Summer in the patch

Like you, I have watched the bush fires sweeping our beautiful country. They are still burning and the crisis isn’t over. My heart is heavy for the thousands of people now displaced and homeless. I have no words for how tragic the loss of the ecosystems is in the areas affected. There are multiple places to donate money to including the country fire services, wildlife rescue, the families of those that have died or the SA government bush fire relief fund to help with the immediate crisis. The rebuild will be long and difficult for many, we need to reach out and help those affected for a very long time.

I have watched our beautiful country dry out over the last 2 decades and don’t know why basic ecological rules are being ignored. In the 90s I did formal studies in ecological restoration and the rules of nature are strong and clear. Mess with the water cycle and you get drought. Mess with the atmosphere and you get global warming. Pollute the land and you get toxic chemicals leaching into our aquifers. Pollute the seas with plastic and you interfere with the ocean currents that regulate the earths temperate. We aren’t being good custodians of the land or seas and this needs to be remedied.

I hear lots of people concerned about our environment but don’t always see corresponding action to address personal responsibility for greenhouse emissions or their broader impact on the environment. I hear lots of excuses and justifications for not acting. Just do it, big actions or little, it all adds up. We wanted to understand our household impact so we used the Australian Greenhouse Calculator. There are other calculators around too if you want to compare. While our household impact is small compared to the emissions of the US department of defence our governments either agree or not to go to war, so who we vote for matters.

Our emissions are small compared to big oil, gas and coal industries, but collectively we all use these products in our day to day lives which clearly adds up or these companies wouldn’t have such a big greenhouse impact. It pays to minimise reliance on these in day to day life. So, it doesn’t matter to me if you don’t believe the science or who you voted for. What I care about is if you want to help heal the patch you have responsibility for, whatever that may look like. There are so many areas of environmental mismanagement needing work, pick something that resonates and act on it. It’s all needed, on every level.

Some ways a regular household can quickly reduce greehouse impact is to reduce the number of flights taken. Go on local holidays instead. Change household power to renewable energy, this can be done if you are renting or own, find out what your energy retailer offers. Minimise reliance on cars and catch public transport, use a bike or walk to minimise oil usage. See if you can purchase something second hand, rather than new to minimise resources being used. If you can’t find second hand buy quality items new with a clear view to it’s end of life. We really need all people including government to be heading in the same direction to turn things around for our beautiful planet.

Agriculture and shipping food around the planet has a huge impact too. I’m passionate about local food, not just because it tastes great but also because it’s much kinder to the planet and your body to eat local food. Food that has been shipped or flown into SA has a huge carbon footprint. Some imported food gets irradiated and more generally it’s lost it’s vitality. Employment conditions in countries with cheaper labour can resemble slavery. Water is being stolen from ecosystems around the world to support big agriculture. I don’t want my shopping dollars to support that. Buying local food that’s not organic is a better option that the imported options. Even better is buying food that’s been grown organically and by farmers that are committed to building soil and regenerating the land. Or start growing some of your own. Every action counts.

In our garden this summer we’ve been experimenting with no dig gardening. It’s been fantastic for building soil, there’s been less weeds which means less time managing them and it’s clearly shown a greater capacity to hold water. Other experiments have been growing crops to see what can handle the long hot and harsh South Australian summers. So far the corn, tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkins are loving the heat. The fruit trees are having mixed results so I’ve added a blanket of compost around the base of the trees to help cool the ground more while they are still establishing and don’t have a big canopy.


We pulled out the winter cabbage and golden beetroot to make sauerkraut. The black radish went to seed and instead of pulling it out, I’ve been collecting the green seed heads and pickling them. I also dried a bunch of herbs, edible weeds, leek, onion, celery and capsicum to make homemade stock powder, the healing herbs collected from the garden and infused in local olive oil are ready now for making into soap and healing balms.


