Dec 022020

This is the last newsletter for 2020. The next newsletter will be in January 2021.

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Carol Woolcock, Chris Kent, Helen Hewitt, Kate Woodstock, Lucinda Flynn and Vasundhara Kandpal.

Obviously, 2020 has been a very unusual year for all of us, including for this newsletter. The focus of the newsletter has traditionally been on advertising upcoming local events, of which there were around 350 per month prior to the current pandemic. With very few events happening during the pandemic, the newsletter partially re-invented itself as a more interactive publication where readers ask/answer questions about food-related matters, offer tips, send in photos, provide recipes and write articles. I think that this has generally worked well and I hope we can continue the levels of interactivity into 2021.

Since the start of the pandemic, around 220(!) different readers have contributed to the newsletter. Here is the list.

Alfred Zahra
Alison Raven
Angela Hewitt
Angela Spencer
Agnes Wilson
Aldona Kmiec
Alison Fraser
Alison Raven
Amanda Healy
Angelo Eliades
Angie Kristens
Angie O’Connor
Anita Merson
Ann Stanley
Anna Sanders
Anne Parbury
Annelise Tedesco
Aziza de Fazio
Barb Whiter
Beata Clark
Berry McSherry
Bev Middleton
Bev Robertson
Bronwen Whyatt
Bruce Plain
Bruno Tigani
Callie Lastdrager
Carol Woolcock
Cara Horner
Carrie Newbold
Cate Townsend
Cath Lyons
Catherine Knight
Catherine Mortimer
Cathy Romeo
Chantelle Ladouceur  
Chloe Thomson
Choon Yin Yeok
Chris Kent
Chris Mills
Chris Tankard
Claire Smith
Connie Curato
Daisy Lio
Dan Milne
Dan Ross
Darryl Wilson
Dave Chambers
David Hicks
Deb Anscombe
Deb Graham
Deb Thomson
Deborah Taylor
Dianne Parslow
Dione Fisher
Doris Glier
Doris McAllister
Drew Barr
Duang Tengtrirat
Elaine Rust
Elizabeth Doig
Elle Lawrence
Eric Nuccio
Evan Gellert
Farah Dawwas
Fay Loveland
Fiona Finch
Fran Lennard
Fuchsia Branwhite
Gayle Parkes
Georgina Aquilina
Gillian Manson
Gilles Lardy
Gina Wilson
Glenis Vieux
Graeme Townsend
Guy Palmer
Hanh Truong
Heb Gardener
Heather Miller
Heather Stanley
Helen Besley
Helen Bloustein
Helen Cline
Helen Collier
Helen Disler
Helen Hewitt
Helen Simpson
Jacinda Brown
Jan Akeroyd
Jane Dyer
Jane Glynn
Janet King
Jeanette Lynch
Jen Willis
Jenny Shaw
Jeremy Kesselbach
Jeremy Mather
Jian Liu
Jo Buckle
Jo Douglas
Joanne Driver
Joanne Shiells
Jon Buttery
Jonathan Warren
Joy Quinn
Judith Chivers
Judy Vizzari
Jules Jay
Karen Cheah
Karen Olsen
Karen Ye
Karin Motyer
Kate Lahiff
Kate Shannon
Kate Woodstock
Kathleen Bennett
Katrina Forstner
Kaye Flanagan
Keryn Johnson
Kim Lam
Kirsty Bishop-Fox
Kobie Swart
Krystal John
Lachlan Shackleton-Fergus  
Laura Finch
Leah Lux Tame
Lee Hirsh
Lenny Robinson
Leonie Katekar
Lili Dieguez
Lily Angel
Linda Wall
Ling Wong
Louise Currie
Louise Nolan
Lucinda Flynn
Lyn Richards
Lynn Wallace
Lynn-eva Bottomley
Mahira Sobral
Mala Plymin
Mardi Caracoglia
Maria Ciavarella
Marianthi Kougi
Marina Bistrin
Marjory Gardner
Marsha Merory
Maude Farrugia
Maureen Cullen
Megan Goodman
Meaghan Clayton
Meera Govil
Mei Yen Ooi
Melissa Tripodi
Melita Proebstl
Mia D’Abaco
Michelle Cheah
Moira Tucker
Morgan Koegel
Nada Cunningham
Nancy Mills
Natalie Nigol
Natalie Nott
Niloo Barmanray
Nina Ceddia
Nina Kelabora
Olwyn Smiley
Pam Jenkins
Pam Rowley
Paul Hemsworth
Paula Mcleod
Pauline Webb
Penny Smith
Peta Heywood
Peter Bevz
Peter Dyer
Pollyn Chan
Prue Clark
Raymond Leong
Rebecca Donald
Rebecca Gray
Rebecca Haschek
Richard Rowe
Rita Varrasso
Ritika Mahajan
Robert Lastdrager
Robin Gale-Baker
Ros Hardy
Sabi Buehler
Saimon Boyle
Sam Dixon
Samantha Patterson
Sandie Downes
Sarah Hardgrove
Sean Flynn
Sean Walsh
Senia Kazar
Shelley Evans
Shellie Drysdale
Shiva Vasi
Siri Hayes
Soo Mei Leong
Stella Ramos
Stephen Onians
Stuart Muir Wilson
Stuart Rodda
Sue Lockwood
Susan Faine
Susan Palmer
Toni Myers
Tracey Bjorksten
Tracey O’Neill
Vanessa Nitsos Chan
Vanessa Reynolds
Vasundhara Kandpal
Velyne Moretti
Vicki Jordan
Vicki Paras
Virginia Solomon
Yennie Starkey
Zofia Di Stefano

