May 112022

Thanks to the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Cara Horner, Chris Chapple, Dione Fisher, Francisca Amar, Greg Parsons, Judith Chivers, Mara Pigatto, Randa Almushcab, Robin Gale-Baker, Simone Boyd, Susan Palmer and Zofia Di Stefano.

If you are Gmail user and didn’t successfully receive our newsletter last week, read this short guide on how to stop Google’s blocking of our future newsletters.

More on your local repair cafes

Cara Horner and Randa Almushcab have both written in to say that there is a new repair cafe at Mernda Community House. There is also one in Brunswick organised by the Tool Library.

That makes 9 local repair cafes in total, as listed on our website. Each repair cafe typically happens once a month, with some having a regular schedule and others not. For some, you just turn up, whilst you need to book a slot at others. So, check the details (which are all on our website) before going.

The next Nillumbik/Hurstbridge repair cafe is on this coming Saturday (book here) and the next Brunswick one is on this coming Sunday (book here).

There is also an occasional repair cafe in Eltham, with the next one being in June.

A number of you have written in to thank me for highlighting the existence of the repair cafes. As Zofia Di Stefano said: “Thank you so much for highlighting this amazing movement in our community.” And Mara Pigatto: “Yay, repair cafes, finally! I have a few old garden tools that belonged to my dad that I would like repaired and brought back to life. I’ll try to contact a few of the locations. I use to watch the repair shop on the ABC and loved it! We have become such a wasteful society.”

Egyptian walking onions

Newsletter reader Simone Boyd has recently produced a video about her Egyptian walking onions.As Simone discusses in both this video and in a previous video, Egyptian walking onions (Allium × proliferum) are unique because, as well as growing normal shallot-like onions underground (see left hand photo), they also grow miniature onions at the tops of their stalks (see right hand photo)! As these minature onions, called bulblets, grow, the stalk bends under their weight until the bulblets touch the ground some distance from the parent plant. They then (with a bit of luck) take root and create new plants. Or you can cut them off and plant them yourself. They average, say, 4 bulblets per stalk, so the number of plants can quickly multiply. They are both fun and easy to grow.

It is pretty obvious why these onions are called walking, but why Egyptian?

You don’t know? Ok, here is another question for you: what was The Bangles’ greatest hit?

The under-rated turnip! (by Robin Gale-Baker)

Robin has written an article about how to grow turnips. Here are some of the key points from the article.

Turnip roots can be eaten: raw, either grated into a coleslaw or sliced for a salad or cut into fingers for dips; roasted, steamed or boiled as an individual veggie; or used in stir fries, stews and soup and as mash. The leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable or, when young, used raw in pesto as a substitute for sweet basil.

Small turnips, harvestable in 6-7 weeks, taste sweet with a slight spicy undertone. More mature turnips, which are harvested at about the 8-10 week mark, are more peppery and slightly bitter. They have quite a bite to them.

Choose a sunny spot with well drained soil. The soil needs to be prepared to a fine tilth (light and fluffy and free of debris) and just a bit deeper than the depth to which the turnip will grow. Do not add manure as this will cause the roots to split and fork.

Direct sow seed into rows about 1cm deep. Sprinkle seed at intervals of about 9cm, cover with soil and water well. It will take around two weeks for seed to germinate and, at that stage, thin the plants out to 9cm intervals if necessary. At the six week mark, pull several to check for size and harvest readiness. As turnips grow bigger, the tops will emerge from the soil, giving you a fair idea of their size when pulled. Every few weeks, succession sow so that you have a constant supply.

As members of the brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc), turnips are subject to the same pests.

Read the full article.

Want some (more) chickens?

Yummy Gardens are selling chickens on Saturday, 14th May. $70 each for purebreeds and $40 each for crossbreeds. The available purebreeds are Australorp Utility and Silkie Bantams. The available crossbreeds are Australorp x Leghorn, Australorp x New Hampshire, New Hampshire x Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire x White Leghorn. Pickup from 155 School Road, St Andrews from 9am onwards. Read more.

This will be their last sale until December and also the last time that they will be selling crossbreeds, as they have decided to concentrate on purebreeds going forward.

Want a job?

