Posts from the ‘Food’ category

Farming Insects For Food

I recently interviewed Louise Morris from *almost launched* Rebel Food Tasmania who farm (and will soon sell) a range of insects as delicious and nutritious food. Read on to find out what she and Rebel Food are up to…

Who is Rebel Food and what are you up to?

Rebel Food Tasmania is a new enterprise farming insects as human food. We’re doing things our way and a bit out of the ordinary as we’re working to a local food economy vision. We grow small herds in small spaces that we hope will have a big impact on food, reducing food waste, provide a new business in regional Tasmania, and bringing a new premium product to the Tasmanian food scene.

Farming and eating insects isn’t a new thing. Right now insect products are being sold in supermarkets in Europe, the USA and are starting to take hold in Australia. And of course, let’s not forget that 80% of the global population eats insects as a normal part of their diet. While most of our processed food stuffs like store bought bread, have insects just from the realities of factory and kitchen processes plus food regulations allow some trace insect in commercial foods.

We are in the minority overlooking this source of nourishment.

This past year we’ve been taking a fair bit of time to test our theories, learning about the best feed stocks and testing our insect end products with people who have expertise in nutrition, taste and what works out in the world. It’s a big adventure, and so far we have been overwhelmed by the interest of other people and businesses who are interested in putting bugs on the menu.

Mealworms with native pepperberry and coffee

When it comes to protein production, how is farming insects better for our landscapes than farming larger livestock? 

There is a lot of media going around about insects being the super sustainable protein source of the future. The ability to farm these little critters in small spaces with minimal water, and on food waste is an amazing opportunity.

That said we are also very mindful that what is used to power the temperature control systems is a major component of the energy and financial sustainability equation. It also needs to be named upfront that vertical farming systems can become intensive farming systems if done just for money, which does not do any favours to the animals being raised or those of us eating the food

includes using fairly run of the mill feed sources, such as commercial chicken feed and other highly processed commercial cereal mixes to get them fat and fried as quickly as possible. This flies in the face of producing a nourishing or sustainable insect based food, so we’re doing it our way – with fresh food, a bit of extra time and attention to learnings.

Part of the reason for doing a long period of research and development is to make sure we can actually grow and breed insects from farm and food waste. Housed in temperature controlled systems that are viable and run on renewable energy, and that we are sure of both the quality of the insects on the plate, and that insect farming in Tasmania is a long term viable addition to the Local Food Economy.

Crickets in a tub

What insects are you farming and which one’s your favourite to eat at the moment?

The primary focus is on the domestic cricket (Acheta domesticus), for a flour product that can be included into foodstuffs in the longer term, and also to supply some early adopter restaurants in here Tasmania and Sydney for bespoke bugs on their menu.

To add a bit of interest and variety, mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and wood roaches (Parcoblatta pensylvanica) are also being grown because, well – why not?! Not to mention they all taste pretty great.

As part of the research and development period, we are fact checking whether it’s true that the insects take on some of the flavour profiles of what they have been eating. Short answer, yes they do.

During pumpkin season and the apple season there was a detectable sweeter edge. Wine marc was an absolute winner for plumper, sweeter crickets (maybe a bit drunk too, who knows) while coffee grounds with mustard leaf is still a reliable foundation feed for giving a spicy edge. Not to mention carrots and root vegetables, they love the carrots as a moisture and food source.

In terms of cooking them up: I’m really enjoying whole crickets as part of dishes, and doing a lot of cricket flour inclusions into baked goods. I’m loving the cooking experiments with mealworms as they have a slight cheesy end taste to them which rounds off dishes beautifully. The surprise of the cooking experiments has been using woodies, they are umami powerhouses. A little bit goes a very long way.

Do they really taste good or do you have to drown then in soy sauce before eating them?

One of my bugbears (excuse the pun), is seeing insects served up that have just had the S#*t fried out of them. This means you lose all the taste profiles, not to mention much of the nutritional benefits of eating insects. I’ve had a few examples of insects presented as a dish where it was just texture and oil. Cook anything like that and it all tastes the same, fried.

An easy introductory way to cook up your first batch of crickets is a bit of sesame oil, in a pan. Throw them in there for a quick fry, add some sesame seeds, and after a minute or so add them to a good salad or Asian veggie type dish, squirt with a bit of lemon and you’re away. They’re also good with avocado, as the crispy savoury element bounces off that creamy avocado base.

