Archive for the ‘community’ Category

Posted on 15th April 2014

Farewell from Grow Harvest Cook

Four years ago 4 women, with a combined “lifetime” of experience in lifestyle publishing decided to publish a blog following their combined passions of food, photography, gardening and design.  It was naturally named Grow Harvest Cook.

Over this time we have covered so many delicious garden grown ingredients, culminating in the production of the Grow Harvest Book of the same name, which has over 280 recipes and garden tips.  Grow Harvest Cook has now decided that this is a good time to hang up their tools, fold their apron strings and venture out on new projects solo.

The book of which we are all so proud will continue to be available at bookstores and online, and for a limited time.

the designer
Sue Cadzow

the gardener
Meredith Kirton  Twitter @meredithkirton

the cook
Mandy Sinclair

the photographer
Sue Stubbs

Posted under 5 minutes with..., community, cook, grow, harvest, product reviews, readers' recipes
Posted on 15th February 2014

community | family


Today, my Mum got me to try a piece of herb that she had recently bought at a fruit shop and then planted. She said it was called ‘Vietnamese Mint’, but it definitely didn’t really taste like mint to me. I certainly wouldn’t like my toothpaste tasting like that It gave the same tingling sensation on my tongue that mint does, but it was far more intense. It was much closer to the needles-on-tongue feeling that rocket or horseradish give.

But there was something else there – something separate from the spiciness. There was some sort of airy fragrance that I couldn’t quite determine. My mind clicked through the various spices and herbs that I had so far tasted in my lifetime, which instantly brought back memories of foraging through the back-garden of my early childhood.

The back-garden seemed absolutely enormous through my young eyes, although it was probably actually no larger than an average suburban block. There was only a narrow strip of grass through the middle (‘the pitch’), with various trees and bushes along the fence lines. Every 2 metres there was something edible.

There was a strange mauve flowered bush with raisin-like fruit which stained our fingers and tongues blue whenever we ate them. This made us look like the real blue tongue lizards which roamed under the humungous rosemary bush which grew in the sun nearby.

Along one fence was a passionfruit vine. The agreement with the neighbours was ‘If it grows on your side, it’s yours.’ This meant a near continuous supply during the summer. There was also the Cape Gooseberry bush, which tasted like miniature kiwifruit. I always thought of it as ‘the little lantern tree’.

Our block sloped downhill away from the road, and the furthest end of the backyard had several old, tall trees. There was a Lemon Tea Tree, which, as the name suggests, was used to make tea. My elder siblings used to make brews in a billy. I never really drank the tea though: I didn’t like the taste of the leaves themselves, so I couldn’t imagine the liquid form being very appetising.

There was a ‘lady finger’ tree near the back of one corner, but we never ate from it. It would take too much effort to get down the small green lumps that were apparently banana. Besides, we were told not to go near that area. We had seen snakes around there.

My fondest memory is the huge macadamia tree. We would surely have gone through kilos of macadamia nuts a week. Every day we would gather and crack nuts open for a quick snack. The mechanical nutcrackers were no match compared to our system of nut cracking. All it took was the concrete slab to rest them on, and a well sized brick to smash them open. Occasionally it would result in a gritty macadamia pancake, but it was undoubtedly the most efficient and fun method.

There were also various other herbs, trees and bushes that were sources of nourishment: nasturtiums for peppery leaf sandwiches; a kaffir lime hedge as well as a young Tahitian lime tree; a few blackberry canes and a white mulberry bush with long sweet pale fruit as well as silk worms; a tumbling bank of parsley, basil and chives and a big tub of refreshing mint.

It was a wonderful backyard that I truly miss, and I’ll forever treasure the memories of grazing in that garden. But I still can’t work out what it is that ‘Vietnamese Mint’ reminds me of. Bummer- I guess all I can do is keep on eating.

Mum’s comments: -the mauve flowered bush was ‘melastoma affine’ [I think], and the kids were warned not to eat Tibouchina which look similar –the Cape Gooseberry I think might be related to a similar-looking toxic ‘Chinese lantern tree’ [?] –I have finally figured out where I myself have eaten ‘Vietnamese mint’. I have had it fresh with laksa in Malaysia, and garnishing fish in Indonesia- it tastes more like coriander than mint I think. In Malay languages it’s called daun kesum and it has its own special deliciousness- highly recommended!


