Monday, February 16, 2015

It is darn easy being green, you know.

It’s a funny thing but I never cease to be surprised and delighted by self-sown vegetables popping up just at the time when I am thinking I really must sow some. Today I weeded an unruly and neglected patch, leaving various things that are setting seeds. I long for an empty bed to rake to a fine tilth and sow with nice neat rows of something, like I see on TV, but I never get one because of all the things I let go to seed and the things I see germinating. At the community garden, however, I am a bit more ruthless!

It is quite windy lately and pleasantly warm so I sprinkled a fine layer of mulch over the weeded area, after thoroughly wetting the soil and adding some blood and bone, just to help along the tiny red cabbage and leek seedlings emerging here and there. I expect lettuce will appear soon and maybe some kind of Asian leafy green; frilly mustard I hope.

In September I planted out some garlic that I bought from a local market gardener who told me that this hard neck garlic, planted late like this, is what keeps him in garlic for months after the rest have finished. Well they are still growing well and I am eating the scapes some of them have produced. I look forward to multiplying this variety to more than the 6 cloves I managed to plant last September.

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This is the first time the nashi and the Bramley have produced fruit and what a picture they are!  I love an espalier because they are so easy to maintain and pick and look so gorgeous. The nashi are a lovely yellow colour, very juicy and a nice change from all the soft fruits this time of the year.

The Bramley is an enormous apple which turns to a delicious mush inside, when baked whole (as I did tonight). I can only eat half of one at a time! These photos are deceiving!

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What a lovely day in the garden and another tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Paleo was great 100,000 years ago but…..

Home grown kale, home-smoked trout and an egg.

It is interesting how popular the Paleo diet has become recently. Based on the idea of our gut being attuned to eating the diet of the hunters and gatherers in early human history, it embraces meat and vegetables whilst restricting certain fruits and omitting dairy and grains. In theory this seems a plausible, natural way for many to regain the health they have lost due to over-consumption of modern, processed foods.

However, meat today is a far cry from the meat of our early ancestors, where all animals were wild and diversity of the diet would have included everything from lizards and small mammals to kangaroos (in Australia) and deer etc. Fossicking and fishing in pristine waters would have brought shellfish, crabs, cockles and wild fish, all free from heavy metals and other contaminants.

All parts of the animals were eaten and nothing wasted as who knew when the next animal would be caught. Organs, brains flesh would be shared with the tribe; your share being determined by status, age and sex. Never would there have been unlimited amounts of meat and never would you have eaten one cut of one animal, over and over, for years, as people seem to do today with steak or chicken breast or fillets of a favourite fish. Bones were made into broths, the marrow being prized for its rich mineral content.

Vegetables and fruit were foraged and therefore always seasonal. Plant food was not always abundant but it was always organic, fresh, natural and not bred for high yield or anything else. Grains and seeds were picked by hand from fields of diversity, not by mechanical harvesters on super-farms stretching as far as the eye can see. Thus they were also seasonal and vastly reduced in abundance compared to today.

It is impossible and ridiculous to think that anyone could regain that diet. Our seas and air and soil are degrading faster than ever. Supermarket meat is factory grown and processed, very limited in range and not seasonal. Rarely do people eat organs or make real broths or venture outside their favourite cuts of meat. Show me where to buy lizards and snakes and other wild animals!

Vegetables, even wonderful, organic, home grown ones, are produced from seeds developed after hundreds of years of selecting varieties for shape, size, colour or taste but never for nutrient value or for wildness. And they are far better than those filled with chemicals which people are eating on a Paleo diet, thinking they are copying their wild ancestors.

Food is abundant and most people have no idea of its seasonality or how hard it would be to eat only what you can gather from the wild. There would certainly be no obesity if you only ate what you grew or foraged; the exercise of growing and collecting it would see to that!

Home grown lunch... Freshly picked salad + wild greens dip

My philosophy is to eat local, seasonal food and eat as much diversity as I can without overeating anything. I eat no fresh food at all from a supermarket. I either grow it or buy it from someone who does. I eat a huge diversity of home grown vegetables. I eat wallaby killed nearby and meat raised by friends and I eat all parts of the animal. I eat local fish and shellfish but, surprisingly for an island, it is hard to get fish from a fisherman….. it all goes to restaurants and to other parts of the world because of Tasmania’s clean, green image. I eat organic, Australian-grown grains and seeds but I eat them irregularly, unprocessed and in small amounts, trying to use as many different grains and seeds as I can. I ferment a lot of stuff, including milk (in its most original state). I eat cheeses cut from a round and never ever processed cheese in blocks. I grow and eat a lot of sprouts; red and green lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek and mung beans are my favourites.

(Wild weeds and leaves pesto dip recipe… as in photo above.)

Hugh and Hugsli at the Showgrounds Farmers Market, AdelaideMy big food-mile weaknesses are organic bananas and the odd mango from Queensland, coffee from East Timor, certain cheeses from France and Pellegrino mineral water from Italy (even though mineral water is produced here in Cygnet!). I also love treats from son Hugh, of Hughsli, in Adelaide whose mueslis, chocolates, carrot kasundi, crème brulee, sprouted dips and everything else are made with his local farmers market ingredients and with a passion for the seasonal, local and best quality.

Life is good. It can never be like it was 100,000 years ago or most of us would have died by now. Eat less, think long and deep and don’t be swayed from a healthy lifestyle because of fads.

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Rowing our skiff, The Swan, to Hobart in the Parade of Sails at The Wooden Boat Festival recently…. what a wonderful day and wonderful way to stay healthy and happy!