Kitchen Garden Guides

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nala Pakana hosts SeedSaveUs

My passengers arrived on time. I bundled up my various packets of seeds for sharing, grabbed my basket of food and we set off for Nala Pakana, a property not all that far from my place, for our June SeedSaveUs get together.

image It is Tasmania and mid winter so the back of the car was filled with jackets and scarves while feet were shod in warm socks and thick soled shoes. Theresa said turn off at the sign and its a bit more than 3 kms up Scarrs Road to her house in the forest. Well, my car is a city car and I was not prepared for the rough track, having to steer from one side to the other to avoid ditches and rocks. However, we arrived safely, just as another shower of rain raced across the landscape and the strong winds forecast blew us toward Theresa’s haven.


Inside it was warm and cosy. One by one everyone blew in, removing their coats and boots in the dry entrance room, depositing food on the table and finding a space to nestle down with baskets of plants and seeds to be shared later. The house looks like it evolved out of the forest, as every part of it was hand made from the forest and surroundings, before Theresa bought it.



About 30 people came this day; several I had not met before, all laden with things to share and stories to tell of growing food. I especially loved the bean seeds Eva brought which had originated from an Italian man who had brought them with him from Italy more than 50 years before and had grown and saved every year since.

image  Theresa is an amazing woman, so keen to help people find the best of themselves and live happy and healthy lives.

Outside we met Choco the goat, Audrey and Henry the geese and 2 talkative dogs. Theresa told us how well corrugated iron works to keep out possums, wallabies and other wildlife, while providing shelter from the wind, reflective heat and light for cold sensitive plants and a surface to cover with art!


The teepee is gorgeous and the golden light inside adds to the feeling of warmth and comfort it gives. Theresa wants to run all kinds of workshops and yoga classes in it when it is finished….. and that is another story!

What do pepper, lemon and mocha have in common? They are the flavours of Australian spices!

Most of us have ancestors from other lands and, no matter how Australian we ourselves are, most of what we eat originated also from elsewhere on the planet. There are several reasons for this; one being that Australian native plants, on the whole, are notoriously difficult to propagate, from seeds, cuttings or any darn part of them. Another reason is that, when our ancestors came here, they did not know what was edible and instead brought seeds, cuttings and whole trees with them to plant in their new land and we have continued with that tradition.

For an embarrassingly long time no-one consulted the aboriginal people! Even now, with a coin from 1792 that I found in my garden pointing to over 200 years of white history here, I seem to be trail-blazing with my recent introduction of some native spices to the range of spices I sell at the Cygnet market.

It is also interesting that, although practically everyone here knows of the Mountain Pepperberry (Tasmannia Lanceolata), which grows prolifically in the forests all over Tasmania, most Australians have never used it. Moreover, the plants are sold at many Tasmanian markets, making it one of the easiest natives to propagate and, even so, they are not used daily by most Tasmanians. The flavour is hot pepper, with a dash of eucalyptus and a background of a deeper aroma. For everything there is to know about this plant watch this video:

You can see in that video that Diemen Pepper are very professional and sell a wonderful product. However, I am simply selling the pepperberries picked from home grown bushes and dried without any fans or inputs of any sort. I met a local woman at the market who has several bushes and I bought the dried berries from her. When hers run out, I will be getting them from Rudy, who grows them in northern Tasmania….. that sweet bloke who sent me enough samples to last me for years, for my personal use. His are also dried without any aids. Because pepperberries are a bit bigger than a regular peppercorn, they mostly will not grind happily in a regular grinder, so Rudy also sells them cracked (not ground) and this allows them to go through any grinder. I am not selling the leaf yet.

Next is Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia Citriodora); an exquisite and incomparable spice sensation, something like intense lemon grass mixed with lime zest. It is native to the subtropics of Australia but will grow even here in Tasmania, although the flavour is less intense. I am buying the ground leaves from Warren at Tumbeela, in the Adelaide Hills, where The Hills and Plains Seedsavers visited when I was there a few years ago and Warren was just starting out. The leaves keep their brilliant green even when ground and do not lose their colour into the foods you cook them with. A pinch of lemon myrtle in rice is beautiful, but a pinch steeped in cream for a few hours and served with chocolate wattleseed mousse, is unbelievable! (Recipe soon to be uploaded here)

The aroma of lemon myrtle is so intense that it has to be kept in an airtight container ALONE! However, if you want to have a fresh, lemon aroma wafting through your house, this is your answer!

Lastly, wattleseed, roasted and lightly ground. Not all acacias have edible or flavoursome seeds but Acacia Victoriae certainly has. It is rich coffee mixed with hazelnut and chocolate. The aboriginal people of mainland Australia certainly had a wonderful treat with this spice and, if they had enough, they’d grind it to a flour. Here in Tasmania, wattleseed ice cream is THE most favourite, according to a friend of mine who has a stall selling her home made ice creams at Salamanca market in Hobart. I recently made some fabulous chocolate wattleseed biscuits. I am also getting the wattleseed from Tumbeela.

Slowly I will add to my range of Australian spices. They are unique, amazing, versatile and should fit easily into our cooking, once we give them a chance. Please do tell me your favourite so I can introduce it to people who live at the very bottom of the world!

