May 252022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Jaimie Sweetman, Jian Liu, Julian Merkenich, Sarah Mathers and Simone Boyd.

If you are Gmail user and didn’t successfully receive our newsletter last week, read this short guide on how to stop Google’s blocking of our future newsletters.

The more people contribute to this newsletter the better it will be but, for some reason, contributions have fallen off over the last month or so. If you have any news, tips, questions or photos that you think some of the readership might be interested in, now would be a good time to send them in. Simply email them to me (

The Medlar tree (by Jaimie Sweetman)

[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 Fridays and Saturdays – read more and book your place on a future tour.]

The medlar tree (Mespilus germanica) is one of my absolute favourites, especially at this time of year. I love this tree because it is harvested in winter when not much else is.

The medlar is an ancient species and was once extremely popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. In fact, you would apparently have found them in most medieval monasteries and castles. Can you recognise the fruit from old paintings?

The medlar is in the same family as apples (the rose family). When apples started to be widely cultivated, medlars were largely forgotten about. This wasn’t because they don’t taste good though; rather, it was because they quickly perish once picked and thus need to be eaten straight off the tree or turned into preserves.

Medlars need to go through a cold period so they can ‘blet’ on the tree. [Editor: ‘Bletting’, meaning the softening of certain fleshy fruits, such as medlars and persimmons, beyond ripening, until the desired degree of sweetness/palatability is attained.] The recent few nights of cold here in Melbourne should see them ready this week. The cold softens them and some even say they become like rotten fruit. They taste like stewed apple though and can be turned into jams and jellies to preserve.

Read about more of Jaimie’s unusual edible plants on our website.

Also, read Robin Gale-Baker’s guide to growing medlars.

Some unusual pumpkins

Simone Boyd, who is both a newsletter reader and the owner of the online veggie seed shop, Heirloom Naturally, has produced 4 videos about unusual pumpkins:

Bohemian Futsu
Galeux D’Eysines Rouge Vif D’Etampes

Tea cosies

The 2022 Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival recently took place. One of the exhibits was the composting teapot of St Johns Riverside Community Garden in Heidelberg and it was apparently awarded an Honourable Mention. Its name is Brewster.

According to ABC News, a Guinness World Record was broken at the festival, namely the largest every tea cosy. At 5 metres high and 20 metres in circumference, it smashed the previous record (3.9 metres high). It was knitted by a team from Frankston and will now be deconstructed into rugs. Read more.

On the subject of tea cosies, my wife tells me that, if you stich up the spout and handle openings then they can look quite fetching as hats. I’ll try and find a photo!

Finally, St Johns Riverside Community Garden should be congratulated on their recent receipt of a grant from Banyule Council for $5K for landscaping the entrance to the garden.

Every newsletter needs a good picture

Tatiana Shkondina recreates famous paintings using food and then photographs them. Feature artists include Dali, Hokusai, Klimt, Magritte, Malevich, Mondrian, Picasso, Rousseau and Warhol. The picture right is Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889) and was made with rice, blueberries and pasta. Look at some more of her creations.

Vegan gado gado (by Jian Liu & Julian Merkenich)

In this recipe, the traditional ingredients of boiled egg, prawn crackers and fish sauce are replaced by lightly fried chickpeas, rice noodles and soy sauce respectively.

The steamed ingredients

Cauliflower, chopped into small chunks
Potatoes, chopped into small chunks

Prepare a steamer.

Steam the cauliflower and potato for 20 minutes.

The fresh ingredients

4 small tomatoes, cut into small cubes
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small head cabbage, shredded
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch spring onions, sliced

Prepare all of the fresh ingredients.

The fried ingredients

2 pieces dry tofu
½ cup chickpeas
½ cup oil
2 sticks rice noodles

Break up the rice noodles into 1 inch lengths.

Heat the oil in a large wok. You may want to angle the wok slightly to make the pool of oil deeper. If you place a chopstick into the oil and it bubbles, then you’re ready.

Throw a handful of broken noodles at a time into the oil and wait a few seconds for them to puff. Place the fried noodles onto your skillet to soak up any residual oil.

Remove the noodles from the skillet, put it over medium heat, and fry the tofu and chickpeas.

The sauce

½ medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small chilli, sliced
¾ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup coconut milk (or any plant-based milk)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice (or lemon juice)

Place the onion, garlic and chilli (i.e. the aromatics) into a small pot with a few tablespoons of water.

Saute the aromatics until they are softened and fragrant.

Add the peanut butter to the pot and mash with a spoon.

Add the soy sauce, coconut milk and sugar and mix with a spoon until you have a rich sauce.

Continue to cook the sauce on low heat for a minute.

Turn off the heat and mix the lime juice into the sauce.

Mix everything together

Put the fresh and steamed ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Top with the sauce.

Stir until thoroughly combined and everything is coated in the sauce.

Add the fried ingredients on top.


