Feb 072018

Robin’s veggie growing tip of the month

I’m really pleased to announce that Robin Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, will start providing a veggie growing tip each month for the newsletter. Here’s her first tip.

February and March are ideal times for seed collecting – both seed that has dried on the plant and wet seed which has to be extracted, washed and dried. Example wet seeds are tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber and capsicum. Consider collecting both early and late wet seed, particularly tomatoes, thereby selecting for plants that will produce both early and late in the season. Choose the best fruit, label clearly and plant at least one of each. You should be able to extend the tomato season until late May, if not early June.

Note that pumpkin seed will often not grow true as it can be cross pollinated by bees from as far away as 8 kilometres (but you may get a variety of interesting pumpkins on the one vine!). You can, however, keep the seed true by either bagging the flowers or hand pollinating.

Mac’s tip of the week

Mac’s tip is on the same subject as Robin’s, namely seed collecting.

Whilst in the midst of your peak harvest period, take time to appreciate the ‘star performers’ in your veggie patch. If one of your plants is far more vigorous or productive than the others then, hey, why not collect the seed from that plant to sow in future years? Beans, capsicums, chillis, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are considered the easiest to save because they all produce seed in the same season as they are planted and all are self-pollinating. Only the seeds from open-pollinated, non-hybrid plants will produce a similar crop; in other words, they are the plants most likely to produce offspring (in the form of seed) that closely resemble their parents.

As Robin and Mac both point out, you should keep back the best seed for planting, rather than follow the obvious course of eating the best and planting the dross. Incidentally, Richard Dawkins said (in The Ancestor’s Tale) that his father found this one of the hardest lessons to get across to farmers in Africa in the 1940s.

If you want to know more about seed saving, an excellent book is The Seed Savers’ Handbook. Both readable and comprehensive, it would be a nice gift for anyone at $32.

And here is a free booklet: A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty.

Three of the local food swaps have ceased

Alphington (on the first Friday of the month), Diamond Creek (on the first Saturday of the month) and Manningham (on the last Wednesday of the month) have all ceased. Thanks to Becca (Alphington), Nigel Philpot (Manningham), Pam Jenkins (Diamond Creek) and all their colleagues for all their efforts over the past few years.

As well as the Manningham Food Swap ceasing, the associated monthly ‘home harvest’ workshops are also stopping.

Pam, the organiser of the Diamond Creek Food Swap, has written in: “Diamond Creek Food Swap ran for 7 years, having commenced in March 2011. Over the years, the originators of the swap and other Diamond Creek enthusiasts moved away from the area but the swap continued with the support of gardeners from surrounding suburbs until swaps sprang up more local to them and then they, naturally, moved to the swap closer to their home. All is not lost however, as the swap at Thrive Community Garden on the third Saturday of the month continues.

So, was it worth the time and effort to turn up for a couple of hours a month to co-ordinate the swap? Let’s allow some figures do the talking.

During the first year, 300Kg of fresh homegrown produce was swapped. Lemons (45Kg) topped the list followed by pumpkin (34Kg). That’s a lot of marmalade (or gin and tonic) and pumpkin soup! Then quinces (30Kg). Quinces, really?! Quinces and lemons also made second appearances at the swap as lemon marmalade, quince paste, quince jelly and pickled quinces. Lemons and pumpkin may be moderate value items at the grocery store but how about 18Kg of limes or 7Kg of tamarillos or feijoas that sell at $1 each at the shops.

Swap participants had the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’, with unusual fruits and vegetables such as babaco, Jerusalem artichokes, chokoes, Mexican cucumbers, pepinos, persimmon, spaghetti squash and trombonchino zucchinis making appearances. Some of these items are easy to grow, tasty and productive but are still impossible to buy because they may be delicate, have a short shelf life or are unattractive to shop owners for any number of reasons.

Also, let’s not forget the multiple bunches of silverbeet, spinach, herbs and all the other common fruit and vegetables that people grow and eat. A swap is all about swapping your excess produce for somebody else’s excess. It’s ideal for a small gardener who only has space for two or three types of vegetable to be able to swap for two or three other types, thus enabling them to increase variety in their diet at no extra cost.

The swap wasn’t limited to fruit and vegetables. 17 varieties of homemade preserves and dried foods were swapped, along with 30 varieties of seedlings and numerous seeds. Other miscellaneous items included wood ash, coffee grounds, compost, worm juice, jam jars and plant pots.

Swaps are great places to meet with like-minded people. Gardeners who share their excess produce are a friendly bunch with lots of ideas, advice and experiences to share. We celebrate our successes and bemoan our failures together. The shared experience of dealing with Nillumbik soil, plagues of bugs and feathered or furry marauders leave us shaking our heads on many occasions but somebody usually comes up with a solution or two. There is always next season to plan a new strategy.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely!”

