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1. Richard Lee, from KABUU: I would like to learn about vegetables indigenous to the African continent. I'm thinking about plants we could potentially grow in Melbourne as a food crop. Having a greater diversity of species would increase food security. Which African crops could we grow in Melbourne?
2. Kerryn Johnson: My son brought home a mango from a property in Brunswick that he was working at a few weeks ago. The mango had been grown in their backyard! It was a lot smaller than your average mango, with a much smaller pip/seed. As any good gardener would do, I've saved the seed. How should I propagate this seed and can one grow mangoes without too much work in Melbourne or am I wasting my time?
3. Tracey Bjorksten: Most planting guides say that you should plant Brussels sprouts at the same time as other brassicas (i.e. around now) but that sounds suspiciously late to me. For those of you who have grown Brussels sprouts successfully, when did you start their seed and when did you transplant out? Angelo Eliades: In my opinion, February is the month to plant, with the harvest time of 14-28 weeks that will mean harvest in mid-June to September before it gets too hot.

Bruno Tigani: There is a large Brussels sprouts grower in Coldstream. Their transplanting season runs from November to February, growing different varieties all the way through and harvesting from March to September.

Guy Palmer: The farm that Bruno is referring to is called Adams Farms. I spoke with the farmer there, Jeremy Adams, and he confirmed Bruno’s timetable, which means that their seeds are planted from September to end December. I asked Jeremy when home growers in North East Melbourne should plant their seeds and he said that it all depended on the variety. For example, whilst Gustus is a cool season variety which should be planted in late December, Gladius is effectively a warm season variety which they plant in September. He said that people could ring him in November on 0433 396 444 and get some seedlings from him. Thanks, Jeremy!

4. Louise Nolan: I heard somewhere that you can freeze herbs in oil? Chop up the herbs, place in ice cube trays, fill with olive oil and then place in the freezer. When wanting to use place the oil cube into your cooking. Has anyone tried this? Any problems with this method? Meera Govil: According to Jamie Oliver’s website, wash the herbs gently, dry on kitchen towel, chop finely before packing them tight in ice cube trays and covering with water before freezing. Delicate herbs like coriander, chives, dill are good for this method. More robust herbs, like rosemary, oregano, mint, lemon verbena, are better dried. My mum cuts the herbs on a coolish day, washes and dries them on a cloth kitchen towel for about 1 hour before snipping off the thicker stems and laying the herbs out in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper in semi sun. She brings them in every evening for 3 days before grinding them in a little spice grinder and then putting them into small glass bottles for her (grown up) grandchildren.

Samantha Patterson: I have tried this and continue to practice it, finding it has its place among other ways to preserve excess herbs. However, one must be aware of its limitations. The freezing process does bruise the herbs (especially softer ones like basil), and one must be careful with ‘when’ in the cooking process the oil-herb cube is added – if added at the start, the herbs can over cook and the flavour is quite different. I successfully use oil-herb cubes in soups and casseroles, or used as a ‘rub’ on toasted bread for bruschetta. It also works well for a quick light ‘stir fry’ of leafy greens like kale. And I also use this oil freezing process with crushed garlic.

5. Sue Doman: I have picked my sweetcorn too early. Will it continue to ripen? Guy Palmer: no, sweetcorn does not ripen after being picked (technically, it is non-climacteric). I judge whether my cobs are ripe by breaking a kernel with my fingernail and seeing if any milky substance oozes out – if yes, then it is ripe.
6. Meera Govil: Does anyone know how to dry oregano and mint so that they remain green when dry? Tracey Bjorksten: All herbs are going to fade a bit when dried so it all depends what shade of green you are aiming for. Here is a picture of my peppermint and oregano, which were dried in a Miele oven at 80 degree C, fan-forced, for probably somewhere between 30 min and 1 hour. Time will vary between batches according to the water content of the leaves, the quantity being dried etc so they need to have an eye kept on them. I consider these to be a good shade of green. The flavour is also excellent.

Robyn Currie: I just gather bunches of oregano, about a half inch in diameter, tie and hang upside down in an out of the way place in the kitchen (usually a cupboard doorknob). After a couple of weeks or more, the leaves are dry and a dark green.

7. Ann Stanley: Are micro-greens grown from special seeds or are they just densely planted and therefore stunted shoots of normal seeds? Bruno Tigani: the seeds used for micro-green production are generally the same varieties that are used to grow full sized plants. They are sown at higher density and harvested at an early stage, often with just the cotyledon leaves.
8. Ann Stanley: Are micro-greens more nutritious than ‘macro’ greens and, if so, why? Bruno Tigani: according to this research paper, the nutrient density in micro-green cotyledon leaves are likely higher than those of a mature plant. Among the 25 commercially available microgreens tested, red cabbage, coriander, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of ascorbic acids, carotenoids, phylloquinone, and tocopherols, respectively. However, as Bruno observes, you might eat 100gm of broccoli at a mature size compared to 10gm as micro-greens, so the absolute amount of nutrition is probably higher from eating mature broccoli.
9. Susie Scoullar: How does one make black garlic and where can it be bought locally? Chris Newman: per Wikipedia, black garlic is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks and the taste is sweet and syrupy. You can buy it on ebay but it is very expensive (around $160 per Kg) and I am going to try making using a black garlic fermenter, which is available on ebay for around $100. Apparently, you just choose the fermenting mode and put the garlic in for up to 12 days and then afterwards let it dry for 5 days.
10. Amanda Gutierrez: Does anyone know about any classes or workshops on maintaining goats? Pauline Webb: Sylvia Allen, wife of Pete the Permie, knows all about goats. I’ve spoken to Pete and he agrees with Pauline and said that people are more than welcome to ring Sylvia and himself to ask their questions. Phone number: 0418 665880.

Fay Loveland: PIP magazine has published a podcast interview with Maria Cameron about keeping goats in a shared backyard context. Maria is from Hibi Farm in Heidelberg West, where she shares some goats with some of her neighbours.

11. Vicki Jordan: Are there any facilities for recycling corks? Julie Cabrol: Darebin Council has made the following bald statement: “there is currently no recycling option for corks in Australia.According to the Ecobin website, this is because corks are not virgin cork and contain other resins.

Lucinda Flynn: whilst they no longer get collected for the zoos, they are fine to put into the compost.

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