Herbs for Health and Goodness from the garden

So many people look to store bought superfoods, but we grow so many beneficial foods right here in Darwin. If you don’t grow them yourself we can connect you with where to support local growers..

Learn here how to incorporate the Top 12 into everyday cooking, teas and drinks, and learn more about their nutritional values. 

This is run by Emma of Taste of The Top End and supported by Healthy Darwin.

The 12 focus plants include- Turmeric, Ginger, Rosella leaves (and sepals), Thai Coriander, Sweet Leaf,  Amaranth, Gotu Kola, Mint, Lemongrass, Lime (leaf and fruit), Thai and Lemon Basil, Pawpaw, Snake Beans and Sweet Potato leaves (plus other seasonal fruits and veggies)

Herbs for Health in Everyday Cooking June 2016 (1)

Wet Season salad mix

So for those of you that thought growing salad mix in the wet season just wasn’t happening, here is some inspiration… (maybe the wet season is what isn’t happening, so I don’t want to be too confusing, but hey you know what I mean, that humid sticky time of year that many plants don’t like, like rocket, that often it rains a lot and sometimes it doesn’t- that time of year- you can still grow these awesome greens!!)

Wet season leaves boardA while ago I always bought “interstate” salad mix in the wet season – things like rocket, baby spinach and baby kale. These and so much more grow well here in the dry season, but what about the wet?

Well I discovered with the help of a very good green grower (Aweganic Dan) that lots more leaves can be used as tasty greens in salads and lots of them grow in our wet season, in fact were my garden already!

Here are some wonderful and easily grown greens that grow all year and are great mixed together to make a salad mix or add into any delicious local salad…


From left to right-

Amaranth (purple)- Amaranthus sp. – Popularly grown as a grain. Great leaf, loved in Indonesia.

Amaranth (green)- Amaranthus sp.

Egyptian spinach or salad mellow- Corchorus olitorius Watch this one, it has popping seeds and comes up everywhere! Very popular in the Middle East (hence the name)

Kangkong (baby leaf)- Ipomea aquatica (TOP) Water spinach- loves a bath and thrives in the wet season. It is used in stir fries as a larger leaf or with the stem. From South East Asia.

Cosmos– Cosmos caudatus- (BOTTOM) A tropical cosmos, often planted as a companion plant or ornamental with pretty orangey flowers turing yellow, fresh and slightly bitter taste. Native to South America.

Purple Basil- Oscimum basilicum  (TOP) Basil- the easiest grown wet season herb in the world- adds a little floral zing to the salad, also can use Thai basil.

Sweet Leaf- Sauropus androgynus (BOTTOM) A wonderful bushy plant that is perennial and can be shaped into hedges. It has a sweet pea tasting leaf, grows easily from cuttings and is originally from SE Asia. It has high levels of Vitamin A, B and C. It is also cooked in Asia, but is so good raw I don’t know why you would- makes great pesto too!

Wild Pepper Leaf- Piper Sarmentosum (TOP) This is a great ground cover and certainly wild- it can take over if you don’t watch it. It is not the same species as the pepper used as spice (Piper nigrum, which grows more upright) and nor is it Betel leaf (Piper betel) although the leaves are very similar. This leaf, when young is great in salads and gives a fragrant peppery taste. It is also used to wrap food, as the leaves get large (4-5cm)  and can be added to rice for flavouring.

Young sweet potato leaf- Ipomoea batatas  (BOTTOM) is also really fantastic as an uncooked salad green- pick the youngest leaves, you will have heaps in the wet season.

And finally the flower of  Cosmos– Cosmos caudatus- petals can be used in salads and add coulour too!

Also you can use Gota Kola, Ceylon spinach and Brazilian Spinach

pesto omlete landsc 2

12 and a half ways to crack an egg (dish)

I am not sure if this is slightly inspired by Easter and conversations and traditions arising about eggs, but I have had the urge to share the wonderful things you can do with eggs. I personally did not grow up with egg traditions (or religion) at Easter, beyond hunting for chocolate eggs. My interpretation of these happenings is that in the northern hemisphere Easter and Spring coincide and Paegan or general celebrations of new beginnings entangled themselves with the story of Jesus, feasts, some rabbits and chocolate. Well whatever you believe, I believe it is always good to get together and share food- and that’s what we did! So back to eggs-

A bowl of eggsIt is so good to keep chickens and with some love, a good house, some perches , you can have protein converted from your veggie scraps and some extra grain and some furry friends that you know are treated well. I have written all about suburb chooks here- ..