What type of environment are they grown in?

Good time to ask as we’re in scale up and future planning, so this is in flux. One system is a shed that is temperature controlled, the other of our test systems is a strawbale room that is not heated, but uses the polished concrete/window/insulation warmth as the temperature control. This is going remarkably well.

Living quarters for crickets consist of large tubs filled with places for them to hide (mostly egg cartons and large brassica leaves at this stage of the season), and as they get older the boys make lots of noise as they chirp and flirt…crickets are mad flirts!

Tasmanian native Pepperberry infused crickets

What’s the role of the Insect Protein Association? 

The IPAA is the industry representative body for those involved in the insect protein business either as food or animal feed producers. We’re working to develop strong industry standards and frameworks to build a long-term viable insect industry for human food and animal feed. Industry wide standards in labelling, practice and transparency that people can trust, produces quality products and has a voice in legislative and regulatory areas to advocate for the little herds that can make a big impact on how agriculture is done.

When can people start buying your product?

We’re looking to be on menus at select Tasmanian and Sydney restaurants early 2018 with bespoke insects grown for their needs. We will be doing targeted events where the importance of flavour and how the insects are grown is part of the story, while scaling up our systems to be making clean, green Tasmanian grown cricket flour as a key ingredient people can incorporate into their everyday dishes.

Will you ship nationally and internationally through your website?

We are pretty focused on making sure we do things right, and that means not getting too big too fast. We will have national distribution options via our webpage and as our production systems grow, we will grow with that. A key for us at this point is not trying to take over the world, but to have a viable farming system that creates a meaningful and viable addition to our food system, is an efficient use of food waste to make more food, and above all produces a delicious high quality product.

Baked tapioca & cricket flour crackers with sesame seeds

Where to from here?

One of the big jobs for the next 6 months is to secure funds to scale up to larger facilities and fine tune our climate control systems, and of course the renewable energy mix supplying them. As we grow, and the bugs grow, we will keep trialling new options of feeding them with veggie farm and food waste to see what is the best food source available for each season. This is one of the most fun aspects of the whole entoprise (pardon the pun), finding new feed sources and new options for increasing efficiency and quality of the insects.

Oh, and did I mention insect frass (their poo)is a great addition to compost?! I am using the frass as part of the compost and veggie patch at home to see how it works on all the seasonal crops we grow and our fruit trees. So far it’s been a winner, with the frass compost tea being a pungent and powerful brew. The insects also get the fruits of their work back from our vegetable patch system. They have many a leafy green, broad bean, apple, squash, and whatever else is in season incorporated into their feed.

Early Adopters

We have some early adopters on the mainland and here in Tasmania including Meru Miso who are trialling fermenting our insects, Quartermasters Arms who have used all three of our insects species in pop up events and some of our state’s best restaurants ready to incorporate insects into their menu – as soon as we are public and launched. It’s all a bit exciting, and a bit overwhelming!

Keep an eye out for Rebel Food and their launch in late 2017. You can follow them on Instagram, and see a bit of the behind the scenes functions of insect farming, some of their foody experiments in using the insects in food (not deep fried) and general entomophagy goings on.

  • You can also listen to Louise on ABC Radio talking farming and eating insects here. 
2 Comments

Hey Pesto! Winter Greens Pesto Yum

While the winter crops come to an end and the spring crops are busy growing, one of the biggest crops coming out of the garden are around a hundred different types of green things. Coriander, rainbow chard, rocket, silverbeet, kale and the leaves from brocolli, cauliflowers (yes, you can eat them too). Plus a plethora of wild greens like dandelion, fat hen, chickweed, nettle, to name a few – they’re all delicious and nutritious.

There are a couple of ways I like to make sure I eat as many as possible – kale chips are a big winner and so is pesto. Contrary to what some people might think, you don’t need basil and pine nuts to make pesto – in our cool temperate climate, things things don’t often come in abundance. We make vegan pesto out of any greens that happen to be thriving in our garden – here’s how.

IMG_6330Rainbow chard, curly kale and coriander – a few of the greens in our pesto

Pick a range of greens from your veggie beds (or some of the edible weeds growing on the edges) chop them up nice and fine and pop them in a large bowl.

