Kitchen Garden Guides

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tas Farmgate Market... for real people!


You just never know what is going happen. I thought I'd go to the Tas Farmgate market in Hobart on Sunday. I really like it a lot more than Salamanca because it only has food and plants. Even though it is not that big, I spent 2 wonderful hours there, finishing off with 6 oysters and a cup of coffee..... there is nothing as refreshing as freshly shucked oysters with a squeeze of lemon. To me, this is what markets are all about.... meeting the people, getting to know their products and coming home with excellent goodies. No tourist junk here.

image The first stall I stopped at was Provenance Growers where I met .... oh no, I have forgotten her name... and her mother. Now I must confess that usually I feel disappointment at the uninteresting range at market plant stalls, but not at this one. Oh goodness, I bought so many things, including some saffron bulbs, wasabi seedlings, Japanese lettuce, rare native Tasmanian plants, lemon scented savory and caraway thyme. There were so many other treasures which I will have to go back for another day. The prices were good and plants available in various sizes to suit every pocket. In the photo I am talking with the gorgeous young woman who has the stall..... who I hope will leave a comment and tell me her name again. You can contact her on . It is worth a trip to Hobart just to visit this stall on a Sunday!

image I was so excited with this first stall I did not expect to find any more treasures like it but.... as luck would have it..... EVERY stall was equally as interesting and the people equally as friendly and knowledgeable. Having just bought saffron bulbs, I saw packets of home grown saffron on the Asian vegetables stall. I have never seen this at a market before and am now imagining my acre filled with saffron crocus!

image Next was Chris, whose second season of growing vegetable seedlings and selling them singly, is just beginning. I talked to him for ages but sadly I was so absorbed in the conversation I forgot to take photos until this one I took later! Chris also has a great blog called Hobart Kitchen Gardens and it is here that I am learning what to sow when, in southern Tasmania. This bloke has guts..... never having grown from seed before he started this stall!

There is no wastage with Chris's seedlings. You tell him how many of each you want, he expertly removes them from the tray and wraps them in newspaper; this is how it should be. There are 2 sizes and at 25c and 50c you can come home with 10 different seedlings for next to nothing and see which varieties you like. I reckon buying 10 different tomatoes for $5, for example, is a fabulous way to go, and he has done all the hard work of getting them to a manageable size for you. Pot them up for a couple of months before planting them out would be my suggestion.

image My bags were already bulging when I came across Ann, from our Home Gardeners Group. I thought she was a customer like me, but then I found her at this stall..... her stall.... and I must say I was incredibly impressed with the range and local nature of the pastes, jams, chutneys etc. I was rather lucky to acquire a jar of mouth-watering lemon curd at a special price! But that's not all, as I went around the rest of the stalls, Ann appeared by my side and introduced me to everyone until my poor head was bursting with names and wonderful stories..... so much so that I could not hold onto all the names, foolishly not having written them down.

image I must, however, mention Harley and his intriguing signs that had me first of all wondering if he had a still, then, after a chat, wondering why I had never before had the pleasure of eating roasted cacao beans!image



The Royal Criollo cacao beans have been grown for over 2 thousand years in Mexico and their reputation of being the finest is, I can assure you, not over-rated. One solitary bean, roasted by Harley, explodes with ever increasing intensity and flavour until your silence is broken by a soft "wow..... where have I been all my life?" But cacao is really a sideline of Harley's because he buys raw coffee beans which also have a wonderful story..... but that is for another day. Click on the photo to read about the source of the cacao beans.


Marc is from Lester's Nursery and he is a deciduous tree enthusiast. I want to fill part of my acre with magnificent autumn foliage and he is just the man to help me choose and find everything I need. Lester's also sells lots of other plants and Marc writes a nice little newsletter for subscribers.

Next was the Companion Bakery lady who is associated with the Callington Mill at Oatlands. The old wind mill is being refurbished and being used to grind organic, old style grains like spelt and rye etc. I am hoping to be able to have some of these flours to sell in my Garden Shed. The olive sourdough I bought from her is really, really good. And her daughter, Maedi, is putting together a website to help people know when to plant what.... its called Plant Harvest.

There was also the oyster man, the pork products bloke (thanks for the generous and super delicious slice of terrine!), Maddie who writes the excellent Tas farmgate newsletter and the olive oil lady!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seeding some ideas....


What a shocking day its been, weather wise. One minute calm, sunny, even warm and enticing; the next, ferocious, unwieldy, hair-raising wind, horizontal rain barely hitting the ground before being blown away again. So, after surviving several bouts of this feverishness, Pickle and I retreated to the kitchen, to my other passion, cooking.

