Jul 302022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angelo Eliades, Bev Middleton, Carol Woolcock, Frances Gibson, Georgie Nathan, Jaimie Sweetman, Jill Brailsford, Lynn-eva Bottomley, Maria Callipari, Megan Goodman, Pam Jenkins, Pauline Webb, Roger Warr.

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

The white ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) 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.]

After spending today cutting back the ginger lilies in the garden, I thought about how beautiful it looked. And it is also edible.

The white flowers have a strong floral fragrance and taste floral as well. They can be used to top salads, desserts or as a garnish for an elegant look.

The white ginger lily originates from Asia and can be a weed in more tropical areas. Here in Melbourne it does quite well though and adds a tropical theme to your garden. Usually an under-story plant, it does best in a more protected spot under a canopy or among other plants.

Placed in a border near a pathway, the flowers smell lovely walking past and the ginger stems add an architectural element to the garden.

Definitely one of the more beautiful ornamental ginger lilies to grow and it is edible too.

Pam Jenkins on eating Brussels sprout leaves

With the increase in the cost of fruit and vegetables, I (Pam) have started thinking about the amount of food that we waste because, traditionally, some parts of the vegetable crops just aren’t eaten.

Take Brussels sprouts, for example. When they are harvested, the leaves below the sprouts being harvested are torn off and generally discarded. These leaves feel at least as tender as kale which set me wondering why we dispose of them with such gay abandon. Time to consult Chef Google. There are many recipe options. Here is the link to one I tried. The verdict: the Brussels sprout leaves were quite tender and not at all fibrous. The recipe was very tasty as a side dish. I think that the leaves could also be cooked in any sort of kale recipe once you remove the larger veins.

Moving on, why do we dispose of so many outer cabbage leaves? The very outer ones may be tough and fibrous but some a little further in may be a bit ragged or just not the heart. I’ll try them out when my cabbages mature.

Bev’s soil fun fact of the week

[Bev Middleton lives in Macleod and is from Soil Week Australia.]

Most of the antibiotics that we use to fight illness originated from soil microbes, which employ them as weapons in the competition for resources and survival. Penicillin, the first successful antibiotic, came from the soil fungus Penicillium.

Yes you did know (sort of)!

Last week, Jeremy Mather asked what was eating the rind of the lemons on his tree and what could he do about it. A number of you responded, but with differing views.

Angelo Eliades: Possums. Cockatoos don’t eat the peel, but the seeds inside. Rats wouldn’t have eaten that much peel. Protect the fruit with nets, either netting bags (2mm mesh drawstring bags that go around the fruit) or just net the tree.

Carol Woolcock: Snails. They hide under the leaves during the day and come out at night to feast. The best remedy is to inspect the tree and remove the snails on a daily basis until the problem is resolved.

Pauline Webb: Maybe possums but I would suspect rats. My lemons are similar and they then fall to the ground when a bite is taken from the skinless fruit. By contrast, my mandarins are eaten out (fruit only) leaving withering skins on the tree.

Roger Warr: Maybe rats or mice. We have them and they do similar damage, although ours also eat the flesh.

FWIIW, I agree with Angelo: the most likely culprit when the citrus rind has been eaten but not the insides is possums.

Want some truffle?

Eltham residents, Frances and Greg Gibson, from Howqua Truffles, are currently harvesting their truffles in the High Country town of Mansfield beside the Howqua River. If you are interested in purchasing some of this delicacy, contact them by phone (0409 414 325) or email (howquatruffles@gmail.com). Pick up in Eltham.

As someone who has never tasted truffles, I have just bought some from Frances and Greg and will report back in a future newsletter.

Are you an agriculture business in Nillumbik?

On Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd October, Nillumbik Council will be hosting an Open Farm Day program at Edendale Farm. There will be a business-to-business oriented program on the Saturday and a ‘meet the farmer’ program for the public on the Sunday. If you are a Nillumbik-based agricultural businesses that would potentially like to be involved in the Sunday program where you can undertake demonstrations, sell and promote your produce and offer educational workshops, complete their brief expression of interest form.

Not (quite) local but interesting

Community gardening is clearly vibrant in the municipality of Hume. As per their calendar of events in Winter and Spring 2022, there are 4 community gardens (in Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Sunbury and Westmeadows) and there are multiple upcoming events in each garden. Bookings are required for all events, most via Hume Council’s Eventbrite page. Also, read Hume Council’s page on community gardens.

Thanks for all the info, Maria Callipari!

The bird-dropping spider

Lynn-eva Bottomley has sent in the left photo which is apparently of the egg sacs of a bird-dropping spider (Celaenia excavata), which Lynn-eva found whilst pruning her plum tree. The Australian Museum has a page about this spider, which includes the following facts:

  • Each egg sac contains around 200 eggs, with up to 13 sacs silked together in a group.
  • The spider is called the bird-dropping spider because it (the spider, not the egg sac) looks like a bird dropping (see right photo).
  • The males are minute (2.5mm in length compared to 12mm for the females).
  • The spider’s diet consists almost exclusively of male moths, which it hunts at night by mimicking the scent of female moths to attract them.

Newsletter reader of the week – Jill Brailsford

Jill Brailsford is an artist who sells a wide range of her art online, including original paintings, art prints, greeting cards and painted stained glass. “I have many cards and prints with Australian native plants and animals which your newsletter readers might be interested in.

See Jill’s website.

It has become clear to me that what we want for this section is newsletter readers who have websites that might be of interest to (some of) the rest of us. Those websites certainly don’t have to be food-related, just a bit interesting. Jill’s website is a good example. Do you have a website that might be of interest? If so, send me an email and I will include you in a future newsletter.

The photo competition

The results of last week’s competition

Four people sent in photos and the winner is Jo Douglas’ photo of her dried grasses.

Gina Wilson”

I planted native grasses in my frontyard about 20 years ago. Some have thrived, some are sparse, and I can’t remember the names of any of them – sorry!

Jo Douglas

This bunch of grasses were picked on a late summer walk in Hurstbridge last year. They remind me strongly of the wide blue late afternoon summer sky contrasting with the blonde grasses flowering at my feet. It includes, roughly left to right, Themeda, Danthonia, Sweet vernal, Yorkshire fog, Briza maxima and minor and Stipa.

