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.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tasmanian edibles

There is so much food in this landscape, if you know where to look....

Last week I was invited to talk to the inspiring and knowledgeable group of gardeners who make up the South Channel Garden Club.  I’d previously run a workshop with them on the propagation of Tasmanian native plants, which had been organised through the Understorey Network. This time around I was to talk about growing and cooking with bushfoods. I decided to focus on the plants that I grow and use regularly, and those that are plentiful in the wild. There are a huge range of wild edible plants out there, both native and introduced, and it's up to us to experiment with them and help shape a truly local food vernacular. There is a lot of intellectual knowledge about wild foods, and many wonderful restaurants are using them on their plates, but it seems that few of us are making use of these plants in our home kitchens.

Sea celery, Apium prostratum
Perhaps the most familiar tasting and approachable of the wild foods from our end of the country is Sea Celery, or Apium prostratum. It grows right on the edge of the sea, usually in damp soil. I went to collect a sample recently in an area where it was plentiful the season before only to discover the shoreline where it grew was entirely eroded away. It has a refreshing, earthy, parsley-like flavour, and if you harvest a little from the wild you’ll get a beautiful coating of sea salt on the leaves. You can use it anywhere you’d use parsley, my favourite use is to top a freshly caught flathead or a pot of pippies cooked on the beach. We sell plants of this on our market stall, and it grows quite easily in fertile soils, protected from severe frosts and in full sun. Up here at Neika, 300m above sea level, it is a sluggish grower in winter, but takes off in spring.

Island Sea Celery, or Apium insulare is a closely related plant found in the wild in the Furneaux Islands and on Lord Howe, somewhere I heard a theory that it was moved from one place to the other by sealers. It is aromatically reminiscent of Chinese celery, but with a surprising hit of mandarin to the nose. It’s a beautiful addition to a clear broth, fragrant and cleansing. I have collected seed of this one and hope to have it available for your garden in spring.

Kunzea ambigua
Kunzea ambigua is a Tasmanian plant close to my heart. Much of my childhood was spent on the East Coast of Tasmania, and as you journey North along the coast the landscape changes from dolerite to the granite lands of many endless summers. The Kunzea thrives on these well drained granite derived soils, where it can dominate the understorey. It blooms with incredibly sweetly scented, white flowers in spring. We use the leaves fresh, when they have a thymey/floral/citrus/menthol aroma, or dried, when the menthol dissipates. It lends itself to sweet or savoury applications, the gardening chef loves to season a joint of lamb with generous handfuls of it. I’ve used it to flavour cheese crackers, and it makes a refreshing and delicious cup of tea. I wouldn’t recommend it as a garden plant, unless you are well away from bushland or in its natural habitat, as it produces thousands of seeds and can quickly colonise and spread into bushland and displace native vegetation. We have decided not to sell plants of this one, due to its nature of environmental vandalism, but we do have bunches of fresh herb available on our stall most Sundays.

Baeckea gunniana is a native alpine plant. I have a beautiful memory of being on a bushwalk and sitting, exhausted, on a fallen log. I plucked a stem from a flowering Baeckea plant that was growing out of a pretty hummock of sphagnum moss, and popped it into my mug with hot water to make tea. The sweet, spicy, floral, menthol aroma wafting from my cup into the cool forest air was a truly beautiful thing. I have a few of these extremely slow growing plants in my garden and we often include it in gingerbreads. Since this plant grows at a snail's pace, so we don't have any available at his stage, but watch this space!

Baeckea gunniana
Baeckea gunniana

Seablite, Suaeda australis, is a common coastal succulent. Its young, fleshy tips give a refreshing, salty burst of flavour when used raw. It is a prolific grower and is easily propagated by cuttings.

I spoke of others on the night, Pigface, Carpobrotus rossii, Round Leaf Pigface, Disphyma crassifolium, Native Thyme, Ozothamnus obcordatus and Native Pepper, Tasmania lanceolata and the list of edible Tasmanian plants is far longer than you may imagine.

Black lip abalone and samphire. One of my favourite wild foods.

I am a nervous speaker and so I sought to butter up my audience by feeding them, also it's a really great way to elevate the idea of eating wild foods to a practical, rather than just an intellectual, exercise, so I took along some cheese crackers flavoured with Kunzea, and some shortbread flavoured with the Baeckea. I am absolutely terrible at sticking to (and writing!) recipes so here is an approximation of what I may have made….

Baeckea and molasses shortbread

I warned you that I can’t follow recipes, so please find a ‘proper’ recipe below, but I’ll often add slivers of candied ginger or cumquat to mine as the mood takes me. Also our girl's school has an allergy policy that doesn't allow nuts in their lunchboxes, so I substitute the almond meal with half ground sunflower/pumpkin/flax seeds and half ground buckwheat and/or oats to make their snacks as nutrient dense as possible. We try to minimise our intake of refined sugars so I substitute 100g of rapadura for the 80g of conventional sugar. This won’t ‘cream’ as well as castor sugar but I love the way it melts as you bake the biscuits, forming tiny, caramel chunks. Baeckea may be almost impossible to find but you can substitute any gingerbread spice or some dried Kunzea, which we often have in bunches on our Farm Gate stall.

100g almond meal
80g sugar (I use rapadura but you could use 50% brown sugar and 50% caster sugar)
100g white flour
100g spelt flour
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp freshly ground cinnamon
½ tsp Baeckea gunniana leaves, stripped from their stems.
25g molasses
130g cold, cubed butter

Sift together the flours, almond meal and spices and set aside.

Combine the sugar, molasses, Baeckea and butter in a food processor and blend until pale and creamy. Add the flours and pulse until it comes together. You can shape and bake these immediately but I like to make a double batch, form it into logs about 4cm in diameter and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate. We’ll take on out of the fridge about 10 minutes before we want to bake it, then slice into 5mm(ish) slices and bake at 170Âșc for about 15 minutes. And this leaves you with a few in the fridge to bring out and bake fresh when the need arises, as it often does around here…

Kunzea and cheese crackers 

Adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s ‘Cheese and Nigella Seed Biscuits’

Kunzea ambigua, when fresh, has a minty, mentholy note which I think is a beautiful foil for the richness of the cheese in these crackers. I’ve also made these with sea celery or Mediterranean/European herbs like lovage or lemon savoury.

2 ½cups plain flour
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
black pepper
2tsp Kunzea leaves stripped from their stems, add a little more if using the dried herb.
40g grated parmesan, we use Elgaar’s version, a delicious, local organic cheese from a farm that treats its cows beautifully.
200g cheddar, we’d use Elgaar’s ‘Meadow’
250g cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1½tbs lemon juice

Sift together the four, salt, pepper and baking powder, add to food processor with the Kunzea and cheeses and process until combined. Add the butter and process until it looks like bread crumbs, then add the lemon juice and process until it comes roughly together. We chill the dough and roll it out so the girls can cut out whimsical shapes for their lunchboxes, or form it into logs and slice and bake as needed. Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes.

I recently held a foraging workshop for Channel Living where we spoke about edible weeds and native plants as well as the perils and ethics of harvesting them. There is another workshop in the offing that I am running, together with botanists and sustainability experts, I'll let you know more when it's official. I would love to do more of this work, especially over the winter when the garden is a little quieter. If you're interested please get in touch with us via to discuss rates and logistics. We can identify native trees, shrubs and flowering plants and weed species and teach you about their edibility and other uses, and also offer advice on propagation and cultivation.

Or you can find us at Farm Gate Market every Sunday from 9-1 with a huge range of potted edible plants, both native and exotic, and produce from our garden.