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:

Jan 192022

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Cheryl Kearney, Chris Newman, Debbie Crosthwaite, Jaimie Sweetman, Jan Akeroyd, Lee Hirsh, Lucinda Flynn, Marina Bistrin, Sarah Mathers and Yuki Cameron.

Jaimie on golden purslane (Portulaca oleracea var. sativa)

[Jaimie Sweetman is Head Gardener of the Edible Forest located on the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixons Creek. Tours of the Edible Forest, often led by Jaimie, take place on all days except Sundays – read more and book your place on a future tour.]

Many of you will know common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Whilst it is readily found, it is considered by some people to be a weed due to its ability to self-seed and grow in poor soils. But did you know that it’s really, really good for you? It has more omega-3 fatty acid than any other land plant and is extremely high in iron. They use it a lot in the Mediterranean areas and it goes great with fresh fish.

The cultivated variety pictured right is called golden purslane (Portulaca oleracea var. sativa). It doesn’t spread or have the weedy attributes of common purslane. But it will re-seed in its spot and come back year after year for your enjoyment. It has larger, fleshier leaves then common purslane and I eat these raw as I’m wondering around the garden but they can be put into salads for extra crunch and texture. Seeds are readily available online and it’s a really great annual which has high nutritional value and is easy to grow, plus it has the added benefit of it re-seeding itself in your garden (but not to the point it would be considered a weed) every year.

Read about more of Jaimie’s unusual, edible plants.

A new local maker of fudge – Sweetart Kitchen

Sweetart Kitchen, who are based in Ringwood, make delicate, handcrafted fudge. They offer six unique flavours; key lime & meringue, rose & white chocolate, cinnamon chai latte, chocolate & orange, cappuccino creme and vanilla crumble. Each is available in 160g packs of eight pieces. You can buy their products either online or at several of the local markets (Eltham, Heathmont, Hurstbridge, Montrose and Nunawading).

Read Sweetart Kitchen’s page in our Local Food Directory. Welcome Rebecca!

Our guide to local cheese – updated

As this table from our updated guide to local cheese demonstrates, there are lots of local cheese producers and lots of ways of buying their products. There is also a wide choice of different types of cheese.

What do
they sell?
Where do they sell?
Own shop? Other shops? Online? Markets?
AVS Organic Foods Watsonia North vegan . yes yes .
PowerHouse Cheese Blackburn soft and stinky . yes yes yes
That’s Amore Cheese Thomastown mainly soft, Italian yes yes yes .
The Cheese Rebels Epping . . . yes .
Wholemilk Continental Cheese Company Heidelberg West mainly hard yes yes . .
Yarra Valley Dairy Yering mainly soft, goat yes yes . .

Read our full updated guide to local cheese

Yes, you did know!

Last week, Alex Salmon asked how she could get rid of the sheep’s sorrel that has overtaken some wicking beds. 6 of you responded, with all 6 contributions being very informative:

3 of you suggested that raising the pH of the soil would help:

  • Chris Newman: Sheep sorrel likes acid soils and, according to this article, adding lime and fertiliser will help control it.
  • Cheryl Kearney: I have had a similar issue with sheep sorrel growing rampant. I am on very acidic soil which sheep sorrel apparently loves. I have managed to gradually reduce it by repeatedly applying lime or dolomite, especially around the edges of the garden bed. In other words, my suggestion is that you increase the pH of the soil in the wicking bed to slow the sorrel and make it more manageable. Note that I also use sheep sorrel as a lemon substitute as it adds a great tangy lemon flavour to fish and salads; however, I can never use it all as it is so prolific. Working with weeds: a practical guide to understanding, managing and using weeds by Kate Wall has some words on the subject – here is an excerpt: “Sheep sorrel, chicory, dandelions, plaintain, bindii and clover all favour slightly acid soils. Adjusting the pH with dolomite will give a competitive advantage to the lawn over the weeds. In the case of plaintain and sheep sorrel, allow them to decompose in situ and they will act to slowly raise the pH of the soil naturally. They do this by being an accumulator of calcium and phosphorous, both nutrients which are limited in the low fertility soils that weeds are commonly found in.
  • Debbie Crosthwaite: I have been battling sheep sorrel for many years and I have now mostly eradicated it from my garden beds (both ornamental and vegetable). It likes an acidic, low in nitrogen, soil. I have had success by applying a fair amount of garden lime, then mulching heavily with cardboard or newspaper and then pea straw. This takes time and patience. I initially tried to dig the sheep sorrel up, however, it grew up back stronger and more vigorous!

2 of you worried about the seeds that the sheep sorrel has been creating:

  • Yuki Cameron: It looks like the plants have gone to seed so there may be lots of seed in the soil that may be germinating each time the bed is cleared. Removing the plants and roots may not be enough to get rid of this problem. Maybe put a weed mat or black plastic down and plant strawberry and selected veggie seedlings in small holes in the weed mat/black plastic. Note that you would probably need a drip watering system in the bed to keep it moist enough.
  • Marina Bistrin: Sheep sorrel is very persistent. If the soil is removed, sieved and put back, some of the seeds may still be in it as they are quite fine and I suspect that it may need to be done two years in a row. Also, until Alex decides on what permanent solution to adopt, I suggest that she weeds out any of the flowering seed heads as they emerge to stop further spread. I also suggest that she only grows quick growing crops (e.g. lettuce and radishes) in that area so that a weeding can be done in between crops.

