Apr 282021

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Megan Goodman, Miranda Sharp, Robin Gale-Baker and Tracey Bjorksten.

We would love to hear from more of you and include some of your words about any food-related matters in future newsletters. Email us with your contribution(s)!.

A 3 pronged approach to deterring white cabbage butterfly by Robin Gale-Baker

This is the time to be planting brassica family members: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc. The days and nights are cooling and there has been good rain, which is perfect for these cool season plants. It is, however, also a perfect time for the white cabbage butterfly which is highly attracted to brassicas, laying its eggs on their leaves. When the eggs hatch, the leaves become a food source for the emerging caterpillars and the result is the decimation of the brassica leaves, either wholly or in part, and often the failure of the seedling.

As with most insect pests, a multi-pronged approach works best. In the case of the hungry green caterpillar, a combination of dipping the seedlings in Dipel, companion planting with American upland cress (a dead end trap plant) and using exclusion netting will result in perfect leaves and hearts.

Dipel is a Yates product and is an organic bacterium. It comes as a powder in sachets which, when mixed with water, is sprayed onto the upper and underside of the brassica leaves every 7 days throughout the growing season. In reality this is hard to do, especially getting sufficient spray on the underside of leaves when the plants are small and most vulnerable. I use Dipel just once – on seedlings still in the punnet – before planting. I dunk them in the Dipel, threading my fingers through the seedlings to prevent them falling out of the punnet when I tip it over. I swirl the seedlings around in the mix making sure it adheres to both sides of the leaves. I do this to deal with any eggs that may have already been laid on the leaves.

The next step is to plant the seedlings interspersed with American upland cress. American upland cress will also attract the white cabbage butterfly, which lays its eggs on its leaves in preference to brassica leaves. The leaves are, however, toxic to the caterpillars. When they emerge, they take one bite and this kills them, though they may take a couple of days to drop off the leaves. It is good to transplant established American upland cress plants and to place one in the centre of every brassicas (like the centre dot on the 5 face of a dice). American upland cress is easily grown from seed. It is a perennial but self-seeds prolifically and forms rosettes. These often contain quite a number of seedlings and, when dug up, can be easily separated. The trick is to plant an American upland cress plant that is bigger than the brassica seedlings.

The final step is to cover your brassicas with exclusion netting, making sure the hem is weighted down.

The result will be healthy brassicas with not a hole in the leaves.

Robin is a member of Sustainable Macleod. Read more of her veggie growing tips on our website.

The Whittlesea Food Collective needs your help

The Whittlesea Food Collective supports people experiencing hardship with free food. This includes a ‘free food supermarket’ which provides healthy food to around 50 families each week. If you grow food at home, at a community garden or school and have too much to eat, please help them by donating your excess. Donations can be dropped off on Wednesdays or Fridays at Building D, Melbourne Polytechnic, Epping Campus, on the corner of Dalton Road and Cooper Street, 3076. Alternatively, contact Charlotte by phone (0481 945111) or email to discuss.

Meg’s garden this month

The leaf colour in the garden is currently stunning. As the pears start to turn, the yellow foliage highlights the ripening lemons and limes in the orchard. The veggie beds have been turned over and the last of the summer produce is starting to look forlorn on the kitchen bench. I blanch and freeze a couple of tromboncino for winter soups and the last one goes into zucchini pickle (see the recipe below).

I am now harvesting spring onions, coriander, bok choy and other Asian greens sown as seedlings early last month. This week I will succession plant the greens and also snow peas (as seed). This time last year we were in lockdown and there were shortages of seeds and seedlings. Saving your own seed, especially of legumes, is simple. Keep one healthy bean bush/climber and allow a few pods to stay on the plant for seed and allow them to dry on the plant. When they are almost dried, pick and store in a dry place until completely dried out. You can then shell the seeds into an envelope or similar for storage for next season or to share with friends.