Lee Hirsh

I created the arrangement from some grasses that I gathered from the Mornington Beach.

Rowena Scott
Poa sp.
Frosted poa in a Gardens for Wildlife (G4W) planting beside frozen kidney weed.
This week’s competition

The theme of this week’s competition is plants that are native to Australia but not native to Victoria and the prize is Australian native plants by John Wrigley and Murray Fagg, which weighs in at a hefty 500 A4 pages..

To enter the competition, email your photos of any plants that are native to Australia but not native to Victoria, including identification, by end of play Monday, 1st August. Our judging panel will then cogitate on Tuesday and the various entries will be included in the newsletter on Wednesday. Pick up the prize from my house in Eltham.

This is the last of the photo competitions to give away Stuart Rodda’s books.

Meg’s garden this month

My (Meg’s) wattle is out and provides a spot of cheery yellow colour that wards off the cold. The frosty weather has limited my time in the garden this month and everything from the worms to the pets seem to want to be tucked under blankets. Instead, I’ve spent the day looking through old recipes written in copperplate on discoloured scraps of paper. They are treasured and need to be transposed so not lost. Here is one of the recipes.

Grandma’s chocolate ginger slice

155g chopped dates
125g butter
½ cup sugar
60g crystalised ginger, very finely chopped
3½ cups of cornflakes
300g chocolate, to melt

Stir the dates, chopped butter, sugar and ginger over low heat in a large pan until the dates are soft.

Remove from the heat and add the cornflakes, mixing well.

Press into a lined square brownie or slice tin and refrigerate to set.

Once set, melt the chocolate, and spread over the top. Refrigerate again to set.

Cut into small squares and serve.

Note: Grandma would use 1 cup of drinking chocolate with 125g melted copha to replace the more expensive chocolate.

Read more of Megan Goodman’s recipes on our website.

Some of our articles you might have missed over the last month

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Angelo’s article on how long different fruit trees live.

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

An ox walks into a bar. The bartender says, “off the wagon again?

Read more jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

The art of espalier; Saturday, 3rd September, 9.30am-12.30pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

What you will learn: growing espaliered fruit trees; different techniques to make the most of all available space for espalier; and improve your general gardening skills. Topics will include suitable fruit trees, pruning and training techniques. Presenter: Diana Cotter.

Setting up a worm farm; Saturday, 3rd September, 2-3.30pm; free; Edendale.

This workshop will cover both the theory and practice of worm farming in a household setting. It will be useful for those wishing to recycle household food waste in order to produce worm products for use in the improvement of soil in gardens and pot plants.

Permaculture Design Course (80 hours); on Thursdays from 8th September to 8th December; $595; Kinglake.

The subjects to be covered will include: permaculture ethics and design principles; water systems; building healthy soils; passive solar building and retrofitting existing buildings; building greater personal and community resilience; growing nutrient dense food; and emerging opportunities in the new economy.

Produce in pots; Saturday, 10th September, 9.30am-12.30pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

What you will learn: why edibles fail and how to improve their chances of success; how to choose the right pots, potting mix, additives and mulches; the best fruit and vegetables options for pots; and the best sustainable and organic maintenance techniques, including watering and feeding. Presented by Diana Cotter.

Introduction to beekeeping; Thursday, 15th September, 11am-midday; free; Greensborough.

Bob’s Beekeeping staff will discuss what is involved in keeping your own hive of bees.

Growing mushrooms at home; Saturday, 17th September, 10am-12.30pm; $95 ($38 per hour); Alphington.

Presenter: Julia Laidlaw from Sporadical City Mushrooms. This hands-on, beginners workshop will cover basic oyster mushroom growing. It will be a skill sharing ‘tips and tricks’ lesson from an experienced commercial mushroom grower who started growing very basically at home in a small space with no technical equipment in the inner city. You will take home your own mushroom growing kit that you prepared during the workshop, the materials and instructions needed to prepare a kit at home (re-purposed plastic bucket & lid, oyster mushroom grain spawn, enough straw for a grow kit, bag for pasteurising straw, small bottle of isopropyl alcohol for sterilisation).

An intro to beekeeping; Sunday, 18th September, 9.30am-12.30pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

What you will learn: a foundational knowledge of keeping bees; the set up and tools of a hive; and the financial, time inputs and responsibilities. You will see a working hive and taste some honey. Presented by Sarah Buchanan.

In July
In August
In September
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Lovely lemons; Wednesday, 7th September, 1.30-3pm; $5; Greensborough.

Make lemon butter. All equipment, materials and ingredients will be provided.

Cheese making with Tina van Kooten; Wednesday, 14th September, 10am-3pm; $90 ($18 per hour); Yarra Glen.

Tina van Kooten will make 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.

Middle Eastern cooking; Thursday, 15th September, 10.30am-1.30pm; $80 ($27 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.

Sourdough bread workshop; Saturday, 17th September, 9-11.30am; $185 ($74 per hour); Brunswick East.

What you will learn: ways to create and look after your own sourdough starter culture; the flour to use for the best nutrition and results; ways to knead sticky high hydration dough for a more authentic sourdough loaf; the equipment needed to produce a great looking and tasting sourdough tin loaf at home; and ways to bake sourdough bread using a bread tin in a home oven. What you will get: comprehensive workshop notes; sourdough starter culture; and a discount on a professional quality bread tin. Tutor: Rick Lavender of The Life We Want.

Soft goat cheese curd and goat camembert cheese; Sunday, 18th September, 10am-4pm; $170 ($28 per hour); CERES.

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

In July
In August
In September
Regular classes
Jul 212022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Choon yin Yeok, George Pergaminelis, Pam Jenkins, Rhi Canaway, Richard Smith, Robin Gale-Baker, Therese Scales and Vasundhara Kandpal.

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

Pruning of mature deciduous fruit trees (by Therese Scales)

[Therese is a horticulturalist at Nillumbik Nursery in Diamond Creek. About a month ago, she wrote an article about formative pruning of deciduous fruit trees. When the framework branches have been established (about 4 years), you can, as discussed below, start pruning for the production of healthy fruit. Note that Nillumbik Nursery write a monthly newsletter with gardening tips which you can sign up for here.]

