Monday, December 27, 2010

Goodness me!


Onion buds

Shungiku, edible chrysanthemum.

It seems that this blog has been viewed 999 times ( I'll conveniently forget that every time I look at it to do some editing that counts as a view) and I find that hard to believe!

So in true internet style, I'm going to give the 1000th person to have a gander at this, providing they can get to the Tas Farm Gate market in Hobart on the second or 4th Sunday of the month, a little thank-you box of plants. I will have no way of knowing who the 1000th person is, so if you are the very next person to leave a comment, (and maybe the person after that too as 1001 is a fine looking number) I'll put together a few little treats for you.

It is hard to believe that people read my musings, but you have, and I thank you for that!! This blog is a way for me to promote my business, share my philosophies and methods, but most of all it's a way for me to sort my thoughts out. I sit down to write something and then I have to make those ideas into something cohesive with practical applications. And I have to research what I write as well, so while I'm ranting, I'm also learning. And when people share their thoughts I learn even more!

Brooty, our Pea Combed, Rhode Island Red mother hen, due on 13th of January


So thank you interweb-land people, and I hope your Christmas was merry and that your New Year is joyous and bountiful! See you in 2011!!



Comfrey flowers. See that little hole at the top of the flower tube? That is how a bumble bee takes a shortcut. I worry about the effect these flower bullies will have on pollination, ripping flowers apart like this to get the nectar instead of crawling in as they are meant to and spreading pollen as they go.
Blushing red currants
Blushing strawberries
Roman chamomile

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Foraging




Scotch thistle, you can prepare and eat this as you would a globe artichoke, I haven't tried it yet...ouch!
It's the buzzword of the food world. Foraging refers to the gathering of wild grown food, rather than raising and harvesting it. It enables new and intense flavours to find their way onto our plates, and forgotten foods to be rediscovered. Traditional Tasmanian foods give us a window into our history, help to humanise Tasmania's past. Wonderful weeds, prepared artfully to reveal their innate deliciousness, and to allow us to enjoy their nutritional benefits, are fabulous foraged foods. But it can be fraught with danger (poisoning, jackjumpers and prickles) and controversy (pillaging from nature and letting 'weeds' stand so that we can harvest them). Correct identification is obviously important if you don't really want things like hemlock on your plate. And please note that this information is only intended as a guide and I would ask you to excercise caution and common sense when sampling any wild harvested food.

Where you gather is really important. I once worked in a shop in North Hobart where a weekly job for me was washing the front window sill of the building. A film of black grime from car exhausts would build up in a matter of days on the building, and would do the same on food plants, and it's not something I'd want to eat. So choose low traffic areas to forage and wash your harvest well.

The next safety considerations are sprays and storm water. There is a gutter near Margate that looks like a cornucopia for the forager. Nasturtium, watercress, fennel and three cornered garlic all abound. But I wouldn't eat any of it! I've seen the council spray the roadside 'weeds' there, and their use of chemicals is far from delicate. And then there's the storm water. Car wash detergents, lawn 'food', herbicides, re-used grey water, run-off from old septic systems and oil washed from the road surface may all find their way into this ditch, plants take up this water to grow, and perhaps absorb some of this cocktail. Now it's hard to feel hungry, isn't it! So despite the lush watercress calling me every time I come home from the school run, I leave it behind.

One of our most often used foraged foods here is fennel seed. We collect this in Autumn from a quiet roadside while the seeds are still slightly green. We then wash the whole seed heads and dry them on newspaper by the fire, but the thing to be careful of in this case, is the fact that you're dealing with a weedy plant. Last year I winnowed the dried seed outside and now there are little fennel plants coming up in the garden from spilled seed. So when working with plants that have the potential to run amok, try to treat all of the plant material you are moving about with care. Don't take collecting gear with the seed of a weedy plant into an area free of infestation. But when we make our lamb and tomato curry in the Winter, fragrant with a generous dose of fennel seed, it feels well worth the effort involved. And the alternative is to buy packaged fennel seed that has travelled goodness knows how far, been stored for an unknown amount of time and grown with agricultural practices that are of unknown environmental standards. So we'll keep foraging ours and enjoying wonderful aniseed scented hands and beautiful bowls of seed heads by the fire.