Read more recipes by newsletter readers on our website.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Angelo Eliades’ article on how to save tomato seeds.

Joke (or pun) of the week

Wanna hear a joke about pizza? Never mind. It’s too cheesy.

As a bonus, at their 2022 AGM, Nillumbik U3A (University of the Third Age) voted the following as the best ever joke published in their newsletter:

I recently visited a monastery and, as I walked past the kitchen, I saw a man frying chips. I asked him “Are you the friar?” He replied “No, I’m the chip monk.

In passing, note that around 120 members of Nillumbik U3A are also readers of this newsletter.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Not food-related by interesting

Make a garden in a glass bowl; Saturday, 4th June, 10.30am-12.30pm; free; Hurstbridge.

Join local makers Heather Doyle and Kath Armour, founding members of Boomerang Bags Nillumbik, to make a miniature garden in a beautiful glass bowl. All materials will be supplied. You will also have the opportunity to create a mosaic on a stone base to put into your glass garden. If you have any figurines, decorative objects, or special treasures that you would like to use in your work, take them along.

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

Volunteer thankyou BBQ + gall wasp workshop; Monday, 30th May, 4-6pm; free; Preston.

Organised by Oakhill Farm. Presenter: Angelo Eliades. After the workshop, you will share a meal using Oakhill-grown veggies. You will also meet other volunteers, celebrate all that has been achieved at Oakhill, and chat about future plans.

Step to employment in hospitality (7 sessions); 7 consecutive Fridays from 3rd June,each 11.30am-5pm; free; Brunswick.

Organised by Brunswick Neighbourhood House. Learn the skills essential for working in the hospitality industry. Includes Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) and Safe Food Handling certificates, coffee making, and more. Enrol by either phone (9386 9418) or email (

How to control the Queensland Fruit Fly, with Angelo Eliades; Tuesday, 23rd June, 7-8pm; free; Watsonia.

Organised by Watsonia Library. In this workshop, you will learn about the best ways to manage them, how to achieve the best control outcomes using a strategic pest management approach (IPM), what products to use, as well as how and when to use them. Angelo will also demonstrate how to make your own fruit fly trap.

Complete urban farmer (14 sessions); weekly, starting Thursday, 21st July, 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.

Beeswax wraps; Saturday, 23rd July, 10am-midday; $75 ($38 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: how to make and maintain their own beeswax wraps; learn skills that are transferable to the home environment; and bundling techniques. Presenter: Emma Grace. You will learn how to make and maintain their own beeswax wraps for keeping food fresh and hygienic without the use of single-use plastics such as cling-wrap. This is a hands-on workshop where participants will make their own washable and re-usable ready-to-use beeswax wraps.

In May
In June
In July
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Masterclass – make your own pizza and pasta; Tuesday, 7th June, 6.30-8pm; free; Coburg.

Learn how to make pizza and pasta. You will learn how to stretch and roll the dough and also how to make fresh spaghetti.

Chocolate discovery class; Saturday, 9th July, 11am-midday; $48 ($48 per hour); Yarra Glen.

This class includes indulging in a range of chocolate and truffle tastings, the chance to learn about how chocolate is made, and finding out about the inspiration behind each of their specialty ranges with their European Chocolatiers. Your chocolate education concludes with the chance to create your own personal chocolate bar and delve in giant lollipop making fun.

Sourdough bread baking; Saturday, 23rd July, 9am-5pm; $180 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: how to make your own bread; how to make your own handmade pizzas; and more about sourdough. What you will get: handmade pizzas for lunch; your own bread to take home and some leaven; and recipes. Presenter: Ken Hercott.

Feta and haloumi cheese making; Sunday, 24th July, 10am-4pm; $170 ($28 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: how to make your own fetta and haloumi cheese; how to make ricotta cheese; and about different cheeses. Presenters: Janet Clayton and Charlene Angus from Cheeselinks.

In May
In June
In July
Regular classes
May 182022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angharad Neal-Williams, Anne Shea, Ben Wrigley and Holly Gallagher.

A visual demonstration of the importance of good soil

Anne Shea has sent in a photo which clearly demonstrates how the quality of the soil used can dramatically change how well plants thrive.

The photo shows two boxes of lettuce. The right hand box is filled with a vege mix from Bulleen Art and Garden. The left hand box is an old bin planter into which, when Anne had some seedlings left over, she popped them in to save waste.

Both planters have been fertilised with seasol.

Have you planted all your Winter veggies yet?

Kevin Heinze Grow now have their Winter veggie seedlings available for sale. The punnets have all been grown by participants with disabilities without using chemicals, inorganic fertilisers or seed treatments. They include beetroot, brocolli, bush peas, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, radish, mustard, snap peas, snow peas and sweet peas. All punnets are $3. They are available from both their Coburg (512 Sydney Road) and Doncaster (39 Wetherby Road) nurseries.

