Oct 252023

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Ann Stanley, Claire Smith, Hayden Marks, Jennie Ramage, Jules Jay, Lee Ann Balcam and Susan Palmer.

Ann Stanley visits Rushall Community Garden

[Ann, who is both a regular contributor to this newsletter and the host of The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show, has decided that she is going to visit a number of the community gardens in North East Melbourne and write up the results for this newsletter. Would you like Ann to visit your community garden? If so, email us.]

[Ann’s first visit was to Rushall Community Garden in Fitzroy North. Read her full writeup on our website, a shortened version of which is given below.]

Rushall Community Garden is well planned. The spring crop is lush and beautiful in irregular-shaped beds with close plantings of healthy silverbeet, fennel, asparagus and every other spring thing. There is a large water-tank, a tidy composting system, thriving worm farms, and a propagation area, all separated with neat paths. There are both individual allotments and space for communal gardening projects.

Lyn, one of the gardeners, told me how it worked and this gave me a sense of how the garden is managed. Lyn put herself on the waiting list several years ago and spent the long wait volunteering in working bees and in the public areas just outside the fence until, eventually, she had the opportunity to share a plot with another member. That’s when her own food growing started. Seeing plants grow from seed into food has given her much joy ever since.

There are communal plots as well as individual ones and Lyn explains that taking from these works on an honour system, which is the case also for taking fruit from the fruit trees. “People help themselves. Any surplus is put outside the fence for passers-by from the local community to take.”

She explains that the Committee oversees the buying in of products such as mushroom compost and manure, which are then made available for use. This ensures that the garden stays organic and “there is some control over what comes in.” The worm castings are similarly distributed once they are ready for members to use.

Lyn explained that members can join smaller groups to take charge of different parts of the garden management. There is the compost group, the seed-raising group, the group that looks after the communal beds and the ‘wormies’ group, in charge of the worm farm. Members can be part of these groups whether or not they have a plot themselves.

Michelle Edwards and Kathy Chambers are the current convenors of Rushall and Michelle explained, “There’s lots of ways of being involved. We have a committee of 10-12 people and each one of the committee members with also take care of one part of management of the garden.”

While acknowledging that some compromises have had to made because the garden is in an urban environment, Michelle says, “There is so much to be joyful about. We’ve got lots of insect life, lots of bird-life. It’s a nice little pocket away from the urban world. To come up here with the open sky, without the big buildings around you, is just amazing.”

[Read the full writeup of Ann’s visit on our website.]

Melbourne Bushfood’s bush food of the month – Tasmanian pepperberry or mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata)

[The material below is a summary of material from the Melbourne Bushfood website. Melbourne Bushfood sells a wide range of bush foods (both the foods themselves and the plants) which you can buy either online or at their shop at 49 Sparks Avenue, Fairfield, Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm.]

Both the leaves and the berries of the Tasmanian pepperberry have a strong peppery taste and can be used as a replacement for regular black pepper. As such, when dried they are used as a spice and pair well with curries, cheese, salad dressings and sauces, giving them a spicy flavour. The berries were also used traditionally as medicine to cure skin diseases.

The plant is dioecious (separate male and female plants) so you will need both male and female plants to obtain harvest berries.

The plant is an evergreen shrub which grows up to 3 metres tall. It has yellow/creamy white flowers that turn into red berries that then darken as they ripen. It grows best in part shade and is also suitable for growing in pots.

Melbourne Bushfood sell a variety of pepperberry products including pepperleaf spice, pepperberry spice, pepperberry syrup and pepperberry & strawberry jam.

Yes, you did know (sort of)!

Last week, Suzy Georges asked where she could buy some mesophilic starter culture and organic animal rennet. Three of you responded:

The last Fabbro newsletter

As you will know from previous newsletters, Nillumbik Council recently voted 3:2 to refuse Local Food Connect permission to submit a planning application for establishing an urban farm at 2 Bell Street, Eltham. If you want to know more about the project’s history, read the Fabbro bulletin that was distributed yesterday.

Think your community garden should win an award?

Community Gardens Australia have introduced some community garden awards. The community garden categories are: community champion, bush tucker garden, sustainability champion, biodiversity champion and permaculture champion. The individual categories are community gardener of the year and young community gardener of the year. The closing date for nominations is 31st October. Read more and potentially nominate.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

On this upcoming Sunday’s episode, Ann Stanley will chat with David Holmgren, co-originator of permaculture, about the recently premiered film, Reading Landscape. Reading Landscape is a collaboration between David, the late Dan Palmer, and filmmaker Dave Meagher. In the film, David ‘reads’ the landscape in his bioregion around Hepburn in Central Victoria. In so doing, he shows us how to connect with the places that are local to us, using our five senses, restoring us to a more natural relationship with the land that feeds us in so many ways.

Listen on 3CR (855 AM) on Sunday morning, 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Audio recordings of previous episodes are available on their website.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Leila Alexandra’s upcoming open garden days (on Sundays, 12th and 26th November, both 10-11.30am..

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

Two visual jokes this week, both submitted by Susan Palmer.


Read more food-related jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Not food-related but interesting

Hurstbridge Hub community garage sale; Saturday, 11th November, 10am-2pm; free; Hurstbridge.

There will (hopefully) be lots of sellers in the one place, with live music and a sausage sizzle. If you would like sell some of your own stuff, book your stallholder place at a cost of $10.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Pasta love with Jaclyn Crupi and Pieross; Wednesday, 1st November, 6.30-8pm; $75; Eltham.

Author Jaclyn Crupi and Chef Pieross show how to make, eat and celebrate pasta like an Italian nonna at a celebratory dinner. The evening will include a pasta making demonstration, a copy of the book Pasta love and dinner comprising pasta featured in the book, a glass of wine and dessert. Organised by Eltham Bookshop.