Fat hen
Pretty much every day at the moment a  weed is finding it's way into my lunch. Plantain, chickweed, fat hen, shepherds purse and all manner of self sown green things. We also enjoy scavenged loquats, nettles, damsons, elderflowers and berries, rose hips, apples and blackberries and this year I'm going to see what I can do with hawthorn berries.

The other foraged foods we enjoy are the Tasmanian native ones. Here I must state that the taking or harm of native plants in reserves is illegal. Collecting on private property, if not a threatened species, and if done with sensitivity, should be okay. And again, making sure the plant you are eating an edible plant is your responsibility. Correct identification is important. Bring a sprig of any native plants you want identified to me at the Tas Farm Gate, or to my friends at Plants of Tasmania Nursery. And the first time you try something, do so in moderation.

For thousands of years Tasmanians have found sustenance, medicine and foods for trade among our native flora. There are many tasty and nutritious foods for those who seek them. But when harvesting we have to balance our curiosity with the good of the environment. There are some edible staples I would never consider eating as to gather them kills the plant. These include hearts of the grasstree and treefern, and the tubers of many orchids and lilies. Also there is the spread of plant diseases like Phytophthora. If you find yourself lured off of a track in an infected area you can spread this terrible fungus on your shoes. Others are an important food source for native creatures. I was looking for Native Cranberries yesterday and noticed that there weren't many berries, but there were plenty of naked seeds and little scats, so something had been there before me, something that didn't have a pantry like mine to turn to when the berries were all gone!! So please gather lightly. But I did love it when my littlest garden fairy asked for some in her lunchbox 'They're so little and sweet'! she says. Others are plentiful and well worth sampling while you are on a ramble. For a cup of tea on the East Coast, a sprig of Sweet Kunzea, Kunzea ambigua, is hard to go past. A few leaves of this will also scent a flathead fillet beautifully. Or, when we are in the high country, a teensy sprig of Alpine Baeckea, Baeckea gunniana, produces a wonderfully fragrant cuppa.

Lomandra longifolia, Sagg. An important, often falsely maligned plant. This will provide shelter for wrens and bandicoots and their friends, improve lambing percentages and create habitat for ants that will help control pasture pests like cockchafer grubs. And you can eat it! So put away the mattock, leave it be and have a cold beer instead!

Leaf bases of grassy plants are another good hiking nibble. Sagg, Lomandra longifolia, often has quite tasty leaf bases, a little reminiscent of peas and I have a friend who is partial to a nibble on Button Grass, Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus, leaf bases. Some species of leek lillies, Bulbine spp, have edible stems, there is someone making savoury shortbread flavoured with them, and some council workers once told of snacking on the unripe seed pods of Bulbine glauca. 

Perhaps the most important of these from a survival perspective are the tubers. I have written before of the murnong, but there are dozens of others. Potato orchids, chocolate and vanilla lillies, water ribbons, but they all share the same problem, harvest them from the wild and you kill the plant. The only really ethical way to sample these is to grow your own.

Mudflats on tidal estuaries are another source of wild edible plants. Samphire, Sarcicornoa spp, Seablight,   Suaedea australis, and sometimes Sea Celery, Apium prostratum, are all found there. but these are also sensitive areas. The wonderfully disguised nests of waterbirds are built above the tide line and it would be possible to trample entire families without even noticing. So again, please be delicate. Stick to paths and watch your step.