If you go to their Doncaster nursery, try and have a look at their community garden.

The Darebin Fruit Squad

The Darebin Fruit Squad is back up and running after a couple of tough years of Covid restrictions.

They are now looking to hear from householders who have any types of fruit trees, even if they aren’t fruiting at the moment. They will record your details and then contact you when the appropriate season rolls around to ask whether you have any surplus that you would like to donate. If you do, they will send the squad around to harvest it and then distribute it via the DIVRS food relief program.

For more details or to sign up, contact Holly by phone (9480 8207) or email (

Yet more on repair cafes

Ben Wrigley has written in to say that their inaugural Montmorency repair cafe was a success. They first repaired a hard rubbish collected sofa, then a wicker easy chair with a local weed growing outside in the garden, then they re-upholstered and refurbished a dining chair. There were also lively discussions on darning, sewing and collar turning. Their next repair cafe on this coming Friday will include clothes repair and the art of sashiko (a form of Japanese embroidery). Friday, 20th May, 5-7pm at Monty Hub, 1 Mountain View Road, Montmorency.

Mac’s blast from the past – bare-rooted trees

[On this day in May, 5 years ago, Mac McVeigh wrote the following words for this newsletter]

It’s time for you to start thinking about what bare-rooted fruit trees you want to purchase this year, from whom, and when. Mid June is the best time to buy bare-rooted trees but the risk is that your favoured source might have sold out by then, or at least sold their best specimens. So, perhaps you should try and place a forward order with them.

When you purchase, you must not let the bare roots dry out. Some suppliers will have covered the roots with damp newspaper or sawdust (a process called ‘heeling in’), or even have them potted up in potting mix for you – this means a lot and is good. Otherwise heeling them in yourself can do the trick for a time but it is still best to get them into the ground asap. And don’t sit them in a tub of water until you get around to them – even though dormant, the roots still need access to air.

Hard pruning in the first year leads to more vigorous growth and better framework. So, try and get the tree pruned at the time of purchase by someone who knows what they are doing. Note that, if the tree in question is an apricot, the pruning should be deferred until leaf sprout to avoid gummosis.

When planting, look at the colours of the root system and trunk to try and discern the line where the tree was previously planted up to. If in doubt, don’t plant too deep.

Finally, note that bare rooted almond trees are notorious for not coming out of dormancy. So, keep your receipt!

Every newsletter needs a good picture

The image right is part of a 1970 exhibition called Staple cheese (a race) by a Swiss/Icelandic artist called Dieter Roth. The exhibition comprised 37 suitcases filled with cheese, one of which was opened each day. Its title was a pun on the word steeplechase, the idea apparently being to see how far the cheeses slipped and slid (aka raced) as they rotted. Over time, the stench grew and permeated out of the building. The exhibition became overrun with maggots and flies but the artist declared that the insects were, in fact, his intended audience!

The four cheese used were brie, camembert, cheddar and limburger.

A new article from Angelo Eliades

How to save tomato seeds for planting next year.

Read more of Angelo’s food-growing articles.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was the periodic table of fermented foods (this is the pdf version, which is the highest resolution and most readable).

Word of the month – Mageirocophobia

‘Mageirocophobia’, meaning fear of cooking. According to Wikipedia, it can be related to any or all of fear of spreading illness, fear of the cooking process, fear of recipes, fear of food knowledge or fear of food intake.

Read about previous words of the month.

Proverb (or phrase) of the month

A sledgehammer to crack a nut. Meaning: to use disproportionate force to overcome a minor problem.. Sledgehammers are large hammers with metal heads weighing 5Kg or more. They are often used in demolition work and are obviously totally inappropriate for cracking a nut. The first use of a phrase about using a sledgehammer to deal with something small was in an American newspaper in the late 19th Century (to kill a fly), with the first nut entering the picture a few years later (to crack a peanut), followed in the early 20th Century by gnats (to kill a gnat). The precise phrase a sledgehammer to crack a nut first appeared in print in the 1950s and could have been a re-wording of either the peanut or the gnat version.

Incidentally, the video with the most ever MTV video music awards is Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. Gabriel lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time and said later “I was thinking at the time, ‘If anyone wants to try and copy this video, good luck to them.'” Watch the 5 minute video.

Gardening quote of the month

To get best results you must talk to your vegetables” by Prince Charles.

Read more gardening quotes.

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

Have you heard about the restaurant on the moon?

Great food, no atmosphere.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Herb planting workshop; Sunday, 5th June, 10-11.30am; $55 ($37 per hour); Park Orchards.

The workshop will start by potting up herbs into terracotta pots and labelling them to create your own potted herb garden. Then there will be a walk through the community house garden and an opportunity to choose suitable herbs to make a tisane hot herbal drink.

Wicking bed workshop; Saturday, 11th June, 11.30am-1pm; $15; Macleod.

