23 December 2011

We're having a break!

FIG is having a short break over Christmas and the New Year.

Our first day of operation for 2012 shall be Monday 9th January at Ourimbah, and Tuesday 10th January at Wyong.

If you are away and would like a food box ordered for you on either of those days, please email us at fig.centralcoast@gmail.com by Wednesday 4th January. Thank you.

"See you at the co-op!"

13 December 2011

The co-op yesterday...

Thank you to everyone who helped make yesterday work so well.

The roads around our normal FIG venue at Ourimbah were flooded and we could not get to it with our vehicles and the farmer's delivery truck, so an alternate venue had to be found - quickly! The Ourimbah Scouts came to the rescue and we camped out in their hall for the rest of the day. It was brilliant and the hall had a lovely feel to it, as many of you commented on.

Once we had unpacked and sorted out all the produce, the day progressed well.

Thank you to those members who alerted us to the problem, to those who stepped in at short notice to assist, and those who got in touch with other members not on email or not easily contactable. Everyone due to get a box yesterday did, except for a couple who are heading to Wyong today.

For the handful of people who turned up at the normal venue in the afternoon - yes, we know the waters subsided however it wasn't until just before opening time that we were able to get there in a four wheel drive vehicle and post notices of our change of venue on the doors at Bill Sohier Park Hall.

A huge thank you to Ourimbah Scouts for use of their lovely hall.

See you at the co-op!

12 December 2011


Due to the intense flooding around the Central Coast this morning, we are unable to get to the Bill Sohier Park Hall to operate the co-op, or even put up a sign to advise where'll we'll be.

We have an alternate venue today for FIG and that is: 


The address is: 6 Ourimbah Creek Road, Ourimbah.

Turn at lights at Metro Service Station and the Scout Hall is the first building on left. 

If members are flooded in and cannot get to the co-op at all, you may be able to collect your produce from Wyong tomorrow or arrange a friend to collect it.


23 November 2011

FIG operating hours for December and January

The FIG Christmas/New Year operating hours shall be as follows;

Monday 19th December - normal hours at Ourimbah & bulk order collection

Tuesday 20th December - normal hours at Wyong & bulk order collection

Monday 26th December - closed
Tuesday 27th December - closed
Monday 2nd January - closed
Tuesday 3rd January - closed

Monday 9th January - normal hours at Ourimbah

Tuesday 10th January - normal hours at Wyong - bulk orders due tonight for collection 16/17 Jan

14 November 2011

Some recipes for FIG produce

Thanks to some great Figgie members, we have some recipes they have shared with us for using various FIG produce.

First up, from Sara:

1) Potato and leek soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g sebago potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until onion has softened. Add potato. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add stock. Season with pepper. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. 
  3. Blend, in batches, until smooth. Serve.

2) Creamy cauliflower and potato soup with bacon

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 250g 97% fat-free bacon, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 leeks, halved, washed, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cauliflower, trimmed, cut into small florets
  • 500g Sebago or Desiree potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 6 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup light thickened cream
  • Toasted wholegrain bread, to serve


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bacon. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel. 
  2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, garlic and leek to pan. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, potato and stock. Partially cover. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in half the bacon. 
  3. Blend soup, in batches, until smooth. Return to saucepan over low heat. Stir in cream. Heat, without boiling, until hot. Ladle into bowls. Top with remaining bacon. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with toast

3) Potato Frittata

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 8 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 200g mild cheddar, grated
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 500g potatoes, peeled, cooked, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Beat eggs and milk in a large bowl. Add cheese and season. 
  2. Heat half the oil in an ovenproof frypan over low heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring, for 5-6 minutes until soft. Remove and add to the egg mixture with the potato. 
  3. Wipe pan clean, then return to low heat with remaining oil. Pour in frittata mixture and using a palette knife, gently pull away from sides of the pan, allowing uncooked egg to run to edges. Once cooked around the outside (about 2-3 minutes), transfer pan to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until set. Turn out and cool.
4) Almond Crusted Fish with Potato and Leek

Cooking Time 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 large (about 350g) desiree potatoes, washed, thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, pale section only, washed, thinly sliced
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 2 tbs pre-grated parmesan
  • 1 x 100g pkt almond meal
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 4 (about 500g) white fish fillets (such as smooth dory), cut in half lengthways
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh continental parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Arrange potato over a 17 x 24cm (base measurement) baking tray. Top with leek and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tbs of the olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake on the top shelf of preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender and golden. 
  2. Meanwhile, place almond meal and egg in separate bowls. Dip 1 piece of fish in the egg, then the almond meal, pressing firmly to coat. Repeat with remaining pieces of fish. 
  3. Heat remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook fish for 2 minutes each side or until cooked through. 
  4. Divide almond-crusted fish and potato and leek among serving plates. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately

5) Potato and Leek Quiches

Preparation Time 20 minutes

Cooking Time 25 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400g  potato, peeled, cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 leek, washed, sliced
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley
  • 4 sheets filo pastry
  • Olive oil spray
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (250ml) skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper


  1. Steam the sweet potato until just tender. Transfer to a bowl. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring until soft. Add to the sweet potato with the parsley and toss to combine. 
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 6 x 1 cup muffin pans. Spray a sheet of filo with the oil. Top with the remaining sheets, spraying with oil between each layer. Cut the sheets into 3 portions crossways, then cut each strip in half. Line each muffin pan with the filo. 
  3. Divide the sweet potato mixture among the pastry cases. 
  4. Whisk the eggs, milk and nutmeg together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the filling. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just set.
Notes: You can make this without the pastry......I've tried it and it's quite nice...particularly if you're gluten intolerant or don't like pastry very much. Just make sure that the trays or cooking dish is well oiled with either butter or olive oil :)

6) Apple and Oat Muffins

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup raisins
2 egg whites
¼ cup honey
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 apple, grated


1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2) Mix buttermilk, oats, and raisins together in a large bowl. Add egg whites and honey; blend thoroughly.

3) In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add to oat mixture; mix to incorporate. Fold in grated apple.

4) Fill mixture in muffin tins ¾ full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in tins 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely.

And from Gini:
Cook Fennel first (steam, boil) - don't overcook
Heat oven to 200 deg. = HOT
Put Fennel in ovenproof dish and add garlic, some cherry tomatoes and a handful of olives to taste. and for colour! 1 cup or more white wine, according to quantity of fennel.
Leave for 1/2 hour in oven

They all seem yum to us!

05 November 2011

Millet Bake

Recently we found ourselves with surplus silverbeet and a pile of eggs... Hmmmm what to make - Millet Bake of course.  I'm sure every Mumma probably has their own personal Millet Bake recipe, because really it is such a versatile meal, but I thought I'd share what went into ours this yummy evening recently. 

::Millet Bake::
1/2 a big bunch of silverbeet finely shredded
1 onion finely diced
1/4 block of Bulgarian Sheep's Feta crumbled
3C of fluffy, cooked millet (I love the way it goes all fluffy when it's cooked,
like a soft cuddly grain cloud!)
6 eggs
1C of your choice of milk
1T of mixed dried or fresh (of course you will need more than 1T if using fresh) herbs
1t of Himalayan Salt
Paprika to dust

• Oil lightly a deep sided baking dish
• Lay in the shredded silverbeet
• Sprinkle over the onion
• Crumble the feta over next
• Spoon in the fluffy millet
• In a bowl, mix the eggs with the milk, herbs and salt - whisk until well combined
• Pour over the top of the millet and make sure the egg mix covers the millet and is evenly dispersed in the dish
• Dust lightly with Paprika
• Cook in a pre-heated 180ºC oven for about 1 hour,
or until the top is golden and the bake is 'set'
• Top with Gomasio and serve with a
green Springtime salad drizzled with apple cider vinegar.

01 November 2011

Changed hours at Wyong

We made a decision today, after trialing shorter hours at Wyong and observing for some weeks when the last member had been through to collect their box, and effective next week, 8th November, the hours at Wyong shall be:

3pm until 4.30pm

Same starting time, earlier finishing time. Anyone running late can have their bag packed for them, to be collected whilst we're packing up.

For new enquiries, please arrive well before closing time so that there is something to see on the tables other than empty boxes!

See you at the co-op...

23 October 2011

Mangrove Mountain Fair

FIG had a stand at the great little country fair at Mangrove Mountain yesterday. It's the first time we have been there and the turn out was fantastic, with a very good atmosphere.

Our mission was of course to talk to prospective FIG members but also to try chat to farmers and encourage more of them to come on board and grow for us, organically of course! We made a few connections so time will tell if the day was successful in that regard.

It certainly helps - and puts weight behind such a quest - to have been in operation for about two-and-three-quarter years and to have settled into a good rhythm of operation, and it helps no end to have farmer Michael Champion singing our praises to anyone who will listen, from local farmers and families to the NSW Farmers Association, who were next door to us at the fair. We must be doing something right - or a whole lot of things, actually!

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers on the day - you know who you are! - and Permaculture Central Coast for the loan of their marquee; to Dawn for her wonderful little posies of colourful flowers and herbs which are delightful. Thanks, also, to visiting FIG members who came over for a chat as well.

I'm hoping David may have photographs of the day; we had a pile of organic magazines and material to hand out (thanks, Michael) and to read, hung photo boards, signs and mini posters and also the following, which prompted quite a few comments - and laughs!

Source unknown
See you at the co-op...
Maree :)

05 October 2011

Catching up on what's happening...

We had a smaller but successful day at Ourimbah yesterday, with our combined co-op due to the public holiday Monday. A number of members were away on school or uni holidays so it was a quieter and less-busy day than usual, made more so due to there being no school finishing time to get people out the door and off to FIG before collecting their children!

Co-op days and venues shall be back to normal next week, and it seems the rain will continue to be with us most of the time between now and then. Rain is important however also presents a challenge to farmers and backyard growers when it's heavy and consistent. 

At Wyong, we are trialling a shorter opening time as most of our members have been and gone by about 4pm or shortly after. We are therefore now closing at 5pm, however packing up sees us there till about 5.30pm anyway, to catch anyone popping in making new enquiries. We shall see how that goes and if Wyong members continue to have been through and collected their produce earlier in the day, we may look at closing even earlier.