Local producers night (gin); Friday, 10th November, 7-9pm; $90 ($45 per hour); Eltham.

Hillmartin, Imbue, Kinglake and Naught distilleries are joining forces for an evening to offer a selection of 8 cocktails, 2 crafted by each distillery. The ticket includes two dishes and the opportunity to savour three cocktails of your preference.

Tequila masterclass; Friday, 10th November, 7-10pm; $54 ($18 per hour); Croydon.

John Raphael will take your through six tequillas with three matching cocktails. There will also be a drink on arrival.

Farm Raiser tour, working bee and lunch; Sunday, 19th November, 10am-3pm; free; Bellfield.

The session will start with a tour of the farm. There will then be a working bee, with a break for lunch. The working bee will include planting, weeding, fencing and worm farming and there will be a variety of tasks for a variety of different abilities. They will provide the lunch but feel free to take something to share. Organised by Farm Raiser.

In October
In November
In December
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Gingerbread house for adults; Friday, 8th December, 6-9pm; $69 ($23 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Tish will show you how to bake, then build the house then ice and decorate the house with lollies. You will take home the finished product. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Festive preserves; Saturday, 9th December, 10am-1pm; $81 ($27 per hour); Forest Hill.

You will be making two preserves, namely mango peach preserve and tomato and fresh herb preserve. Take your own recycled jars.

Christmas cookie creations; Saturday, 9th December, 10am-2pm; free; Kilsyth.

Bake and decorate a batch of festive cookies for Christmas. Take an apron and reusable container to take your goodies home. Organised by Japara Living & Learning Centre.

Feta masterclass; Sunday, 10th December, 10am-3pm; $240 ($48 per hour); CERES.

You will learn how to make feta. You will take home what you make. Presenter: Kristen Allan.

Gingerbread house for children; Saturday, 16th December, 10-11.30am; $53 ($35 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Tish will show you how build the house with gingerbread panels that she has baked, then ice and decorate the house with lollies. You will take home the finished product. All children will need to be accompanied by an adult. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

In October
In November
In December
Regular classes
Oct 172023

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Ann Stanley, Claire Smith, Judith Cooke, Kathryn Brookes, Kerry Barrett, Leila Alexandra, Pauline Webb, Suzy Georges and Vicki Jordan.

Forage gardening (by Leila Alexandra)

[Leila, from Pascoe Vale South, runs a garden consultancy called Barefoot Food Gardens, where she turns her forage gardening ideas into reality. She also has two upcoming workshops on forage gardening on Sundays, 5th and 19th November, both 10am-12.30pm. She is also having an open garden at her home on each of Sundays 22nd October, 12th November and 26th November, each 10-11.30am.]

Forage gardens are abundant habitats that connect us to an ancient way of being, in harmony with nature’s rhythms and all living creatures. They are ecosystems with all kinds of food plants, medicinals, soil-improving plants, insectary plants, mulch plants, native species, flowers, wild foods and edible ‘weeds’.

Such wild gardens can’t be designed; rather, the focus is on creating conditions for them to flourish and increase in complexity and productivity over time. The role of the gardener is one of intuition, reflection and nurturing, with moments given to tending here and there. The philosophy is what is important.

Forage gardens are similar in concept to food forests, the main difference beings that forage gardens look more like a garden than a farm or forest and are suitable for small spaces, the urban environment and modern lifestyles.

Ecosystem understanding

The first step to creating a forage garden is learning to see your garden, both above and below the ground, as an ecosystem. Ecosystems provide plants with all their needs:

  • Light: multilayers create varying degrees of shade.
  • Water: climate and topography creates varying moisture.
  • Soil: groundcovers and leaf litter protect soil, there is decomposition and disturbance.
  • Diversity of life: pest and disease balance, fertility from nutrient cycling.

Create complex habitats in which the processes mimic those of natural ecosystems. See all living things, including weeds (many of which are edible) and garden creatures, as friends that live together in harmony. Plant a range of species, including small trees and shrubs, flowers, groundcovers, nitrogen fixers and complementary plants. Let plants live out their life, flower, sow seed and decompose in situ (chop and drop).

Care for the soil by practising minimal soil disturbance, keeping the surface covered, and building soil health – add organic matter, plant green manures, deep-rooted perennials, nitrogen-fixing plants and wild plants.

Effortless and experimental

Once a forage garden is established, it requires little work. As you establish the garden, practise close observation and experiment – you’ll learn intuitively which activities are worthwhile. Tune in and spend time amongst the plants as they change with nature’s cycles – they will be your teachers. And don’t be afraid to go against prevailing advice – keep experimenting!

The Bayswater North Food Swap is apparently continuing

Last report, I erroneously reported that Baywater North Food Swap is ceasing. Apparently, what is actually happening is that it is continuing but under new auspicing, with Outer Eastern Permaculture Swap ceasing to be involved and Maroondah Council taking over. Thanks for the heads up, Claire Smith, and apologies if I misled anyone.

Alana Camilleri is Australia’s young gardener of the year

Alana, who is a member of the Doncaster Garden Club, was recently awarded Young Gardener of the Year by Garden Clubs of Australia. She is currently in Year 12. The photo right is of Alana receiving her award.

Do you know?

Suzy Georges is interested in making some feta, ricotta and cottage cheese so she is currently gathering her supplies. She wants to know where she can buy some mesophilic starter culture and organic animal rennet. Suzy lives in NSW so she is presumably looking for online suggestions. Email me with your suggestions.

The best bars in Melbourne

A recent article in The Age discusses ‘the best 30 bars in Melbourne’. Of these 30, 13 are in North East Melbourne and 2(!) are in my home suburb of Eltham.

