Jan 122022

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Amy Wong, Bev Middleton, Buttons Mira, Krysty Plumridge, Laura Nix, Merrin Layden, Pauline Webb, Rebecca Gray and Soo Mei Leong.

Bev Middleton writes about soil health

As you may (or may not) remember, 5th December 2021 was World Soil Day. On that day, I met up with Bev Middleton, from Macleod, who is the Director of Healthy Soils Australia. Subsequent to that meeting, Bev agreed to write an introductory article on soil health for our website and, true to her word, she has now done so.

As Bev says in the introduction to her article, “Healthy soil plays a key role in our food security, health, clean water, eco services and our climate. Healthy soil has lots of organic matter, teeming with life, and soil rich in microorganisms, fungi and nutrients produces nutrient dense food. While we cannot see them, microorganisms (aka microbes), protozoa and nematodes all provide the plants with the nutrients that they need plus protection against pests and disease. Soil with lots of organic matter also has a good structure that holds more water and nutrients for the microorganisms in the soil.

She then sets out six principles for building your own soil health:

  1. Add lots of organic matter and compost.
  2. Limit disturbance.
  3. Keep your ground covered.
  4. Diversity of plants.
  5. Keep living roots in the soil
  6. Limit use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

Read the full article.

A new local mushroom grower – The Mushroomery

The Mushroomery is a little urban mushroom farm, based in Alphington, which offers a variety of mushrooms to both the local community and restaurants. You can buy the mushrooms either as once-off purchases or via an ongoing subscription/arrangement. They also sell mushroom kits. You can buy either online or at several of the local farmers’ markets (Alphington, Carlton, Coburg and Heathmont). They grow their mushrooms in reusable buckets, rather than single use plastic bags, thus reducing waste.

As well as selling mushroom, Buttons, who is the owner of The Mushroomery, also wants to spread the knowledge of how mushrooms grow and what benefits they can have for both your and the environment’s health. She also feels that those of us in the urban bubble are losing connection and understanding of the food systems that support us. She hopes that by farming in urban areas her farm will be a visible place where people can learn more and that she can contribute to bridging the gap between rural and urban areas.

Read the Mushroomery’s page in our Local Food Directory. Welcome Buttons!

Our guide to local chocolate – updated

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to update the various guides on our website to categories of local food, adding new producers and removing those that no longer appear to be trading. First up is local chocolate producers.

As this table from our updated guide to local chocolate demonstrates, there are lots of local chocolate producers and lots of ways of buying their products.

Where do they sell?
Own shop? Other shops? Online? Markets?
Chocolatier Australia Ivanhoe yes yes yes .
Cocoa Rhapsody Coburg . yes . yes
Girl Made Chocolate Northcote . yes . yes
Manuko Thornbury . yes yes .
Organic Times Bayswater . yes yes .
Ratio Cocoa Roasters Brunswick yes yes yes .
Really Good Chocolate Coburg . . yes yes
Van Nunen Chocolates Eltham . yes . .
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery Yarra Glen yes . yes .

Read our full updated guide to local chocolate

Yes, I did know!

Amy Wong has sent in the picture right and asked how she can tell when her sweetcorns are ready for harvesting. Here is my answer:

  1. Harvest the ears 20 days after the silk first appears. Or, press a kernel with a fingernail: creamy=ripe; watery=unripe; no liquid=over-ripe.
  2. Note that every kernel on a cob needs to be separately pollinated and, once pollinated, the attached silk usually turns brown and/or falls off. In Amy’s case, there are some brown silks but many yellow silks, so probably many kernels remain to be pollinated.
  3. Hand pollination really helps: each day, pull off a tassel from the top of the plant (the male) and rub it onto the silks (the female).

If anyone would like to add anything (or correct me), email me.

Do you know?

I asked this question in December but no one answered it so I am asking it again.

Alex Salmon spends time working in a communal garden space in Burwood. Over the last few years, sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) has taken over several of the wicking beds. She has sifted through the soil with fork and hands to about 15cm deep, removing all pieces of root, but anything that escapes her soon flourishes. Someone else sprayed with Roundup but the plants soon grew back. In desperation, Alex is thinking about removing all the soil and either putting it carefully through a sieve to remove any root material or completely replacing it. Can anyone suggest an easier solution? Email me with your responses and I’ll pass them onto Alex.

Yes, we can help!

Late last year, Rebecca Gray asked if anyone had any water kefir grains that they could give her. And the response is that Pauline Webb could and did.

Farm Raiser’s summer-autumn veggie boxes are now available

Farm Raiser are a small, not-for-profit urban farm in Bellfield (see their Local Food Directory page) who grow veggies and sell them in weekly mixed boxes. Whilst not certified, they follow organic principles and don’t use any chemicals.

