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A recipe for blueberry-rhubarb jam

If anyone knows a thing or two about jam, it’s Jessica Koslow. After the success of her first book Everything I Want to Eat, the owner of beloved LA restaurant Sqirl is back with The Sqirl Jam Book. This home cook-friendly book features a collection of Koslow’s signature recipes for jams, jellies and preserves. Think fig jam with red wine, roasted honey apple butter and yuzu marmalade with honey. Not sure where to start? Give this delightful blueberry-rhubarb jam a go.

Photography by Scott Barry

Blueberry-rhubarb is the first berry jam that we made at Sqirl after marmalade season, a riff on a Southern classic. An iconic jam for me because it’s what Sqirl’s all about — taking a classic and turning it on its head.

Ingredients

  • 1,000 g rhubarb
  • 1,000 g blueberries
  • 1,200 g (6 cups) sugar (60% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
  • 40 g (2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) lemon juice (2% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)

Directions:

  1. Prepare your plate test by putting a few saucers in the freezer.
  2. Cut the rhubarb into 6 mm slices; they should all be about the same size for even cooking. Set aside.
  3. Put the blueberries in a blender and puree until smooth: Start with a little bit of the blueberries and blend on low speed as you add the rest of the berries and increase the speed.
  4. If you have more or less than 2,000 g rhubarb and blueberries (we use 50% rhubarb and 50% blueberries), you can figure out how much sugar and lemon juice you will need by using the following formula:
    • Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.60 = grams of sugar
    • Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.02 = grams of lemon juice
  5. Combine the blueberry puree, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a jamming pot. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring frequently. When the rhubarb is softened, about 14 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to smash it; you’re going to be stirring a lot because the fruit needs to disintegrate, release liquid, and eventually melt into the blueberry puree. (It won’t fully break down — it’s okay to have some chunks.)
  6. Turn the heat back up to high and cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Use a spider or fine-mesh skimmer to skim off any scum. Dip the spider into a bowl of water and shake off any excess to clean between skims.
  7. Reduce the heat to low, then smash the rhubarb again with a potato masher for a minute. Turn the heat back up to high and continue to cook, stirring and skimming as necessary, for another couple of minutes, until the jam is thickened, the texture is homogenous, and the temperature reaches 101°C, about 25 minutes total. Perform a plate test.
  8. Spoon a little of the jam onto a frozen saucer. Put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, then slide a finger through the jam. It’s done when it parts and you see a strip of clean saucer. If it isn’t set, return the pot to the heat, stir constantly, and test again after 1 to 2 minutes.

Photography by Scott Barry

This is an edited extract from The Sqirl Jam Book, out now. Text by Jessica Koslow with photography and design by Scott Barry. Published by Abrams Books.

AU$49.99


Posted on September 18, 2020
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How to Grow Beetroot With as Little as a Windowsill

There is little more satisfying than growing something you can eat. The joy of picking a ripe tomato, digging out a wonky potato or ripping off some fresh basil leaves is spring’s very own drug.

Claire Ratinon is an organic food grower who once grew food for Ottolenghi’s kitchen. In this extract from her first book, How to Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving the House, Claire demystifies an Australian favourite: beetroot.


As a child, I only ever tasted cooked supermarket beetroot. It was always a bit soggy and sour, and made all that touched it bright pink. Suffice to say, it was not my favourite. But as a grown-up vegetable fancier, I find my love for beetroot is constantly expanding. I’ve come to appreciate its earthy sweetness, and I adore the colours and tastes of the more unusual varieties, such as ‘Choggia’, with its concentric circles of magenta and white, or golden beetroot, which is a bright, warm yellow in appearance and flavour. You can also eat the highly nutritious leaves, although take only a few at a time or your beetroot plant will stop growing.

Photography by Ida Riveros

Timing
You can sow beetroot seeds indoors from early spring, plant them out 4–6 weeks later and harvest by early summer. Sow seeds every few weeks if you have the space, for a regular supply. Seeds sown in mid summer will yield roots that can be kept into winter, as long as they’re harvested and stored before the first frost.

Getting started
Beetroot seeds benefit from being soaked before sowing so put your seeds in a glass of water for 24 hours. Plant a couple of seeds in each module, as they grow well in a little group. Each seed is actually a cluster of seeds with the potential to produce a few germinated seedlings, so thin the bunch down to four or five strong plants while they’re still small. You can also sow directly into the final container. If you’ve used modules, transplant the seedlings while they’ve got two sets of leaves per plant: they won’t appreciate being moved once they’re bigger.

Growing

Container
Beetroot doesn’t need a huge container, and you can plant one cluster of seedlings in a 5-litre pot with a diameter of 22cm. If you grow the plants close together, you will still get a harvest but the roots will be on the small side.

Water
It’s important not to let your beetroot plants dry out or their roots will become woody, so be generous when you water, especially in hot, dry weather.

Light
Beetroot grows best in a sunny position, but it can tolerate some shade as long as it has had a strong start in life, with adequate light.

Feeding
Beetroots are vigorous growers and will benefit from feeding when grown in pots. A fortnightly feed of liquid seaweed or comfrey will support the plants to grow and roots to develop.

Harvesting

Your first beetroot harvest can arrive as early as two months after sowing, when the root is the size of a golf ball. At this stage you can also harvest the leaves and cook them as you would spinach. These early harvests will be the sweetest and most tender. Gently twist off the largest roots and leave the remaining ones to keep growing, harvesting them as you want to eat them. Just don’t let them get much larger than a tennis ball, or they’ll be tough and less delicious.


How to Grow Your Dinner: Without Leaving the House is out now. Text by Claire Ratinon and cover by Rita Platts.


Posted on September 10, 2020
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What matters now: a gallery from Human Nature

Humanity has reached a pivotal point in time. Human Nature brings together twelve of the world’s most influential photographers to show us why. With compassion and empathy, their extraordinary images and the stories behind them help us to understand what matters now for humanity and the planet.

Get to know the different photographers featured, some of their work from the book and their views on the Age of Anthropocene.

Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist with a focus on underwater environments and marine wildlife and is a lecturer on exploration, photography and conservation. His work has been featured in many publications and he has produced over twenty-five stories for National Geographic magazine.

