Saturday, 2 July 2016

Rosemary, Hibiscus and Fungus but not Thyme


Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
The culinary Rosemary plant is often used for remembrance but did you know that the tradition of laying sprigs of this herb(rosemary) across the coffin or upon a tombstone dates back to ancient Egypt?

Rosemary is a lovely evergreen perennial herb with culinary, aromatic, and medicinal uses, and one of the favorites in herb gardening around the world.

So let’s not linger any longer and find out all about it. I'm talking with Ian Hemphill owner of Herbies Spices.

You might be surprised to learn that Rosemary is in the mint family, but unlike mint, likes much drier conditions.
Rosemary balances very will with carbohydrates and is good with pork and duck dishes.
Rosemary bush

Ian gave us a great tip about how to strip the leaves off the rosemary stem without getting that heel of bark by tearing in an upward motion.

when using dried rosemary either chop it very finely or grind the leaves to a powder.

Normally grinding herbs is not recommended, but unless you're doing a long slow cook, the hard leaves are best treated this way. 

After all, Rosemary has a very strong flavour and can withstand being used this way.

Ian's mother's scone recipe.
  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (cold)
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary. 
  • Rub the butter into the flower then gradually add the milk to get a stiff dough. Don't overmix. 
  • Rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pat down or roll out the mixture  so it's 2 cm high then using a scone cutter,(one with a deep edge. a small baked bean tin is a good alternative.)
  • Place them onto a tray close together.
  • Brush with milk and place in the oven at one level above the centre.
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.
Growing and propagating Rosemary plants is pretty easy and every garden should have at least one plant, even if it’s in a pot.
The leaves and flowers can also be used to make a tea, said to be good for headaches, colic, colds as well as depression.
If you have any questions about growing and using rosemary in your cooking or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Growing Mushrooms

The answer to the question, what was grown in the Paris Catacombs before the Paris Metro was of course the Mushroom.
Not strictly a vegetable or a fruit, and not even a plant, but a fungi.
They also seem to have very different botanical or scientific names.
Button mushrooms are Agaricus bisporus, various oyster mushrooms belong to the genus Pleurotus and shiitake mushrooms are Lentinula edodes.
Did you know that the body of the mushroom is mycelium which is microscopic, lives underground, in wood or another food source?
It’s when this mycelium has stored enough nutrients to give fruits, that we get those mushrooms that we see and we like to eat.
4,600 years ago, Egyptians believed that eating mushrooms gave you immortality so commoners weren’t allowed to eat mushrooms, only royalty.
How thing’s have changed?
In some countries like Russia, many people thought that eating mushrooms gave you super-human strength and help in finding lost objects.
Now there’s a combination?
Growing Mushrooms in Tunnels
Speaking of tunnels, the first mushrooms grown commercially in Australia were grown in disused railway tunnels in Sydney in the 1930’s.
Later the mushrooms were grown in fields only covered with straw and hessian bags.

Mittagong Mushroom farm uses disused railway tunnels still today.
Listeners might remember buying mushrooms in cans from the supermarket because you couldn’t always get them fresh all year round like you can now.
Remember those cans of Champignons?
Today, Australians eat mostly fresh mushrooms because they’re available all year.
You can grow quite a lot more varieties at home, than just the plain white mushrooms.
There’s White Button, Chestnut button, Swiss Brown, Pearl Oyster, Pink Oyster. Golden Oyster, and Shitake to name a few.
I have grown white button Mushrooms in the past, and having seen different varieties being grown in Europe so I thought I’d explore some other varieties that can also be grown at home.
You may already know that the standard white button kit comes in a cardboard box with compost and casing material that you have to wet and put on top of the compost in the box.
The same goes for Chestnut button mushrooms.
Then there’s grow bags available from some garden centres and large retail outlets that sell Mushroom grow bags.

Mr Fothergills has released another way of growing the other types of mushrooms in kit form this.
Mushrooms spore kits

Growing Mushrooms (Agaricus species) is easy if you stick to a few basic guidelines.
So how do you grow mushrooms from a kit?
Find somewhere indoors where there’s no wind or direct sunlight, better still if it’s a bit humid like your laundry.
Some people may have a big enough bathroom to put the kit in there!
A good idea is to keep your mushroom kit off the ground and out of the way of the family pet.
It’s not a good idea to grow deep your mushrooms deep inside a cupboard or pantry because the air is pretty dry, plus if you can’t see them, you might forget about them.
The standard kits contain a casing with mushroom spores that you spread over your mushroom compost.
For this you need a spray bottle of water to keep the kit moist.

