Oct 132021

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Archna Bhatt, Avril Clark, Brooke Earl, Cathy Romeo, Choon Yin Yeok, Dorothy Kwak, Helen Simpson, Jaimie Sweetman, Jon Buttery, Kathryn O’Connell, Kayla Blackmore, Larysa Sutherland, Lyn Richards, Lynn Wallace, Megan Cassidy, Monique Decortis, Rita Varrasso, Robin Gale-Baker, Sandra Verdam, Simone Boyd, Sonia Martinez and Soo Mei Leong.

Given that we are not covering face-to-face events at the moment, there is lots of space to include other things. Now would therefore be a really good time for you to submit some words about any food-related matters. It can be anything so long as it is food-related: ask a question, provide a tip, discuss an issue, submit a photo, send in a recipe, etc. Email us with your contribution(s).

This week’s farmers’ markets

Thursday: Alphington Midweek Farmgate.

Saturday: Coburg.

Sunday: Alphington, Eltham and Yarra Valley.

As listed above, Melbourne Farmers Markets have started a new midweek farmers’ market at Alphington, every Thursday, 2-5pm.

Because of Covid-19, the Community Grocer has had to temporarily move some of its markets:

  • Carlton: re-located to Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, 20 Princes Street, Carlton North. Fridays, 8am-midday.
  • Fitzroy: re-located to Fitzroy Learning Network, 198 Napier Street. Tuesdays, 9am-1pm.
  • Heidelberg West: still at The Bell Street Mall, Corner of Bell Street and Oriel Road. Saturdays, 9am-1pm.

Jaimie’s edible plant of the month – angelica (Angelica archangelica)

This month I have chosen angelica as my edible plant of the month because it’s really beautiful at this time of year and has so many uses.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is in the Apiaceae family. Also in this family is celery and angelica is sometimes referred to as wild celery.

All parts of the plant are edible. The stems can be eaten raw in salads or prepared in the same way you use celery or asparagus in stews or stir-fries. The leaves are also edible too but can be quite bitter; we dry them and use them in herbal teas, with some of the listed health benefits being treating heartburn, respiratory issues, runny nose, benefit sleeping and reducing nervousness.

The roots are traditionally used in Chinese medicine where they are dried and ground up.

The other great thing about having angelica in the garden is that it attracts beneficial bugs, including bees and hover flies. Also, due the strong tap root as they self-seed around the garden, they help break up the soil.

A true biennial, the first year there is lots of leafy lush growth followed by umbel flower heads the next year. They are prolific in seeds that you can collect or just let them sow themselves around the garden as we do.

If you are looking for a low maintenance useful plant that is also edible, angelica would be a good choice.

* * * * *

Watch Jaimie’s video about angelica.

Read about Jaimie’s previous edible plants of the month.

Jaimie Sweetman is Head Gardener of the Edible Forest located on the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixons Creek. Tours of the Edible Forest, often led by Jaimie, take place on all days except Sundays – read more and book your place on a future tour.

Why you should choose a cape gooseberry plant for your garden (by Megan Cassidy)

[Megan Cassidy, from Greensborough, is active within Sustainable Greensborough. As discussed on her website, she is a freelance copywriter. But, of course, her main claim to fame is that she has started writing articles for our website, with her first article being on growing cape gooseberries.]

A cape gooseberry bush grows to around 2 metres wide and 2 metres high, with multiple stalks from a central root. Megan originally grew hers to help keep one of their external brick walls cooler. Depending on conditions, it can be either perennial or annual, with Megan’s being perennial. Water needs are moderate and flowering starts in late winter.

The berries are small (1-2cm across), yellow and round. Each is “encased in a papery husk that starts out green and flexible, and turns into a cool-looking ‘skeleton cage’ with the yellow berry peeping through, so that you know it is ready.” Megan got around 500 berries from her plant last year!

Each berry has “lots of tiny edible seeds, and it tastes a little like a tiny, tangy, zingy tomato. It has to be tried several times to fully appreciate its flavour though, as it’s a very distinctive and different taste.

They are great for eating straight off the bush – they often don’t even make it past the little helpers who gather them! I do prefer to give them a wash first, to get the waxy, slightly sticky sheen off it, but this is not essential. They also go well in salads in place of cherry tomatoes, in salsas and baked tomato dishes. You can jam them easily because they are high in pectin. Don’t eat the green ones though! If you have a dehydrator, you can even make your own inca berries – yes, those expensive superfoods you see at the health food shops for $50/kg!