Some of the most obvious and tasty 'bush foods' are the berries. Have a look at David's blog for a wonderful exploration of some of these.
Astroloma humifusum, Native Cranberry. Nothing like a cranberry, but a sweet bush treat!
Billardiera scandens Apple berry, one of my favourite flowers. When bletted like a medlar this has a sweet appley-raisiny flesh with plenty of seeds!
There are also the challenging ones like the Kangaroo Apple, Solanum laciniatum. This plant is related to tomatoes, potatoes and nightshade. An extract from it has been used as a contraceptive in Russia and the berries are reported to be toxic until ripe. So I've yet to give this one a good try, but this Summer I will. The first Tasmanians learnt to collect the near-ripe fruit and bury it in dry sand to ripen away from hungry wildlife. When ripe it is safe to eat, so this year if you come here for a Autumn barbie, expect a jar of Kangaroo Apple relish to be on the table. This is a fast growing, hardy, pretty garden plant, and if it proves tasty it would be a prolific source of home grown bush tucker. But if the birds get to it  there will be kangaroo apples coming up all around your neighbourhood. This is surely a plant that is worth finding a local native seed source for, to prevent mixing up geographic adaptations.

One of my life's most memorable meals is a posh-meets-bush affair. We visited a winery on a trek up the East Coast for a nice bottle of white, gathered some lovely mussels, and put the two together in a hot pan with a tiny bit of butter and garlic.When the mussels had opened we added a liberal sprinkling of sea celery, an native parsley-like plant that is delicious at first taste. Right now I am growing a few selections of sea celery, from Coles Bay, Margate and South Bruny. At this stage I think the Coles Bay one has the best flavour, and I have 30 tiny seedlings that should be ready be for sale at Tas Farm Gate market in late January.

And I won't be forgiven writing a piece on foraged foods without mentioning my most romantic piece of bush tucker, our wedding cake. A friend made us a wonderful confection of halva and hazelnuts which we then crowned with a cloud of Persian fairyfloss, and into that cloud we nestled some sugared native bluebells that I'd gathered and frosted a few at a time for months leading up to to big day. Ever so pretty, and there weren't any leftovers!
Our Wahlenbergia garnished wedding cake. Not the best picture, and the drizzle that provided atmosphere for our big day wilted the Persian fairy floss somewhat, but you get the idea!


This is a subject close to my heart. As a youngster I remember poring over bush tucker books from the library and being frustrated that much of it referred to Northern Australian plants. But there are now many people working to redress that imbalance. So read, learn, nibble and enjoy! And I've hardly skimmed the surface here, so expect more 'foraging' stories soon....And if you've made it this far down the page, please let us know what you think, and if there are any favourite foraged treasures that your family enjoy please share with us!

We'll be at Tas Farm Gate on Sunday the 9th and 23rd of January. Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holy wasabi! Oh, and Merry Christmas

Banksia marginata
My wasabi has been getting a right seeing to from caterpillars. I'm not sure if it's the cabbage white, or a little brown moth that lurks in our brassicas. The critter in question bungy jumps from the  foliage when disturbed, which seems to me a silly strategy as they are easily seen and squished whilst dangling in the air. So I haven't been bringing my plants to market as they are so ugly! But I've given them a little spray with Dipel,  an organically acceptable bacteria which infects only caterpillars that ingest it, which then become paralysed. It would be best used early in the season to prevent the build up in numbers of dubious garden guests. Even though it's ok to use in organic systems I still use this as a last resort and prefer to put up with a little damage and grow my main crops of brassicas in Winter when these greedy creatures aren't about. Anyhow, I'm bring a few slightly nibbled plants to the market this Sunday, they will look wonderful again soon, so get in early if you want one!

And I've fallen victim to the Christmas dilemma. I'm not huge on the commercial side of Christmas, (I LOVE the family and food!) but one important part of being a sustainable business is to be financially sustainable, along with fulfilling environmental and social responsibilities, and people will be buying gifts, and why shouldn't they be lovely plants? So.....

Christmas 6 packs from Provenance Growers!

Not beer, (sadly not my abs!) but lovely combinations of 6 useful plants!

I've put together the following Christmas packs for your loved one's pleasure this year. Stock of some varieties is limited so get in touch if there's something you especially fancy and I'll put it aside for you. I'll be tucking 6 plants from each list into a little box, or make up your own combination from the list on our last post.

