lambs on the way. It seemed to take forever, but after we moved from there, the lambs finally came into the world and I made sure to go cuddle some.

meanee new zealand lambs
Following their mom!

Sandra had to hand rear a few of them and asked if I wanted to give them a small early feed. Of course I jumped on that and she warned me that they would probably mob me and that made me even more excited! Mobbed by lambs…who wouldn’t want that?

They were busy in the corner of the paddock and when Sandra hollered for them, three bottles in hand, they came running! My voice raised a few octaves as I greeted them and fed two of them while Sandra took a video of it. She held a bottle between her knees for one of the lambs…a pretty funny sight. After a couple of minutes, the milk was gone and they were looking for more. They followed Sandra around the yard for a while and then finally went off to do whatever lambs do all day!

I went for a drive closer to home a week or so later to see some other lambs and found a lot of twins playing together during one of the warmer days of the season.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

waipukurau lambs

waipukurau new zealand lambs

This wee one had gotten separated from its mom and tried to get a feed off of a different one. It was pushed away and both looked on as the baby bleated for its family.

We took a drive to Blackhead beach and saw some llamas (actually probably alpacas) along the way. I figured babies would be super adorable, but only saw what appeared to be adolescent ones.

new zealand llamas
That one looks a bit old to be feeding (and where’s the head exactly?)!

new zealand llamas

The beach was pretty and I was able to catch some rays before some clouds came and made it too chilly to stay.

blackhead beach new zealand

Blackhead beach new zealand

baby mussels

baby mussels new zealand

I noticed these baby mussels stuck to a rock. I can’t imagine these are the same kind as the really large ones I’d find on the beaches like the green lipped mussels.

If you’ve grown tired of hearing about lambs, you’d better stop reading here. My friend has a small lifestyle block and one of her sheep had twins, so I went over as soon as humanly possible to see the babies.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

These precious girls were only a few days old and were very patient with me. One had been pretty weak after she was born and Liz took care of her for a day or two, but was glad to see she was doing better. I’ll go back in a week to check in on them and see if we can catch them for a couple more hugs.

My aunt dug up a photo of my grandmother holding some lambs too, so here we are side by side.

megrandmalambs

waipukurau new zealand lambs
Wee girl going back to fat mama after being accosted by me

waipukurau new zealand lamb

I’m betting the adults even think they’re adorable. I often see sheep staring at the babies…I wonder what goes through their minds?

Liz found out I was a reptile nut and told me she had some friends with a bearded dragon. Of course I wanted to see him so we went over to meet Boz and his humans.

bearded dragon new zealand
Boz the dragon

He was a beauty, sporting a lovely orange colour and calm as could be. Christine showed us how she raises some of his food. I had no idea that meal worms were anything other than just worms! She showed us the top drawer of the container which had black beetles in it, then the second that had the meal worms and the third which had the larvae. Boz looked on without diving in, remaining cool and collected.

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

Boz also eats greens and is super healthy and happy since he also has a playpen outside! Complete with some stacked rocks warmed by the sun and a concrete turtle, he can soak up vitamin D and get some fresh air.

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

It’s pretty rare to see lizards here and now you must have a license to own one. I also didn’t realize that bearded dragons hail from Oz! I offered up my pet sitting services if they ever needed someone, so I hope to meet up with them again soon.

Finally, a some closing shots of a Tui which visited the patio briefly and the ranges. Still loving the views here and my veggie seeds are sprouting, with some strawberries, garlic, celery and rhubarb already in the garden. I think it’s going to be a good season!

waipukurau new zealand tui bird

waipukurau tb hospital Ruahine Range

 

What the Heck is a Persimmon?

new zealand persimmons
Just a quick post about persimmons as it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about food here. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a persimmon before. It was one of those fruits that didn’t scream out ‘Eat Me!’ and I didn’t want to pay too much to take the chance on it. I was in an op shop the other day and they had a couple of baskets full marked 3 for $1, so I figured now was the time.

I asked one of the ladies what they tasted like and even she wasn’t too sure. Another woman wandered into earshot so we asked her. She said they were sort of sweet and you could eat them skin and all. She claimed some people liked them soft, while she liked them a bit harder, with a crunch. I purchased them and they’ve been sitting on my counter ever since.

They look like a tomato, with a lighter orange colour and they feel a bit dense. I see that they’re grown in the U.S. but even there, they somehow evaded my grocery basket. Feeling a bit peckish, with nothing much to eat here, I decided the time has come to find out what these persimmons were all about.

new zealand persimmons

I cut into it vertically (not knowing the correct way) and was a bit disappointed to see that looked like a tomato, minus the seeds and pulp. I cut a sliver off like you do an apple and took a bite. Meh…nothing spectacular. I had expected it to be sweeter and have a more distinct flavour. What I got out of it was a softer crunch than an apple and then tried to pinpoint what it tasted like. I’m getting mild cantaloupe and maybe a tiny bit of carrot with a hint of that dryness in your mouth you’d get if you bit into a banana peel. new zealand persimmons

This was about the time I went to Google to see where these things were grown and that’s when I realized I cut into it the wrong way! Slicing it horizontally yielded a cool design, but still no seeds. They must be in there somewhere. Google again. Turns out some have big black seeds and some don’t! There is even a way to predict winter weather according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Cut open a persimmon seed. (Find persimmon fruit in your supermarket. It should be locally-grown to reflect your weather.)

Look at the shape of the kernel inside.

  • If the kernel is spoon-shaped, lots of heavy, wet snow will fall. Spoon = shovel!
  • If it is fork-shaped, you can expect powdery, light snow and a mild winter.
  • If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect to be “cut” by icy, cutting winds.

Well, winter just started here yesterday so I guess there’s no chance in predicting what will happen by looking at my persimmons. Maybe a lack of any seeds means it’ll be warm. Hah…probably not a chance of that happening!

new zealand persimmons no seeds