IMG_6333

When you make pesto – garlic is your best friend, we’re firm believers that more is better. So get as much garlic as you can, chop it up roughly and add it to the same bowl as the greens. Our garlic has the vague name of Tasmanian purple garlic – we’ve got a whole bunch left over from two seasons ago and it’s only now just sprouting. Perfect for pesto.

IMG_6328
IMG_6335

The only other ingredients we use are olive oil, sea salt and sunflower seeds. We also use almonds or pepitas – whatever is more available at the time.

IMG_6337

Add all the ingredients into the bowl and find a way to pulverise it – we use a bar mixer thingo which works ok. Other people use a food processor or smash it up in a mortar and pestle.

You may need to add more olive oil as you go to get the right consistency – don’t bother skimping on the oil and no, water is not a good replacement for oil – I’ve tried that and it just isn’t pesto.

IMG_6340

IMG_6341

I like my pesto a bit chunky and “stiff” so it holds its own shape on a spoon (see below). If you want yours more runny, add more olive oil. You’ll notice we don’t add any cheese, we’ve found that its the garlic that really gives the ‘pesto’ taste and that cheese is just a bit of ‘bling’ that you don’t need – in our humble opinion.

IMG_6344That’s it, pop it in a jar and store it in the fridge or eat it fresh. I like to eat it with carrots, on home made pasta or olive oil crackers. Right now I’m just eating it with a spoon for a late breaky, it’s darn tasty.

IMG_6352

Leave a comment

How To Dry Cure Olives In 3 Weeks

Once upon a time I lived in Adelaide where olive trees grow like weeds. Every winter we’d go foraging and preserve a good stash for eating. One year the very awesome Annemarie Brookman from the Food Forest taught me how to dry cure olives and I’ve never looked back. It’s infinitely easier and just as tasty as pickling, in short it’s life changing – here’s how we do it.

You’ll need

  • Salt: All recipes we’ve ever seen specify using non-iodized salt, we use coarse rock salt – but I don’t think it actually matters.
  • Olives: Only use black, fully ripe olives for this method. For 10kg of olives, you’ll need approximately 5kg of salt.
  • A bucket: To put the olives and salt in. We use 10 or 20 litre “food grade” buckets.

IMG_6259

Step 1

Pick your olives! Choose only the blackest and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen or use them for pickling. Give them a good wash in fresh water to get any dirt/bird poo off them.

Step 2

Get comfy as this step takes a while. You need to break the flesh of each and every olive so it can absorb the salt. If you don’t do this step then it will not work and you’ll cry. Most people recommend using a knife to put a slice in each olive, however we use a fork and prick each olive a few times. This is soooo much quicker than using a knife, plus you can watch a movie at the same time without fear of stabbing yourself.

FYI – your fingers will turn a black/purple colour from the olive juices which will take a few days to fade.

IMG_6266A pricked olive!

Step 3

Once all your olives are nicely punctured, pack them in a jar or bucket with salt. We add the olives gradually, mixing in the salt as we go to ensure it’s spread evenly. We then put a thicker layer on top knowing that it will sink down with gravity.

Once you’ve done this, either pop a lid on top or some cheesecloth to keep the bugs out and leave it to start doing its thing

IMG_6264

Step 4

Check on your olives every few days, they should be literally swimming in their own liquid within one week as seen below. This is a good sign. Strain the liquid off and keep going for another two’ish weeks.

IMG_6273

IMG_6278The excess liquid we strained off our olives after one week in salt. 

Even after only one week you’ll see the olives have shrivelled up considerably, if you want to, you can stat taste testing them now – just wash one in fresh water and taste away to see how they’re evolving.

IMG_6271

Step 5

Once the liquid has been strained off, make sure the original salt is mixed in evenly and let it continue to do its thing. Some people add in fresh salt at this stage if some of the salt was lost in the straining process.

.
IMG_6276

Step 6

After three -four weeks your olives should be ready. To test, wash some in fresh water and taste them. Once you’re happy with the taste, rinse the whole lot in fresh water. From here you can either let them dry on some cloth towels and store in a jar or, put them in jars of olive oil with rosemary and garlic – the choice is yours. They’ll taste awesome either way.

olives-salt-cured

What finished dry cured olives look like. Image from here

That’s it folks, you’ll never be scared of preserving olives again!