Bush tucker combo, Sagg, Lomandra longifolia, edible leaf bases. Flax lily, Dianella revoluta, edible blue berries. Samphire,  Sarcocornia quinqueflora, edible stems. Sea celery, Apium prostratum, edible foliage, similar to parlsey. Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetraginoides, edible leaves, Pigface, Carpobrotus rossii, edible fruit and foliage. Native pepper, Tasmannia lanceolata, leaves used as a flavouring, spicy when raw, becoming milder with slow cooking, berries used as a seasoning borne only on female plants (our peppers are seed grown so you may get a male or female). Native Bluebell, Wahlenbergia sp, edible flowers. Have a look at this wonderful article for more on some of these plants.

Feast on flowers, Dianthus, borage, chives, Roman chamomile, globe artichoke - French purple, Nasturtium and variegated society garlic.

Tassie native mix, A hardy blend of plants suitable for an average sized garden. Spicy Everlasting, Ozothamnus obcordatus, Myrtle Wattle, Acacia myrtifolia, Bluebottle daisy, Lagenophora stipitata, Silver Banksia, Banksia marginata, Paper Daisy, Xerochrysum spp, White Flag Iris, Diplarrena moraea.

Garlic chives
Tea, Roman chamomile, peppermint, Mexican tarragon, sage, thyme, Moroccan mint.

Unusual herbs, Variegated society garlic, white borage, salad burnett, Angelica archangelica, curly golden oregano, orange peel thyme.

Mints, Peppermint, Moroccan spearmint, variegated pineapple mint, variegated ginger mint, apple mint, common mint, spearmint.

Classic herbs, Italian parsley, garlic chives, thyme, oregano, chives, sage.
Asian mix, Laksa leaves/Vietnamese mint, mitsuba, red shiso, garlic chives, perennial spring onions.

So drop me a line at provtas@gmail.com if you'd like something tucked away with your name on it,  or come down to the biggest market ever, from 9-1, with your green bags, a good appetite (think awesome sushi, cupcakes and real Tassie flour!!) and have some fun with us. And a merry Christmas to you and yours this year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's growing on?

White Flag Iris, a hardy and beautiful Tasmanian plant.

Borage flowers, ready to head out to dinner!
I really need to list what I'm growing and get some kind of catalogue together. But, when the sun is shining (or even when it's not) I really want to be outside. And when I'm working inside I'd rather spend my time thinking through some aspect of growing plants that might be interesting to the people who find themselves reading this. But, a new plant seems to be ready to sell each week, and so I've decided to start a list of the plants we're growing for sale. When I've got more inside time I'll start with descriptions, cultivation requirements and uses, until then you'll have to find a good book, ask Google or come to the market for a chat with us! These are the ones that will be for sale at Tas Farm Gate market this Sunday.

Food plants:
Red and black currants
Warrigal greens
Lemon thyme
Alpine strawberries
Angelica
Salad burnett
This thyme is growing in a washing machine spinner and is plenty for our family.














































































Garlic chives
Chives
Roman chamomile
Dianthus, edible petals
Borage
Oregano
Marjoram
Nasturtium
Italian parsley
Wild rocket
Lemon balm, variegated form
Sage
French sorrel
Red shiso
Ginger mint
Laksa/Vietnamese mint
Mitsuba
Pineapple mint
Morrocan spearmint
Thyme
Globe artichoke, French Purple
Society garlic, variegated form
Comfrey
Horseradish
Pineapple sage
Heirloom tomatoes 
Potted strawberries, (with fruit on if I can keep the kids away!)

Wow! That's a lot of plants, and there are still dozens in the works, and more planned for next year.

Tassie plants:
This list is on the cusp of being bigger. Those Hobart plants are on the way, but it is staying cool, so they're taking their time. But while you're waiting.......
Lemon bottle brush  Calistemon pallidus
White dogwood Pomaderris apetala
Bluebottle daisy Lagenophora stipitata
White flag iris Diplarrena moraea
Blanket leaf Bedfordia salicina
Creeping everlasting Helichrysum scorpioides
Silver Banksia Banksia marginata


When I cleared a mass of weeds yesterday I found this thing in the photo below, but what on earth is it? Fungi, plant?? If you have any idea, please let us know.


