Robin’s veggie growing tip of the month
I’m really pleased to announce that Robin Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, will start providing a veggie growing tip each month for the newsletter. Here’s her first tip.
February and March are ideal times for seed collecting – both seed that has dried on the plant and wet seed which has to be extracted, washed and dried. Example wet seeds are tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber and capsicum. Consider collecting both early and late wet seed, particularly tomatoes, thereby selecting for plants that will produce both early and late in the season. Choose the best fruit, label clearly and plant at least one of each. You should be able to extend the tomato season until late May, if not early June.
Note that pumpkin seed will often not grow true as it can be cross pollinated by bees from as far away as 8 kilometres (but you may get a variety of interesting pumpkins on the one vine!). You can, however, keep the seed true by either bagging the flowers or hand pollinating.
Mac’s tip of the week
Mac’s tip is on the same subject as Robin’s, namely seed collecting.
Whilst in the midst of your peak harvest period, take time to appreciate the ‘star performers’ in your veggie patch. If one of your plants is far more vigorous or productive than the others then, hey, why not collect the seed from that plant to sow in future years? Beans, capsicums, chillis, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are considered the easiest to save because they all produce seed in the same season as they are planted and all are self-pollinating. Only the seeds from open-pollinated, non-hybrid plants will produce a similar crop; in other words, they are the plants most likely to produce offspring (in the form of seed) that closely resemble their parents.
As Robin and Mac both point out, you should keep back the best seed for planting, rather than follow the obvious course of eating the best and planting the dross. Incidentally, Richard Dawkins said (in The Ancestor’s Tale) that his father found this one of the hardest lessons to get across to farmers in Africa in the 1940s.
If you want to know more about seed saving, an excellent book is The Seed Savers’ Handbook. Both readable and comprehensive, it would be a nice gift for anyone at $32.
And here is a free booklet: A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty.
Three of the local food swaps have ceased
Alphington (on the first Friday of the month), Diamond Creek (on the first Saturday of the month) and Manningham (on the last Wednesday of the month) have all ceased. Thanks to Becca (Alphington), Nigel Philpot (Manningham), Pam Jenkins (Diamond Creek) and all their colleagues for all their efforts over the past few years.
As well as the Manningham Food Swap ceasing, the associated monthly ‘home harvest’ workshops are also stopping.
Pam, the organiser of the Diamond Creek Food Swap, has written in: “Diamond Creek Food Swap ran for 7 years, having commenced in March 2011. Over the years, the originators of the swap and other Diamond Creek enthusiasts moved away from the area but the swap continued with the support of gardeners from surrounding suburbs until swaps sprang up more local to them and then they, naturally, moved to the swap closer to their home. All is not lost however, as the swap at Thrive Community Garden on the third Saturday of the month continues.
“So, was it worth the time and effort to turn up for a couple of hours a month to co-ordinate the swap? Let’s allow some figures do the talking.
“During the first year, 300Kg of fresh homegrown produce was swapped. Lemons (45Kg) topped the list followed by pumpkin (34Kg). That’s a lot of marmalade (or gin and tonic) and pumpkin soup! Then quinces (30Kg). Quinces, really?! Quinces and lemons also made second appearances at the swap as lemon marmalade, quince paste, quince jelly and pickled quinces. Lemons and pumpkin may be moderate value items at the grocery store but how about 18Kg of limes or 7Kg of tamarillos or feijoas that sell at $1 each at the shops.
“Swap participants had the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’, with unusual fruits and vegetables such as babaco, Jerusalem artichokes, chokoes, Mexican cucumbers, pepinos, persimmon, spaghetti squash and trombonchino zucchinis making appearances. Some of these items are easy to grow, tasty and productive but are still impossible to buy because they may be delicate, have a short shelf life or are unattractive to shop owners for any number of reasons.
“Also, let’s not forget the multiple bunches of silverbeet, spinach, herbs and all the other common fruit and vegetables that people grow and eat. A swap is all about swapping your excess produce for somebody else’s excess. It’s ideal for a small gardener who only has space for two or three types of vegetable to be able to swap for two or three other types, thus enabling them to increase variety in their diet at no extra cost.
“The swap wasn’t limited to fruit and vegetables. 17 varieties of homemade preserves and dried foods were swapped, along with 30 varieties of seedlings and numerous seeds. Other miscellaneous items included wood ash, coffee grounds, compost, worm juice, jam jars and plant pots.