Now there’s a kit you can buy where the spores come in packets.
Some part of each mature mushroom produces microscopic spores that are similar to pollen or seeds.
You can either buy the mushroom boards that need to be soaked first in water, or you can spread the spores on your own board.
Another way is to use logs from almost any hardwood tree as long as it’s not a pine tree.
Two 15 x 40 cm logs are all you need.
What you need to do next is spread the spores over the wetted surface of one log, then place another log on top and tie them together to make a sort of mushroom spore sandwich.
Next, put the logs into a loosely tied plastic bag-so there’s some air circulation, and put this in a warm place.
Somewhere where the temperature doesn’t get below 160 C and above 250 C.
In the house sounds best.
Leave this to incubate for 6-8 weeks.
According to Mr Fothergills instructions, the white mushroom mycelium should spread through the wood.
What does it look like?
Have you ever had a loaf of bread get the white woolly flour like mould grow on it before it turns green?
A bit like that, but woolly flour like mould should appear all over the logs or boards. Shitake mushrooms mould looks more of a reddish brown colour.
That actually makes sense, because if you’ve ever had a dead tree in your garden, have you ever noticed the fungus that grows out from the dead trunk as the wood decomposes?
Bracket fungi on decomposing wood. photo M Cannon

The next step is take the logs out of the plastic bags and bury three-quarters of the boards vertically, in the garden where it’s cold and damp.
The logs or boards aren’t that big so don’t worry, you don’t have to dig that big a hole.
That’ll kickstart the process of mushroom growing.
TIP:Water the logs regularly or else the mycelium will dry out.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a spot in the garden, you can actually keep the boards in the bag but cut some holes in the bag and spray a couple of times a day.
Also keep a little bit of water in the bottom of the bag.
One more thing, to kickstart mushroom production, put the bag in the fridge for two days.
Why are they good for You?
Even though they’re in the vegetable aisle in the supermarket, mushrooms could be in with meat, beans or grains.
That’s because mushrooms contain 3.3g of protein for every 100g of mushrooms.
About three button or one flat mushroom.
Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium.
One serve of mushrooms has 20% of your recommended daily intake of some B group vitamins, as well as selenium, nearly as much potassium as in a banana, and vitamin D.
Yes you heard right, they’re the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources.
Mushrooms are also valuable source of dietary fibre: a 100g serving of mushrooms contains more dietary fibre (2.5g) than 100g of celery (1.8g) or a slice of wholemeal bread (2.0g


Hibiscus acetosella "Little Zin."

Seems like plants with burgundy or purple foliage are the in thing with new releases of Crepe Myrtle ”Diamonds in the Dark” and Loropetalum Plum Gorgeous.Plants with coloured leaves other than green are a must in any garden to break up all that greenness and act as a standout plant or a focal point in your garden.
Hibiscus acetosella "Little Zin." photo M Cannon

Not only that, according to Monty Don, purple leaves, as well as being attractive in their own right, make red and yellow flowers seem more intense, and add more depth to a border than green leaves ever can. 
What is new purple leaved plant? Let’s find out.. 
I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Hibiscus Little Zin has dark burgundy or maroon foliage, that look similar to maple leaves but about 10 cm in length. Growing to 45 – 60 cm  x 45 – 60 cm. with an upright habit.
Little Zin has a typical hibiscus flower with flower buds starting off as deep maroon then opening to a pale to mid pink with a maroon centre.
Flowers appear in late Autumn to early Winter around midday, that’s late in the season when days are getting shorter. 

 Hibiscus Little Zin prefers slight acidic soils to around pH 6.0 - 6.5 and soil that's kept moist but not boggy.

Originally growing in forest areas, marshes and open areas in Africa.
This plant branches reasonably well because it's a compact form, however you can tip prune to make it even more bush, but the leaves will be slightly smaller if you do this.

Hibiscus acetosella "Little Zin." photo M Cannon
By the way, don’t try to get Crepe Myrtle Diamonds in the Dark because the demand was so high the grower is no longer able to supply demand until January of next year.
But you should be able to buy Hibiscus Little Zin from your garden centre or contact Jeremy's nursery for distributors.
If you have any questions about growing Hibiscus Little Zin why not write in to

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