Megan’s final thought: “My daughter’s room has been cooler since we put this plant in and I enjoy looking out her window and spotting the brown papery pods I can go out and pick. It’s a reminder to get out in the garden and enjoy the fruits of my labour!

Read the full article.

Jon’s podcast of the week

Here is a podcast about eating acorns. It answers such questions as: Why would anyone want to eat acorns? What is the best method for gathering, and how can you tell if an acorn is no good? How do you remove the tannins in order to make acorns edible? What’s the best way to prepare acorns to eat?

More on making homemade gin

Robin Gale-Baker has written in to say that she recently made a bottle of gin using rock samphire which was great. It apparently took longer than usual to develop a really good flavour.

Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is one of the plants that Jaimie Sweetman suggests that you grow. Read her article on the subject on our website.

Every newsletter needs a good photo

Lynn Wallace has written in to say that, during the lockdowns, her daughter has discovered a talent for making ‘miniatures’. For Lynn’s recent birthday, her daughter gave her a miniature garden shed measuring 22cm x 15cm (see the photo)! Not surprisingly, Lynn loves it!

New free food pantries in Diamond Creek, Eltham and Watsonia

Every week we seem to be announcing new community pantries or food is free locations!

There are new free community pantries in Diamond Creek, Eltham and Watsonia. The Diamond Creek one is at St John’s Anglican Church, 61 Main Street. The Eltham one at the Eltham Lions Club, 2 Youth Road. The Watsonia one is at Watsonia Neighbourhood House, 47 Lambourn Road. All three are the initiative of The Food Collective and are open 24/7 to whoever needs food. Give what you can, take what you need.

Look at a map of where all the free community pantries are.

Want to volunteer?

Diamond Creek Primary School is looking for a volunteer Garden Club Coordinator, starting late January. 4-6 hours/week during Spring/Summer and 2-3 hours/week during Autumn/Winter. The garden is substantial, comprising 22 raised garden beds, the majority of which are wicking beds. There is an aluminium framed polycarbonate greenhouse, large garden shed, a netted greenery area, a compost area and a potting shed. The garden is self-funded, where sales from seedlings, produce, plants and market stalls assist with the upkeep and running of the garden and the club. Read more. All expressions of interest and enquires should be directed to Jessica Betts, jebetts@hotmail.com or on 0411 067621.

Yes you did know!

Last week, Valerie Mudie asked for any advice about growing strawberry spinach (Blitum capitatum syn. Chenopodium capitatum).

Simone Boyd has provided a comprehensive response: “I have grown strawberry spinach mainly for the tiny, edible ‘strawberries’ which form towards the end of the plants season. Not a true strawberry, but they make a great addition to salads or as an edible flower alternative. The leaves are also edible as a spinach substitute (just pick them off as soon as they get to a size that you can harvest).

The plants are pretty easy to grow. I sow direct into well-prepared soil (addition of compost prior to planting) then just keep moist until germination. They tend to do better here in the cooler months, but are also worth a try during Summer. The plant will readily self seed so let it go if you want free plants, or make sure you eat the berries if not.

Tomato and other veggie seedlings available at Kevin Heinze Grow (Coburg and Doncaster)

As discussed last week, Kevin Heinze Grow are currently selling their tomato and other veggie seedlings via a ‘call and collect’ service. You choose what you want from their website and send them an email (plantsales@kevinheinzegrow.org.au). They will then contact you re payment and to organise collection.

Guy’s veggie growing tip of the week – copper tape to deter snails and slugs

The most popular link (by far) in last week’s newsletter was Angelo’s article entitled How to control snails and slugs without toxic chemicals. Part of that article discussed copper tape barriers. This is a method that has been successful for me so I thought that I would say a few words about it.

The theory behind using copper tape is that, because snails/slugs are moist and copper is highly conductive, the snail/slug will receive something of an electric shock if the two come into contact and will retreat. No killing is involved.

Just about whenever my wife and I plant a veggie seedling, we cover it with a pot which has its bottom cut out and some copper tape going round it. The copper tape has to form a continual barrier around the whole of the pot as otherwise the snails/slugs will go through the gaps.

