Sep 132017

Mac’s tip of the week

While pruning a bay laurel (Laurus nobilus) hedge this week, I had to admire how versatile this Mediterranean plant really is. It is able to cope with drought, frost, poor soils, pretty much anything once established, and can be grown in full sun or in the shade. I have even heard that it can even survive bushfires! Although, if let go, it is classed as a tree or tall shrub, when hedged, it can provide excellent screening and be kept at your desired height (up to 6-8m, or less) and a mere 60-80cm wide if trimmed both sides. More moisture will give quicker growth. Dry leaves are generally the preferred option for cooking as the fresh leaves can be a tad pungent. So, if you can sauce one, don’t stew on the decision and stock up now.

Editor’s note: incidently, bay laurel is dioecious, like kiwifruit and carob.

Read all of Mac’s tips.

Eltham Farmer’ Market to be every Sunday?

With the current two monthly markets well established, Local Food Connect (LFC) is now exploring the option of operating the Eltham Farmers’ Market every week. With more stallholder opportunities, LFC would be pleased to hear from any local growers or food product makers with an interest in trading at the market. The main rule is that stallholders must grow or make what they sell. Preference will be given to how local the stallholder is and how well the products fit with the existing stallholder mix. If you would like to learn more, contact Chris by phone (0407 431366) or email.

A lovely story

In the 5th July newsletter, Nicole Johnston asked if anyone had some kefir grains that they could give her. Here, in Nicole’s own words, is what has happened since: “When you first sent me the list of names and email addresses from people offering grains, I was delighted and heartened by the gesture of generous strangers. Then I was a little nervous about making contact – after all, these are strangers and I’m asking them to do something for me, for nothing. But writing an email is a fairly safe place to start, so I picked a name from the list and wrote. It turned out that this person had milk kefir grains and I was looking for water grains. So I had to pick another name and try again. I didn’t get a reply for a while and forgot about my search. Then a reply came from someone called Doris and that got the ball rolling again. After a series of text messages, we agreed to meet at the library. I asked her if she’d like some lemons and she said yes. A trade!

We cautiously introduced ourselves. I didn’t even have to wear a white carnation or a bright scarf to be identified by! She gave me a little bag with enough grains to make my first batch, a bottle of kefir water she had made for me to try, and a full page of instructions and tips on making water kefir. I gave her some of my lemons in a handmade produce bag as I wanted to offer something for her generosity. We had a little chat and then went our separate ways. She seemed happy with her lemons. It was so satisfying to give and to receive, no money changed hands and I met a lovely, generous stranger.

The kefir is quite delicious and easy to make. Once my grains start to multiply, I’ll give some to someone else.

Do you want some quality gelato?

Some of you might remember that, in the 19th July newsletter, I listed the winners from North East Melbourne in the 2017 Australian Food Awards. Afterwards, I invited some of the winners to become part of the Local Food Directory. As a result, there are now two new makers of gelato and sorbet in the directory.

Billy van Creamy were a gold medal winner. You can buy their gelato and sorbet from their shop (27-29 Best Street, Fitzroy North). As they say “The creaminess doesn’t come from any secret ingredients, synthetic stabilisers or emulsifiers, or in fact anything that you wouldn’t find in a regular pantry at home; rather, it simply comes from balanced recipes made with organic milk, fresh cream, raw sugar and free range egg yolks. We make everything from scratch using real, whole ingredients. This means roasting and grinding organic nuts, making honeycomb, jams, coulis, caramels in their own kitchen.

Fritz Gelato were a silver medal winner. You can buy their gelato and sorbet from their shop (334 Bridge Road, Richmond). They sell their
low-fat, healthy, organic gelato in 132(!) flavours.

Community gardens in Whittlesea

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking to the various community gardens in Whittlesea. The net result is that 6 of the gardens now each have their own page on our website and have also been included on the map of where the community gardens are. Another way of viewing the material is via the community gardening section of the Local Food Directory. Of the 6 gardens, 1 is open to the public and a further 2 have free membership.

Thanks for the community gardens for responding to my requests for information and photos. And thanks to Emma Bennett, Adele Mifsud and Annemaree Docking at the Council for providing some of the information and for the online Whittlesea Community Directory.

Creeds Farm Eucalypt Mernda
Mernda Seed, Sow & Grow Triple G Whittlesea

Local food news

The Living & Learning Nillumbik Community Veggie Garden in Eltham have recently added some beds and four metres of beasley mix soil. But they are still looking for new members (membership is free). If you are potentially interested, contact Trevor by phone (0401 710997) or email.

There is an article in the Leader about the Links Community Group’s plan to build a community garden in Lalor.

Bomba Wood Fired Pizza, from Eltham, will be a vendor at the Vegan and vegetarian weekend at Preston Food Truck Park on the weekend of 13th October.

AVS Organic Foods, from Watsonia North, will be a stallholder at World Vegan Day at Flemington Showgrounds on 12th November.

Frio Cafe and Restaurant, in Eltham, has closed down. So, there are now ‘only’ 26 cafes in Eltham.

Want some ideas for indoor plants?

Indira Naidoo’s top five plants for indoor living.

Which link was clicked most times in last week’s newsletter?

Backyard Honey.