On the produce front, we have been a bit sad to learn that our local supply of eating apples has come to an end. Many of our members have commented that these have been The Best apples they have ever tasted, so we look forward to being on the receiving end of them again next year. We have a few apples left however from next week, the major supply will begin coming in from the organic wholesaler and our apples will come from further away.

We have been really pleased to have been offered some surplus produce from members new and old. Some of their produce you will find in the FIG boxes, some of it on the extras table. Thank you to all concerned.

Our FIG article writer and delicious recipe generator is moving away! We are therefore putting the call out for those members who like to cook and maybe also to write, to occasionally put together a few recipes and/or article for the blog or the website. Please email us at FIG if this seems like something you could do.

Some of the crops at Champion Mountain Organics which have ended up in our FIG boxes!

FIG is looking at having a stand at the Mangrove Mountain Fair on 22nd October, and one of the aims of the day is to talk to local farmers and encourage more to grow organically. For FIG to grow and to buy more local produce, we need more organic farmers! 

That's all for today. See you at the co-op!

13 September 2011

October long weekend trading

We have another holiday Monday or long weekend coming up very soon.
For the information of all our newer members, and to remind everyone else, we cannot have the Ourimbah hall on a Public Holiday Monday and have to move our co-op to the Tuesday instead. 
Of course, Tuesday is also the day we hold the Wyong co-op, and as that venue could not possibly house us all, we will have a combined co-op at Ourimbah.

The details are as follows:
Date: Tuesday 4th October
Time: 2.30 until 5pm
Address: Bill Sohier Park Hall, Ken Cook Way, Ourimbah

Map and directions are on the website here: http://fig.org.au/find_us.htm

28 August 2011

Local happenings...

Here's a reminder of some great local events and health happenings on the Central Coast:

First of all, there will be a screening this Monday in Cinema 5 at Cinema Paradiso, Ettalong Beach of the film "EATING". This is the latest movie being shown in the Diseaseproof Your Life Movie seminar series29th August 7.30 until 9.30pm.

EATING: "join over 40 million people throughout the world who have watched this award-winning film. It covers a lot of ground very comprehensively - and all within 88 short minutes.  

The Eating DVD is used in wellness clinics throughout the world to motivate people to change their diets and restore their health. Topics include:

- Why we have an epidemic of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.
- Why following federal nutrition guidelines will kill you.
- Why the government promotes foods that shorten lives.
- Why almost everyone has cancer by the time they're fifty - and don't even know it.
- Why doctors treat symptoms of disease, not causes.
- Why our most deadly diseases were rare before 1900.
- Why most school-age children already have heart disease."

To book call Jenny 0417206935 or Sue 0434018836

= = = = = = = = = =

Jenny is also conducting a Pantry Makeover Course, starting 6th September in East Gosford on Tuesday nights. 

'Pantry Makeover' - 6 weeks course

There are a lot of sick people in the world and the truth is it doesn't have to be this way. The secret to health isn't really all that complicated. It's affordable to all and it is as simple as eating nature's foods, as close to nature as possible.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do you suffer from Allergies or Asthma, or are your stomach troubles ruining your life? Don’t suffer any longer, come find out how to heal your body and disease proof your life with raw and living foods. 

No need to deny yourself the treats you love, it’s all about learning to make healthier alternatives.

In this 6 week course you will learn how one can stop making disease.. by learning the ‘truth about your food.’ You will also see how simply and quickly healthier food can be prepared.

Where: Evolve Wellness Centre- Suites A&B 78 York St East Gosford (upstairs)

When: 6 Tuesday nights starting the 6th September

Time: 7.30-9pm

Cost: $20 per person per night

Book now, call Jenny 0417206935 (Food as Medicine Coach) or the Evolve wellness Centre on  4322 8868 

This is a limited group coaching session.

= = = = = = = = = =

Shirley Hotchkiss is halfway through her "Sustainable eating" course at Woy Woy of a Sunday afternoon. 

Sustainable Eating is a 4-week course which offers practical approaches to improving human and planetary health by eating raw food. Humans evolved on the abundant plant food provided by our natural habitat, and it still supports our body’s miraculous design. As Hippocrates said: let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.

Classes will be interactive, friendly and fun with demonstrations, guest speakers, samples and snacks.Be prepared to laugh and get lighter. $50 per class, 1-4pm 

There are two more dates: 4th and 18th September. Please email Shirley for details and bookings on Shirley.hotchkiss@openwindows.com, or phone her on  4341 9301. If you see this in time and want to get there this afternoon for session TWO, it's on at the Woy Woy CWA Hall, The Boulevard, Woy Woy. 

22 August 2011

National Food Plan

Were you aware of a National Food Plan?

No, nor were we - until we heard that the deadline for submissions had been extended. The new deadline is Friday 2 September 2011, 5 pm EST.

Please go to this link - National Food Plan - for further information about what is proposed and how you can have your say on this very important issue.