Learn: how to decide if wicking beds are right for you; what materials are required; how to assemble wicking beds; how to care for your wicking beds once constructed; and what to grow in a wicking bed. Presenter: Paul Gale-Baker.

Beginners guide to backyard chickens; Thursday, 16th June, 7-8.30pm; free; Mill Park.

Find out about housing options, feeding and choosing the right hens for the suburbs.

Marvellous mulch – dive into the magic; Saturday, 18th June, 1-2.30pm; $59 ($39 per hour); Ringwood.

Learn about the magic of mulch, take away the mystery of what types of mulch to use and find out why you need to care about mulch.

Growing veggies in a wildlife garden; Saturday, 18th June, 1.30-3.30pm; free; Forest Hill.

The topics to be covered will include: the garden as an ecosystem for both wildlife and food growing; integrated weed management; integrated pest management; inviting beneficial wildlife into your veggie garden; and common garden pests and management strategies. Presenter: Richard Rowe. Following the workshop, there will be a guided walk and talk of Strathdon House’s garden compound.

Winter fruit tree pruning workshop; Saturday, 16th July, 9am-1pm; $75 ($19 per hour); Edendale.

Winter is the best time to prune most deciduous fruit trees. Join Justin Calverley and learn how to best care for your fruit trees for health and to maximise your yield for next season. Bring your gardening gloves, a hat and a pair of secateurs.

Much ado about compost; Saturday, 16th July, 10-11.30am; $59 ($40 per hour); Ringwood.

Go along and find out the dirt on composting. What can be composted, how and what other support and sustainable alternatives are available.

Organic propagation of vegetables and herbs; Saturday, 16th July, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: improve your gardening skills; how to produce new plants from seeds, cuttings and division; and seasonal timing for growth. Presenter: Olivia Caputo.

In May
In June
In July
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Vegan pizza making masterclass; Sunday, 12th June, 11am-1pm; $106 ($53 per hour); Northcote.

Edoardo Nicita, from Shop 225, will demonstrate how to create pizza dough from scratch and you will then make margherita and nutella dessert pizzas. At the end, you will eat the creations with your new found foodie friends!

Food for mind and gut; Saturday, 16th July, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: foods which make your brain brighter; how to incorporate brain powering foods easily into your daily diet; and foods that can build and protect your gut microbiome and clear brain fog. Presenter: Melanie Leeson, from Mettle + Grace.

In May
In June
In July
Regular classes
May 112022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Cara Horner, Chris Chapple, Dione Fisher, Francisca Amar, Greg Parsons, Judith Chivers, Mara Pigatto, Randa Almushcab, Robin Gale-Baker, Simone Boyd, Susan Palmer and Zofia Di Stefano.

If you are Gmail user and didn’t successfully receive our newsletter last week, read this short guide on how to stop Google’s blocking of our future newsletters.

More on your local repair cafes

Cara Horner and Randa Almushcab have both written in to say that there is a new repair cafe at Mernda Community House. There is also one in Brunswick organised by the Tool Library.

That makes 9 local repair cafes in total, as listed on our website. Each repair cafe typically happens once a month, with some having a regular schedule and others not. For some, you just turn up, whilst you need to book a slot at others. So, check the details (which are all on our website) before going.

The next Nillumbik/Hurstbridge repair cafe is on this coming Saturday (book here) and the next Brunswick one is on this coming Sunday (book here).

There is also an occasional repair cafe in Eltham, with the next one being in June.

A number of you have written in to thank me for highlighting the existence of the repair cafes. As Zofia Di Stefano said: “Thank you so much for highlighting this amazing movement in our community.” And Mara Pigatto: “Yay, repair cafes, finally! I have a few old garden tools that belonged to my dad that I would like repaired and brought back to life. I’ll try to contact a few of the locations. I use to watch the repair shop on the ABC and loved it! We have become such a wasteful society.”

Egyptian walking onions

Newsletter reader Simone Boyd has recently produced a video about her Egyptian walking onions.As Simone discusses in both this video and in a previous video, Egyptian walking onions (Allium × proliferum) are unique because, as well as growing normal shallot-like onions underground (see left hand photo), they also grow miniature onions at the tops of their stalks (see right hand photo)! As these minature onions, called bulblets, grow, the stalk bends under their weight until the bulblets touch the ground some distance from the parent plant. They then (with a bit of luck) take root and create new plants. Or you can cut them off and plant them yourself. They average, say, 4 bulblets per stalk, so the number of plants can quickly multiply. They are both fun and easy to grow.

It is pretty obvious why these onions are called walking, but why Egyptian?

You don’t know? Ok, here is another question for you: what was The Bangles’ greatest hit?

The under-rated turnip! (by Robin Gale-Baker)

Robin has written an article about how to grow turnips. Here are some of the key points from the article.

Turnip roots can be eaten: raw, either grated into a coleslaw or sliced for a salad or cut into fingers for dips; roasted, steamed or boiled as an individual veggie; or used in stir fries, stews and soup and as mash. The leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable or, when young, used raw in pesto as a substitute for sweet basil.