Zucchini pickles

1½ kg zucchini, sliced
2 small onions, sliced
1 small red capsicum, sliced finely
¼ cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons mustard seed

Place the vegetables in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add salt and let stand for 2 hours.

Drain the vegetables and set aside.

Place the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes.

Add the vegetables and let stand in a pot for a further 2 hours.

Bring back to the boil and then pack into sterilised jars and seal.

Read more of Meg’s recipes on our website.

Can perishable food be sent in the post?

The answer is ‘yes’ but I only know that because, in February, Australia Post announced that they would be stopping delivering perishable food in June, citing difficulties in temperature control. Although they were canny enough to exclude chocolate from their list of ‘perishables’, there was still something of an outcry and, last week, Australia Post announced that they would, after all, continue to deliver perishables. They even set up a hotline email address: perishables@auspost.com.au.

Some articles for you to read

Underpants experiments are taking place in Australian paddocks and gardens — all in the name of soil health by ABC Rural. Thanks for the heads up, Tracey Bjorksten! From the combination of the article title and the picture, I think that I already have too much information.

How to neutralise glyphosate (roundup) herbicide contamination in soil by Preston’s Angelo Eliades. Inter alia, by reading this article you will learn about the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase.

Every newsletter needs a good picture

Adam Hillman slices and dices fruit and other food to create artistic photos.

Thanks for the thanks

A few weeks ago, we featured Melbourne Farmers Market’s advert for the job of kitchen activator. Miranda Sharp has now written in: “I just wanted to say thanks to for listing our ads a few weeks ago – we have had a great response and are excited to be interviewing some great candidates. We are delighted to be creating new opportunities in our local food system and will share the projects as soon as they are underway.

What seeds to plant in May

Here is a list (see the planting guide for more detail):


Mustard greens
Pak choy

Cool season veggies

Broad beans

Leafy greens




If you haven’t planted your cool season veggies yet, plant them now.

Read Helen’s guides on growing brassicas and garlic.

Read Robin’s guides on growing broad beans, cauliflower and garlic.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link last week was Melbourne Farmers Market job description for their kitchen activator position.

Proverb (or phrase) of the month

Forbidden fruit. Meaning: something that is desired all the more because it is not allowed. This phrase was first used literally in the Book of Genesis and figuratively in the 17th Century.

In Western culture, the fruit in question is often assumed to be an apple (hence, the ‘Adam’s apple’ is named after the fruit which is supposed to have stuck in Adam’s throat), but the type of fruit isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible. As discussed in Wikipedia, the fruit is variously identified in other traditions as a banana (as apparently stated in the Koran), fig (hence the use of fig leaves in some paintings), grape, pomegranate (indigenous to the Middle East), mushroom (psychoactive rather than button) or wheat kernel (which is apparently botanically a fruit). Perhaps the depiction of the fruit as an apple comes from either a misunderstanding of, or a pun on, the Latin word malum, which means both ‘evil’ and ‘apple’.

The Bible (King James Version) is the source of many phrases. Here are some food-related examples:

  • Cast bread upon the waters.
  • Eat drink and be merry.
  • Man does not live by bread alone.
  • Manna from Heaven.
  • The bread of life.
  • The salt of the earth.
  • You reap what you sow.

Read about more food-related proverbs.

Gardening quote of the month

The English may love gardening and fishing, but they have never struck me as being close to nature. Their way of expression is ‘the hollyhocks are awfully good’ sort of thing, all done in very good taste. The savagery of nature is something they don’t dwell upon.” by Denholm Elliott.

Read more gardening quotes.

Joke (or pun) of the week

I have a job crushing Coca-Cola cans. It’s soda pressing.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming events – introduction

Website calendars

By type of event: All once-off events, Cooking, Everything else, Garden tours, Free.

By Council area: Banyule, Boroondara, City of Yarra, Darebin, Manningham, Maroondah, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges.

Upcoming events – not cooking

Newly announced

Upcoming events – cooking

Newly announced
In Richmond

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