The birds have largely left the apricots alone this year so we have been able to get a good crop for preserving. I’ve made fruit leather, apricot jam and stewed apricots. This tree is our neighbours tree and the fruit is shared by us and another neighbour. It’s more than enough to feed us all and still give some away. Our nectarine tree finally put on a lot of fruit but I didn’t time the harvest well and lost the crop, mainly due to the heatwave spoiling the fruit and the birds and ants getting into them. There was a window of a few days where I may have been able to get a crop from it but I was away from home for a week and didn’t have time to harvest before I left. The plum tree dropped a lot of fruit in the heat and they don’t taste anywhere near as good as they have in previous years.  I’ve planted two white sapote trees and am hoping they will make it through the hot summer.


Last year the council was ripping up the concrete paths on the street and replacing with paving. I asked the digger operator to remove some of the compacted dolomite from the verge rather than add more so I could plant something on the verge. I am pretty excited about my first crop of karkalla this summer. I got these plants from Provenance nursery in Salisbury to grow them on the verge. To stop dogs weeing and pooing on them I sprinkle the verge border with ground chili and put white vinegar on the tree to stop them marking their territory. The dogs just walk straight past. Verge gardens are great, especially edibles ones but it’s not good to eat from a dog toilet. This is my solution to obtain a yield from it. Some ruby salt bush has also self seeded on the verge and I’m looking forward to seeing the verge develop over time.


One thing I miss about living in the country is the humble honesty box. So to bring some country heart into the burbs we make one of our own and whacked it out the front. Honesty boxes are where you sell your produce on the road in front of your house by leaving it out there and a spot for people to put their money. People take and pay by leaving their money. It relies on people being honest. This box will mainly have preserves rather than fresh produce. My excess fresh produce is given to friends, family or is put on a Grow free cart. The olives we collected back in Easter last year are almost ready so these will be put on the honesty box for sale in the coming weeks. I have also put seeds collected from the garden on the box too.


While I despair about the fires, water mismanagement and the broader relationship humans have with the environment I will continue to advocate for growing and eating local food, saving seed and building soil. I will appreciate all the good work and actions that people are doing around the world to honour the earth. I will have hope for our future. I will love the land I’m on and in the words of Wangari Maathai ‘I will be a hummingbird and do the best I can’. 


Hello again…happy autumn


Yikes! It’s been almost a year since my last blog entry. Lots has happened since then and I’ve been busy. Good busy. Getting jobs done that have been in the making for a long time. I’ve been concentrating on setting up some systems to help me with my local food journey in the long run. Setting up an old fashioned larder room to store food that I’ve foraged, grown and preserved. Installing a rain water tank and plumbing it into the house for drinking water, for watering the garden and most importantly for making living ferments. Town water has too many chemicals for successful ferments.

The land I’ve been walking has been a good teacher, showing me more and more of her beauty, strength and abundance. I’ve foraged carob, acorns and persimmons recently. I particularly enjoyed the autumn breakfast combo of acorn crepes and blackberries both foraged from the Adelaide hills in the picture above. This rain falling in the last few days has got me a bit excited about mushroom season starting soon. For ongoing updates on what’s in season, check out my Edible Adelaide face book page.

I made a decision a few years back to rest my veggie patch in Adelaide’s long dry summer. So now the work will begin again in the patch with the start of the rain and cooler weather. I’ve been eating loads of homemade fermented cabbage and beetroot and am looking forward to growing my own for the ferments over the coming months. Another project is getting my compost system sorted once and for all. So while this was a quick hello, I hope like me, you are all looking at ways to get more local produce into your tum and for new plants to forage. Bye for now!



Grow your own herbs and spices


I pruned this lot of oregano today as it was spreading out into another spot I have reserved for growing vegetables. It’s now in the dehydrator drying to use later. While fresh herbs are lovely in cooking, I’m going to dry some other herbs from the garden like sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and add some dried Adelaide hills porcini I foraged to make my own Italian dried herb mix.

