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 400 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:

Jun 222022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angelo Eliades, Claire Smith, Jian Liu, Liz Cronin, Rebecca Haschek and Robin Gale-Baker.

The more people who contribute material, the better this newsletter. If you have any interesting news, tips, photos or questions, email them to us.

Cherry/strawberry guava (by Jian Liu)

[Last week, we had Megan Cassidy’s take on cherry/strawberry guava trees. This week, we have Jian Liu’s. Jian, from Camberwell, has her own website, called Melbourne Foodforest, where she writes articles to help people to develop their own food forests. She recently published an article about why and how to grow cherry/strawberry guava. Here she summarises that article.]

Cherry/strawberry/cattley guava (Psidium cattleyanum) is an evergreen tree or shrub that is native to Brazil. It can be planted virtually anywhere and it will likely flourish, including in those tricky dry shady positions in the lower canopy of your food forest.

There are many reasons to grow cherry/strawberry guava:

  1. It is a prolific producer of plump deep purple berries, a bit larger than a cherry in size. They are sweet and juicy. They are also highly nutritious, being a source of Vitamins A and C, fibre, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, trace minerals and antioxidants.
  2. It is a pretty evergreen tree with glossy leaves and attractive bark. It can be grown as a dense hedge or in a tree form. It produces fluffy yellow-white flowers in the warmer seasons.
  3. It is not cold-sensitive like other, more ‘tropical’, guavas and can handle mild frosts and temperatures down to -5degC.
  4. It is drought tolerant and should be ok even without any supplemental water during the summer.
  5. It is disease-free, with no pests that bother it.
  6. It is not fussy about soil types and will happily grow in soils high in salt, sandy, clay soil or high pH limestone soils.
  7. It has a long fruiting season, giving you a steady harvest over late spring / early summer to early winter.
  8. It will fruit in its second to third year, so great for impatient gardeners.
  9. It will grow happily in either full sun and shade.

The fruit is juicy and sweet, with strawberry undertones. It has a delicate texture and a custardy inside similar to other guavas. The fruit has tiny pips and is safe to eat for young children. You can simply crunch through the pips (surprisingly fun!) or spit them out.

The fruit should ideally be eaten when deep purple, soft to the touch and when it has a strong strawberry aroma. At this stage it has developed all its sugars and a rich flavour. Picked earlier, when pale pink, you will find that it is quite tart and doesn’t have the same complexity of flavour. The longer you leave the fruit on the tree, the deeper the colour and the sweeter the taste. Eventually they will drop off the bush, so remember to look on the ground for any ripe fruit.

Finally, watch Jian’s video about growing cherry/strawberry guava.

Growing perfect peas (by Robin Gale-Baker)

[Presented below is a shortened version of Robin’s new article about growing peas.]

[Peas come in bush (low) varieties and climbing varieties and can be grown in the ground or in pots. There are three types: podded peas (garden or English peas); snow peas (flat, edible pods; used in Chinese cuisine); and sugar snap peas (pods edible when young). Sugar snap peas are effectively halfway between garden and snow peas and are the ones that I (Guy) usually grow, eating them like snow peas when young and like garden peas when older. Peas are generally a cool climate plant in Victoria but sugar snap peas can actually be grown all year round.]

Robin’s first tip for growing peas is to water the seeds at planting but then not again until they shoot. If they have not appeared after two weeks, dig around to see if they are still there, and plant again if necessary. They may have rotted or been eaten by rodents. Peas do not take kindly to being separated for planting so they are best direct sown but if you do want to grow them and transplant them, sow in individual containers or egg cartons and tear the carton apart and plant each cell.

Robin’s second tip is to plant in slightly alkaline soil (pH 7-7.5). Many articles suggest liming your soil before planting but make sure you first pH test your soil so that you know what you are dealing with. Liming soil that is already alkaline will lead to stunted growth and crop failure. If your soil is poor or badly drained, add some compost or well-rotted cow manure a month before planting. If your soil is good, add some compost only. Don’t add high nitrogen fertiliser as this will produce lush growth at the expense of flowers and pods. Nodules on the roots of peas convert nitrogen from the air into nitrogen that the plant can use so they will self-provide.

Robin’s final tip is to support peas with a trellis or frame. Plant climbing peas around the base of a tomato cone or a teepee made of bamboo to a depth of 5cm. Using a tomato cone is a good way to ‘store’ cones after summer. (Broad beans can also be grown in this way). You can also use a trellis on a fence to support climbing peas or create a trellis from posts and wire sheets. If the pea plants grow higher than your support structure, pinch out the tips and this will curtail growth. Even bush peas generally need some support such as a low trellis.

Read the full article.

Want a job?

