Friday, December 20, 2013

At market this Sunday....

A mammoth pick is ahead of us tomorrow for Farm Gate Market on Sunday. Pre-orders are encouraged for all of the produce listed below as there may be limited quantities of some lines. Please leave a comment below or email us at before 4pm Saturday to order, we will reply to confirm your order. If stored properly everything should be in wonderful condition for your festive feasting.

Broad beans. We’ll have both baby and grown up broad beans for sale this Sunday in good quantities. The young ones are beautiful podded and dropped briefly into boiling water, drained and promptly sprinkled with sea salt and anointed with a little butter or olive oil and served as is. The older ones I love to make a dip with. I boil them with bay leaves, parsley stems, garlic cloves and peppercorns for about ten minutes then drain, and puree them with freshly toasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds, a little chilli or paprika, lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste. Older beans are also a delicious addition to bubble and squeak on boxing day, and both sizes can be thrown in their pods onto the barbeque, given a liberal sprinkling of salt and nibbled straight from the pods edamame style, or the young beans eaten pod and all, just watch out for the occasional bean that may pop out of its pod as they heat up!

Stuffing bundles. You know that thing where a recipe calls for a few sprigs of thyme, a little sage, some parsley…? You spend a fortune on little bundles of herbs and only use a bit of each bunch. Well, we’ve got the answer for you! We’re making up bunches of herbs including sage, thyme, lemon scented savoury and parsley (and possibly other tasty things that the chef deems delicious with a roasted bird!) perfect for using in the stuffing of your turkey, scattering over roasting veg or slipping under the skin of a chicken.

Lemon scented savoury, like lemon thyme, but with a fuller flavour and slightly peppery bite.
Delicious, beautiful and easy to grow. Available in our stuffing bundles and as plants in flower.
French tarragon. The perfect, most delicate herb that melds beautifully with butter and is wonderful on almost anything; beans, chicken, eggs,

Tea posies. We love fresh herbal tea! Our posies for this weekend will include delicious herbs to aid digestion and relaxation. Anise hyssop, Mexican tarragon, lemon liquorice mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena and German chamomile. Perfect to make the designated driver feel spoilt and those who have over indulged feel refreshed. Just drop the fresh leaves into a warmed teapot and leave to infuse, any remaining herbs will dry beautifully for later use.

Radishes. Lovely served as they are with cultured butter and salt, cooked briefly on the barbeque, tops and all, or lightly pickled. A tasty, refreshing and extremely pretty addition to your table.

We’ll also have our salads, bunches of lovely, tender, young bay leaves, chives, kunzea (perfect for a Tasmanian flavour to your roast vegetables and meats or delicious as a tea), native pepper leaves and more will be added to this list as we gather tomorrow.

If you’re short of a gift or two we’ll have our usual range of herbs and edible plants, some potted into beautiful old terracotta pots, edible flower posies and gift vouchers for edible gardeners.
Our newest colleagues, beautiful piglets from Weston Farm. 

Thank you all so much for your interest, support, custom and companionship as we’ve enjoyed our first year of supporting our family through growing food and plants for you. Every smile and chat at our stall, or conversation and kind word in the virtual world, means so much to us and we wish you and yours a healthy, fulfilling year ahead.

This week's excitement!

Green huntsman in the celtuce.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tomatoes and Peppers

In true Tasmanian style, many of our tomato seedlings are ready just in time for Show Day, and there a more varieties still to come over the next few weeks.....with snow forecast tomorrow perhaps they know more than I do!

Due to an erratic season, a few varieties are in short supply, so be early or please leave a comment below to reserve any you'd like.

So here's what you'll find at Farm Gate this Sunday:

Deutsche Fleiss German heirloom, easily grown, high yielding variety. Red, 3-5cm fruit that look deceptively like a supermarket tomato but are one of the tastiest salad tomatoes I’ve grown. Fruit are firm and store well. Staking variety, but tends to grow low and bushy.

Jaune Flamme A French heirloom with small, opaque, orange fruit. Unique dense texture and rich flavour. Staking variety. 

Tasmanian Yellow Yellow, beefsteak type, medium/large fruit. Sweet, meaty fruit. Climbing variety.

Debaro Medium sized, red, egg shaped fruit with smooth skin, to 6cm across. Great flavoured salad tomato. Productive.

Leicester Jones Tassie bred by a naturopath, perfect for our conditions. Large, pink, ridged fruit.
Leicester Jones
Camp Joy Hardy, productive, large cherry type tomato. Beautiful flavour. Climbing variety.


Lemon Drop Cherry tomato that produces masses of tiny, yellow fruit. Holds fruit until late in the season, pull spent plants and hang in a dry place for continued harvest.

