Nov 302013

Join a vibrant food culture, growing and eating local

Covering all matters food across North East Melbourne

Whether you are a local food producer, want to eat local food, grow veggies in your garden or just want to meet like-minded folks, Local Food Connect is for you. Join now.

Eltham Farmers’ Market, a Local Food Connect initiative, is held every Sunday.

The purpose of this website and associated newsletter is twofold: to promote all aspects of local food around North East Melbourne and to make people around North East Melbourne feel part of a local food community.

The material is centred on 5 databases:

  1. Upcoming local food-related events: all the upcoming events of various types, around 200 per month.
  2. Local food producers: pages on each of around 130 producers, both farmers and makers.
  3. Local community gardens: pages on each of the 60 community gardens in the area
  4. Local food swaps: details of the 30 food swaps in the area.
  5. Local food justice organisations: including ‘food is free’ sites, free food distribution organisations and free community meals.

These databases are brought together into an overall Local Food Directory which contains pages for each of 300 or so local food organisations.

In addition, there are articles written by a variety of local people on:

Feb 242024

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angela Paraskevas, Ann Stanley, Ben Moore, Charles Yeo, Hayden Marks, Jaimie Sweetman, Kerri Wellington, Marcela Santos, Melanie Wilson and Peter Kamstra.

Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) by Jaimie Sweetman

[Jaimie Sweetman is Head Gardener of the Edible Forest located on the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixons Creek. There are regular tours of the Edible Forest, often led by Jaimie – read more and book your place on a future tour. Their tours on Saturday, 16th March are being badged as part of Permaculture Week and you get 10% off if you enter the coupon code PCWEEK-2024 at time of booking.]

Originating from Chile in South America, the chilean guava is small shrub getting to around 1 metre by 1 metre. It is sometimes known as the tazziberry.

It has little pink berries that ripen in Autumn. The berries taste a bit like strawberries and are a true children’s favourite.

The plant makes a great, small hedge that doesn’t require pruning unless to shape.

It doesn’t like a temperature under 10degC so, if you are in a cold area, it is best planted in a full sun but protected area. It can also handle being in pots, which then allows it to be moved under cover in winter.

Ours are located in full sun at the back of the forest where they are protected from dry winds and heavy frosts.

It loves a bit of moisture so compost and mulch well.

You can source seedlings easily in either nurseries or online and we often have them for sale in our nursery.

[Read about more of Jaimie’s unusual edible plants on our website.]

Local producer news – Ben’s Bees

You can now buy Ben’s Bees’ honey from his honesty hut at 20 Perth Street, Blackburn South. $12 for 500g or $30 for 1½Kg.

CERES’ fruit and veg storage guide

CERES Fair Food have just published a guide for storing your fruit and vegetables. It comes in two forms:


Corrections and clarifications – Botanikos

Last week, I correctly said that Botanikos are scheduled to be at Eltham Farmers’ Market on the 4th Sunday of every month but then incorrectly said that this meant they would next be at the market on 18th February. In fact, of course, it means that they should next be at the market on this upcoming Sunday (25th February). They sell botanically-infused simple syrups and shrubs as cocktail or mocktail mixers.

Want to raise some funds for your local community garden?

The University of Melbourne is undertaking a research project called Community Engagement for Disaster Risk Reduction (CEDRR), whose main aim is to grow community resilience to current and future risk through research and conversations with communities. If you participate in a 20-30 minute survey-interview engagement about your experiences of risk, they will donate $25 to a community garden of your choosing. Then, 4-6 months later, the research team will request you complete a 5-minute follow-up phone call, for which your garden will receive an additional $25. So, $50 in total. Click here to sign up.

If you are actively involved in a local community garden, contact Peter Kamstra by email ( to discuss opportunities for CEDRR researchers to visit to say hi and to sign up participants at a convenient time. Croxton / Marra Guwiyap Community Garden did so and have raised over $1,000 to date.

Want to help maintain the healthAbility planter box in Eltham?

As you may or may not know, there is a planter box outside of healthAbility, 917 Main Road, Eltham where leafy greens and other veggies have been grown for the last decade. It is irrigated but obviously still needs occasional weeding and top watering. The main person who has done so for the last few years wishes to retire and is therefore looking for someone to replace her. The job involves a) deciding on & then planting new seedlings and b) occasional visits for weeding & top watering. It is a single, long, raised bed, around 1 metre high, so no bending is required. It is perpetually in the shade, so is best suited for leafy greens and herbs. If you are potentially interested, email me (Guy) and we can discuss over a coffee.

Want to own your own food shop?

Melganics Organic Produce Store at ECOSS in Wesburn is up for sale. It sells fresh fruit and vegetables as well as various dry goods. For more information, or to submit an expression of interest, contact Melanie Wilson by email ( Closing date: 1st March.

Get your aprons on!

