Feb 172021

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Aimee Maxwell, Angelo Eliades, Bruno Tigani, Charles Dickerson, Lucinda Flynn, Mary Rogers, Maude Farrugia, Rebecca Haschek, Robin Gale-Baker, Stuart Rodda, Tom Danby, Vasundhara Kandpal and Vera Herman.

Obviously, all the events listed in this newsletter are conditional on the current Covid-19 restrictions being lifted.

Re-opening news (assuming the current lockdown is not extended!)

The Blackburn North food swap at NewHope Baptist Church will re-start on Saturday, 27th February, 10-11am.

A new community market has started at Doncaster Hill on the 1st Sunday of each month, 8am-1pm. The local food stallholders include Blue Pear Pantry from North Warrandyte, Gourmet Pies from Brunswick and Adriana’s Nutty Treats.

The Eltham Community Craft and Produce Market on Sunday will be their last market before it permanently closes.

Stuart’s favourite small hand tools

Stuart’s article last week on digging tools attracted a certain amount of correspondence which has caused Stuart to re-think some of his upcoming material. In particular, he became worried that people might think that all sorts of tools are necessary, which they are not. He therefore decided that, before he discusses weeding tools, forks, hooks, planters, etc, he should clarify what his favourite tools are.

Here is Stuart: “To keep the number of small hand tools to a minimum, I have whittled down a long list to just four tools which cover most small scale soil–related activities in the garden:

  1. A ‘rake’.
  2. A ‘trowel’.
  3. A bulb planter’.
  4. A (stainless steel) delta hoe.

Tom Danby adds (picture far right): “I want to add another fabulous tool. This was handmade as a fundraiser by Karen (ex Myanmar) refugees to a traditional shape. The small (15cm) plough head sits under your hand pointing back towards you – the combination of point, flat edge, and sharp rounded edge makes this a universal digging, spreading, cutting, and trenching tool. I rarely need anything else (and it hangs up out of the way too).”

Dougharty Baker

Dougharty Baker, from Heidelberg Heights, are a new maker of sourdough bread using Certified Organic ingredients. You order the bread online and it is then delivered to the following suburbs: Bellfield, Heidelberg, Heidelberg Heights, Heidelberg West, Ivanhoe, Kingsbury, Macleod, Rosanna and Viewbank. There are also pickup points in Clifton Hill, Heidelberg Heights and Ivanhoe. Baking to order means that there is less waste. Their breads include fruit loaf, rye, spelt/khorasan blend, multigrain, white, wholemeal and wholemeal spelt plus they also make buns and crackers. They are all slow-fermented and made with just flour, water and salt. No commercial yeasts or bread additives are used. Maude Farrugia, the proprietor of Dougharty Baker is both a contributor to PIP magazine and a long term newsletter reader. Congratulations Maude! Read their Local Food Directory page.

There are now 21 local makers of bread and baked goods in our Local Food Directory.

Yes, you did know – composting vs worm farms vs bokashi

Last week, Hanh Truong said that she didn’t want to use bokashi because of the ‘chemicals’ and asked about composting versus worm farms. Lots of you replied and you all agreed that bokashi doesn’t contain ‘chemicals’.

Tom Danby: “The bokashi juice is the contents of plant cells, released by the fermentation/rot process, so it is not surprising that the worms object. It should be diluted at least 1:20 or 1:100 before spaying back over the plant. It is concentrated minerals, enzymes, plant proteins and more, so technically chemicals but with no pejorative overtones.

Robin Gale-Baker: “Bokashi mix contains living micro-organisms, wheat bran, rice husks, water and molasses – none of which are ‘chemicals’. It is an excellent addition to compost.

If I had to choose between a compost heap and a worm farm, I would always choose compost but they have different applications so both are valuable for the gardener. If you do not want to attract vermin to your compost, then a combination of bokashi and worm farm works well for food scraps.

Lucinda Flynn: “Bokashi bins use a process of fermentation to break down organic waste, as opposed to decomposition (which is what happens in a regular compost bin). The powder that you sprinkle on a bokashi is not a chemical as such; rather, it is living microorganisms stored in an inactive form in a grain base. You can compare it to freeze dried baker’s yeast, which remains inactive until you mix it with warm water. Once the grain base is sprinkled into the bokashi bin and gets wet, the organisms come to life and start fermenting your food scraps.

When you put your bokashi scraps into a compost pile, the worms might not like it initially because it is probably a bit acidic – think of wine or vinegar, both fermented. But it is still good, healthy material to add to your garden.

Angelo Eliades: “There aren’t any ‘chemicals’ with bokashi. It utilises a combination of microorganisms to ferment food scraps and the end product is acidic, just like yoghurt. Fermented bokashi can be dug into the ground or put into compost bins.

Most people don’t understand which garden recycling systems should be use for what purpose. Compost is for garden waste, prunings and clippings which break down slowly; worm farms are for kitchen waste which breaks down quickly; and bokashi is for kitchen waste, including foods that can’t go into worm farms. Food scraps can go into compost (and many people do it) but it attracts rodents and worm farms and bokashi are better systems for processing them. If there are worms in your compost, this is an indicator that ready to use and should be placed in the garden.

I have written a number of relevant articles on my website: Bokashi composting, how to process waste that can’t go in your compost or worm farm; What materials can you put into your compost bin and what not to compost; and Can you put earthworms in the compost bin?.