Here are the 13 ordered by suburb:

  • Brunswick East: Bahama Gold.
  • Carlton: Bar Bellamy; March.
  • Coburg: Olivine.
  • Collingwood: Commis.
  • Eltham: Little Drop of Poison; Naught Distilling.
  • Ivanhoe East: Vinoshis Beverage Shop.
  • Fitzroy: Black Pearl; Izakaya by Tamura; Odd Culture; The Everleigh.
  • Thornbury: Capers.

Here’s one thing that bugs me about such lists: how does the author (Tomas Telegramma) know? Either he has been to all 2,840 bars in Melbourne*, which would be around 10 bars for each and every day of 2023 thus far, which would a) probably be a Guiness world record and b) not leave him in any state to write the article. Or the list is simply the best 30 bars that he happens to have been to, which would a) be something completely different than the 30 best bars in Melbourne and b) be of potentially marginal value only.

*Source: Victorian Commission for Gambling & Liquor Association, as quoted by the World Cities Culture Forum. From the same source, the cities in the world with the most bars are São Paulo and Tokyo, both with around 30,000.

Stimulated by the above, I decided to search The Age website to see if any other Eltham food establishments had made any other top lists. Not surprisingly, given that there are 24(!) cafes in Eltham, their list of 50 top Melbourne cafes (from 2021) does indeed include one from Eltham. But, most surprisingly, it is not a cafe that I have ever heard of before, let alone been to: Craftwork Roasting Co. at 1/27 Peel Street. I immediately went there and it is a perfectly respectable cafe (as well as being a coffee roaster). It is open until 2pm every day except Sunday.

Lemon yoghurt cake (by Vicki Jordan)


1¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice
the rind of 2 lemons
¾ cup oil
1 cup natural yoghurt
2 cups self-raising flour


In a bowl, mix the rind, oil, eggs and sugar using either a fork or a hand mixer.

Add the remaining ingredients and combine well.

Pour into a greased round tin and bake at 175degC for 45-50 minutes.

Leave to cool then turn out and dust with icing sugar or, while warm, drizzle with a sugar/lemon syrup made by boiling some sugar and lemon juice.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

This upcoming Sunday’s episode will feature Bev Middleton talking about soil. Listen on 3CR (855 AM) on Sunday morning, 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Audio recordings of previous episodes are available on their website.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Angelo’s article on preparing and preserving green olives..

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

A woman is cooking.

Suddenly the husband appears behind the wife’s back and says: ““Careful, careful, put more fat in the pan! You’re frying too many at a time. Too many! Flip them! Flip them! Come on! Put more fat in there. Oh dear lord. How are you gonna make space for the fat now, look, they’re sticking to the pan! Careful! Careful now! You never listen to me when I cook! Never! Flip them over already. Hurry! Are you crazy? Take it easy! Easy! Nooo, don’t forget the salt. Put salt on them. Salt!

The wife stares at her husband: ““What’s wrong with you? You think I can’t fry a few eggs?

The husband answers calmly: “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.

Read more food-related jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming events – not local but interesting

Mead and honey wine tasting evening; Saturday, 4th November,5-6.30pm; $30; CBD.

This session will include: guided tastings of 15 meads; a cheese board; a cocktail; and a discussion of the history of mead making. Presenter: Merryn from Honing Wine.

Upcoming events – not food-related but interesting

Arthurs Creek annual garden walk; Sunday, 22nd October, 9.30am-5pm; $30; Arthurs Creek.

Multiple gardens to visit. Art works, cottage plants and crafts to see. Teas, coffees and light lunches available. Purchase tickets at the hall on the day. All proceeds will go towards the upkeep and restoration of the hall.

No mow lawn – tips and alternative options; Monday, 23rd October, 7-8pm; $28 ($28 per hour); online.

This session will discuss the key issues in owning and managing a traditional lawn, including: the resources used to maintain the classic lawn and why this is hard work and not sustainable; the problems lawns create for our local environment; recognising what you want to achieve with a no mow lawn; what are the alternative options and the benefits they bring; why artificial turf is never a good option; and different plants to use as a lawn alternative. Presenter: Teresa Day from Sustainable Gardening Australia.

Wildflower gardens – attracting native insects; Tuesday, 14th November, 6.30-7.30pm; $25 ($25 per hour); online.

Dr Lena Alice Schmidt will show you how to create a floral banquet to encourage native insects to your garden. Organised by Sustainable Gardening Australia.

Sam Cox’s Wattle Glen garden; Saturday, 25th November and Sunday, 26th November, 10am-4.30pm; $10; Wattle Glen.

Tour the home garden of landscape designer Sam Cox, who practices in the Australian natural style of landscape design. Organised by Open Gardens Victoria.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Spring celebration at Sylvester Hive; Sunday, 22nd October, 1-3pm; free; Preston.

Shani Shafrir will discuss how to save seeds and seed propagation. Take a plate to share.

Ethiopian food and rap; Saturday, 28th October, 5-7pm; free; Richmond.

Join them for an evening of Ethiopian cuisine and rap presented by Sinq Foods. From savoury stews to injera, experience the rich culinary heritage of Ethiopia. Listen to performances by 2PAC Azmariw and Seble. Organised by Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House

West Brunswick Community Garden plant and produce sale; Sunday, 29th October, 10am-3pm; free; Brunswick West.

There will be plants, cakes, biscuits, jams and preserves for sale. Plus a BBQ, wine tasting, tea & coffee and a raffle. Plus activities for kids, including scarecrow-making. There will also be tours of the food forest.
Click here to read about the garden.

Forage gardening workshop; on Sunday, 5th November, 10am-12.30pm and again on Sunday, 19th November, 10am-12.30pm; $50 ($20 per hour); Pascoe Vale South.