Small turnips, harvestable in 6-7 weeks, taste sweet with a slight spicy undertone. More mature turnips, which are harvested at about the 8-10 week mark, are more peppery and slightly bitter. They have quite a bite to them.

Choose a sunny spot with well drained soil. The soil needs to be prepared to a fine tilth (light and fluffy and free of debris) and just a bit deeper than the depth to which the turnip will grow. Do not add manure as this will cause the roots to split and fork.

Direct sow seed into rows about 1cm deep. Sprinkle seed at intervals of about 9cm, cover with soil and water well. It will take around two weeks for seed to germinate and, at that stage, thin the plants out to 9cm intervals if necessary. At the six week mark, pull several to check for size and harvest readiness. As turnips grow bigger, the tops will emerge from the soil, giving you a fair idea of their size when pulled. Every few weeks, succession sow so that you have a constant supply.

As members of the brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc), turnips are subject to the same pests.

Read the full article.

Want some (more) chickens?

Yummy Gardens are selling chickens on Saturday, 14th May. $70 each for purebreeds and $40 each for crossbreeds. The available purebreeds are Australorp Utility and Silkie Bantams. The available crossbreeds are Australorp x Leghorn, Australorp x New Hampshire, New Hampshire x Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire x White Leghorn. Pickup from 155 School Road, St Andrews from 9am onwards. Read more.

This will be their last sale until December and also the last time that they will be selling crossbreeds, as they have decided to concentrate on purebreeds going forward.

Want a job?

Montmorency Primary School is looking for a Garden Co-ordinator for its Stephanie Alexander Kitchen. $40-50 per hour. Part time.

Want to know about growing mushrooms?

Buttons Mira, from The Mushroomery in Alphington, was recently interviewed by Alice Zaslavsky on ABC Melbourne’s Saturday Breakfast show. Listen to the 10 minute interview.

Eltham High School students visited Sugarloaf Produce farm

Chris Chapple has written in to say that, last week, Local Food Connect organised a ‘farm to plate’ experience for Eltham High School (EHS) year 11 & 12 students. The party was led by Yasemin Ziada, Eltham High School VET Hospitality Teacher.

Having taken a circuitous and somewhat mountainous route from Eltham to Strathewen, the party arrived at Sugarloaf Produce farm and spent an enjoyable morning experiencing everything that this small, mixed, organic farm has to offer. Thanks to hosts, Isabella, Warren and team, who grow vegetables, Swiss brown mushrooms and free range eggs on their farm. Most of their produce is sold at the Eltham Farmers’ Market.

Yasemin reported afterwards that it was a great experience for the students. They had a wonderful time at the farm and the trip home was abuzz with sharing experiences. The feedback from the students included:

  • Beautiful farm and wonderful learning opportunity. Really enjoyed the hands on experience.
  • It was really intriguing to be immersed in the world of local produce and the integrity behind it.
  • Thank you so much for today it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing how they plant all of the vegetables and see how it all happens on a farm.
  • I loved tasting the feijoas as I have never heard of this fruit before and will definitely look out for this at the farmers market.
  • I loved feeding the cows and goats; rusty (the dog!) was the best.
  • I liked tasting the feijoas and really enjoyed planting the fennel and seeing the chooks and goats.

Yasemin is Eltham High School’s representative on Local Food Connect’s Fabbro’s Farm reference panel.

Treading lightly together

Watch this video from Reimagine Banyule about some local community initiatives for treading more lightly in Banyule. Most of the people featured are readers of this newsletter!

A periodic table of fermented foods

The picture right is of a periodic table of fermented foods. Click the picture, and then zoom, for a readable, high resolution version. Open this pdf for an even higher resolution version.

For each of 118 fermented foods, the picture sets out the origin of the food, the main ingredients, typical fermentation organisms, pH, water activity, fermentation/ripening time, and the major microbial metabolites that relate to product quality. The contribution of major groups of fermentation organisms is colour coded as indicated in the legend; back-slopped fermentations are indicated by a thick outline and by an underlined product name.

Another article by Angelo Eliades

Why are my tomatoes flowering but not setting fruit?.

Read more of Angelo’s articles about food growing.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was The Rogue Ginger’s article about repair cafes.

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

As submitted by Susan Palmer: Remember: when you bury a body, cover it with endangered plants so that it’s illegal to dig it up.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Not food-related but interesting

Sustainability book chat; Tuesday, 24th May, 7.30-8.30pm; free; Greensborough.

Read, watch and chat about issues of sustainability on our planet, and how we can grow the future we want to see. This book club meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month. It is a joint initiative between Sustainable Greensborough and Diamond Valley Library.

Planting for wildlife; Thursday, 9th June, 11am-midday; free; Greensborough.