Their summer-autumn veggie boxes are now available. A subscription runs for 16 weeks, from 13th January to 12th May, with a couple of weeks off for long weekends. The weekly boxes of mixed veggies are $40 each. If you live within 5Km of their farm in Bellfield, they will deliver the box to you, otherwise you pick it up each Thursday. You can also buy a box of veggies for someone experiencing food insecurity. Read more and potentially sign up for a box.

3000acres is becoming part of CERES

Read their ‘press release’.

Are you involved in an urban agriculture organisation?

If so, Sustain: The Australian Food Network, working with Agriculture Victoria, is interested in the challenges and obstacles that your organisation faces, your aspirations into the future and the values that drive your work. To achieve this, they have a survey which takes around 20 minutes to complete. Read more and potentially complete the survey.

Not local but interesting

15 food gardens are being opened to the public on the weekend of 22/23 January in West Gippsland (from Warragul to Moe). $8 per garden or $60 for all 15 gardens. Read more on their Creative Harvest website.

Thanks for the heads up, Soo Mei Leong, who writes: “Having visited various of the gardens each year since Creative Harvest began a few years ago, I am always impressed and in awe of the resilient garden owners who open their gardens to visitors in the heat of summer. From suburbia plots in the Warragul area to rambling country gardens, one learns so much about permaculture principles, chooks, beekeeping and water conservation techniques, as well as tips on growing berries, fruits and veggies organically. There is the added bonus of a creative artist (mosiacs, sculptures, etc) in most of the gardens to chat with. This year, one of the gardens (Green Hills Farm) is an ABC Dream Garden which featured on television in 2021. My favourite phrase from the various garden descriptions is ‘veggie avatar’.

One of the organisers of the event, Kristy Plumridge, has written an article about the event for our website.

Some new articles from Angelo Eliades

Does watering plants on a hot sunny day scorch their leaves? Interestingly, Angelo’s answer is ‘no’.

The best way to use pest animal scent repellents so they don’t wash away.

How much of a difference does the thermal mass of a wall make for plants and trees in Winter?. Angelo’s answer is effectively ‘quite a lot’.

Read Angelo’s previous food-related articles.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the newsletter was our calendar of free, local events.

Joke (or pun) of the week

Q: How can you drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
A: Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

I presume that all the events below are actually happening but I can’t guarantee it so you might want to check in advance if you are planning to go.

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Many of these events will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.

Vegetable seed saving; Thursday, 3rd March, 6.30-8pm; free; Edendale.

Autumn is the perfect time to save some of your summer vegetable seeds for re-planting in spring. Rachel Bishop will give you the basic knowledge and skills required to save your own true-to-type vegetable seeds. Seed selection, harvesting, processing and storing will all be covered.

Flavours of Coburg food tour; Saturday, 5th March, 10am-1pm; $49 ($16 per hour); Coburg.

You will experience the cultural delights of 6 different countries over 8 unique food stops. With a mixture of sweet and savoury tastings, you will soon discover that Coburg is an ideal foodie destination for anyone who’s tired of the ‘standard’ menu items you find in most modern cafes. Bursting with atmosphere, each foodie stop brings its own ‘personal touch’ with business owners proud of their cultural heritage, so obviously reflected in the food they prepare, the way they serve it and the way they interact with their customers. But that’s not all … you will also pop into a Middle-Eastern gold jewellery shop to learn the cultural significance of various pieces, learn some local history and the best local foodie tips. Organised by Flavourhood Tours.

Grow your own native edibles; Saturday, 5th March, 1-2.30pm; $61 ($41 per hour); Abbotsford.

You will learn how to grow and harvest 10 different native edibles that can be grown in either large gardens or on the patio in a pot. You will also try a native tea of lemon myrtle, river mint or lemon scented tea tree. Organised by Cultivating Community.

In January
In February

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

Many of these events will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.

Italian cooking; Thursday, 3rd March, 6-8pm; $70 ($35 per hour); Surrey Hills.

Lucia Silverii will teach the time-honoured techniques of southern Italian cooking. This session will focus on antipasto and main meals. Organised by Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre.

Beginners bread making; Sunday, 6th March, 8am-2pm; $220 ($37 per hour); Abbotsford.

What you will learn: experimenting with bread; the bread baking process with each step explained; and how to replicate the process at home. What you will get: 1 kilo of organic flour to take home; pizza for lunch, which you make, eat and take home; and an embroidered apron made from 100% Fairtrade cotton. Organised by Convent Bakery.

Sri Lankan cooking class; Tuesday, 8th March, 6-9pm; $90 ($30 per hour); Surrey Hills.

Experience the tastes, smells and sounds of Sri Lankan cooking. You will make two different curries, coconut sambal and a side dish. Afterwards, you’ll sit down and enjoy a Sri Lankan feast. Organised by Balwyn Community Centre.

In January
In February
In Richmond

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