21 July 2011

Citrus Punch

Last night, our fruit bowl over brimming with mandarins, I decided to make a mandarin juice. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it! But have you ever actually done it? Seriously - trade the oranges for mandarins in your juice and it's DELICIOUS! I remember the first time I eyed a big bundle of "mandy's" near the juicer and thought hmmm... surely they'd be delicious juiced - and they were. The thing that I love about the new juicer that we've been using that a friend passed onto us, is that it actually allowed quite a bit of the pulp of the mandarins through into the juice and I love that mix of pulp and juice in freshly squeezed orange or mandarin juice.

I've always thought Mother Earth was a pretty sassy lady. She seems to know what's going on, what's best for us and just when we need certain produce through the year... And our citrus is no accident that it is seasonal in our cooler months. Packed with a huge Vitamin C punch, these fruits are SO handy to have in their prime, seasonally picked, in local growing climates to deliver us a big fresh, juicy bundle of immune boosting goodness.

We've been so blessed to be having bundles of mandarins being offered each week in our wonderful Winter citrus mix at FIG. The varieties have been mixed; from the easy to peel and often seedless beauty of the puffed skin Hicksons or Imperials, to the tight little bundles like the Nova. Then there's the sweetness of Lady Murcott Mandarin, the golden glow of Miss Sunburst and the intense aroma of Mrs Daisy. Together they sing a sweet tune of Winter's grandest offerings. There's nothing quite like that refreshing aroma that bursts forth, as the mandarin skin oils jump into the air and dance on the breeze as you start to peel these golden, juicy, Winter delights.

The Aussie Mandarin site is packed with nutritional info of this Winter Seasonal fruit, recipe inspirations and pictures/descriptions of the various varieties. Some truly are more suited to cooking, eating raw or juicing, so be sure to pull up the mandarin variety chart when your deciding how to use the mandarins that grace our current FIG offerings.

 Citrus Punch
Any Winter citrus fruit;
oranges, lemons, mandarins and limes - all of one, a mix of two or a bouquet of everything Mother Nature offers in this Season!

Juice all and drink immediately.
Good any time of day, to make your immune system shine!

19 July 2011

Using ripe avocados

Yesterday at the co-op a tray of very ripe avocados arrived - unfortunately more ripe than we'd been expecting - however Gini, one of our many wonderful, creative, full-of-information members, came to the rescue and immediately wrote out a recipe on the spot which we'd like to share with you.

It's for Avocado Soup: apparently to be served cold but we think it could be warmed, for these crisp Winter days and nights....

No quantities given so add a cup of stock and keep adding until you reach the desired consistency, depending of course on how many avocados you have.

Pureed avocados
A good chicken stock (this is important) or equally good quality vegetable stock.

Heat the two together and cool in Summer or if desired.

Serve in a bowl with a dot of sour cream and some cut chives.

Thank you, Gini! Some more of these avocados will be available at Wyong this afternoon...

Avocados are absolutely delicious in a smoothie which I only just discovered recently. I've been making green smoothies with just about any type of leafy green I had to hand, but a few short weeks ago tried them with avocado - YUMMO!

See you at the co-op...

16 July 2011


I love the treat of finding fresh tumeric to cook with. There's nothing like that initial spice fragrance of fresh ginger, turmeric and garlic hitting the pan, sizzling around and filling the kitchen with it's soft spicy aroma.
If you're conscious of the health benefits of raw foods, then there is nothing like using fresh turmeric. Whether you cook lightly with it or use the spice raw in your culinary adventures - fresh is definitely in this case, (as most often) the best! Dried powdered turmeric is obtained by boiling the fresh root for several hours, then drying in a very hot oven before being ground into the powder.

Turmeric is a rhizomatous plant from the ginger family. It is native to South Asia and grows best in climates of 20-30ºC where there is also consistent rainfall. In Southern Asia, turmeric grows wild!

Turmeric is used both for it's flavour and also it's colour. In the kitchen, turmeric is most commonly used in spiced dishes and curries, but can also be used in many applications such as icecream, yoghurt, baked and sweet goods for colouring.

It is thought that the very first use of turmeric in Ancient times, was probably as a dye. Turmeric is still used today, very successfully, in natural dyeing applications. It gives a gentle, golden glow. In Medieval Europe, turmeric was known as 'Indian Saffron' due to it's colouring qualities, and it was quite often used as a more economical option than the expensive saffron threads.

Whilst it is most commonly the root rhizomes that are used in culinary applications, the leaves are also used in cooking. The use of leaves are generally limited to wherever turmeric grows fresh, as the leaves are harvested and used in a fresh application. Some dishes use turmeric leaves to wrap and cook food as well as adding the leaves to meals such as curries.

The active ingredient in turmeric is 'curcumin'. Turmeric is said to be of the fire element and brings a peppery, warm but slightly bitter flavour. Ayurvedic medicine credits turmeric for it's anti inflammatory properties, as well as it's positive effects on the digestive system. Turmeric stimulates the gall bladder muscles, which in turn increases the bile flow which is required to digest fats. It is believed that if turmeric is consumed in a meal that it may bind to cholesterol substances, rendering them incapable of absorption by the body. Due to the positive digestive properties, turmeric is often used in alternative therapies, for gastro-intestinal balancing, IBS and other digestive disorders. When eaten raw, turmeric is said to also have cartilage strengthening properties as well as having a positive effect on bone structure. There's many reasons to incorporate turmeric into your diet, many of which you can read about here.

