Saturday, November 27, 2010



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!


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 or 6264 0365 as soon as possible.

Lunch and soft drinks will be provided on the day.


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

Bridget Jupe | Bushcare Officer | Kingborough Council

(03) 6211 8299 | Mobile 0429 011 920 | Fax  
Address Works Depot, 182 Channel Hwy Kingston TAS 7050
Email | Web


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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!