There are no official commercial egg producers in the Darwin region (The Berry Spring Eggs are only packed there!) So they journey a long way if you don’t find a backyard grower or orchard producer. Greenie has eggs that work in a system fertilising his lime orchard, and you can do the same integrating poultry and fruit production !.

IMG_2536 Because we have 12 and a half chooks (one is bantam), of all colours and none are too old to lay, we get about 5-6 eggs a day (they produce less as they get older) and along with a lot of (not so local) grains and a hint of cheese and kangaroo, this is our main source of protein. So in honour of our 12 and a half chooks, I have come up with 12 and a half of the most simple and delicious ways to use an egg or two and I found a great stash of photos illustrating all of these-

 

1)   Boiled and then steeped in tea

Egg art feb- for webBoiled eggs go a really long way, but how about cracking then gently and then re- boiling them in tea and leaving them to cool and steep in the tea. This has amazing effect, adds a little tea hint to the eggs and is fun (and a little fiddly) These are known as Chinese Tea Eggs

 

2)   Boiled and then curried

Curried eggs 2There are so many variations of this, but one the best ways is with fresh chilies, ginger, garlic, sugar and tomatoes.

3)   Boiled and then added to awesome salads and sandwhiches

egg in wrapHow about this wrap- home made flat bread, and seasonal (this was dry season) roast veggies, like pumpkin tomatoes, heaps of herbs and a dash of spring onion- oh yeah!

 

4)   Boiled and then pickled

Pickled eggs best smThis is actually a huge tradition in the UK, where in every good traditional pub there and fish and chip shop there is a jar of pickled eggs. In the pub you have them in a bag of crisps (chips) with your pint. I love them and when we first got our chooks and had less dogs to share our eggs with we would pickle the excess. You can toast up pickling spices (star anise, pepper corns, all spice, cumin and coriander seeds) and then add to apple cider vinegar to be really flash. Put the cooled boiled eggs in , in a preserving jar and leave. The flavours and vinegar seep through to perfect pickling perfection after about 4 weeks. I was under the impression that pickled eggs could be pickled forever, but in Darwin where that noted ‘cool dry place’ is often hard to find I think 6 months could be the maximum for pickling. When I worked at Alawa Primary the students and I pickled eggs and then forgot them, a couple of years later, they had gone past their best and king of dissolved. Having said all this I highly recommend this amazing snack.

5)   Fried

fried eggWho can resist a fried egg, especially on a Sunday morning. My localizing suggestions are to add local garden greens, like Amaranth, cosmos leaf, Basil and many more depending on season. I have had home made baked beans made with Jackfruit seeds in tomato sauce, but these are not the ones in the picture and yes this fried egg has a funny form, it is fried just not too an oily crisp! Don’t forget the cup of tea- garden tea if you fancy.
 6) Poached

poached egg 2The more healthy option over frying, use vinegar or lime juice in the water and twirl it into a little vortex so that the egg stays together, it only takes a couple of minutes in boiling water until cooked enough and still retaining the dripping yolk. Don’t forget the garden greens and a splash of olive oil, lime juice and or soy sauce, chilli is also a great topping.

  And in the later dry season, with local tomatoes, garden basil and olive oil!

poached egg and tom on toast

6.5) Poached with hollandaise, served on splat- chat sweet potato

hollandaise 2This is one of my favourite decadent breakfasts. And below is a dish I served on Christmas day- a great day for a fancy breakfast, with champagne (must explain the slightly dodgy photo) Hollandaise is basically butter melted in a pan and then added to whisked egg yolks, which are whisked while being heated over the stove, then when it all becomes really thick and fluffy, lemon juice is added, along with pepper and salt. Its all very rich and involved heaps of eggs. The whites can then be used for meringues, or even Jon’s favourite- Whisky sours (a cocktail with egg whites, whisky and lemon!) which happened this day, as it was Christmas.

hollandaise christmasI used to make this dish all the time and serve the eggs on what is known as ‘Chat potatoes’ – Boiled potatoes, smashed or squashed flat, so some of the middle splats out, in an oven tray with olive oil, slat and herbs and then roasted. This is then the base for the eggs and topped with sauce. WE cannot of course grow potatoes, so our local root of choice for this is sweet potato. I got small (orange) ones and did the same and it was delicious and sweeter and yummier (but not quite as crispy) as with potatoes and I served it on wet season salad greens, including cosmos. You can also use steamed local spinaches (Ceylon, Brazilian etc) which is also fabulous and has some fancy name like “eggs Florentine’ but of course this is a sweet potato Tropical twist, so we need a new name, like eggs Darwinese…

7)   Scrambled eggs

scrambled eggsOk, so before we get into anything too fancy, the old classic, whisk all eggs in a bowl, and pour into a pan, move around, turn off while still not quite soild (in colour) and they will finish themselves off. The best local twist on this is to add heaps of home made garden basil pesto and herbs- yum!