Remove anything that is …
  • Dead.
  • Damaged.
  • Diseased.
  • Branches crossing through the centre of the tree.
  • Branches rubbing against one another.
  • Branches growing vertically.
General pruning tips
  • Keep tools clean and sharp.
  • Prune to an outward facing bud to avoid congested growth in the centre of the tree and to open up that canopy for good light penetration and airflow.
  • Use loppers or a pruning saw on large branches.
  • Put the sharp edge of the blade next to the bud (spur or sprig) – close, but not too close.
  • Angle the cut away from the bud.
  • Avoid pruning in wet conditions because it increases the risk of infection at the new wound.
Pruning by species of fruit tree

Fruit trees have either sprigs or spurs. Both carry the fruiting buds and form off lateral branches. Each lateral branch may have several spurs or sprigs. A spur is thicker and longer and the fruiting buds that form along it will typically be larger and further apart. Sprigs are thinner and clustered together and the fruiting buds along them tend to be smaller and closer together. Because sprigs are finer than spurs, keeping them shorter and close to the main limbs will help prevent them drooping and breaking.

  • Apples and pears fruit on spurs. Prune to the 2nd bud and in the following year to the 1st bud. Remove spurs after 6 seasons.
  • Apricots fruit on 2-3 year old sprigs. Remove old and weak sprigs to encourage new ones. Prune after harvest (late summer) to avoid gummosis.
  • Cherries fruit on previous season’s spurs. Cut framework branches back by one third to produce fruiting buds for next year. Prune after fruiting to avoid cutting away fruiting spurs for next season.
  • Peaches and nectarines fruit on previous season’s growth (and thus each sprig only fruits once). Remove all sprigs which have given fruit.
  • Plums fruit on spurs. Prune for shape.

Pruning and care of deciduous fruit trees (by Robin Gale-Baker)

[Presented below is a shortened version of Robin’s new article about the pruning and care of fruit trees.]

Robin’s first tip is to prune individual fruit trees at the right time of year. More specifically:

  • Apples, pears and quince – in winter, when leafless. Prune on a dry day.
  • Apricots and cherries – in late summer, after harvest.
  • Peaches and nectarines – new growth lightly in summer and complete the prune in autumn.
  • Plums – in late summer or autumn, after harvest.

Robin’s second tip is to prune on a warm, dry day (especially for apricots and cherries), preferably with a breeze as this allows the cuts to dry out quickly and prevents bacterial infection and canker.

Robin’s third tip is to remove suckers. Suckers grow out of the ground around the tree base or out from the lower trunk below the graft. There are two schools of thought on sucker removal. The first is to remove suckers when they appear (or anytime you notice them) as they weaken the tree. The second is to remove them in summer when the soil is dry, to prevent fungal infection taking hold on the pruning cuts. Cut suckers out with sharp secateurs at ground level.

Robin’s fourth tip is to avoid using wound heal sprays. Trees need to form wood callouses on pruning wounds. Avoid spraying with a wound heal product because it can prevents oxygen getting to the wound, resulting in poor callous development, and allowing disease to enter the tree.

Robin’s final tip is to avoid Bordeaux mix and use lime sulphur instead. Bordeaux mix (copper sulphate) is often used on fruit trees to prevent fungal diseases. However, it is now banned in 18 European countries because of its adverse effects on critters and soil microbiology. Lime sulphur is both an anti-fungal and a pesticide. Apply in winter while the trees are leafless prior to bud swell.

Read the full article.

Bev’s soil fun fact of the week

[Bev Middleton lives in Macleod and is from Soil Week Australia.]

About 25% of healthy soil is air – and it ‘breathes’, constantly exchanging gases with the atmosphere. The rate of this breathing, or respiration, is in fact one indicator of the microbial activity in, and therefore the health of, the soil.

Do you know?

Jeremy Mather writes in: “What is eating the rind of the lemons on my tree (see photo)? Possums? Cockatoos? Can anybody suggest some deterrent or otherwise to protect my crop?Email me with your responses.

Do you want?

Richard Smith has a tangelo tree that he doesn’t want any more. “It’s a really good tree, around 1.8m tall, that I would like to give away at no charge. I have taken all the fruit off it, cut back the foliage and it is partly wrenched.” [Editor: I asked Richard what ‘wrenched’ means in this context and he replied that ‘wrenching’ is a process where the roots are cut without lifting the plant, then uplifted and bagged up. ‘Half wrenched’ means that only one half has been cut, with the other half to be cut later, so that it is not so much of a shock.] Pick up in Cheltenham. If you are potentially interested, email Richard.

Podcast of the week

Riverford Organic Farmers, from the UK, have produced a series of videos, called Veg hacks, discussing what to do recipe-wise with various vegetables. There are more than 100 in the series so there should be something of interest to everyone.

Not all caterpillars eat leaves (by Pam Jenkins)

On a recent, fine sunny morning I (Pam) was surprised to see 30 or 40 small, furry caterpillars on the handrail of our north-facing deck. It seemed strange as they were a long way from any leafy greens. I decided that there wasn’t anything growing nearby that they could seriously damage so took a few photos and left them to do their thing. I submitted a photo to the MyPestGuide Reporter app and some days later received a response informing me that they are a native moth species, either Anestia ombrophanes (the clouded footman) or Anestia semiochrea (the marbled footman). They are apparently widespread over high rainfall areas but not commonly observed in Melbourne. They would have been feeding on the lichen and algae growing on my handrail. A helpful caterpillar!

The female adult is about 1cm long, wingless and flightless. She stays near her cocoon and the male copulates with her there. So how did she get from a high rainfall area to my handrail to lay her eggs? Aaah, the magic of nature!

Newsletter reader of the week – ???

No one has come forward to be this week’s newsletter reader of the week. Does no one have a website or project that they wish to tell the rest of us about? Send me an email and I will include you in a future newsletter. If no one comes forward this week, we will discontinue this section.