6 Comments

Will Borowski + Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation

Will Borowski from Forest Fungi is one of Australia’s leading pioneers and specialists in growing gourmet mushrooms and teaching others to do the same. We caught up with him to find out how he got started, what makes him tick and admire some of his fungi…

r0_89_4000_2338_w1200_h678_fmaxWill with River Cottage Australia host, Paul West eating something mushroomy. Image from here. 

What got you started growing mushrooms?

Back in my Uni days, I started growing fruit and veggies, and like most gardeners, I discovered that fresh, home grown food is so much tastier than anything from the shops. Gardening also allows a glimpse into the incredible nature of life, the inter-connectedness of things, the seasonal cycles.

Naturally, I was fascinated with what appeared in my garden, and the ephemeral mushrooms always intrigued me. I tried growing some button mushrooms from a kit, with limited success. Then one day I discovered that my surname (Borowski) means “forest mushroom”!

.

For years I had a recurring dream of picking wild mushrooms in a forest, with women in scarves, but I had no idea why, as I hadn’t been foraging.

I decided to try and grow as many edible mushrooms as I could, but no one in Australia offered supplies or courses. So I taught myself, collected various edible fungi from Asian markets, and within a short time I was growing loads of delicious gourmet mushrooms, at home, with some very basic equipment.

What’s one of your favourite things about growing mushrooms?

Hard to choose one, but eating them is very satisfying.

What types of mushrooms do you grow?

I grow lots of wood loving mushrooms – over 20 species, but there are a few I focus on including:

  • Pholiota nameko – Nameko for the best miso ever,
  • Agrocybe aegerita – Pioppino , my favourite flavoured mushroom,
  • Lentinula edodes – Shiitake, which is very different fresh compared to dried, and
  • Pleurotus eryngii – King oysters, which have the texture of abalone or calamari.

Some species are very easy to grow, such as grey, white, pink, gold and blue oysters of the Pleurotus genus, and although they’re not my favourites, I grow them because other people love them. Some species I’m trying to grow are a bit harder, like mycorrhizal fungi such as birch boletes, truffles and morels.

11898599_1096702707024575_3527879084988393112_n

Why do you think other people should grow their own mushrooms?

Because nothing beats fresh, home grown food. You can use “waste” products, such as coffee grounds, spent brewery waste, sawdust etc., to grow delicious mushrooms. You can use the spent substrate in your garden, it makes great compost, and you can feed it to livestock – chooks love it!

Do people need a special lab to grow mushrooms in their own home?

No, a clean kitchen will suffice for most aspects. If you want to do tissue culture, your lab can simply be a box! If you want to grow your own spawn, then a pressure cooker is the way to go. If you just buy dowels or spawn, then you can do all your inoculating outside.

10330240_1213173658710812_6085014387933248450_nA collection of homegrown mushroom greatness including pink oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, nameko, pioppino and shiitake. Image by Will Borowski.

Can people live in tiny units/houses and still grow mushrooms?

Yes, that’s why mushroom growing is now so popular, because you can grow indoors in small spaces, in places without direct sunlight (although they do like some sunshine). Growing and nurturing something, be it plants, animals or fungi, is a good way to connect to something outside of ourselves.

There are some amazing terrariums featuring fungi, so they can be a feature. Long lasting mushrooms, Ganoderma  species such as Reishi (Japanese) or Ling-zhi (Chinese), which can live for decades, are revered for the tea you can brew from them, as well as being decorative works of art.

What should people expect from a one day workshop with you?

I try to pack as much info into a one day workshop as I can. I want people to leave knowing just how easy it can be to grow mushrooms.

.

I don’t keep any secrets, and I show people how to grow through all the aspects of mushroom growing – from cloning a mushroom, making a lab, making spawn and then using that spawn to grow mushrooms on eucalyptus logs and pasteurised straw.

Cloning mushrooms and working with petri dishes isn’t for everyone, but it is easy, and once you know how to, you can save money and make your own spawn. Some people prefer the easy way, which is to just buy dowels or spawn. We’ll teach you how to use both, we want more people to grow mushrooms. They can help reduce waste going to landfill, can be grown in recycled containers, are packed with protein and nutrients, can be grown by almost anyone almost anywhere.

I’ll do my best to answer all questions, and demystify the world of mushrooms. You’ll leave with living fungi, some which I’ve had for over a decade.

You can join Will on our How To Grow Mushroom workshop this August 20th in Hobart – it’s going to be awesome!

