Saturday, 21 September 2019

Salt, Yams and Silver Shield plants

We’re talking about salt in the Spice it Up segment, growing Oca, a root veg, in Vegetable Heroes, Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Spur flower, whichis a native ground cover that bees love in Plant of the Week plus what does Nicole Miranda and friends from Henley Green Community garden get up to at this time of year?


Is salt a spice a seasoning or something else?
Is there more than one type of salt?
Why should we use it rather than leave it out?
Did you know that culinary salts come in two basic categories - sea salt and mined salt?
All this and more about salt. I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from
Let’s find out Salt is actually a mineral, not a spice which means it doesn’t lose its flavour over time like spices and herbs do.
Salt is used as a seasoning, and is just NaCl or sodium chloride.
Most dishes that would be spiced will contain salt.
There are many types of salts on the market but they fall into two categories.
1) salts with impurities, that give a different flavour.
2) salts with different textures.
An example the first is Murray River pink salt. The colour is pink because of the minerals that the aquifer has flown through.
Rock salt is mined salt.
Murray River Pink Salt
  • Indian Black salt is also mined salt. Initially  the big chunks that are mined are deep purple to almost black in colour. However, when it is crushed, it becomes a pale pink in colour. Exudes a pungent odour.
  • this salt is a key ingredient in  'chat masala' which also contains cumin, coriander seed and asefetida. 
  • if requestingd the salted version of the drink lassi , it will contain chat masala.
All salt originates in sea water, but sea salt is evaporated from liquid ocean water, while mined salt is taken from ancient deposits left by long-dry seas.
Ian's Secret Tip: salt is cheap and heavy and added to some spice blends to make them cheaper so watch out and just buy the best.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Oca,   New Zealand Yams Scientifically Oxalis tuberosa.
They were originally grown in the high Andes and are still a very popular variety of vegetable in South America.
It’s no surprise then that they were a staple food of various ancient cultures throughout the continent.
Oca tubers were brought to Europe in 1830 as an alternative to potato.
Potatoes were considered more versatile so that oca tuber never really caught on in any great scale.
30 years later they were also introduced to New Zealand, where there was a very different reaction.
They were adopted as a firm favourite and are still hugely popular today (and known simply as ‘yams’).
NZ Yams or Oca
  • Unlike potatoes, oca tubers can be eaten both raw and cooked.Well that’s not strictly true, I remember as schoolkids, we occasionally would bite into raw potato, but it wasn’t that nice.
So why should we grow Oca?
  • When they’re raw, they have a fresh lemony flavour with a crisp, crunchy texture not unlike the crispness of a carrot.
  • The skin is edible too and can be left on when raw. Slice them up into a salad to add some fresh zest.
  • When they’re cooked, the lemony flavour disappears and the tubers have a nuttier taste.You can cook them in much the same way as a potato — boiled, baked, fried, grilled or added to a soup or winter stew.

What Does The Plant Look Like?
A compact, attractive, bushy perennial plant with clover-like leaves to 20 - 30 cm high.
Oca tubers look like stubby, wrinkled carrots.
Oxalis tuberosa
Oca is suit to temperate and cool temperate climates for spring planting.
Cool temperate districts can plant it as late as mid-summer but spring is recommended.
Oca is resistant to low temperatures grows best in moderately cool climates but freezing will kill the foliage.
If the tubers are already established it will re-sprout.
This one is not suitable to plant in subtropical or tropical climates over summer.
Winter temperatures in frost-free areas of Queensland are ideal to grow oca. The summer is simply too hot, humid and wet.
How To Grow Oca
  • Temperatures above 28°C cause the plant to wilt.
  • Grow the oca tubers in much the same way as you would grow potatoes.
  • Tubers start forming 4 months after planting and production peaks at 6 months.
  • Oca tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH.
  • The oca plant will begin to form tubers as the days shorten and the temperature drops — in other words, in the autumn.
  • The tubers will grow in size throughout the autumn, so the longer the tubers are left in the soil, the better.
  • Typically, the best time to harvest the tubers is after the frost has destroyed all of the above-ground foliage or it naturally dies off.
  • Keep several for planting next season, by storing them in sand or sawdust.

Like the potato, the oca tuber can be stored for several months, so you’ll have them for an extended period after harvest.
Why Is It Good For You?
Each variety differs in its nutritional content, but generally they’re a great source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, iron and potassium, as well as being a source of protein.


Plectranthus argentatus: Silver Shield
This week we have a native plant that has velvety leaves, sage green foliage and blue flowers.
It’s in the mint family, so it’s got square stems.
I’m not sure why some people think that only exotics come from the mint family.
Australia has quite a few members that fit into this category.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.I'm speaking with new contributor, Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

  • Plectranthus” is a combination of 2 Greek words that mean “spur” (plectron) and “flower” (anthos).
  • Argentatus is Latin for silver.
Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Shield prefers partial shade but will grow in full sun as long as the soil’s not too poor.

Can also grow in full shade and tolerate light frosts, that’s down to -2 C.
Excellent in dry shade.
The best spot for it though is in well drained soil near trees, also a great plant for containers.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of the Snow Wood tree, please write in to

Henley  Green Community Garden Update

There are many reasons to join a community garden: learn a new skill, teach your kids where food comes from, save money, help the environment, have a reason to get outside regularly and share with others.
Chickens at Henley Green Community garden
These reasons — and many more keep the people who grow food at a community garden.
Let’s catch up with what’s happening in the local community garden at Henley.
I'm speaking with Nicole Miranda from the Happy Hens Community garden in Henley.

If you are interested in joining the community garden at Henley you need to first register your interest by filling in a form from their website
If you have any questions for me or for Nicole, please write in to

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