Montmorency Primary School is looking for a Garden Co-ordinator for its Stephanie Alexander Kitchen. $40-50 per hour. Part time.

Want to know about growing mushrooms?

Buttons Mira, from The Mushroomery in Alphington, was recently interviewed by Alice Zaslavsky on ABC Melbourne’s Saturday Breakfast show. Listen to the 10 minute interview.

Eltham High School students visited Sugarloaf Produce farm

Chris Chapple has written in to say that, last week, Local Food Connect organised a ‘farm to plate’ experience for Eltham High School (EHS) year 11 & 12 students. The party was led by Yasemin Ziada, Eltham High School VET Hospitality Teacher.

Having taken a circuitous and somewhat mountainous route from Eltham to Strathewen, the party arrived at Sugarloaf Produce farm and spent an enjoyable morning experiencing everything that this small, mixed, organic farm has to offer. Thanks to hosts, Isabella, Warren and team, who grow vegetables, Swiss brown mushrooms and free range eggs on their farm. Most of their produce is sold at the Eltham Farmers’ Market.

Yasemin reported afterwards that it was a great experience for the students. They had a wonderful time at the farm and the trip home was abuzz with sharing experiences. The feedback from the students included:

  • Beautiful farm and wonderful learning opportunity. Really enjoyed the hands on experience.
  • It was really intriguing to be immersed in the world of local produce and the integrity behind it.
  • Thank you so much for today it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing how they plant all of the vegetables and see how it all happens on a farm.
  • I loved tasting the feijoas as I have never heard of this fruit before and will definitely look out for this at the farmers market.
  • I loved feeding the cows and goats; rusty (the dog!) was the best.
  • I liked tasting the feijoas and really enjoyed planting the fennel and seeing the chooks and goats.

Yasemin is Eltham High School’s representative on Local Food Connect’s Fabbro’s Farm reference panel.

Treading lightly together

Watch this video from Reimagine Banyule about some local community initiatives for treading more lightly in Banyule. Most of the people featured are readers of this newsletter!

A periodic table of fermented foods

The picture right is of a periodic table of fermented foods. Click the picture, and then zoom, for a readable, high resolution version. Open this pdf for an even higher resolution version.

For each of 118 fermented foods, the picture sets out the origin of the food, the main ingredients, typical fermentation organisms, pH, water activity, fermentation/ripening time, and the major microbial metabolites that relate to product quality. The contribution of major groups of fermentation organisms is colour coded as indicated in the legend; back-slopped fermentations are indicated by a thick outline and by an underlined product name.

Permaculture, composting and going green

This week’s newsletter from Going Green Solutions is about permaculture and composting, including some recommended books.

Going Green Solutions is a retailer of eco-friendly products and is based in Hurstbridge. Its weekly newsletter covers a wide range of eco-related subjects. Read more and potentially sign up

Another article by Angelo Eliades

Why are my tomatoes flowering but not setting fruit?.

Read more of Angelo’s articles about food growing.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link in the last newsletter was The Rogue Ginger’s article about repair cafes.

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

As submitted by Susan Palmer: Remember: when you bury a body, cover it with endangered plants so that it’s illegal to dig it up.

Read more jokes.

Regular activities over the coming week

Farmers’ markets
Food swaps
Community gardens

Not food-related but interesting

Sustainability book chat; Tuesday, 24th May, 7.30-8.30pm; free; Greensborough.

Read, watch and chat about issues of sustainability on our planet, and how we can grow the future we want to see. This book club meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month. It is a joint initiative between Sustainable Greensborough and Diamond Valley Library.

Planting for wildlife; Thursday, 9th June, 11am-midday; free; Greensborough.

Celebrate World Environment Day and learn about which plants encourage various wildlife into the garden. Find out what plants you can grow to provide a food source and/or shelter for local wildlife. Learn the basic garden do’s and don’ts to create a dedicated area to encourage wildlife, and discover the benefits of so doing.

Upcoming face-to-face events – not cooking

Herb trees; Tuesday, 17th May, 7.30-8.30pm; $20 ($14 per hour); Burnley.

When we think of herbs, we think of small ground-covers and herbaceous plants, but many of our most prized herbs actually derive from quite large trees. Jill Bryant will illustrate her talk using living potted specimens of many tree herbs.