Celebrate World Environment Day and learn about which plants encourage various wildlife into the garden. Find out what plants you can grow to provide a food source and/or shelter for local wildlife. Learn the basic garden do’s and don’ts to create a dedicated area to encourage wildlife, and discover the benefits of so doing.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Herb trees; Tuesday, 17th May, 7.30-8.30pm; $20 ($14 per hour); Burnley.

When we think of herbs, we think of small ground-covers and herbaceous plants, but many of our most prized herbs actually derive from quite large trees. Jill Bryant will illustrate her talk using living potted specimens of many tree herbs.

Community gardening in Moreland forum; Sunday, 22nd May, 10am-12.30pm; free; Coburg North.

Moreland Community Gardening and Moreland Council will be exploring the importance of communication and engagement within community gardens. The speakers will include: Libby Harper (Moreland Community Gardening); Rachael Cilauro (Newlands and East Coburg Neighbourhood Houses); Guy Palmer, editor of the Local Food Connect newsletter and website; Nathacha Subero, Reynard Street Neighbourhood House; and Lee Tozzi (Moreland City Council).

Growing Winter veggies; Saturday, 28th May, 9.30am-3pm; $75 ($14 per hour); Eltham.

Through a combination of theory, discussion and hands-on activity, you will: gain knowledge about the importance of preparing soil before planting; learn about basic PH testing, adding soil conditioners, amendments and fertilisers; learn how to grow and maintain their winter veggies, including protecting plants from pest and disease during the growing season; and create a seed/seed raising mix, sow seeds, prick out seedlings and plant or pot them up. Tutor: Melissa Houselander.

Winter fruit tree maintenance; Saturday, 2nd July, 9.30am-midday; $55 ($22 per hour); Bulleen Art & Garden.

What you will learn: pruning of both new and established fruit trees; selection and planting of new fruit trees; Winter fruit tree maintenance practices for pest and disease prevention, control and treatment; and pruning tool maintenance.

Food photography; Saturday, 2nd July, 2-5pm; $109 ($36 per hour); Eltham.

This class is for food bloggers, bakers or restaurant/cafe owners. It will focus on taking great images of food using your own, or easily obtainable, equipment. It will cover such aspects as: the right equipment; the best camera settings to make your food look good; choosing the right backgrounds; lighting; basic food styling; being creative; the perils of incorrect white balance; and using software to enhance colour and presentation.

Pruning and care of fruit trees; Saturday, 9th July, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: how to grow a variety of fruit and nut trees in your backyard; pruning techniques; and pest and disease management. Presenter: Justin Calverley.

Urban food gardening (8 sessions); 8 consecutive Wednesdays from 13th July, 10am-2.30pm; $60 for all 8 sessions (Government subsidised fee); Eltham.

This course is for people who love gardening and the outdoors, are considering a career in horticulture, would like to learn more about growing their own food successfully or who would like an introduction to aspects of working in the industry before choosing a specific course/study pathway. The last 4 weeks will be at Edendale Farm. The course will be run by Justin Calverley.

In May
In June
In July
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

The mighty booch – DIY kombucha; Tuesday, 31st May, 6.30-8pm; $80 ($40 per hour); Collingwood.

The Fermented Mumma will discuss the process and benefits of fermentation, the problems with pre-packaged kombucha, and the endless flavour combinations for your custom booch. She will introduce you to a scoby (which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’), the low-pH ‘mother’ from which your kombucha will spring. First, black tea and sugar are brewed together to make the starter tea. This is then poured over the scoby, covered in a cheesecloth, and left to ferment. The yeast consumes the sugar, excreting alcohol, which is processed by the bacteria into vinegar, providing a natural carbonation and tangy zing. New scoby babies form in the process.

How to create almost vegetarian recipes; Saturday, 11th June, 10am-12.30pm; how-to-create-almost-vegetarian-recipes; Forest Hill.

Not quite ready to give up meat, but you’d like to reduce its significance in your family’s diet and budget? In this cooking and tasting demonstration, Scott Hitchins will show you how to feed four with one sausage, make three family meals from one chicken and make a lentil bolognaise. Learn tips and tricks to reduce meat in recipes, or remove it altogether, without compromising on flavour.

Tortelloni and ravioli class; Saturday, 9th July, 10am-1.30pm; $125 ($36 per hour); Thomastown.

What you will learn: how to make fresh pasta dough; and how to make tagliatelle, spinach & ricotta tortelli and pumpkin ravioli. What you will get: cheese tasting and drinks; and a That’s Amore apron to take home.

In May
In June
In July
Regular classes
May 052022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Ben Wrigley, Lee Hirsh, Liz Cronin and Marina Bistrin.

A video about Warrandyte Food Swap

Warrandyte Food Swap is on this coming Saturday (7th May), 9-10am, at Warrandyte Community Garden in Police Street. To celebrate the occasion, they have produced this one minute video. Well done, Liz Cronin!