Turmeric is not only limited to culinary and dyeing uses. It is also highly revered in the cosmetics industry. Creams are made containing turmeric, for the antiseptic properties as well as it's reported anti-aging properties. Turmeric is used alot in ceremony around the world. From bride beautification in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to other religious ceremonies around the world to invoke God's, given as offerings to the Spirit's and also in power and purification rituals.

If your climate conditions on your property are compatible with tumeric's ideal growing situation, and you are interested to grow turmeric yourself to have available fresh turmeric or to be able to use the leaves in your cooking, then Green Harvest carries the rhizomes to plant. In a garden environment, growing turmeric is said to repel ants.

And if you'd like just to pick up a handful of this amazing spice to give it a try fresh in your cooking, then be sure to keep an eye for this golden delight randomly gracing the extra's table at FIG!

Sources; Wikipedia

11 July 2011

Eat Your Weeds!

If you've ever chosen a packet of Fat Hen, Chick Weed or Nettles from the choices at FIG, then chances are you've seen this entertaining label on the packet you took home. This post is a long over due one, but despite my neglect in bringing you this post, I really wanted to still share with you the tour we were blessed to take at Michael Champion's farm in recent (YES! It still JUST classifies as RECENT... only JUST!) times.

You've gotta love Michael Champion. He really is a true Champion! NO pun intended... or maybe! :) With his quick wit, unique sense of humor and the tireless work he does to promote and motivate organic farming here in our Mountainous regions on the Coast - he really does deserve to wear proudly the name 'Champion'.

Now, I'm a bit new to all this permaculture, bio-dynamic and organic farming bizzo. We've been eating organics for quite a few years now and grow our own little patch with organic principles, but I'm not too clued up on all the in's and out's of this sustainable way of farming and all the inspirations/indications that come along with it.

So... imagine my surprise when I first came across Michael Champion's property. The path that meanders from the main sheds along and out the back of the property to the farming space is quite gorgeous. One may be forgiven for thinking (just for a moment) that they're in the European forests as they wander through pines, spot wild pine mushrooms and bounce along on a carpet of soft cushy brown pine needles underfoot. It's quite a serene little track.

Then you round the corner and come up upon the farming space. "Well, my, that's quite an overgrown little patch" I quietly think to myself. "Where does he find the space to grow all our food amongst that wild forest of WEEDS?" Now of course I kept my comments at this point to myself ;) Michael explained a bit about his farming techniques and I was really impressed at this principle of allowing the space to 'go wild' during it's rest time - and harvesting at the same time from this space - edible weeds! Brilliant!

Another brilliant thing is the weeds themselves. Seriously - these things are very, very smart. They are rich in a concentration of nutrients which work in brilliant ways to naturally rebalanced soil eco-systems. Permaculture Research Institute of Australia has a lovely page about the wonder of weeds and says "Weeds are grossly under-appreciated lifeforms. They are, by definition, plants that are not valued and proliferate with no human work at all. Since they are not valued, they are free. Since they proliferate, they are very concentrated sources of bulk organic matter. Since they are plants, they contain all the major and minor plant nutrients, in a good ratio."

Geoff Lawton, a permaculture teacher, gives some wonderful information on the site 'EcoFilms', in an article titled 'A Permaculture Perspective on Weeds'. In every square meter of soil, I am amazed to read, there is up to 2,000 potential germination seeds of weeds. These little weeds are very smart - and do you know which out of those 2,000 seeds will germinate? The one's that are going to best re-balance and put back into the soil, whatever is lacking! I told you SMART! So - you really have to think that when people see weeds as foe, it's the very smart farmer who works in harmony with these little intelligent folk, and realises that the TRUE farmer's friend - is indeed the humble WEED!

In his article on EcoFilms, Geoff gives an overview of various examples, to illustrate which weeds will germinate in particular conditions to re-generate the soil environment it finds itself in.
• Burnt landscape; Fire takes away all the potassium in the soil. If one stands back and watches after a fire has depleted an area, you would notice that among the first re-germinating plant life is the humble little weed. And not just any weed, but the weeds which have long, straggly roots. These long straggly roots harvest potassium from deep down and force it up to the surface.
• Compacted soil; When all the air is knocked out of the soil, the smart little weed that is sent forth to germinate from his weed community in these conditions, is often the dandelion or other similar deep tap rooted weeds. Their mission in life - to simply decompact the soil. The weed springs forth, thrives and when it dies back, it leaves in it's wake, a long tap root system, which is the perfect inroad for air, nutrient and water to journey deep into the soil structure and bring new life to the compacted matter.
• Overploughed soils; The weed that makes it's centre stage debut in this situation, are the graceful folk with the fine root system. In a soil environment of loose, crumbly soil susceptible to erosion, this tiny little dancer holds the soil particles together.
• Overworked soils; It's commonly known that in overworked and intensively farmed soils, nitrogen is one of the main nutrients majorly depleted in these soil environments. So of course, the weed to germinate in this condition is the nitrogen fixing weeds; peas, beans, legumes. Their roots contain a root attachment bacteria which is high in nitrogen, OF COURSE!

