Friday, 14 November 2014

Wurzels and Parrots


There’s no denying sulphur Crested Cockatoos are loud and noisy.
Sulphur Crest Cockatoo photo M Cannon
They’re a bit like teenage larrikins-very social, like to be the centre of attention, fairly friendly but do muck up from time to time.
Sometimes they can be down  right destructive but they’re probably just playing.
Let’s find out more what about them….I'm talking with ecologist Sue Stevens

You’ll probably me familiar with the high-pitched screeching noises that the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo makes.
Did you know that their screeching is meant to traverse long distances through tropical and subtropical forest environments?
They also make loud and incessant grating calls during the evening when they return home to their nests.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos mainly feed on seeds of grasses, grains, herbs, wild melons, fruits and vegetables. They also eat flowers, nectar, nuts, cereals, oilseed crops, grapes, berries, orchards, leaf buds, rhizomes, bulbous roots. These cockatoos even prefer to eat certain insects like skinks and crickets as well as small larvae. No white bread in that diet that’s for sure.
If you have any questions about Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, or have an anecdote about their behaviour, even some photos, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


This weeks Vegetable Hero is Mangel Wurzel
Folk band or vegetable?
Vegetable of course but there is a band in England called the Wurzels.

Scientifically- Beta vulgaris var rapacea also know as mangold and beets.
Before I start I have to say, I’ve never grown or eaten Mangel Wurzel, but after with a name like Mangel Wurzel, I couldn’t resist talking about it. Plus it seems like a fun veggie to try and grow.
Mangel wurzels even feature in George Orwells novel, Animal Farm’
Also Time Robbins mentions in his book, Jitterbug Perfume, where the characters us the wurzel as one of the ingredients of a perfume.
In the northern hemisphere winter, food was shot for animals, and in the nineteenth century in addition to dry hay and grain, horses, cows and sheep were often fed pumpkins, cabbage and root crops like mangel wurzels.
Why don’t you see this veggie in the shops?
Did you know that if you looked at any seed catalogue from the 1800’s you not only find this vegetable listed, but the description would make claims that the root could grow as big as a small child.
As you’ve guessed it’s a root vegetable that’s related to beetroot and different varieties have yellow, red or even cream flesh.
The roots vary in size and shape too-some are like long radishes and some are short and squat.
Why grow them?
Mangel Wurzel has the highest sugar content of any vegetable.
Plus the leaves not only look like siverbeet leaves, can be cooked and eaten like silverbeet.
If you can grow beetroot or silverbeet you can also grow Mangel wurzel because it needs the same conditions.

When to Grow

For tropical climates plant in the dry season,, during autumn winter and spring in the subtropics, and during spring, summer and autumn absolutely everywhere else.
Yes that means temperate and cool temperate regions.
Because the mangel wurzel has fallen out of favour, all those varieties from the 1800 seed catalogues have pretty much disappeared.
But, you can get seeds from heirloom seed companies, seed saver networks, and community gardens.
If you can get the yellow or cold coloured varieties-they apparently taste the
A Basic Guide for Growing Mangel Wurzel.
If you manage to get your hands on some seed sow them straight into the ground because like a few root vegetables-carrots and beets, they don’t like being transplanted.
If you want mini-mangel wurzels which are supposed to be good for roasting-just space these about 10cm apart.
If you want big mangel wurzels-space them 25cm apart.
On the upside, mangel wurzels grow in any type of soil as long as it’s well drained.
The soil pH doesn’t matter much either as long as it’s not some ridiculously high or low number.
And, you can pick them whenever you think they’re big enough to eat.
You might be wondering how to tell when they’re big enough.
That’s easy-like beetroot and carrots, they push themselves up out of the ground as they get older.
In the mangel wurzels’s case, as much as one-third of the vegetable pushes itself out of the ground.
From go to whoa takes about 5 months.
If you want a really big mangel wurzel-be warned it won’t taste nice and be quite woody.
Here’s a tip: when you pull out your mangel wurzel out of the ground, cut of the leaves as soon as possible, leaving about 5cm.
The reason you need to cut the leaves off and harvesting is because if you don’t do this, the root part of the vegetable will shrivel.