As Pam says, as more swaps have started, people have moved to the swap closest to their homes. So, particular food swaps are in danger of being victims of the success of the wider movement – an interesting issue and one that maybe also starting to happen for some farmers’ markets.

News about local food producers

Diamond Valley Library are now a regular collection point for the Diamond Valley Foodshare, so help those in need in your community by dropping in any non perishable items.

You can now buy Kylie’s Slow Dough’s bread online.

You can now buy AVS Organic Food’s vegan food in 13 different suburbs: Carlton (Aunt Maggies), Croydon South (Eastfield Organic Natural Food Market), Diamond Creek (Local Fine Foods), Fitzroy (Aunt Maggies and The Cruelty Free Shop), Fitzroy North (Wild Things Food), Greensborough (Go Vita), Heidelberg (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Kew (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Montmorency (The Natural Food Market

Kaz is gradually increasing the number of suburbs where you can buy her chai: Eltham (Dynamic Vegies, Eltham Farmers’ Market and Organic Fix), Hurstbridge (Nature’s Harvest), Ringwood North (Made Locally) and Wonga Park (Post Office)

For Elthamites only – two new cafes have opened in recent weeks:

  • Billy’s Deck (where Frio’s and, before that, Degani’s were).
  • Craft Kitchen And Bar (where Volumes was). Craft Kitchen And Bar is also open in the evenings and thus is effectively also a restaurant. The picture right is apparently one of their dessert offerings. View/download their menu (pdf).

Pip pip

The winner of last week’s random draw for the free annual subscription of the PIP magazine was Jaime Edge. Thanks to everyone that participated.

‘Crowd harvest’ – seeds for Valentine’s Day

Gardeners everywhere often harvest more seeds than they can sensibly store. Gardeners with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Valentine’s card to one or more not-for profit organisations listed below, each of which has a certified horticulturalist employed and ready to look after the seeds, either to start the seeds, store the seeds or distribute to others in need who know how to start seeds. DIVRS in Preston, STREAT in Collingwood or Carrington Health in Box Hill (ask for Alex Salmon). Any questions, contact Cath Lyons (aka Tiny Trowel) by phone (0401 814679) or email.

The Gardenettes

New newsletter reader Deb Thomson has told me about The Gardenettes, a Melbourne-based group who are “a retro-tinged garden to table show whose stories, tips and tricks focus on the things we love most … growing and eating delicious home-grown, hand-picked, home made food … passionate about showing you that you can grow your own food … and create a feast with garden-fresh produce.” One of the gardenettes is Deb’s daughter, Chloe. Another, Melissa King, is giving a talk at Diamond Valley Library on Tuesday, 20th February, 11.30am-12.30pm.


RetroSuburbia is David Holmgren’s new book, to be published on 10th February. Click here to read about the book or here to buy the book.

The book discusses a number of case studies from around North East Melbourne, including: Alistair and Christine’s (Northcote); The Plummery (Northcote); Saba and Matt’s rental property (Lilydale); and Sharehouse (Preston).

More about honey

Maya ‘Xala Honey recently posted on Facebook: “Honey never spoils. When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life. There are even reports of edible honey being found in several-thousand-year-old Egyptian tombs.” Well, I never knew that so I thought I would investigate. And it turns out to be true: as discussed on the Smithsonian website, honey’s combination of acidity, lack of water and presence of hydrogen peroxide apparently means that it can remain preserved in a completely edible form for thousands of years if sealed.

This site lists 10 other foods that take a long time to spoil: white rice, salt, soy sauce, sugar, dried beans, pure maple syrup, powdered milk, hard liquor, pemmican and (of course) Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread (which enables you to survive for days by making you realise that you are surrounded by things that look more edible, and which can’t go stale because it starts off stale).

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Judy Vizzari’s interview with Duang Tengtrirat and Rob Reid Smith.

Joke of the week

Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food but no atmosphere.

Read all the jokes.

New events

Summer pruning of fruit trees

What: Join arborist Lachlan Williams as he discusses and demonstrates his methods of summer pruning fruit trees. Go a little early to have a look around the Thrive community garden and see what progress has been made over the four years since its inception.
When: Saturday, 10th February, 3-4pm.
Where: Thrive Community Garden, Diamond Creek.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Bee hive tour

What: Your tour, led by Nathan Stewart, a professional Doreen-based beekeeper from Maya ‘Xala Honey, will include suiting up in protective gear, lighting a bee smoker, and spending two hours as real life beekeeper. Initially, Nathan will give you some tips on what to look for inside a hive including how to spot the Queen and where to look to potentially witness the birth of a new worker bee. Then, together you will lift the lid of a busy hive, watch bees at work creating honey, pull out a frame of honey ready for extraction, and get up close with more than 100,000 bees! After the lid is closed, you will sample some of the honey direct from the hives while enjoying a refreshing honey tonic.
When: 4 occurrences: Saturday, 10th February, Saturday, 17th February, Sunday, 18th February and Sunday, 4th March, all 10am-midday.
Where: Rivers of Yarrambat.
Cost: $55.
Bookings / Further information: their website.