Harbinger English heirloom, produces well in cool weather and for a long period, green fruit is said to ripen well off of the bush, we pull plant at the end of the season and hang in the wood shed. This year we picked from the spent vines until . Medium sized, red fruit. Staking variety.

Tigerella Gorgeous green-red tomato with orange stripes. Reliable and productive. Small to medium fruit, tangy, firm flesh and incredibly tasty. Staking.

Pineapple Stripes Inspired to grow this one by one of my favourite instagrammers, Tucker Taylor. Said to be a hardy plant and a great producer of heavy, rich flavoured, yellow fruit with red stripes inside.

Black Cherry

Black Cherry Cherry tomato with dark purplish fruit to 3 cm across, produced in trusses on tall vigorous bush. Sweet, juicy flesh with a rich flavour. Reliable with high yields. Really delicious!!

Moldovan Green We've grown this one on the recommendation of our friend Pauline and she knows food! A beefsteak type that ripens to green with pale areas, said to have 'tropical' flavours. Perhaps Pauline can tell us more?

I'll be sorting through my tomato trays and hope to add a few more to the list before Sunday. Other varieties to come, either this week or over the next few include Tommy Toe, Wapsipinnicon Peach, Black Krim, Brandywine, Roma, George, Green Grape, Reisentraube and Stupice.

And Peppers! Again these are only the first of our varieties and some are in short supply. Look for more varieties in the coming weeks, and remember there's no hurry! Last year I was still picking the deliciously addictive Padron from an outdoor garden at Neika long after our tomatoes and zucchini had succumbed to frost.
Alma Paprika, unripe fruit and flower.
Plant them into good, rich soil and remove the first few flowers to encourage the plant to put some energy into growing before it begins fruiting. All varieties can be harvested green or red, and, if protected from frost, your plants will continue fruiting well into winter. Our pantry is well stocked with little jars of dried chillies and bottles of chilli plum sauce, and the odd jar of pickled peppers is still lurking in the fridge. The most precious one for me is our paprika. When dried it forms luminous, dark red flakes and smells sweet, rich and complex.

Padron Spanish frying pepper. Mild with the occasional hot fruit giving them the nickname of 'Russian Roulette Pepper'. Grill over coals or fry in oil and finish with salt. Most rate at 500 on the Scoville scale with the occasional fruit getting up to 25,000. These became an obsession for us last season, I couldn't get enough!

Alma Paprika A favourite of mine, use fresh or dried. Red, round, warm but not super hot fruit with a rich flavour. 100-1000 on Scoville scale.

Beaver Dam Hungarian heirloom, warm to hot flavour, great for pickles and salsas. Suited to cool climates. This was super productive last year, despite the differing Scoville ratings I couldn't handle the heat of this one as a frying pepper even though I was addicted to the Padron, but it was wonderful to add warmth to curries and salsas. It continued to ripen fruit in the unheated polytunnel until July. 500-1000 on Scoville scale.

Rocoto Perennial tree chilli. If protected from frost this pepper will fruit all winter. It produces great crops of hot, round peppers. May grow to 4m but easily pruned to a manageable size. Withstands cool temperatures, but not frosts. 50,000 to 200,000 

 Good producer of long, red, hot peppers. Use fresh or dry for year round use. 30,000-50,000 Scoville points.


Beaver Dam


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pigs to pork

A warning to vegans, vegetarians and others who prefer to meet their meat long after it's processed, this post contains photos of dead pigs and blood. I would argue that these photographs should be no more offensive to animal lovers than a picture of a big mac, but I thought you deserved fair warning.

Our three pigs when they first came here a year ago.
Guanciale, the male pig, was sent to the abattoir at 8 months old.

Did you know pigs love to run? Fast?

That they love warm milk on a cold morning?

That they are utterly trusting creatures and quite hairy?

They love to be touched and will knock you into the mud whilst passionately pressing against you in the middle of a good scratch?

That the only time mine have bitten me was to see what blunstone boots taste like?

That they dig, they dig like crazy if you give them soft earth to get stuck into?

That they graze? When you put pigs on new ground, before they dig they will eat the tender tops of the grass and clover.

That they make their own beds? I put hay into my girl's house and they mound it up into a snug bed. They'll also grab prunings and woody stems of weeds and use them to build up their bed, and they seem to relish the task, shaking tufts of hay into loose strands before padding them down. They've also mended the draft in their house with their milk dish.

That they eat delicately? Our girls will hold a tasty plant down with one hoof and nibble the tender tips of branches.

That they kiss? Well something like it.

That a piggy back is an actual thing? More of a power display by the bossy pigs than a mating thing as far as I can tell.

Rillettes making her own bed.

Rillettes and Lardo this morning. No inkling of what was to come. I miss them and I thank them.

