Apr 032024

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Ann Stanley, Brian Daniells, Chris Chapple, Duang Tengtrirat, Karina King, Marisa Fiume, Rachel Levin and Rob Rees.

Urban farming at Bundoora Secondary College

Bundoora Secondary College has an Urban agriculture and conservation program which is “designed to provide their students with opportunities to learn agricultural science, environmental science, technology, engineering and mathematics through experience with and exposure to agricultural practices, with a focus on sustainability.

As illustrated in the photo right, they have 44 ‘Foodcubes’ in full production. These picturesque garden beds were on display at the recent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

A Foodcube is a raised wicking garden bed made from 80% recycled plastic. Each bed holds around 100 litres of water in its base so they only need watering about once a fortnight during the hottest summers. Individual cubes are around 1 metre by 1 metre, but they can be linked together for watering purposes. Watch this video.

The college is working with both Foodcube and Local Food Connect to further develop its farm.

Staff and students were at last Sunday’s Eltham Farmers’ Market to sell some of their produce and are also planning to be at the 14th April market.

Strathdon House Kitchen Garden in Forest Hill

Strathdon House Kitchen Garden in Forest Hill is open to the public during house opening hours. At 449–465 Springvale Road.

The kitchen garden was established in 2019. It comprises around 20 garden beds and wicking beds of varying sizes and heights to cater for use by the community of different age groups (including children) and abilities. A group of volunteers plant, maintain and harvest the vegetable and herb crops. They also have seasonal planting and harvesting activities that members of the community are invited to participate in.

The kitchen garden is located in the grounds of Strathdon House, where a wide range of workshops focusing on environmental sustainability, health and wellbeing, including cooking workshops, take place. Produce harvested from the kitchen garden is sometimes used in these workshops.

Strathdon House itself was originally built in 1893 and its associated orchard was around 40 acres in size in the early 20th Century. The remaining two acres of this orchard is the last of its kind in Whitehorse City Council, with a variety of fruit trees including apples and plums.

They are always on the lookout for more volunteers to join the team in either the garden or the house.

To discuss any aspect of the community garden, contact Marisa Fiume from Whitehorse Council by email or phone (9262 6158). Or go to their website.

The Forest Hill Urban Harvest (aka food swap) is held in the garden on the 3rd Saturday of each month, 10-11.30am.

Welcome Marisa and Petrina!

There are now pages for 4 community gardens from Whitehorse on our website.

A repair cafe at Edendale?

Edendale Farm is currently considering the feasibility of running a regular repair cafe. To help them decide, they have developed a brief survey for members of the public to complete. The survey only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Complete the survey.

Mitcham Community Meal

Mitcham Community Meal provides a free community dinner every Sunday evening, where each meal is cooked by a different local community group. During March, the cooking teams were 1st Mitcham Scouts (see photo right), Blackburn Lions, Stable One, Team Random and The Running Mummas. Look at some photos of these teams, plus those of previous teams.

Some community garden news

Croxton / Marra Guwiyap, in Northcote, recent held a preserving workshop. Here are some photos from the event.

Sylvester Hive, in Preston, held an Easter family day event. Here are some photos from the event.

The leek and celery giveaway

Thanks to Amy, Ann, Boqi, Carrie, Cathy, John, Lenny, Nerida and Rita for picking up some leek and celery seedlings over the last week. That makes a total of 35 people over the last fortnight. The seedlings have now all gone.

Another article by Angelo

The do’s and don’ts of using sawdust for composting.

Read more of Angelo’s food-related articles.

Tomatoes loves banana skins (by Duang Tengtrirat)

I (Duang) have been growing tomatoes every summer for at least 40 years. Generally speaking, they have done well but this year was different. The tomato plants were prolific, producing beautiful healthy and delicious fruits. Unlike other years, they made me feel more connected to them, to my past and in odd ways to myself too.

When I was a young child, my family had an orchard with mango, lychee and rose apple trees in Nan, Northern Thailand. I learned to grow vegetables there and to take them to market each morning. To mark the boundaries of the orchard, we grew bananas. This meant that we had copious amount of bananas all year round. Bananas everywhere! Green, ripe and over ripe! Returning from school, my mother had ready for me a basket with one hand of bananas. It was just the right weight for a five year old. I walked up and down the street selling a hand of bananas. Often someone bought them and, when I returned home, I would take another hand of bananas and walk in the opposite direction. This was a daily task and all the children in the family had other jobs. As I got older, I resented having to do this but someone had to do it. Being the youngest of the family, that someone was me.

My mother turned the overripe bananas into sundried bananas which kept for a long time. We bundled them up and sold them too. Drying bananas meant that we peeled them before cutting them lengthwise and drying them in the sun. At the end of preparing many hands of bananas, we had buckets of banana skins. These skins would go back to the orchard with me and get chopped into small pieces. They went back into the buckets, each less than half full. Then I filled the buckets to the brim with water, covered them up with a lid and left them for at least a week to ferment.

