Monday, 7 September 2015

Settle Down With A Garden


Talking about the First Settlers in Australia with Gastronomer Jacqui Newling from Sydney Living Museums.
Early Australian settlers had barely survived the trip from England and were faced with plants, a landscape, a culture and foods that they knew nothing about.
So what did they do?
This is where the What’s Cooking segment comes in.
It’s not so much about what we grow, cook and eat today but about what people grew and ate 1 to 2 centuries ago.
The arrival of the First Fleet with Captain Arthur Phillip who became the first founding Governor.
Aren’t you curious about what went on in the kitchen gardens and kitchens of 100 – 200 years ago?
Was it that much different?
Well, today, we start with a look at what the first settlers ate when they set foot on Australian soil.
There’s a few misconceptions that will be busted so hang on to your hat.
Let’s get started.
PLAY: The First Settlers_2nd September_2015
We know that the first settlers' provisions were salt rations such as preserved meats, salted pork and dried peas that they bought with them, but what did they eat when they landed in Farm Cove?
We also know that the British sent a supply ship the Guardian in 1790, however that ship struck an iceberg of the Cape of Good Hope and lost all the back up supplies that Captain Phillip was expecting.
Fortunately Captain Phillip was pretty shrewd and starting rationing their dwindling supplies even further.

Governor Phillip's house in Sydney Cove. He sailed for London at the end of 1792, citing ill health
The First Fleeters'  all survived pretty much with only one reported death from starvation.
Maybe you’ve been thinking that the first settlers were poor gardeners and didn’t understand the seasons and what would grow in warmer climates.
Not so, as Jacqui says, they were on top of that concept because they picked up seeds and supplies from Teneriffe in Jamaica and from South Africa.
The also experimented with plantings all over what is now greater Sydney-from Pittwater to South Head and Wollongong.
In fact the naval officer at South Head lead by Daniel Southwell were quite proud of their successful veggie garden which as evidenced in their journals.
If you have any questions about the First Settlers, or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Water chestnuts. Eleocharis dulcis
Do you remember eating your first Chinese meal at a Chinese restaurant or eating Dim Sims when you were quite young?
Did you bite onto something crunchy that wasn’t a vegetable that you were familiar with because it was whitish and round.
Not exactly the same texture as a nut but still crunchy.
This vegetable most likely would’ve been a water chestnut.
The scientific name for Chinese water chestnuts is Eleocharis dulcis, coming from the Greek Eleos (marsh) and Charis (grace).
According to Chinese herbalist, water chestnuts can help sweeten the breath?

Water Chestnuts are a herbaceous perennial sedge like plant that’s popular in Asian cooking and are a tropical member of the sedge family.
The water chestnut is a native of the warm temperate regions of Europe and Asia and tropical Africa and it’s Cantonese name of ‘matai’ means ‘horses hoof’.
In Asia the water chestnut is grown in flooded fields, often in rotation with paddy (rice).
What does it look like?
Water chestnut plant is rush-like with upright tubular stems or culms, 1 to 1.5 metres tall.
Below ground grows a number of edible corms at the ends of rhizomes.
The plant spreads by these creeping rhizome that, making extra sucker plants all summer long.
The corms are plenty and mahogany brown looking a bit like gladioli corms. For those of you familiar with horse chestnuts, it’s called a water chestnut because it does look the regular chestnut in shape and colour.
These corms are sweet and crisp with a white flesh and nutty taste.
They can be cooked as a vegetable to give a contrasting texture to many dishes or just eat them fresh and raw or lightly steamed or sautéed for salads.
Why grow it?
Did you know that until 1993, this delicacy was only available in cans in parts of Australia ?
During canning, the antibiotic called ‘puchine’ is destroyed, but fresh corms remain crisp and keep that ‘puchine’ after cooking.
That’s why Chinese people regard fresh water chestnuts as superior to the canned product.
The flavour has been described as a blend between apple, chestnut and coconut.
A single corm is said to be able to produce 100 corms within a growing season.

How to sow?
Water chestnuts can be grown in a pond, Styrofoam veggie box or any container that holds water, even an old bathtub or a salvaged water tank cut in half if you have it.
Even though water chestnuts originate in monsoonal areas water chestnuts will grow in most areas of Australia.
They can grow in much cooler, even cold climates, but they are frost tender when not dormant and they need at least a 6-7-month frost-free growing season.
Frosts won’t damage the corms if they’re dormant.
 In colder areas, grow your water chestnuts in a greenhouse or poly tunnel or an old bath tub on your back verandah.
Better still, water chestnuts can be grown in hydroponics using buckets and using a suitable media such as perlite plus vermiculite.
When to Sow?
Plant the corms in Spring, pointy side up and about 10 cm deep into friable soil preferably rich in organic matter and course sand.
After you planted your corm cover it with more sand or fine gravel so hold it in place when you flood it with water.