As part of the Celebrate Mooroolbark Festival to be held on Sunday, 17th March, they are organising a baking competition. The categories are banana muffins, carrot cake, lemon slice and ‘your choice’. Enter by emailing your name, age and baking category to Closing date: Wednesday, 13th March.

Do you make any alcoholic beverages?

If you make any of beer, cider, mead or wine then you might be interested in some of the articles on this website.

Melbourne Bushfood

As you know, we regularly feature material about particular bush foods drawn from the Melbourne Bushfood website, courtesy of its owner Hayden Marks. We have now, rather belatedly, included a page about the Melbourne Bushfood organisation in our Local Food Directory.

Melbourne Bushfood are based in Fairfield. Their overall mission is to put Aussie native foods into stomachs across the world, whilst supporting their First Nations and small Aussie farmer allies. To progress this mission, they sell both native edible plants and food products made with native edible plants.

Their native edible seedlings cover the full range of native bush foods, including leafy greens, fruit plants and flower plants.

Their food products include jams & syrups, spices & powders, chocolate, teas and fresh & frozen fruits.

You can buy any of these seedlings or products are their shop, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm, at 49 Sparks Avenue, Fairfield. Alternatively, you can buy online.

Finally, they have partnered with Nyul Nyul Elder and Traditional Owner Bruno Dann, helping to grow his mob’s harvest and to purchase critical infrastructure needed for his remote community. Read more.

Read the Melbourne Bushfood page in our Local Food Directory.

Creative community cookbook – fighting waste and fighting hunger

At the upcoming Community food aid festival, this coming Sunday (25th February), 11am-3pm, at Edendale, Diamond Valley Community Support will be launching their Creative community cookbook – fighting waste and fighting hunger. Here is one of the recipes from that book by newsletter reader Jennie Ramage.

Vegetable dahl

1 cup dry lentils (puy, green, small black lentils. Don’t use the small red lentils as they won’t hold their shape)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger
3 cups mixed vegetables (e.g. silverbeet, collards, celery stalks & leaves, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli stalks, capsicums)
1 can coconut milk
2 cups water
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
olive oil
squeeze of lemon
½ cup diced onion (or leek, spring onions, chives)
½ cup fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander)

Rinse the soaked lentils and put aside.

Heat a large saucepan and dry fry the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the diced onion and the stalks of herbs and greens. Cook for 5 minutess or so, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute or so, then add the spices.

Chop all the veggies into large cubes and stir in.

Drain the lentils, rinse and combine with the veggies.

Add the coconut milk and water and give it all a good stir.

Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours.

In the last 5 minutes, stir in shredded silverbeet leaves.

Note that:

  • Serve with brown rice, a dollop of yoghurt, extra parsley or coriander leaves and a hard boiled egg. Squeeze lemon juice onto each serving. Papadums or naan bread also make a nice accompaniment.
  • Dried lentils are a cheap source of vegetable-protein. Soak 1 cup of lentils in plenty of water overnight. (Tinned lentils may be used instead, but are not as economical.)
  • This is a very flexible recipe. It can be made with just 2 or 3 vegetables or as many as you have available.

Local people making a difference – Louise Ward (by Ann Stanley)

Inspired by her 2015 training in permaculture design, Louise has established an edible food forest at the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixon’s Creek, the function and conference centre that she owns with her husband, John.

Driven by a desire to improve the earth, and using the German system of hugelkultur, Louise, in collaboration with horticulturalist Jaimie Sweetman, has built soil, given life to many unusual plants and contributed to permaculture knowledge about the food forest method of growing food.

Louise is also involved in Global Gardens of Peace, which seeks to improve the mental health of vulnerable communities around the world through planting and tending gardens. She also supports her husband John’s work with disadvantaged people in Papua New Guinea (read more here) and has given 5 acres of the property at Dixon’s Creek to the establishment of a wildlife shelter.

Read more about food forest fundamentals. Listen to Louise talk about her food forest.

If you would like to nominate anyone (including yourself) to have their pen portrait in a future newsletter, drop me a line.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

On next Sunday’s show (25th February), Ann Stanley will interview Jaimie Sweetman on unusual plants for the layers of a food forest (deferred from previous weeks). Listen on 3CR (855 AM), 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Podcasts of all previous episodes are available on their website, the latest being Amy Ciara on Celtic nature connections and modern horticulture (11th February).

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Botanikos’ online shop.

The most popular event link in the last newsletter was The Whittlesea Garden Expo.

b33e661f-c100-4ebe-9ffa-847952e0da4e.jpgJoke (or pun) of the week

A curious customer asked a local tomato farmer if their tomatoes were genetically modified.

No,” said the farmer.

That’s correct,” said the tomato.

Read more food-related jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Rare, vintage and cellared; Saturday, 24th February, 1-3pm; $55 ($28 per hour); Thornbury.

3 Ravens will showcase 12 of their rare, vintage and cellared brews.

A visit to the garden of Angelo Eliades; Sunday, 17th March, 2-3.30pm; free; Preston.