Tonight I go to bed with a heavy but optimistic heart.
What we're doing with our pigs is not only driven by culinary, ethical, practical or idealistic motives, but also one I'm finding it hard to put a name to. There is a (possibly bizarre and twisted) part of my being that wants to own sadness.

Our worlds have become monotone. We have taken away the need to feel icy winds on a cold day, to eat the bitter leaves of a plant, to feel the resistance to our teeth from an unprocessed grain, to have the scratch of wool clothing against our skin, the ache of a worked muscle, the pang of hunger in our bellies waiting to be sated, or the need to relate intimately to death.

Our lives are so sterile that we have taken away all of the bitter things that make the sweet parts taste better, the cold that makes the fireside delicious. I think, to some degree, we need to have scratchy, bitter, chewy and painful things to be able to properly feel comfort and joy. I have had the luxury of choosing to connect with the life and death of these animals. I made the choice to pat them, to care if they had dry straw in their beds and a cool wallow on a hot day, and tomorrow I'll cook them a warm pot of scraps for their last breakfast, scratch their fur one last time, look away as they are shot and hold a bowl under their necks to catch the blood when they are stuck, probably with tears streaming down my cheeks.

So many people tell you not to name an animal you are planning to eat. I would argue otherwise. The more distance we put between ourselves and the animals who provide us with meat, eggs or milk, the more we lose sight of the fact that they are sentient beings deserving of respect and compassion. It is this distance that allows us to perpetrate cruelty in the name of economics.

So for now it's goodnight, more tomorrow afternoon....

Lardo enjoying a wallow last summer.
It is done. Our little fat friends Lardo and Rillettes are hanging in a mobile cool room outside. I thought I wouldn't be able to see it through, but the butcher assigned me the role of taking the gun after the pigs were shot so that he could stick them and catch the blood. Then I was told to roll up my sleeve and stir the blood with my hand as it cooled to prevent it from clotting. After that it felt easier, and I didn't shed a tear, until now that is. In the busyness of rinsing caul fat, scraping hair, cleaning hearts, I didn't have time to think of how quiet the garden will be without the girls there. It will be one less chore in the mornings, but we will miss them keenly. But, come next spring, we will visit our friends and bring home a few more of their piglets to fatten on vegetables and use as carbon neutral cultivating/composting machines.

Our youngest daughter wasn't too fazed, she just insists that we make Lardo into lardo and Rilettes into rillettes. Our eldest felt it keenly. Last night she thought she would be fine, this morning she cried, but was so incredibly pragmatic through her tears. A little angel.

Hard to say goodbye.

The pigs were there, and then they were pork. In their run, sniffing the legs of the butcher before he dispatched them. No stressful transport, no strange holding pens.

The milk lady has just been and gave me a hug along with our milk. We will skim the cream from her milk and use it with the blood to make Matt's blood sausage. The livers and caul fat will be used to make a pate. We will begin the task of learning to cure our pigs, 200kg in all, and in a few weeks I will fry my first piece of home raised, killed, cured and smoked bacon, season it with a little tear of thanks for my porcine friends and relish every morsel.

Blood being stirred while cooling to stop it from coagulating.

Ultimately the reason we kept pigs was to cultivate. We hope to minimise our use of machinery in the process of growing food. This patch was a bare, impoverished paddock 12 months ago. The pigs spent two months here then we mounded the soil and grew pumpkins and tomatillos. Now we're harvesting kale and waiting for broad beans and garlic to mature. The pigs have since cultivated two more plots.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Common sense is not so common

'Golden Crookneck' summer squash.

The proverbial has hit the fan. The horse#%@* that is.

Our industrialised, regulated food system is SO screwed up.

It is illegal for me to use second hand egg cartons and, despite a whole evening of googling, I could only find one reference to the possible danger of used egg cartons (on a website for paranoid parents, warning them of the dangers of using said cartons for their children’s craft activities). But while being subjected to regulations like these, we are legally sold food that has been bleached, irradiated, extruded and sprayed to keep us ‘safe’, and somebody finds Black Beauty in the frozen lasagne.

Call me strange, but I wouldn’t recoil at the thought of eating Black Beauty, providing she had been humanely raised and fed a healthy diet, any more than I recoil at the idea of eating an egg from a second hand carton. The problem for me is the homogenisation of food products from around the world to such a point that we can't recognise what we are buying. Surely horse doesn't taste like beef? But since things are minced, doused with chemical seasonings and standardised to all taste the same to our industrially dumbed down palates, nobody notices. 