Community gardening in Moreland forum; Sunday, 22nd May, 10am-12.30pm; free; Coburg North.

Moreland Community Gardening and Moreland Council will be exploring the importance of communication and engagement within community gardens. The speakers will include: Libby Harper (Moreland Community Gardening); Rachael Cilauro (Newlands and East Coburg Neighbourhood Houses); Guy Palmer, editor of the Local Food Connect newsletter and website; Nathacha Subero, Reynard Street Neighbourhood House; and Lee Tozzi (Moreland City Council).

Growing Winter veggies; Saturday, 28th May, 9.30am-3pm; $75 ($14 per hour); Eltham.

Through a combination of theory, discussion and hands-on activity, you will: gain knowledge about the importance of preparing soil before planting; learn about basic PH testing, adding soil conditioners, amendments and fertilisers; learn how to grow and maintain their winter veggies, including protecting plants from pest and disease during the growing season; and create a seed/seed raising mix, sow seeds, prick out seedlings and plant or pot them up. Tutor: Melissa Houselander.

Winter fruit tree maintenance; Saturday, 2nd July, 9.30am-midday; $55 ($22 per hour); Bulleen Art & Garden.

What you will learn: pruning of both new and established fruit trees; selection and planting of new fruit trees; Winter fruit tree maintenance practices for pest and disease prevention, control and treatment; and pruning tool maintenance.

Food photography; Saturday, 2nd July, 2-5pm; $109 ($36 per hour); Eltham.

This class is for food bloggers, bakers or restaurant/cafe owners. It will focus on taking great images of food using your own, or easily obtainable, equipment. It will cover such aspects as: the right equipment; the best camera settings to make your food look good; choosing the right backgrounds; lighting; basic food styling; being creative; the perils of incorrect white balance; and using software to enhance colour and presentation.

Pruning and care of fruit trees; Saturday, 9th July, 10am-3pm; $115 ($23 per hour); CERES.

What you will learn: how to grow a variety of fruit and nut trees in your backyard; pruning techniques; and pest and disease management. Presenter: Justin Calverley.

Urban food gardening (8 sessions); 8 consecutive Wednesdays from 13th July, 10am-2.30pm; $60 for all 8 sessions (Government subsidised fee); Eltham.

This course is for people who love gardening and the outdoors, are considering a career in horticulture, would like to learn more about growing their own food successfully or who would like an introduction to aspects of working in the industry before choosing a specific course/study pathway. The last 4 weeks will be at Edendale Farm. The course will be run by Justin Calverley.

In May
In June
In July
Regular events

Upcoming face-to-face events – cooking

The mighty booch – DIY kombucha; Tuesday, 31st May, 6.30-8pm; $80 ($40 per hour); Collingwood.

The Fermented Mumma will discuss the process and benefits of fermentation, the problems with pre-packaged kombucha, and the endless flavour combinations for your custom booch. She will introduce you to a scoby (which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’), the low-pH ‘mother’ from which your kombucha will spring. First, black tea and sugar are brewed together to make the starter tea. This is then poured over the scoby, covered in a cheesecloth, and left to ferment. The yeast consumes the sugar, excreting alcohol, which is processed by the bacteria into vinegar, providing a natural carbonation and tangy zing. New scoby babies form in the process.

How to create almost vegetarian recipes; Saturday, 11th June, 10am-12.30pm; how-to-create-almost-vegetarian-recipes; Forest Hill.

Not quite ready to give up meat, but you’d like to reduce its significance in your family’s diet and budget? In this cooking and tasting demonstration, Scott Hitchins will show you how to feed four with one sausage, make three family meals from one chicken and make a lentil bolognaise. Learn tips and tricks to reduce meat in recipes, or remove it altogether, without compromising on flavour.

Tortelloni and ravioli class; Saturday, 9th July, 10am-1.30pm; $125 ($36 per hour); Thomastown.

What you will learn: how to make fresh pasta dough; and how to make tagliatelle, spinach & ricotta tortelli and pumpkin ravioli. What you will get: cheese tasting and drinks; and a That’s Amore apron to take home.

In May
In June
In July
Regular classes

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