The photo competition

The results of last week’s competition

3 people submitted photos of native Melburnian plants. The winner is George Pergaminelis for the photo of a slender sun orchid and the runner up is Rhi Canaway for the photo of a blue pincushion. Here are some of their entries:

George Pergaminelis
Corybas fimbriatu

(fringed helmet orchid)
George Pergaminelis
Pterostylis grandiflora

(cobra greenhood orchid)
George Pergaminelis
Thelymitra pauciflora
(slender sun orchid)
Rhi Canaway
Brunonia australis
(blue pincushion)
Rhi Canaway
Diuris sulphurea

(tiger orchid)
Rhi Canaway
Stackhousia monogyna

(creamy candles)
Choon yin Yeok
Telopea speciosissima
This week’s competition

The theme of this week’s competition is grasses and the prize is Grasses of temperate Australia.

To enter the competition, email your photos of any grasses, including identification if possible, by end of play Monday, 25th July. Our judging panel will then cogitate on Tuesday and the various entries will be included in the newsletter on Wednesday.

Another new article by Angelo Eliades

How long do fruit trees live?

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 ultimate list of 58 vegan cafes in Melbourne.

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

A termite walks into a bar and asks “Is the bar tender here?

Read more jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets

Food swaps

Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Gin tasting with Naught Distillery; Monday, 1st August, 7-9pm; $43 ($22 per hour); Montmorency.

In this evening of gin and cocktail tastings, a representative from Naught Gin, who are based in Eltham, will present their gin.

Composting and worm farms; Monday, 15th August, 4.30-6pm; free; Kew.

Teresa, from Sustainable Gardening Australia, will cover the why and how of composting and worm farms in this family friendly workshop. There will also be a wriggly paper worm craft activity for the kids. Organised by Kew Library.

Meet the wine makers – Golding Wines; Saturday, 20th August, 3-5pm; $63 ($32 per hour); Northcote.

Explore Golding Wines from the Adelaide Hills through 6 of their wines in a special event hosted by the winemaker. Learn about their vineyards, wines and how they survived the 2019 bushfires. The tickets include food.

Winter fruit tree maintenance; Saturday, 27th August, 9.30am-midday; $55 ($22 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

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. Presented by Tess.

Meet the wine makers – Chalmers; Saturday, 27th August, 3-5pm; $63 ($32 per hour); Northcote.

Meet the famous Chalmers family as they take you through 6 of their wines. The tickets include food.

Heal with food – skin health; Sunday, 28th August, 11am-1pm; free; Eltham.

Dermatologist Dr Niyati Sharma (MBBS, FACD, MPH) will discuss common skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, rosacea and share her knowledge about how to use food as medicine to manage these conditions. The talk will be followed by Q&A and then a free, healthy lunch. This is the first of a series of monthly talks by health professionals about using food as medicine. Future talks will cover such subjects as asthma, bone diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, depression & anxiety, diabetes, obesity and reproductive health. Organised by Green Karma.

Grazing board making workshop for women; Thursday, 1st September, 6-8pm; $189 ($95 per hour); Richmond.

Hayley Nicole will take you through the process of choosing from pre-prepared timber blanks, shaping and sanding then finishing and nourishing your unique board. You will also share a grazing board and optional beverage through the afternoon. All materials will be provided.

Veggie gardening for beginners; Thursday, 1st September, 6.30-9pm; $55 ($22 per hour); Bulleen Art and Garden Nursery.

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. 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.

Gardening in small spaces; Saturday, 10th September, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

You will learn how to maximise your small space to create an oasis of food, herbs and ornamentals. In particular, you will learn: gardening skills; how to maximise small spaces and grow your own food; and how to transform your balcony. Presenter: Clare.

SEEDs Soup Festival; Sunday, 11th September, 11am-5pm; free; Brunswick.

Join them in celebrating SEEDs Communal Garden at their annual ‘winter soup’ fundraiser – with workshops, garden grown meals, mini market, live music and dancing.

In July
In August
In September
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Kombucha brewing workshop; Thursday, 28th July, 7-11pm; $54 ($14 per hour); Brunswick.

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

Pasta making; Thursday, 18th August, 7-9pm; free; Thomastown.

Learn how to make pasta. Organised by Thomastown Library.

Sourdough bread; Saturday, 10th September, 10am-12.30pm; $75 ($30 per hour); Park Orchards.

Nadine will demonstrate the technique of sourdough bread making and baking. Take a container to take home your dough to bake at home. This class is best suited to those who have some experience with bread making, however it is not essential. Organised by Park Orchards Community House.

Growing, cooking, sharing – a harmony of tastes cooking class; Saturday, 10th September, 10am-1pm; $15; Forest Hill.

In this cooking class, they will bring to life recipes taken from the community cookbook A Harmony of Tastes compiled by Whitehorse Manningham Libraries. Learn how to prepare and share Greek zucchini bake, Guatemalan atol de elote and Iranian anarbij (anar bij). Go along, learn some new skills and share a meal with your community.

Cultural cooking – Indian curries; Saturday, 10th September, 11am-1pm; $50 ($25 per hour); Alphington.

Manu will show you how to make Indian curries. Organised by Alphington Community Centre.

In July
In August
In September
Regular classes
Jul 132022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Bev Middleton, Stuart Rodda and Vicky Ellmore.

This week’s newsletter has a theme, namely soil, with an article by Stuart Rodda and a competition and fun fact by Bev Middleton.

Next week’s newsletter will also have a theme (pruning of fruit trees). If you can’t wait until next week before you prune your fruit trees, here are links to the website versions of the two articles we will be discussing: pruning and care of fruit trees by Robin Gale-Baker and pruning of deciduous fruit trees by Therese Scales.

And the best news of all, perhaps, is that we have finished talking about medlars!

Bev’s soil fun fact of the week

For each week over the next month or so, Bev Middleton from Soil Week Australia will be providing a fun fact about soil. Here is the first.

Soil is the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet. Just one teaspoon of top soil can contain up to 6 billion microorganisms.