An ode to a simple onion

Maria Nechwatal thinks that you might like this ode to a simple onion by Naomi Shihab Nye:

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

If anyone else would
to contribute some poetry, that would be

Joke of the week

What did the queen say when someone threw cheese at her? How dairy!

Read all the jokes.

New events

Official opening of Pentridge Community Garden

What: You will have an opportunity to explore, talk to them about the plans for the garden and visualise how it will develop over the coming months. They will also have composting and planting in action for anyone who wants to roll their sleeves up, a produce swap and free seed and seedling planting for kids.
When: Sunday, 17th September, 1.30-3.30am.
Where: Coburg.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

‘Buzz inn’ bee hotel making

What: Native bees are good friends in the garden, performing the valuable service of pollination. Learn more about solitary native bees, and the advantages of attracting these to your garden, as well as how to make bee hotels. The workshop will include an introduction to native bees, how to spot a native bee, the nesting types, buzz pollination, what materials are great to get you started with your own bee hotel, and how to set up a bee-friendly garden. Katrina Forstner, founder of Buzz and Dig, is a local gardener, native bee enthusiast and maker of insect hotels.
When: Sunday, 24th September, 2-4pm.
Where: Thornbury.
Cost: $15.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Seasonal eating and nutrition workshop

What: Are you getting enough serves of veggies into your diet? Young Australians definitely find it hard – only 5% of them do. Student Dietitian, Sascha Bull, will be facilitate a nutrition education session focussing on student friendly tips and tricks to boost veggie intake. You’ll be learning about how to save $$ with seasonal eating, take a little garden tour, then harvest and cook the produce from the garden – gaining some cooking skills along the way.
When: Thursday, 5th October, 3-5pm.
Where: La Trobe University.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Vegan and vegetarian weekend

What: Showcasing the best in meat-free and plant-based street food, their lineup will include: Bomba Wood Fired Pizza; Cheese & Bread; Jerry's Vegiburgers; Rice and Dice; Señor Churro; Shiva Indian Cuisine; The Pham Sisters Vegan Eatery; Tiramisu’ Lift Me Up; Vegilicious; Von's Vegan Bake House; Woking Amazing; and YAY Foods.
When: Friday, 13th October, 5-10pm; Saturday, 14th October, midday-10pm; and Sunday, 15th October, midday-9pm.
Where: Preston Food Truck Park.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: their Facebook page.

FareShare kitchen garden – open day

What: Go along for an insight into urban food production. There will be guided tours, activities for kids and seedlings available by gold coin donation. Hear from gardening experts and volunteers on everything you need to know about growing food in Melbourne, with topics including edible plants, urban agriculture, bee keeping, composting and spring gardening.
When: Saturday, 14th October, 10am-1pm.
Where: FareShare, Abbotsford.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Rushall Community Garden – open day

What: This event will feature: members actively gardening and chatting with visitors; a compost workshop; self-wicking seed raising; garden tours; stalls (including plants and seedlings, fresh produce from the garden, home-made goodies and ‘odds and ends’); a raffle; a BBQ; and refreshments.
When: Saturday, 14th October, 1-4pm.
Where: Fitzroy North.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Nunawading Community Gardens 40th birthday celebrations

What: Nunawading Community Gardens was the first community garden established in Australia. Activities at the 40th birthday celebrations will include tours of the garden, food trucks, children’s entertainment, live music, seedling sales and gardening tutorials.
When: Sunday, 22nd October, 11am-3pm.
Where: Nunawading Community Gardens, Forest Hill.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Indian cooking – Punjabi (two sessions)

What: Tutor Taariq Hassan. Learn how to cook a healthy North West Indian vegetarian meal from scratch using authentic ingredients. Menu: basmati rice with peas and cumin seeds; daal tadka (spice lentils); aloo ghobhi (dry stir fried potatoes and cauliflower); chappatti (Indian flat bread); raita (yoghurt-based side dish); dry roasted pappadums; and milk-based dessert.
When: Monday, 23rd October and Monday, 30th October, both 6.30-8.30pm.
Where: Hurstbridge Hub.
Cost: $89.
Bookings: their website.
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. 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.
When: Sunday, 12th November, 10am-2.30pm.
Where: CERES.
Cost: $75.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Building veggie beds from pallets

What: Have you ever wanted to learn how to make things for your garden, how to use hand tools or how to re-use wooden pallets as a building material? In this workshop, you will learn about: how to source used timber pallets; using hand tools safely; how to breakdown timber pallets to basic building materials; veggie box design options; how to build a veggie growing box; wicking boxes — what they are and how they work; and how to convert a plain box into a wicking box. Presenter: Drew Barr. Workshop participants will be split into teams of 3 or 4 to build the veggie boxes.
When: Sunday, 12th November, 12.30-4pm.
Where: Templestowe College.
Cost: $55.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Indian cooking – Southern region (two sessions)

What: Tutor Taariq Hassan. Learn how to cook a healthy North West Indian vegetarian meal from scratch using authentic ingredients. Menu: sambhar (spiced lentil soup with tamarind and vegetables); iddli (steamed savoury rice /lentil flour cakes); fresh coconut chutney; tamarind rice with peanuts and curry leaves; dry roasted papadums; plain yoghurt; and milk-based dessert.
When: Monday, 13th November and Monday, 20th November, both 6.30-8.30pm.
Where: Hurstbridge Hub.
Cost: $89.
Bookings: their website.
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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