Mar 202019

Growing edibles in a pond – an article by Jian Liu

A new journalist has joined the newsletter staff! Jian Liu’s first article is about her favourite and most productive part of her garden: her small pond. As Jian says: “If you’ve never thought about growing edibles in a pond before, you should definitely give it a go! It’s easy and super productive. And it doesn’t even need much space. Think of it as a giant ‘self-watering’ pot which grows moisture-loving plants with no effort on your part, just place and forget. I had never thought about having a pond before as part of a permaculture garden but I now think that it’s an essential part of our backyard ecosystem.” She then goes on to discuss the main benefits of having a pond/water feature, her top plants for the pond, and her edible plants. Read the article.

Want a job?

3000acres are seeking a part-time Project Manager for parental leave cover – 12 month position. This is an exciting, dynamic and flexible role for someone with the rights skills. 0.6FTE (flexible hours) at $31 per hour + entitlements. Ideal start date: 29th April (negotiable). Closing date for application: 29th March. Read more. To apply, email Morgan Koegel.

KABUU wants your help

KABUU, the Montmorency-based grower of microgreens and seedlings, will soon be fundraising and constructing three new growing tunnels for their market garden. This will help them bring a lot more fresh produce to Eltham Farmers’ Market. They will need help with: building and welding; making a video for crowdfunding; social media posts; and fundraising. They will also be organising some working bees to help construct the tunnels. If you would like to get involved, in a small or big way, please email Richard.

Can you save seeds from unripe tomatoes?

Eric Nuncio writes in: “A lot of the tomatoes in my garden are in the green stage and are unlikely to ripen. I do, however, want to collect some seeds for next season. Will the seeds from an unripen tomato still produce a plant or does the tomato have to be ripe?“. Email me with your answer and I pass it on to Eric.

White cabbage moth

In last week’s newsletter, we featured Carol Woolcock’s op shop exclusion net to stop the white cabbage moths getting to her newly planted brassicas. Susan Palmer has now written in to say that she is going to try an alternative approach and has purchased some decoy plastic moths from Nillumbik Nursery (see picture right; 6 for $5). The idea is that the real moths are territorial and will stay away from the decoy moths and therefore also from the brassicas.

Mac’s tip for March – pumpkin harvesting

Another one of Mac’s tips from the archives: Ok, your pumpkins now look ready … but maybe don’t pick them just yet. The longer you leave them on the vine, the sweeter they will get, and the longer they can be stored. It is best to wait until the vine dies off and the stem to your pumpkin withers and goes brown. Don’t worry if frosts arrive – they will only kill the vines. Pick with as much stem as possible – some people keep up to 1m of vine attached if they plan to store the pumpkin for months. Many growers also keep the pumpkins in a sheltered outdoor spot for up to a week to mature before storing in a cool, dark well ventilated area. Hanging in a bird net sack in a dark shed works well … and it also keeps the rats at bay. Finally, note that most pumpkins are best kept for at least a week or so before eating, although Japs can be eaten as soon as picked.

And here is what Robin Gale-Baker said on the subject: Pick pumpkins when the stem coming out of the top of the pumpkin has withered. Leave 10-12 cm of stem but don’t use it as a handle. You can also ‘knock’ on the pumpkin and if it sounds hollow then it is ready for picking. A pumpkin will not be ready to eat immediately after being harvested. Rather, it needs to be ‘cured’ (aka ‘hardened off’) and allowed to sweeten. To do this, rest the pumpkin on some mesh or wire so that air can circulate around it, with newspaper or straw underneath so that the skin doesn’t tear or blemish. Leave it in the sun for 2-3 weeks then turn it over and do the same for the bottom. Then the pumpkin will be ready to eat.

Read more of Mac’s tips.

Simply gourdgeous

Gillian Essex has sent in a photo of some gourds turned into art. Thanks, Gillian!

Fun facts: chilli

Why do chillies taste hot?

Chillies taste hot to us because they contain a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin binds with pain receptors in our mouth and throat, giving us the sensations of heat and, sometimes, pain. It may be produced by the chillies as a defence against mammalian predators who (apart from humans) don’t like the sensations.

But, as fruit, don’t chillies ‘want’ to be eaten so that their seeds can get dispersed?

Yes, but not by mammals – chilli seeds are not sufficiently robust to survive passing through mammal guts. But they can usually pass through bird guts unharmed. So chillies ‘want’ to be eaten by birds. And, ‘luckily’, the pain receptors in birds do not detect capsaicin so chillies don’t taste hot to them.

Anything else I should know?

Yes, lots.