13407027_10154295121624319_3253345710391574519_n

1 Comment

Vegan Kimchi

13230164_1162222730478637_321146754051828737_nWe’re big fans of the wild ferment and make all sorts of nutritious and delicious veggie and dairy ferments.

I recently came by this particularly enormous and beautiful Chinese cabbage at the local markets. It inspired a flurry of kimchi making, plus a photo shoot to capture its glory for all eternity.

The main difference to our kimchi recipe is that it’s and vegan, here’s how we make it…

 

img_6201

Traditionally, kimchi includes fish source or products, this provides a distinct ‘kimchi’ flavour which is incredibly popular. Being vegetarian, we simply leave this out – our ‘base’ ingredients are:

img_6202

  • Salt – 3 tablespoons
  • Cabbage- 2kg (any type, but chinese cabbage is usually the most desired for kim chi)
  • Ginger (grated)
  • garlic (however much you’d like)
  • chilli (fresh is best, but dried flakes or powder is also great -use as much as you like
  • carrot (we like ours chunky, but you can grate or dice it if you prefer) – use as much as you like
  • **Usually I’ll also add some daikon radish (or other types of radish), but we didn’t have any ready in the garden this time round.

Sometimes we’ll also add additional flavours including mustard seeds, dill seeds, bay leaves – anything that takes our fancy. But we always, always have the above ingredients to form the foundation taste.

img_6206

The first step is to roughly chop your cabbage into large chunks. Of course, if you prefer, you can dice it finely – it’s all up to your personal preference.

Place it in a large bowl and add the salt, massaging it roughly with your hands to make sure it’s nicely integrated.

Leave it on your kitchen bench over night to let it ‘sweat’, in the morning you’ll see a nice puddle of brine (salty water) has formed at the bottom. Keep all of this for the following step.

img_6208

The brine ‘puddle’

img_6215

Chop up all your other ingredients and mix them through your cabbage/brine mix so they’re beautifully integrated.

img_6217

Gradually pack your fermentation vessel* with your mix, packing it down as you go. This is an important detail as you need to:

(a) Remove any air pockets, and

(b) Squeeze the brine out of the cabbage so it covers the entire mix.

*We happen to have recently purchased a crock pot from local potters, Zsolt Faludi and Nanna Bayer. Until up last month, we simply used glass jars to make all our kimchi and sauerkraut in – which are more than fine for the task. It was just a bit of a life dream to get a large crock pot (this one’s 4 litres). We like some of its design features which include a large ‘lip’ to catch the sometimes overflowing brine and the purpose made clay weights that fit nicely inside the pot to keep the mix down and the brine covering it.

img_6222

img_6218

Other options to use for a weight are a small plate or a whole cabbage leaf with a clean stone or glass jar of water on top to hold it down.

img_6221After 24 hours the brine will have risen above your weight and started to bubble (as you can see in our photo below right). This is what you’re looking for – the bubbles tell you the fermentation process is well under way. Your kitchen will also smell like kimchi – aka delicious.

Check your kimchi once-twice daily to make sure the brine stays above the weight, if it isn’t either press it down until the brine rises up, or add a small amount of de-chlorinated water. After 2-3 days start tasting it until you’re happy with the flavour. If you like strong kimchi, leave it for longer, if you prefer a more mild taste you might stop the process after a few days. The speed of which your kimchi ferments also depends on your climate, the hotter your climate, the quicker the fermentation process.

IMG_6223How do you “stop” it? Once you’re happy with the flavour, decant it into some small glass jars (or leave it in the jar it’s in), screw the lid on and place it in the fridge or cool pantry. The cold will ‘stop’ the fermentation process, pausing it so you can enjoy the flavour. Of course, nothing ever really stops and it will still mature very, very slowly in the fridge. It will last for months in your fridge, so you can eat through it at your own pace.

Want more?