Finally, Jan Akeroyd discussed how to get rid of any problematic weed: My approach for any problematic weed that sprouts from root fragments is to cover the area with cardboard and mulch followed by ongoing monitoring to remove any shoots that come up through the cardboard barrier. The root fragments sprout and exhaust their energy growing long shoots under the cardboard looking for a way to get to the light. Once the bulk of the root fragments have died off, and the bed is back in production, ongoing monthly monitoring for any shoots will eventually deal with the rest. For sheep sorrel, there may also be a seed bank in the soil and/or there may be seed coming in from nearby plants so it might be hard to eradicate completely. Note that the leaves are edible so any seedlings can be harvested and used in small quantities (they contain oxalic acid) in a salad – read this website.

Do you know?

Lucinda Flynn: “Can tell me the location of the place where all the Italians go to buy their bulk passata tomatoes – I’ve driven past it before (Thornbury, Coburg, Brunswick areas) but can’t remember where.Email your responses.

Want a job?

As discussed later under events, Brunswick Neighbourhood House is running a 9 week pre-accredited course entitled Step to employment in horticulture, which will take place in Fawkner and which will run on 9 consecutive Fridays starting 11th February, each 9.30am-3pm. They need someone to run the course. This is a paid position. Candidates will have a gardening/horticulture qualification of some kind and/or considerable, demonstrable experience. Teaching experience will be highly regarded. For more information, contact Janet Thompson, Brunswick Neighbourhood House ACFE Coordinator by email (

Want to volunteer?

The Community Grocer is looking for volunteers to help with their markets in Carlton, Fitzroy and Heidelberg West. Read more.

‘Crowd harvest’ – summer herbs

During January, take your surplus herb plants in pots, freshly cut herbs or dried herbs to NewHope Community Care in Blackburn North. They have clients who could make use of these herbs.

Another article from Angelo Eliades

How to protect plants from frost with seaweed extract.

Read more of Angelo’s food-related articles.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was 3000acres’ announcement that they are joining CERES.

Joke (or pun) of the week

Submitted by Lee Hirsh.

Q: Why was the celery given a restraining order?
A: It was stalking the other vegetables.

Read more jokes.

Covid announcement re upcoming events and activities

Some of the events below will probably be cancelled because of Covid. For example, all upcoming face-to-face events organised by Boroondara Council have just been cancelled, including both their urban backyard food forest tours and their Winter vegetable gardening workshops. So, if you are planning to go to an event, you might want to check in advance that it is actually happening.

Many of the events below will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Because of Covid, all upcoming face-to-face events organised by Boroondara Council have been cancelled. These include both and their urban backyard food forest tours and their Winter vegetable gardening workshops.

Arts in the garden; Saturday, 29th January, 10am-12.30pm; $12; Hurstbridge.

Join artist Leanne Mooney for a workshop on creating sculpture from simple materials found in nature. Take along special rocks, sticks, leaves, feathers or seed pods collected from the garden or a local park. After looking at works by other sculptors, you will explore ways to join your materials together to make a sculpture to take home. Organised by Edible Hub Community Garden.

Food forest tour and workshop; Saturday, 29th January, 1.30-3pm; $40 ($26 per hour); Camberwell.

The workshop and tour will cover all of their different styles of growing (intensive raised beds, Vegepod, in-ground beds), their pond (which provides both food and free fertiliser), greenhouse, chicken run, worm farm and composting system. You will learn how to make most of your space, deal with shade, poor soil and pests, and garden with sustainable and free materials. You will also learn about many interesting and unusual edibles that can be grown in Melbourne’s climate.

Waste becomes blossoms and butterflies; Saturday, 5th February, 10am-12.30pm; free; Hurstbridge.

Children and adults alike are invited to join them as they turn textile waste into a community wall hanging. Drop in and learn how to create flowers, leaves and butterflies from fabric waste. They will then be attached to a wall hanging where they will turn a bare tree into a blossoming tree, which represents the community working together to solve a problem (in this case textile waste) and the beauty that it creates in the process. Organised by SHIFT.

Step to employment in horticulture (9 sessions); on 9 consecutive Fridays starting 11th February, each 9.30am-3pm; free; Fawkner.

Learn basic skills and gain knowledge necessary for working in the horticultural industry or progressing to further study. Subjects will include plant identification, propagation, planting and pruning. You will be given hands-on gardening experience during the course, understanding both gardening tools and OH&S considerations. Free subject to ACFE eligibility. Organised by Brunswick Neighbourhood House.

Planning your autumn vegetable garden; Tuesday, 15th February, 1-2.30pm; free; Coburg.

Kaye Roberts-Palmer from Blue Bee Garden Design will discuss what to plant and how to prepare your garden for Autumn. Registrations essential.

