Full growing instructions given on packet. Sow your seeds in shallow trays of compost in a propagator early spring and leave on a warm windowsill to germinate. Pot them on into small pots. When they get to about 10cm (4") high transfer them into their final growing positions 3m (10') apart outdoors in late May (once any danger of frost has passed). Eucalyptus trees thrive best in full sun in a fast-draining soil and sheltered from cold, drying winds. The spear-shaped leaves (with an attractive red tinge in autumn) emit a delicious scent that acts as a repellent to flies and mosquitoes. Quick-growing foliage plants perfect for large containers on the patio, or allow to grow into stunning trees in a particularly sheltered garden - ideally planted against a sunny, south-facing wall. In colder districts it is a good idea to bring your little tree under cover of a bright, frost-free porch, greenhouse or living room when frost is forecast.
EATING: Eucalyptus can be persuaded to impart its unique flavour in a number of ways, from infusing the leaves into cooking liquid, smoking food in the charred foliage, to even rubbing them directly on to hot slices of toast as you would with garlic on bruschetta - delicious! Perhaps the most versatile way to extract its woody, sweetness is by simmering the leaves whole (just as you would bay leaves) in butter, milk, stock, syrup or oil & adding the strained infusion to any recipe that takes your fancy.
Simmered in double cream with a generous pinch of home grown saffron, they make a fantastic base for a rich, exotic ice cream, studded with handfuls of chopped pistachios.
Lightly fried in butter or oil with a scattering of sliced chillies, they are stunning cooked with a simple fillet steak or pan fried chicken breast. Bubbled away in an otherwise rather boring fruit jam, they add an instant hint of wild outback fragrance, transforming plain blueberry, grape or blackcurrant into something altogether more exciting!
RECIPE: GUM TREE ROAST SWEET POTATOES - One of the simplest ways to persuade eucalyptus to impart its fresh zinginess is by simply scattering the leaves over a baking tray whilst roasting or baking food. This works brilliantly for chicken, roast veg like parsnips and even sweet potatoes, as per the recipe below.
• 6 sweet potatoes
• Bunch of Eucalyptus leaves
• Sour cream
Method: Scatter a bunch of leaves in a baking tray, nestle half a dozen unpeeled sweet potatoes amongst these, drizzle with oil and roast in a hot oven. After 45 minutes or so leaves will char and release their herbal fragrance into the spuds. These are spectacular sliced in half and eaten with a generous dollop of sour cream.