Friday, 25 September 2015

Allsorts of Gardening


Have you ever wondered where the confection licorice comes from?
Did you ever think that it came from a plant?
Perhaps from a plant’s leaves, the stem, the flower or the roots?
Does the name licorice make your mouth water thinking about the soft mostly sweet confection.

Perhaps you think of your favourite, the Licorice Allsort.
Just imagine if you had a swag of recipes with licorice.
Would they belong in some dream world for the sweet of tooth?
But if manufacturers didn’t add all that sugar and flavour could you use licorice in savoury dishes?
Let's find out by listening to the podcast with Ian Hemphill from

Did it surprise you that Roman soldiers were chewing the dried licorice root all that time ago to give them endurance?
To make confectionary licorice, the licorice root is boiled to make a sort of molasses called Pontifract cakes which is very bitter and very strong.
Apparently you can buy Pontifract cakes in England!

Certainly if you chew the dried root, it’s definitely not the same experience as eating the confection but there is that definite licorice flavour.

Dried licorice root is used to make a Chinese Master Stock.
To make this Master Stock, boil soy Sauce, water and sugar and boil for a few hours with Fennel, Star Anise, Chilli, Black Pepper and Licorice.
Powdered Licorice root can be used to make Licorice Ice-cream.
If you have a herb garden, why not give the licorice plant a go.
It certainly will do well in frost prone areas because it dies down over the winter months and re-shoots in Spring.
If you have any questions growing Glycorrhiza glabra or licorice plant, or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.



This weeks Vegetable Hero is the CHILLI - Chilli peppers or Capsicum annuum or Capsicum chinese.
Have you ever witnessed someone, perhaps a fellow diner at a restaurant, gulping lots of water or waving their hand in front of their mouth because their mouth feels like it’s on fire?
Maybe you were that diner at an Indian restaurant.
Apparently Columbus accidently discovered the chilli pepper.
Was that from taking a bite out of one I wonder?
The chilli pepper comes from a pod-like berry of various species of the capsicum family found in Latin America.
Where Does The Heat Come From In Chillies?
Want to know the best way to get rid of the burning sensation?

The heat in chillies comes from the compound “capsaicin.”
Capsaicin is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn't dissolve in water but readily dissolves in fats and oils.

Chilli selection Photo David Little
And this explains why, something with a lot of fat in it - like yogurt or milk - is going to dissolve the compound and wash it away, and not water.
Ian Hemphill from Herbies Spices, recommends a spoonful of sugar to take the heat away.
Did you know that there are over 2000 different varieties of chillies most of which have some degree of pungency, hotness or fieriness.
Chillies come in various colours, sizes and states of smoothness or wrinklieness.
They can be yellow, red, brown and green, long short, round, bell shaped, tapered and thick or thin.
TIP:The colour of chillies is no guide to their hotness
All chillies begin life green and turn yellow or red as they ripen.
As a rule red fresh fruit are two or three times hotter than green fruit, and dried pods are up to ten times hotter than fresh pods.
Generally, the smaller chillies are the most pungent or hotter giving you the most burning sensation.
Did you know that most of the heat is in the seeds and the membrane, so if it's your first time trying chillies, or you don't like too much heat, get rid of this part.
Soaking a chilli in vinegar also dilutes this effect.
If you then throw out the first lot of vinegar and soak the chillies again, you’ll further reduces the heat.
But wouldn’t you just use a milder chilli?

Now the burning question, how is hotness of the chilli measured?

The unit of hotness is the SHU or Scoville Hotness Scale.
Wilbur Scoville was an American chemist who devised a test based on repetitively diluting an extract of the pepper with sugar water until the heat was no longer detected.
Hot chillies Photo David Little
By the way, now testing is more carried out using accurate laboratory equipment, like a chromatograph, and equating 15 parts per million (PPM) of capsaicin with an increase of 1 on the Scoville scale.
The heat comes from that same chemical compound called capsaicin which I’ve mentioned already,(the active ingredient in chillies), this intensifies as the chilli matures..

There is a theory that the heat in chillies caused by capsaicin was an adaptation to prevent animals from eating chillies so that birds, which are a better distributors for their seeds, can eat them. Birds don’t feel the heat of the chilli.

How to Grow and When to Sow your chillies.

Sowing chilli seeds can be done throughout the year in Tropical and sub-Tropical climates. Lucky guys.
Being a warm season plant the season is shorter in temperate climates only fruiting over the summer months and dying back in winter.
They’re totally not suitable in areas where frosts occur but if you really are determined to grow chillies, perhaps try them in a pot and place it a very warm verandah.
Because warm conditions over a five-month growing period are necessary for any good quality fruit.

Chillies need soil temperature of 15–30°C to germinate so if you’re in a cool temperate or even a temperate climate, start off your chilli seeds in a punnet or tray or pot using seed raising mix.