8)   Frittatas

local food week frittataFrittata, possibly also known as Spanish omlete, and with a pastry bottom known as quiche. Basically eggy slice type thing, with yummy veggies. These can be made in the pan or oven. Fry, saute, roat or all the bits that go in (eg onion, spinach, pumpkin, eggplant, etc. Then iin the pan add in eggs whisked with milk and spices, add cheese if you wish and finish off in the grill, or pop the whole thing in the oven (in a baking dish) after pre sauteing all the ingredients. Alternatively grated veg can go in raw and will cook much faster because they are smaller.

Frittata warm 9)   Egg in Soup

Egg and loofa soup

Asian styley- add into clear broths, whisked first and allow to cook in soup, like this egg and loofa soup that the Burmese ladies taught us to cook through My Sister’s Kitchen and the GULP project.

10)  Asian omelette – thinly sliced

asian noodle saladEgg in stir-fry dishes or noodle salads. Whisk eggs with tamari and rice wine vinegar and cook thin simple Asian Omelettes, slice thin and add to stir-fries, noodle soups and even add to Sushi or rice paper rolls.

Rice Paper rolls

 11) Omelette

pesto omlete landsc 2Pretty much anything can go in omelettes, whisked eggs, in a pan over pre sautéed filling. Allow to cook through and then fold in half or roll. Below is a very simple pesto omelette with feta. Other fillings can be feta and spinach, roasted veg etc.

 12)  Crepes/ Pancakes

The simple crepeA batter of eggs, flour and milk is made, in different consistencies make crepes or pancakes- crepes poured thin, pancakes fat- sweet or savory! Your perfect opportunity to fill them with local fruit, below a simple crepe with Red Dhakka banana and local honey filling.

Below was an experiment for the local food challenge, using only local ingredients, so no flour. I used home made coconut milk and coconut fluff- it was quite rich but pretty good!

cocnut pancake fluff

 

12 and a half?) Don’t forget the mayo!

MayonaOk so we may have gone past 12 and a half already, but you can’t forget this classic and pretty easy to make. I am still perfecting getting this thick, but it is egg yolks, olive oil and lemon, whisk whisk whisk. Perfect with Cassava chips!

 

A Darwin Dog’s Dinner

divali and rolo steps sml

So to cut along story short, we have a big mob of dogs right now (4), which soon will be three- the ones photographed below. We share the love with our neighbours who are dog free!

divali, rolo and koruIt’s pretty popular to have a dog in Darwin, in fact there seems to be an overload sometimes, ones that run along the high suburban and rural fences and bark at you on your bike or when walking in an annoying way; or heaps of pig dogs riding in cages in the back of utes that you might think twice about cuddling in bed with.

For many years I have enjoyed the company of dogs, but not really wanted our own dog. I have always pondered how much meat a dog eats, something I think we don’t really need to eat too much of, and the extra food demand such a furry friend brings.  I have heard statistics that having a dog consumes more energy (to produce its food) than having a car- depending of course where you are driving!  I suppose we don’t have any kids, ok so I am trying to justify it, we have ended up with not one dog, but heaps!

IMG_8338We were lucky enough for a few years to enjoy the company of our friends dog “ Mushu”. We became her second family, and when her first family was away in the school holidays she would be with us. Sharing a dog is a petty good idea, relationships are strengthened between humans through non- humans and of course there is less meat eaten, walking is shared and the canine love. Mushu ran to us when thunder was around and jumped fences to cross a suburb, knowing we would be softies and let her in to sleep by our bed. We (all her friends and families) could write a book about her and her escapades, but lets just say she was a very special dog, and she even seemed she had a higher spirit or inner knowledge than a dog, and we loved her a lot. It’s a story of ups and owns with her health, but she died in the night with her best friend, Bindi at her side. We were all devastated and buried her in her dragon costume in her garden, her legs in the air, nearly sticking up above the earth. We imagine her running as fast as lighting along the beach as she loved, and every time the thunder rumbles I think of her.