A competition for schools

Soil Week Australia is running a competition for schools. For primary schools, the topic is Healthy soils and our food system and the winning school will receive $1,000 and the runner up will receive $500 to be spent on resources to build their student’s understanding of healthy soil and/or healthy food. For secondary schools, the topic is Healthy soil, agriculture and climate and the winning student will receive a $500 JB Hi-Fi voucher and the school will receive $1000 to be spent on resources to build students’ understanding of healthy soil, agriculture, and climate. The entries can be in any digital format, including videos, magazines, pictures, speeches, plays, paintings, murals or book reviews. Registrations close: 4th September. Entries to be submitted by: 25th October. Read more and potentially register.

Testing the pH of your soil (by Stuart Rodda)

[Presented below is a shortened version of Stuart’s new article about how to test your soil’s pH.]

Of the many properties of soil, pH is probably the most commonly mentioned in the context of getting your soil ready for successful food growing. But what is pH? And how do you know what pH value your soil has?

In simple terms, pH is how acidic or alkaline the soil is (technically: the prevalence of hydrogen ions). There is a scale of acidity/alkalinity, usually a ‘pH’ number between 0 and 14, in which the lower the number, the more acid is present. A score of 7 on this scale represents neutrality, i.e. no excess of acid or alkali. In general terms, living things prefer a pH close to neutral (pH=7) rather than an extreme acid or alkaline reading (e.g. a pH of 4- or 9+ respectively). Most plants can tolerate a pH between 5 and 8 without too much drama, but each has their own preferred range, e.g. acid-lovers like a pH of 5 to 6 while alkali lovers would prefer a pH above 7.5.

Home gardeners can get a rough measure of the pH of their soil with a simple test kit available from Bunnings for around $20. But if you want a more accurate measure, you can use a cheap pH meter (e.g. this one from Ebay for $10, as pictured right).

Comparing these two ways in terms of simplicity, cost and accuracy:

  pH Meter Coloured Dye Kit
Cost Cheap (less than $10) Cheapish (around $21)
Difficulty Can be complicated Simple to perform and read
Accuracy Accurate if done correctly Very approximate
Speed Rapid (seconds) after soil prep (minutes) Can take minutes
No. of tests Unlimited 20+ tests per kit

The cheap meters include instructions but, because pH meters can be used in many applications, the instructions which come with a pH meter are often not sufficient; rather, you need to follow methods specifically for soil pH measurement. In my full article, I have written up such methods.

Your soil may be fairly dry, or it may be wet from either rain or from watering. Because pH can only be measured in water, soils generally need to have water added to them before a pH measurement is done. Again, I have written up how to do this in my full article.

Traditionally, the pH of soils is altered by liming for certain crops (e.g. brassicas); or treated with organic matter or even sulphur for ‘acid-loving’ plants (e.g. blueberries). But if your soil is already alkaline, it would not be a good idea to lime it as the pH might go too high for other crops.

Other properties of soil are also important, such as: whether it is sandy, clayey or ‘loamy’; its levels of organic matter; its water holding capacity; the levels of certain essential minerals; and its ‘friability’ or microscopic structure (which affects air/water penetration properties.) These are all properties which can be addressed separately once you are familiar with the pH of your soil. The two most universal remedies to problems associated with either soil pH or structure is ‘add more compost” and ‘avoid soil compaction’.

Read the full article.

Read Stuart’s previous articles about soil on our website.

Newsletter reader of the week – Vicky Ellmore

I have a website called Reusable Nation that I started when my partner and I started reducing our waste. Its purpose is to share what we’ve learnt on our zero waste journey, tips and advice. It also includes a map of Where to shop waste free in Australia that shows where people can buy things without packaging.” [Editor: I looked up my suburb (Eltham) on the map and it listed Eltham Deli, Organic Fix and Thrive Bulk Wholefoods, which seems like a reasonable list.]

I have recently launched the Reusable Nation rainbow party kit on The Party Kit Network so that my community and surrounding ones have a kit of re-usable plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, and party decorations that can be used by everyone in the community for birthday and other parties instead of using single-use.” [Editor: Vicky lives in Hurstbridge and her party kit covers the following suburbs/town(s): Hurstbridge, St Andrews, Diamond Creek, Wattle Glen, Panton Hill, Eltham and surrounds.]

Thanks Vicky!

Are you doing anything interesting or, even better, have a website? Would you like to be our next newsletter reader of the week? If so, send me an email and I will include you in a future newsletter.

A new photo competition

 Stuart Rodda has generously donated some gardening books to give away via this newsletter and I have decided to do this via some photo competitions which directly relate to the subject matter of the books.

First up, is native plants of Melbourne. First prize is Flora of Melbourne, which weighs in at 380 pages of A4 size, and second prize is the pocket-sized Native plants of Melbourne.

To enter the competition, email your photos of any native Melburnian plants, including identification of the plant(s), by end of play Monday, 11th July. Our judging panel will then cogitate on Tuesday and the two winners plus all the other entries will be included in the newsletter on Wednesday.

There is no shortage of possible plants to photograph, as the Flora of Melbourne book discusses more than 1,000 such!

Prize distribution will be via pickup from Eltham.

The no nonsense coffee guide

Read the graphic right.

Vegan cafes in Melbourne

This page lists 58 vegan cafes in Melbourne, each with a description, photo and map location.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was a tie between Ann’s article about Spurrell Foraging and Angharad Neal-Williams’ website.

Word of the month – Oomancy

‘Oomancy’, meaning the art of telling the future through the observation of eggs, especially the shapes formed when the separated whites from an egg are dropped into hot water.

Read about previous words of the month.

Proverb (or phrase) of the month

The big cheese. Meaning: the most important person. The figurative meaning of the word ‘cheese’ seems to have gone in two opposite directions over time. In one direction, most often manifested in the word ‘cheesy’, it has come to mean ‘tasteless’. In the other direction, most often manifested in the phrase ‘the big cheese’, it has come to mean ‘the most important person’. Note that the adjective ‘big’ is a relatively recent american addition, and that simply ‘cheese’ was listed in the 1863 A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words as meaning ‘anything good, first-rate in quality, genuine, pleasant or advantageous’.

Read about more food-related proverbs.

Gardening quote of the month

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” by Vincent van Gogh.