Your local repair cafes

Repair cafes are places where you go to get things fixed, mended or connected for free. The items usually brought in are small electrical goods, bikes, clothing, small furniture or homewares. Tables are set up with the fixer on one side and the customer (e.g. you) on the other. You are invited to watch, learn and talk with the person fixing your item. Read more.

Ben Wrigley has written is to say that he is starting a repair cafe in Montmorency. It will be on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month, 5-7pm, at Monty Hub, Mountain View Road. The first event will be on Friday, 6th May. Ben says “bring to mend & heal your broken tools, broken furniture and threadbare clothes but please no electrical items.

Repair cafes are clearly becoming ‘a thing’ and I have discussed those in Greensborough and Hurstbridge in previous, recent newsletters. I have now gone through the discipline of searching for all the local repair cafes and details of the resulting 7 cafes can be found as a map on our website. The 7 repair cafes are Darebin (in Thornbury), Greensborough, Montmorency, Nillumbik (in Hurstbridge), North Balwyn, Ringwood and Warrandyte. Each repair cafe typically happens once a month, with some having a regular schedule and others not. For some, you just turn up, whilst you need to book a slot at others.

If you know of any other local repair cafes, please email me and I’ll add them to the map.

A history of the Dunstan Reserve Food Forest in West Brunswick

The Dunstan Reserve Food Forest in West Brunswick is around 30 years old. In recognition of this, Moreland Community Gardens have written a history of the food forest.

NERP at Eltham Farmers’ Market on 8th May

North East Region Permaculture will be having a stall at Eltham Farmers’ Market this coming Sunday (8th May). The theme will be backyard bee keeping and they will be showing some hives, suits and beekeeping equipment as well as offering some information and encouraging the planting of bee-friendly plants – both for pollen and for nectar. It being Mother’s Day, they will also have some bee-related gifts such as beeswax wraps, and lavender & hops relaxation sachets.

Photos of vegetables which look like humans

Lee Hirsh suggests that you have a look at this Facebook post, which is photos of around 20 vegetables and flowers that arguably look like humans.

Here is another Facebook post with photos on a similar theme.

The Gravel Hill Community Garden in Bendigo

Marina Bistrin recently visited the Gravel Hill Community Garden in Bendigo and has written an article about her visit for our website. Here are some of the points that she discusses.

Their beds were too wide so the coordinator of the garden, Mohammed Khalaf, created shallow trench down the middle of the beds, so the trench would collect moisture and you could walk there to harvest vegetables efficiently.

They deal with the masses of invasive runner grasses and weeds by composting them in the pathways between the beds. Mohammed lays them down, waters them in and covers them with long rolls of carpet.

A melon tunnel has been put together from wide plastic piping making the arches and wooden stakes tied with baling twine to make the sides and connect the arches to make a structure.

Some unusual vegetables are grown in the garden that the local Karen and South Sudanese community like, such as okra, purslane, snake beans, a related non-climbing type of snake bean (that produces an abundance of short pods the size of ordinary beans but skinnier), water spinach (kang kong), hot tiny chillies, and a hairy melon grown over the tunnel. They also have lots of ‘ordinary’ vegetables and a number of fruit trees.

Read the full article.

World Naked Gardening Day

World Naked Gardening Day is on this coming Saturday (7th May). As per the picture right, did you know that if you do your gardening naked then your neighbours will put up a privacy fence at no cost to you?

International Compost Awareness Week

International Compost Awareness Week is this current week (1st-7th May). To celebrate, Darebin Council is providing free compost to all of its local community gardens. If your community garden is in Darebin and wants some of the compost, simply email them.

The Global Food Security Index

I recently came across something called the Global Food Security Index, which is where a bunch of academics rate every country in the world on a variety of factors associated with food security.

Of the 113 countries in the world, where do you think they rank Australia? See their country rankings.

The answer is 32nd. The top rated country is Ireland. New Zealand is 16th.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Helen’s article about how to grow garlic.

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

A vegan said to a non-vegan, “people who sell meat are gross,” to which the non-vegan replied, “people who sell fruits and vegetables are grocer.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Composting workshop; Saturday, 7th May, 11am-midday; $15; Macleod.

Terry will demonstrate how to build and maintain a hot compost heap in the open bays of the community garden.

Wine tasting and history tour; Saturday, 14th May, 1-4pm; $50 ($17 per hour); Coburg.

Pentridge Cellars, in partnership with Handpicked Wines, invites you to a wine tasting in the historic Pentridge Prison. Step back in time as you descend the stairs of D Division of Pentridge, ensconced by holding cells as you sample some of the finest Australian wines. Discover more about the prison from Vaughan Ruddick, a former prison warden of Pentridge.

Olive festival; Friday, 20th May, 11am-2pm; free; Coburg.

Celebrate the olive season and the cultural significance of the olive to so many people living in our community. There will be presenters, cooking demonstrations, food samples and live music. A free lunch will be served at 12.30pm.