Pop up garlic farmer (9 month course); a 9 month course starting on Saturday, 26th February.

In this 9 month course, you will get: 8 workshops & farm tours; garlic seed to plant (approx. 500 seeds); land use and access for 10 months; water, mulch and compost; and your own crop of organically grown garlic at the end of the year to sell, give away or simply keep for yourself. You can choose either Heide Kitchen Gardens in Bulleen or The Veggie Empire in Greensborough as the location to grow your garlic.

Introduction to beekeeping; Saturday, 26th February, 9.30am-4.30pm; $225 ($25 per hour); Blackburn North.

The all day program is highly interactive and includes a live hive opening on the following Saturday (10.30am-12.30pm) as well as other hands-on skill building exercises. Background instruction incorporates equipment selection and bee biology in addition to details of the Apiary and Biosecurity Codes of Practice. Included in the course fee are a comprehensive handbook and a copy of the textbook The Australian Beekeeping Manual, 2nd Ed. which retails at $60. Organised by the Beekeepers Club.

Veggie gardening for beginners; Thursday, 10th March, 6.30-9pm; $55 ($22 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden (BAAG).

What you will learn: how to set up and prepare a vegetable garden; how to select, plant and care for crops; and how to grow veggies in the ground, in raised beds and in pots. Presented by Tess Gosling. This class will teach you everything you need to know to grow delicious produce in your own backyard. They will cover all of the veggie gardening basics, from setting up your patch to harvesting.

Beginning beekeeping course; Saturday, 12th March, 9am-3.30pm; $245 ($41 per hour); Edendale.

What you will learn: getting started with backyard beekeeping; how to maintain a healthy hive, the wonders of swarms and how to keep them in check; and the wonders of pure raw honey and an understanding of honey extraction. Weather permitting, they will open a hive and have a hands-on demonstration working with hives. Take a packed lunch. Presenter: Benedict Hughes.

Growing mushrooms at home; Sunday, 13th March, 10am-12.30pm; $95 ($38 per hour); Alphington.

Learn how to grow oyster mushrooms from your own home without using expensive kits. Learn how to make your own mushroom growing kits in recycled buckets. Also, tour the mushroom farm. You will take home: the mushroom kit that you made at the workshop plus instructions for how to make more kits. Organised by Sporadical City Mushrooms.

Complete urban farmer (14 sessions); weekly, starting Wednesday, 16th March, 9am-3pm; $880 ($10 per hour); CERES.

Presenters: Justin Calverley and Donna Livermore. The topics to be covered will include: permaculture; fruit production; soil preparation; beekeeping; composting, worm farming and fertilisers; vegetable growing; propagation; seed collection; pest & disease management; bushfoods & berries; chooks; and community gardens.

In January
In February
In March

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Passata party vol. 2; Saturday, 12th February, 10am-4pm; free; Coburg North.

Learn how to pick, clean, boil, mash, sieve and bottle fresh tomatoes. Relax and enjoy the music. They recommend wearing only red – or clothes you are happy to get dirty in. Organised by Newlands Neighbourhood House.

Men in the kitchen; Monday, 7th March, 6.30-9pm; $32 ($13 per hour); Yarra Glen.

Jill Bowen Hess will discuss grazing food including BBQs, summer meals and picnics. Organised by Yarra Glen Living & Learning Centre.

Italian cooking; Thursday, 10th March, 6-8pm; $70 ($35 per hour); Surrey Hills.

Lucia Silverii will teach the time-honoured techniques of southern Italian cooking. This session will focus on desserts. Organised by Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre.

Middle Eastern cooking; Friday, 11th March, 6.30-9.30pm; $65 ($22 per hour); Park Orchards.

Learn about the flavours of Middle Eastern cooking. Try out recipes and cooking methods while preparing a three course menu. Stay and share your freshly prepared dinner with the group. Organised by Park Orchards Community House.

Kitchen garden sessions #1; Saturday, 12th March, 10am-midday; $15; Coburg.

Walking through the kitchen garden, the group will decide what to might cook, create a menu, and share a meal at the end. Organised by East Coburg Neighbourhood House.

Beginners bread making; Sunday, 13th March, 8am-2pm; $220 ($37 per hour); Abbotsford.

What you will learn: experimenting with bread; the bread baking process with each step explained; and how to replicate the process at home. What you will get: 1 kilo of organic flour to take home; pizza for lunch, which you make, eat and take home; and an embroidered apron made from 100% Fairtrade cotton. Organised by Convent Bakery.

The ultimate biscuit class; Tuesday, 15th March, 10am-3pm; $160 ($32 per hour); Blackburn.

Learn about flours and how they interact with other ingredients. Learn a variety of techniques and textures to create many different types of biscuits from shortbreads, to fancy petit fours, wedged with ganache and dipped in chocolate. They will cover shelf life, storage, freezing and nutritional input. They will include gluten free, dairy free and nut free recipes. You will take home 1kg of assorted biscuits made in the class plus their recipes.

In January
In February
In March
In Richmond