What a fruitful conversation over the weekend about a wonderfully useful plant. Linda from Kumbia and I discussed the beautiful Lilly Pilly tree and how it offers us so many culinary possibilities. With vibrant, flavourful berries, Lilly Pilly is native to our Australian rainforests and is a reliable food source for numerous animals and birds. Being edible, it naturally spreads and disperses seeds in our forests; therefore assisting plant diversity.

It was really interesting listening to Linda’s story of how she and her friend made use of the laden Lilly Pilly tree by using the berries for jam. They then made scones and whipped up some cream to top their treat. The tanginess of the Lilly Pilly berries were an absolute taste sensation and matched perfectly; I can still picture her smile as she recalled this.

The combination of berries, sugar and a hint of lemon juice gently simmering to release their vibrant colours and flavours was discussed at my plant stall at the Saturday Kumbia Markets. Linda suggested that after picking and washing the fruit, add it to a pot and pour in enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for an hour. Next drain the liquid through a cloth overnight being careful not to squash the fruit.

The next day add equal parts of juice to sugar and also a squeeze of lemon juice. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture for twenty to twenty five minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning. To check if the jam is ready, place a small amount on a cold plate and let it cool for a few seconds. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it has reached the desired consistency. If not, continue cooking for a few more minutes and test again.

When it comes to choosing the best Lilly Pilly variety for making jam, it largely depends on personal preference. A popular Lilly Pilly variety is Syzyigium Australe (the Creek Lilly Pilly) which is particularly tasty and known for its suitability in jam making. Another is Syzyigium Luehmannii which is slightly tartier and even Syzyigium Resilience can be used. Different varieties of Lilly Pilly berries all have unique levels of sweetness, colour and flavour which can all influence the resulting jam. Enjoy growing Lilly Pilly whether in the garden or in a large pot; or perhaps find someone who is happy to share their bounty with you… then enjoy eating. “Happy Gardening” everyone. Romaine Undery