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 20-30ÂșC 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.