  • Get to know Sandor Katz’s and his work.
  • This November 26th (2016), we’re running our annual Fermentation Fest where we’ll teach you how to make your own kimchi, tempeh, yoghurt and so much more. CLICK HERE for more information and to register.
  • We make our own eduction tea towels – including one about how to make sauerkraut – you can check it out HERE. 
  • You can contact Zsolt Faludi and Nanna Bayer to order your own crock pot (and other great fermenting vessels) here: zsolt.faludi@utas.edu.au.
Leave a comment

Home-made Non-Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Home-made ginger beer is an old favorite that’s easy to make and super yum for your taste buds.  This is an “alcoholic” type ferment, although with this particular recipe the idea is that it’s considered non-acoholic, saying this – it’s very hard to not have *any* alcohol content, so please be aware of this.
This liquid ferment uses a “sourdough” type of culture called “the mother” which you can make yourself. A word of caution – this brew has a reputation for blowing up bottles, the reason being is to make the drink sweet you have to put un-fermented sugar in the bottle.  The yeasts in the brew continue fermenting to create bubbles (CO2) and will eventually create *so much pressure* that the bottles can blow.  The solution is to make a batch for a special event and then drink it all then, do not let it linger on your shelves.
So how do you make it? Here’s our much loved recipe – enjoy!
.
Starting the “Mother”

  • Teaspoon yeast
  • Teaspoon of sugar
  • Teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1 cup of water

In a glass jar, mix these ingredients together and cover with a cheesecloth or a loose fitting lid.  Every day add an additional teaspoon of sugar and teaspoon of ginger, after around 1 week it’ll be ready to use. You’ll be able to tell as it’ll be fizzy (you’ll see little bubbles) and smell incredible.

IMG_5104The mother – she smells *amazing*

IMG_5103

To make 10 Liters of ginger beer

  • 250g grated fresh ginger
  • 100g dry ginger
  • Teaspoon of chili flakes
  • Teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Desert spoon of cloves
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 10 liters of water
  • 6 lemons

IMG_5109

Method

  • Make 3 liters of tea with all ingredients, except sugar and lemon.
  • Boil for 1 hour and let cool.
  • Dissolve in the sugar and add the juice of 6 lemons – add another 7 litres to this brew to bring it up to around 10 liters.
  • Once it’s cooled down, add the mother. In terms of how much of it you add, you can put 90% of the liquid (almost one cup). You can then add more water and keep feeding it to keep it going for the next batch (if you choose).
  • Bottle into old soft drink or beer bottles, we prefer glass bottles.
  • It will be ready in 2 days and it’s best to drink it all within 7 days.
  • Invite mates over and drink!

This simple ferment is just so wonderful on a range of levels. Not only do they taste great, making your own cuts out the need for fizzy drinks from the shop – another thing you can do to reduce hanging out in the supermarket  – enjoy!

IMG_5110

 

8 Comments

Pasta From Scratch

Despite what some people think, making pasta is actually really really easy. All you need is egg and flour, sure you can add herbs and spices, but you don’t need to. I love making it because yes, it tastes good but also because it’s plastic free, no packaging at all – which is how food should be. Here’s how we do it at home.

Crack some eggs into a bowl, use as many eggs as there are people who’ll be eating – we’ve got two people eating, so we use two eggs.

IMG_4081

Roughly mix them up.

IMG_4083

Start adding flour and mixing it in until you have a good dough consistency. We don’t use actual measurements, just keep adding until it feels right. We mostly use white or wholemeal wheat flour (sometimes a mix of spelt and buckwheat), however you can use most – some gluten free flour will have trouble and fall apart, there a re lots of recipes out there, like this one.

IMG_4084

IMG_4085

Towards the end of the mixing, ditch your mixing tool and use your hands to finish it off.

IMG_4086

Make sure there’s a nice layer of flour on it so it’s not sticky to touch.

IMG_4088

Wrap it in a plastic bag and pop it in a cool place or the fridge for at least 20 minutes. You can actually leave it there for days if you like, it’s simply helping it to ‘become one’ so it stays together nicely for the next steps.

IMG_4094

I got given a pasta machine around 10 years ago for a birthday present – it’s tops. We use it to make pasta (surprise, surprise), lasagna sheets and ravioli. However, you don’t need it, you can use a rolling pin (or a bottle of wine if you haven’t got one of those) and a knife.

IMG_4100

Get your dough out of the fridge and shape it into a sausage and then cut it into pieces to make it easy to roll out.

IMG_4103

IMG_4105

Using just your hands, roughly massage each piece into a basic small oval.

IMG_4106

Now you’re ready to pop it through the pasta machine (or roll it out), start at the ‘thickest’ setting to give them the once over. You can then jump straight to the thickness you want to make it as thick or thin as you desire. I never go to the thinnest layer as it can sometimes fall apart (depending on your flour).

