Thursday, 11 April 2019

Frenchy Chic and Indoor Plants

Indoor plants are making a great revival in Plant Doctor, growing a coffee substitute in vegetable heroes; herbalist and naturopath Simone, talks about Parsley in Plant of the week and what makes a garden French and provincial on garden styles in Design Elements?


Indoor Plants: Pests, Diseases and Watering
If we were fashionable and hip young gardeners, we would all be talking about where to go to find the next happening for indoor plants.
Usually a trendy café or other venue where indoor plants are sold to the unsuspecting young folk for enormously inflated prices.
But, if we’re not in that category, we probably would like to refresh our memory about looking after those indoor plants.

I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from
Let’s find out

New to gardening and not sure how much to water?
Leaves yellowing or browning on the tips can be under or over-watering. 
Different plants have different responses to watering so it's important to do some research about the plant.
Find out if your plant likes to be dry between waterings, such as Zee Zee plant ( Zamiocalcus spp) or Anthuriums.
Stick your finger into the potting mix to test for wetness or dryness.
If you’re averse to sticking your finger in the dirt to check how much moisture is being held in the soil, you can buy a moisture meter fairly cheaply.
If you’re electronically inclined you can even make your own moisture meter.
If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Chicory! Cichorium intybus
Have you ever eaten chicory?
  • What do you do with it other than give it to your chooks?
  • Apparently the leaf chicory is very good for them?
Did you know that there’s actually two types of chicory, both of which are considered a vegetable?
There’s the leafy type and the one where the tap root is used more.
But let’s begin with some interesting facts.
Green leaf chicory
  • Chicory comes from the daisy or Asteraceae family, and like dandelion, chicory has been grown since ancient times as a pot herb.
  • A pot herb is one you put in a pot along with your meats and vegetables and cook together for a while-usually a long while.
Chicory is most likely native to the Mediterranean region and it’s an interesting plant because it’s been used in coffee substitutes and additives where the roots were baked and ground.
  • You probably didn’t realise that Chicory used as a coffee substitute during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe.
Chicory, together with sugar beet and rye was used as an ingredient in East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee),  during the "East German coffee crisis" of 1976-79.
  • Do you realise that if you’ve ever drunk a coffee substitute, like Caro, then you’ve drunk roasted chicory root?

  • Some beer brewers even use roasted chicory to add flavour to stouts.
  • Some other beer brewers have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to add flavour to the hops, making a "witlofbier", from the Dutch name for the plant.
So how come chicory can be used as a coffee substitute?
Chicory contains two polysaccharide, inulin and fructose.
When these are roasted, inulin is converted to something called oxymethylfurfurol, (OXY-METH-OL-FUR-FUR-OL) and this gives off that coffee-like aroma.
  • Did you know that the first person to grow and process chicory in Australasia was Edwin William Trent (1839 - 1883)?
Eddy or Edwin, operated a steam coffee mill in Nelson in New Zealand, and later moved to Christchurch where he established the first steam coffee mill in Australasia in1863.
How it worked was by coke fired furnaces in kilns producing hot drying air.
This hot air passed up through the chicory roots which had been cut into small cubes and laid on floors of perforated tiles.
The steaming chicory had to be turned every two hours and five tons of green root were needed to produce one ton of kiln-dried root.
After the drying process was over, the chicory was taken to where the roasting and grinding was done and the chicory blended with expensive coffee imported from the West Indies, South America and Africa to make the coffee and chicory essence.
  • Did you also know that Chicory, or Cichorium intybus, was grown as a crop on Phillip Island for nearly 100 years from the 1870s?
  • If you’ve visited Philip Island you’ll see some unusual small brick towers dotted about the island.
  • These are chicory kilns, once used in drying chicory dock – a parsnip-like underground root of the Chicory plant that was grown widely in Phillip Island’s rich volcanic soil.
Are you thinking, I’m not going to bother drying and roasting the chicory root, what on earth do I need to grow this ahem, vegetable?
Here’s the reason: Chicory is actually a nutritious food.
  • The leaves of the chicory plant can be eaten in salads to add flavour and crunch.
  • They can also be lightly roasted in olive oil.
  • You can buy seeds of Chicory “Red Dandelion: this plant has red stems with deeply cut frilly deep green leaves.
  • As a microgreen or ‘baby leaf’ this variety adds great flavour to salads and it’s a colourful addition to any mesclun mix.
  • If you get the red variety, it’s one of the few red leafy vegetables that keeps the crimson colour when cooked.
Chicory ‘Red Palla Rossa’ is a small heading chicory, 8 - 10 cm across .
The bright red, very tight heads have prominent white midribs. It has a slightly bitter, tart taste.
As a ‘baby leaf’ they add great flavour to salads.
There’s also the coffee chicory plant or Chicory Coffee 'Magdeburg' which also has the same botanical name of Cichorium intybus.
What Does it Look Like?
This chicory is also a frost hardy plant but with a long taproot topped by a whorl of oblong, broadly toothed, milky-sapped leaves.
The flowers are on top of 1 ½ metre tall, zig-zagging flowering stems with a few sparsely placed leaves and lots of sky-blue to purple flowers.
Flowering is mostly in summer and the 50 cent-sized flowers open at the beginning of the day but close as the heat becomes intense.
Chicory plants flower for several months and the flower looks quite a lot like a purply-blue dandelion flower.