Posted under community
Posted on 5th December 2013

community | 2013 world soil day


World Soil Day

World Soil Day – the 5th of December – celebrates soil and its importance for human survival. The approach of World Soil Day causes many of us to think more deeply about our soil and how we manage it. As gardeners we may feel inspired to add some extra compost or organic matter, or maybe roll up our sleeves and finally get that worm farm we’ve been thinking about. World Soil Day is a great time to remember how important soil is – but do we really, and I mean really, appreciate what this subterranean rainforest does for us?

As a soil scientist I spend my days with my head and hands in this fascinating, underground ecosystem. But even for me, it was (I am somewhat ashamed to say) only quite recently when I finally cottoned on to just how much the soil gives us.

From the soil grows the food we eat, the fiber for our clothing and materials, and the trees for our buildings. It holds the coals and minerals we use for energy, the precious metals we adorn ourselves with and use in modern technology. The soil grows the plants that become our medicine, and is home to soil microbes have been a source of medical and scientific innovation.

It is not only us the soil provides for. It supports the plants that feed all herbivores, omnivores and by extension the carnivores. The soil grows trees and shrubs for shelter and habitat and it acts as a filter to clean our water.

We value, very dearly in some instances, what comes out of the soil. We value the products it gives us yet it seems we rarely value the soil itself. It is not only the products of the soil we need to care for, but the complex ecosystem of fungi, bacteria and microbes that live down there. These tiny life forms have supported us since the beginning of time, and are the key to our survival.

It is said that “a single teaspoon of soil holds billions of bacteria.” These billions of not just bacteria, but fungi, algae, protozoa and nematodes are the key that bind the world together. It is these little guys that help transfer the water and nutrients in the soil to the plants. They fend off disease and build barriers to protect plant roots. Soil bacteria have been used in anti-fungal medications, can make diesel fuel, and some even act as anti-depressants by stimulating serotonin production.

There is not enough space to list all the reasons we should be taking more care of our soil, or to list everything we use in everyday life that has in some way come from the soil (trying thinking of something you use that isn’t at least in part from the ground). But I do hope that during this brief discussion I’ve highlighted one key point – we depend on the soil for our survival.

Unfortunately through over cultivation, agrochemical applications, and pollution we have severely damaged our soil. Fertility has dropped, agricultural land is acidifying, and more and more agrochemicals are needed to produce the same amounts of food. The soil is tired.
The good news is soil is a living, changing ecosystem that responds to help.
We can begin to undo some of what we have already done. We can improve soil fertility, and provide the soil food web with organic nutrients on which to feed. We can take action now, and with the impending unknown of 2 billion additional people on earth, right now is the time to act.

While watching a documentary on mining in Kakadu, an Elder who fought to keep mining off his land (and succeeded) summed up the idea beautifully. “You can make money” he said, squatting on a rock in the dry Kakadu scrub, “but you can’t make’m the land back.”

As gardeners, you are already helping take care of our soil. By understanding the needs of plants, by avoiding fungicides and pesticides that kill soil microbes and by adding organic matter back into the soil, you are helping build back up what we have lost.  We have a long way to go, but what better place to start than our own backyard.

Alisa Bryce is a soil scientist and author of the Organic Soil Guide, an essential book for any land manager on the basics of soil management. Available on Kindle at

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under community
Posted on 22nd September 2013

Community | School Kitchen Gardens


Kent Rd School, Ryde

Kent Rd School, Ryde

School Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden at Newington

School Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden at Newington

The “tree of knowledge” appears to now to be found not in the Garden of Eden but perhaps in the kitchen garden of your local primary school.  School gardens have been in the news some what over the last few years, especially since the Australian Government has committed $12.8 million to fund infrastructure for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program in up to 190 primary schools across Australia over a four year roll out period.  According to Stephanie Alexander, “Children in the Kitchen Garden Program learn how to care for themselves by growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing delicious and wholesome food. They also learn to relate to each other, to work in groups, be cooperative and embrace difference.”

Similar programs at work overseas, such as one run by the National Gardening Association (NGA) in the US which was founded in 1973 to promote plant based education, have been running for more than 35 years.  The NGA has its focus to renew and sustain the essential connection between people, plants, and the environment through gardening.  Their research suggests that there is more to gardening than simply turning the sod.  Since they started collecting data back in 2005, to track the impact of their grants programs, their programs participants also noted improvements in other areas, such improvement in environmental attitudes, self confidence and volunteerism.

