Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Noble Leaf Amongst Shrubbery

SPICE IT UPBay Leaves-Laurus nobilis

Do you have a repertoire of a few herbs and spices that you always use in your cooking?
These herbs and spices become quite familiar to you and you probably think you know how best to use them right?
Not so right when it comes to this particular spice that comes from the leaves of a tree because there’s a big difference between using the fresh leaves and dried leaves in cooking.
Let’s find out what this is all about. I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

There are a number of different types of bay leaves used in cooking in different parts of the world. California bay leaf that look like the Bay laurel that we know well–California laurel, (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae), also known as Oregon myrtle, and pepperwood, is like the Mediterranean bay laurel, but has a stronger flavour.Indian bay leaf or malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae) also looks a little bit like the leaves of bay laurel, but is culinarily quite different, -it’s more like cinnamon (cassia) bark, but milder.
So, did you know that using fresh bay leaves in your cooking can leave a slightly bitter taste?
Perhaps not?
Fresh bay leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste.

When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme.
The bitter note has disappeared altogether and is much more pleasant to use in cooking.
Myrcene, which is a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf.
Bay leaves also contain the essential oil eugenol-you may remember it being in another herb-Basil!
If you have any questions about John Stanley’s interview, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


  Chinese Cabbage is quite different from your regular cabbage and has a milder flavour, so here goes.
There’s been a whole lot of confusion with the name- anything from Chinese leaves, Pe-tsai, Pak choi, Wong Bok and Bok choy. Which one’s right for the most cabbage looking of the Chinese vegetables?

Chinese cabbages are still in the Brassica family but the scientific name is Brassica rapa  var. Pekinensis and Brassica chinensis.
Did you know that Chinese cabbage has been grown in China since 500 A.D?
But what may surprise you to know is that Chinese cabbage is more closely related to turnips and swedes than any sort of cabbage.
No surprises there when we find out that the cross occurred naturally in cultivation between Pak choi-a loose leafed Chinese green (Brassica rapa var. chinensis) and a turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapifera).
These early Chinese cabbages were loose-heading but cross breeding over many centuries has created the heading types that I’m talking about today.
Not only has it got a milder flavour it’s got thinner, more delicate leaves than ordinary cabbage.

So how different is Chinese cabbage ?

There are two types for starts:Heading and non-heading types.

  1. Chinensis varieties are referred to as non-heading types ie, don’t form heads; instead, their leaves Chinese cabbage are arranged spirally in a rosette.
  2. The pekinensis varieties are the heading types also known as Chinese leaves and Wong Bok. Yes, they’re the correct names for this heading variety that looks like a longer barrel like version of your regular cabbage.Not only is it barrel shaped it can also be tall and cylindrical with tightly packed fairly crinkly leaves.
Did you know that it wasn’t until the early 20th century, when Chinese cabbage was taken to Japan by returning soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese War that Chinese cabbage became more widely known.
Of course now you can find Chinese cabbage in markets throughout the world.

Chinese cabbage: is delicious and nutritious, and it can be grown in two to three months.


Chinese cabbage can be grown in cool or cold weather because it bolts (goes to seed) quickly in hot weather and long days.
Having said that, Chinese cabbage prefers to be grown in late winter to early spring in cool temperate areas, , and in temperate areas sow September - March, depending on variety; in subtropical areas sow late autumn to early winter. In tropical areas sow in winter in tropical zones that’s between April - August, during the dry season but generally cabbages do not perform particularly well in the tropics.
The ideal temperate average is13 to 20 ÂșC during the early- Crops grown into colder periods should be protected from low temperatures and cold winds, which increase the likelihood of bolting.

It’s fairly quick growing-much quicker than regular cabbage taking only Chinese 50 to 80 days to grow-that’s around 8-10 weeks.
Growing Chinese Cabbage
This type of cabbage seems to like the best of soils-neither sandy nor heavy, but just right.
There’s ways around the soil problem as you might already know.
So if you’ve got heavy clay grow your Chinese cabbages in a raised bed, half wine barrel or pot. And if you have sandy soil, incorporate lots of compost.
Chinese cabbage is shallow rooted so need constant and even moisture.
A soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 is ideal. So if you have acidic soil and lime especially if the pH is below 5.5 as calcium and other nutrients can be deficient or unavailable in acid soils.
Liming may also reduce the effect of clubroot if the disease is present.
Start you seeds off in a mini green house and transplanted outside but, some say that Chinese cabbage shocks easily, and transplanting sometimes shocks it into going to seed.
Better to sow the seed directly in the garden and thin the seedlings to around 20-30cm or 8 to 12 inches apart.
Another way to avoid transplant shock is to use dilute seaweed solution on transplanting any seedlings or use seedling trays made from coco peat.
Normal cabbage seedlings are quite different because transplanting European Cabbage actually helps grow stronger roots on the plant.
Water them frequently to help the young plants grow fast and become tender. They'll probably go to seed if growth slows down.
To fertilise Chinese cabbage, start applying a liquid fertiliser when they are about 15cm tall.
Chinese cabbage is shallow rooted so apply a little water and often.
As these types of cabbages grow to near maturity, type them with soft twine or raffia.
Harvesting Chinese Cabbage
With Chinese cabbage, the time from planting to harvest is 7 to12 weeks depending on the variety. You should harvest when the cabbage heads are compact and firm and before seed stalks form.
 Cut off the whole plant at ground level.

Problems with Chinese Cabbage

If you have grown Chinese cabbage before and found that it’s bolted to seed, high temperatures aren’t the only reason plants initiate flowering.
Temperature is the major influence on bolting in Chinese cabbage with the
response to cold temperature being cumulative.
In general, two weeks exposure to temperatures of 130C or lower induce bolting and this process will only be initiated when the chilling requirement for any particular variety is met. That means when the plant starts it’s reproductive stage of flowering and setting seed.
Using Chinese Cabbage in Cooking
There is almost no end to the ways Chinese Cabbage or womboks can be used, including coleslaw, hamburgers and sandwiches, dumplings and rolls, soups, casseroles and stir fries.
The famous Korean relish, kim chi, is made from wombok pickled in salt, garlic and chilli. Pretty tasty!
 The leaves can be used as wrappers for other foods during steaming.

Types of Chinese Cabbage
Wong Bok, this is the longish barrel shaped cabbage with long outer green leaves and fairly crinkly inner leaves. Full sun, well-drained and fertile soil, usually this vegetable grows best as a cool season crop. Size/spacing: Grows to around 30cm tall; space plants about 30-40cm apart.harvest in 85 days
Michihli, harvest in 75 days; has large heads with blanched inside leaves.
It only takes a couple of months and no matter which type you choose to grow, you're sure to enjoy it.
Why is it good for you?
Chinese cabbage has anti-inflammatory properties
They’re an excellent source of folic acid
Chinese cabbage is low in calories and low in sodium
It is also high in vitamin A and a good source of potassium


with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid

There are plenty of reasons why shrubs-that is plants that don’t grow much beyond 3-4 metres, don’t do well.
The annoying thing is, the same shrub might be growing fantastically in your neighbour’s garden or another garden down the street.
So why doesn’t it grow well in your garden?
Let’s find out what this is all about.

Shrubs often end up with not much foliage lower down, and the majority of it up top

The main reasons for this happening are lack of pruning, or it’s growing in a shady position. If it’s on the south side of the house, a wall or a fence then it won’t be getting very much sun and this will most likely be affecting the leaf growth
Most shrubs at garden centres have been pruned so that they’re sold to you as a bushy plant.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t have to do anymore when you get it home.
No, no, no,-get into the habit of tip pruning a little and often so that plant continues to be bushy with an all over covering of leaves.
Don’t forget to also maintain the soil that the plant’s is growing in-that means watering and nourishing with organic manures and composts.
If you don’t want to risk a hard prune – or you like the top of the shrub the way it is and can manage it – then grow some low water use plants in the surrounding garden bed – use design techniques like combining shapes, textures, and colours to create a planting scheme to draw the eye away from the leafless shrub base
Hopefully, if you follow these tips you’ll have a lovely set of shrubs in your garden.


Mt Spurgeon Black Pine Prummnopitys ladeii
Millions of years ago, Australia was joined to Antarctica and you could walk across to South America as well.That’s when the land was all covered by ancient conifers that were used to high rainfall and constant warm temperatures.

Conifers of course refers to those plants that bear cones-some people call these cones pine cones, but pines trees are only one branch of the conifer family.This tree is rare with plants only found growing on the granite-derived soils of Mount Spurgeon and Mount Lewis in the Atherton tablelands.For that reason, Mt Spurgeon Black Pine  has been included in the Rare or Threatened Australian Plants.Although found naturally in the wet tropics, it’s actually quite a hardy tree, and  can be grown successfully in sub-tropical and cooler districts, such as Canberra. Prummnopitys ladei  also makes a great indoor plant specimen.

Mt Spurgeon Black Pine is an evergreen slow growing dense coniferous tree (8m x 3m) from Qld rainforests. Rows of small flat bright green fern-like leaves on horizontal branches. The glossy green foliage is stiff and fern-like with leaves approximately 2 cm in length and borne in two rows along the horizontal stems
Globular fruits. Useful for its attractive foliage in a rainforest themed garden. Ideal pot plant for a courtyard or patio due to its slow growth.. The bark is black and flakey.

Male and female cones are supposed to be on separate plants, but I’ve seen them on the one plant. They’re the tiniest cones of any conifer that I know-only 2-3mms.
Plant sold at Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Nursery opening hours Mon -Friday 11am - 2pm, Saturday 10am - 2 pm




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