Corms will sprout when the soil temperature gets above 130 C.
Keep the plants moist until the shoots are about 20cm tall, then fill the container up with water until it's about 10cm deep, with the tips of the leaves just showing.
As the plant grows, keep topping up the water until it’s about 1 metre deep.
Leave the container flooded at that depth for about 6-7 months, then drain off the water in late autumn.
When to pick?
Leave the soil moist but not wet for another month or so until the shoots die down, but don’t pick them just yet.
There’s a post-maturing stage of 3 weeks where the corms harden and sweeten.
If you do it before this, your water chestnuts will taste floury.
TIP: Never plant your corms too close together, because the root systems will get entangled & make harvesting a nightmare.
A mail order aquaculture plant supplier (Nick romanovsky of Dragonfly Aquatics,) recommends the “Hon Matai” Chinese variety for its productivity and large size of corms, whilst it grows well even in cooler climates.
Related Australian varieties, Eleocharis acita and E. Sphacelata, commonly called Spike Rush, are widespread, have taller stems, up to 1.5m, which provide good bird shelter and the corms are a favourite food of water birds, who may also nibble off the chestnut stems.
Where do you get it?
Mail order or online suppliers or fresh from food retailers between June and September.
How to eat them?
The water chestnuts should be first washed and peeled.
They can be eaten raw and slices can be added to salads (even fruit salads) or clear soups.
They need only brief boiling or frying (as in a stir fry), can be added to any stew or curry, be used as stuffing for poultry, made into flour, used as thickener, or minced and made into puddings, pickled in vinegar, or crystallized in sugar or honey as a sweet.
So why is it good for us?
Water chestnuts are high in sugars (2.5%) and also contain about 18% starch, 4.7% protein and less than 1% fibre.
With carbohydrate levels at 30% and protein 1.5%, they are a nutritious food source.


Designing a garden in New York state with Landscape Designer Glenice Buck. :
This series of garden design is about a garden in New York State and is situated very near to the Hudson river that also flows through New York.
Today’s challenges are to discover what plants including trees are growing there.

Looking through the trees at the south point. Photo Glenice Buck
First thing that needed doing was to walk around the 2 acre property's perimeter and assess the vegetation, even identify the trees.
Not so easy when they’ve lost their leaves.
It seemed overgrown, like a forest of trees and dense undergrowth.
Also, what environmental problems that the garden faces, and not just the weather but things that might be on the move.

Let’s find out some more by listening to the podcast.

The climate zone where Glenice has designed the garden has temperatures down to -200C in winter with 40 inches or about a metre of snow on average, and in summer up to 300 C.

Looking towards the north point of the property in New York State. photo: Glenice Buck
After lots of walking around and taking photos, other landscape design essentials were garnered such as sun patterns, drainage, aspect, soil types, weeds and the four legged pests, the Deer.
Certainly big extremes of temperate which we don’t get here in Australia.
Still, plants that can cope with such extremes can cope with the climate in Australia as well with the exception that they won’t go so well in the tropics and sub-tropics.


with Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner

You don’t see too many Melaleuca's which are tough and hardy plants being promoted in nursery, garden centres or even gardening magazines.
Why then have they got this poor image?
Perhaps it’s the small narrow leaves that don’t have the visual impact of Grevilleas?
The flowers are pretty showy so let’s find out what it is.

Melaleuca linarifolia - a large tree

Melaleuca linarifolia or “snow  is in Summer” Myrtaceae family along with Eucalypts of course.

This large tree is found naturally along the east coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland usually along watercourses and swamps.

The habitat ranges from heath and dry sclerophyll forest  to moist or swampy ground.

Known as Snow-in-Summer, or Narrow-leaved Paperbark, and naturally too big for most gardens.
Did you know that Melaleuca comes from the Greek melas meaning black and leukos meaning white, referring to black marks on the white trunks of some species due to fire
Also the meaning of linariifolia is drawing a similiarity to leaves in the genus Linaria.
So what do you do if you like the flowers"
This is where the dwarf versions of Melaleuca linarifolia become interesting.
Let's find out more by listening to the podcast.

If you’re area’s climate is really dry, then Melaleuca’s will still grow there, but they won’t grow so well.
That’s because Melaleucas are much better when the soil is boggy, or swampy, or has temporary inundation.
They also won’t go to well if there’s root competition from other trees because that will make the ground much drier for them as well.

A note to gardens in cooler climates, quite a few melaleucas, including these newer dwarf cultivars, clearly dislike frosts down to -70C or lower, especially in their early years.
Melaleuca linarifolia “Mini Me” grow to 0.3m x  1m and M. linarifolia “Purple Tops" or Claret Tops.
This last one has new purple or claret growth.
Grows  to 1-2m.
Mine has yet to flower. But is supposed to flower in Spring.A dwarf, evergreen shrub that naturally forms a round dense ball. The new growth is smoky bronze red and emits a rich aroma when crushed.The best place to grow your miniature Melaluecas is in full sun and they can take most soil types. Will also grow in dappled shade.
Melaleuca linarifolia Mini Mel grows to 0.3 x 1 metre.
A dwarf, evergreen shrub that naturally forms a round dense ball. The new growth is smoky bronze red and emits a rich aroma when crushed.



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