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:

Apr 102024

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Ann Stanley, Chris Chapple, Hayden Marks, Karen Throssell and Selvie Balaratnam.

Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) by Melbourne Bushfood

[The material below is a summary of material from the Melbourne Bushfood website. Melbourne Bushfood sells a wide range of bush foods (both the foods themselves and the plants) which you can buy either online or at their shop at 49 Sparks Avenue, Fairfield, Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm.]

As suggested by its alternative common name of New Zealand spinach, the leaves of warrigal greens taste a bit like English spinach but with a crunchier texture (so it’s less like eating a leaf). Because of their high level of oxalates, the leaves need to be blanched before eating. You can then cook and use the leaves as you would spinach, including sautéing, stir-frying or cooked in a quiche or pie.

The plant is a groundcover, spreading to around 2 metres. Plant in full sun or part shade. As it’s only able to handle light frosts, you will want to keep your plant sheltered. It is suitable for growing in pots. It is reasonably drought tolerant but will still need watering in summer.

Harvest individual leaves when they reach roughly the size of your hand. Avoid the woody stems as they can be tough and difficult to eat.

Read about more bush foods on our website.

Olives to oil by CERES

Olives to Oil is an annual event run by CERES where people drop off their olives, which are then pressed and turned into olive oil, which the people then pick up. This year’s event is for residents of Darebin, Merri-Bek and Yarra. The olives can be dropped off at CERES on either Sunday, 5th May or Sunday, 19th May, with the olive oil being picked up on Sunday, 16th June. If you have less than 20Kg of olives, then the service is free. Read more and potentially book your place.

Newsletter reader tip: get more pesto for your buck

Here is a tip from DIVRS, who are based in Preston. Parmesan and pinenuts are classic pesto additions but they can be budget busters. Instead of pinenuts, use any nuts that you have in the cupboard or just leave them out. Parmesan can be swapped for nutritional yeast flakes, which tastes similar. Add some leafy greens (e.g. silverbeet or kale) to stretch your pesto further and to increase its nutritional punch – just steam them for a couple of minutes first.

If you’d like to join the Darebin Urban Growers and learn how to grow basil and other herbs and veggies, email them (

Merri-bek is developing a new food system strategy

They want to hear from anyone who is interested in creating an alternative local food system in Merri-bek which is sustainable, just and vibrant. Closing date: Friday, 19th April. Read more. Have you say.

The Green Harvest online gardening supplies store is no more

The owners have apparently retired. It was one of the main sources of Certified Organic veggie seeds.

Sri Lankan pumpkin curry (by Selvie Balaratnam)

[Selvie is the co-owner of Selba Farm, who sell olive oil on most Sundays at Eltham Farmers’ Market. Although the farm is in Toolleen, Selvie actually lives in Mernda.]


500g pumpkin
1 medium size onions
100-150 ml coconut milk (or more if you wish; I use the tinned TCC coconut milk)
2 medium size green chillies (optional) or a teaspoon of curry powder(optional)
olive oil
2 tablespoons salt to taste


Chop the onions into small pieces and simmer them in olive oil in a frying pan.

The pumpkin should be cut into 1cm cubes without the skin and the seeds.

When the onions are golden brown in colour, add the pumpkin pieces and the chillies to the pan and cook in low heat so that the pumpkin pieces get cooked. Let it cook for a while covering the pan with a lid. The pumpkin will cook in its own juice.

When the pumpkin is soft and cooked, add salt to taste and add the coconut milk.

Mix the contents well, mash the pumpkin pieces slightly with the back of the spoon and allow it to cook for 3-5 minutes.

Serve with rice, cooked pasta, or bread.

Seed (a poem by Karen Throssell)

[The poem below comes from a recently published a collection of poems entitled Appetite – the politics of food. You can buy the book online for $25 from Karen’s website.]

I remember warm dark days
before-days, when comfort-coiled
I waited for signs – drips of damp
tempting my tightness. Slowly I unfold
stretch. Now I know there is an Up
to aim for. I straighten, thrust.
Suddenly this burst of bright!
Mother released me.

I don’t remember this being part of the deal.
Just going about my business
with sun and rain—my perfect green
slow-grow. So what’s this on the wind,
the devil’ s mad brew?
Too fast, too tall, all show
roots can’t support – goodness all gone
Mother won’t be pleased.