Learn how to turn your yard into a thriving, vibrant ecosystem that gives you year-round food and requires minimal time, physical effort or money once established. You will discuss: why forage gardens are so enjoyable; how to see your garden and soil as ecosystems; practices to cultivate intuitive gardening; and tips and tricks to create a forage garden, including ways to connect, getting started, plants & propagation and soil health. Facilitator: Leila Alexandra, from Barefoot Food Gardens.

Beginners backyard beekeeping; Sunday, 26th November, 10am-3pm; $220 ($44 per hour); CERES.

You will learn everything from the inner workings of a beehive to the healing properties of raw honey. You will also learn how to maintain a healthy hive and swarm management. Weather permitting, they will open a hive and have a hands-on demonstration.

Mooroolbark Community Garden open day; Sunday, 26th November, 10am-3pm; free; Mooroolbark.

There will be a plant sale, sausage sizzle and a visit from Munchie the earthworm.

Strathdon House and Orchard Precinct open day; Sunday, 26th November, 11am-2pm; free; Forest Hill.

There will be garden talks, kids activities, a free BBQ and a food demonstration.

Warrandyte Community Garden open day; Sunday, 26th November, 1-4pm; free; Warrandyte.

They are opening the gates for all to visit. Click here to read about the garden.

The Veggie Empire urban farm tour; on Tuesday, 28th November, 10-11.30am and again on Sunday, 3rd December, 11am-midday; $11; St Helena.

The Veggie Empire, a farming duo (Scott and Josh) living with disability, will be hosting a guided tour of their urban farm. Together they have created a social enterprise that includes a market garden, food plant nursery, revegetation project and worm farming operation. As well as a guided walk around the farm, the tour will include a talk on how they’ve got to where they have and an explanation of the model they have used to get there. Following the tour, catering will be provided. Seedlings and produce will be available for purchase.

DIY mushrooms; Saturday, 9th December, 10am-4pm; $175 ($29 per hour); CERES.

Presenter: Buttons Mira from The Mushroomery. You will be shown the secrets to successfully growing mushrooms at home. You will learn the growing methods for oyster and shitake mushrooms, including inoculation and sterilisation, and be introduced to basic mycology. You will undertake practical sessions and learn how to start master cultures.

In October
In November
In December
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Preserving fruit and tomatoes in Fowlers’ bottles with Marg; Thursday, 26th October, 7.30-9.30pm; free; Bundoora.

Marg will demonstrate preserving fruit and tomatoes using the Fowlers method. She will cover: the Fowlers preserving process; equipment required; preserving liquids and acids; preparation of fruit; preparing bottles and filling with fruit and syrup/water; sealing bottles and placing in the preserving unit; filling preserver with water; processing bottles and temperature control; removing bottles and checking clips; checking vacuum seal; and bottle storage. Participants will take home a bottle of preserves.

Sourdough basics; Thursday, 2nd November, 6.30-8.30pm; $120 ($60 per hour); Collingwood.

The Fermented Mumma will discuss ingredient selection, starter care, and the processes of sourdough fermentation and baking. At the end, you will take your fermenting dough home to bake in the morning.

Drying fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices with Robin; Thursday, 9th November, 7.30-9.30pm; free; Bundoora.

Robin Gale-Baker will demonstrate various ways of drying and storing fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. This will include using an electric dehydrator, electric oven and sun drying. She will show participants how to grind roots such as ginger and turmeric to a fine powder. Participants will get hands-on experience of the drying process and take some dried produce home.

Miso ball making class; on Saturday, 11th November, 10am-midday and again on Friday, 17th November, 7-9pm; $50 ($25 per hour); Fitzroy North.

Miso balls can sit in your fridge for whenever you need soup or something to accompany noodles. Make your own and go home with a container of 12 little ready to eat miso balls that you can pop into your fridge or even freeze. End the session with a warm bowl of miso soup. Facilitator: Rieko Hayashi.

Sourdough bread making; Saturday, 11th November, 10am-1pm; $55 ($18 per hour); Panton Hill.

Learn how to make sourdough bread. You will make a pizza base to enjoy together and you will make a bread dough ready to bake the following day at home. You will also be given a starter so that you can continue to make bread at home. Take an apron, tea towel, sealable container and jar with a screw top lid. Tutor: John. Organised by Living & learning Nillumbik.

Raw food treats cooking workshop; Saturday, 11th November, 1-4pm; $175 ($58 per hour); Camberwell.

Jo-Anne Grist will demonstrate how to make: raw pistachio slice; raw chocolate brownie with pistachios; raw mini mango cheesecakes; lemon and coconut bliss balls; and fresh summer berry rocky road, You will take home a box of raw treats.

Cooking with bean curd; Saturday, 18th November, 10am-midday; $25 ($13 per hour); Forest Hill.

Explore a wide range of soybean curd products, including tofu and fermented soybeans. Hui will guide you through the world of vegetarian cooking, sharing insights on how to embrace a plant-based diet while ensuring you get all the essential nutrients you need.

I can’t believe it’s vegan!; Wednesday, 29th November, 10am-12.30pm; $35 ($14 per hour); Balwyn North.

Create savoury and sweet dishes. Organised by Trentwood at the Hub.

Gluten-free Christmas baking; Wednesday, 6th December, 10am-12.30pm; $35 ($14 per hour); Balwyn North.

Create some quick sweet and savoury treats. Organised by Trentwood at the Hub.

In October
In November
In December
Regular classes
Oct 102023

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angela Harridge, Ann Stanley, Citu and Isabelle Fouard.

Spiced tomato and lentil soup

[This recipe is by Citu, from Brunswick East, and came to us via CERES Fair Food. CERES Fair Food have numerous recipes on their website.]