Horticulture Researcher at Gardening Australia. “We are looking for an experienced Horticultural Researcher and story teller with excellent writing skills and a strong eye for detail.” Location negotiable: Melbourne or Sydney. Closing date: 26th June. Read more and potentially apply.

What to do with medlars?

Warrandyte Food Swap has been given a sizeable quantity of medlars, which are currently laying out to ‘blet’. These will be available at the next Warrandyte Food Swap on Saturday, 2nd July, 9-10am. The organisers would like to provide some advice to people on what to do with the medlars, including some recipes, but they don’t know enough to do this. Can you help by providing some advice and/or recipes? Email me and I will pass your suggestions on to them.

A new community garden in Mooroolbark?

A small group of people are interested in getting a community garden up and running in Mooroolbark. If you are potentially interested in helping during the very early stages with ideas, have marketing skills, communication skills and experience in dealing with local councils in regards to planning and permits and the like, they would be (more than) happy to have you join their informal (at this stage) meetings. Contact Claire Smith by email.

Some news from St Johns Riverside Community Garden in Heidelberg

They have apparently given a Queens Jubilee Tree Canopy Grant for $19,400(!) for planting trees along the embankment behind the community garden. The grant will also cover the removal of woody weed species. If you would like to help with the woody weed removal, email Katrina Philip.

Is this tatsoi?

On a visit to Oakhill Farm earlier this week, I saw a veggie growing in their veggie patch that I had never seen before (see picture right). I thought it looked both unusual and rather attractive. My Google friend suggests that it is tatsoi (Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa). Any tips on how to grow? Email me.

Podcast of the week

Earlier this year, PIP magazine published an article listing 15 of their favourite sustainability podcasts.

‘Crowd harvest’ – Winter citrus

Lemon trees and other citrus are often heavily laden in the middle of winter. Gardeners with excess are invited to give them over the coming month to one of the not-for profit organisations listed in the next paragraph who will, in turn, provide them to those facing food insecurity. Read this Facebook post for more information.

DIVRS in Preston, Elisha Care in Croydon, Now and Not Yet Cafe in Warrandyte or STREAT in Collingwood.

Another article by Angelo Eliades

How to harvest bananas and ripen them indoors in temperate climates. [Editor: as I have discussed before in this newsletter, you really can grow bananas in Melbourne but they need protection in both summer and winter.]

Read more of Angelo’s food-growing articles.

Not food related by interesting

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how ‘repair workshops’ are becoming ‘a thing’. Well, now it appears that ‘clothes swaps’ are also becoming ‘a thing’. For example, there is a clothes swap in Greensborough this coming Friday (24th June) and another in Hurstbridge on Saturday (25th June).

Mushroom risotto (by Betty Chetcuti)

[Betty Chetcuti, from Hawthorn East, has recently published a book entitled My vegan cookbook – nurture, nourish, heal. This is one of the recipes from that book.]

Serves: 4. Preparation: 15 minutes. Cooking: 45 minutes.

The enoki mushrooms provide a creamy and stringy texture akin to cheese.


2 tablespoon olive oil or water
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely
2 sticks celery, chopped finely
4 cups vegetable stock
300g arborio rice
300g mushrooms or 40g dried then re-hydrated mushrooms, sliced
50g enoki mushrooms
50g plant-based butter, margarine or water
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon grated hard vegan cheese
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely


Fry the onion, carrot and celery in the oil or water for 5 minutes on low heat.

Add the rice and stir for 3 minutes.

Heat the stock and add one cup to the rice, stirring until absorbed. Then add another cup until the rice is cooked but still al dente (firm in the centre).

Cook the mushrooms in the plant-based butter, margarine or water until soft.

Season with salt and pepper.

Gently mix through the risotto and add the grated cheese and parsley.

Serve immediately.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Robin’s article about growing parsnips.

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

Two lawyers enter a restaurant. They both pull up suitcases onto the table they are on and each takes out a sandwich. Seeing this, a waiter comes up to them and tells them that they can’t eat their own food in the restaurant. With an irritated tsk and a shake of the head, the two lawyers exchange their sandwiches.

Read more jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – introduction

You can view various calendars on our website by type of event: All once-off events, Cooking, Everything else and Free.

You can also view various calendars on our website by Council area: Banyule, Boroondara, City of Yarra, Darebin, Manningham, Maroondah, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Corowa Distilling Co. boilermaker tasting; Thursday, 23rd June, 7-8.30pm; $38 ($26 per hour); Brunswick East.

Join Matt Barnard from Corowa Distilling Co and taste through a selection of Corowa whiskies, each matched to a Bridge Road beer.

Protecting and supporting our sustainably managed farmland; Friday, 24th June; free; Edendale.