Chillies need a slightly warmer temperatures than tomatoes or cucumbers.
For good fruit development, night temperatures of 15–17°C and day temperatures of 24–30°C are best.
Make sure your Chilli plants are in a position that receives a good amount of light.
Chilli seeds can be tricky to germinate taking anything from 1 to 6 weeks so don’t give up.
To grow chillies well, add lots of high nitrogenous matter, like Nasturtium or comfrey leaves to the soil as well as compost and manures, so you won’t have to fertilise with chemical fertilisers.

There’s no special soil or potting mix that they need, just start to add a side dressing of fertilise when you see the flowers develop and don’t let them dry out too.

Protect your chilli plants from wind by tying them to supporting stakes.
There’s quite a few pests that like chilli plants like aphids and spider mites. Spraying with a horticultural or preferable a botanic oil to suffocate them, is the best solution.

The most common species of chilli peppers are:
Capsicum annuum (common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, rating of 2 out of 10,
jalapeƱos rating of 6)
Capsicum frutescens (includes cayenne and tabasco peppers having a rating of 8-9)
Capsicum chinense (includes the hottest peppers such as habaneros having a 10 out of 10 on the heat scale.
Capsicum pubescens (includes the Thai chilli with a rating of 9)
Capsicum baccatum (includes the South American aji peppers). 
Worm Farms and Chillies are Partners
If you really like your chilli peppers and want to get the most heat out of your home grown plants, then you’ll need to start a worm farm and apply worm tea or worm juice to your chillies.

That’s according to Mark Peacock, a plant scientist from the University of Sydney, who in 2011 helped to cultivate the world's hottest chilli, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T.

Like all fertilisers, 'worm juice' is rich in nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, but what makes it particularly effective for bringing out the heat in chillies are the bodies of insects that have decomposed in the worm farm.
The insects in there are living and dying pretty rapidly, and bits of their shell will break down.
When you apply the juice to the plants' roots, the chilli plant responds as if it’s getting eaten by insects."
This in turn makes the plant produce more of their defensive compounds like capsaicin.
Why are they good for you? 
More chilli Photo David Little

Don't include too many chillies in your diet if you're interested in: Weight gain.
Chillies contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits.
Also when you cook with chilli, it only loses one third of its vitamin C content so you don’t have to worry about eating them raw!
Chillies are also thought to help buffer pain from arthritis, and headaches
Chillies are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Dietary Fibre, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus.
One Chilli divided into a dinner for four doesn’t cut it though but you’ll get a small proportion.
Capsaicin in chillies will cause an unpleasant burning sensation to eyes and skin. Try to avoid handling them too much, wear gloves if possible, and be sure not to touch your face or eyes during preparation.



Talking with Tony Mattson, General Manager of
What do you do at the end of a few hours’ worth or even a day’s worth of gardening?
Do you remember to put the tools away?
More importantly do you give your tools a wipe down to remove all the gum and gunk after pruning?
We gardeners sometimes overstretch ourselves when we’re out in the garden and some of those finishing tasks get neglected. Let’s see how we can fix all that on tool time.

Tool time covered sharpening secateurs in a previous segment and you can hear the podcast of that segment by putting in sharpening secateurs in the search bar on
Are you surprised about steel wool not being so good to use on the blades of your pruning tools?
Encouraging rust to grow is not what we want at all so those soft brass brushes are the ticket for giving your secateurs a good clean.
Now that they’re nice and sharp let’s resolve to keep them nice and clean each time we use those pruning tools.
Then we coat the blades with some sort of machine oil based, such as sewing machine oil or even some olive oil.
The silicone based oils dry without leaving a coating so are not that protective of your gardening tools.
Apologies to all those conscientious gardeners, who have the energy to religiously clean first and then put their pruning tools away at the end of the day.


Xanthostemon chrysantha, Golden Penda
Just imagine if you were looking at plants at a plant fair and you saw something that you were pretty sure had never been seen anywhere else before?
If you love yellow in the garden, especially yellow flowers, you’ll want this shrub.
The flowers have been described like a golden powderpuff, or like the flowers of a bottlebrush but round.

The leaves are in whorls around the stems.
The flowers are pretty showy so let’s find out what it is.
Talking with the Plant Panel; Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner

Golden Penda is in the same family as all Lilly Pillies so the powderpuff like flowers are no surprise.
What is a surprise is that if you live in cool temperate climates, you can grow this tree indoors.
No need to worry about it reaching for the roof because you can hard prune it every year to keep it bushy.
In a garden situation it only grows to 5m but more in it's natural habitat.
Golden Penda is a spectacular, medium to large rainforest tree with a dense, spreading crown of  dark green, glossy foliage and contrasting reddish new growth.
The bark is rough and scaly with showy, dense clusters of golden yellow, fluffy flowers on the ends of the branches during summer, autumn and winter.
The flowers attract nectar feeding birds.
To grow Golden Penda, plant in any well drained soil and keep well watered.
Prefers warm to hot conditions, but tolerates light frosts and subtropical climates.

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