‘The decisions that we make today are going to determine the future of this planet, and the future of our species. It’s a time for truth; it’s a time for science and storytelling and journalism to work together collaboratively. The stakes have never been quite so high.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Brian Skerry.

Frans Lanting

Hailing from the Netherlands, Frans Lanting is a renowned photographer and naturalist whose work has frequently appeared in National Geographic, where he served as a photographer-in-residence.

‘Nature can help us overcome the effects of climate change in a much more effective way than anything else. If we invest in nature, in protecting nature as habitats, as forests, as lungs of the planet, then we can save species that are dependent on those habitats.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Frans Lanting.

J Henry Fair

Based in New York City and Berlin, J Henry Fair creates imagery and media to explain the science of complex environmental issues.

‘What we see in these pictures are the hidden costs of mining; the detritus from the production processes that make the things that we buy every day, whether it’s electricity, bread or the soda cans we throw away on the street. We are complicit, but it’s a complicity of ignorance.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © J Henry Fair.

Paul Nicklen

Paul Nicklen is a Canadian photographer and marine biologist specialising in the polar regions and their wildlife.

‘Change is happening. A little too late and too slowly, but it is happening and that’s what gives me hope. We know that there’s no other option but to fight for this and I think we are going to win. There is hope everywhere around us.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Paul Nicklen.

Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography, founding the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues.

‘This lack of commitment to community, this lack of care for the other, is absolutely at the heart of the environmental issues we are confronted with. Inequality and climate change are the two biggest issues that we’re facing.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Cristina Mittermeier.

Brent Stirton

Brent Stirton is a South African photographer and a senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specialising in documentary work covering global topics including health, the environment and conflict.

‘It’s almost suicidal in terms of our civilisation’s thinking on these issues, but a lot of that’s because people are simply in the process of surviving, feeding their families. Conservation is almost considered a luxury, when it should be a necessity.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Ami Vitale

Ami Vitale is a photographer, filmmaker, writer and explorer who tells stories about our fragile relationship with the natural world.

‘We all have the capacity to get engaged and use our voices to make a difference. The messenger matters just as much as the message itself. Each of us can be a powerful voice when speaking to the people in our lives.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Ami Vitale.

Steve Winter

Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades. He specialises in wildlife and particularly big cats.

‘If we can save the ecosystems and these animals’ habitats, we can help save ourselves. That’s my mantra: if we can save big cats, we can help save ourselves. We don’t have a choice; we either save the planet or we perish.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Steve Winter/National Geographic.

Tim Laman

Tim Laman is a field biologist, wildlife photographer and filmmaker.

‘It’s hugely important for climate change that forest stays as forest – all that carbon that’s in there – and the birds of paradise are flagship species that can focus people’s attention on conserving New Guinea’s forests.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Tim Laman.

George Steinmetz

A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine, George Steinmetz’s work has examined subjects ranging from global oil exploration and the latest advances in robotics, to the innermost stretches of the Sahara and the little-known tree house people of Papua, Indonesia.

‘Over the years, my work has turned me into an accidental environmentalist. I never set out to be an advocate for our planet, but I think that if people know more about an issue, they can make choices that will lead to solutions. Our individual choices add up.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © George Steinmetz.

Richard John Seymour

British photographer, designer and filmmaker Richard John Seymour uses photography and film to explore the connections between cities, economies and landscapes in an effort to draw attention to the political, environmental and social issues that stem from human-made environments.

‘In the last fifteen years we’ve produced half of the plastic ever made and in the last twenty-five years we’ve emitted half of the CO2 ever emitted in the history of humanity. Since we’ve had the information that we’ve needed to change our habits, we’ve massively done the opposite.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Richard John Seymour.

Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer, speaker, author, conservationist and the 2018 National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

‘Human beings are the ones that hold earth’s fate in our hands. We really do need to pay attention and look these animals in the eye. Hopefully then people will decide whether or not the future of life on earth is worth it.’

From Human Nature: Planet Earth in Our Time, edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, image copyright © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

This is an edited extract from Human Nature, out now. Text edited by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, copyright © Blackwell & Ruth.

AU$65.00


Posted on September 1, 2020
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An Extract from Max Allen’s Intoxicating

Intoxicating is award-winning journalist Max Allen’s personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history, glass in hand. In the book, Max uncovers ten of Australia’s most famous – and most surprising – drinks, sharing anecdotes about each.

In this edited extract, Max discusses his first forays into cider and home distillation, from the chapter ‘Peach Cyder’.    

I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Bristol, in the heart of England’s West Country, epicentre of traditional cider production. As a teenager living in London, some of my first experiences of alcohol came in the form of big plastic bottles of cheap Woodpecker Medium Dry cider bought underage at the local off-licence. Then, travelling around the West Country in the late 1980s, I discovered the real thing: farmhouse scrumpy, stuff of legend.

The revelation came in a crumbling 16th-century pub called the Three Tuns in Hay-on-Wye, a little town famous for its bookshops and literary festival, just over the Welsh border from Herefordshire. Saggy wooden benches by the smoke-blackened inglenook, an ancient shillings-and-pence slot machine in one corner, and an even older landlady tending the tiny bar.

When I asked for cider, instead of reaching for the hand pump on the bar or a bottle from the fridge, she rummaged around in the gloom and hauled out a plastic gallon container of cloudy golden liquid. This was scrumpy, made by a local farmer using nothing but freshly pressed apple juice and wild yeasts and time.

‘Be careful,’ she warned, as she poured out a pint. And she was right: with its huge, sharp aromas of pulpy windfall fruit and its furry taste of tough, brown apple cores strewn across a barnyard, this was a deeply challenging explosion of agricultural flavour. I think it might also have had mild hallucinogenic properties. I was hooked.