We usually remove the pot when the seedling is, say, around 30cms in height. In this way, we have a stack of around 50 pots which are continually being circulated around the veggie patch. Most of the pots are intact apart from having their bottoms cut off but we also have a few with a vertical cut through them as these are easier to remove for ‘wide’ seedlings.

The copper tape is about 2-3cm wide and typically comes in rolls of 4 metres in length. For example, Bunnings call it ‘snail & slug barrier’ and sell a 4 metre roll for $10, which is sufficient for around 15 pots.

Read my previous veggie growing tips.

The photo competition

The results of last week’s competition

The theme was ‘your garden (or someone else’s garden)’ and attracted 15 entries. Thanks, everyone!

The winner, as judged by our panel, was Archna Bhatt’s photo of someone’s garden.

Commendations to Chris Kent’s roses and to Larysa Sutherland’s garden.

Archna Bhatt
A pretty colourful front garden somewhere in Doreen.
Chris Kent
A few years ago, an elderly gardening customer finally allowed me to prune her ‘prize’ rose – a magnificent ‘Just Joey’.
My garden
Larysa Sutherland
We know that Spring is definitely here when our wisteria is in full bloom.
Archna Bhatt
Soo Mei Leong
When the clump of Hippeastrum papilio blooms in my little patch of garden, it brings me great joy and happiness.
My garden
Avril Clark
This is my beautiful snowball tree covered in blooms. To the left is a ballerina crab apple wreathed in a hop vine. To the right is a gingko just coming into leaf.
My garden
Brooke Earl
This section of the garden has cost me nothing as all the plants are cuttings from existing plants elsewhere in the garden.
My garden
Cathy Romeo
The beauty of a fruit tree garden laden in spring blossoms as the sun is setting.
My garden
Choon Yin Yeok
My garden
Dorothy Kwak
Lots of colour getting into summer.
Archna Bhatt
A rainbow in my local community garden (Buna).
Re-purposed school desk
Larysa Sutherland
An old school desk, re-purposed as a shady plant stand for cyclamen, ferns, ginger, begonia, etc.
Spring watering
Lynn Wallace
Succulent garden
Rita Varrasso
Note the flowers.
Under the verandah
Dorothy Kwak
This week’s competition

As we are still in lockdown, we are going to have another photo competition.

Thanks to Cathy Romeo, Chris Kent, Helen Simpson, Kathryn O’Connell, Larysa Sutherland and Lyn Richards for their various suggestions for themes for future photo competitions, some of which we will use in the coming weeks.

The theme this week is ‘nature strips or other streetscapes’. I realise that this is a narrower theme than last week’s but let’s hope it attracts some interesting entries. Email your photos together with some words about them.

The theme is based on a suggestion by Kathryn O’Connell who wrote: “What about nature strips? When my local council (Banyule) removed an old and limb dropping gum, they left a great gap which I couldn’t mow, so I popped in pieces of pigface to cover it and the whole thing became an addiction. Now I regard nature strips as an urban desert, waiting for gardeners to adorn the space with whatever suits their style – natives? Succulents? Mediterranean? Unfortunately Banyule Council has a ‘no plant’ policy, so any plants must be seen as temporary but for many of us the joy of watching a dead space turn into a beautiful canvas outweighs the threat of losing all. Here is a photo of my nature strip after NBN was installed, as part of which they kindly put some top soil on the bare clay.

Mandarin cake (by Sonia Martinez)

This is a good way of using up any mandarins that are still on your tree.


5-6 mandarins, already poached with some sugar and brandy (brandy optional)
100g soft butter
150g sugar
3 eggs, separated
250g self raising flour
Grated lemon rind of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
about 1 cup milk (any type will work)


Cream together the butter, sugar, egg yolks and ground cloves.

Add in the lemon zest, flour and milk, so that it forms a thick batter.

Add in the mandarin segments, gently folding through.

Whisk the egg whites separately and gently fold into the batter.

Bake at 180degC for around 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Add some icing sugar if you wish.

Joke (or pun) of the week

By replacing your morning coffee with green tea, you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming face-to-face events

For obvious reasons, we’re generally not currently advertising face-to-face events, but here is one outdoor event which is scheduled for after when such events are likely to be allowed.