Like dandelion, the seeds are spread by wind.
Also, like dandelion, the leaves are concentrated in a whorl, just above the soil surface.
If you really wanted to you could dry and roast the roots, then grind them for a coffee substitute.
The leaves and young roots can also be cooked as vegetables.
The roots can grow up to 30 cm long and weigh as much as 1 kg.
The one I have in my garden has been there for over a year so I’m guessing that it’s going to have a heavy large underground root.
Chicory is a hardy vegetable and frost tolerant but does wilt a bit on hot days.
It’s a useful cool season crop to add interest to winter salads.
To grow the leafy Chicory, for sub-tropical areas, April to June is the time to sow, in Temperate areas March until May, for Arid areas June to August, and Cool temperate districts, sow late summer to mid-autumn.
In all cases sow the seeds directly where they are to grow.
So to grow Chicory you need a well- drained, deep soil.
Chicory will also grow on heavier soils as long as they’re not likely to get waterlogged for extended periods.
If you’re wondering where to buy the seeds of coffee chicory, there are some stores that sell them if they carry an Italian seed line otherwise online seed suppliers do so as well.
Are you wondering if Chicory is just as weedy as Dandelions?
It’s unlikely to become a weed since plants tend be short lived.
If you’re growing the coffee chicory, the fleshy taproot of the first year’s growth is dug up in winter, dried, ground and roasted.
(Roast the roots on low heat (around 25 C) until crisp, then grind with a little roasted barley (around 400F or so) for a wholesome coffee substitute.
Chicory Roots
It contains no caffeine and just adds bulk to coffee, although its bitter flavour can give bland coffee a bit more "bite".)
  • Here’s an interesting fact: Coffee is readily available now in all types of strengths but until the 1960s, before instant coffee was invented, coffee and chicory essence was a popular alternative to using roasted coffee beans.
  • Do you remember that thick black liquid with a very distinctive attractive aroma and sold in squarish bottles with a blue label?
  • It was often drunk with sweetened condensed milk.
Why is Chicory, good for you?
One of the major functions of chicory is to increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
The leafy greens of chicory are a good source of calcium and vitamin K;
They also contain folate and like other green vegetables chicory contains good  amounts of potassium.
Chicory is also good for the digestion, and the circulatory system.
From an agricultural point of view, Chicory is used as a short and medium term forage, and is an alternative to lucerne in areas where soils may be too acid for lucerne. Tolerates a pH down to 4.2.


Parsley (Petroselinum hortense and Petroselinum crispum) is an herb that originated in the Mediterranean region of southern Italy.
Parsley is used a lot by some gardeners to feed the winter possums that are looking for something to eat.
Curly Parsley: Petroselinum crispum
It’s used a lot in cooking and much better to grow your own and only harvest as much as you need without needing to store it in the fridge.
Let’s find out what else parsley has to offer.
I'm talking with Simone Jeffries, naturopath and herbalist.
Grows as a biennial in temperate climates or annual in subtropical & tropical areas.
Grows a taproots used as a food store over winter.
Others grow parsley and let it go to seed to attract the benny’s which means the beneficial insects.
Really nice in a potato salad.
The secret is to cut it up very finely because it’s quite coarse so it doesn’t get stuck in your throat when you eat it.
Juice it with apple and celery so it doesn’t taste so medicinal.


French Provincial Style Gardens
If someone asked you to describe a French Provincial garden what would you say?
What would be the key elements of such a garden?
Would it be quirky frenchy nic nacs, and include a trompe l’oeil or a parterre?
Would it include plants that are French?
Let’s find out. 
I'm talking with Danielle Collier from Artistic Horticulture.

PLAY:French Provincial Style gardens_3rd April 2019

  • Favourite garden plants: for a French garden might include architectural plants. Agapanthus. Canna. 
  • Mediterranean Plants. Acanthus mollis, bear's britches. Iris. 
  • Perennials. Aquilegias. Dahlias. Grasses. Phormium Tenax. 
  • Shrubs and Hedging Plants. Roses. Garden Bulbs and corms. Alliums. 
  • Climbing Plants. Bougainvillea. 
  • Trees. Acacia dealbata, Toon chinensi or Chinese cedar. 
If you have any questions either for me Danielle why not write in to

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