Yesterday I had failed to resist a bargain and came home with a huge chicken, unceremoniously labelled "Large Boiler". Massive, is the word I would have used! Aha.... I thought.... I know just where to look for some ideas on using this chook....."European Peasant Food" by Elizabeth Luard..... full of the gory details of medieval food preparation. Fortunately, unlike most of the boiler fowls in this book, mine came gutted and plucked and that was an excellent start! Because, if you did not specifically request it in the good olde days, you carried the bird home on your saddle, very much alive, to be dispatched by the cook when the time was right. (Thank goodness for refrigeration, Alex!)

Anyway, ideas gathered in my head, and stage one invariably meant simmering said chicken until tender.... anything from 1 - 3 hours..... I reckon mine took 4. During that time I was thinking of other large, time consuming cooking jobs that needed doing and I remembered that gigantic pumpkin I bought at the Ranelagh market, back in about April, which had been sitting in my sauna with my apples, ever since. It did not have much of a stem when I got it and now a bit of mould was starting to turn various unpleasant colours on the top. I decided this was its day of reckoning.

So, there I was at the bench, howling gale and pouring rain out the window, Pickle coming up to me every 5 minutes to play with his ball or old sock, with that cute look of expectancy a puppy has that says of course everyone wants to play with them..... ALL the time! In my biggest cast iron pot sat a dissected chook (because since medieval times, no-one has needed a pot big enough for this size bird to sit, whole), 1/2 cup of brandy, 2 onions slowly cooked in olive oil (that was my one concession to the modern day..... not to use fat from duck or pig or whatever animal was the done thing then).... and a couple of cups of chicken stock I had made some weeks ago.

I was at first excited by the number of fat, slippery seeds inside the pumpkin monster and spent some time cleaning them ready to throw into the soil in a few weeks to see what would grow. After a while I began to toss some aside and then I started to think.... how is it that people are starving when I have the potential to grow maybe several thousand kilograms of pumpkins from this one on my bench? I reckon it had a hundred seeds and I once sold 98kgs of pumpkins to Wilson's Organics in Adelaide, all from one self-sown vine, and they were just those I didn't want, never mind those I kept!

Its the same with something as simple as lettuce or broccoli.... you get hundreds, if not thousands of seeds every time you leave them to go to seed. Agribusiness is always saying only THEY can feed the world..... and only using GM seeds, which coincidentally make them lots of money..... who do they think they are fooling?? All that needs to happen is to divide up the huge tracts of land monopolised by the multinationals, and give it back to the people. In no time they'd be sharing seeds and growing more and more every year.

I read recently that the most productive amount of land is 4 acres. On those enormous monoculture farms a lot of land is wasted where machinery cannot quite get to the corners, microclimates cannot be attended to, harvesting is time consuming and no-one can live on a monoculture anyway. What is wrong with us all that we let them get away with it? What is wrong with us all .... why do we buy seeds from them when I have a hundred seeds on my kitchen bench? Does it really matter that the seeds may not produce perfect pumpkins all of one variety? What is wrong with us all that we let forests be destroyed and farmers' lives ruined by these corporations? I am worried about the people in the Pakistan floods who have lost all their seeds, some saved over hundreds or even thousands of years; agribusiness is no doubt planning on signing them up to a lifetime of debt.

Looking in through my kitchen window, you would never have guessed how angry I was getting at how our civilisation has gone quite mad.... and how determined I am to save the world, one saved seed at a time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dog day at the community garden

It just so happened that everyone who had dogs brought them to the food forest last Thursday morning. Pickle had a ball and slept soundly all afternoon! Amongst the dogs were also some workers. Its lovely the way people can come and go as they please. You just turn up any Thursday (and from next week there's an alternative day, Tuesday) and help out with whatever is going on. There is no obligation to keep coming or to sign up for anything. At 12 o'clock or so we sit on Liz's verandah and have tea, kindly made by Laura, and whatever anyone has brought to share to eat. There is no obligation to bring something but its amazing how every week a few delicious offerings turn up for us all to hoe into..... please excuse the pun :)


Turning the compost.....

Old Bess watches Celia, glad she does not have to play with the others.

Buffy only had eyes for Joanne

Bear is Pickle's favourite but despite her grand size and regal looks, she is so sweet with Pickle

Kim and Stuart were making frames for the raspberries and some beans

This section is providing most food at the moment

Most of this week's motley crew... Kim, Laura(hidden but for the pony tail and green hat), Carol, Sue, Jo, Celia, Joanne (standing), Alex, Liz.