“Swaps are great places to meet with like-minded people. Gardeners who share their excess produce are a friendly bunch with lots of ideas, advice and experiences to share. We celebrate our successes and bemoan our failures together. The shared experience of dealing with Nillumbik soil, plagues of bugs and feathered or furry marauders leave us shaking our heads on many occasions but somebody usually comes up with a solution or two. There is always next season to plan a new strategy.
“So, was it worth it? Absolutely!”
As Pam says, as more swaps have started, people have moved to the swap closest to their homes. So, particular food swaps are in danger of being victims of the success of the wider movement – an interesting issue and one that maybe also starting to happen for some farmers’ markets.
News about local food producers
Diamond Valley Library are now a regular collection point for the Diamond Valley Foodshare, so help those in need in your community by dropping in any non perishable items.
You can now buy Kylie’s Slow Dough’s bread online.
You can now buy AVS Organic Food’s vegan food in 13 different suburbs: Carlton (Aunt Maggies), Croydon South (Eastfield Organic Natural Food Market), Diamond Creek (Local Fine Foods), Fitzroy (Aunt Maggies and The Cruelty Free Shop), Fitzroy North (Wild Things Food), Greensborough (Go Vita), Heidelberg (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Kew (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Montmorency (Edes & Bibi), Northcote (Terra Madre), St Andrews (St Andrews Market), Thornbury (Naturally On High) and Warrandyte (Quintons SUPA IGA).
Kaz is gradually increasing the number of suburbs where you can buy her chai: Eltham (Dynamic Vegies, Eltham Farmers’ Market and Organic Fix), Hurstbridge (Nature’s Harvest), Ringwood North (Made Locally) and Wonga Park (Post Office)
For Elthamites only – two new cafes have opened in recent weeks:
- Billy’s Deck (where Frio’s and, before that, Degani’s were). View/download their menu (pdf).
- Craft Kitchen And Bar (where Volumes was). Craft Kitchen And Bar is also open in the evenings and thus is effectively also a restaurant. The picture right is apparently one of their dessert offerings. View/download their menu (pdf).
The winner of last week’s random draw for the free annual subscription of the PIP magazine was Jaime Edge. Thanks to everyone that participated.
‘Crowd harvest’ – seeds for Valentine’s Day
Gardeners everywhere often harvest more seeds than they can sensibly store. Gardeners with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Valentine’s card to one or more not-for profit organisations listed below, each of which has a certified horticulturalist employed and ready to look after the seeds, either to start the seeds, store the seeds or distribute to others in need who know how to start seeds. DIVRS in Preston, STREAT in Collingwood or Carrington Health in Box Hill (ask for Alex Salmon). Any questions, contact Cath Lyons (aka Tiny Trowel) by phone (0401 814679) or email.
New newsletter reader Deb Thomson has told me about The Gardenettes, a Melbourne-based group who are “a retro-tinged garden to table show whose stories, tips and tricks focus on the things we love most … growing and eating delicious home-grown, hand-picked, home made food … passionate about showing you that you can grow your own food … and create a feast with garden-fresh produce.” One of the gardenettes is Deb’s daughter, Chloe. Another, Melissa King, is giving a talk at Diamond Valley Library on Tuesday, 20th February, 11.30am-12.30pm.
RetroSuburbia is David Holmgren’s new book, to be published on 10th February. Click here to read about the book, here to buy the book, or here to go and listen to David talk about the book.
The book discusses a number of case studies from around North East Melbourne, including: Alistair and Christine’s (Northcote); The Plummery (Northcote); Saba and Matt’s rental property (Lilydale); and Sharehouse (Preston).
More about honey
Maya ‘Xala Honey recently posted on Facebook: “Honey never spoils. When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life. There are even reports of edible honey being found in several-thousand-year-old Egyptian tombs.” Well, I never knew that so I thought I would investigate. And it turns out to be true: as discussed on the Smithsonian website, honey’s combination of acidity, lack of water and presence of hydrogen peroxide apparently means that it can remain preserved in a completely edible form for thousands of years if sealed.
This site lists 10 other foods that take a long time to spoil: white rice, salt, soy sauce, sugar, dried beans, pure maple syrup, powdered milk, hard liquor, pemmican and (of course) Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread (which enables you to survive for days by making you realise that you are surrounded by things that look more edible, and which can’t go stale because it starts off stale).
Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?
Judy Vizzari’s interview with Duang Tengtrirat and Rob Reid Smith.
Joke of the week
Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food but no atmosphere.
Read all the jokes.
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