Nut free lunchboxes with The Kitchen Whizz

What: Min & Thea from The Kitchen Whizz will demonstrate 6 nut free lunchbox recipes for you to enjoy (including being demonstrated are lamingtons, choc blueberry muffins, oat & seed slice and a quiche slice). They will also talk about how to create a balanced lunchbox to optimise your child’s energy and learning environment.br>
When: Tuesday, 13th February, 10am-midday.
Where: Camberwell.
Cost: $57.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Let food be thy medicine

What: Facilitated by Fiona Hoskin. The typical Western diet is high in sugars, carbs and dangerous chemicals, additives, and food colourings. By reducing your consumption of processed foods, you can improve your daily energy with balanced blood sugars, decrease your systemic inflammation, and better help protect yourselves from the chronic lifestyle diseases that affect so many people today. If you, or anyone you know, suffer from a struggling digestive system you will benefit from attending this talk and learning how to cook healthier alternatives. Included with your ticket: tasting samples of delicious healthy foods and drinks; practical cooking demonstrations that you can replicate at home; recipes to take home; pantry detox ideas that will help you stock your kitchen with healthy, nutritious products; and suggested helpful websites/books/etc.
When: Monday, 19th February, 6.30-8.30pm.
Where: Richmond.
Cost: $49.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Vegan pressure cooking for beginners

What: Pressure cookers are excellent investments for many reasons. If you are time poor, if you are money poor (saves a lot on gas/electricity due to reduced cooking times), if you want to cook something that would usually go in the oven but you don’t want to put the oven on because it is a hot day, if you are environmentally conscious, or even if you are just into one-pot cooking, then the pressure cooker is for you. Any recipe that can usually take a long time to cook on a cooktop (e.g. bean dishes, stews, soups, cakes) is ideal for pressure cooking. In this session, Melissa from AVS Organic Foods will show you how to cook the following dishes: Egyptian red lentil soup, veggie lasagne and a dessert plus basic legume cooking.
When: Sunday, 25th February, 10am-1pm and again on Thursday, 1st March, 6-9pm.
Where: Watsonia North.
Cost: $61.
Bookings / Further information: their website.

Pasta making

What: Marie, from Rie’s Kitchen, will demonstrate how to make your own pasta at home.
When: Thursday, 8th March, 7-8pm.
Where: Mill Park Library.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Healthy lunchbox and quick dinner ideas

What: Are you looking for lunchbox ideas that won’t end up in the bin? Need some easy to prepare, low cost meal options for your family dinner? Meet Jen and Gaby from Plan Buy Cook as they demonstrate how to avoid food waste, save money and save time when preparing your child’s school lunch and your family dinners. There will be tastings of all dishes and young children are welcome.
When: Tuesday, 20th March, 9.30-11.40am.
Where: Kingsbury Primary School.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Tea and mindfulness

What: More than just a delicious beverage, tea can enhance our sense of wellbeing and connectedness. Tea can help us find a sense of calm in our busy lives. Join tea expert Sarah Cowell from Teasense to discover the world of tea and mindfulness.
When: Tuesday, 27th March, 2-3pm.
Where: Lilydale Library.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Maltese cooking

What: Learn about Malta’s rich and vibrant cultural and culinary history with this cooking demonstration and tasting. Author of Traditional sweet recipes from Malta, Sharon Spiteri, will demonstrate sweet techniques for two iconic treats – Maltese nougat and honey rings, while sharing her insights into Maltese festive traditions.
When: Wednesday, 28th March, 10.15am-12.15pm.
Where: Northcote Library.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Thrifty gardening

What: What you will learn: how to make the most of your garden without breaking the bank; how to re-purpose everyday items and re-use them in your garden; and what needs to be bought and what you can learn to make yourself. Presented by Maria Ciavarella. Gardening can be an expensive hobby if you heed all the advertising and buy all the latest gardening ‘must-haves.’ Luckily, in this class you will be looking at ways of reducing costs by learning what is really needed and what you can learn to make yourself. It will cover soil, pots, potting mixes, fertilisers, and growing plants from seed or cuttings, as well as re-purposing everyday items to use in the garden.
When: Thursday, 5th April, 6.30-9pm.
Where: Bulleen Art and Garden.
Cost: $45.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Home brewing with Paul Rigby

What: What you will learn: make your own beer; all about full grain brewing; and the fermentation process. The workshop will be a practical demonstration of full grain brewing covering ingredients (including malt, hops, yeast and water), equipment, brewing theory, and (most importantly) the brewing process (including mashing, lautering, boiling, sanitation, fermentation and packaging). Samples will be available for tasting.
When: Saturday, 7th April, 10am-3pm.
Where: CERES.
Cost: $70.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.

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