Serves 4.


one cup of puy/French lentils, cooked until al dente
3 tablespoons neutral oil (such as sunflower)
one large onion, diced
a thumb size of ginger, finely chopped
two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 cloves (or fewer if you are clove shy)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole all spice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g tinned tomatoes
3 cups stock or water
1 teaspoon chilli powder
garam masala, a generous pinch
5 curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
coriander, to garnish
basmati rice or naan, to serve (optional)


In a small dry pan, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and all spice for a minute or so until crunchy and fragrant. Mortar and pestle/grind them into a powder (you can use pre ground spices if you’d prefer but whole spices have a fresh intensity when you grind them yourself).

Warm oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook gently for about 5 minutes, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook for a few more minutes until the onion is translucent and the ginger and garlic are aromatic.

Lower the heat, add the ground spices and allow to bloom for a minute or so, then add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes, until it’s a dark brick red – don’t burn it though.

Add the tinned tomato and 3 cups of stock/water and stir to combine. Add the al dente lentils and bay leaves (if using) and season with salt and pepper. If you want a kick of chilli, you can add some powder or flakes at this point.

Simmer the soup gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before you turn off the heat, add the garam masala and curry leaves (if using).

Serve immediately with basmati rice, naan or just as it is.

The Baywater North Food Swap is ceasing

After many years, the Baywater North Food Swap is ceasing, with the last swap being on Saturday, 4th November. Congratulations to Karen Cheah and colleagues for organising it over the years.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

This upcoming Sunday’s episode will feature Paul and Robin Gale-Baker talking about the Transition Movement (part 2 of a two part interview). Listen on 3CR (855 AM) on Sunday morning, 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Audio recordings of previous episodes are available on their website.

A new article by Angelo Eliades

Preparing and preserving green olives.

Read more of Angelo’s food-related articles.

Every newsletter needs a good picture

Rain Szeto is an American artist who creates detailed illustrations that portray the organised chaos of everyday activities in homes, shops and cafes.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Nillumbik Council’s update on the proposed urban farm at Fabbro Fields.

Word of the month – Fool

‘Fool’, meaning a dessert made with pureed fruit mixed with whipped cream.

Read about previous words of the month.

Proverb (or phrase) of the month

Heard it on the grapevine. Meaning: to learn about something via informal sources. This phrase dates back to mid-18th Century America when telegraph wires were being installed. The wires, which were often suspended between poles placed at regular intervals, supposedly looked a bit like either the wires used to train grapevines or the vines themselves, giving rise to the term ‘grapevine telegraph’. This ‘grapevine telegraph’ was then one of the main ways that rumours spread during the American Civil War, thus giving rise to the meaning of the phrase.

The equivalent Australian phrase is ‘bush telegraph’, which came into existence in the late 19th Century and was modelled on the phrase ‘grapevine telegraph’.

I heard it through the grapevine is also the name of a song released by the Miracles in 1966, by Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1967 and, most famously, by Marvin Gaye in 1968.

Read about more food-related proverbs.

Gardening quote of the month

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” by Miles Kington.

Read more gardening quotes.

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

Two slices of bread got married. The ceremony was going quite well until someone decided to toast the bride and groom.

Read more food-related jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets

Eltham-based Seeds of Plenty will be selling tomato and capsicum seedlings at Eltham Farmers’ Market. As discussed in a previous newsletter, they will have a huge range of different varieties for sale.

Food swaps
Community gardens

Not food-related but interesting

Northern Diwali; Saturday, 28th October, midday-9pm; free; South Morang.

Celebrate Diwali. The activities will include: live DJ, fireworks, Bollywood dancing, carnival rides, food stalls, henna tattoos and multicultural stage. Organised by Mission Smile.

Yarra Valley Spring Plant Fair & Garden Expo; Saturday, 11th November and Sunday, 12th November, both 10am-5pm; $15; Wandin.

The plant fair will feature a wide variety of plants showing off flowers and foliage. Top growers from the Yarra Valley and beyond will display and talk about their plants. There will be around 60 stalls. The guest speakers will include Clive Larkman, Merryle Johnson, Reuben Nieuwesteeg, Sophie Thomson and Vasili Kanidiadis.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Food waste minimisation tips – from storage to shopping; Friday, 13th October, 12.30-2pm; free; Bayswater North.

Maroondah Council’s Waste Educator will show you how to reduce your food waste, minimise your soft plastics and store food to make it last longer. From how to store herbs, what can go into your freezer and what to look for when you are in the supermarket. Organised by Arrabri Community House.

Weight management – a calorie density approach; Sunday, 22nd October, 11am-12.30pm; free; Richmond.

Jenny Cameron will discuss using a calorie density approach to losing weight and strategies to avoid falling into the ‘pleasure trap’ of our modern food supply. Organised by Green Karma.

Lilydale Community Gardens – gardening talk; Tuesday, 31st October, 2-3pm; free; Lilydale.

Hear about plant propagation, companion planting, embracing beneficial weeds, self-seeding herbs & vegetables, together with a demonstration of cutting methods. Take along your cuttings and seeds to swap. There will also be a plant sale (cash only).

Cheese and wine tasting with Gaëtan from Long Paddock Cheese; Saturday, 4th November, 1.30-4.30pm; $49 ($16 per hour); Brunswick East.

Gaëtan, from Long Paddock Cheese, will run you through how each cheese (5 cheeses in total) is artisanally made and why he has paired each cheese with each wine.

CERES weed dating – for the love of farming; Saturday, 11th November, 5-8pm; $47 ($16 per hour); Coburg.

Go meet a new friend, lover, or anything in between (or beyond) amongst the plants at CERES Joe’s Market Garden. If you like plants and gardening, you’ll know that you and your date will have at least one thing in common! There will be live local music with food and drinks available for purchase from the bar. Your ticket includes a brief farm tour, a dusk weed dating session and a welcome drink.

Eltham Wine Show; Sunday, 19th November, 10.30am-2.30pm; $20; Bulleen.