Spices can also be grown in the garden. Right now coriander, dill, celery and mustard have all gone to seed in the garden. When ready some can be used to start next seasons crop and some can be used in the kitchen as spices. All through the hills at the moment wild fennel is growing and the flowers heads are bright yellow. I’ve done a post previously on how to collect the pollen. In time, the fennel flowers left of the plant then transform into fennel seeds which can also be collected and used in the kitchen.

A substitute salt flavour is Old man salt bush (Atriplex nummularia) if you have saline soils. Dry the leaves and grind into powder to use. Dry Mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) is used as a pepper flavour substitute. The history of the spice trade is pretty interesting and at times brutal. Growing your own herbs and spices is a much gentler option.

Native cherry


Native cherry Exocarpos cupressiformis is an elusive little plant. Much has been cleared because its leaves are toxic to stock. It grows as a parasite on host trees and is from the same family as quandongs. While it’s not a huge taste sensation the fruit is very much edible. Don’t eat the little seed that hangs off the fruit, the red part is edible and is ready when you tap it and it falls into your hands.

Bush food tour


During reconciliation week there were so many wonderful events celebrating Aboriginal culture. My work organised a range of events during the week and of course I couldn’t go past putting my name down to go to the bush food tour held at the Botanic Gardens. Haydyn Bromley from Bookabee tours was our host. He was a very knowledgable guide and we were in very capable hands.

I find bush foods really interesting because there’s alway something new to learn. There are an estimated 30,000 edible plants across the world and people subsist on a tiny fraction of these. Supermarkets seem to sell countless versions of wheat, sugar, corn and rice. It all looks and tastes the same to me. There are so many interesting foods out there and I got to find out about a few more during this tour. Along the way he discussed responsible harvesting and how these plants were part of culture. Some plant highlights from the tour:

  • Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata – edible vermicelli-like core, butterscotch flavoured resin, young whitish parts of leaves chewed to quench thirst, seeds made into damper.
  • Eucalyptus camaldulensis Karransis – animals that lived in the tree were hunted, bees make home in the hollows and give honey, the hollowed out trunks used as shelters.
  • Macadamia tetraphylla – I’d heard there were some trees in the gardens so it was good to finally see where they were.
  • Podocarpus elatus – they were fruiting on the walk and Haydyn described the texture as being like oysters, I like to think they’re more like Turkish delight.
  • Araucaria bidwillii – used as a family home, nuts eaten and also the centrepiece of a festival at harvest time.
  • Cymbopogon ambiguus – used as a tea, particularly to settle the stomach.

Haydyn was such a knowledgable and friendly host and I really hope I get to spend some time walking amongst the plants with him again.

Catching strawberry runners


Each year a strawberry patch should double in size with runners forming new plants. Generally it’s a good idea to catch the runners before they set up a new home in the patch so it doesn’t become too overgrown. An overgrown patch can decrease strawberry yields. Also, its a good idea to replace your patch every 2 -3 years to keep the plants happy and healthy.

About a month ago when the strawberries were first sending out their runners I grabbed a whole bunch of old pots and filled them with potting mix. Then I pegged the runners to the edge of the pot so the roots would take hold. I gave them a tug today and they have taken root in the pots. Just cut the stem to seperate it from the mother plant and they can be planted now where you want them to go or given away to friends and family.

Growing your own organic strawberries is a easy and much better than eating conventionally grown ones. Apart from tasting no good the conventional ones will always be contaminated with pesticide and fungicide resides. The big commercial Australian growers in Victoria use nearly 30 tonnes of methyl bromide on the 100 million strawberry runners they grow each year for sale in your local hardware store. Methyl bromide has been banned around the world for the last decade because it depletes the ozone layer. Definitely a crop to choose organically grown – better for your health and the environment.

Fig jam


It’s fig season and they’re delicious fresh and in salads and deserts. Our neighbour on one side has two massive trees and we usually get some given to us. They prune them very hard and while they are quite old they aren’t much taller than a person but are very wide. This makes for easy harvesting of the fruit and easy netting. The neighbour on the other side also has two fig trees. The big one is quite tall and the birds tend to get most of those fruit as its really hard to pick from it. The small one is growing over our side of the fence and the fruit is delicious. As well as drying the fruit to preserve, it also makes a lovely jam.