And, there is one time when weeds will NOT germinate! Yes, occasionally they do have no place, and when that place happens to appear, you know what, you won't even have to worry about weeds - because if they have no use.... they just DON'T GERMINATE! Want to know where you won't find weeds? In rich compost hummus. Where there is a perfect balance of all nutrients, soil condition is impeccable and it is then that the tireless working little weed seed rests. Because his work here, as they say, is done.

 The farming folk at Champion's use a stirrup hoe and the gas burning technique to remove small weeds that germinate amongst the active planted beds. Whilst Michael works in harmony with the weeds and allows them to move in and do their thing during the resting stages, the weeds do need to be managed and reminded gently, to work in harmony with the farmer when it is his time to use the bed that the weeds have restored during rest. Michael likes the long handled stirrup hoe as it is easy to use, effective and kind to the body of the farmer, being able to be used from an upright standing position. This particular brand of stirrup hoe Michael uses, he pointed out was his favourite amongst what is available on the market, as the edge of the hoe has no point that protrudes out past the flush edge of the hoe. Often this is the case with many stirrup hoes, which can easily damage newly planted and establishing seedlings.

Such a wonderful farm tour. We thank you Michael for kindly and warmly opening up your space to show us where some of our locally grown food is produced. You can visit Champion's website and take a look around the wonderful information available on the site. In the blog section, there is an interview with Michael regarding organic farming and also a current post on those wild pine mushrooms that were recently on offer in our choices.

28 June 2011

Membership for the new year

Things are a-changing at FIG - but not too much!

The co-op is in the process of incorporating and shall be required to make some minor alterations such as the following:

The term "membership" will cease and in it's place we will be required to use "subscription"- yeeks!

All new and renewing members will be required to complete a new subscription form and pay a once-off joining fee of $10.

Annual subscription fees will remain the same as they are right now - see the end of this page on our website for information.

We shall begin taking membership/subscription fee payments from next Monday, 4th July, at Ourimbah and Tuesday 5th July at Wyong. The new subscription forms shall be emailed to our members this week and shall be available at the co-op from next week onwards.

Thank you...

22 June 2011

Thank you to Kel

We were very sad to hear that one of our wonderful farmers, Kel Johnston, has been given notice to finish farming on his leased land at Cooranbong and will not be supplying FIG after next week.

Kel has been with FIG from the start and we thank him wholeheartedly for his growing ethics and his support of FIG - and for introducing us to some unusual vegetables. The purple radishes and also the current black radishes are two such things, as well as the baby crookneck squash, kiwana (African Horned Cucumbers), etc (the list is long). We will miss the beautiful Russian Kale he has been supplying, the various heirloom squash and pumpkins and the recent coriander bunches; the Tigerella and striped plum tomatoes and many other heirloom or forgotten species. Maybe you're not aware, however at different times of the year, he has grown produce specifically with FIG members in mind, such as mini pumpkin and squash varieties just the right size for a family, and so forth.

He is taking this opportunity to move to his land on the northern coast of NSW and to grow more heirloom vegetables, along with increasing and introducing the production of some varieties he hasn't been able to grow due to the southerly climate restrictions (think frost, for a start!).

Whilst Kel reckons we haven't seen the last of him, it's unfortunately yet another case of another farmer gone from the local food growing area. We need MORE people growing for the increasing population, not less. And more ethical and chemical free farmers such as Kel, and Michael Champion, and Beulah Bill, and Jean, etc.
On a happier note, it seems that by the end of this year, Ed Morris of Mangrove Mountain may have his vegetable organic certification through, which is very exciting. We purchase quite a bit through Ed throughout the year and he is an inspirational man, proving that farming can be managed well into your eighties. Go, Ed!

Goodbye to Kel, and thank you. We wish you well and many years of happy and productive growing (and we know we'll catch up with you again).

Whilst we're here saying thank you, we will take this opportunity to say a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all the FIG farmers and the various people supplying this and that throughout the seasons.

19 June 2011

Management Meeting

Further to our last blog post in regards to postponing the management meeting the other day due to predicted flash flooding, the new date is Monday 20th June, straight after packing away co-op for the day at Ourimbah. An email has been sent to all FIG members advising them of this.

We anticipate the meeting to be starting at 6.30pm. All FIG members welcome.

14 June 2011

Tonight's meeting - flood warning

We have just sent out an email to all our members
advising that due to the forecast of heavy rain
and the risk of more flooding, a decision will be made early this afternoon
as to whether the meeting tonight will be postponed.

If you were planning on attending, please
check with us when you call by to collect your FIG box today,
or ring the FIG phone on 04166 47715.