I first made cider in my backyard in Melbourne in 2011. I’d found a small orchard full of old apple varieties just a few blocks from my house, in the grounds of Rippon Lea, the National Trust–owned Melbourne mansion built by merchant and politician Frederick Sargood in 1868. Like many grand estates established on the outskirts of Australia’s emerging capital cities in the late 19th century, Rippon Lea was originally surrounded by farmland. Much of that country is now covered in suburban houses, schools, cinemas and the ABC’s old Gordon Street studios where my mum worked with my wife’s parents in the 1960s. But in the 1980s, one corner of the estate near the original 1860s stables was converted to an orchard that now boasts over 130 varieties of heritage apples and pears, including Golden Pippin and the classic cider variety Kingston Black.

I’d heard that the gardeners at Rippon Lea had harvested enough fruit to make cider by netting some of the trees to stop the local flocks of lorikeets munching the crop. So I contacted the head gardener and asked if I could gather enough of what was left over – those few apples still clinging unscathed to higher branches, the unbruised windfalls lurking in the grass below – to make a demijohn of cider myself.

Photography by Riley Allen

Not owning any cider-making equipment at that time, I crushed the apples in the most rudimentary way by bashing them to a pulp with a block of wood in a bucket. Then I borrowed a winemaker friend’s old basket press, wrapped the apple pulp up in parcels of shade cloth, put them in the press, slowly squeezed them and filled a glass demijohn with golden-brown sticky syrupy juice.

At this stage, according to all the modern cider-making manuals I’d read, I should have added some safe, reliable cultured yeast from a packet. Instead, I did nothing. I walked away and waited for nature to take its course. I wanted to do what the farmer who made that scrumpy in Hay-on-Wye had done and just let the wild yeasts on the apple skins and flesh and stalks and pips, in the air, on the press, do what yeasts do naturally: turn sugar into alcohol.

Nothing happened at first. The juice just sat there. But then, after a few hours, up from the depths of the murk emerged tiny pinprick bubbles of carbon dioxide: a definite sign of microbial activity. Fermentation had started. The wild yeasts were getting to work.

As I watched those little bubbles slowly rise, I felt another strange and profound feeling of connection with the generations of people before me who have marvelled at this seemingly miraculous process. And not just the cider makers: the winemakers and brewers, all those innumerable human beings who, for thousands of years, long before scientists identified yeasts and bacteria as the living organisms responsible for fermentation, have simply trusted in the mystery to produce a delicious drink.

I’ve made my own cider each autumn almost every year since that first fermentation epiphany. I’ve bought my own small-scale cider-making equipment. I’ve crawled around on my hands and knees in the mud and damp grass under apple trees foraging for windfalls in the Goulburn Valley. I’ve scrambled over gates and fences to reach fat ripe apples on wild roadside trees in Coonawarra. I’ve made friends with orchardists on the Mornington Peninsula who have old heritage varieties: proper cider apples like Kingston Black, almost-forgotten English apples like Sturmer Pippin, unfashionable Australian apples like Sundowner.

Each year I’ve brought my motley harvest back home and dragged my crusher and press out of the garage and invited friends and family, reluctant teenagers and eager neighbours, to help me make cider. And after the crushing and pressing, we’ve all sat down for a meal and opened bottles of last year’s batch and celebrated the season.

I now take bottles of my cider with me when I travel, to share with friends or to pour for winemakers or brewers or other, professional cidermakers. Sometimes people even say they like it, which makes me feel proud – and connected, as though the annual autumn West Country rituals are echoing in my own creaking basket press.

Photography by Riley Allen

Intoxicating is out now. Text by Max Allen and cover design by Josh Durham.


Posted on July 31, 2020
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At Home in a Strange Land

Landscapes of Our Hearts is an epic exploration of our relationship with this country. From distinguished research scientist and award-winning writer Matthew Colloff, the book asks the question: ‘If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?’

In this extract, Colloff discusses the importance of responsibility in the pursuit of belonging for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Photography: Jackie Money

Most Australians have connections with more than one place, whether they are Indigenous people or descended from 19th-century European settler-colonists or more recent migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. We value and maintain our cultural identity. For many Australians, the expression of culture singles them out as ‘different’ from other Australians and creates the tension between integration into ‘the Australian way of life’ and the multicultural plurality of modern Australian society. For example, the children of Greek migrants who refused to go with their parents and older relatives to large group barbecues and picnics in parks because they regarded such an event as ‘woggy’; in other words, it represented their involvement in a cultural activity that would identify them as migrants to other Australians.1

But there is no contradiction between citizenship and cultural diversity. Attempts by politicians and populists to construct and promulgate ‘a national identity’ have tended to be unsuccessful. Sociologist Robert Van Krieken writes, ‘Political and cultural citizenship do not necessarily coincide – it is possible to be defined legally as a citizen, but still remain an outsider, with the rules governing the transition from one category to the other remaining obscure and elusive.’2 I would argue that the process of transition from one to the other often begins with developing a connection with this land and the process of place-making.

Are we all strangers in our own land, trying to make a home wherever we find ourselves? For Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent whose families have been here for several generations, they may have been born in one place, grown up in another and live as adults somewhere else again. For many Indigenous Australians, their ancestors may have been forcibly removed from their lands, their grandparents or great-grandparents raised on a mission or an Aboriginal reserve many hundreds of kilometres away, and their parents may have moved from place to place to find work, as Stan Grant’s parents did, all the while trying to stay in contact with the diaspora of their kin.

For many of us migrants, the idea of referring to Australia as my country carries with it a deeply felt sense of ambivalence. This tension emerges not only from the cultural connections with the countries of our birth but also an unease about whether we have such a right, considering this land was taken by invasion and dispossession of its Indigenous peoples during the one hundred and forty years of the Frontier Wars. As Henry Reynolds wrote: ‘It was only by forgetting that white Australia was able to overlook the violent foundation of the nation.’3

Historian Peter Read sums up the tension as follows: ‘how can we non-Indigenous Australians justify our continuous presence and our love for this country while the Indigenous people remain dispossessed and their history unacknowledged?’4 Some of us make our place and feel a strong sense of belonging accordingly. We feel we have a right to belong. Others of us feel no such right. Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Belonging is a deeply personal journey, travelled by multiple routes. There was nothing in the citizenship interview and examination that I took in 1996 on how to go about the process of belonging. The only mention in official documentation on citizenship is the statement that volunteering can be a great way of increasing one’s sense of belonging to the Australian community and that, ‘You can walk the desert or the shore, the mountains or the rainforests. Every step you take is a step closer to belonging to this vast and vibrant land.’5 Indeed. A route to belonging through volunteerism and tourism. Were it that easy.