Australia’s largest amateur wine show. Hundreds of wines will be available for tasting – red, white, sparkling and fortified grape wines. Also, meads, ciders, country wines, kombuchas and liqueurs. Wine awards and presentations. Pay at the door. If you want to enter one of your wines, etc to the show, download an entry form, noting that the closing date is 20th October.

Urban Nanna’s festive hints and tips; Thursday, 30th November, 6-7.30pm; free; Ringwood.

Join Anna the Urban Nanna to learn about low-waste ways to celebrate the festive season, including gift and wrapping ideas, waste-savvy recipes and eco-friendly decorating tips. Some homemade festive snacks will be supplied during the presentation.

Plants and permaculture; Sunday, 3rd December, 10am-3pm; $120 ($24 per hour); CERES.

The subjects to be covered include: regenerative garden design; practical gardening skills and tips; how to increase plant and food diversity in your garden; self cycling garden systems; nutrition and properties of plants; plants for food, medicine, fodder, nectar and habitat; and forest garden systems. Presenter: Taj Scicluna.

Indian cooking – Punjabi (2 sessions); Wednesdays, 6th and 13th December, both 6.30-8.30pm; $99 ($25 per hour); Hurstbridge.

Learn how to cook a healthy North West Indian vegetarian meal from scratch using authentic ingredients. At the end of the session, eat what you have made or take it home. Tutor: Taariq Hassan.

In October
In November
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Cookie decorating demonstration; Wednesday, 18th October, 10-11am; free; Croydon.

Steph and Tanja, from Choice Cakes & Decorating Centre, will demonstrate cookie decorating. Learn tips and tricks, and be inspired to take your decorating to the next level.

Aussie eats – cooking for CALD; Saturday, 28th October, 12.30-4.30pm; free; Kilsyth.

This demonstration is designed for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) participants to share in a favourite Aussie meal with a twist while practising their English skills. Organised by Japara Living & Learning Centre.

Mood and food workshop (4 sessions); on consecutive Tuesdays, starting 14th November, 11am-1pm; $25 for all four sessions; Hurstbridge.

For those aged under 65. Dive into the world of food and mood, boost your energy, clear your mind, and whip up a tasty, budget-friendly meal in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. Delivered in collaboration by Merri Health, healthAbility and Nillumbik Shire Council.

Kimchi workshop; Saturday, 25th November, 10am-midday; $52 ($26 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Learn how to make kimchi. Take an apron and a medium-sized jar to take home your own freshly made kimchi. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Jam and pickles workshop; Saturday, 25th November, 1-3pm; $50 ($25 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Learn some tips and tricks to get you started on preserving techniques for jam and pickles. Take an apron and two medium-sized jars to take home your seasonal fruit jam and your pickles. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Gluten-free kitchen skills; Sunday, 26th November, 10am-3pm; $120 ($24 per hour); CERES.

Presenter: Melanie Leeson, from Mettle + Grace. After an introduction to gluten-free flours and their texture, taste and how to use them, you will have the opportunity to cook a collection of recipes, including: a cake using your own gluten-free flour blend; crackers to pair with a seasonal dip; pizzas; and a short-crust pastry dough for quiche. At the end, the class will sit down to eat lunch together.

Thai condiments made simple; Sunday, 26th November, 10.30am-3pm; $180 ($40 per hour); Panton Hill.

You will learn how to make the following sauces: sweet chilli sauce; three sister’s paste; Thai stir fry sauce; and Thai green seafood sauce. You will then make: Thai fish cakes; stir fried prawns; Thai eggplant; and Thai green seafood sauce with crispy fish. At the end, enjoy your banquet together with a beer, wine or coconut water. Presenter: Kelly Meredith from Under The Pickle Tree.

Buche de noel workshop; Friday, 1st December, 6-9pm; $91 ($30 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Tish will show you how to make buche de noel (Christmas log). You will be making your own buche de noel to take home and it can be kept in the freezer until Christmas. Take an apron and a container. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Sourdough breadmaking; Saturday, 2nd December, 10am-12.30pm; $71 ($28 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Learn all the steps to make your own sourdough at home with this simple recipe. You will take home a sourdough starter and some dough to bake. Take a 2 litre container with a lid and an apron. Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Baking for Christmas; Saturday, 2nd December, 10am-2pm; free; Kilsyth.

Bake your own pressies for Christmas this year. Take an apron and reusable container to take your goodies home. Organised by Japara Living & Learning Centre.

Authentic Mexican; Saturday, 2nd December, 10am-3pm; $120 ($24 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.

Sourdough bread baking; Sunday, 3rd December, 9am-5pm; $190 ($24 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.

In October
In November
Regular classes
Oct 042023

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Duang Tengtrirat, Emma Wasson, Hayden Marks, Julie French, Michaela Carter, Paul Gale-Baker and Tahlia Sleeman.

People sometimes write to me with nice comments about the newsletter. I really appreciate such comments and they are, indeed, one of the main motivating factors for me carrying on producing a newsletter each week. Occasionally I receive a comment that is too poetic not to quote here. For example, here are two of the comments that I have received in the last few weeks.

Thank you for the magic that arrives in my inbox each week.

This is such a wonderful newsletter … you are making a real difference. The time will come when people will appreciate food growing again and you will have done a great deal to help prepare the community for the harder times to come (as well as bring us much joy in the present!).

Update on the proposed urban farm at Fabbro Fields in Eltham

Nillumbik Council has voted not to support the proposal for an urban farm at Fabbo Fields (aka 2 Bell Street) in Eltham. The vote of the councillors was 3 not supporting, 2 supporting, 1 not voting due to a conflict of interest and 1 not voting due to absence. The vote followed a community consultation where 53% were in favour of the concept and 46% were not. Read the official Council statement. Obviously this is very disappointing for Local Food Connect, whose project it is.