Thank you. :)

13 June 2011


Nettles are best picked when there is an abundance of fresh green tops, just like we are getting at the FIG right now; as the leaves mature they get too tough to eat.
In all preparation and picking wear protective gloves as the leaves have tiny silica needles which ‘sting’. Do not let the ‘stinging’ deter you as this chlorophyll rich plant is high in Iron and is said to purify blood. If you don’t get around to cooking it, consider drying it and making tea, it mixes wonderfully with Calendula, mint or spearmint & chamomile.
Here are some great recipes:
Nettle Soup
I cant think of a better way to have nettles thán in soup, it is rich flavored, and creamy.
150 grams nettle
3 large potatoes peeled and diced
1 medium onion diced
Butter/oil for frying
Enough water or stock to cover (emit stock cube if you use stock)
Good quality stock cube or powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream to garnish
Sauté onions till golden, add peeled, diced potatoes till tender, add washed nettle, cover with stock or water, add seasonings, simmer 1o mins, the cool to blend or whiz with a Bamix, enjoy with a lashing of sour cream!

Nettle Pesto
6 cups (125g) fresh nettle, blanched in boiling water for a minute (this removes the "sting"), drained and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup (50g) pine nuts
1/2 cup (60g) grated parmesan
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the blanched nettle, pine nuts, parmesan, and a little salt and pepper, in a food processor. Blend the mixture until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the side occasionally. While the motor is running gradually pour in the olive oil until well distributed.
Place the Pesto in a sterilised jar and pour a little extra olive oil over the top and seal well with a lid. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pesto will keep for up to a month in well sealed jar in the refrigerator.

Nettle Rennet- ‘Green Cheese
Boil a large pot of washed nettles with very little water for 20 minutes, straining it and adding about as much salt as will dissolve in it to the juice.
Bring a pan of milk almost to a boil, add in a tablespoon of yoghurt and two tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to separate the whey, stir well, then add in a quarter cup of liquid nettle rennet.
Remove from the heat, give another quick stir and let it set overnight.

This was a contribution from a FIG member... thank you! More nettle health benefits and information can be found here or here, for starters.

07 June 2011

Bring on the Brussels

It was about this time last year, that I remember the FIG weekly emails regularly coming out with a plea to please, please, please give the lesser loved Brassica Brother 'Brussels' a go. If you give him a chance, you may just end up falling in love with him! I envisaged Maree and David going bonkers with boxes of left over brussels at the end of each week. I'm sure Maree's chickens weren't so concerned about boxes of left over brussels that people had chosen to bypass on their 'way round the tables'!

In my foodie blog reading, I stumbled across a very yummy and simple looking brussel recipe. It inspired me to head to the kitchen and dig out those discoulouring brussels that were mounting by the week in the bottom of our crisper. I elaborated a bit on the basic recipe I found, creating a delicious meal with these brassica folk. The result - YUMMINESS! My bet - once this recipe gets out there - Maree and David will need to have brussels on the extras table each week - by the box full!

I won't bore you with all the nutritional facts and figures as to why you should be eating brussels. Of course you know they're good for you - but if you DO want all that info, then you can easily find all the health benefits of brussels with a quick google search. Brussels are also a really wonderful plant to grow in your Winter veggie garden. I had NO idea how interestingly brussels grew, until we planted them in our garden last Winter. It was amazing to watch these little brassicas grow all up and down the stem on the trunk of the plant. To be honest I'd never really even thought about how a brussel grows. But it's very interesting.

~Bring on the Brussels~
• 10-12 brussels, halved
• 1/4 cabbage, shredded
• 1 carrot, grated
• 1C of lentil sprouts
• 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 2" knob of ginger, finely chopped
• 1 onion, diced
• 1t of chilli infused oil (or one medium-hot chilli finely diced, seeds removed)
• 2t of Himalayan salt
• Heat 2T of coconut oil in saucepan
• Fry onion and spices until fragrant
• Add vegetables to steam. Turn heat to medium, ensure a small amount of liquid in pan to avoid sticking/burning, cover and steam until brussels are just cooked.
• Take pan from heat and stir through lentil sprouts
• Serve over your choice of noodles
• Top with parmesan or your favourite vegetarian/vegan cheese alternative and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper.

05 June 2011

Public holiday in June

There is another public holiday due in June and as our longer term members would know, we cannot have the Ourimbah hall on public holidays due to sport being played at the grounds and the hall being used by the sporting clubs. We normally move to Tuesdays in that case.

This time around we have Tuesday co-op at Wyong to consider as well, so we have made the decision to have one big combined co-op at Ourimbah for both Ourimbah and Wyong members on Tuesday 14th June.

The hours at Ourimbah are 2.30 until 5.00pm and a map and directions can be found here. *

We hope you can all make it on the day. Ourimbah members may meet up once again with those members who moved over to Wyong months ago, and the newer Wyong members may get to see just how busy and different the large Ourimbah group actually is!

Please note: this means there will be no co-op at the Wyong Neighbourhood Centre on 14th June.

See you soon...