For some, claiming continuity with Indigenous people and the environment as part of our non-Indigenous heritage is a means of achieving a sense of belonging. In an interview with Peter Read, environmental historian Tom Griffiths stated: ‘Aborigines and environment: these are the two great historical revolutions of our generation. Writing both into Australian history allows you to reach back beyond the moment of invasion and draw you into deep time as part of our own inheritance. We should discover the continuities.’6

Griffiths’ perspective echoes the need to reconcile a sense of attachment to place with the history of environmental and cultural change. With this need comes a set of responsibilities to ‘a vision of a morally and environmentally integrated Australia’, in which the relationship between humans and the environment is one in which people ‘share its past and provide for its future’. Yet can non-Indigenous Australians legitimately claim to belong to deep time while Indigenous Australians remain dispossessed and governments continually seek to obstruct practical processes of reconciliation?7

Perhaps one way for non-Indigenous Australians to think construc­tively about these vexed issues is not just to focus on assumptions about rights of belonging, but on their responsibilities. Simply put, if our sense of belonging is to be gained through a continuity with deep time history, then we have an equal responsibility to Indigenous Australians, ourselves and our shared environment to do what we can to achieve reconciliation. We might start by considering and adopting elements of the ancient environmental knowledge, values and rules of Indigenous Australians that they observe and we do not. Perhaps this might form a basis to begin to shape our common future in more sustainable ways.8

If there can be no lasting or legitimate sense of belonging without a sense of responsibility to the land and each other, then here’s the challenge, as articulated by Tom Griffiths: ‘If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep past, then we must ask the non-Aboriginals to share responsibility for its mistakes. If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep future, then we must ask the Aboriginals to share in its responsibility.’ Idealistic and difficult this may seem in practice, but the alternative is worse; a business-as-usual continuation of what we have already done: ‘the mere expropriation of past and future’.9 If we can acknowledge the past, reconcile the present and nurture the future, then perhaps all Australians, one day, may truly find a place we can call home.

NOTES

1     Denis Byrne, Heather Goodall & Allison Cadzow, Place-Making in National Parks: Ways That Australians of Arabic and Vietnamese Background Perceive and Use the Parklands along the Georges River, NSW, University of Technology Sydney and Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, 2013, p. 17.

2     Robert Van Krieken, ‘Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism: Models of Integration in Australia’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 46, no. 5, 2012, pp. 500–17.

3     Henry Reynolds, Forgotten War, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2013.

4     Peter Read, Belonging: Australians, Place and Aboriginal Ownership, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 1.

5     Department of Home Affairs, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, Communication and Engagement Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Canberra, 2018, pp. 17, 41.

6     Read, p. 178.

7     Read, p. 181.

8     Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Change the World, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2019; ‘Can Indigenous Thinking Save the World?’ Late Night Live, Radio National, 16 September 2019.

9     Read, p. 183.

Landscapes of Our Hearts is available now. Text by Matthew Colloff, cover photography by Louise Denton Photography, and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$34.99


Posted on July 1, 2020
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Making Colour Visceral: How Paint is Made

From one of the world’s most respected paint-makers, David Coles, Chromatopia reveals the stories behind fifty striking pigments. In this extract, Coles discusses the extraordinary process through which paint is made.

Photography by Adrian Lander

This book has looked at the origins of historical and contemporary pigments, but pigments are hardly ever used in their raw form. To be usefully employed as a colour, billions of individual grains of pigment must be glued together with a binder. This is, in essence, how you make paint.

Throughout history, people have found ways to permanently ‘fix’ colour to create lasting images of the most exquisite beauty. For instance, the binding of pigments in Neolithic cave paintings was probably serendipitous; cave walls containing silicas or limestone trapped the pigment and locked it to the surface over time. Since then, we have discovered a host of sticky, adhesive materials in nature that could hold pigments in place. Some of these earliest binders are still used by artists. Gum arabic, the water-soluble sap of the North African acacia tree, makes watercolours; and beeswax, collected and refined from hives, makes encaustic (molten wax) paint.

Mixing pigments with different binders successfully converts them into a material for uses as diverse as house paints, plastics, writing inks, automotive coatings, paper and – of most interest to me – artists’ paint.

In my role as a master paint-maker, I make oil paint, which are by dispersing pigments in a ‘drying oil’ such as linseed, walnut, poppy or safflower oils. Linseed oil is by far the most important and widely used drying oil. When drying oils absorb oxygen they convert from a liquid into a hard, permanent coating. Pigments can be bound with very small amounts of oil. This means that oil paints contain much higher amounts of the pigment than watercolour or acrylic paints. For artists, this gives the paint a physical feeling. The paintbrush is literally pushing around dense, coloured pastes.

Photography by Adrian Lander

So how do we make our paint? Our first task was to source a high-quality linseed oil. We selected ours after sampling dozens of products from suppliers all over the world. We were looking for a clean, straw-coloured oil that was free of natural impurities. It had to have a good drying rate and minimal yellowing as it aged. Eventually we chose exceptional bright, clear oils made in Holland and Germany.

Next comes the selection of the pigments. There are so many manufacturers of pigments that the choice seems overwhelming. We hunt out pigments that have qualities equal to their noble intended use: they must be as lightfast as possible, chemically stable and exhibit colour qualities of benefit to the artist. The vast majority of pigments do not meet our needs. They are built for larger, more commercially important industries and have been tailored for industrial applications.

To select our pigments, we go through a long period of investigation. We select colours of interest, research the chemical construction of the pigment, and assess its suitability for artists’ paint before requesting samples for laboratory trials. The anticipation of opening a sample box and seeing a new pigment for the first time, in its raw unadulterated form, is exhilarating. There is always the nervous hope that the promise held out by this new pigment will be borne out, that its potency will not dull, and that its colour will not be lost when it is mixed with the binder. Backwards and forwards go the experiments – working out the right amount of pigment to add to the oil and correcting for undesirable qualities. Like a chef honing a new dish, small, delicate changes in the recipe can lead to dramatic differences in the finished product.