Friday, June 15, 2012

From darkness….. light


garden of hope

From Roger Doiron at Kitchen Gardeners International….. gardeners helping gardeners

For gardeners in wealthy countries, it's easy to take for granted the psychological benefits that a garden can offer.  In springing from the ground, gardens offer a living metaphor for rebirth and a fresh start.  It was for this reason that KGI was so happy to be able to fund the Garden of Hope project in Goa, India.  Rather than tell this uplifting story in words, we'll leave it to the presentation to tell it in pictures.

Please watch the slide presentation, share it and help Sow it Forward….. it might just change your day….. and it could change someone else’s life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pay it forward….

You know what its like….. you are working on a million things at once and stuff is swirling around in your head and then you say something to yourself, out loud….. and it crystallises everything into a few words. Sometimes that thing is profound, sometimes its hilarious and sometimes its mortifying!

Well, I have dealt with some truly lovely people this week; business people, who are people first, then business….. Over and over again people I am trying to source products from, to sell myself in The Garden Shed and Pantry, have done special things, beyond the call of duty.

Just two examples…. Janet at CheeseLinks in Melbourne went out of her way to send me hundreds of dollars worth of yoghurt culture (and a few freebies!) the same day I ordered it so that I would have it for this week’s Sunday market, trusting that I will pay, even though I have never dealt with them before.

Then, today, I strolled down to my letterbox in the misty drizzle and found a parcel from The Pepperman, in northern Tasmania, who I had spoken to earlier in the week after hearing a lovely interview with him on the radio (Click on the link and you’ll hear the interview….its VERY interesting). He grows the Tasmanian Pepperberry (tasmannia lanceolata) and I need it for the dukkah I make and sell and also to sell along with other native spices. When I contacted him he refused to sell me anything until he had sent me samples of all his wares and I could choose what I liked best….. Nice man, nice idea…. But I did not expect such big packets, for free! This stuff costs $75 - $85 / kg and I only use a tiny smidgen in the dukkah so the samples alone will see me through several months or even years! But the nicest thing is a hand written note, with ideas for using the berries and leaves, plus the prices. Its rare these days to get a hand written note.

Well, wipe your eyes and get back to the gist of the story, Kate!

So, all skippity doo, I was walking into the kitchen with the sample bags and I said out loud…. “These people are sooooo nice….. What is wrong with them?!!” Horrified, I stopped in my tracks…. Has it become so rare to find nice business people, that I would say such a thing? I don’t think so; I deal with many really nice people…. Have I become a horrible business person? Maybe …. trying to make a dollar here and there has changed the way I look at some stuff….

One thing is for sure, I will buy from these people, come hell or high water. And another thing is…. I will pay it forward and do some nice things for others, in my business too… and …. when you open a bag of finely ground Tas pepper leaf, don’t sniff too hard or you will sneeze forever, like I am doing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The adventures of my wheelbarrow….

image I packed my gardening tools and some plants into my wheelbarrow and drove it to the community garden and beyond….

It has been raining A LOT lately and the community garden has, once again, succumbed to its regular winter look, resembling the estuary that it really is. I decided we should not get depressed about it; we should make it into some fun. So, first step, we got a leaky old dinghy, filled it with plants and launched it into the swamp.


We employed child labour to help with jobs like mulching fruit trees and sorting oca…..



Then we continued on down the main street of Cygnet….

image And, we did it! Two others from the community garden and I took my plants and planted them into the library garden, quietly, in broad daylight and guess what? The librarians came out to see what was going on…. and…. they said…. “Wow this is wonderful; we’ve been wanting to have herbs and vegies here for ages!” People passed in and out of the library, chatting away to us and it was all a bit of a non-event, actually!

This changing attitude of taking charge of our future ourselves, while politicians fight amongst themselves in big buildings, is very liberating. When I first approached the library 2 years ago, in response to their advertisement for a volunteer gardener, I was told I had to fill in forms and get a police clearance, because I might come into contact with children in the library garden!! I got caught up in red tape and was tied up in knots by a silly, officious woman on the other end of the phone. It took 6 months for the police clearance to be granted and by then I was so over the whole idea that I did not ever make a start.

Now, however, 4 people turning up unannounced and planting food without permission is applauded….. my, my, how things change! I wish I had just started planting things 2 years ago, but I was from the city, so new to this country town at the bottom of the world. Now, people know me and I know their faces too. I have a market stall, I write for the local papers and shop in the main street. Somehow this, I think, means I have credibility; its ok for me to garden at the library because I write about gardening, in the papers and I live in the town.

image I was getting rather peckish by the time we’d finished and, since I had to walk home right past the door of my friend Jane’s School House Coffee Shop, I parked my trusty wheelbarrow in a 1 hour park right by the door, and went in for a bite of lunch.

Now, isn’t this the parking lot of the future? Imagine if people drove their wheelbarrows to the shops and cafes where you live. Its so versatile; plenty of room for shopping, swapping and your gardening tools as well. It is pleasant walking along with a wheelbarrow and the extra effort of going uphill would keep us all fit. Its like riding a bike, only better!

I’d love to organise a drive-your-wheelbarrow-to-town, day and I bet Jane would love to host a get together in the cafe garden….. we could even do some gardening for her….

Life is good; but its up to us to make it so.