1 kilo figs, peeled and quartered

200 grams sugar

4 tablespoons water

Select figs that are just ripe and are firm. Peel and quarter the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and the water. Add the figs to the boiling syrup and cook on medium heat until gelling stage is reached. Put into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes to preserve.

Preserved lemons


My neighbour dropped over some lemons and cucumbers the other day. I was especially chuffed to hear the story about where they came from. Basically neighbour A has a beautiful garden full of lovely fruit trees and some vegies. Neighbour B next door is a gardener but is always too tired at the end of the day to have a veggie garden but wants one. Neighbour A doesn’t have much room in his own yard for more veggies so he offered neighbour B to put in a veggie patch. Neighbour A runs his hose into neighbour B’s garden and has put in a massive veggie garden and neighbour’s A & B eat the veggies. Neighbour B also has a lemon tree and excess lemons so neighbour A is sharing them around to other neighbours like me. They also had way too many cucumbers so I luckily got some too. My cucumbers got shredded early in the season by my chooks so I have a shortage this year so I was very grateful for them.

Preserved lemons

Sterilise some jars. Wash the lemons well and dry them. Cut off the end of the lemon that was joined to the tree. Then quarter them but leave about 1cm uncut at the other end so that the quarters stay together. Split open and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt in the middle of the lemon. Press the lemons into the jar and push down firmly. Repeat with all the lemons and stuff until the jar is full. Then submerge the lemons with lemon juice. Make sure the lemons are completely submerged, a small sterilised jar can be used to hold the fruit down. Put on lid and seal. Then put jars on a plate or on tray to catch any oozing lemon juice. Open the jar each day for a few days to let out the pressure as it will be fermenting. Store for at least a month before using. It’s ready when the rinds are soft. To use scrape out flesh and just use the rind.

Native Juniper

Hindmarsh Island seems to be covered in Myoporum insulare. While the fruit is edible it does have a strong gin like flavour which puts me right off. Juniper happens to be a key flavour of gin which I think is one of those spirits you either love or hate. There is a small boutique distillery on Kangaroo Island making gin with the the Native Juniper. On all accounts if you are a gin fan they are producing gin that is up there with the worlds best.

Juniper berries are also a traditional ingredient added to sauerkraut. As cabbage season is months away these berries could be preserved for using later on possibly by drying. They could also be used in meat and game recipes as you would use European Juniper berries.


Purslane pesto


Purslane has been a real revolution for me in the garden. In the hot Adelaide summer it will grow itself and provide a generous crop of crisp nourishing greens that can be eaten raw or cooked. I look forward to it coming so I can add it to stir fries, salads, pesto, and any recipe calling for a leafy green. When adding to salads I tend to strip the leaves off the stems and just eat the leaves as the stems can get tough. When cooking I leave the stems on. Once you identify purslane you will see it growing everywhere. Careful for the poison look alike that drips white sap when you cut it. Purslane has a lovely fresh flavour that is cross between celery and apple. Stick to the purslane growing in your garden or areas you know haven’t been sprayed with poison or dog wee. For this recipe I cut off the top 5 cm of growth stems and all. The flowers and seeds can also be eaten so leave them in when using in recipes.

Purslane pesto recipe

1 bunch basil

Purslane, large handful (Portulaca oleracea)

200gm raw macadamia nuts

1 teaspoon homemade chilli paste (or 1 clove crushed garlic if you prefer)

50ml tamari

100ml olive oil

Add the basil, purslane, chilli, tamari and oil to food blender. I use a little food blender that attaches to my stick blender. Toast the nuts in hot pan for a few minutes. When toasted add the nuts to the rest of the ingredients in the blender. Pulse on low speed until well combined into a paste. Store in clean jar in the fridge.