And here we have her vengeance
Think you can bend me to your will?
Screw you, and your poisonous greed
And she groans, roars and cracks
wide open, gaping wound to be plugged
by them and all their detritus.
But who will survive her wrath? Why me.
She is my mother – I am reborn.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

On next Sunday’s show (14th April), Ann Stanley will interview Shani Shafrir on therapeutic horticulture. 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 Rob Rees on Cultivating Community (31st March).

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was the survey questionnaire on a possible repair cafe at Edendale.

The most popular event link in the last newsletter was the autumn harvest celebration day at Alowyn Gardens on 6th April.

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

I was the pianist in a piano bar. A customer walks up to me and asks “Can you play Strawberry Fields Forever?

I replied, “No, after a few hours my fingers get tired.

Read more food-related jokes on our website.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Grow your own garlic; Friday, 19th April, 10-10.45am; free; Bayswater North.

You will be given a hands-on demonstration on how to prepare the garden bed, as well as tips on planting, watering, harvesting and storage. You will also be given a bulb of garlic to plant at home (around 7-9 plantable cloves per bulb). Presenter: Kirsten Jones from Mirboo Farm in South Gippsland.

Back to basics composting; Thursday, 9th May, 6.30-8pm; free; Epping.

Learn how to set up, utilise and maintain various food waste recycling systems.

Winter gardening workshop; Saturday, 11th May, 11am-midday; free; Watsonia.

Angelo Eliades will discuss what to plant for a winter crop, the tasks that we carry out in winter, how to protect some crops from frosts and how to deal with waterlogging from rains.

Essential garden infrastructure for a thriving garden; Wednesday, 5th June, 7-9pm; free; Doncaster.

What tools and infrastructure do you need to run a flourishing food garden, and how to get it for free? Kat Lavers, from The Plummery, will talk about garden tools and infrastructure including alternatives to pots, stakes, shade cloth, nets, buckets, ties and what to look out for in hard rubbish, skips and op shops. She will also cover which tools are actually worth investing a few dollars in and how to look after them. The presentation will start at 7pm but there will be sandwiches and a food swap at 6.45pm.

Permaculture Design Course (12 sessions); 10 Thursday sessions, starting 6th June, 9am-4pm, plus 2 Saturday sessions; $595 ($7 per hour); Bayswater North.

The topics to be covered will include: theory and principles of permaculture; creating integrated ecosystems; animals in permaculture; drought-proofing landscapes; soil rehabilitation and soil erosion control; managing bushfire risk; nutrient dense food production; water harvesting and management; ecological building and passive solar design; energy conservation techniques; recycling and sustainable waste management; and building personal and local community resilience. Organised by Arrabri Community House.

Edible weeds; Saturday, 8th June, 10am-midday; $70 ($35 per hour); CERES.

Learn about the seasonal edible weeds that thrive in Melbourne’s inner north and gain knowledge about the plants’ culinary, medicinal and ecological uses. This session will also include a demonstration, and sampling, of prepared edible weeds. Presenter: Lauren Mueller.

In April
In May
In June
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Plant-based cooking with Betty Chetcuti; Friday, 12th April, 11am-midday; free; Lilydale.

Betty Chetcuti, author of My Vegan Cookbook, will show you how to create plant-based dishes that will satisfy, nourish and nurture your body.

One pot wonders of the world – hainanese chicken; Friday, 26th April, 5-7pm; $95 ($48 per hour); Panton Hill.

Learn how to poach chicken. Make two different dipping sauces to accompany the dish: a spicy chilli sauce and a salty soy and ginger sauce. Use chicken broth and garlic to flavour your rice. Presenter: Kelly Meredith from Under The Pickle Tree.

Cooking for one (5 sessions); on 5 consecutive Thursdays, starting 2nd May, 11am-1pm; $50 ($5 per hour); Lilydale.

Learn how to cook easily just for one person. Make the meals each week and eat together what you have made. Organised by Lilydale Community House.

Taiwanese fermentation and preserve techniques with Cristina Chang; Sunday, 5th May, 11am-2pm; $225 ($75 per hour); Fitzroy North.

Cristina Chang will show you how to make the classic Taiwanese dish, soy braised pork belly bass (aka gua bao). Learn the basics of fermentation and preserve your own mustard greens to take home, how to make and steam buns from scratch and how to make gua bao and spring onion knots. At the end, enjoy the dishes made in class at a communal dining table and take the rest of your hard work home.

In April
In May
In June
Regular classes