Photography by Adrian Lander

When we are ready to make the paint, the linseed oil is weighed out into 60-litre heavy-duty stainless-steel bowls. All of our manufacturing equipment and surfaces are stainless steel. The equipment is kept meticulously clean to prevent any chance of other colours contaminating the purity of each new batch.

Stearate, a wax-like material that is essential to the wetting and stability of the paint, is weighed and added to the oil. The bowl is secured in a planetary mixer and large, powerful motors slowly rotate the blade through the wax and oil mixture.

Next, another steel bowl is placed on the electronic scales, ready for the pigment. Even after all these years, opening the bins of pure pigment is a ridiculously breathtaking assault on the eyes. The pigment is scooped out, weighed and added slowly to the oil. There are no short cuts. Adding all the pigment at once would make incorporation impossible. The liquid oil allows the individual grains of colour to slide over each other. The physical shape of pigments means that, without this lubrication, they would drag over each other, causing extraordinary resistance, reducing the mixing action and – as happened once very early on – breaking the very expensive blade of the mixer.

The slow churning of the paste begins. Over the rumbling of the mixer’s motor, you can hear delicious slurping noises as the blade methodically drives through the mixture. As the dry pigment is gradually incorporated with the wet oil, it changes from an incredibly thick batter into what looks like an enormous vat of vividly coloured butter.

This process can take as long as four hours, but it is not the finished paint. Under close inspection, vast quantities of the pigments still cling together rather than being individually coated. This is where the triple-roll mill comes in.

Photography by Adrian Lander

A triple-roll mill is at the heart of paint-making. At its most basic, it is three horizontal granite rollers that each run at different speeds and spin in alternating directions. The paste is scraped out of the mixer’s bowl with a baker’s blade and dropped into the hopper. Each giant dollop makes a delicious slap as it plops onto the rollers below. The paste is drawn down into the tiny space between the rollers, again and again. With each pass, the space is narrowed to more aggressively separate the pigment particles. If you have ever used a pasta-making machine with its two rollers forcing the dough through the small space between them you can understand the paint-making process. Just as the roughly made dough cannot pass through the narrowest setting first, so the pigment-paste must be passed through the mill rollers multiple times. It’s just that our mill is like a pasta-machine on steroids, with three rollers rather than two and a massive motor to drive the material through. For soft pigments such as zinc white only three passes are needed, but the synthetics can take up to nine passes. Synthetic pigments are very difficult to prize apart: their incredibly small size and specific shape mean they have to be painstakingly teased into dispersion.

The paint-maker must be constantly attentive to the vagaries of milling. Rollers heat up under the friction of pigment particles, which alters the size of the roller gap, and the fluidity of the oil is affected by changes in ambient temperature. Also, pigments behave differently from one batch to another. This is especially true of the natural earths, which vary in their mineral make-up depending on the part of the seam the earth was dug from.

Photography by Adrian Lander

Towards the end of the paint-making process, we take samples of the paint and test it for quality. Historically, paint-makers would rub the paint between their thumbnails – a simple but surprisingly delicate solution to feel for the grittiness of unmixed pigment. Nowadays we use a precisely honed stainless-steel gauge to check the quality of dispersion.

But we are still not ready to sign off on the product. Two extremely thin films of the freshly made paint are applied to paint-maker’s cards. One daub is the pure paint. The other is the paint mixed with a specified amount of titanium white.  By placing the card next to one from a previous batch of the same colour, we can ensure that every time we make the paint it has identical colour, tinting strength, tint colour and undertone to all previous versions.

Only after the paint has passed these tests is it approved for packing. It is hand-filled into collapsible aluminium paint tubes, labelled with hand-painted swatches of the individual colour, boxed and shipped to studios around the world.

Chromatopia is available now. Text by David Coles, photography by Adrian Lander, and cover design by Evi. O Studio.

AU$34.99


Posted on June 17, 2020
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Recipe: Speckled Beetroot Sourdough

There’s no better time to settle in to the ultimate, feel-good luxury of making homemade bread, and this Speckled Beetroot Sourdough is worth settling in to.

Whilst all the recipes in How to Raise a Loaf are suitable for beginners, this recipe should be attempted once you’ve already made your first basic loaf. The recipe for a basic loaf, as well as kneading and folding tutorials, are all included in How to Raise a Loaf. You’ll also find a step-by-step guide to making and using your starter. Head over to Laurence King’s Instagram story here to watch how we make our starter.


Speckled Beetroot Sourdough

With a distinctive appearance and earthy aroma, this is a real show-stopper, and a perfect, hearty accompaniment to winter soups or stews. Beetroots are a rich source of antioxidants, and also give the dough an unforgettable pink colour, which fades in the oven, leaving speckles in a classic open crumb.

Photography by Ida Riveros

Ingredients

· 200g starter
· 10ml (2 tsp) olive oil
· 180ml warm water
· 340g strong white bread flour
· 7.5g (1½ tsp) fine salt
· 150g fresh beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
· rice flour or semolina, for dusting

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the starter, olive oil and warm water together until the starter has dissolved.

Photography by Ida Riveros

2. In another bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add this to the wet mixture and mix well with your hand, then add the grated beetroot and mix until the beetroot is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Wet your hands, then pull, fold and rotate the dough 8—10 times, so that it forms a ball. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

4. Repeat Step 3 twice so that you’ve worked the dough three times and it has rested for a
hour in total.

5. Dust a proving basket liberally with rice flour or semolina. Wet your fingers, work them around the bottom of the ball of dough and gently transfer it to the proving basket, keeping the seam upwards.

6. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove. Depending on the temperature and the activity of the yeast, it may take three to six hours to gain about 50 per cent in size.

Photography by Ida Riveros

7. When the loaf has proved, preheat the oven to 230°C (210°C fan)/gas mark 8, with a heavy baking tray or baking stone on the middle shelf, and add a source of steam. Turn the loaf out of the proving basket onto the heated surface, cut it twice across the top with a sharp blade or scissors, then place it in the oven.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210°C (190°C fan)/gas mark
and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the loaf is done and sounds hollow on the base
when tapped with a fingertip.