Isn't it beautiful? About 1cm high, and those 'seeds' were stacked neatly inside the cone. Please tell me if you know!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Artichokes

 


Pretty artichokes. We have green globes ready to eat and French purple ready to plant. A stunning, hardy thing to have in the garden and scrumptious in the kitchen!

French sorrel, green globe artichokes and big garden fairy!

Come and see us tomorrow, Sunday the 28th on November, in the Melville St outdoor carpark from 9 to 1 at the Tas Farm Gate Market.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pot-luck tomatoes

 

I've been a terrible nursery person. I rant and rave about provenance, about knowing the what, how, who of everything, and now I've blown it. I have two trays of lovely, healthy, sturdy, heirloom tomato plants, without labels! Oh no, the shame and horror of it, I won't be able to raise my head among my nursery friends again.  I've raised these lovely babies, but can't, in good conscience, take a stab in the dark and sell them as one thing when they may well be another. If I had enough cultivated ground I'd plant them here, but 50+ tomato plants already in the ground is enough for me to stake, prune, talk to and harvest, not to mention all the other goodies that are waiting for their spot in the garden. So, if I bring them down to the market on Sunday will anyone be game enough to buy them (at a generous discount of course!) and see what becomes of them? C'mon, take a gamble, tasty tomatoes will come of it whatever happens, but will they be black, cream, pink red or stripey, large, small or plum tomatoes? Only one way to find out!

I also have some lovely labelled tomato plants for those who know what they want, they are looking great, and right now is a perfect time to get them in. The varieties I'll have are:

BLACK ZEBRA   Heirloom. Purple mahogany coloured fruit to 4cm across with green-orange vertical stripes. Dark, firm flesh, with rich, smoky sweet flavour.

BRANDYWINE American Amish heirloom. Large, pink skinned, flattened, globular fruit. Reputed to have the best flavour.

DEBARAO  Small, red, egg shaped fruit with smooth skin to 4cm across and excellent flavour.

LEICESTER JONES  Bred in Tassie 25 years ago. Large pink, ridged fruit. Excellent flavour, good for Tassie conditions.

SNOW WHITE   Ivory fruit ripening to a pale yellow/cream, low acid.

SOLDACKI   Polish heirloom dating prior to 1900. Large, dark pink, flattened fruit with thin skin to 500g. Flesh is firm, deliciously sweet & low in acid.
STUPICE  Czechoslavakian heirloom, cold tolerant, with abundant sweet 2-3inch red fruit. Hardy, delicious and productive. *Our most productive here so far, early and cold tolerant.


THAI PINK EGG  Originating from Thailand & is today the most widely produced tomato in Thailand. Small, pink coloured, 'cherry' type fruit; 3-5cm long, or size of bantam egg. Changes from milky white with slight pink colour when young to darker pink as it matures. Plant 60-90cm. Hardy, disease resistant & resistant to cracking.

Bush variety - GEORGE (I don't know its real name, but George deserves a plant named after him!)
Fat, scrumptious field type, from George the market gardener near Margate, seed scavenged from a sauce tomato. 

And then, tomatillos!!!


Tomatillo, green variety, still ripening in June last year!
Have you ever come across tomatillos? I had a vague notion that they existed, but until growing them last Summer I had no idea of how wonderful they were. They are related to tomatoes, but the fruit are wrapped in a papery husk, or calyx. The variety I grew last year were green when ripe, but I'm also growing a purple variety this year. And they are brilliant, a completely new food for me, that was delicious and moorish from first bite. I guarantee that once you've tried them you'll be wanting some every year. We used them to make a green, lightly spiced sauce that we poached chicken in, and finished with toasted pumpkin seeds (see the recipe here). Raw they make a great salsa and I know that's only the tip of the iceberg. Due to an incident with a brushcutter last season, we went from having four plants to one in seconds, but the survivor yielded at lest 5 kg of fruit! A few market customers have shared their great ideas on how to utilise this wonderful fruit, it seems to be a bit of a club, tomatillo eaters, and the rest of the human species. So come and join the clique. I'll have plants of both green and purple varieties at the market this Sunday, and fruit at the market for your kitchen, when the weather decides it's time.....maybe mid-January? And if we're really in luck the South American culantro will be the new discovery for me this year and we can make a truly authentic salsa, or at least a Tasmanian approximation of one.