23 May 2011

Unique produce

There's much I love about the blessing of having the wonderful folk of FIG, supply us with beautiful, fresh produce to nourish us all through our week. But one thing I've really been appreciating of late is the opportunity to try some less common produce that I definitely never found when shopping in a mainstream environment for our fresh fruit and veg.
We've been enjoying many unique and new produce items of late and I always look forward to seeing mysterious produce items in the choices list on Sunday night, then googling the new produce to see just what exactly these wonderful things are, and how I would use them!
For a while now we've been enjoying crook neck squash. They're so sweet with their little crook necks. They make cute little mini stuffed cups. We scoop out the middle, stuff with our favourite filling and bake. We make a savoury rice and mince mix, stuff it in the little squash cups, sprinkle with grated cheese and baked it in the oven. The shell goes nice and crispy, the squash is sweet and the cheese melts perfectly over the top. We roast the seeds and serve them sprinkled over the top. The perfect accompaniment to our warm Autumn meal.

The nettles that have been coming are wonderful! I must tell you that I was so keen to try them the first week we decided on nettles, that I promptly ripped the bag open, plunged my hand in and brought it straight back out of the bag covered in stings! OOOOPS! Yes, I did know they sting - and yes, I SHOULD have watched this video about how to handle nettles BEFORE I plunged my hand into the bag. We've been enjoying our nettles juiced in our morning green juices. They add a wonderful Autumn zing to the juice!
Kohlrabi has been back for guest appearances on the extras table. We have enjoyed the leaves and stalks roasted on oven trays, drizzled with a smidgen of oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted on a highish heat until crisp. Perfect, healthy, homemade crisps. A delicious Autumn treat.
We were so disappointed when we forgot to use our wild pine mushrooms. By the time I found them tucked away in the fridge at the end of the week, they weren't in the best using condition anymore. Mushrooms really do call to be used quite quickly. I was speaking today to someone who harvests some of FIG's wild pine mushrooms, and he told me that a customer in Sydney mentioned to him that the wild pine mushrooms can be frozen. I'll have to look into this. Also, I thought that they would probably be good to dry or dehydrate and use just as one does dried shitake... but I'm not sure if wild pine mushrooms take so well to this? They did look so pretty and quite unique when I opened their little bag up for a look inside when we got home. We are hoping that they are available again soon, as we were looking forward to trying this recipe with them.
And the turnip greens! Not so unusual the dear old turnip - but I've not often used the greens. When the turnips turned up with the most delicious and lush looking greens the other week, I jumped online to research if I could use the greens and what nutritious goodies they contain. Turns out that the whole turnip green v's the root vegetable is alot like the situation of the beet and the green that I wrote about a while back. The greens actually contain alot more goodies than the root itself. There is so much goodness in the turnip green. The flavour is slightly spicy and we have been juicing them into our green juices, which adds a nice little spice to the mix. The turnip greens are like mustard leaves, in that, in terms of flavour, you really do need to use them sparingly unless you LOVE alot of spice. They can be a little bitter, but they balance well when accompanied with other greens. You can use the turnip greens, or "turnip tops" as they are known in the UK, either raw or lightly steamed.
And to top it all off, today we picked up some 'Japanese Raisins' at the Mangrove Mountain Country Markets! They were delicious, and now we are madly saving the seeds as we eat the fruit, to see if we can grow our very own Japanese raisin tree!

A long time since Easter!

It's been a few weeks since Easter and we've all been rather busy, running the co-op and ensuring, to the best of our abilities, that it goes along as smoothly as possible - and haven't returned to update the blog. Dearie me!

Our special Easter week co-op at Jilliby went well. Whilst there was a reduction in numbers due to the distance some of our members would need to drive, and no public transport, we still had orders for at least a third of our usual number of boxes and many of those commented on the beautiful surroundings, the peaceful valley and the great hall - and put forth the suggestion that co-op was held there every week! One of our Wyong members was overdue in having her baby and wasn't sure if she'd make it there that day. She did, but perhaps driving over that fairly short piece of rutted and corrugated road stirred up something more than a desire to get some land for her family and live out of town, as the very next day her baby was born! Congratulations to all.

The weather is growing colder as one would expect at this time of year and the more sensitive produce is slowing down or stopped for the year. Our Kirkconnell growers had 15 cms/6 inches of snow last week, and I think we were feeling the affects here on the Coast at the time.

Cold, frosty weather is good for sweetening up the oranges, we're told, so look out soon for yummy Navel oranges in the FIG boxes. We've already been enjoying mandarins, lemons and limes for a while now.

We've been trialling some potatoes from south of Sydney and they've been great, although a bit more expensive that what we normally pay. As with the produce from Kirkconnell, the potato farmer delivers to the Sydney organic markets and our driver collects them early Monday morning and then delivers it all to us. It's a great system and means no extra fuel or time is spent obtaining their vegetables. One trip does it all! For those of you keen to eat within a 160 km radius (as per the "100 mile diet"), both the Kirkconnell and Southern Highlands farms scrape in within that distance from Ourimbah.

This week we are going to be trying some Pink Lady apples from the Kirkconnell region as well. We've had some of their Gala apples and also a few Fujis, and Pink Ladies, a favourite of many, will be in the boxes today and tomorrow.

We're also hoping to have a few dragonfruit on the extras table to try, although they aren't grown locally. Kel will again be supplying his beautiful coriander and purple radishes and those superb turnips. Turnip leaves and nettle recipes will be posted here shortly.

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See you at the co-op...