Sunday, 17 May 2015

Fabulous Cake and Flamingo Flowers

Caraway Seed Cake


with Ian Hemphill from
This next spice is used to flavour a whole lot of food that we eat.
Think Havarti cheese, rye bread, sauerkraut and caraway seed cake in Britain.
What may surprise you is that the roots can be cooked as a vegetable like parsnips or carrots, and, the leaves are sometimes eaten as herbs, either raw, dried, or cooked, just like you would with parsley

Let’s find out about this spice…

Caraway plant
Caraway (Carum carvi), is also known as meridian fennel or Persian cumin, and is a biennial plant in the carrot or Apiaceae family.
It’s native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.
Caraway is a spice that we should all be growing along with our parsley and chervil because it’s so versatile.
The plant looks like others in the carrot family, which includes parsley.
Caraway has those finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm stems.
The main flower stem is 40–60 cm tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels.
Did you know that Caraway seeds are actually meant to be called fruits? In fact they’re crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm long, with five pale ridges.
If you have any questions about growing caraway, or have some growing in your garden, send in a photo  or write in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Caraway Seed Cake Recipe


  • 175g (6oz) butter, softened
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • 38g jar caraway seeds
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 1kg (2lb) loaf tin, buttered and lined with a strip of baking parchment
How To Bake
  • Tip all the ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth. Spoon mixture into the loaf tin and level the surface.

  • Bake the cake in the centre of the oven 160°C (320°F, gas mark 3) for 45 mins-1 hr, or until the cake feels just firm to the touch in the centre, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into cake.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins.
  • Transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.


    Vegetable Heroes

    You only need one which will give you so many chokos you will soon be sick of them. 
    Have you seen choko vines planted on chook pen fences, or a rusty tin shed in the backyard?
    They’re one of those chuck in the ground and forget plants until it comes time to eat the excess fruit.
    But are you eating it in apple pies? More on that later.
    Choko ready to plant
    Choko is a climbing plant Sechium edule  that belongs to the pumpkin, melon and cucumber or Cucurbitaceae family and is native to Mexico.  Chokoes were taken back to Europe by the Spanish explorers and from there were introduced to parts of Asia.
    An interesting fact about chokoes is that they’re also known as chayote, vegetable pear or mango squash.
    That’s because they sort of look like a rough pear and they’re certainly pear shaped. look a bit like a pear.
    Some varieties have spines, while others are spineless.
    Because the choko plant is a rampant climber, it can easily be grown on fences, trellises, over trees or frames allowing the fruit to hang down for easy picking.
    If you live in warmer climates and have trouble with powdery mildew on your zucchinis, then go for chokoes.
    They taste just as nice when picked not much bigger than a chicken egg.
    If you’ve never eaten a choko, it tastes like a very mild-flavoured squash and needs to be cooked for a longer time than other squash before serving.
    Some say it has a bland flavour, and unless you cook it with some strong tasting spices and herbs, you won’t get that much out of chokoes.
    Having said that, some people reckon that chokoes are used as filling in some fresh and frozen apple pies that can be bought in supermarkets.
    Mary has written in asking about how to grow chokoes because she found some chokoes that had sprouted on her kitchen bench the other week.
    The best time is spring and early summer, but because yours has already sprouted, why not plant it into a pot now and transfer it after winter.
    More on how to plant your choko later.
    Generally chokoes are planted in warmer months of the year.
    Best Time to Plant Chokoes
    In Subtropical districts, plant them out in October and November, in temperate zones, wait until December, in Arid regions, you’ve won  the jackpot because you can plant these for 6 months of the year from September through to February, and in tropical areas, you can plant them between April and July, and unfortunately for cool temperate districts, unless you really want to try them and have a hot north facing wall, chokoes aren’t recommended for your area, because chokoes are frost tender .
    Having said that, I found plenty of people as far south as Hobart, growing them in December against a north facing brick wall.
    So Chokos will grow as far south as Tasmania when given a sunny site sheltered from wind and frosts.
    If you’re having trouble getting them, a found a post from Chris who says he’ll send you the seeds for free as long as you pay the postage, Chris’s email is
    Just put chokoes in the subject line of your email.
    Here’s a quick method to make sure the vine takes off.
    Buy a couple of chokoes and keep them in a warm dark place for a few weeks, till they put out a runner, then put in a warm light place for a few weeks.
    By the time you’re ready to plant them they will have a strong runner maybe a foot or 2 long.
    Tip: crushed egg shells around the vine when planted in the ground is a good deterrent to snails and slugs.
    You often see ones already sprouted in shops.
    When you plant them, after any danger of frosts is over, plant the seed with the sprouted end pointing down a little to stop water getting into the fruit and rotting it.
     Plant the whole fruit - half in the soil and half out but wait till it starts sprouting (just store it with the potatoes till then)
    The choko can be grown in nearly all soil types but prefers rich, well-drained organic soils with plenty of compost or animal manure added annually.
    When grown in the tropics, the choko is virtually evergreen, but in cooler and even temperate climates like here in Sydney, it has one crop then dies down to the tuberous root system and sprouts again the following spring.
    Dig a hole and place the choko 10cm down with the sprouting end upwards
    By digging a largish hole you’re loosening all the soil in this area so the plant can send out roots easy making its growth faster,
    Chokos need full sun but plant it anywhere and it will find the Sun
    You might be interested to know that during the war, because Chokos were so easy to grow, they used them as fake stewed pears.
    When they’re halved and quartered, you can cook them with sugar and vanilla, served them with custard.
    Cooking with Chokoes
    To peel your chokoes, peel them under water to avoid the sticky substance sticking to your hands.
    Chokos are best when they are about the size of a small pear. The larger they grow the more pealing you will have to do and the starchier they get.
    Use them as fresh as possible because they lose moisture fairly readily.
    So are they making it into apple pies
    How about choko and chilli relish? Nope not that either.
    Vegetable industry group AusVeg, which tracks produce volumes, says choko volumes are so low that they can't be tracked.
    The smallest crop it follows is snake beans at 87 tonnes a year.
    The fact is apples are more plentiful and cheaper to buy than chokoes, apart from the fact that it would be illegal under labelling laws.
    By the way, they are used a lot in jam making commercially when they’re coloured pink with food colouring as they imitate many other fruits in volume and texture.
    Why is it good for you?
    Contains fibre and vitamin C.
    The edible parts of the choko have a lower fibre, protein and vitamin content than other plants, but the micronutrients and macronutrients supplied by the fruit are adequate.