9. Leave to cool on a wire rack before eating.

Photography by Ida Riveros

This is a recipe extract from How to Raise a Loaf, published by Laurence King Publishing, $25, available here.


Posted on May 11, 2020
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My Bedroom is an Office: Joanna Thornhill on your Interior Design Dilemmas

When My Bedroom is an Office was published in March 2019, we had no idea it would be so relevant over a year later. Now, Joanna Thornhill reminds us that even if your office is just an outdoor table at the end of your bed, it’s still worth making it a space you are happy to spend the day in.


No one wants to stare at a messy workspace at the best of times, least of all when dozing off in bed at the end of the day. But if the bedroom is your only viable space to set up shop, however small the available area, if you’re savvy and organised you can create a spot that functions as a place of productivity without causing nightmares.

For the workspace itself, think about repurposing a piece of furniture that will fit the aesthetic of your bedroom. A bureau or secretaire can work brilliantly, and you can just shut the hatch when you’re not using it. A simple writing desk, console or even small dining table can be a good option, but try to make a raised platform for your monitor (perhaps just a shelf resting on two wooden battens) to ensure that it sits at the correct eye level; you can tuck your keyboard under this when it’s not being used. If your table has no drawers, a basic fabric skirt fixed around the top can hide a multitude of sins, from printers to power cables.

Left: Hiding in plain sight can be a good approach for the bedroom office. Through the use of cute accessories, charming vintage furniture and a pretty overall aesthetic, this study spot is a chic addition rather than an unfortunate eyesore.
Right: An ingenious fold-down wall desk can work wonderfully in a tiny space. A purpose-built unit allows you to keep your laptop and a few other essentials hidden away, while a wall-mounted drop-leaf table or a drop-leaf butterfly table would do a similar job.
Below: Natural materials can offer the perfect counterbalance to a tech-filled study space. Paired with simple floral cuttings and touches of greenery, this work nook looks the opposite of corporate. Clever, subtle tech, such as the lamp that incorporates a wireless charging base, allows the desktop to remain relatively cable-free.
Image © Tiffany Grant-Riley / 91 Magazine

Since space will no doubt be limited, think laterally to make the most of your work nook. If your desk is in an alcove, this can offer the ideal spot to add shelves for storage, but otherwise a ladder-style leaning desk unit may be most efficient, or even a modular shelving system incorporating a desk. Soften the appearance of work paraphernalia such as box files or ring binders by covering them with fabric or wallpaper swatches that tie in with your room decor, and be creative with storage – why not keep archived paperwork in a small vintage suitcase, for example, or stack your printer paper in an old wooden fruit crate?

An ugly office chair will never enhance any bedroom, so consider working from a more visually pleasing dining chair or even a padded stool. If this is your full-time workspace, however, a proper computer chair is best for your body, so shop around for an aesthetically pleasing one (they may be few and far between, but they’re out there). If you’ve already got a bog-standard one, try covering it with a chunky throw when it’s not in use, or make fitted covers in a charming fabric to give it a more homely feel.

Joanna Thornhill
Joanna Thornhill, author of My Bedroom is an Office. See Joanna’s Instagram takeover here

If you’re up for a DIY challenge, try converting a cupboard or wardrobe into a bijou office. Add a deep shelf across the whole space at desk height, place additional shelving above for storage, tuck your printer underneath and simply shut the door when you’re done.


My Bedroom is an Office

This is an extract from My Bedroom is an Office, published in March 2019, by Laurence King Publishing, $29.99, available here.


Posted on April 27, 2020
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Alice Oehr’s wonderful world of cake: a gallery

The Art of Cake is illustrator, designer and artist Alice Oehr’s playful ode to cake for its devotees everywhere. Through her distinctive, quirky style, she captures cake as an art form that satisfies not only our taste buds but also our eyes and imagination.

Learning about the history of fifty cakes adored across the globe is like the sweet escape you didn’t know you needed. We’ll take a bet here and guess that you don’t know the story of the Cannoli, the origin of the Éclair, or the scandal behind the Sachertorte. Alice covers them all with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy. The Art of Cake also features six of Alice’s own homespun recipes to keep you busy and baking.

Take a look through our gallery of six of our favourite cakes from the book: the humble carrot cake, the controversial pavlova, the dainty strawberry shortcake, the strikingly layered red velvet cake, the elegant éclair and finally the alluring black forest gâteau.

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The Art of Cake is available now. Text and illustrations by Alice Oehr and design by Ashlea O’Neill

AU$24.99 / NZ$29.99


Posted on April 8, 2020
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The beginner’s guide to brewing medicinal plants

‘Often the easiest approach is the most potent.’

Learn the difference between teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews with master herbalist Erin Lovell Verinder’s guide to brewing medicinal plants. Find this extract in her new book, Plants for the People, alongside her accompanying recipes for brews to aid immunity, digestion, vitality, and sleep.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews have been in use for as long as plants and people have been kin, and are four of the most accessible ways to work with plants, dried or fresh.

Essentially, infusions, decoctions and sun brews follow the principles of tea, but they are amplified in the medicinal sense. Medicinal teas are made by steeping the plant material in boiling water for a quick 10–20 minutes. Follow with a simple strain and sip mindfully.

An infusion involves longer steeping in boiling water, for a gentle extraction and activation of the plant material. It is best used for the softer aerial parts of a plant – think flowers, leaves, buds and berries. Bear in mind that there are some plants that prefer a cold-water infusion as their delicate properties are sensitive to heat. Infusions extract the volatile oils, vitamins and precious enzymes of medicinal plants, so be sure to cover the infusing concoction to trap all of these beneficial elements. Infusions can be 20–30 minute brews or left for 4–12 hours to deepen the medicinal impact.

A decoction is used more for the woody parts of plants – think roots, rhizomes, seeds, twigs, bark – which require more time and amplified heat to liberate the medicinal constituents. A decoction calls for a slow, covered boil, around 20–40 minutes.

A sun brew is simply an infusion made by combining dried or fresh herbs with filtered water, sealing and popping out in the sun to brew for a day.