Read more gardening quotes.

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

Mother: “Eat your silverbeet, it’s got iron in it.
Son: “No wonder it is tough.

Read more jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Intro to urban farming (8 sessions); weekly, starting Wednesday, 20th July, 9.30am-1.30pm; free; Preston.

This course will provide an introduction to the principles and techniques of urban farming, including how to design, build and maintain a productive farm in a limited space. It will also include exposure to sites such as Oakhill Farm and the Melbourne Food Hub urban farm in Alphington. Tutor: Shani Shafrir. Organised by Bridge Darebin.

Wine tasting and history tour; Saturday, 23rd July, 1-4pm; $50 ($17 per hour); Coburg.

Pentridge Cellars, in partnership with Handpicked Wines, invite 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.

Growing food in pots and small spaces (15 sessions); Mondays starting 25th July, each 9.30am-12.30pm; free; Fawkner.

Learn how to make a productive growing system in a small space – whether a balcony, patio or courtyard – and what plants to grow and when. Organised by Brunswick Neighbourhood House.

International wine masterclass; Saturday, 30th July, 3-5pm; $63 ($32 per hour); Northcote.

Taste 6 wines. Learn more about where varietals are grown and why, how different terroirs from around the globe change the way a wine tastes and how the climate is changing the way and where the world produces wine.

Cheese and wine tasting; Sunday, 31st July, 2-5pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Brunswick East.

5 cheeses from Long Paddock Cheese in Castlemaine will be paired with wines. Gaëtan from Long Paddock will run you through how each cheese is made and how it pairs with each wine.

Fruit tree pruning workshop; Saturday, 6th August, 10-11.30am; $44 ($29 per hour); Carlton North.

Presenter: Craig Castree. Organised by Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

Alternative varietals wine masterclass; Saturday, 6th August, 3-5pm; $63 ($32 per hour); Northcote.

Learn more about alternative varietals, including their history, why they taste so good and the reasons that they are better for the Aussie climate.

Italian cooking (2 sessions); Thursday, 1st September and Thursday, 8th September, both 6-9pm; $190 ($32 per hour); Surrey Hills.

Lucia Silverii will teach the time-honoured techniques of southern Italian cooking. The first session will cover arancini, bolognaise and risotto. The second session will cover dough (to make an Italian bread, a focaccia or a pizza base), Napoli sauce and traditional pizza. Organised by Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre.

Complete urban farmer (14 sessions); weekly, starting Friday, 2nd September, 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.

Edible weeds walk; Saturday, 3rd September, at 10.30am-12.30pm and again at 1.30-3.30pm; $25 ($13 per hour); Brunswick East.

What if many of the weeds in our garden were just as edible as the vegetables we tend beside them? What if some of these free, all-too-easy-to-grow uninvited guests were so nutritionally dense that they are just about the healthiest things you could possibly eat? What if many of them also had medical traditions dating back centuries? Well it’s all true! And if you know what to choose, they also taste great. Join Adam Grubb, co-author of The Weed Forager’s Handbook, for a fascinating walk on the wild side, foraging for edible weeds. Organised by Very Edible Gardens.

Complete urban farmer (14 sessions); weekly, starting Wednesday, 7th September, 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 July
In August
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Make a sourdough loaf; Saturday, 23rd July, 10am-1pm; $46 ($15 per hour); Hurstbridge.

John Doyle will demonstrate: making and looking after a sourdough starter; how to accurately measure and mix ingredients; dough handling and kneading skills; proving and baking your loaf; and making your own pizza bases. You will mix and knead your own dough ready to prove, shape and bake at home. You will also take home some of John’s 35 year old sourdough starter. All ingredients and materials will be provided, along with a pizza lunch.

Pickling and fermentation workshop; Thursday, 4th August, 7-9pm; 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. Organised by Watsonia Library.

Chinese home cooking; Saturday, 6th August, 11am-1pm; $30 ($15 per hour); Brunswick.

Miao will discuss traditional ingredients and cooking techniques. Afterwards, sit down together and enjoy the dishes you have created. Organised by Brunswick Neighbourhood House.

Cooking with Jean; Thursday, 25th August, 7-8.30pm; free; Mill Park.

Jean, from Jean’s Asian Cooking will demonstrate a number of recipes. Organised by Mill Park Library.

In July
In August
Regular classes
Jul 062022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angela Harridge, Angelo Eliades, Angharad Neal-Williams, Ann Stanley, Anne Jaques, Felicity Gordon, Gavin Shaw, Julia Laidlaw, Raffaela Ceddia and Wayne Tonissen.

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

Courtesy of Anne Jaques, this newsletter now has a new byline: “The jokes are chortlingly good!

Spurrell Foraging – cooking with foraged food

Our intrepid interviewer, Ann Stanley, recently went to Warrandyte South to interview Liam Spurrell and others from Spurrell Foraging. Read her full interview writeup.

Spurrell Foraging supply around 1,200 takeaway containers of foraged ingredients to restaurants every week and, on the day of visiting, they were in the process of foraging for the 2,000 nasturtium leaves that at a customer wanted. Plants are picked before dawn, packaged and delivered fresh on the day. About 40% of the food Spurrell Foraging supplies is foraged and the rest is grown either from the family farm at Silvan or at the one acre in Warrandyte South that they work.


As the soil in Warrandyte South is poor, the land is used strategically.

On dry rocky parts at the top of the hill, they grow saltbush and Geraldton wax, which Liam describes as “like juniper and lime”.

Nearby on this high and dry section of the growing area, the delicious turnipy-flavoured Japanese shungiku is growing profusely “where it landed”.

There is also a plant that Liam calls ‘carrot herb’. (Liam says that chefs, who are often putting in orders late at night, want the simplest names). It is also called Lebanese cress.

Further along is the mountain marigold, which Liam says many people have in their gardens. Indigenous to Peru, it has a strong passionfruit smell and, as the leaves are high in oil, they are valued by chefs because they can take higher temperatures than vegetables that are water-based.

An Illawarra plum is being grown to test for viability, but it is growing very slowly in the Warrandyte soil and needs a warmer climate to be commercially useful for Liam’s business. Another plant growing slowly is the Chilean guava.