    Starting your garden from scratch part 2- No Dig Gardening
    with landscape designer Peter Nixon.
    This series is all about starting a garden from scratch, in which case you might have to do battle with the lawn or with a mass of weeds.
    But even before that you need to know your soil..
    When plants aren't growing properly after you've supplied them with the correct amount of sunlight and water, and when you've ruled out pests, then the problem usually lies underground. But there are other ways to start a garden.
    Raised garden beds in background.

    then you're faced with that bare patch of lawn that you want to convert into a garden.
    Here is the no dig method a la Peter Nixon.
    First lay down some cardboard sheets of the area you want to convert to a garden.
    this should stop the lawn for growing because you are blocking out the sun.
    Next pile on many cubic metres of compost and cow manure.
    Then let it settle for about 3 months!
    Let’s find out why this is a good idea..
    If you’re battling a weedy patch in the garden, perhaps where there was lawn that was infested with weeds.
    Find out what those weeds are so you can  work out the best way to get rid of them without wasting money on chemicals that you mighn’t need.


    Anthurium species.
    with Jeremy Critchley, owner
    and Karen Smith, editor
    At the beginning of the program I mentioned the benefits of having one or three indoor plants.
    Anthurium adreanum White King
    This next plant can be planted indoors, but remember, indoor plants are just plants that can grow outside if you have the right conditions.
    So don’t be constrained to just keeping them in the house, balcony or verandah.
    Let’s find out …
    The brightly coloured heart shaped spathe or a waxy modified leaf and isn’t the flower.
    The bit that pokes out, or the spadix, contains the real tiny flowers.
    Anthuriums, don't like to be constantly wet, but don't let them dry out completely.
    They grow well in temperate areas outdoors, as well as in the tropics and sub tropics.
    Feed them with any organic fertiliser or controlled release prills for pot plants.
    Here are some varieties to get you going.Anthurium andreanum 'Amazing Queen'  has big orange flowers or spathes really.
    There’s also Black Queen with  an almost black spathe and White King with a white spathe.
    These all have been bred for massive flowering, clumping, disease resistance and cold tolerance down to 10 C.
    Anthurium Black Queen
    After a few years Anthuriums will form aerial roots, so that’s when you should think about repotting and dividing them.
    The best time to do this is in spring or autumn, when the weather is warm, but not hot.These aerial roots can be planted below the surface.But don’t let that put you off from buying one of the many hybrids that Jeremy mentioned.

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