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The Challenges and Joys of Bottling

By Emma Street, Seed Savers Albury-Wodonga

There is a fierce war currently raging at our home in Allans Flat. It’s us against the birds, and we are fighting literally for the fruits of war. So far the attacks have come from the smaller allied forces. There have been some rather half-hearted forays against the tomatoes by the blackbirds, and the occasional sortie by the wrens in the berry patch. The wattle birds have been sniping a grape at a time from the trellis around the house, while I conceded the battle for my favourite plum for bottling when I realised I was fighting King Parrots for them.

But the real enemy are the cockatoos. We have hundreds of them here in our valley and they are ruthless adversaries. Everything I want for bottling they want too. And they don’t just take what they need, oh no, they take one bite out of each slightly under ripe fruit and then chuck them on the ground just to rub it in our faces. People ask why we have over fifty apple trees, it’s because these garden terrorists come down and strip the lot.

But I have chosen my last stand. The figs are growing fat and luscious and the cockatoos are not going to have them. Not only are they delicious fresh, but spiced preserved figs are a little bit of heaven we enjoy all year now.  They are the real reason I do bottling. Yes, there is nothing like the taste of home grown and bottled peaches and apricots, it’s great for economic reasons and peace of mind to have your own organic passata supply, and the environmental benefits are honourable, but it’s really gluttony driving this passion.

I have a year’s worth of delicious meals planned with these canned figs – paired with sharp cheese, as the most divine accompaniment to duck, in salad with blue cheese and as the star of the most amazing pizzas you’ve ever eaten. This is the reason I like bottling, especially when you can pull them out in a dreary winter when all the fresh food tastes bland. And you can’t support that kind of a fig habit if you don’t grow and preserve your own.

So trust me when I say that this is one battle I am going to win.