Once a week, the fermented banana skins went to water fruit trees or fruiting vegetables such as eggplants, cucumbers and chillies. My mother told me that leafy vegetables didn’t like bananas but fruiting vegetables do.

I left home when I was 16. Although I have been growing vegetables every year, I had not done anything with banana peels again. In fact, I seldom ate bananas feeling that I had had enough of them. Last year, I went back to my home in Nan and renovated part of the old house. Memories of my mother and the ways she lived, cooked, planted her gardens came back as if it were yesterday.

In October 2023, a very competent local farmer who is a dear friend gave me 20 seedlings of heritage tomatoes. I planted them and began to ferment banana skins and have been feeding the tomatoes with the fermented bananas once a week. This summer I have only fruiting vegetables: eggplants, capsicums, chillies, cucumbers and tomatoes. All of them have had nutrients from fermented banana skins. There is a bucket in the garden just like what I had in the family Nan garden many decades ago.

The connection with my mother has never been stronger. I hear her guidance, feel her presence and appreciate her wisdom in real time. My respect and gratitude to her, a woman who never had any schooling but had intrinsic wisdom to understand that banana skins, chock full of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, can be used as fertiliser for fruiting plants. How did she even know that by fermenting them first they became gentler on the plants even though banana skins can be placed directly on to the soil. Without fermenting, it takes longer to breakdown. How did my mother even know that banana skins have little or no nitrogen and therefore are not helpful to leafy greens. Lessons from my mother were all from what she did, how she did it and not from the spoken or written words at all.

Even one banana a day is still good to start fermenting in a clean plastic bucket with a lid. A kind of white foam starts on the top of the water and there’s either no smell, or only a slight sweet smell, from the fermenting banana skins. All fruiting vegetables and trees will thank you for this natural and simple fertiliser.

The Melbourne ‘Local Food Connections’ community radio show

On next Sunday’s show (31st March), Ann Stanley will interview Murnong Mummas on indigenous food. Listen on 3CR (855 AM), 10-10.30am, by tuning into either the station (855 AM) or its livestream.

Podcasts of all previous episodes are available on their website, the latest being Jules Jay on the Edible Hub at Hurstbridge (24th March).

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was my baking articles.

The most popular event link in the last newsletter was the upcoming Kalorama Chestnut Festival on 5th May.

Word of the month – Astringency

Astringency, meaning the dry, puckering or numbing mouthfeel caused by the tannins in unripe fruits and some ripe fruits.

Read about previous words of the month.

Proverb (or phrase) of the month

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Meaning: it is more effective to be polite and kind than to be hostile or demanding.. This phrase is of Italian origin and dates back to the 17th Century. It was then popularised in the USA by Benjamin Franklin in the mid 18th Century through its inclusion in his book Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Note that it is actually a matter of some dispute whether flies are more attracted to honey than they are to vinegar. And it is apparently not the case for Queensland fruit fly.

Read about more food-related proverbs.

Gardening quote of the month

No single sort of garden suits everyone. Shut your eyes and dream of the garden you’d most love then open your eyes and start planting. Loved gardens flourish, boring ones are hard work.” by Jackie French.

Read more gardening quotes.

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

Thanks to everyone who voted in the naming competition for this section. The result was in doubt until the very end, when joke (or pun) of the week edged the win by 54% to 46%.

Peanut oil is made from peanuts.
Olive oil is made from olives.
Corn oil is made from corn.

What is baby oil made from?

Read more food-related jokes on our website.


Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ and other food markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Not (quite) local but interesting

Both of the events below are at the Rooftop Farm at Burwood Brickworks. Burwood Brickworks is a shopping centre but it is noticeably different than your average shopping centre, with lots of plants, natural light, recycled timber, solar panels and other eco-friendly features. At 70 Middleborough Road, Burwood East. The farm itself is on the roof of the shopping centre and covers around ½ an acre. It is open to the public whenever the shopping centre is open and is well worth a visit. The farm is managed by Cultivating Community. Here is a short drone video of the farm.

Cultivating heritage; cultural gardening for CALD women; Tuesday, 23rd April and again on Thursday, 9th May, both 11am-midday; free; Burwood East.

These two workshops are for women from diverse cultural backgrounds who speak different languages. Together, you will learn about gardening and cooking in ways that celebrate your unique cultures.

Rooftop garden volunteer club; monthly, starting 4th May, 9-11am; free; Burwood East.

This monthly gathering will include activities to keep the space green and the potential to take home some seasonal produce as a thank you. Help them and connect with new friends. Register your interest by going to their volunteering page and choosing the ‘Saturday morning volunteer club’ option for the ‘Please tell us what you are currently interested in registering or enquiring about?’ question.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Backyard chickens; Monday, 8th April, 2-3pm; free; Ringwood.

Claire will discuss how to care for your chickens and their housing and maintenance requirements.