Charles Dickerson: “Bokashi does not use ‘chemicals’ at all. You either spray a liquid or sprinkle a bran inoculated with microbes onto your food waste. These microbes then ‘pickle’ your food waste (hence the vinegary smell). You can then either add it to the ground directly or add it to the compost bin. I think of bokashi as a pre-compost step and the longer you keep it in its container the more pre-composted it gets.

To add it to the ground, dig a hole and bury the waste at least 10-15 cm down is the traditional method. Place wire netting over the hole to keep your dog from digging it up. It is completely broken down in a month.

To add it to a compost bin, mix some straw/leaves through the waste beforehand to blot up any liquid (if you add the neat waste it will upset the worms as it is acidic). I also place a 30-50mm layer of straw/leaves in the compost bin first as this keeps the waste away from the worms until it has broken down.

The benefit of bokashi over a worm farm is you can put any sort of food waste in the bin. Citrus, oil, meat can be added to bokashi whereas that’s a no no for a worm farm. Regarding oil, blot it up with shredded copier paper (from a home paper shredder) and then add that to the bokashi bin.”

Mary Rogers: “My compost bin is a worm farm. I think the worms are the garden variety and they love living there.

Yes, you did know – potato problems

Pauline Webb asked what was eating her potatoes and how should she control it. Several of you have now replied.

Angelo Eliades: “If the rusty discolouration visible on the potato is only skin deep and has ragged edges, then the problem is potato scab. This condition is worse in light soils under dry conditions. To prevent it, dig in compost before sowing tubers and do not add lime to soil. If, however, there are large holes eaten in the flesh of the potato tuber, that’s a sign of slug damage (slugs can burrow and feed underground).

Aimee Maxwell: “It looks like potato scab to me. Read the treatment suggestions on the Plant Natural Research Center website.

Vera Herman: “If Pauline searches for ‘potato diseases in Australia’, there are lots of info and pictures of potato diseases. Is Pauline’s soil slightly acidic? Did she plant seed potatoes & practice crop rotation? Diggers recommends a 3-year crop rotation for potatoes, i.e. don’t plant potatoes in the same spot for 3 years.

Do you know – where to buy chickens?

Rebecca Haschek wants to know where she can buy some ‘point of lay’ (POL) chickens. “I don’t want ISA browns… I’d rather get some heritage breeds as I want a number of chickens to help process my organic waste and don’t want to be overrun by eggs. Friendly, gentle breeds are a must for the kids. Bantams are ok too. I’ve found some breeders, but they are over an hour away and I’d rather get them from the local area if possible.” Rebecca lives in Diamond Creek. Email your suggestions.

Bees in a cactus flower

Bruno Tigani has sent in this video of bees going crazy in his cactus flowers.

Vasundhara’s recipe of the week – tofu with mushroom gravy


The tofu
1 block of firm tofu, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
fresh thyme for garnish

The sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2½ cups of white mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1½ cups of vegetable broth
3 tablespoons flour
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon dried thyme


The tofu
Preheat the oven to 200degC.

Cut the tofu into slices and place it on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake for 20 minutes.

The sauce
While the tofu is in the oven, prepare the sauce.

Heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion and sliced mushrooms and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the flour, continue cooking and stir for about 5 minutes until it’s absorbed by the mushrooms.

Add 1 cup of broth, stirring until the liquid is incorporated and thickened, there should be no lumps.

Season with black pepper and thyme. Simmer at low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes).

Read more of Vasundhara Kandpal’s plant-based recipes on our website.

The history of this newsletter and the website: the second half of 2014

I was originally attracted to Local Food Connect because its stated mission at the time was to act as an umbrella organisation, supporting other local food organisations. The Local Food Directory fitted well with this objective, as it is about promoting local food producers, so expanding the directory was where I decided to start adding content.

As soon as the Local Food Directory came into being, it became clear to me that ‘Nillumbik and Banyule’ was not a natural geographic area to define as ‘local’. As someone who lives in Eltham, it did not make sense to me to exclude Templestowe (which is 4km away) whilst including Kinglake (which is 38km away). Combining this with technical, graphical arguments for the area of interest to be rectangular(!), we came up with the concept of ‘North East Melbourne’, with the bottom left corner defined by the CBD and the top right corner defined by Kinglake.

A second issue was whether the directory should be limited to primary producers (i.e. farmers) or also include secondary producers (e.g. makers of condiments and cakes). Some people argued that secondary producers should be excluded unless their ingredients had been grown locally, which would have excluded most of them. My view was (and is) that a major aspect of the local food movement is ‘community’ and that local makers of food are definitely part of the ‘local food community’. A few people also unsuccessfully argued that wine and chocolate should be excluded on the grounds that they were overly bourgeois.

Two important procedural rules were put in place. First, I would proactively seek out organisations for inclusion and would write the initial, draft material for them based on their websites, Facebook pages, etc (as I had learned from my involvement in the original Nillumbik Council survey of local food producers, a more passive approach, simply inviting organisations to send in material, results in a much smaller and patchier directory). Second, an organisation should only be in the directory if it wanted to be and if it had approved the words in its entry (there are over 100 local food producers who I have written to inviting them to be part of the directory but who have never replied and are therefore not in).

I also established the personal rule that I would sample the food or drink of each of the organisations in the directory.

By end 2014, the Local Food Directory had successfully been expanded to cover the whole of North East Melbourne.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link last week was the job opportunities at Melbourne Farmers Market.

Joke (or pun) of the week

How do you know that carrots are good for your eyesight? You never see a rabbit wearing glasses.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming events – introduction

Website calendars

By type of event: All once-off events, Cooking, Everything else, 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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