Archive for May, 2013

Not as dangerous as you thought

May 23, 2013

I had a friend visit last week and we went for a walk in the garden. She noticed this plant:

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“Oh, is that deadly nightshade?”

That’s what I’d always thought until I bought this excellent little book on edible weeds:

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It’s not deadly nightshade but blackberry nightshade (Solanum nigrum). According to the authors, deadly nightshade isn’t naturalised in Australia.

Blackberry nightshade has edible berries, but ONLY when they’re black and so ripe that they fall off in your hand. The unripe, green berries DO contain toxins and are bitter. I’ve eaten the ripe berries (they’re delicious) and lived to tell the tale.

Blackberry nightshade is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced into Australia as a vegetable during the gold rush. The leaves and tender shoots are also edible, but solanine (the green potato toxin) may be present in varying amounts in the leaves and is not destroyed by cooking. Its bitter taste should be a warning not to eat.

From the book:

The fully ripened black berries have a rich flavour; sweet but with savoury hints of their cousin, the tomato. They can be mixed with other fruits as a dessert, provide a sweet-tangy element in a salad, and make a fabulous addition to chutney.

The plants we saw are in the conservation area of the property, so I’m going to wait for the berries to ripen, pick them, then pull the plants out. I’ll spread the berries in the food forest and hope they will naturalise there instead.

If you’re still worried about this plant here’s a really comprehensive post about it, bearing in mind that the site is American and different species grow there and if you’re STILL worried, just pull it out and do with it whatever you do with weeds.

Seriously healthy stuff

May 13, 2013

In my last post I linked to a recipe for the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread. I made it yesterday.

I made a few changes to the method. I used honey instead of maple syrup. I don’t have one of those fancy flexible silicon pans, so used an ordinary (small) loaf tin, but lined it with baking paper. I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl instead of the tin and added the liquid phase (water, honey & coconut oil). If I was doing it again (and I definitely will), I’d use my Thermomix to blend the oil onto the dry ingredients first, (a food processor would do it as well). This is the way I make my mueslii, which has coconut oil in it. The reason being that coconut oil is solid at room temperature and I warm the jar in the microwave to be able to measure it out. In the recipe it has to be added to the water and honey and so the water has to be warm so that the oil doesn’t solidify again. When you whisk it up and pour it into the dry mix, you end up with oily smears over the inside of whatever you use to mix it in. Therefore much easier to blend the oil onto the dry ingredients and then add the water/honey mixture.

Anyway…..what happens is that the water is rapidly absorbed into the mixture. I think it’s the psyllium husks that take up most of it, but linseed also forms a gummy layer when water is added to it. So if you’re doing it this way, you have to get it into your tin reasonably quickly. Don’t take a toilet break before you do it, otherwise you’ll find the whole lot has congealed into a sort of seedy jelly. All the water will be absorbed as it stands. I left it a couple of hours before baking.

The mix in the tin, ready to bake. It’s quite solid and gelatinous:

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After baking:

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Sliced (with an electric knife for a good clean cut):

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I had a slice with my morning coffee. The flavour is bland. It needs either something in the mix to pep it up or something tasty spread over it. A herby cream cheese something-or-other, or vegemite if you’re desperate.

The original writer says it’s delicious toasted. Read her blog, especially the Q&A’s for the comments. I’ll try it toasted next. I’ll also put a couple of tablespoons of dried pumpkin into my next batch. Should give it a few colourful flecks.

There’s no doubt that this is seriously healthy stuff. A couple of loaves in your pack the next time you go trekking in Nepal and you’ll sail effortlessly to the top of Everest. Well…almost.

Later edit:

I toasted it under the griller. Takes a while to brown, but verrrry nice, with real butter, not that imitation stuff with the trans fats (margarine, in case you didn’t know).


May 9, 2013

Orange capsicums
Those orange capsicums I wrote about here are slowly ripening. They’re right out in the open and it’s just not warm enough now to ripen them quickly. Where I am, 50 km south-east of Melbourne, the season isn’t quite long enough for capsicums, unless they get an early start, and I try to do this by sowing the seeds on a heat mat, in June. Putting them out in the open wasn’t a good idea—next year I’ll try to get them into wicking boxes against a north-facing wall and see how that goes. I could pick them green, of course, but I want at least some ripe so I can collect seed. They’re so attractive but so expensive to buy:

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New seeds
I love getting seeds in the post. Today was a bonus—two deliveries. One from Rangeview Seeds (first time I’ve ordered from them) and one from a member of the Ozgrow garden forum. I went purple & red with Rangeview:

Tatsoi (Chinese cabbage)… Deep Purple
Traviso Chicory… Early Red
Mizuna… Purple Peacock
Mizuna… Red Robin
Mustard Greens… Ruby Streaks

and a non-red
Salsify… Black Duplex (because I’ve grown ordinary white-skinned salsify and wanted to try the one with black skin).

The red pigment in these plants is due to anthocyanins—powerful antioxidants that can scavenge free radicals in the body. I’m on an anthocyanin kick since discovering how much I like red cabbage steamed with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Gotta knock off those free radicals!

Plus look at this photo of Red Treviso Chicory. So pretty I’ve just got to grow it:


How’s this for seed packaging? Just like Christmas presents. Beautifully done:

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And just as beautifully done inside the pack:


The second pack of seeds, from the Ozgrow member, were all tomatoes. I’d sent him some asparagus seed and got these in return:

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He says Nicoleta is one of the best varieties he’s ever grown, so I was keen to try it. These are all new ones for me. Roll on tomato season!

Chooks:you gotta larf… or… how I wish I’d had the camera!
Oh, not my chooks…although they are laugh a minute sometimes. No… I’m talking about the ones in the free-range egg farm at the end of our street.

My girls still aren’t laying after their moult, so I’m buying eggs. I was going out, so threw the egg carton into the car to call in on the way home. Normally I’m there early in the morning, but this day I was later. The chooks are let out of the sheds at 11 am, after most of the laying has been done. They stay out till dusk. There are 2 sheds. I once asked how many they had…I can’t remember whether there are 5000 to a shed or 5000 in total. Either way that’s a lot of chooks.

It was after eleven so masses of chooks were foraging in the grass, dust bathing and generally digging holes. I parked the car by the shed, went over to the fence and yelled, “hello girls!”. I thought they’d ignore me, but a seething mass of moving feathers made a dash to the fence, all talking at once and wanting to nibble my fingers. I was a bit panic-stricken, as more and more came over, thinking that the ones against the fence would get crushed in the melee. I took off and went into the shed to collect my eggs and chat to the owner. When I came out they were still massed by the fence. Did they think I had a treat for them? 5000 treats?

I got into the car and drove off. LOL. They ran along the fence following the car until I was out of sight. How I wished I’d had the camera!

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
I came across this recipe recently. It looks ultra-healthy. I have all the ingredients to hand except the maple syrup so I’ll use honey and give it a try: