Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hugh's Essentials

I guess every mother is proud of their children and I am no exception. Let me tell you about son Hugh's latest ventures in the world of food.....

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Here are his savoury muffins, baked in clay pots, and available from The Corner Store, Semaphore, SA.

He developed what I think is the best toasted muesli ever, just for his own breakfast enjoyment (and his mother's!) but now also is selling that at The Corner Store and at Goodies and Grains in the Central Market, Adelaide.

Next, he has made up little packs of amazing, spicy nuts. When he tried them out on the other chefs where he works, they bought the whole lot! They are now also available at Goodies and Grains....the nuts not the chefs.

His range is currently called 'Hugh's Essentials'... I am still waiting for more photos, however.

Now, this is all very nice and enough in itself but what makes me even more proud is that he has enrolled in a course for starting a small business, has found a class of graphic design students to help him design a logo and some packaging, has set up a business bank account and started to really take charge of his finances and his future ........ at last! image

All this while he is working full time as a young chef and growing much of his own food in his backyard.... not to mention surfing and jogging and partying, not necessarily in that order!image

Hugh's food garden....

From this..... to this.

A mother, passionate about home grown and local food, could not more proud.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Apple Pressing with Bob Magnus and Tribe

I thought I had been to paradise already, several times. I have seen pristine nature, incredible sunsets, dolphins swimming around my canoe, amazing thousand year old farmhouses, the unbelievable vegetable gardens of Chateau Villandry and some tropical forests of orchids that took my breath away. But one warm, calm, sunny morning recently I stood here.....

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and thought that, of all the places I have been, this must surely be the most beautiful of all. It must be very satisfying to have made such a rich, fruitful, lovely space and to work in a garden with a view like this. Vegetables, flowers and hundreds of fruit trees flow from one to the other, in a glorious garden setting that invites you to go further, to look around the next bend and walk through the trees, never losing sight of the water.

I was there to experience the Magnus's weekly apple pressing ritual where, during the many months of the apple season, Bob and a young tribe of family helpers crush apples and make juice for the extended family's following week.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March : Obtain a Yield

I love this year's permaculture calendar, where each month depicts one of the 12 permaculture principles. This video explains better than I can, three of the principles:

(If only I could obtain a yield of mangoes here in Tasmania!)

I am obtaining a yield, however, and today's consists of more big, thick, juicy mushrooms from my $4 bag of mushroom compost as well as green fennel seeds to go in my rye sourdough bread and in so many other things I love to cook.

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imageAbout this time last year I sowed fennel seeds. Most formed nice bulbous bottoms, which I cut and ate. This generally put out more shoots and a few of them I eventually let go to seed, so I could chew the fragrant, sweet, spicy flowers as well as save some seeds for cooking and some for sowing. The stalks are now taller than me and laden with huge heads of very large, plump, green seeds.

A few years ago I discovered something about fennel seeds.... once they dry on the plant it is almost impossible to collect them without getting any of their tiny flower stalks and that these miniscule stalks are REALLY irritating to eat in an otherwise fabulous meal!! It was only last week, when I had run out of bought fennel seeds, and wanted some for cooking, that I thought "Aha! Usually when you buy fennel seeds for cooking, they are green! Maybe there is a clue there about when to pick them for cooking." Sometimes I am really slow and really dumb! I have now picked several large heads of green fennel seeds and they are soooooo easily removed from the stems without getting any little stalks. Each head consists of about 1,000 seeds so I will be saving more green ones and less dried, brown ones (for sowing) from now on. The trick will now be to let the green seeds dry well before I attempt to store them or they will go mouldy. I cannot think of many other vegetables which have seeds that are also a spice.

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Suddenly I feel like a Turkish spice merchant, with my pile of exquisitely fresh, colourful, fragrant fennel seeds on display.

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Pickle.... snoozing whilst keeping alert for the sound of a rabbit hopping by!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What to sow in Autumn

image When most people are lamenting the end of the summer growing season, my mouth is watering with the coming delights of the Asian greens in a multitude of quick, simple, delicious winter meals.

 

 

 

image If you love fresh ginger, limes, Vietnamese mint, sesame oil, black bean sauce, oyster sauce and/or mirin then now is the time to sow every Asian green you can find seeds for. They need a rich soil, ample water, will happily grow in moderate shade (some will grow so fast even in full shade that it is scary to think what would happen if they were in the sun!), and can be ready to start picking in a few weeks.

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Ching chiang pai tsai and mizuna
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Mustard greens and others

In Tasmania, I am sowing some of them where I will be covering them with a cloche, not covered in yukky plastic, but with a fine, white curtain, like people use to stop you seeing through their windows but which lets the light through.... I am hopeless at fabric names! You can find them at op. shops very cheap. I bought piles of them for $4 and I also use them to keep off the cabbage moths in summer. Asian greens do not need protection from frost but they do grow a bit faster that way. Even the celery I have had under that fabric during this cold summer, which happen to be next to red cabbages I was protecting from moths, has grown twice as fast as the celery not covered.

image If you have fresh parsnip seed, sow it now too.... today! I have had one disaster after another with my broccoli seedlings but I am determined to get some going, even if it is getting a bit late here. Kale is popping up everywhere in my self-sowing garden so, if you just love the sight of the strong, dark, knobbly Cavolo Nero leaves dusted with frost (as in this photo) on those clear, freezing cold Tasmanian winter mornings, then sow it like mad now, along with the dainty but equally hardy Red Russian kale and any others you come across. I am digging up some of my seedlings to sell. Kale leaves are delicious boiled, tossed with pepper and garlic, then topped with smoked salmon or very good bacon, and a poached egg, for breakfast.  Great before I go off to help at the community garden and keeps me going all morning.

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Lettuce is wonderful to sow now and, surprisingly, it loves the frost, as this photo of red coral lettuce in my garden last winter, shows. Keep sowing every 2 weeks for a continuous supply of leaves through winter. Under the cloth cloche they grow faster but it is not necessary.

 

There is nothing nicer for lunch by the fire in winter than thick, hot soup, a piece of aromatic, home made rye sourdough with lashings of butter and a bowl of salad leaves, broad bean tips and young spring onions, still icy cold and coated in melted frost.

image Next is beetroot..... devote whole swathes of soil to the glorious beetroot and its various, astoundingly beautiful leaves. imageIf you tire of baked / boiled / shredded beetroot this winter, make juice. I love apple, carrot, celery, beetroot and fresh ginger juice. All of these can be in your Tasmanian garden in winter, except the ginger. (I am looking forward to the galangal in my hothouse being a ginger substitute before too long).

I grew celery all winter last year, in my hothouse along with Vietnamese mint, various herbs, some very late tomatoes and one big head of broccoli. This year I am sowing most of these outside but now have lemon grass, galangal, 2 capsicums and 2 tomatoes in there. Celery will definitely have a place there again.... in fact I have just picked the seeds from the previous celery and shoots are regrowing... a very economical plant indeed.

After you have done all this sowing, it will be time for garlic, broad beans (Oh no! Not again, surely!), oniony things, mache, miners' lettuce, coriander, chervil and green manures.

So, don't give up and collapse when your summer harvest is over. Even in cold places like southern Tasmania you can grow food all year round. The food that grows through winter with you, provides the perfect assortment of nutrients for you. It is commonsense but, sadly, commonsense is not that common any more.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Discovering art at Watermark

My life seems to be full of the joys of growing and cooking food and sharing this joy with others so when Frances said "Are you going to the opening of the Watermark Exhibition on Friday night?" I had no idea what she was talking about. Luckily, after a brief discussion, I agreed to meet up there at 6.30 last night. The Cygnet Town Hall was the venue.... a lovely old building in the main street. Watermark is a biennial art exhibition of local, new art with a water theme.

Now, I lack all artistic ability and, in the past, have avoided art exhibitions and felt no connection with art at all. I love to look at nature and I feel a great connection with it but, just like I do not enjoy shopping, I have never enjoyed looking at art. Shocking thing to admit, I know. I also prefer the sounds of nature and the peace between the sounds, to music of any kind. So there we have it.

So it was a first for me, to walk into the opening of an art exhibition. Most of the rest of the Cygnet and the surrounding population was there but luckily I was one of the first to enter the door. I saw something immediately that drew me to look more closely. At the far end of the hall, as if made just for my eyes, was a most beautiful, very large bronze abalone shell.... and as I walked closer I read the little sign on it.... please touch. Now this, I discovered, was what was lacking in my connecting with art previously. I touched the shell and it was wonderful.... I turned around when someone tapped my shoulder and there was Todd, who used to live in my house with Tonia, who made my garden some years ago. Todd was beaming.... this beautiful creation was his! Suddenly there was a connection.... out of the soul of this big, strong, young man came big, strong but delicate art.... that actually spoke to me.

The rest of the evening was similar. So many of the people I have met here in this last year had something entered in this exhibition. Do not for a moment think this was an amateurish show; far from it. Southern Tasmania is full of artists of the highest caliber. Some of my Garden Shed customers pointed out their paintings, sculptures and photographs and I was lost for words at their skill and creativity.

Maybe I will begin to enjoy art in this artistic community where you can touch things and know the artists as friends. One day while it is quiet I will go back again and take a photo of the abalone shell but the look of pride on Todd's face I will have to keep in my own head.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Will this be on your TV news, tonight?

The news on Australian TV is always full of fighting, politics, catastrophes, murder, rape, theft and car accidents. It would make an alien, tuning in from another planet, think that planet earth is a place to be avoided at all cost! The horrors of the day are followed by sport, a special section on finance and then weather. Daily intake of all this must affect the viewers' thinking too, making us accept that this really is the news we need to know, when actually there are so many other pieces of information that really are newsworthy.

I am surprised that all the TV stations do the same kind of news, in the same way, day after day, and that none of them, not even the ABC, does something a fraction more intelligent and offer some things we really should all know about.

Climate change, pollution, peak oil, carbon dioxide levels, deforestation, the environment.... all these are regular items on the news but the focus is always on disagreements between politicians, punctuated by snapshots of smoke stacks, logging trucks and dead fish in a river somewhere. Every now and then a scientist is shown, and we hear 3 words he says before moving on to 5 minutes of financial graphs, as if that is more important than reality!

Did you know there is going to be a Seed Treaty meeting in Bali next week? It is titled: Peasants’ Right to Seeds: A Solution to the Food, Climate and Biodiversity Crises.

Have you ever heard of La Via Campesina? Of course people reading this blog probably have but is it not something that should be on our news? Should not everyone know about the plight of the earth, its links to Big-Ag and the truth about what is happening to  traditional farmers all over the world, and consequently to all of us and our food??

Surely any solutions to these crises should be on the TV and other media's news! Representing 200 million people, this is not just a few irate men gathering on the side of a dusty street, this is a serious and very important meeting, to you, to me and the earth in general.

Here is the rest of the article....and I am looking forward to seeing these farmers interviewed by the media of Australia .... what a joke! And why are there no small scale farmers from Australia going to this conference and available for interviews?

Seed farmers from all over the world, members of La Via Campesina, a global peasants' movement consisting of 150 member organizations in 70 countries and representing over 200 million peasants and rural workers, will participate in the Fourth Regular Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GB4ITPGFRA) that will be held in Nusa Dua, Bali, on 14-18 March 2011. During a series of meetings, seminars and events, they will represent seed farmers from all over the world who are the backbone of food production and the main creators and defenders of biodiversity.

A Ministerial Meeting on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Food Security will be held on March 11. In response to this meeting, the Indonesia Peasant Union SPI and La Via Campesina declare that large-scale industrial agriculture and monoculture production are the root cause of today’s biodiversity, food and climate crises. If we continue with "business as usual", hunger will increase and peasants will be further marginalized and impoverished. The farmers' movement demands a radical change in direction in the current agricultural free-market policies.

The experience of small peasants around the world shows that agro-ecological farming and local food markets are the most powerful answer to the current multiple crises. Agro-ecological farming has proven to be very adaptive to the impact of climate change. It captures greenhouse gases in the soil and consumes far less fuel than industrial agriculture, which is a large contributor to climate change. Furthermore, agro-ecological farming guarantees the food production for peasant families and can feed urban as well as rural communities. Regarding genetic resources, small peasants have the capacity to develop new varieties that are more pest resistant and better adapted to the changing climate.

Seeds farmers from Madagascar, France, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Chile, Thailand and Indonesia are available for interviews from March 7 to 18.

Thanks Deb, for sending me the email about this. I wish you were going!