Plant sale; Sunday, 7th November, 8.30am-1pm

Organised by Hurstbridge Sow & Grow Garden Club. There will be a wide range of interesting, unusual and drought tolerant plants for sale. Saunders Automotive Carpark, 941 Main Road, Hurstbridge.

Upcoming online events – an alert about non-working hyperlinks

Some of our local libraries (e.g. the Whitehorse Manningham and Yarra Plenty libraries) use a website called Spydus for their events management and booking. The problem is that Spydus hyperlinks don’t work in a normal way. More specifically, the hyperlink to any particular event seems to change from day to day so whenever I add any hyperlink into the newsletter it works for a time and then ceases to work. So, newsletter readers can’t easily book their place at the event and sometimes get (or should get) irritated. Until and unless someone from either the libraries or from Spydus tells me how this problem can be avoided I am, regrettably, not going to be able to include any of their events in this newsletter any more. So, at least for the time being, there won’t be any events in this newsletter from either Whitehorse Manningham Libraries or Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries (which covers Banyule, Nillumbik and Whittlesea).

Upcoming online events – newly announced

If you know of an upcoming online event that you would like to see included in this newsletter, email me with either the details or a link to the details.

Keep the Yarra Valley fruit fly free; Friday, 15th October, 10.30-11.30am

Organised by Eastern Regional Libraries. Free. Presenter: Bron Koll. Learn how to prevent this pest getting a foothold. Read more and potentially book your place.

Introduction to fermenting at home; Saturday, 16th October, 10am-midday

Organised by CERES. $50. Presenter: Monique. You will learn: how to turn cabbage into sauerkraut; the easiest way to experiment with vegetables fermented in salt brine; and how to ferment your own kombucha. Read more and potentially book your place.

Grow herbs at home; Tuesday, 19th October, 6.30-8pm

Organised by My Smart Garden. Free. Presenter: Angelo Eliades. Learn how to grow herbs in whatever space you have, from the smallest balcony to the biggest garden, in dry areas, wet areas, shade or sun, outside or indoors. They will cover how to plant, propagate, harvest, dry and store herbs. Read more and potentially book your place.

Spring picnics (thermomix); Friday, 22nd October, 7.30-9pm

Organised by Thermotess, Tess Murray. Free. Presenters: various. The menu will includes: minted mosco mule (a cocktail), gourmet crackers, beetroot salad with raita dressing, peanut soba noodle wonton cups, peanut dressing, mini spiced lamb pies and pecan pie cheesecake cups. Read more and potentially book your place.

Composting for kids; Sunday, 24th October, 11-11.45am

Organised by My Smart Garden. Free. Presenters: Charlie Mgee (musician) and Brenna Quinlan (permaculture illustrator). This will be a fun and musical tour of life in our soil, learning about how we can keep it healthy through composting and worm farming. Read more and potentially book your place.

Wicking bed workshop; Tuesday, 26th October, 7-8pm

Organised by My Smart Garden. Free. Presenter: Craig Castree. Learn about permaculture design principles, how to conduct a site analysis and working with vertical gardens, pots and containers plus how to make the most of your space to increase your harvest. Read more and potentially book your place.

Design a small and productive garden; Wednesday, 10th November, 6.30-8pm

Organised by My Smart Garden. Free. Presenter: Kat Lavers. Learn how to grow herbs in whatever space you have, from the smallest balcony to the biggest garden, in dry areas, wet areas, shade or sun, outside or indoors. They will cover how to plant, propagate, harvest, dry and store herbs. Read more and potentially book your place.

Composting at home; Wednesday, 10th November, 7-9pm

Organised by Banyule Council. Free. Learn about all the tips and tricks to make great compost. Find out about different containers, worm farming and Bokashi buckets. Read more and potentially book your place.

Upcoming online events – previously announced

Harvest work information session; Thursday, 14th October, 12.30-1.15pm

Organised by Yarra Ranges Council. Free. Learn how you can apply for harvest jobs available in the Yarra Ranges over this Summer. Hear from a current harvest worker and a local cherry farmer. Read more and potentially book your place.

SecondBite’s mission is to end waste, end hunger; Thursday, 14th October, 1-2pm

Organised by Manningham Council. Free. Presenter: Steve Clifford, CEO of SecondBite. SecondBite rescues surplus food from retailers, manufacturers and farmers and re-distributes it free of charge to local charities and not-for-profits that run food programs. Read more and potentially book your place.

