The story so far

Tamara left Bunyip in April 2009 seeking what she needed to know for her permaculture future. She spent 9 months at her Aunt Catherine's farm in Arid South Australia, then 9 months at Bill and Lisa Mollison's farm in Tasmania. Now she's off on more adventures starting Moonrise School of Permaculture and teaching Permaculture Design Courses in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne. Ducky is there for the journey...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Baking that is good for you!

Essene Bread

There is a recipe in this year's Permculture Diary for Essene Bread by Carey 'Eco' Priest. I've been getting back into cooking recently, mainly due to hanging out with Lisa, who is a spectacular cook! Life in the Tagari office is punctuated with apple pies with home made pastry and homegrown apples, cinnamon scrolls, chestnut cake... mmm chestnut cake...

Where was I? oh yes, Essene bread. Its a bread made from sprouted grain. I did a small one to start off with, about 2 cups of whole organic oats (I love oats and they grow them locally) just sprouted with a short tail. They took about 4 days to get to this stage.

Grind up the sprouts. I used a mortar and pestle and got into it so much I had to take my jumpers off on an icy night in Tassie. You can use a food processor, which I might do next time, being careful not to burn it out, or an old fashioned mincer.

I probably needed to mince a bit further from the stage below but it worked anyway

Then I kneaded and shape the sticky dough, wetting the hands regularly. The oats didn't take too much kneading but apparently wheat likes lots and rye none at all!

Once shaped I created a non stick surface using my breakfast cereal, rolled oats and rolled quinoa and placed the dough on top.

Ducky likes to inspect the work

Then its into a very low oven or solar cooker if you have one (they rock). I used the wood stove here on low and roasted chestnuts on the top while I was waiting.

I didn't think to photograph the finished product in the morning so you'll have to take my word for it that it turned a lovely caramel colour and everyone at work enjoyed their small pieces. I finished off the overly crunchy bits (meant to cook for 2 hours or so but I had left it in overnight) as snacks all afternood and was extremely happy to know I was nibbling away on tasty baked goods that were not bad for me! Awesome. Next time I'm going to make a loaf and some biscuits. Fabulous!

Essene Biscuits made with sprouted wheat and honey, minced in a food processor with some difficulty - I had to add some oat milk - I can see why people use old fashioned mincers.

I added honey for extra sweetness and I forgot to knead it (possibly because it was a bit sloppy from the machine).

They were cooked on baking paper spread with oats to make an awesome non stick but natural surface.

Goey on the inside, needed more drying time but yummy

Try a recipe from

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jerusalem fartichoke no more!

Jerusalem Artichokes produce an amazing harvest from one rhizome and come back year after year in temperate zones (thats because you can never get it all out). Problem is that they cause flatulence in their eaters and are sometimes known as fartichokes!

I have been experimenting in the kitchen and have figured out how to make the jerusalem artichoke fart free:

1. Cut jerusalem artichoke into pieces
2. Place in glass container, I used a large glass jug so I could see what was happening
3. Pour over double the amount of boiled and cooled water
4. After a day there is a tannin coloured layer above the chokes. Pour this off and repeat step 3
5. After 2 days the liquid looks cloudy (this is the ferment), pour off the water
6. Rinse and cook as desired

I was reading a recipe that Bill Mollison had written saying that soaking beans or lentils for 2 days caused a short ferment which reduced the farts (the soluble fibre ferments outside the body instead of in it) so I tried it out on the jerusalem artichokes and it worked!

I have not tested this with double blind tests yet, dad (the scientist) has advised me of some methods and I'll be giving everyone in the Tagari office jerusalem artichoke soup for lunch and documenting reactions... more next week!

Jerusalem artichokes are a loved permaculture plant and often used as windbreaks for tomatoes. I have used them to protect young fruit trees.

This is open source fart-less information, please share with anyone who'd be interested :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harvesting knowledge

I've been wondering how to fit everything in that I want to blog about - I've been harvesting basil, apples, quinces, snails, chestnuts, mushrooms, jerusalem artichokes... and then the time passes and I think, bugger, that was too long ago to write about now...

But it occurred to me that one of the constants of harvesting is that it is a time of intense learning as well as processing and eating.

So much food
With each turn of the seasons in the permaculture garden we are bombarded with food - too much food and bloody hell what am I going to do with all those chestnuts! This leads us to books, friends and Professor google on all the ways to keep the harvest longer, preserve it, cook it.

It is also a time of creative thinking, ideas and experimentation - last week I read that soaking beans or lentils in water for a few days creates a ferment and reduces the soluble fibre that causes flatulence. I decided to try to turn the Jerusalem Artichoke (aka fartichoke) - a known wind machine into something less gassy using a similar method. I've just eaten some that have been soaked in boiled and cooled water for 3 days and will be able to report back soon :)

The zen of harvesting
As we harvest we can slow down and enjoy the work. We learn about ourselves; harvesting is often repetative or easy work and gives us plenty of time to think. We use all of our senses when we harvest, and we get to have an intimate relationship with the soil, plants and animals that we often don't have time for.

We find out about others. We often bring in the loot with friends and spend hours talking, bonding and celebrating with shared dinners and wine.

Learning the way of the plant or animal is something you get only if you spend time with it and harvesting gives us an opportunity to do so. The chestnut for example, often drops from the tree and rolls down into a hidden little spot in the long grass. Other nuts follow the same contours and I often find a little clutch of chestnuts.
The way to find them is to poke around the little gullies with your tongs or, if they are as big as the ones I've just been harvesting is feeling them under your feet as you move around (much like getting freshwater mussels, feel them with you feet first then duck down to get them out of the mud). You need tongs for the harvest to pry them out of the extremely prickly covering. Trust me.

The way of the snail is something that duck owners get to know pretty quickly and they too can be found by feel in the dark, or, with a torch on chives or your newly planted lettuce seedlings. One of the best things about having a duck is that a problem - snails - becomes not only a solution but a benefit - a high protein snack for the highly carnivorous and incredible egg laying Campbell duck. I once had a dark campbell duck that refused to stop laying in winter and gave me 365 eggs a year. Ducky likes to eat snails in the bath - he grabs hold of the snail as it pokes its head out and shakes them out of their shell!

At the moment I've collected all the big snails for ducky and there are just the babies left, so in rescuing the chinese cabbage I've done myself out of a food source! Tom Cheeseman from Whyalla has experimented with growing slugs and snails on daily moistened cardboard and found it works very well. Snails love cardboard and paper, you will often find them in the darkened folds of boxes, and Bill tells me that the snails of Molokai prefer Dr Seuss to any other material!

Mushrooms too have their season and their spots, finding their little niches and observing them in the landscape is almost as much fun as the feast that follows.

Fungi gives us an amazing opportunity to learn, I have a mycologist friend who used to check all my IDs for me, thus learning what was edible and what will kill you! Fungi hunting is one of joys of life. Above is Bill with Cortinarius Australiensis, a native mushroom we found in the pine plantation that was planted by Forrest Primary school when we were scouting for pine mushrooms. I have not been able to find information on its toxicity so while we wanted to eat it, we didn't.

Autumn was always fun in Bunyip with Ashleigh and Chantelle; we used to go on fungi hunts, bring them home (always leaving some for nature), identify them with books, take photos, look at them with a magnifying glass and enjoy nature, one of my favourite things was this wonderful time spent together.

There is something fun about sitting on a kitchen floor snipping basil leaves off the stems and meeting the various wildlife that comes indoors with us.

There were lots of tiny snails and a green shield bug. Often the shield bugs get out of control in organic gardens, and even the chooks won't eat the harlequin coloured ones (ducks will only eat a few). It turns out that wrens and other small birds eat the shield bugs! When I mentioned to Lisa that the birds were doing a great job, she said the sunflowers were for the little birds as well - somewhere for them to perch as well as for the bees and other bugs. You just never know when you're going to learn something. I nearly forgot to mention the 10 jars of pesto we made!

Drying chestnuts is an art I and one we didn't get quite right when they went mouldy in the jar :( I have since looked at numerous ways to peel and process them for keeping - Maggie beer had a picture of chestnuts cut in a certain way for roasting that makes them very easy to peel - and when boiling them works very well. Last night I made a chestnut puree, some of which we sweetened with stevia and maple syrup to use on a cake and the rest to freeze for use at another time. Many recipes proceed from here - pumpkin and chestnut soup, flour for cooking yummy, heavy pancakes... mmmmmm. And in the conversations around the puree, I learned that sugar gums in the hight country were tapped by aboriginal people in the spring, much like maple syrup.

Apples and quinces go very well together in jams, jellies, preserves generally, they have high pectic levels and I spent quite a bit of time investigating the chemical reaction that takes place when we make jams so I could understand the process better and from there create my own recipes rather than relying on others. It looks like stevia can be used instead of sugar and I intend to experiment with this.

The harvest continues - your surplus stories, what you're eating, advice or experiments heartily welcomed. Love Tamara and Ducky xxx qqq

Overalls designed by Michelle Walker who works at Tagari, such a talented and creative woman!