Jul 252017

Helen Simpson interviews Bruce and Meredith Plain

Many of you will know Bruce or Meredith through their ownership of the Bulleen Art and Garden nursery, their involvement in Sustainable Gardening Australia, their organisation of the Eltham gardening group (Eltham POD), or their support for various community gardens. Helen has now interviewed Bruce and Meredith as home growers. Here is the first paragraph: “As I enter Bruce and Meredith’s large Eltham garden, I immediately realise that this is a place to spend at least a day, with Meredith’s fabulous ceramic sculptures at every turn and the largest urban veggie garden I have ever seen.Read the full interview.

Introducing Dana Thomson and her ‘nutrition bites’

I’m really pleased to announce that we have a new, regular contributor to the newsletter: each month, Dana Thomson will discuss a nutrition topic. Dana is a trained public health dietitian (accredited with the Dietitians Association of Australia). In contrast to clinical or community dietitians who mostly see patients/clients or run nutrition education groups, her objectives are to support access, affordability and acceptability of healthier food for the whole population. As a Health Promotion Officer at healthAbility in Eltham, she works as part of a team to improve food supply and promote healthier eating across Nillumbik.

Dana’s first contribution is on Health Star Ratings:

  • Health Star Ratings are a front-of-pack labelling system intended for processed foods only, not fresh wholefoods.
  • “Hopefully you don’t eat too much processed food. But many people do. Did you know that we spend almost 60% of our budgets on ‘discretionary foods’, which are typically heavily processed? These foods also make up 35% of our total food intake in terms of energy. The Health Star Ratings may help you choose healthier options.
  • “Products are assigned a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars.
  • “Currently, you can only compare within food categories. The calculations are different depending on the category you choose. For example, you can’t compare a dairy product rating with a breakfast cereal rating.
  • “The ratings are currently optional for food manufacturers to include on their labels. Many in the food industry are not opting in to this scheme if their products score poorly. However, you can download the Food Switch App (Android, iOS) and scan almost any product to obtain its rating.
  • “Use the ratings in conjunction with other food information like dietary guidelines, the ingredients list, and the nutrition information panel.
  • “The system is currently under a 5 year review and taking public submissions. If you would like help writing a submission, Email me (Dana).
  • “For more information: read the government website; watch this video; read this blog; or read this critique.”

What seeds to plant in August

Here is a list:

Asparagus Beetroot Capsicum Chilli
Coriander Eggplant Globe artichoke Leeks
Lettuce Mint Mustard greens Onion
Parsnip Potato Radish Rocket
Shallot Spring onions Thyme Tomato


As Spring begins to beckon, the list gets much longer. Note that the warm season veggies (capsicum, chilli, eggplant and tomato) can only be planted if under cover in seed trays. Also note that just about all the herbs and veggies in the August list can also be planted in September.

Mac’s tip of the week

Keep an eye on your peaches and nectarines for bud swell as you will soon need to spray to prevent curly leaf.” [Editor’s note: As Agriculture Victoria says, “Most effective control is achieved by spraying when the buds are swelling but before they have opened.” If you need help identifying bud swelling (as opposed to just buds), have a look at this video from Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens.

Here is what Gardening Australia says on the subject.

More on citrus gall wasps

Sally Davis writes in: “The cylinder traps that are available in Bunnings do not work unless the top of the cylinder is turned so that the hole is exposed. The instructions state this amongst a host of other text that nobody would read.

What’s a good use in the garden for ash?

Sarah Jones has a question for you: “What’s a good use in the garden for ash? I have 20 litres of it waiting to be put to use, with more to come over the cold months.Email me with your answers and I will collate them for Sarah.

How to cure olives – a reprise

At last Sunday’s Eltham Farmer’s Market, Maria Ciavarella demonstrated a variety of methods for curing olives. She has kindly provided her notes which are now on our website, separately for black olives and for green olives.

Local food producer news

Quists Coffee are participating in the annual CafeSmart fundraising initiative on 4th August to support local not-for-profit organisations and Australians in need. Each participating cafe donates $1 from every coffee sold on the day. Last year the initiative raised $160,000. I have managed to obtain a list of the 73 participating cafes from North East Melbourne. I wanted to put the list into this newsletter, partly because I think that the cafes merit some publicity for their participation, but I have, reluctantly, decided that it is too long a list. So, instead, I have put it onto our website. If you are going to have a coffee on 4th August, have a look at the list and see if one of the cafes is near you.

Australia’s first gluten-free restaurant … is in Ivanhoe!

It’s called Delhicious and you can read about it in The Heidelberg Leader.

Mapping out Australia’s food future

According to CSIRO’s Food and Agribusiness Roadmap, launched last week, new technologies could see us eating algae-based sources of protein, developing allergenic-free nuts plus tolerable varieties of lactose & gluten, and reducing environmental impact through edible packaging. Read more and download the report.

Get some quality music about food for free

Fay Loveland writes in: “Charlie McGee famously played at Eltham Farmers’ Market a few years ago. His band (Formidable Vegetable Sound System) is now taking a break and he is putting their music out to everyone for free (put 0.00 in the purchase price and you can download to your computer). Here is the link. The band has put out great songs about permaculture, growing food and re-thinking waste. One of my favourite songs is ‘Yield’ from the album ‘Permaculture: A Rhymers Manual’. The Yield video is good too.” Thanks, Fay!

How do they know?

Rachel Khoo recently said on Kitchen Notebook Melbourne on SBS that “the best croissant outside of Paris” are to be found at Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy. Miguel Maestre recently said on The Living Room on Channel Ten that the best hamburgers in the whole of Australia are to be found at Easey’s in Collingwood.