What an animal can taste depends on what taste buds it has. Whilst humans (and dogs) can taste ‘sweet’, cats (and dolphins) cannot. Mammals have many more taste buds than birds and, for example, I have around 300 times as many taste buds as my chickens (10,000 compared with 30). Cows (and other herbivores) have the most taste buds because they need to be able to tell if a specific plant contains dangerous toxins.

Flies (and octopuses) mainly taste with their legs.

At least as a spice, chilli is often associated with India. But this didn’t used to be the case: chilli is native to Central and South America and only found its way to India at the end of the 15th Century, following Christopher Columbus’s visits to Central and South America. Before that, Indian cuisine used black pepper to give pungency and the word for chilli in different Indian languages is basically a variation of the word for pepper (e.g. in Hindi, kali mirch for black pepper and hari mirch for chilli).

Chilli and capsicum are the same species (Capsicum annuum). The only genetic difference between them is a recessive gene in capsicums that eliminates capsaicin and thus the hot taste.

Whilst chilli plants are technically perennial, they only live for a few years and, in Melbourne, are often killed off by the cold during winter. An easier-to-grow alternative is the rocoto tree chilli (Capsicum pubescens): it has a much longer life, survives the Melbourne winters, and produces fruit for much of the year. Also, it can effectively be eaten as either capsicums (when green) or chillies (when red).

Read more fun facts.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Leaf, Root & Fruit’s article on which potting mix is best.

Joke of the week

Someone who eats asparagus stalks must like them a whole bunch.

Read more jokes.

New events – not cooking

Moreland grows – local food exhibition: Thursday, 4th April, 5.30-6.30pm; Coburg North.

What: Go and see videos and photos of gardens around Moreland. Locally saved seeds will be available, plus a harvest display.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Moreland local food networking and Autumn celebration: Thursday, 4th April, 6.30-8pm; Coburg North.

What: Moreland Council invites you to participate in conversations about local food projects. They will also officially launch the Moreland Community Food Growing Assessment Guidelines, which help make the process for starting a new community garden clearer and provides handy tips and resources. Seasonal food will be provided and there will be time to network with others.
Cost: free.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Native edibles for companion planting: Thursday, 9th May, 6.30-9pm; Bulleen Art and Garden.

What: What you will learn: a range of edible natives that are easy to grow in Melbourne; basics of companion planting; and which plants to choose in your garden planning, and how to grow and care for them. Presented by Karen Sutherland, of Edible Eden Design. Non-indigenous Australians are waking up to the edible plants around us and wondering why we didn’t use them before. Knowing what will grow and also produce a harvest, as well as how to use it, is difficult as most of us aren’t yet familiar with apple berries or native mint. In this class, you will learn how to incorporate some easily grown edible native plants into your garden so that they work in harmony with your existing plants, as well as a variety of ways to use these plants in your kitchen.
Cost: $50.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Retrosuburbia book club: Thursday, 9th May, 7.30-9pm; Central Ringwood Community Centre.

What: Are you looking to create a more sustainable life? Thinking about retrofitting your house but not sure where to start? Would you like to grow more food for your family? Go and join like-minded others to share information and ideas. They will base their discussions and learning on: information in the Retrosuburbia book and discussion notes; local people living and doping sustainability; and shared wisdom among the group. Take a small contribution towards supper – some of your own produce would be great.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Home brewing with Paul Rigby: Saturday, 11th May, 10am-3pm; CERES, Brunswick East.

What: What you will learn: make your own beer; all about full grain brewing; and the fermentation process. What you will get: samples of different beers; and recipes to take home. 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.
Cost: $70.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Green at Kathleen – preparing for winter harvest: Saturday, 11th May, 11.30am-1pm; Kathleen Syme Library.

What: This workshop is all about growing produce in the colder months, including winter crop suggestions, crop rotation, and soil maintenance. Winter needn’t be an unproductive time for your garden.
Cost: free.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Big Vegan Market: Saturday, 11th May and Sunday, 12th May, both 10am-6pm; Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton.

What: Shop from the huge variety of 100% vegan products, with more than 200 stalls. The stallholders will include AVS Organic Foods (Watsonia North), Billy van Creamy (Fitzroy North), Curry Favour (Hawthorn), and PoppySmack (Warrandyte).
Cost: $2.
Bookings: just turn up.

Woman’s hormonal health: Tuesday, 14th May, 7-8.30pm; Hawthorn Community House.

What: Presented by Kate Boyle, B. App. Sc. (Nutrition & Food Science). Do you feel you suffer from painful or irregular menstruation, hormonal headaches, mood swings or PMS? Kate will show you how food and diet can have a positive effect on supporting women’s hormonal health and reducing the symptoms of PMS. They will also make snacks on the night and you will get take-home recipes that support the female body and hormone system.
Cost: $25.
Bookings: TryBooking.

New events – cooking

Passata-making afternoon: Saturday, 30th March, 3-7pm; Fawkner Bowls Club.