Beginners guide to pruning; Thursday, 14th October, 6-8pm

Organised by CERES. $50. Skill up in all the basics so you can get started pruning right away. Presenter: Carol Henderson. Read more and potentially book your place.

Growing great tomatoes; Saturday, 16th October, 10am-midday

Organised by CERES. $50. This workshop will cover: how to choose which tomato varieties to grow; whether to grow from seed or seedling, in pots, raised beds or directly into soil; when and how to plant and tips for success; training growth with stakes, cages or string vs free range; pros and cons of pruning; preventing common problems; feeding; and crop rotation. Presenter: Carol Henderson. Read more and potentially book your place.

Understanding and improving your soil; Sunday, 17th October, 10.30am-midday

Organised by Bulleen Art and Garden. $35. Learn how to identify the various types of soils and improve them to create a healthy and productive garden. Learn about the fundamentals of soil ecology, plant nutrition, soil pH management and soil care. Presenter: Angelo Eliades. Read more and potentially book your place.

Beginners guide to urban farming (7 sessions); starting Sunday, 17th October, 2pm

Organised by Richmond Community Learning Centre. $82 for all 7 sessions. The 7 sessions will cover: 1. making a wicking pot, starting seedlings, container gardening, introduction to permaculture; 2. soil, making biochar, trench composting, soil carbon, hugelkultur, soil food web, fungi; 3. composting, worm farming, bees wax wraps, weed tea; 4. straw bale gardens, hidden hugelkultur, no dig gardens, bee scaping, food scaping; 5. creating a guild, plant companions, polycultures, building soil, maximising space, increasing vigour and yield; 6. feeding the soil, organic control of common problems and pests, chop and drop, looking after our insect friends; and 7. seed saving, cuttings, produce sharing, seed sharing and making community connections. Read more and potentially book your place.

Take your recipe to retail; Wednesday, 20th October, 9-10am

Organised by Business of Food. $50. Learn the practical steps to running a food business and understand the obligations of taking your food product to a retail market. Read more and potentially book your place.

Composting at home; Saturday, 23rd October, 10-11am

Organised by Maroondah Council. Free. Learn how to set up, maintain and use a compost bin at home. Read more and potentially book your place.

Worm farming and Bokashi at home; Saturday, 23rd October, 11.30am-midday

Organised by Maroondah Council. Free. Learn how to set up, maintain and use a worm farm and Bokashi bucket. Read more and potentially book your place.

Home composting for beginners; Saturday, 23rd October, 2-3.30pm

Organised by Edendale Farm. Free. Learn the basics of home composting including how to set one up and maintain it, the simple recipe for success, what to add and what not to add. Read more and potentially book your place.

Growing fruit and veggies in small spaces; Sunday, 24th October, 10.30am-midday

Organised by Bulleen Art and Garden. $35. Topics will include fruit, vegetables and berries for small spaces, growing produce in pots and containers, maximising productivity in any size space, and plant selection. Presenter: Angelo Eliades. Read more and potentially book your place.

Setting the right price for product; Tuesday, 26th October, 10-11.30am

Organised by Business of Food. $45. Learn about accurately costing your product and setting a retail price. Read more and potentially book your place.

Preparing for a summer veggie crop; Wednesday, 27th October, 7-8.30pm

Organised by Boroondara Council. Free. You will learn about: garden maintenance and preparation; selecting what to plant and when to plant it; growing summer veggies in pots; managing hot weather, including mulching and smart watering; improving productivity sustainably, including crop rotation and companion planting; and soil preparation and management. Read more and potentially book your place.

Herbs for the kitchen garden; Thursday, 28th October, 6-8pm

Organised by CERES. $50. Learn the best herbs for sunny or shady spots, which grow well pots and what to grow when. Discover rules of thumb to know which herbs you can take cuttings from and which grow best from seed. Presenter: Carol Henderson. Read more and potentially book your place.

Otao Kitchen cooking classes; various dates

Otao Kitchen have moved many of their cooking classes online including chinese, dumpling making, indian, indonesian, japanese, korean, thai and vietnamese. Read more and potentially book your place.

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