A golden principle of medicinal teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews is that they are best used straight away. As water is their base, there is no preservative present and we want to avoid any mould formation. However, infusions can be kept for up to 24 hours; sun brews and decoctions can be refrigerated and will stay active for around 48 hours.

A Guide to Brewing Medicinal Plants

Herbal Teas

Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sleeve, and enjoy.

Infusions

Add the plant material to a heatproof mason jar, fill with boiling water and infuse for 3-4 hours minimum, or leave overnight to deepen the strength. Simply strain out the herbs with a fine-mesh sleeve and sip throughout the day. Infusions make a perfect iced tea; however, if you desire a little warmth, you can gently heat on the stove.

Decoctions

Simply add your hardy herbs to a saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Allow the concoction to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, then strain and enjoy!

Sun Brews

Spoon the herbal blend of your choice into a glass jar, generally filling around half the jar with fresh plant material or a quarter of the jar with dried plants. Fill to the brim with cool water, pop on a muslin top or lid to keep the bugs away, and leave out in a sunny spot to imbue the brew with warmth.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00


Posted on March 17, 2020
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A Q&A with plant whisperer Erin Lovell Verinder

Photography by Georgia Blackie

‘Plant medicine is your birth right.’ This is the mantra of Erin Lovell Verinder, a fully qualified and much-loved Western herbalist, nutritionist, energetic healer, mentor and educator. Her first book, Plants for the People, draws on ancient wisdom with a modern approach to medicine. Inviting you to return to the roots, this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to using plants to restore wellbeing. We chatted to Erin about her journey to discovering the healing realms of the plant world and inspiring others to do the same.

Where did your passion for naturopathy, healing and the plant world begin? 

I have felt a deep sense of belonging amongst nature for as long as I can recall. When I think of my childhood, I think of the height of the Eucalyptus trees in the park nearby and the fragrant smells of summer. The plants made an early impression on me.

I was enamoured with all things esoteric and mystical and began studying energetic healing (crystals, reiki, kinesiology, colour therapy, sound healing, breath work) at 16 years old I was not your typical teenager, that’s for sure! Training in the healing realms for many years taught me so much about the spiritual, mental and emotional bodies, and I really yearned to know more about the physical body. This is when I began training in Naturopathic medicine – forking off into deeper studies in Western Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Medicine, graduating with my bachelor’s degree as a Herbalist and Nutritionist. I loved learning about how plants hold an embodied power with a deep affinity for our bodies, and how ultimately nature’s way is the greatest healer.

Tell us a bit about your naturopathic philosophy. For you, what does it mean to be a true naturalist?

To me, being a true naturalist means walking the plant path – there are many ways to do this! I walk this path dedicating my life to working with plant medicine, by choosing to live amongst wild nature and by doing my very best to be a woman in tune with nature in all of her glorious facets.

I guide people to shift their health stories and thrive with the assistance of plant medicine as a gateway to radically awesome health. I have been working within the field of healing for 21 years now, with a strong focus on my clinical practice with clients, bridging the gaps between naturopathic and nutritional medicine, grass roots herbalism, and intuition. Much of my mission is to assist and educate people on the generous healing nature can offer us all, in combination with honouring and listening in to our bodies and beings. This is my holistic approach to health and healing and my naturopathic philosophy.

Photography by Georgia Blackie
Photography by Georgia Blackie

What does a typical day for you look like at home in the Byron hinterland?

I rise with the sun, mornings are slow and soft, and include breakfast at home with my husband around the kitchen table. There is always a meditation, pottering in my herb garden, a beach swim or a bush walk (communion with nature). We work from home, which affords us a lot of freedom and comfort. My days are full of mentoring, clinic, writing, or creating in some way. I make a commitment to take breaks, with a pot of herbal tea under my big pecan tree often. All work is switched off by 5pm, and as the sun sets and the yin of the night ushers in, there is always a nourishing home cooked meal, a sleepy time tea, conversation, candlelight, books, calm music and then in bed by 9pm.

What about a day in the clinic?

The days in my clinic are full and seem to zoom by. I follow my daily rhythms and set my hours with clients and mentoring around this. For me, being in practice for many years has given me a lot of opportunity to refine what works best for me as a clinician and space holder. As much as it is key to activate your intuition when working with people’s health, it is a very heady job that demands a lot of mental focus! I need it to feel paced, with little breaks, nourishing snacks and meals in between, and plenty of time with each client or student to fully be present for them. I keep my mornings chill, and although I sometimes work until late in the evening with clients, I am sure to switch off and give myself space to decompress. For this reason, I keep a lot of supportive foundations in place for myself to be able to do my work with clarity and confidence. It is an incredibly rewarding job to witness people get better and improve their health outcomes with natural interventions and plant medicine support. Truly it never ceases to amaze me that this is the work I get to do and offer.

Plants for the People is the perfect guide for plant medicine aficionados and those who have just started out on their plant path. What would your main piece of advice be for the beginners about to delve into your book?

To start with what resonates, which plant/s jump out to you in the Materia Medica section? Which recipes sound good to you? Start with what you are drawn to the most; the plants and recipes that stand out to you are usually what you may be needing the most.

Photography by Georgia Blackie

Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?

It is very hard to choose one. I do really love the Elderberry elixir recipe, which is super delicious and a great staple to keep in the fridge to support immunity.

What’s next for you?

This year is big, bold and bountiful for me! I will be promoting the book in three counties, travelling, continuing to work with clients and mentoring in my clinic, building my digital offerings and writing more.

Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.

AU$39.99 / NZ$45.00


Posted on March 11, 2020
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Jonathan Drori takes us Around the World in 80 Trees

Trees are one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. From India’s sacred banyan tree to the fragrant cedar of Lebanon, they offer us sanctuary and inspiration – not to mention the raw materials for everything from aspirin to maple syrup.

Jonathan Drori’s bestselling book, Around the World in 80 Trees, is now available in paperback. In this extract, we take a closer look at something local, the Jarrah, and then journey to Iran to hear about the origins of the pomegranate.