What: This is a social afternoon of collective effort, open to everyone, and finishing with a shared meal. You can participate in seven steps of saucing tomatoes and gnocchi-making as well. The tomatoes will be provided. Each participant should get a share of 6-8 bottles of passata each. Please bring clean recycled passata jars if you can (they will provide the lids). The schedule: 3pm – passata making; 5pm – cooking the sauce; and 6pm – shared supper of freshly made gnocchi and sugo.
Cost: $30 (includes light supper).
Bookings: EventBrite.

Minimising food waste workshop: Sunday, 31st March, 1-3pm; Murundaka, Heidelberg Heights.

What: Learn about how to reduce your household food waste. Learn skills and ideas around menu and pantry planning, how to get the most of the food you purchase, and what to do with leftovers and kitchen scraps. Facilitated by Lisa Moore.
Cost: $6.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Hop into Easter cooking and craft with Carol From Kazzy’s Kitchen: Tuesday, 2nd April, 1.30-3pm; Lilydale Library.

What: Carol, from local catering business Kazzy’s Kitchen, will create some chocolatey Easter treats for you to taste and then perhaps recreate at home. She will also demonstrate some easy craft ideas that will turn your Easter table from ordinary to joyful.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.

Easter fun chocolate decorating: Wednesday, 10th April, 10.30-11am; Eastland, Ringwood.

What: For children aged 3-7. Enjoy decorating your very own French chocolate flat Easter egg. Choose from a variety of crunchy, chewy, gooey and crisp toppings. Have fun creating your own chocolate hand print too. Included is an apron and hat set.
Cost: $15.
Bookings: WeTeachme.

Cacao, cocoa and chocolate: Thursday, 11th April, 6.30-7.30pm; Eastland, Ringwood.

What: What you will learn: the process of bean to bar chocolate making. Where does chocolate come from? How is it made?; what makes fine couverture so special; and various flavour characteristics in single origin chocolates sourced from around the world. What you will get: 20 varieties of chocolate to taste and a box of your favourite chocolates to take home. You will taste chocolate made with cacao beans grown in countries such as Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Madagascar, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Vietnam and even Australia. You will look at the process of turning cocoa beans into chocolate.
Cost: $38.
Bookings: WeTeachme.

Make your own smash Easter egg: Wednesday, 17th April, 10.30-11.30am; Eastland, Ringwood.

What: For children aged 7-15. Enjoy filling and decorating your own large Easter egg to create your own one of a kind chocolate smash egg. Premium couverture chocolate. Presented in a gift box.
Cost: $45.
Bookings: WeTeachme.

Preserving workshop: Saturday, 27th April, 2-4.30pm; Central Ringwood Community Centre.

What: You will prepare and bottle a jar of pears to take home, jar and all.
Cost: $30.
Bookings: just turn up.

Sourdough bread making workshop: Saturday, 4th May, 10am-1pm; Living & Learning Panton Hill.

What: Tutor Jenna Farrington-Sear. This workshop will cover basic theory as well as the tactile pleasure of all the steps of making bread from milled flour. Suitable for both novices and those who want to expand their bread making repertoire. Topics to be covered: the essential ingredients and tools of the trade; the principal steps of bread making; Baker’s percentage and hydration; mixing, kneading and folding dough; shaping loaves, scoring and baking; and maintaining a starter. You will take home: a piece of dough which can be baked at home; and a sourdough starter.
Cost: $81.
Bookings: their website.

Cooking master class – ‘taste of Tuscany’: Thursday, 9th May, 7-9pm; Gourmet Living, Templestowe.

What: Enjoy 3 tasting size courses cooked by chef Bek McMillan, from Gourmet Living, who will demonstrate step by step. All recipes are included. Menu: Tuscan minestrone; pork fennel sausage rigatoni; and espresso pannacotta.
Cost: $42.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Cooking master class – ‘simple, tasty, Indian’: Thursday, 16th May, 7-9pm; Gourmet Living, Templestowe.

What: Enjoy 3 tasting size courses cooked by chef Bek McMillan, from Gourmet Living, who will demonstrate step by step. All recipes are included. Menu: lentil dhal soup; spicy Indian chicken curry; and Indian rice pudding.
Cost: $42.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Olive magic: Saturday, 18th May, 9.30am-12.30pm; Bulleen Art and Garden.

What: What you will learn: improve your culinary knowledge; learn how to preserve olives; and understand and experience different techniques for preserving olives. Presented by Lucy Marasco. Transform bitter unpalatable olives into gourmet delights! This hands-on workshop will show you a variety of different ways Italians use to preserve green olives straight from the tree.
Cost: $55.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Summary of upcoming events – not cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

Summary of upcoming events – cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.

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