Angelo Eliades is a well-known permaculture gardener with a relatively small home garden packed to the brim with unusual food-producing plants, both indigenous and exotic. This includes sub-tropical species (e.g. bananas). Angelo will explain his watering set-up and planting techniques as well as discuss the plants. Organised by .

Permaculture garden tour (Tenderbreak); Sunday, 17th March, 2-5pm; $10; Dixons Creek.

The property is a mudbrick home surrounded by one acre of food production on a 96 acre bush block. The features to be explored on the tour include: two dwellings with passive solar design; bushfire defence systems; solar power; wastewater worm farm treatment system; wood stove; fresh water and dam irrigation systems; large organic veggie garden; two large orchards; a hothouse; chooks; fences, gates, trellises and outbuildings made from recycled materials; a grain processing bench; swales; and a fish stocked multifunction dam.

Permaculture workshop with Matt Daniele of PEACE Farm; Thursday, 21st March, 2-4pm; free; Lilydale.

Matt Daniele, from PEACE Farm, will discuss: the permaculture concept and principles; how permaculture can be applied in the home garden; nutrient cycling; diversity of habitats and production; animal integration; and garden layout to maximise efficiency.

Urban property garden tour; Sunday, 24th March, 10am-midday; $10; Kilsyth.

The property features a solar system, multiple water tanks, a glasshouse, a seed saving box, a pond, a vegetable patch with wicking beds & fruit trees, chickens, beekeeping and a food forest.

Heritage apple tasting; Monday, 1st April, 3-5pm; $20; Templestowe.

Around 15 varieties will be available for tasting – mid-season apples. An orchard tour will also be included. All funds received go toward the maintenance and expansion of the collection. Organised by the Heritage Fruits Society.

SEEDs Communal Garden open garden; Saturday, 6th April, 10am-4.30pm; $8; Brunswick.

SEEDs Communal Garden is a community garden that provides opportunities for meaningful roles, community connections and friendships for the participants of Milparinka – a community organisation that supports people who have a disability. Established in 2015, SEEDs grows nearly a ton of food each year. It is maintained by its diverse community. It is a no-dig garden that uses composting to ensure rich soil. Organised by Open Gardens Victoria.

Heritage apple tasting; Sunday, 7th April, 2-4pm; $20; Templestowe.

Around 15 varieties will be available for tasting – mid-season apples. An orchard tour will also be included. All funds received go toward the maintenance and expansion of the collection. Organised by the Heritage Fruits Society.

Organic vegetable growing; Saturday, 20th April, 10am-3pm; $145 ($29 per hour); CERES.

The workshop is a mix of classroom presentations and practical exercises, giving you a chance to get your hands dirty on a real working farm. You will learn to: build healthy soils; work with the seasons; and grow a productive garden, including vegetables, fruits and herbs. Presenter: Donna Livermore.

Big Vegan Market; Saturday, 20th April and Sunday, 21st April, both 10am-6pm; $9; Carlton.

Shop from a huge variety of 100% vegan products.

Autumn native plant sale; Saturday, 20th April, 10am-4pm; free; Eltham.

Organised by Australian Plants Society – Yarra Yarra, there will be sales of native and indigenous plants plus books. The plant sellers will probably include APS Yarra Yarra growers, Goldfields Revegetation Nursery, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary Nursery, Sunvalley Plants Nursery and Vaughan’s Australian Plants.

Sustainable gardening (8 sessions); starting Tuesday, 23rd April, each 10am-2pm; $650 ($20 per hour); CERES.

This course will introduce you to the basics of horticulture, permaculture and organic gardening. The 8 sessions will cover: intro to sustainable gardening and permaculture principles; soils and their preparation; composting, worm farming and fertilisers; organic vegetable production; growing bushfoods and berries; seed saving and propagating; organic fruit production; and water management and guild planting. Presenter: Justin Calverley.

In February
In March
In April
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Plant-based cooking demonstration and tasting with Frankie Cox; Thursday, 21st March, 6-7.30pm; free; Fitzroy North.

Frankie Cox will show you how to incorporate more plant-based ingredients in our everyday meals. She will talk about eating for impact and sharing some tips and tricks for using vegetables in cooking. There will also be some tasty samples to share as well!

Sourdough basics; Wednesday, 3rd April, 6.30-8.30pm; $120 ($60 per hour); Collingwood.

The Fermented Mumma will discuss ingredient selection, starter care, and the processes of sourdough fermentation and baking. At the end, you will take your fermenting dough home to bake in the morning.

Sourdough bread baking; Sunday, 21th April, 9am-5pm; $220 ($28 per hour); CERES.

You will: make a variety of different breads, gaining the skills and confidence to make your own at home; enjoy some of your own handmade pizza for lunch; and take home some leaven to get you started baking bread at home. Presenter: Ken Hercott.

In February
In March
In April
Regular classes