Joanne's invention.... tiny little frittatas, absolutely  delicious.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christine and Ken's place


image What a lovely time we had at Christine and Ken's. They have been eating from their garden all winter and now have 700 garlic planted, 400 or so of which will be sold at the Woodbridge market over summer. Christine has some great ideas, including using plastic 2 litre milk bottles for watering seedlings, as in the photo.


The whole 1.5 acres is absolutely gorgeous, with lots of fruit trees, natives and other plants, as well as such a pretty pond, just visible beyond these happy wanderers. At the moment the proteas and leukodendrons, which do so well here, are in full flower.


















I have never seen this kind of magnolia (below) before, I think Christine said it is called Stellata .... or something similar! It is a mass of large, soft pink, starry flowers.









Ken writes an electronic newsletter for the Channel Region and I can't wait to be on his email list. Sounds like it will be quite an education. He has called it "Crikey Dot Ken" ! Wonderful name...... stay tuned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Brief History of The World


Once upon a time, in a place called Utopia, in the days we call The Good Old Days, lived a thing called The Community. It existed way before religion came along and took it over and before governments made rules about it.

Community gave everyone a sense of security. Because life was slow, expectations low and camaraderie high, The Community flourished. There was little communication with the outside world, the focus being on providing for The Community. The more The Community was nourished, the happier the people were.

Aboriginal Australians were a good example of such a community. Women gathered what food they could from their surroundings, with the young children in tow. They made bowls and spoons and useful home items as well as cooking over fires .... all for The Community. Men did what men are good at - hunting for wild meat, making shelters and tools, as well as teaching the boys how to be men in The Community. Elders told stories about their heritage and were called upon to preside over justice and harmony for The Community.

So it was that everyone in the group was looked after. There were no individual needs that were not met by The Community. On the whole life was pleasant, parties frequent, daily life slow and healthy. Children grew up understanding The Community and how necessary it was to look after it, because there was no place for Greed and Selfishness.

If food ran low, if huts fell into disrepair or family members became ill and could not work, The Community was responsible and meetings were held to decide on action to remedy the problem.


All over the earth live individuals, often grouped into large masses called cities. It is a complex life for these individuals who talk a lot about My Total Wealth, My Job, My Family, My House, My Holidays and how much more I could get if only the government would see how much more I need it than anyone else. The system is totally based on My Money.

My Money makes those who have it secure. Those who need assistance should ask the government because the people with My Money do not have Time. The Government is made up of people who like being in power and work tirelessly at staying there; telling the My Money people that they will get more money if they vote for this government or that.

Western civilisation is the main example of My Money. Children are farmed out to be cared for by others, while women and men work endlessly because they need more money to get more stuff in order to feel secure. Food is expected to be cheap. Those producing good quality food are expected to do so at the same price as those who call poison "food" and put it in fancy packets on fancy shelves.

All kinds of machines do all kinds of work, so that people can get more money. One of the biggest machines is The War Machine which uses the most money to run and kills a lot of people in doing so, but often makes obscene amounts of money for corporations. Corporations are made up of several overweight men who drain what is left of The Community to feed My Money.

When things go wrong, everyone in the My Money scheme blames someone else. There is a lot of fighting. People are not happy. The people try feeding money to the problem, but it does not provide a cure. This scheme cannot work forever and eventually either the My Money people will all kill each other or...... they will look inside themselves and find The Community.

The future.....

The Modern Day Community thrives. Smiles are on faces again. Food is grown and shared, taking into account all creatures of the earth as well as humans. Communication with outside The Community grows so that knowledge and ideas can be shared with all other communities. Stuff is swapped, work is less frantic, people begin to Care, Share and revel in being a part of The Community. Mental and physical health engulf The Community.

Life is good..... lets get there fast and then take it slow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weaving natural fibres



Deb showed me her beautiful winter weaving projects when I was in Adelaide recently. These photos are from Deb's blog.....

winter 012

But Deb also makes wonderful structures in the garden such as these..... all just from materials she grows.


I cannot wait to try some of this in my garden. I have lots of suitable plants and trees.... but even with a friend like Deb to give me some guidance, I do not think I will ever be as skilful as her!




Here are some other ideas for weaving fences in Europe, mostly as a means of stabilising soil.....