IMG_4107

IMG_4111My long and strong sheets and little Frida in the background, wondering when I’m going to go play with her.

You need to make sure you add more flour onto each sheet before you work with them so they’re never sticky, otherwise they can easily clog up the pasta machine and rip easily. You can now choose your style of pasta (flat or skinny worm is what I call the options) and pop the sheets through as below.

IMG_4112

Perhaps the best hot tip I ever learned was that from here you can just throw them in a bowl of flour (so they don’t stick together). You don’t need to sting up clothes lines everywhere in your house to dry your pasta. This was a bit revolutionary for me and adds to the easiness of the whole process.

IMG_4113

IMG_4114

Usually I cook it straight away, however if you need to dry it out for later, just throw it out onto something like a cake rack so air can flow around it to dry it evenly. Once completely dry, you can pop it in a paper bag (so it can breath) and store it for a few weeks and probably months in cooler climates (it never lasts that long for me).

IMG_4117

When you do cook it, make sure you hang about. Unlike stuff from the shop, it’ll only take a couple of minutes in boiling water so don’t walk away from the stove, otherwise you’ll end up with something resembling clag glue.

IMG_4118

And as you can imagine, it tastes bucket-loads better than anything you’ll buy from the shop… Enjoy!

2 Comments

Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are my favourite plant ever – one of my earliest memories is of drinking rain drops out of their leaves (cause that’s how the fairies did it) and they’ve really stuck with me ever since. As I grew older I loved the fact the you can eat the leaves, flowers and make ‘poor man capers’ out of the seed pods, plus they’re a great living mulch in the garden, attract beneficial insects and easy on the eye.

Over the years I’ve planted them in pretty much every house I’ve lived in and these days I have a giant mural of them on our bathroom wall. I even took it to the next level and requested that Anton (my now husband) sew my wedding dress so it depicted a nasturtium patch… And he did – it’s amazing, as is he. So when I found out that there’s a perennial nasturtium (called mashua) only less than a year ago – well, I got excited.

Mashua-PhotosImage from here

It’s official name is Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and it was traditionally grown in South America as a root crop. That’s right people, you can eat the leaves, flower AND TUBERS. I know, amazing.

While it is a perennial, it’s sensitive to frost and cold so will die back in winter and grow fresh plants from new tubers in spring. So late winter is the time to pull it up, subdivide all those tubers for eating and/or growing.

IMG_3942

It grows rampantly as a climber or ground cover and the flowers and leaves are similar to the common nasturtium plant, but have their own twist.

mashua-Pilifera-plant-1024x767Image from here

IMG_3939The leaves die back as the cold sets in with winter

As this was the first time we grew the plant, we just watched to see what would happen. They spread out under our fruit trees, had a half hearted go at flowering (it was a bit cold) and then slowly started to shut down and go ‘green/brown’ as winter set in.

IMG_3936

In recent weeks we started weeding the orchard and noticed a plethora of tubers at the base of each plant. Up until then, we didn’t realise that (a) they had such prolific tuber production and, (b) you could eat them. It was a happy day of discoveries that one. So far we’ve only tried eating them roasted (just like potatoes), sadly we weren’t in love with their taste, but will keep trying different recipes until we are.

IMG_3937

IMG_3938

And they’re beautiful, don’t you think? We’ve currently got a big bowl of them in our house and each friend who comes through leaves with at least one in their pocket to have a go in their own gardens. Plus we’ve sent some over to the Hobart City Farm to grow in their perennial beds. Gotta spread the love round.

IMG_3940

IMG_3946

We’re feeling a bit ‘mashua rich’ at the moment – all this loot came  from one plant.

IMG_3950

From what we can gather, mashua generally grows in a temperate climate and, like seed potatoes you can cut each one into smaller bits, with each one becoming its own plant. If you do this, just make sure each piece has at least two eyes (the dimply depressions) on it and that you harden them off so the cut can dry out and form a callus.

Where can you get your own mashua plant?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tasmania, visit Provenance Growers at the Hobart Farm Gate Market and they’ll sort you out. If you’re in the US, I found this fantastic mob called Cultivariable who stock it, plus a million other great, lesser known food plants.