To get funding for your school’s kitchen garden project, try Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation

This program seeks to positively influence children’s food choices by engaging them in all aspects of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal produce. The program focuses on students in Years 3-6.
Visit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and the Coles Junior Landcare Garden Grants, where Schools and youth groups can apply for grants of up to $1,000 to create gardens in their school or community such as bush tucker gardens, waterwise gardens or vegie gardens. Open to schools, kindergartens, day care centres and youth groups (i.e. scouts, out of school care).  Further details are available on the Junior Landcare website.
The Get outdoors project by STIHL offers support to primary schools across Australia, with the installation of vertical gardens in primary schools through the STIHL My Green Wall project, or primary schools can register to get some help cleaning up their communal grounds with My Working Bee.
Also check your local council website, many have small grants available for schools to help with environmental projects such as school food gardens.

Posted under community
Posted on 24th September 2012

community | james st


Jmaes St Reserve Community Garden Sydney

Garden Life’s Richard Unsworth has been working alongside other volunteers at the James St Reserve Community Garden to turn what was once a place where drug addicts shot up into a veggie patch where grandma’s share knowledge and stories with grand kids as they walk to school.

Unsworth, whose Garden Design shop Garden Life overlook this garden out the back of the shop, says he was cynical at first that planting a garden could transform the back alley as radically as it has, but now says it has gone from a place you’d be frightened to walk at night into a garden that nurtures not only the plants, but also the souls of those who go there.  He has been involved from the start of the garden, and his great sense of design style is evident…including in the fabulous new shed that has just been built and is awaiting its tool fit out.

The garden, got off the ground and opened by Clover Moore some 2 years ago.  It doesn’t work with an allotment system, where each member has a plot, but rather, it has larger beds (in rainwater tanks) allocated to working groups, and they decide and care for what’s in each patch.  Smaller concrete tubs are planted out as “free for all” pots for non-members to enjoy, while the members share their combined harvests with each other.

Their vision “to create a living garden (an ever evolving and experimental space that embraces change) that makes the James Street Reserve an attractive and safe space that welcomes everyone, encourages community spirit, facilitates learning and information exchange and acts as a sustainability role model”, has certainly come true.  They have members aged from 5 to 80, including singles, different ethnic groups and even an Aboriginal man who silently sweeps the paths some mornings.  The compost also provides a sustainable approach to disposal of household food scraps for neighbouring properties and cafes.

What has been truly remarkable here however is how the homeless and faceless people from the back alleys have now become almost custodians of this space too, and that stories can finally be exchanged.  Perhaps this garden will do just as much healing minds as it does feeding families.


Posted under community
Posted on 13th March 2012

community | junior gardeners


junior gardeners

junior gardeners

junior gardeners

The Yates Junior Landcare Watermelon Challenge has wrapped up with two massive 20kg watermelons winning both the individual and group categories. Six-year-old Wyatt Kahler from Basin View, NSW, won the individual category with his giant watermelon weighing 20kg with a circumference of 83cm. The group winner was Cooran State School in Queensland, where the students also managed to grow a 20kg watermelon with a 77cm circumference. Wyatt’s grandmother, Trish Kahler, loved seeing her grandson get involved in the challenge.

“We’ve grown a few really big ones and we have more on the way! I think it is really great how kids can get out into the garden and learn about where their food is actually coming from,” she said. The challenge, launched last year by Junior Masterchef winner Isabella Bliss and her sister, Sofia, attracted over 40,000 participants from across the country. Regardless of whether they had grown a winning watermelon or something smaller, the kids were just excited to get their hands dirty and learn how to grow their own food. “I finally got a melon for the competition. Our season was very poor due to a cool to mild summer and very dry for two months. We finally got rain and more sunshine and bingo things started to grow in the far south east,” said Henry, a competitor from Bega, NSW. In addition to showing off their gardening abilities, competitors got creative by dressing up their watermelons and uploading photos of the results as part of the competition. Claire and Simon Jung from Lyneham, ACT, won this category with a photo of their watermelon looking very cosy in their garden bed dressed up with a beanie and scarf.

Just a heads up that Grow Harvest Cook will soon be running a kids gardening and cooking competition with some great give-aways! Make sure you read our newsletter so you don’t miss out!

junior gardeners


Posted under community
Posted on 7th October 2011

community | Allsun



Joyce Wilkie and Michael Plane, both “retired” academics have turned a bush block into a productive farm and are happy to share their keen insights.  If you’re up for the drive, the outing is worth the trouble.

The Allsun Farm between Gundaroo and Canberra is having specialist talks and tours all weekend on the 29th-30 October 2011.  Entry fee is $10 and there will be everything from tools to chooks, tractors and books, and of course, tasty produce that biodynamic and organically grown.  For details check out the Australian Open Garden Schemes 2011/2012 Catalogue or website.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

Posted under community