Kohlrabi – a friendly alien (by Julie French)

[Julie, from the Montmorency Community Group, cooks with less popular or familiar veggies and fruit. Here she discusses how to use and cook kohlrabi. A somewhat longer version of the article – which includes recipes for kohlrabi and chickpea soup and for buttery roasted kohlrabi – can be found on our website.]

The first time that I saw kohlrabi it looked to me like a small alien spaceship, a round purple bulb supported on a thin stalk, with thinner stems growing out and up from the sides of the bulb itself. The word kohlrabi comes from the German for cabbage ‘kohl’ and broccoli ‘rabi’ and it tastes a little like peeled broccoli stalks. Best used when no bigger than a tennis ball, this strange looking vegetable can be either purple or pale green. It’s nutritious, low in calories and high in vitamin C.

You can buy kohrabis at Thriving Foods Farm’s stall at Eltham Farmers’ Market and other markets.

Preparation is simple – trim away all the stalks and peel thinly making sure to remove any woody bits near the base of the side stalks. The simplest way to use kohlrabi is to steam it and then toss it in butter or olive oil, fresh parsley and lemon juice. It can be roasted – try it with garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese or make a gratin. It can also be eaten raw – add it to coleslaw, or use in a Thai salad instead of green papaya (see recipe for som tum below). I’ve also added it to cabbage when making sauerkraut, and it can be an ingredient in kimchi.

Som tum with kohlrabi (by Duang Tengtrirat)

2 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 long red chillis (or more if you like spicy)
3 cherry tomatoes, halved
a small handful of green beans, cut into 2cm lengths
¼ cup roasted peanuts
pinch of coconut sugar (optional)
1-2 teaspoons tamarind pulp (or lemon juice)
juice of 1-2 limes
soy sauce to taste

In a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the garlic and chilli with a little salt. Add the green beans and bruise, then the tomatoes and lightly bruise to release the juice. Add a good dash of soy sauce, the sugar, tamarind and lime juice. Taste and adjust.

Add the kohlrabi and use a spoon to mix it in well.

Add the peanuts and serve.

[Read more articles by Julie on cooking various unusual vegetables.]

[If Julie’s article inspires you to want to eat kohlrabi, you might be interested in Robin Gale-Baker’s article on our website about how to grow kohlrabi.]

Hayden’s unusual bush food of the month – native thyme

[Hayden Marks is the founder of Melbourne Bushfood, who sell a wide range of bush foods (both the foods themselves and the plants) which you can buy either online or at their shop at 49 Sparks Avenue, Fairfield, Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm.]

Native thyme (Prostanthera incisa), which is a part of the mint family, holds a deeper flavour than found in other mints, with earthy notes and a slight pepperiness.

To harvest, just pluck fresh leaves off the growing plant or cut off whole stalks. Both leaf and stem may be used – fresh, or chopped and dried for later use. Just remember that the flavour will fade over time after harvesting.

The plant is an evergreen shrub which grows to around 2 metres tall and wide. Alternatively known as cut-leaf mint-bush, it flowers in early spring, with small, bright pink/purple flowers, similar to other mint-bushes. It is fast growing, with annual pruning encouraging new growth. It also grows well in pots, playing a similar role to a rosemary shrub.

Here is a recipe for wattleseed and thyme damper.

Willsmere Station Community Garden’s first ever crop swap

As you may know from previous newsletters, Willsmere Station Community Garden held its first ever crop swap (aka food swap) on 9th September. Tahlia Sleeman has now reported in: “Our first Crop Swap was small, but enthusiastic! The array of produce laid out on the table was quite astonishing. We had contributions of vibrant fresh herbs, wonderful citrus marmalades & cordials, heads of cauliflower, medlar jelly, incredible sourdough loaves, lush silverbeet, wild apple paste, lots of lemons and – the winner of the ‘most unusual’ item – water chestnuts. We can’t wait to see what pops up at the next swap on Saturday, 14th October.

Want to volunteer in Preston?

Bridge Darebin is looking for a volunteer garden coordinator to spend around 3 hours per week. The responsibilities will include: water all planters/pots/garden beds; weed and maintain?planters/pots/garden beds; decide on what to plant; collect worm castings, place into soil in planters/pots/garden beds; and occasionally guide ad hoc garden volunteers. Read more and potentially apply.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

This upcoming Sunday’s episode will feature Paul and Robin Gale-Baker talking about the Transition Movement. Listen on 3CR (855 AM) on Sunday morning, 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Audio recordings of previous episodes are available on their website.

Something for you to watch

Mark Valencia, aka Self Sufficient Me, from Queensland, produces numerous videos about all aspects of growing veggies and fruit.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was Robin Gale-Baker’s article on seaweed tonics versus liquid nitrogen fertilisers.

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

A Grandfather tells his Grandson, “When I was a boy, you could go into a store with change in your pocket and come out with a loaf of bread, lunch and a bottle of milk.

The Grandson replies, “You can’t do that anymore Grandpa, there’s too many cameras now“.

Read more food-related jokes.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets

North East Region Permaculture (NERP) will be at Eltham Farmers’ Market, where their topic of the month will be bushfire preparedness: “It’s time to clean up your property, update and practice your fire plan and chat to your friends and neighbours about the subject..

Food swaps
Community gardens

Not local but interesting

Mush Fest, a community fungi festival; Saturday, 14th October, 10am-3pm and Sunday, 15th October, midday-5pm; free on Saturday, $10 on Sunday; Kensington.

On Saturday, tour the Kensington Stockyard Food Gardens and wander through the community market. Book yourself into workshops on: how to brew your own kombucha by The Good Brew Company at 11.30am-12.30pm (cost $45); how to make mushroom risotto by Tuan from Elder Roots at 12.45-1.45pm ($10); and how to cultivate King Straphoria mushrooms by Tamara Griffiths at 1.30-3.30pm ($45). On Sunday, there will be a mushroom cooking demo between midday and 1pm, a talk about how mushrooms protect tigers and a panel discussion on mushrooms and medicine.