The Protecting our Sustainably Managed Farmland project identifies a number of permanent protection and collective ownership models that can secure important peri-urban landscapes threatened by encroaching development, and support new and young farmers seeking access to sustainably managed farmland. At this event, the project partners will present their key findings and recommendations from the year-long collaboration. The presenters will include Annemaree Docking (PlanItRural), Cecilia Riebl (Trust for Nature), Joel Orchard (Young Farmers Connect), Linda Martin-Chew (PlanItRural) and Rohan Clarke (Ethical Fields and Regen Farmers Mutual). Organised by Sustain.

Introduction into wine masterclass; Sunday, 3rd July, 3-5pm; $32 ($16 per hour); Northcote.

Broc will take you through the basics of wine, from how to taste to the processes behind your favourite drop. The class will include 6 different wines.

Introduction into wine masterclass; Saturday, 16th July, 3-5pm; $32 ($16 per hour); Northcote.

Broc will take you through the basics of wine, from how to taste to the processes behind your favourite drop. The class will include 6 different wines.

Grafting and tree sales day; Saturday, 6th August, 10am-midday; free; CERES.

Purchase scion/budwood from a wide range of varieties of apples and other fruits. Purchase 2-year-old ready-to-plant apple and plum trees. The session will also include a grafting demonstration. Organised by Heritage Fruits Society.

Grafting and tree sales day; Sunday, 7th August, 9am-midday; free; Templestowe.

Purchase scion/budwood from a wide range of varieties of apples and other fruits. Purchase 2-year-old ready-to-plant apple and plum trees. The session will also include a grafting demonstration and a tour of the orchard. Organised by Heritage Fruits Society.

Care of backyard chickens; Thursday, 11th August, 11am-midday; free; Greensborough.

Have all your questions answered by Maria from Sunset Valley Chicks. She will cover everything from the correct care of chickens, worming, keeping the birds healthy and proper housing. Organised by Diamond Valley Library.

Growing fruit and veggies in small spaces; Sunday, 14th August, 9.30am-12.30pm; $50 ($17 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

What you will learn: which produce plants are suitable to grow in small areas; coping with shade and sun for produce growing; and how to make the most of any available space for growing produce. Presented by Kirsteen Macleod. Topics will include fruit, vegetables and berries for small spaces, growing produce in pots and containers, maximising productivity in any size space and plant selection.

In June
In July
In August
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Food preserving workshop; Saturday, 25th June, 10am-midday; free; Mernda.

Maria Ciavarella will discuss what you need to preserve food in jars, what foods you can preserve and how to preserve the food in jars. She will use the example of berry jam. Organised by Mernda Repair Cafe.

Kombucha brewing workshop; Thursday, 30th June, 7-11pm; $54 ($14 per hour); Brunswick.

Learn how to brew your own kombucha. Plus, receive your own kombucha SCOBY starter kit to create your own brew. Organised by The Good Brew Company.

Sourdough bread making; Saturday, 6th August, 10am-12.30pm; $64 ($26 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Learn all the steps to make your own sourdough at home with this simple recipe. You will take home a sourdough starter and some home dough to bake. Take a 2 litre container with a lid and an apron. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

One pot wonders of the world – slow cooking in a master stock; Friday, 12th August, 5-9pm; $85 ($21 per hour); Panton Hill.

Presenter: Kelly Meredith from Under The Pickle Tree. Learn how to make a classic Chinese master stock and learn how it varies as you head into Vietnam. You will then use that master stock to braise a duck or chicken maryland and eat it for dinner with rice and simple Asian greens.

Dumpling making workshop; Friday, 12th August, 6-9pm; $75 ($25 per hour); Park Orchards.

Make Chinese dumplings from scratch. The dough you will prepare can be used for either boiled dumplings (shui jiao) or potstickers (guo tie). Then make vegetarian dumplings. Facilitator: Miki. Organised by Park Orchards Community House.

Truffle and praline workshop; Saturday, 13th August, 6-10pm; $180 ($45 per hour); Blackburn

Learn how to create handmade chocolates from start to finish using your creative influences to make unique flavours and shapes. They will cover flavour combinations, ganache based flavours, nut pralines, enrobing methods and finishes. You will take home all you make in the workshop along with the recipes and an instruction booklet.

Pasta making workshop; Monday, 15th August, 10-11am; $30 ($30 per hour); Park Orchards.

Learn how to make a basic egg pasta dough which you will then turn into many different forms of pasta, including linguine, fettucine and pappardelle. Learn how to use a hand pasta machine and the types of pasta you can make with such a machine. Organised by Park Orchards Community House.

In June
In July
In August
Regular classes