Gardening for kids; Tuesday, 9th April, 10am-2pm; $50 ($13 per hour); Preston.

Uncover the mysteries of soil life and the magic of plant propagation. Dive deep into the world beneath our feet and discover how seeds transform into flourishing plants. Organised by Bridge Darebin.

Food cushion – ages 6+; Thursday, 11th April, 10-11.30am; $45 ($30 per hour); Camberwell.

For ages 6+. Draw, paint and decorate your own food cushion. You could make a cute ice cream, yummy strawberry or tasty hamburger to sleep on. The cushion will be sewn by the instructor.

Small space gardening (5 sessions); on Tuesdays, starting 23rd April, 9.30am-1.30pm; $127 ($6 per hour); Preston.

Want to grow your own food but don’t know where to begin? In this course, you will learn the principles of food growing in small spaces, including: how to design, build and maintain a productive garden; understanding soil health; small site assessment; plant choice, including companion gardening; plant propagation; community resilience – food growing for community building; and the wellbeing benefits of garden-based activities. Presenter: Shani Shafrir. Organised by Bridge Darebin.

Hot compost; Sunday, 28th April, 2-3pm; free; Reservoir.

Learn all about hot composts – what they are, how they work, what goes in them and how to look after them – all while you make a hot compost! Organised by Friends of Regent Community Garden. Click here to read about the garden.

Basin backyard beekeeping; Monday, 29th April, 10-11am; free; Ringwood.

The team from the Basin Backyard will discuss beekeeping, the health benefits of honey and all other bee-related information.

Bushfoods and indigenous plants; Thursday, 2nd May, 2-3pm; free; Northcote.

Tully Gibbons, an Aboriginal Educator at the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, will discuss Wurundjeri bushfoods and the ecology of indigenous plant life.

Backyard beekeeping basics; Sunday, 2nd June, 11am-1pm; $80 ($40 per hour); CERES.

You will learn about: the history and biology of a colony of European honey bees; protective clothing and occupational health and safety; hive components and assembly; bee biology and seasonal management; legislation; diseases and pests of bees; extracting honey; inspecting hive for disease; purchasing hives; and other products from the hive. Presenter: Ashton Edgley.

In April
In May
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Croquembouche workshop; Saturday, 20th April, 1.30-5.30pm; $137 ($34 per hour); Lower Templestowe.

Tish will teach you the art of making croquembouche, starting with how to make the choux pastry and the creme patisserie and then how to cook toffee and build the croquembouche. A limit of 4 participants in total. Take an apron, a container to put extra profiteroles in and something to carry the croquembouche (base of a container at least 20cm). Organised by Living And Learning @ Ajani.

Yes chef! Cooking school for ages 8-13 (4 sessions); on Wednesdays, starting 1st May, 4-5.30pm; $192 ($32 per hour); Brunswick East.

Each week will focus on different aspects of running a kitchen, like mise en place (French for “put in place”), safety and food hygiene, playing to our strengths (and the strengths of our team), how to work in a brigade, food storage, flavour profiles & ingredients and cleaning up. You will prep and cook a different meal each week, including lasagna, pie, cake and a roast dinner. Presenter: Cook Murph from Suntop Plaza. Organised by NECCHi.

Blokes in the kitchen (2 sessions); Fridays, 10th May and 14th June, each 9am-midday; $90 ($15 per hour); Surrey Hills.

Learn how to prepare simple meals with other blokes under Shawn’s guidance. Enjoy a shared meal and conversation to finish the session. Organised by Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre.

Kefir making; Sunday, 12th May, 11am-3pm; $91 ($23 per hour); Forest Hill.

Learn how to make milk kefir. Take home your own kefir making kit and grains. Organised by Strathdon House.

Sourdough bread making; Saturday, 18th May, 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.

Mozzarella making class; Saturday, 25th May, 10am-midday; $150 ($75 per hour); Thomastown.

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

Fermenting; Saturday, 1st June, 10am-1pm; $150 ($50 per hour); Kinglake.

You will learn how to make five simple ferments (kim chi, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, wild-fermented kombucha and sourdough mother) on the day and take them home. A light lunch will be provided including local breads, ferments, cheeses, preserves and pickles. Organised by Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House.

Preserving the season’s harvest; Saturday, 1st June, 10am-3pm; $150 ($30 per hour); CERES.

You will learn how make jams, pastes, pickles and the art of basic canning so that you can preserve your home harvest and extend your seasonal produce year-round. Presenter: Lauren Mueller.

Vegan cooking European style; Sunday, 2nd June, 10am-3pm; $150 ($30 per hour); CERES.

The menu will include: pierogi ruskie (Poland and Ukraine); apfelrotkohl (Germany and Central Europe); Swedish meatballs (Swedish, but also all over Europe); tiramisu (Italian); tortilla de patatas (Spanish); and spanakopita (Greek). Presenter: Nase Supplitt.

In April
In May
Regular classes

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