The industrial system is not capable of protecting us from listeria, salmonella, E.coli and antibiotic resistant bacteria. What it is capable of is spreading these things far and wide. Just have a think back to the tragic E. coli outbreak in Germany in 2011. This wasn’t caused by an unpasteurised cheese, a second hand egg carton or nitrate free ham. In fact, as far as I can tell, due to the massive movement of food across the globe, the source still seems unclear with Spain, Germany and Egypt all thought to be sources of contamination at some point during the investigation. I found an article on an outbreak of Salmonella in the UK that was blamed on ready to eat, pre sliced watermelon shipped there from Brazil. Isn’t that the perfect caricature of our energy expensive, wasteful, ridiculous food system? Is it so hard to ship something in its own skin and use a knife yourself?

One of the reasons I am so determined to make our garden work is that I believe it is the antithesis of this. Land that would otherwise be used for recreational horses or lawn mowing, instead producing heaps of really good food. Little, labour intensive food production systems feeding as many local people as possible with minimum carbon and waste outputs, and maximum flavour, nutrition, diversity and joy.

Only a small scale market garden can feed their pigs and chickens on apples, blackberries, thistles and spent vegetables produced on site. Manure goes back into the garden and the animals perform tillage and pest control services. On a plot our size, many more than the twenty chickens and two to three pigs we keep could begin to compact the soil. The manure we produce, without our garden to use it in, would become a waste disposal problem, the weeds and bolted vegetables we end up with would be harder to compost and process without the animals. Our garden is becoming a balanced ecosystem that, as we build soil and our skills and experience grow, I hope to make as efficient and beautiful as possible. Spare plants from the nursery go to our kid's school garden, neighbours come by with their scraps for the animals and our kids are learning about flavour, nature and hard work.

Rillettes hard at work.

Our small garden also guarantees that when I pass your change across my market table you will see the soil that grew your vegetables stuck under my nails. You can challenge me about the brand of seeds I use, or about my excessive use of sticky tape. You can ask me how I treat my soil, or what the strange leaf is in your salad.

But, next year I probably won’t be able to sell you eggs. A new egg act that comes into place late this year I think will make it unviable for me. Our chickens are a truly important part of our garden ecosystem, selling the eggs helps to balance the cost of supplementary feed. From what I understand I’ll need to individually date stamp each egg, submit and pay for inspections as well as paying a registration fee of more than $300 a year. As small producers our time is, and should be, taken up digging, watering, growing and marketing our goods. There is no way I have time to read and understand the act, certainly no time for me to attempt to fight it, and, more than likely, no chance of success if I did find the time. Sure, my friends say I can go underground and sell the eggs privately, but why shouldn’t my loyal and beautiful market customers who have built up trust with me and my methods be able to choose to buy my food and instead, be forced to buy from a producer who has the economy of scale to manage the costs of the new system? This is just my example of red tape hampering productivity and the sharing of real food, there are many more small producers out there with similar fights on their hands. We are taking responsibility for our family and our land, hoping to create employment for ourselves, food for others and be part of Tasmania's spectacular food culture.

Tasmanian Tree Frog and French sorrel.

This, in a world where our food systems are such that waste is an integral part of them. Where packaging is more important than contents, and labelling that gives us the option to make informed choices is not law. Where bleach, irradiation and vacuum packaging take the place of freshness and hygiene, and the rights of multinational companies to trade across borders transcends our right to know what we are eating.

We need a food regulation system that can cater for all producers, not just the large ones, and enable small farms who priorotise soil health, animal welfare, carbon sequestration and flavour to thrive. The current one that seems to favour big, energy and waste intensive, industrial food. Small farms like ours are key to true food security. Small scale farms rely on personal interactions, trust and common sense to keep food safe, not reams of paper, registration fees and legislation. Value adding on small farms needs to be easier, to sell a few jars of jam or honey in the quiet months of the year would require us to build or hire a commercial kitchen, outweighing any much needed financial advantage we may gain.

It is an unnatural, nonsensical environment we have created, where a gardener can’t make jam in their own kitchen to sell at market, but beef/horse can turn up in your microwave from goodness knows where.  

We need legislators to fight our corner for us, as we are too busy digging, and we need to take ownership of the fact that what we buy shapes the world we live in.

I am writing from my heart, no references or sensible things like that here, but here are a few things, in the order in which I discovered them, that resounded with me and shaped my thinking on food.

Living the Good Life, Linda Cockburn

Real Food, Nina Plank

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Barbara Kingsolver

Food Inc.

Eating Animals, Johnathon Safran Foer

Also pretty much everything on the blog roll on the right of your screen, there are many inspiring and incredible people fighting the good fight!

Nick's wonderful discussion of how he sources his milk.

And finally, this lovely rant shared on Facebook this week by Elaine and Colette.

You may also have noticed we're at Farm Gate Market in Hobart with our produce and ever growing range of edible plants every single Sunday! The chef has left the kitchen and has become a full time food gardener, so expect to see our stall brimming with wonderful food over the coming months.

Underground bulbs of walking onions and winter savoury.
Both hardy and easy to grow, both utterly delicious.