By Alison Peake

    One of the joys of life in the west is the occasional surprise you find when you aren’t even looking. Amazing little opportunities hiding in plain sight. Like going to the local farmer’s market to discover a world-class journalist and food writer sharing their wisdom.

    And it really did happen.

    On a windy Saturday in November a pop-up workshop in the local scout hall in West Footscray hosted a hands-on workshop shining a light on a little known and much misunderstood oriental fruit proliferating locally; hosted by a celebrity food writer. 

    What is this fruit you may well ask? And who was extolling its virtues as an ingredient worthy of cooking, distilling, bottling and preserving?

    Author, journalist and food writer Richard Cornish made a cameo appearance to support the Urban Harvest Local project to entice people to show some love for loquats and teach market goers many ways to enjoy this underrated fruit.

    The loquat is a small yellow to orange soft fruit native to China which was introduced to  gardens locally by European migrants seven decades ago. Shining a light on this prolific fruit, which hangs over many a westie back fence, the workshop at the Slow Food Melbourne market offered people the opportunity to learn more about the many ways to enjoy something quite literally in their backyards. Easily grown from a rather large pip many trees were planted by new settlers to the local suburbs post WW2. Many others have simply  self seeded, so while they often go unrecognised, there is a bounty of spring fruit available locally which could, and should, be shared and better enjoyed. 

    Author and collaborator on several cookbooks; notably with Frank Camorra of Movida and Phillipa Grogan of the well known Phillipa’s bakery and provisions shop; Richard Cornish also penned the much-loved and irreverent Fairfax column Brain Food which gave rise to a book of the same name. His journalism explores where food comes from, how it gets to us and why some foods taste better than others. Richard joined forces with local farmer Lina Siciliano to talk about the many ways this versatile fruit can be prepared and enjoyed while participants were able to enjoy the “fruits” of his labour as he served muesli with loquats, a margarita base (sans alcohol … but don’t let that stop you adding your own!), and loquat and rosewater cake while also whipping up a loquat jam. 

    Urban Harvest Local is an initiative of Slow Food Melbourne to introduce locals to food that is in their neighbourhood and often hidden in plain sight. Food workshops to identify and enjoy local fruit have been funded by the Westgate Neighbourhood Fund. To plot local fruit trees go to the website and for more information to share recipes and fruit check out Urban Harvest Local on Facebook and Instagram or come and find us at one of our local farmers’ markets in Spotswood or West Footscray 

    More workshops to come to enjoy summer fruit including plums and figs, lemon workshops, passata making days & an olive harvest. Watch this space!  

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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