I would particularly like to thank Megan Goodman for her weekly recipes throughout the pandemic, Vasundhara Kandpal for her monthly recipes and Robin Gale-Baker for her regular veggie growing tips and articles.

Happy holidays!

What farmers’ markets will be happening this weekend?

On Saturday: Carlton and Coburg. Not Wonga Park.

On Sunday: Alphington and Eltham.

Re-starting and re-opening news


Warrandyte Riverside Market has re-started and the next market will be on Saturday, 5th December. Park Orchards Market has also re-started and the next market will be on Saturday, 19th December.

Food swaps

More food swaps are now re-starting. For example, the swaps on Saturday (i.e. 5th December) will include Bayswater North, Brunswick East, Fitzroy, Pascoe Vale and Warrandyte.

Community gardens

More community gardens are also re-opening. For example, Sylvester Hive (Preston) are meeting on Wednesday evening (i.e. 2nd December), Links Lalor are meeting on Saturday (i.e. 5th December) and Northcote Library are meeting on Sunday (i.e. 6th December).

Vasundhara’s recipes of the month – light meals

The theme for Vasundhara Kandpal’s three recipes this month is light meals. The three recipes are:

Like all of Vasundhara’s recipes, the recipes are plant-based.

As I’ve got space, I’m going to provide my favourite of the three recipes (the eggplant dip) in full below but you will have to go to the website to read the other two.

Eggplant dip (aka baba ganoush)

1 medium eggplant
1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1 tomato
½ onion, preferably red onion (optional)
2-3 tablespoons tahini
chopped parsley or coriander
salt to taste

Roast the eggplant on a fire or flame.

When it is cooked through inside, place in a bowl and cover it.

Meanwhile, finely chop all the veggies.

Peel and remove the burnt skin of eggplant. Mash the burnt eggplant and add all the other ingredients. Mix well.

Garnish with coriander/parsley.

Read more of Vasundhara’s recipes on our website.

Vasundhara Kandpal is a professional cook who operates a meals delivery service called Green Karma in Briar Hill, Eltham, Eltham North and Montmorency. Read her menu and order.

Want to buy a book for a Christmas gift?

Ben Moore, from Ben’s Bees in Blackburn North, has just written a book called For The Love Of Bees. Here’s the start of the blurb: “Comprising more than 200 full-colour pages and complemented with beautiful photography, For the Love of Bees is the result of years of experience and research. Covering every conceivable aspect of bees and beekeeping, this labour of love is bursting with amazing facts and figures and intriguing information – you won’t be able to put it down!Buy the book at Ben’s website.

Want to watch a documentary over the holiday period?

Chris Kent recently watched a documentary called The Biggest Little Farm which is about the establishment of farm called Apricot Lane Farms. Here is a short blurb: “The Biggest Little Farm chronicles 8 years of work as John and Molly Chester attempt to create a utopia of 10,000 orchard trees, 200 different crops and animals of every kind.“. Here is the trailer. And here is what Chris says about the documentary: “The farm is in California, but they suffer similar environmental problems to us in Australia, including the risk of bushfire. The documentary doesn’t go into any practical, technical or financial details. It is not an instructional video. It is, however, beautifully filmed, an inspiration and a joy to watch. After 8 years, they finally feel that their farm has achieved a natural balance and harmony with nature.” You can buy or rent the documentary from the usual sources, or borrow it from your local library.

‘Crowd harvest’ – seeds for Christmas

During the first half of December, send your seeds to one of the not-for profit organisations listed below, each of whom employs a horticulturalist who will germinate, store or distribute the seeds to those facing food insecurity. Please package the seeds in individual and labelled packages. Open pollinated seeds if possible. Read this Facebook post for more information. DIVRS in Preston, Carrington Health (ask for Alex Salmon) in Box Hill or STREAT in Collingwood.

How to grow mint

Robin Gale-Baker has just published a video with tips on growing mint.