Mangel wurzels don’t have any problems except if you have bandicoots, possums, rats or mice in your area.  They love mangel wurzels apparently.
Look out for mangel wurzels at farmers markets or online
When you cut of the top 5cm, you can replant that bit back into the veggie garden or put it into a jar of water to sprout some roots.
If you’re cooking mangel wurzels, the recommended time is 20-30 minutes if whole or less if you cut them up smaller.
Mangel wurzels are used in cooking as a potato substitute either boiled, baked, mashed etc; also has an interesting history of being used during the 18th century to brew beer.
By the way, if you want to save seed of mangel wurzels-they usually only flower in cool temperate districts.
Why is it good for you?

Mangel-wurzels are low in calories and they also have high sugar content, which can stave the craving for sugar without putting on kilos.
They’re high in vitamin C, folic acid and of course carbohydrates-good for energy stores if you’re low.
Mangel wurzels have large amounts of Betaine –which is particularly good for  cardiovascular health.
And finally they’re high in fibre.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid
Starting a new series- all about trees – they’re an essential part of a garden’s structure, adding shade, shelter and privacy to name just a few

Do you have a favourite tree and is it growing in your garden?
Or is the tree that you really like something that belongs in a park or nature reserve?
Whatever the case, trees are essential not only for providing animal habitat, food, shelter and nesting sites, but provide us with a few amenities as well, like shade, and beauty.

But how fast do they grow? In this day and age we are moving house more often than we used to, so is it any use planting a tree now when we might not be around to enjoy it?
Yes is the answer, because there are so many benefits that you can enjoy while it’s growing (even if you don’t see it to maturity).
We need to be patient with trees, and generally we’re impatient – we want things to grow fast – but there are some drawbacks with this.
While fast growers are good for the impatient, they are usually short lived – take acacias for example, some may only last around 10 years which is paltry for a tree.

Where would Koalas be without trees?                               photo M Cannon

Let’s start the ball rolling with part 1 of the series on trees.

In the words of Dr. Seuss character from his book The Lorax
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I've come here to celebrate Earth Day, so please Come join me and help spread the message I bring. Be a friend to the trees and to each living thing.”

Trees provide beautiful flower colour       photo M Cannon
Are you aware that as trees grow they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away for decades or even centuries?
All the more reason to plant more trees.


with Karen Smith editor of

Scaevola is a well-known Australian native that really does well in gardens in all states and not just the east coast of Australia flowering from Spring to Autumn, even during the worst heat of summer.
Drought tolerant, salt tolerant, pretty flowers and no real maintenance.

Wouldn’t that be good if most of our plants were like that?
Never mind, even if we put some plants of these amongst the ones that aren’t so hardy, we’ll still have a show of colour and foliage when those others fade away.

With those sort of credentials -let’s find out about this plant.

That burnt hand story I’ve discovered was slightly off with the facts.
The latin word scaevola has a link to a Mucius Scaevola which was a lineage of patricians during the Roman Republic.
It was an offshoot of the Mucian family started by Gaius Mucius Scaevola.
This Gaius Scaevola was a legendary assassin who burnt away his right hand as a show of bravery during the early years of the Republic. Not saint at all then.
Latin: scaevola, "left-handed.

It grows naturally along the coastline around Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour where I’ve seen it on bushwalks.
S. albidus grows as far south in coastal areas of Victoria and Tasmania doing well in any type of soil, including clay soils.

The flowers have a beautiful fan shape in colours of purple, blue or mauve.
This petal colour is combined with a white or more commonly a yellow centre to give a bright eye catching flower.
The flowers grow along the stems and become smaller from the top to the bottom of the plant.
Flowering time is from spring through to the end of summer these although this flowering time alters according to the length of summer and the temperatures of the season.
Visited by butterflies and Honey Bees

If you have any questions about growing Scaevola or fairy fan flower why not write in to

No comments:

Post a Comment