Monday, 26 January 2015

Go Brazilian in the Garden with Lily.


How old are those spices in your kitchen cupboard?
Five years, ten years, or even older?
Are they any good if they’re that old?
Cumin seeds.
Well with this next spice, if it doesn’t have a strong and spicy-sweet aroma, then you’d better chuck it out.

Let’s find out what cumin can be used in besides curries. I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

Cumin is the classic north Indian seed spice but it has a much wider used than curry.
Cumin is a key element in Mexican and Egyptian food and a key ingredient in Dukka - an Egyptian spice mix you can use to dip your bread into. This mix consists of seeds of cumin, coriander, and sesame as well as almonds or hazelnuts and sumac. There are other variations.
Other places where you may find cumin is in sweet shortbread biscuits, Dutch Leyden cheese and in pickling.
Spices and herbs will keep for a long time if you store them properly.
Whole spices can last 4 years!
Ground spices like mustard can last for 2-3 years and you can use them in lots of different recipes like making your own tasty homemade salad dressings.
Herbs last anywhere from 1-3 years, depending on the herb.

Cumin seeds and cumin powder
So if you don’t use Cumin seed that much, buy it whole rather than powdered, and grind it up yourself either using an electric grinder or by hand with a mortar and pestle.
If you have any questions about cumin or have a great recipe, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.




Today’s vegetable hero is Alternanthera sissoo or Brazilian spinach.

Brazilian spinach, is not a true spinach at all. 

Being in the Chenopodiaceae or goosefoot family, its members are pretty much weeds and grain called quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) that you might’ve heard of.

Did you know that the word ‘spinach’ is now being used as a catch phrase for a lot of different edible, tropical greens?
This green is a tropical, edible perennial, native to Brazil.
It’s also known as sambu, samba lettuce and poor man’s spinach.
Brazilian spinach is a low growing perennial leaf vegetable, which forms a neat mound to 30 cm high, rather than spreading in a mat.
Why grow Brazilian spinach when you can easily grow Silverbeet amd English spinach?
People will tell you why continually plant annual vegetables when you can grow the perennial version all year?
Brazilian spinach photo M Cannon
Of course you have to like the taste of this particular spinach
Does it taste like spinach?
Yes it does because it’s a green leafy vegetable, a bit more crunchy without the slimy or mucilaginous texture that people often dislike with Malabar or Ceylon spinach.
Brazilian spinach isn’t invasive and is a handy plant for edging paths, especially in partial shade as it’s reasonably shade-tolerant.
The leaves are mid green, round and crinkled. The flowers are very tiny and white.
Some information on the internet will tell you that Brazilian spinach is mainly suitable for subtropical and tropical areas and is supposedly not going to do well for location further south than Sydney .
Although others have said that it grows in most parts of Australia, Brazilian spinach should grow for most of the year in the warmer climates but dying down in cooler areas.
Try throwing a blanket over your spinach on the occasional frosty night.
Brazilian spinach isn’t too fussy with soils although it prefers a moderate to rich loam, it dislikes waterlogging.
Plant in full sun to medium shade anytime between September and March.
Brazilian spinach is a vigorous and spreading groundcover about 30 cm high with crinkly leaves, rooting at the nodes.
Because it doesn’t set viable seed and isn’t considered invasive you need to obtain cuttings or buy a small plant from a nursery or garden centre.
Grows easily from cuttings. Propagate during the wet season or spring in cooler areas.
What do you do with Brazilian spinach?
Brazilian spinach needs steaming or boiling when eaten in large quantities because of the presence of oxalates.
It’s eaten alone as a green or added to other dishes as a spinach substitute
Use it steamed or stir-fried rather than in salads.
The leaves can also be substituted for basil when making pesto.
Spinach alternatives and Why They Are They Good For You
If you find that it’s too hard to get and don’t like the sound of Brazilian spinach., here are some spinach alternatives and why they’re good for you.
Keep in mind that the true spinach is a cool crop and won’t grow in the Summer heat.
How many of you have planted lettuce, or spinach, in the summer time, and noticed the leaves remain stunted, or wilt, or even start growing pointed leaves?
When temperatures get warm enough, cool weather greens begin to bolt to seed.
None of the alternatives by the way are true spinach but are adapted to growing in hot climates and are steady producing greens through the hot season.
Malabar spinach
Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra): This climbing spinach from India does best in hot and humid climates.
There are two types, one is red-vined and the other green with deep, shiny leaves.
The leaves have a slight mucilaginous texture, which is becomes unnoticeable if you use a salad dressing with vinegar.
New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia Tetrogonoides): Is an all season spinach that makes a great ground cover between other plantings!
High in vitamin C, New Zealand spinach also has a high level of oxalates and needs to be blanched first for a minute before using in a salad. Otherwise cook it as you would true spinach.
wild rocket
Rocket or Arugula has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium. Arugula can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fry, soups, and pasta sauces.

Chicory has a slightly bitter flavour and is rich in vitamins K, C, and calcium. Chicory is best eaten with other greens in salad or when added to soups and pasta sauces.
Collard Greens have a spinach-like flavour and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best if you boil them briefly and then add to a soup or stir-fry. You can also eat collard greens as a side dish. Just add your favourite seasoning and enjoy!
Dandelion Greens are for the adventurous and you may even see  them for sale in some greengrocers.
Dandelion Greens have a bitter, tangy flavour and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best when steamed or eaten raw in salad.
Kale has a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavour and is rich in vitamin A, C, calcium, folic acid, and potassium. Kale is tasty when added to soups, stir-fries, and sauces.
Mustard Greens have a hot, spicy flavour and are rich in vitamin A, C and calcium. They are delicious eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups.
Spinach-generally speaking, has a sweet flavour and is rich in vitamin A, C, iron and calcium. Spinach tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.


with Lesley Simpson, garden designer.
Japanese themed garden
Is your garden planted out to a theme or did you just fill it up with plants that you like without thinking too much about it?
Why should you bother with a theme, it looks pretty good doesn’t it?
That’s a lot of hard work isn’t it?
Let’s find out if that’s true
Garden themes don't have to be complicated.
Baroque garden-photo M Cannon
Your theme can be very general like a vegetable garden or a flower garden. You can show how creative you are with a theme garden, and theme gardens show something about the owner of the garden.
Actually, a patch of lawn with just a hills hoist does that as well, but you’re not one of those are you?
If you have any questions about how to create a theme garden why not write in?


with Karen Smith, editor of
Liriope muscari  Lily Turf
Does your garden lack design in some spots and just like a mish mash of plants?
 That’s OK if you like a mixture but if you want to connect some of your garden beds, you can do that with this next plant.
-let’s find out about this plant.

Did you know that  Liriope muscari or lily turf is an understory plant in China, Japan, and Korea where it grows in shady forests?
Liriope is a tough rhizomatous perennial that goes best in part sun and dry shady spots.
So not a full sun plant, but for morning sun or shady parts of your garden where you need to cover the ground with something that will last well and not as tall as Cliveas, then give this plant a try.
Some varieties of Liriope.
Liriope muscari 'Samantha' has pink flowers.
'Evergreen Giant' grows to 80cm or more and is an excellent foliage plant in shade, not quite as tall as an an ornamental grass but makes good foliage contrast to broad-leaved plants such as Clivia, Alocasia, Begonia and bromeliads.
When the leaves look a bit shabby from overcrowding or over  winter, especially in colder regions, you can shear of the tops or even mow over them  in late August and the plants will recover after Spring rains.
Liriope is easy to propagate - just divide the clumps and spread them around the garden.


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