What are your favourite wines?

Karen Coulston, from Yarrambat, who is an erstwhile wine maker and well-known local wine connoisseur, has published some notes on her favourite wines by variety and place. It is a comprehensive guide about what wines she likes and doesn’t like, and why. The wines that it covers include white wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio / Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon), sparkling wines (Champagne, Prosecco), red wines (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz) and fortified wines (Sherry, Port, Muscat, Tokay).

Well done to the Edible Hub, Hurstbridge!

Helen Hewitt has written in: “‘A big thank you to the garden angels of the Edible Hub, Hurstbridge community garden. Every fortnight or so during lockdown I would visit the garden for some fresh herbs and greens and it never failed to lift my spirits!

If you would like to publicly praise or thank your local community garden, food swap or other local food organisation, email me and I’ll publish your comments in the first January newsletter.

Fun facts: The taxonomy of pumpkins

For some plants, the common names closely follow the Latin names. For example, all plants commonly called grevilleas are in the genus Grevillea and most of the plants in the genus Grevillea are called grevilleas in common parlance. For other plants, the relationship between common name and Latin name is more complicated. For example, the common name eucalypt encompasses seven genera (including Corymbia and Angophora as well as Eucalyptus) and plants in the genus Eucalyptus are variously called gums, boxes, mallees, ironbarks, stringybarks, peppermints, mallets, gimlets, etc. Finally, for some other plants, the common name is positively misleading. For example, a native frangipani is not a frangipani (nor closely related to them) and a native fuchsia is not a fuchsia (and an Australian magpie is a butcherbird, not a magpie).

A similar situation applies to edible plants. On the one hand, there is a roughly one-to-one correspondence between plants commonly called mints and plants in the genus Mentha. On the other hand, a cape gooseberry is certainly not a gooseberry and a custard apple is neither a custard nor an apple. And, as I have written about before, most citrus is commonly named by the colour of its fruit rather than by its taxonomic affinity (e.g. 'lemon' and 'meyer lemon' are two of eight species of citrus which have yellow fruit and which are called lemons).

So that brings us (at last!) to pumpkins. In broad terms, the word 'pumpkin' is used to describe varieties of any of the 13 species in the genus Cucurbita where the fruit is a) deemed edible and b) harvested when mature & the skin hardened. Edible varieties which are harvested when immature & the skin is still tender have their own names (e.g. zucchini, tromboncino). Non-edible varieties are called gourds.

If a zucchini is left to mature on the plant then, for some reason, it is called a marrow rather than a pumpkin. And zucchinis are called courgettes in the UK and France.

The word gourd is also used to describe some varieties in both the genus Lagenaria (e.g. bottle gourd) and the genus Luffa (e.g. loofahs) as well as the genus Cucurbita.

Note that the terminology is different in the United States. They use the word 'pumpkin' for those big orange, inedible fruit that they carve coming up to Halloween, the phrase 'winter squash' for what we call pumpkins, and 'summer squash' for zucchinis etc.

Of the 13 species in the genus Cucurbita, only 3 are commonly grown in Australia. The table below lists these 3 species, together with example pumpkin varieties, other edible varieties and some gourd varieties.

Species Broad characterisation  Example pumpkin varieties 
(winter squash)
Other edible varieties 
(summer squash)
Example gourd varieties
Cucurbita maxima The big pumpkins Jarrahdale
Queensland Blue
Rouge vif D’Etampes
Golden Nugget
Cucurbita moschata  The standard pumpkins Butternut
Cucurbita pepo The other pumpkins Kumi Kumi Zucchini/Marrow
Spaghetti Squash
Crown of Thorns

Finally, did you notice the reference to 'loofahs' above? Yes, those things that your mother used to scrub your back with in the bath are the dried insides of a type of gourd.

Read more fun facts.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link was the recipe for vegetable bugs.

Joke (or pun) of the week

A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming events

Previously announced online events

Expanding the food loop: Tuesday, 8th December, 7-8pm; $12; organised by Reground. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Planning for sustainable farming and healthy food access: Wednesday, 9th December, 11am-1pm; $22; organised by Sustain. Read more and book on Humanitix.

Home harvest workshop: Wednesday, 9th December, 7-8.30pm; free; organised by Whitehorse Council. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Darebin Sustainable Food Leaders Forum 2020: Thursday, 10th December, 6-7.30pm; free; organised by Darebin Council. Read more and book on Humanitix.

How the public purse can drive food systems change: Wednesday, 16th December, 11am-1pm; $22; organised by Sustain. Read more and book on Humanitix.

Open Table offer their weekly no waste cook club workshops free and online on Saturdays, 11.30am-1pm. As well as cooking (which is actually optional), you will learn about food waste and composting. Register on EventBrite.

All The Dirt is a weekly podcast about gardening.