Not food-related but interesting

Degrowth Spring Festival; Sunday, 8th October, midday-6.30pm; free; Brunswick East.

Degrowth is an idea that critiques the global capitalist system which pursues economic growth at all costs. The day will involve workshops, talks, stalls, a seed/seedling swap, music, food, and dancing (see the graphics right). Hear from community groups, activists and researchers on the day who are doing work in the degrowth space and learn how you can get involved.

Loving our lizards through reptile-friendly gardening; Monday, 30th October, 7-8.30pm; free; Nunawading.

Ecologist David De Angelis will discuss how you can attract lizards to your garden. He will cover the features of a good lizard longue and the types of lizards we are likely to find locally. This event will be streamed live but not recorded.

Sustainable Macleod Clean Energy Expo; Sunday, 19th November, 11am-3pm; free; Macleod.

The expo will showcase a range of clean energy solutions, including insulation, solar power, heat pumps, insulating coatings, with energy assessments to help residents to decide how to make the best use of what is available for their homes. Bryce Gaton will also run a workshop (cost $10) on whether or not it’s now the time to make the switch to an electric car.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Fermenting hope in a world out of balance; Thursday, 12th October, 6.30-8pm; $19 ($12 per hour); Fitzroy North.

Join Sharon Flynn of the Fermentary in conversation with Kirsten Bradley, author of The Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook – to discuss ideas for fermenting hope, community and regeneration, in a world out of balance. There will be some light nibbles, drinks and book signings.

Introduction to bees; Saturday, 14th October, 9.30am-midday; $20 ($8 per hour); Kinglake.

Listen to some local beekeepers talk about bee antics, discover how to get started and what’s involved in looking after your own bee hive. Organised by Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House.

Spring gardening workshop (for children); two occurrences on Saturday, 14th October at 11.30am-12.30pm and 1-2pm;free; Macleod.

Children will be able to sow veggie seeds and plant seedlings – and take home their plants. They can also learn about composting and get hands-on with worms. For kids who enjoy getting arty fun, there will be a junior art area with Jodi Wiley. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Organised by Sustainable Macleod.

Oakhill Farm’s 2nd birthday party; Saturday, 28th October, 2-4pm; free; Preston.

Enjoy some birthday cake, pick up some free seedling and mushroom mulch, take a tour of the farm and catch a mushroom growing demonstration by Buttons from the Mushroomery. They will also be running chalk drawing and seed sowing activities for kids of all ages.

Composting workshop and community garden tour; Sunday, 19th November, 10.30am-12.30pm; free; Bellfield.

Learn the tips and tricks to make great compost. Find out more about different containers, worm farming and bokashi buckets. Then take a tour of the community garden to see first hand how your garden can benefit from compost. Organised by Bellfield Community Garden.

Eltham Wine Show; Sunday, 19th November, 10.30am-2.30pm; $20; Bulleen.

Australia’s largest amateur wine show. Hundreds of wines will be available for tasting – red, white, sparkling and fortified grape wines. Also, meads, ciders, country wines, kombuchas and liqueurs. Wine awards and presentations.

Growing native edibles; Thursday, 23rd November, 10.30am-midday; free; Carlton North.

Explore the diverse world of Australian native foods and learn how to harvest them in your own garden. Engage your senses as you see, touch, and smell these plants, and savour the experience by trying a selection of teas made with native ingredients. Presenters: Cultivating Community.

Beeswax wraps; Saturday, 25th November, 10am-midday; $80 ($40 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. This is a hands-on workshop where participants will make their own washable and re-usable ready-to-use beeswax wraps. Presenter: Emma Grace.

In-depth mushroom cultivation workshop; Sunday, 26th November, 10am-4pm; $149 ($25 per hour); Alphington.

You will learn the growing methods for oyster mushrooms, including inoculation & sterilisation, and be introduced to basic mycology. You will undertake practical sessions and learn how to start master cultures. You will also be given a tour of the mushroom farm. Take a clean 5-10L bucket with a lid and some gloves. Presenter: Button. Organised by The Mushroomery.

In October
In November
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Water kefir, wild mead and beet kvass; Sunday, 22nd October, 11.30am-2pm; $180 ($72 per hour); Fitzroy North.

Make and take home three large jars full of mead, beet kvass and water kefir with the SCOBY, plus a bottle of second fermenting water kefir that’ll be ready the next day.

Farmhouse sake (doburoku); Thursday, 2nd November, 7-8.30pm; $125 ($84 per hour); Fitzroy North.

Make your own sake using rice, koji and water and time. This is a 3 step process and you’ll take home stage one in a 3 litre jar – with koji for step 2 – and a couple of bottles for the final bottling step. Also taste some doburoku at different stages of its fermentation process.

Colombian cooking workshop; Saturday, 18th November, 10am-1pm; $65 ($22 per hour); Balwyn North.

Learn how to make empanadas using corn flour and a variety of fillings. You’ll also get to make a dessert. Presenter: Verena Puello, from Donde Mama. Organised by Trentwood at the Hub.

Christmas cookie decorating; Saturday, 18th November, 1-4pm; $50 ($17 per hour); Ringwood North.

Decorate pre-made biscuits with fondant icing, stamp out your design and embellish with food safe paint, sparkles and other edible bling. Organised by North Ringwood Community House.

Sourdough breadmaking (2 sessions); on Saturdays, 18th and 25th November, both 10am-12.30pm; $150 ($30 per hour); Park Orchards.

In the first session, Nadine will take you through the basics of sourdough breadmaking. In the second session, you will make a seeded sourdough loaf. You will also get to sample different loaves, including a fruit loaf and olive and herb loaf. 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.

In October
In November
Regular classes