Tomatillo seedling, I can't wait!



Pretty flower, pity about the slug damage.






  























While I was wandering the internet looking for interesting tomatillo facts I read this unintended ad for chemical free farming:
Plants of P. ixocarpa were grown in the greenhouse in 1986 with seeds from a single fruit. Seeds were germinated in petri plates with wet filter paper. The plantlets were transferred to 7.5 cm pots and placed in the greenhouse. When plants reached 4 or 5 leaves (4 weeks), they were transplanted to the field. The field was ploughed twice at 25-30 cm deep, fertilized with 50 kg/ha 15-15-15 (NPK) and covered with black plastic mulch before transplanting. Rows were 120 cm apart with 60 cm between plants. Tomatillo plants were transplanted to the field on June 6, June 25, July 15, and August 1. Insecticide was applied at 15 day intervals. The first harvest was made after 6 weeks and harvesting continued at 10 day intervals for a total of seven harvests during the plant cycle. The estimated yield was 13,450 kg/ha. There was variation between plants in size, leaf shape, fruit size and shape, and yield. Fruit damage by lepidopterous insects was severe, probably reducing the yield by 20 to 30%. No major diseases were observed.

Yuck, that's no way to grow food! Black plastic, fake fertiliser and  pesitcides. Nope, what they needed was diversity. The little critters below are hoverflies whose babies devour pests like aphids, and then grow up to be dainty, efficient, little pollinators. In this picture they are pollinating my rat tailed radishes, for which I am very grateful!

Hoverflies

We germinated our seeds in composted pinebark mixed with sand, and grown in a re-used -plastic covered rabbit  hutch, before planting into a garden bed enriched with our compost, a lick of chook poo and mulching with mushroom compost. Our garden is a mix of different things, the bed the tomatillos were in also boasted some lovely Mexican marigolds for herbal teas, Winter and Summer savoury, tuberous chervil, wild rocket and rainbow chard. This diversity helps to prevent the type of infestation the plants in the trial seemed to suffer from. Pests can build up in phenomenal numbers when given a banquet of their favourite foods, with out the presence of other plants and animals that may keep the pests in check. And contact pesticides aren't that effective at killing animals that complete much of their lifecycle safely hidden inside fruit.  But they will kill beneficial creatures like our friends the hoverflies. And besides, who cares about a few caterpillars? (Unless it's half a one sticking out of your bitten salad sanger!) If all things are in balance on your plot you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour with minimal out breaks of pests and grub holes, and who would be without butterflies?

So come on down to the Tas Farm Gate this Sunday from 9 til 1 and see what's on offer! Broad beans and strawberries are on my shopping list.


This has nothing to do with food plants, but isn't it delightful! The Sky Lily Herpolirion novae-zelandie is usually found in high country where it forms dense mats covered in these amazing sky-coloured flowers every Spring. Here it is in a pot outside my back door where it makes me smile every morning!! See my friends at Plants of Tasmania Nursery if you fancy one for your place.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oh my, that's pretty, but what is it?

NEWSFLASH: Sadly, due to a wet weather forecast, this trip is postponed until January. I'll let you know when the new date is settled upon. Until then, take photos, press flowers, and save up your questions for the day!

 This Saturday the Kingborough and Huon councils are hosting a native plant identification field trip to Cockle Creek for their residents. I am going along to chat about all of the treasures we find there and share some tips on how to identify them for yourself. It is a great place to go plant hunting, plants of the rainforest and the seaside cohabiting in a most fetching manner. So if you're a resident of one of those council areas and fancy coming along to learn, heckle or enjoy the Spring wildflowers see the flier below.