The strongly flavoured olive herb is next. Related to rosemary, it is also known as holy flax or santolina.

There are also the popular Australian myrtles, such as the lemon, aniseed and cinnamon species, and greens, such as mizuna, which Liam says taste much better when picked fresh rather than grown hydroponically (as they often are).

There is a large crop of cape gooseberries ripening on the ground and a greenhouse full of cold-hating begonias, whose edible leaves are apparently popular with chefs.

Read Ann’s full interview writeup.

A new gin maker – Hillmartin Distillery

Hillmartin Distillery is a small family owned operation, headed up by father daughter duo Gavin and Amy Shaw, and based in Plenty. They combine art and science to produce a range of gins for those with a taste for the sweet and fruity through to those who like something that is dry. And, of course, everything in between. You can buy their gin online, at Eltham Farmers’ Market, at Nillumbik Cellars in Diamond Creek or at Abruzzo Lab in Epping, Bar Ciconne in Macleod, Craft & Vine in Montmorency, Diamond Creek Hotel Bottle Shop, Panton Hill Hotel and The Black Sheep Hawthorn, Bar and Bottle Shop.

Read their page in our Local Food and Drink Directory.

Welcome Gavin and Amy!

Yes, you did know!

Last week, Jan Connor asked what was wrong with her cumquats. Angelo Eliades has responded: “That cumquat problem is clearly a sign of nutrient imbalance/deficiency. More specifically, it is excess nitrogen combined with low phosphorus, which will cause citrus fruit to be misshapen, with thick peel, a coarse and roughly textured rind, coarse pulpy flesh without much juice, and an open centre. The juice will also be more acid in these fruit. Read my article about these problems.

Want some free mushroom mulch?

Julia Laidlaw from Sporadical City Mushrooms in Alphington has the following offer for newsletter readers: you can have mycelium mulch (minimum 10 buckets) for free in exchange for emptying and rinsing out the 20 litre buckets that were used for growing the mushrooms (so that they can be used again). She will also give you a bit of a tour of the mushroom farm if you want and/or you can buy some freshly picked oyster mushrooms.

Here is the background. Sporadical City Mushrooms is a (towards) zero waste urban mushroom farm growing oyster mushrooms for local restaurants and markets. The byproduct of their mushroom production is large amounts of certified organic wheat straw covered in living mycelium. This mycelium mulch is good for building the microbiology and organic matter in soils, as well as for controlling nematodes. It has a neutral pH and can be applied directly to your garden or compost (or as a treat for your chickens). They are keen to share this resource with other gardeners.

If this offer is of interest to you, email Julia to organise a date.

Want some citrus fruit?

Wayne Tonissen, from Weeping Grevillea Nursery in Kangaroo Ground has written in to say that they currently have lots of tangelos, blood oranges, blood limes (like finger limes) for sale as well as different forms of lemons and limes, all at an unchanged price of $4 per bag. Available 24/7 on the corner of Bartletts Lane and Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road on an honesty box arrangement.

They also sell a variety of citrus trees in their nursery. Plus they currently have a wide variety of weeping grevilleas available, which are groundcover or prostrate grevilleas grafted onto a Grevillea robusta rootstock, and which therefore grow downwards rather than upwards. If you visit, they can both show you what is for sale and how they will look when mature.

NERP at Eltham Farmers’ Market on 10th July

North East Region Permaculture (NERP) will be having a stall at Eltham Farmers’ Market this coming Sunday (11th July). The theme will be starting your summer crops (tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, etc) indoors to give them a head start. They will be giving some seeds away.

NERP is a group of people from Nillumbik and surrounds working to create positive change for individuals, communities and the environment.
Join them to learn practical skills for saving money and resources, work with like minded people on local projects, and live a more resilient and self-sufficient lifestyle. Find out more on their website or their Facebook group.

You can join them for free at either their Eltham Farmers’ Market stall or bysending them an email.

Two more councils go FOGO

From 1st July, Banyule and Whitehorse councils will support a Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) waste collection service, which effectively means that households can now place all food waste in their green bin. They join Boroondara, Darebin, Moreland, Nillumbik and Whittlesea councils, all of whom already have such a service. Manningham and Maroondah have both announced that they will be introducing FOGO in 2023. As far as I can make out, neither City of Yarra nor Yarra Ranges have yet announced any timeframes.

Yet more on medlars

I went to Warrandyte Food Swap on Saturday with a view to seeing and tasting their medlars. They were much smaller than I had assumed, about the thickness of one of my fingers. Both the texture and the taste were more like a paste than a fruit, a bit like a poor person’s quince paste with less sugar.

Both food related and interesting – art exhibition for environmental sustainability

Last week, I wrote about an upcoming art exhibition for environmental sustainability under a heading of ‘not food related but interesting’. One of the artists, Felicity Gordon, has now written in to point out that the exhibition is actually food related: “I have set up a wicking bed garden in the gallery space and I’m keen to see how the food plants respond. I have included some of my ‘compost house’ and new drawings.” The exhibition will run from 1st to 24th July at The Loft 275 Gallery, Ivanhoe Library & Cultural Hub, 275 Upper Heidelberg Road, Ivanhoe. The opening night is Friday, 8th July, 5-7pm, at which you will receive a food plant seedling to take home.

Podcast of the week

Foodies in the Field is a monthly podcast by Australian public health nutritionists, dietitians and others.

Newsletter reader of the week – Angharad Neal-Williams

I happened to come across Angharad’s website the other day and thought that some of you might be interested in looking at it. Then I thought to myself, there are probably lots of newsletter readers who are doing something interesting – how about we start a ‘newsletter reader of the week’ section in this newsletter? So, if you are doing something interesting or, even better, have a website, send me an email and I will include you in a future newsletter.

Our inaugural newsletter reader of the week is Angharad Neal-Williams. Angharad is an Illustrator and Graphic Recorder whose work covers a wide range of subjects. She “likes to work with environmentally friendly and ethically conscious clients.” The illustration right is a map of Kangaroo Ground. See her website. Watch her being interviewed.