mushu 2 Even after Mushu past on to a freer world I did not want a dog, but my partner and Hannah, our house mate were super keen to get a ‘house dog’. In this same time frame, as if by some law of attraction, a pretty tan dog ran across Trower road following a bunch of us trying to cross the road to get a bus. She nearly got run over, Jon saved her and the rest is kind of history, it turned out she was a lost dog, our neighbours were looking after, but they did not want to keep her, even though they love her. Her previous life was never discovered and now she lives with us, only being a bit crazy occasionally with 3 of her 7 (accidental) puppies that were born on our swag under the house on Divali (the darkest night of the year)

feet and divali

One, is our house mate’s Ben, soon to be moving on, one, Divali (named after his birthday), is ours and the other ‘Rolo’ turned out to be sick and have problems walking and growing and is in our care and too cute to let go.  The other 4 have gone to wonderful homes of friends not too far away. IN our only defense, we don’t have any kids and we pour our love into these wee creatures.

sofa chaos

 So that is a very long story pretty much to come to the biggest Dilemma all these dogs gave me- what to feed them? We experimented with bought dog food, kangaroo mince, dry biccies- but what about keeping it local, packaging free, more sustainable- organic even?

dog dinner sit

After some time we have come up with a pretty awesome, quite changeable, but healthy option with a big pinch of local and sustainable. We found a supplier of dog meat, this is buffalo or wallaby, shot out in the bush and it has to be dog meat because of licensing and lack of abattoirs (hence out lack of local meat and live export trade!). Buffalo, being a feral animal is a great meat, lowering the numbers of a creature that can cause a lot of damage, change landscapes and compete with native animals! I believe Terry who runs it works culling the animals for PArks and other organisations and has for many years. It also tastes pretty great too. I have had it on country cooked in a ground oven of eucalyptus leaves and that is pretty great!

Best tongue dog food smThis buffalo meat is from Howard Springs Pet meat (08 89831223), which is on a block on Mahaffey road, off Girraween Road- open most afternoons and is sourced from people shooting wild buffalo. I sometimes work out this way, so will get it on the way past- if you live in town you can always split the trip and buys for friends also feeding it too their dog, to save on fuel.  It comes in 12kg boxes for $45, so pretty comparable or cheaper than supermarket dog meats or tins. Now I can’t say I know heaps about dog nutrition, but I have done a bit of research and read lots of dog food packets/ tins. Most mainstream tinned dog foods do have veggies in and dogs are eaters of non-meats in the wild too. I have read greens are great for them, but do think they need to eat a combo with quite a lot of lean meat. Some people feed dogs their leftovers, which is great especially if you eat a lot of meat and rice, but we don’t and we don’t have too many left overs and quite a few dogs!

 dog dinner close

So when we get the buffalo mince home we mix about 1-2kg of it with about ½ as much cooked brown rice, old cooked or grated veggies and some whizzed up garden greens including herbs.  We then add some turmeric- which is great for digestion and immunity, garlic, which is great for immunity and maybe some other grains like oats or flax meal, also good for digestion and mix in a couple or more of eggs from our chooks, which are rich in protein and good for their coats and a glug of olive oil! It actually smells so dam good that I would like to eat it too- but it contains a bit too much raw meat!

We serve this to them on a few dry dog food biccies (which we probably don’t need to include, as these are quite processed but we are in ‘transition!). They absolutely love it. Just check out these lovely photos. Admittedly the puppies will eat most things right now, including phone cables, cushions, books and furniture, but muma dog loves it too!

These photos above show 2 versions, one is with white rice, which I used as it had got ants in, and one with brown rice, which is better for digestion and nutrition in general.

rolo and coconut

A lot of people buy specific dog toys, but as they seem to chew anything, we find them old stuff to chew or from op shops. Coconut fibre, from coconuts is really good for their teeth and they love chewing out the white coconut part too- which I am sure is really good for them and we always have a few spare fallen coconuts.

So apologies if this is all a bit doggie if you aren’t keen on dogs, but if you are it gives you some alternative dog food ideas!

dog dinner launch

Eat Local Feed Global- an outdoor delight

As part of our GULP project had a wonderful food share and work shop at the Mulch Pit in Rapid Creek this November for Eat Local, Feed Global Oxfam campaign that highlights the craziness of our food systems and how eating local can help others further away!.

talk crowdThe night was a beautiful twighlight evening and raised money  for a great cause and let us share some food and recipes at the same time as show casing the origins of the food- in the gardens!