Puss and Mew gin tasting, grazing platter and networking evening; Friday, 20th May, 7-10pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Nunawading.

For women only. Enjoy a social evening that includes the tasting of 4 core range gins, grazing platter and networking.

Beekeeping workshop; Saturday, 28th May, 1-3.30pm; $85 ($34 per hour); Brunswick East.

What you will learn: bee behaviour; the various major items that make up a bee hive and how to construct them; and the major tasks in hive management. What you will get: a wooden beehive frame that will have beeswax foundation inserted as part of the workshop. There will be live bees and honeycomb to look at in a secure exhibition cabinet and a discussion of bee behaviour and hive management.

In May
In June
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Passata making workshop and lunch; Monday, 9th May, 10am-3pm; free; Watsonia.

Learn how to process tomatoes, sterilise jars/bottles and seal them to create the finished product. Then celebrate together over a pasta lunch. Please bring along some glass jars with lids (if you have some) and wear clothes you don’t mind getting tomato sauce on.

Cheese making; Saturday, 28th May, 10am-3pm; $100 ($20 per hour); Yarra Glen.

Tina van Kooten will discuss quick and easy feta plus microwave mozzarella. A light lunch will be provided with some homemade cheeses, and you will take your cheeses home to enjoy. BYO apron, rubber gloves and container with draining mat.

Ladies in the kitchen; Thursday, 2nd June, 9.30am-midday; $32 ($13 per hour); Yarra Glen.

Jill Bowen Hess will discuss warm hearty soups with tasty savoury additions. Also, something sweet to complete the meal.

Gnocchi making masterclass; Sunday, 5th June, 11am-1.30pm; $106 ($42 per hour); Northcote.

Edoardo Nicita, from Shop 225, will show you have to make and shape gnocchi dough plus two accompanying sauces. At the end, you will eat the creations with your new found foodie friends!

Men in the kitchen; Monday, 6th June, 6.30-9pm; $32 ($13 per hour); Yarra Glen.

Jill Bowen Hess will discuss will discuss warm hearty soups with tasty savoury additions.

One pot wonders of the World – Malaysian curry laksa from scratch; Friday, 17th June, 5-10pm; $85 ($17 per hour); Panton Hill.

Presenter: Kelly Meredith from Under The Pickle Tree. This class will focus on creating a curry laksa from scratch, with a three stage process of making a stock, flavouring that stock then adding the coconut and layers of ingredients to create this aromatic and sensory soup.

Beginners cheese making class; Saturday, 18th June, 10am-3pm; $200 ($40 per hour); Thomastown.

What you will learn: how to make hand-stretched fresh mozzarella and create bocconcini; how to make primo sale; and how to make fresh ricotta. What you will get: Italian style lunch; and primo sale and freshly made mozzarella to take home.

Cannoli making cooking class; Sunday, 19th June, 11am-1.30pm; $106 ($42 per hour); Northcote.

Edoardo Nicita, from Shop 225, will show you how make cannoli pastry from scratch, including how to roll it out, shape it and fill it. Once you have created your masterpieces, you will then plate and devour your creations with your new found foodie friends!

Sri Lankan street food experience; Sunday, 26th June, 2-4.30pm; $99 ($40 per hour); Fitzroy.

MasterChef Contestant Dee Williams will take you through her personal spice range which you will be encouraged to smell, touch and taste. These include a Roasted Chilli Powder, Sri Lankan Unroasted Curry Powder, Sri Lankan Roasted Curry Powder and Sri Lankan Dark Roasted Curry Powder. She will then show you how to make roti bread from scratch, a Spicy Coconut Sambal and a Sri Lankan Dhal. Once you have created your masterpieces, you will then plate and devour your creations with your new found foodie friends!

Pickling and fermentation workshop; Thursday, 30th June, 6.30-8.30pm; free; Watsonia.

Lauren will teach you how to pickle and ferment. The session will include making sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and a fermented drink. You will need to bring along: 2 medium jars; one 750ml glass bottle or jar; a small chopping board; and a vegetable knife.

Mozzarella making class; Saturday, 2nd July, 10am-midday; $120 ($60 per hour); Thomastown.

What you will learn: the process behind producing curd; how to make hand-stretched fresh mozzarella; and how to shape mozzarella into bocconcini and trecce. What you will get: guided cheese tasting with a glass of wine; and freshly made mozzarella to take home.

Authentic Mexican; Saturday, 2nd July, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: Mexican cuisine; improve your culinary skills; and work with seasonal ingredients. Presenter: Matt Baker from Whe-Eat. Menu: blackened chicken thighs with quinoa; Mexican corn on the cob; Mexican white bait fritters tortillas with salsa crude; cactus and tomatillos salsa; crispy pulled pork carnitas; and dark chocolate mole.

In May
In June
Regular classes