Hi Folks

Have you ever wondered “What is that beautiful flower/plant”?

There will be a Native Plant identification walk at Cockle Creek on Saturday November 27th to inspire and teach any interested people about local native plants.

Transport will be provided with pick up from Kingston at 8.15pm outside the Kingborough Council Offices.  The bus will then travel to Huonville for pick up at Huon Valley Council (rear car park) at 9.00am. 
It is expected that the bus will return to Huonville at around 3.30pm and to Kingston at 4.15pm.

Seats on the bus must be booked though Jocelyn Scopes (contact details below).  People are welcome to bring their own transport if all spots on the bus are booked up. Please meet the bus at the places above.

Please RSVP to Jocelyn at Huon Valley Council on jscopes@huonvalley.tas.gov.au or 6264 0365 as soon as possible.

Lunch and soft drinks will be provided on the day.


Cheers
BJ

Thankyou to John Cox for the lovely photo of Melaleuca squamea.

Bridget Jupe | Bushcare Officer | Kingborough Council

Phone
(03) 6211 8299 | Mobile 0429 011 920 | Fax  
Address Works Depot, 182 Channel Hwy Kingston TAS 7050
Email
bjupe@kingborough.tas.gov.au | Web www.kingborough.tas.gov.au

 



BlossomOct10 (3).JPG

Monday, November 15, 2010

To market, to market.

I just flicked on the computer as we were about to prepare lunch, when a lovely distraction popped onto my screen. One of the delightful cup cake ladies from the market wrote about her post-market feast, and that is also for me, one of the best things about the market. 

Drive home, cuddle the family, unload the car, water the plants, then.......aaah. Flop onto the couch and give the biggest garden fairy her first ever fresh oyster, and a few for us, along with a couple of slices of amazing bread, and a hunk of robust cheese. Although sometimes I am guilty of coming home with quite a full belly, what with blueberry cheesecakes, cannoli and the hamper my Mum turns up with.

But, Michelle's post was so in sync with what Elsie and I were about to have for lunch I just had to share. I am no photographer, and Elsie is 5 and snaffled the camera when she got wind that I was taking pictures of lunch. See if you can guess which pictures were taken by the 5 year old!

 

Her lunch is a little more 'garden' than market, but she loves Companion spelt toast soldiers!

She collected her own eggs, carrots and miners lettuce, chose the elephant ensemble and then scoffed the lot!

Then there was mine. Olive oil from a couple I have chatted with during the market, with juicy, wet Campania garlic softened in it, before adding this morning's eggs, some wild rocket (which is from our garden, but I do take plants and cut greens to market for those of you who like some kick in your lunch) and some of the Bruny cheese we didn't polish off the night before.

First of the season! Wet garlic dancing in Penna Valley olive oil, waiting for some eggs.


And lovely, young (Masterchef) Jack has two of my rhubarb plants in his garden now, how can a fellow of such great taste fail! Go Tassie!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feast on flowers!

Ready for market


I believe that if we can make eating a celebration, a ritual of enjoying family, friends, produce and the comforting sensation of a full belly, that good health and happiness will follow. Sitting down together to enjoy something prepared with love, (which is sadly never in the recipe, but is THE most important seasoning) will create a feeling of satisfaction that can never be found in a microwaved thingumy scoffed in front of the tv. And thus satisfied, we may find that the allure of the chips and chocolate lurking in the pantry is lessened, that our kiddies learn to talk with us, have respect for food that will lead to healthier eating habits, and to use  their cutlery, (well I'm still hoping for that one....).

For us, part of that celebration of food is to let the garden fairies help gather and prepare what they are to eat, and to make food look as good as it tastes, because we all taste with our eyes, before our mouths. And flowers are not only a delight to the eye, but each flower has its own unique flavour and texture.