Penny tour There was a local food dish bring a dish competition which GULP NT (Bhavini and Emma) were the judges of.  It was hard to judge because all the dishes were so excellent.

We loved the use of local eggs in the great frittata style dishes and will be popping some recipes like this on line and in the book-

FrittataThere were also some amazing curries and of particular note was one that used entirely plants from the garden as the paste- lemon grass, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, limes and I think even the green paw paw (the main ingredient) was local and the coconut milk. This was made by Fiona and we decided took the prize- a fair trade food package wit local harvest! (Fiona Left, Emma- GULP- right)

sonya wins prize

Louise also made a great curry, but someone at the market had made the paste for her (mainly local though)

And Lucy’s salad was quite remarkable, the use a typical savoury root veg.  (sweet potato) with pineapple, coconut and herbs and a splash of oil. Delicious!

Pineapple and sweet potato salad

 

A wonderful evening of many in The Mulch Pit….more coming up and recipes to be put at http://www.GULPNT.com

GULP project released!

Image

Our GULP information, in a flyerCheck out the website, face book page or contact us for more details!We starting spreading the word about the project at the food share for Eat Local, Feed Global, a fundraiser for Oxfam, hosted by the Mulch pit! Photos and more info coming up. So get in touch if you want to share your recipes with this community based local produce knowledge sharing project!

Perfect Poolside Pineapples and Propagation

It’s a bit exciting that after several years of saving pineapple tops and whacking them in the ground our first pineapple was ready to harvest at 99! Changing through a beautiful range of colours, like below, it then morphed into a yellowy colour, showing it was ready to pick and exuded a slightly sweet pineapple-y smell. We then put it inside for its last couple of days away from creatures.

pineapple close

Pineapples usually take a couple of years to grow from top cuttings and are ready to harvest in the wet season. These guys took 3 years to grow, with some neglect, a sunny spot and a bit of chicken poo compost. They take up quite a lot of space  with their spiky leaves- but the space and wait is worth it! After you harvest the pineapple, the same plant will not fruit again, so pull up the plant and start again with the top.  If you are lucky your pineapple will make little pups on its sides too, that you can break off as they grow and plant.

pinapple 2

So above is the ripe and ready same pineapple and below is our guide to pineapple propagation and enjoyment…..

Firstly get really excited that at last, you have grown your very own pineapple, with the help of sunshine and your very own chicken poo compost and really not that much attention, but after marvelling at it for some time and its’ changing colour and wonderful form you can cut into it and it eats juicy flesh.

excited pineapple

Cut the pineapple, trying to save as much juicy flesh as possible and cut out those husky dots; people in Asian countries are amazing at the craft of pineapple cutting, but if you don’t do it too often then it may be tricky. Cut it into slices and maybe even remove the harder central core too; enjoy by a poolside on a hot Sunday afternoon with friends. If you don’t have a poolside- find a friend’s- sharing pools, rather than everyone having their own, is much more sustainable and you can return the favour in eggs, love and by sharing your first and later pineapples. cut pineapple sm

There are many lovely pineapple recipes, using fresh and cooked pineapple, but with your first harvest you may just want to cut it into chunky pieces and enjoy. That’s what we did and we even froze a quarter for later to make iced pina-coladas, but wanted to wait so we could use our own coconut milk and water so it was a very home grown cocktail!  This pineapple was amazingly juicy and if you are growing from tops or pups (the side shoot babies some pineapples make) the fruit will be genetically the same as the mother, so chances are a good juicy pineapple will make a juicy baby.

Next step- prepare your pineapple top, cut it clean off from the fruit part and start peeling back the lower leaves, so there is room for some rooting. Get a bit excited about this part too! peel pinapple topAfter this pop it in a glass or cup of water, like the picture below (note this picture is a different pineapple top- maybe this pineapple’s mother, but is illustrating decorative bonus)- they can make  great table decorations (who needs cut flowers when you have pineapple tops?) pinaepple top too

After a few days you will see the roots starting to grow. This below pineapple top is from the exact pineapple we enjoyed by the poolside. We gave this to our friends over in Wagaman, to spread the love over the (main) road, so they can have our pineapple babies. If you are in the throws of the wet season you don’t need to do this, you can pop the pineapple top straight in the moist ground. It is fun for kids and adults to watch the roots grow, and when they are established put the the top in the ground, placing it in the soil up to where the dark leaves start (about 2cm) and there you have it the start of another generation of juicy pineapples…pineapple top