When Peter Dryden and Elsa Payne discovered that a tree in Payne’s parents’ backyard in Turramurra on Sydney’s North Shore yielded oranges unlike any others that they had tasted, they did their research and found that the fruit was called Poorman’s orange. A cross between a tangerine and a pomelo, it was thought to have come to Australia from China as rootstock in the 19th century.
Dryden and Payne searched the world to find other Poorman’s oranges but nothing like it existed. The closest they tasted was in Bhutan, but it wasn’t quite right. So they started experimenting with cuttings and eventually succeeded in growing viable trees.
In 2005 they bought an 11-hectare property in Upper Yango Creek, near Wollombi in the Hunter Valley, and named the property Wombat Bottoms. The couple expanded and created Dryden Food & Wine (30 Glenview Street, Gordon, NSW, (02) 9498 4372). Today, along with Poorman’s oranges, they produce bergamot oranges, Meyer lemons, cumquats, yuzu, chinotto, finger limes and their latest addition, sudachi, a citrus from Japan.
Poorman’s oranges have a much more complex taste than ordinary oranges. Their outer skin is thick, with lots of pith, and the skin in between the segments is tough, like a pomelo, but the flesh, although appearing quite stringy, is sweet, juicy, succulent and has a slight bitter undertone. The fruit is much more suited for cocktails than any other citrus and it shines in many desserts.
Their Meyer lemons are both acidic and sweet with a smoothness that lifts the flavour, while bergamot oranges, one of the more difficult citruses to grow as they are easily frost affected, have a unique flavour many would know as that added to Earl Grey tea. The fresh fruit is unbelievably fragrant and versatile.
Dryden and Payne’s cumquats are another standout; they have much better shape, are picked considerably later and are therefore much riper than commercial varieties on the market. Yuzu has long been the darling of many chefs and is essential to Japanese cuisine. Although there are bottled extracts, they do not compare to the fresh fruit. It’s important to realise that although yuzu may sometimes look a bit second-hand on the outside, it makes no difference to the aroma and flavour.
Chinotto should only ever be used when really ripe. The finger limes grown at the property are green inside with purple skin and have a real pop. Sudachi is being experimented with at the moment. No commercial quantities exist as yet, but it seems to be a more frost-hardy citrus than most.
The season for citrus starts in May with yuzu and Meyer lemons and extends with the other fruit to mid June. The Poorman’s orange is available until September.
Dryden and Payne grow huacatay as well, which is a Peruvian herb also called Southern Cone marigold, black mint or stinking roger. The plant has thin, long fragrant leaves and is mainly used in South American cooking. I found that it has real potential in cocktails and have used it in one of the concoctions below.
juice of 2 chinotto (keep a slice for garnish)
1 nip Fortaleza Añejo
2 nips Barbadillo Blend of Amontillado
Medium Dry Sherry
½ nip Crawley’s Agave Syrup
Mix all of the ingredients together with lots of large ice cubes in a glass and garnish with the left-over slice of chinotto.
2 nips fresh yuzu juice
2 nips Disaronno Amaretto
Shake all of the ingredients and strain into a cocktail glass.
Meyer Gin Fizz
juice of 3 Meyer lemons
1 nip orgeat syrup
2 nips Death’s Door Ginice
2 huacatay leaves
Makes two cocktails. Mix all of the ingredients, except the soda water, and shake. Strain into a highball glass and fill up with soda and one large ice cube. Garnish with one or two huacatay leaves.
1 nip Crawley’s Grenadine Syrup
1 nip Merlet Crème de Poire William Liqueur
1 nip Archie Rose Smoked Gin
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
freshly juiced Yango Gold Poorman’s orange
Stir all of the ingredients together in a glass (size depends on how much ice you would like) then top up with the Poorman’s orange juice.
zest and juice of 2 bergamot oranges
2 nips Del Maguey San Jose Rio Minas Mezcal
1 nip Crawley’s Agave Syrup
Shake all of the ingredients with lots of ice and strain into a glass. Add a few blocks of ice.
Sweet & Sour Mash
2 nips Noah’s Mill Cask Strength
4 drops Angostura Orange Bitters
¼ cup verjus
4 tbsp caster sugar
To make the cumquat syrup, cut cumquats in half and put into a small saucepan. Add verjus and bring to a boil. Crush the cumquats as much as possible to release juice. Add caster sugar, stir well and simmer for a few minutes. Set aside to cool and once cold strain through a sieve using the back of a spoon. Put cumquat syrup and the rest of the ingredients into a shaker with lots of ice. Shake, strain into a glass and add one large ice cube.
2 nips Chartreuse Green
2 nips Casamigos Añejo Tequila
5 drops Angostura Orange Bitters
juice of 1 large Poorman’s orange
Put all of the ingredients into a shaker, add lots of ice, shake for a good minute and strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Add one large ice cube and a twist of Poorman’s orange rind.