Another new article from Angelo Eliades

Why are my tomatoes cracking and splitting?.

Read more food-growing articles by Angelo.

Not food related but interesting – Boroondara weed swap program

Boroondara residents can now simply email Boroondara Council with a photo of some environmental weeds that they are planning to remove and the Council will send them a voucher for 10 indigenous tubestock replacement plants.

In this context, if anyone wants any photos of oxalis then I can supply!

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Robin’s article about how to grow lettuce and other salad greens.

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

Roses are red,
I wish I was in bed,
I suck at poetry,

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets

Food swaps

Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – introduction

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

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

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Inner North plus Gospel Whiskey; Thursday, 21st July, 7-10pm; $5; Brunswick.

Their experts will take you through some whiskey and beer pairings.

Learn Winter fruit tree pruning; Saturday, 6th August, 10am-12.30pm; $25 ($10 per hour); Forest Hill.

Learn all the ins & outs and cuts & trims that produce healthy, bountiful backyard fruit trees. Learn about the best times of the year to prune and how to use the different types of pruning tools. Presenter: Scott Hitchins.

Crop rotation and companion planting; Saturday, 6th August, 11am-midday; free; Watsonia.

Go along and find out what companion planting is and how it can help you to have a more productive and healthy garden. Kathleen Tants will explain how you can make your own crop rotation system work in your backyard. Organised by Watsonia Library.

Introduction to meadmaking (three sessions); Saturdays 6th August, 3rd September and 24th September, all 10am-midday; $50; Eltham.

The cost of $50 includes membership of the guild until July 2023. You will also need to pay for the cost of your ingredients and utensils (expected to total around $80). Mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage and uses honey as the primary fermentable sugar.  This course will explore how to brew modern meads. Over the 3 sessions, you will be guided through the process and make your first mead. More specifically, the first session will cover learning about mead, the second, monitoring the ferment and potential problems, and the third, racking, tasting, finalising and bottling.

Preparing for a summer veggie crop; Saturday, 27th August, 9-10.30am and then again at 11.30am; free; Camberwell.

Teresa Day, from Sustainable Gardening Australia, will help you prepare your garden for a thriving summer produce crop. You will receive practical tips and advice on soil preparation, seasonal plant selection, seeds and seedlings, sustainable pest control, and garden maintenance.

Australian plants expo; Saturday, 27th August and Sunday, 28th August, both 10am-4pm; $5; Eltham.

Organised by the Australian Plants Society – Yarra Yarra. Sales of native & indigenous plants, books on related subjects, native flower displays, environmental displays, talks, demonstrations, workshops, giftware and refreshments. The plant sellers are likely to include APS Yarra Yarra growers, Friends of Melton Botanic Gardens nursery, Goldfields Revegetation nursery, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary nursery, Natural Plantscape nursery, Sunvalley Plants Nursery and Vaughan’s Australian Plants.

In July

In August

New and updated regular events

Gin making masterclass; most Saturdays, 10am-1pm; $175 ($58 per hour); Nunawading.

Organised by Puss & Mew gin distillery. First, they will take you through the history of gin. Then, they will discuss the science and process of fermentation and distillation. Then, they will show you their still. Then, you will choose your botanicals and place them into the still to create your own spirit. Whilst waiting for this to happen, you will be given a tour of the distillery, followed by a tasting session of the Puss & Mew range of gins, followed by lunch.

Carlton aperitvio food tour; various Fridays, 5-7pm; $89 ($45 per hour); Carlton.

They have added some extra dates. You will indulge in the Italian ‘Aperitivo’ tradition. What exactly is Aperitivo, what can you expect to eat and drink, how did it begin, how did it make its way to Melbourne? You will learn all this and more while sipping on Italian cocktails, prosecco and wines and tasting arancini, cicchetti, pizza, pasta, gelato, salumi and cheese. Walking along Lygon Street, you will visit some foodie venues, meeting the people behind the food. 5 food & drink stops, 11 food tastings and 2.5 standard drinks.

Flavours of Coburg food tour; various Saturdays, 10am-1pm; $49 ($16 per hour); Coburg.

They have added some extra dates. You will experience the cultural delights of 6 different countries over 8 food stops. With a mixture of sweet and savoury tastings, you will soon discover that Coburg is an ideal foodie destination for anyone who’s tired of the ‘standard’ menu items you find in most modern cafes. Each foodie stop brings its own ‘personal touch’ with business owners proud of their cultural heritage, reflected in the food they prepare, the way they serve it and the way they interact with their customers. You will also pop into a Middle-Eastern gold jewellery shop to learn the cultural significance of various pieces, learn some local history and the best local foodie tips. 8 food stops and 13 tastings.

Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Cultural cooking – Indian breads; Saturday, 6th August, 11am-1pm; $50 ($25 per hour); Alphington.

Manu will show you how to make Indian breads.

Make low waste comfort food; Saturday, 27th August, 10am-12.30pm; $30 ($12 per hour); Forest Hill.

Watch Scott Hitchins demonstrate the techniques to create winter warmers using every bit of what you grow or buy. The focus of this session is using veggies from the garden and an overview for slow style cooking that you can try at home.

Gnocchi making class; Saturday, 27th August, 10am-1pm; $125 ($42 per hour); Thomastown.

What you will learn: how to make fluffy potato gnocchi with a four cheese sauce; and how to make easy ricotta gnocchi with a cavolo nero pesto. What you will get: Italian style lunch and drinks; and That’s Amore apron to take home. Organised by That’s Amore Cheese.

Veggies in desserts; Sunday, 28th August, 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. The menu includes: chocolate kidney bean slice; spiced pumpkin donuts; rich chocolate beetroot truffles; lime + spinach cake; strawberry + cauliflower cheesecake; and sweet veggie mousse.

Indian cooking – Punjabi (two sessions); Wednesday, 31st August and Wednesday, 7th September, both 6.30-8.30pm; $110 ($55 per hour); Hurstbridge.

Tutor: Taariq Hassan. Learn how to cook a healthy North West Indian vegetarian meal from scratch using authentic ingredients. Organised by Living & Learning Nillumbik.

In July

In August

Regular classes