Joke of the week

What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a small horse? Mascarpone.

More carved fruit

Thanks to Marina Bistrin, here is a video of carvings made from the pits of avocados.

New events

The Gateway Bug (film)

What: 2 billion people on earth eat insects for protein. The Gateway Bug explores how changing daily eating habits can feed humanity in an uncertain age, one meal at a time. It has been produced by Johanna Kelly, an Australian living in New York. We are privileged to have Johanna come to attend a Q&A session at the screening. Bring a plate to share and a cushion.
When: Friday, 28th July, 7.30-10pm.
Where: St Andrews Hall.
Cost: $5.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Food Evolution (film)

What: Agriculture Victoria Research presents an exclusive screening of Food Evolution. Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, one of the experts featured in the documentary, will be available on the night for networking and discussion. Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Exploring the science and emotion surrounding biotechnology and food, the film features experts such as Mark Lynas, Alison Van Eenennaam, Jeffrey Smith, Andrew Kimbrell, Vandana Shiva, Robert Fraley, Marion Nestle and Bill Nye, as well as farmers and scientists from around the world. Read more.
When: Thursday, 3rd August, 6.30-8.30pm.
Where: Cinema Nova, Carlton.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Persian High Tea

What: Join them for Persian High Tea. Try authentic Persian treats and sweets. Drink from authentic tea glasses and taste some blended teas. Teas will be available to purchase on the day.
When: Friday, 4th August, 10am-midday.
Where: Preston.
Cost: $43.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Dine In Dine Out Food Fiesta

What: Camberwell’s annual food and wine festival. Will include laneway pop-up parks, live music, food tastings, in-store promotions, a market family day, roving entertainment and fun for the children.
When: Saturday, 5th August, 10am-3pm.
Where: Camberwell.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: their website.

Make your own beeswax wraps

What: You will learn how to make your own re-usable food wraps. This workshop will include all your materials to make 3 different sized beeswax wraps (8’x8′, 11’x11′ & 14’x14′). Plus you will take home the recipe and skills to be able to make them at home.
When: Saturday, 12th August, 11am-1pm.
Where: SEEDs Communal Garden, Brunswick.
Cost: $50.
Bookings: TryBooking.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Permaculture Design Course (17 sessions)

What: Upon successful completion of this 80 hour class, students will receive the International qualification of PDC Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). Completing a PDC is the only way that you can teach, design and use permaculture in your business name anywhere in the world. Multiple tutors from Telopea Mountain Permaculture, including Pete the Permie, will cover such subjects as: zones; sectors; soils; water; passive solar; disaster resilience; how to select & design food production systems; selecting the right animals; and community. Skills development areas will include: soils; composting; grafting fruit trees; natural management of fruit and animals; and crop protection. Students will also visit Telopea Mountain Permaculture with its collection of 1,200 fruit trees plus some other different sized properties.
When: Tuesdays, starting 22nd August, 9am-4.30pm.
Where: Kinglake.
Cost: $495.
Bookings: Denise by phone (5786 1301) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Home composting and worm farming

What: One of the simplest ways you can help conserve the environment is by composting your food scraps and garden waste. By composting you will enrich your garden, help reduce waste going to landfill and save the cost of treating it as garbage. At this workshop, learn the art of successful home composting and worm farming and overcome common composting and worm farming problems.
When: Wednesday, 20th September, 7-8.30pm.
Where: Mill Park Library.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Whittlesea Council’s Environmental Education Officer, Sylvia Turk, by phone (9401 0509) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Growing veggies is easier than you think

What: What you will learn: the basics of growing your own fresh produce at home; how to prepare your garden for planting veggies; and how to choose the right produce for you and your family. What you will get: detailed course notes; and a punnet of lettuce seeds sown on the night. Presented by Maria Ciavarella who will show you how to turn your hand to the practice of gardening to eat. Experience the taste and freshness when you can pick something organic and easy-to-grow to eat from your very own garden.
When: Thursday, 21st September, 6.30-9pm.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden.
Cost: $45.
Bookings: / Further information: WeTeachMe.

DIY grafting and budding

What: What you will learn: why we graft or bud trees and bushes, and the principles behind grafting and budding techniques; how to select and store appropriate scion for grafting; and how to do a cleft graft and a whip-and-tongue graft. Presented by John Pinniger. Grafting and budding are cheap and fun ways to increase the number and range of plant varieties in your garden. Both grafting and budding are much easier than you would think, and can be attempted on a wide range of plants including fruit trees and ornamental shrubs. During this class you will learn a range of grafting and budding techniques and learn how to select and store the material. Please bring a grafting knife and secateurs if you have them (not essential).
When: Saturday, 23rd September, 9.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden.
Cost: $45.
Bookings: / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Sourdough bread making workshop

What: Tutor Jenna Farrington-Sear. This workshop will cover basic theory as well as the tactile pleasure of all the steps of making bread from milled flour. Suitable for both novices and those who want to expand their bread making repertoire. Topics to be covered: the essential ingredients and tools of the trade; the principal steps of bread making; Baker’s percentage and hydration; mixing, kneading and folding dough; shaping loaves, scoring and baking; and maintaining a starter. You will take home: a piece of dough which can be baked at home; and a sourdough starter.
When: Saturday, 23rd September, 10am-1pm.
Where: Living & Learning Nillumbik at Panton Hill.
Cost: $59.
Bookings: their website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.

View the calendars for specific Council areas: Banyule, Boroondara, City of Yarra, Darebin, Manningham, Maroondah, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges.

Read some help on how to view the calendar selectively. For example, search for events in a given suburb or set of suburbs. Or search for events of a given type (such as markets).