Good articles & blogs

10 Comments

Growing & Loving Oca

Do you know oca (oxalis tuberosa) yet? It’s one of our current favourite root vegies and is commonly known as New Zealand (NZ) yam, however it’s real origins stem back to the Southern Andes. NZ seems to have a thing for adopting foods and calling them their own, think kiwi fruit which actually comes form China where it’s called the Chinese gooseberry. And just for the record feijoas, which NZ folk grow with great vengeance are actually from South America. To be fair oca was introduced to NZ way back in 1860‘ish, so it’s been around for a while on this side of the world.

F2.large

As you can see above – there are quite a few varieties, some common and some you’ll probably never see in real life.

How to grow them

Generally you plant oca in Spring in cool climates, however we didn’t get ours in until mid Summer and they still worked just fine. Similar to potatoes you pop oca tubers in the ground and wait for them to stick their heads up. You can gradually mound earth around the plant (again, like potatoes) to increase the size of the tubers, or you can just let it grow and still achieve a good harvest.

IMG_3711

Interestingly, tuber development is light-dependant. When daylight hours drop (in Winter), the tuber formation begins. We actually checked on our oca crop in late Autumn and there was nothing going on under the soil – lots of leaf, but not one little tuber was spotted. However around two months later they’ve magically appeared – it’s so crowded under each plant with stacks of tubers, it’s a pretty impressive little plant.

How do you know when to harvest?

Like potatoes, when the leaves start to die back it means the tubers are reading to be harvested. It’s good to know that oca is more perishable than potatoes, but if properly handled can be stored at room temperature for some months.

IMG_3706

Oca crop dieing back meaning the tubers are ready to be harvested.

IMG_3704

Remember to store the biggest, fattest, healthiest tubers for propagation for next season. You can do this in a bucket of dry sand or sawdust or in a cool dark and dry place.

We store ours in a couple of places, sure most go into one of our cool dark cupboards, but we also have a big bowl of them on our kitchen bench. Mainly so we can access theme quickly for easy eating – we find that doing this for a short period doesn’t affect them at all, i,e, they can handle of bit of sunlight… Which potatoes can’t.

IMG_3712

How to eat them?

Well apparently the internet tells me that some people like to eat them raw – I took a bite of one and didn’t spit it out, but didn’t go back for more. I prefer to roast them (like potatoes) where they transform into a creamy, yummy thing – just try them and you’ll see what I mean.

This nifty little plant is super low maintenance, easy to grow as no pests seem to both it and can be included into your vegetable patch or food forest without any bother at all. Give it a go!

You can read more about oca over at Temperate Climate Permaculture, Greenharvest and Thompson and Morgan.

2 Comments

Meet Mrytus

Our young Myrtus Ugni plants are on fire in our garden at the moment. They are all beauty and bursts of pink sherbet.

IMG_2826

Originating from South America, these plants also go by the name of Chilean Guava and, more recently, Tazzi Berries – Tasmania’s attempt of claiming them as our own. Before having our own, we would make annual visits to the local retirement home where they’re in abundance as a popular landscaping plant. Most people plant them as an ornamental not realising these little berries are full of edible delight.

IMG_2830

These tough plants can be grown in full sun to partial shade, thrive in good soil, but are charging on in a pretty crappy area of our garden. They’re planted in full sun on the edge of a dry bank where the soil is a combo of heavy clay top soil, plus a bit of sub soil mixed in thanks to excavations. After an initial period of regular watering we don’t do anything for them anymore – they’re just getting on with it. Our kind of plant.

IMG_2816

We chose to plant them in this particular spot so they can also function as a living hedge, preventing people from slipping down a fairly steep bank. Left unattended, their average height is somewhere around 1.7 metres, but apparently they can get up to 3m in super prime conditions. We’ll be pruning them to around 1m high and .5m wide, keeping them nice and compact in a tight space.

IMG_2824

As you can see above, the path is really narrow as we’re all about maximising growing space. We made it just wide enough to wedge a small baby in…

IMG_2827  To make sure they can hang out and admire the natural beauty life has to offer.

IMG_2832

The one ‘downside’ (which isn’t a massive downside) is that the fruit is tiny, meaning the harvest is slow and that you tend to eat more than you actually put in the bowl. But we don’t mind. We might if were trying to farm them, but on a backyard scale they’re just fine.

IMG_2818We really enjoy using plants for multiple functions, sure they give us good food, but they’re also being a living fence and providing entertainment for small babes – what a clever plant.

5 Comments