Live Fascines



Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Fresh Feast

I ate lunch far too late.... a mixture of leftover rice and fresh coriander into which I stirred all sorts of other leftovers, like the rocket pesto I made a while ago and even some thick soup that was not enough for a serve by itself. Then, because it was raining too much to go back outside, I had a cup of rooibos tea and an ever so incy wincy piece of carrot cake.

So, as evening approached I began to realise I did not feel at all like cooking dinner. The fire was going really well, the house was warm and cosy..... and I really did want to sit down at 6.30pm and watch Gardening Australia live, instead of taped, later. There is nothing that gives me more of a weekend feel than Saturday night dinner in front of the TV watching my favourite gardening show.

Leaves..... I needed leaves, fresh, crisp, singing from the raindrops on them (the leaves, not me!) and brilliant green.... so out I went with my basket, to see what I could see.


A confusing group of salad ingredients seem to be gathered on my chopping board after the quick, pre-dinner walk around my garden.

I think these are the last of my tomatoes which have very successfully ripened whilst 2 dead bushes hang upside down in my tool shed. Mid September.... not bad for Tasmania!

The mushrooms grow from the compost you buy here!


The miners' lettuce are flourishing and the leaves are a delicious, juicy, beautiful shaped winter addition.

Chervil.... that fine, feathery herb with a hint of aniseed is one of my winter favourites. I never chop it, just tear it up a little or else their delicate flavour is lost.

At The Italian Pantry in Hobart I bought some tiny pickling onions which had been marinated in a balsamic vinegar dressing.... oh gosh, are they good or what!


A man near me had killed a pig last week and I was lucky enough to get some of it. I am not interested in being vegetarian but I prefer not to eat farmed meat if I can avoid it, even if its organic. In the same way I do not eat farmed vegetables or fruit if I can help it. A few slices of pork are all I felt like tonight, in my salad.

Celery in my little glasshouse is still providing me with stalks and the side shoots of broccoli on the verge of bolting add a nice texture to this meal. There is also some mixed lettuce leaves, a few mustard greens and a little bit of mint.

Soon I will have olives.... hooray for Jilli. How did I manage to get a neighbour like her; finding raw olives for me while I was away in Adelaide.... and in September! They are now happily marinating in jars in the kitchen.

I made a little bit of dressing from peanut oil (it has to be organic, or it is too processed and has no flavour), lemon juice (because I was too mean to open a bottle of Maggie Beer's verjuice) and a grinding of pepper.

Now, writing this, I am beginning to feel hungry..... maybe I will finish off the amazingly red rhubarb I bought from Gerard the organic beef man (who also sold me Pickle!) and have a tiny bit of cream on it!

And later I will read the book Pattie sent me.... Julia Child's "My Life in France". How did I get a friend like that? Life is good and getting better.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white........

image After a calm and sunny winter, I thought I'd got off lightly for my first cold season in Tasmania. But wild weather has been building out at sea, down near the Antarctic, for days. And it has begun lashing Tasmania, blowing out the plastic on my gorgeous little glasshouse door and almost tearing it off its ancient hinges; crashing through the trees like a runaway train, and sending my thermometer flying off its sturdy nail on my verandah, right out into the garden!

The rain has filled my dam which is now flowing out of its spillway. The creek is a torrent and what was just a merry trickle through the cow paddock, is now an angry river. We still mostly all braved the weather and headed off to the food forest for gardening this morning. Luckily Celia, our fearless leader, had brought seeds for us to sow and it was really very pleasant in the poly tunnel, sheltered from the worst of the wind and horizontal rain by the shed.

However we soon unanimously agreed that the pub was a far better venue for such a day. Celia had arranged for us to show a DVD about an inspirational Austrian bloke taking Europe by storm with his wonderful natural farming style.

image Pickle and I spent the afternoon inside where the fire was our focus. I mostly read.... and ate... and watched the storm! Pickle was very relaxed during even the fiercest of wind gusts.....image





image  image


The talk in town is that we might wake to a white Cygnet tomorrow.....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hugh's Place

I began writing about my son Hugh's adventures into vegetable gardening, on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog. It all began about this time of the year, back in 2008..... I think. Now he is not just a wonderful chef but an incredible food grower as well.


Here's what we had to work from back in 2008... wall to wall concrete.

Look at it now!
Remember this from April 2009?

Well look at it now! The little rockery and water fall surrounded by so many herbs and veg and just out of view are 3 different passionfruits climbing over that tank.



String reaches from the soil to above the windows and up it grows the peas. From inside it is so pretty. What a great idea.


Hugh's seedlings, all grown from seed


Food grows everywhere you look...
image image

Hugh was recently in a hamburger cooking competition at the show.....