Jarrah

Eucalyptus marginata, Western Australia

Jarrah

Jarrah: a name that sounds quintessentially Australian. The word comes from the Nyungar language of the continent’s far southwest. In pre-colonial times, there were millions of acres of jarrah forest on the leached soils of what is now called the Darling Plateau. It is a majestic tree, easily 40 metres (130 feet) high and its trunk 2 metres (6 feet) across, with rough, very dark-brown bark. Gloriously fragrant flowers, miniature white starbursts, festoon the tree in clusters of ten or so, attracting bees, which make a distinctively malty, caramel-flavoured honey from its nectar. Jarrah is the linchpin of an important and complex forest ecosystem, home to unspeakably cute marsupials with names to delight any Scrabble player: the numbat, the potoroo, the quoll and the quenda.

Jarrah trees are long-lived – at least 500 years and up to a millennium or more – if they get the chance. British colonists quickly saw the value in the rich red jarrah wood, which was immensely strong and resistant to rot, insects, wind and water. It was eagerly taken up for shipbuilding and harbour pilings. When convicts arrived en masse from 1850, the fl ood of cheap labour meant that jarrah could be exported across the British Empire to feed its insatiable appetite for railway sleepers and other durable infrastructure such as telegraph poles, wharves and even tea sheds. A network of steam-powered sawmills and railways sprang up to extract the timber.

Jarrah

On the other side of the world, Londoners were trying to work out
what to use to pave their roads, which by the 1880s were hectic with horsedrawn traffic. Stone blocks and cobblestones were deployed on substantial sections of main roads, but they were expensive and caused horses to slip and skitter in the city’s frequent rain. Tarmac, known then as macadam, would still need another few decades of development before it was robust enough. Then there was wood. Softwood deal and pine paving from the Baltic had advantages over stone: it was much quieter, more easily swept and kinder to horses’ hooves. But those woods wore and rotted quickly, and would soak up the swill of equine urine and ordure and, under pressure from a heavy wheel, squirt it out at passers-by. Unsurprisingly, then, when jarrah wood was exhibited in 1886 at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London and advertised as a durable paving material, there was immediate interest. It turned out to be extraordinarily hardwearing, losing only 3 millimetres (1∕8 inch) a year on busy roads. Lasting decades and blessedly non-porous, it was popular with man and beast alike. By 1897, despite the huge shipping costs and distance, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) of London’s busiest and swankiest streets had been clad in Australian jarrah wood – millions and millions of blocks, mostly laid over concrete. Back in Australia, the huge demand spawned many competing and unregulated jarrah-wood companies. Competitors repeatedly dropped their prices to gain orders, to the point that in 1900 Australian jarrah was being sold in England for less than vastly inferior woods brought from nearby Sweden. It was a lucrative but ludicrously unsustainable business; the forests could never withstand such rapacious exploitation. Despite the rapid forest loss, it wasn’t until the end of World War I that laws were introduced to manage more sensibly the trees that remained. And while asphalt replaced wooden paving blocks soon afterwards, the demand for jarrah timber for construction work never went away.

Aside from a few spectacular protected areas, most of the jarrah forests are gone now, felled for timber or to make way for agriculture and mining. What is left is at risk from global warming and the cascade of complex changes that come with it. The fungus-like organism Phytophthora cinnamomi is causing deadly dieback, and in summer there are increasingly frequent droughts and heatwaves. The original unbridled exploitation of jarrah and the depletion of its fragile ecosystem coincided with the demise of Nyungar culture. The remaining jarrah is again in danger, this time from climate change, to which we all contribute and by which all cultures are threatened.

Jarrah

Pomegranate

Punica granatum, Iran

Pomegranates feature frequently in writings from ancient Egypt and classical Greece, in the Old Testament and Babylonian Talmud, and in the Qur’an. Their abundance of seeds and juice consistently link the fruit to fertility. The ancestors of the cultivated pomegranate grew several thousand years ago in arid, hilly regions between Iran and northern India, and today’s cultivars still prefer hot days and cool nights. Small, many-branched trees of 5–12 metres (16–40 feet), with shiny leaves of deep green, they are long-lived, perhaps to 200 years. Pomegranate flowers are a sight to behold. Distinctive calyxes, protective layers around the base of each flower, form sturdy funnels from which crumpled petals burst exuberantly in lurid shades of scarlet and crimson.

Pomegranate flowers

Pomegranate fruit range in colour from yellow with a blush of pink to burnished rose or even maroon. They have a tough, leathery skin, ensuring the fruit last well after picking; historically, they were a refreshment taken on long journeys. Inside, held within a spongy cream membrane, are hundreds of seeds, each within a juicy sarcotesta (a swollen seed coat), ranging from translucent pink to deep purple. The turgid grains interlock satisfyingly with one another – a triumph of efficient packing – and the juice within each one is delectably sweet, tart and mildly astringent. These are ample compensations for the dry woodiness of the seeds and the dilemma, for some, of whether to spit or swallow.

While fresh pomegranate fruit, juice and cordials are widely available from the western Mediterranean to south Asia, the Iranians have truly embraced pomegranate culture. Specialist stalls stock juice from different cultivars. Mounds of seeds – fresh, dried or frozen – are ready to be sprinkled on top of juice or ice cream, sometimes with a pinch of thyme. In autumn, fresh juice is boiled until it thickens into dark-brown molasses, a key ingredient of khoresht fesenjan, a chicken and walnut stew. And of course, Tehran has the requisite annual pomegranate festival.

Pomegranates have a reputation for health benefits. Traditional uses for diarrhoea, dysentery and intestinal parasites are long established, and the fruit contains antioxidants that are likely to be beneficial; some gung-ho anti-cancer and anti-ageing claims, however, require better evidence. But perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss the psychological benefits of a fruit whose consumption requires our undivided attention.

Pomegranate fruit

Jonathan Drori is a Trustee of The Woodland Trust and The Eden Project, an Ambassador for the WWF and was for nine years a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Society of London, and a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. In 2006 he was made CBE. You can read his full biography here or listen to his TED talks here.

Jonathan Drori

This is an extract from Around the World in 80 Trees. Text by Jonathan Drori and illustrations by Lucille Clerc.

Around the World in 80 Trees paperback edition, published March 2020, by Laurence King Publishing, $24.99, available here.


Posted on March 3, 2020