So today we have fossicked about in the garden and put together some of our favourite dinner decorations for tomorrow's market. And, without further ado, here they are!


Pretty in purple

Shungiku and mustard flowers


We are also bringing down our ever growing selection of herb and edible plant seedlings, tomato seedlings and those of the wonderful tomatillo, as well as some lovely Tasmanian native plants and many other delights for your garden or kitchen. Bring your brolly to the 'gate from 9am til 1 this Sunday, the 14th of November, and come and say hi!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Breaking new ground

Dolly bush, Cassinia acueleata. A wonderful Tasmanian plant that is pretty,
fast growing and a great food source for beneficial insects.
Our 'patch'. It was, perhaps a hundred years ago, dry sclerophyll bushland. I like to imagine it was full of old White Peppermints with big clumps of Sagg underneath, and seasonal treasures, like Dolly Bush, Blackeyed Susan and Spreading Wattle popping up with their brilliant finery to herald a change in the seasons.

After someone cleared the 'scrub' it was then a cow paddock, and probably not a great one with its poorly draining, easily compacted soil. Its most recent history is as a chook paddock that has frustrated my attempts to grow food, due to hungry wildlife and short hoses in hot Summers. But now it's fenced, has water nearby and has been cultivated. Things are going well! 

The fuzz
But (and isn't there always a 'but') now 100 years worth of paddock weeds are thanking us for our tilling and the Spring rain, and germinating like hairs on a brushtails tail. And being the noble organic gardeners we are, there will be no quick spray to brown this green fuzz, nor will we take the Utopian path and let the weeds and our crops co-exist, as our little carrot seedlings won't stand a chance against these brutal colonisers. Hoeing is proving detrimental to my spinal column, and this is also made more difficult by the fact that it won't stop raining, and hoeing wet soil is not only difficult but it can ruin the structure of your soil. Like over-mixing a sponge cake batter, the soil will collapse and become compacted. And the no-dig method, great for a small plot, would cost us thousands in manure. But we will not be defeated, and inspired by Barbara Kingsolver (what a book!) and Mr H (writer, gatherer, gardener and vegetable eater, on my favourite blog) we will use a combination of all of the chemical free options available to us, and we shall feed ourselves, and hopefully you as well!
The spuds
The tomatoes have been planted in the hothouse, potatoes are planted everywhere. The girls have started their 'kiddy garden' (lots of sunflowers there I think!) and we will soon cultivate some ground to grow some fabulous, nutritious, curious and, most of all, delicious food plants. And, adjacent to all of this productive land, we will foster the landscape of my imagining.

I've collected seed and cuttings from the remnant 'scrub' we have on our block, and hope to plant out an echo of what was once here. This will have far more advantages than just that of feeding my romantic notions of one-ness with Nature. Diverse plantings can host a huge number of beneficial organisms. Ants will live among the gum trees and venture out to collect root feeding grubs, and leaf eating caterpillars. Flowering plants will attract hover flies and native wasps that cunningly lay their eggs on aphid babies, then the eggs hatch and the larvae devour the undesirable garden guest. Thick, prickly scrub and tussocks will provide homes for wrens and their feathered kin who feast on insects and boost the spirit of a weary gardener. I've even heard a theory that dense vegetation, especially Banksias, favours ringtail possums who do far less damage that their brushtailed friends. The trees I put in will absorb a teensy portion of the carbon emissions I create on the way to market, and most of all my family and I will feel as though we're trying to do right by the land that is supporting and sheltering us.


Fruit salad sage and Mount Wellington. What a brilliant work place!

Good weeds. For the first time ever we saw an Australian Admiral butterfly here
whose caterpillars feed on Nettles. What a great 'weed'!
And it is also a wonderful thing in the kitchen.



We'll be at the Tas Farm Gate market next Sunday, the 14th of November, where we will have loads of tomato plants, herb seedlings and Tassie treasures, including the beautiful and hardy White Flag Iris. So come on down, taste some wonderful oysters, scoff an amazing cannoli with chocolate custard and say hi!