Agricultural scientist Angus Stewart is well known to viewers of the ABC’s Gardening Australia and he now lives on a farm in Tasmania. In Grow Your Own (Murdoch Books 2017), Stewart and Simon Leake, an expert in soil science, quote the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which states there are 200 million urban farmers in the world, supplying food to 700 million people.
Canberrans urban farmers, as are many of the readers and contributors to this column, should be proud to be among the number.
The response to our Pea Party giveaway of Yates pea seeds (Kitchen Garden, May 8) has reports coming in of sowing and germination dates and current growth. The two most requested varieties were Sugarsnap climbing and Dwarf Greenfeast peas. They are being grown from the Monaro to the Shoalhaven and in many suburbs of Canberra from Ngunnawal to Wanniassa.
Linda Ayliffe gardens at Canberra City Farm. The site is exposed and subject to wildlife visits so the growers constructed a straw bale u-shaped structure with netting covers and sowed the seeds by June. Nestled into this protective surround, most survived the frosts and a bit of nibbling.
On the invitation of Ayliffe, I visited the Dairy Flat site on August 28 and the peas were 30cm high. The best growth was on north-facing and east-facing sides of the enclosure. Since then, we have had two generous falls of rain and warm sunshine so the pea plants are putting on a burst of spring growth.
In the community plots section of Canberra City Farm, one gardener has sown an entire bed with a green-manure crop of peas. As Simon Leake says, all plants in the legume family have an amazing symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria in their roots. This enables each plant to take nitrogen from the air and turn it into nitrate, which feeds the plant. As a green-manure crop, peas are grown to the flowering stage then ploughed back into the earth, where they break down and add extra nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.
At Farrer and Mawson Primary Schools, Carol Edwards, who is Scientist in School, reports the pea plants are shooting up but growth was initially very slow. No flowers yet.
In the milder climate of Bundeena, south of Sydney, my brother-in-law sowed the dwarf peas on June 23 in premium potting mix surrounding a young dwarf potted lemon tree. They are now 31cm high and flowering. A second lot sown in a pot of ordinary soil around a lime tree are 16cm tall.
In my courtyard, I sowed seven Dwarf Greenfeast seeds in premium potting mix in a black plastic pot with some protection from the eaves. Because no readers requested the climbing Telephone Pole variety, I sowed nine of them behind my compost container, against a tall brick wall. I had 100 per cent germination but all seeds took three weeks to germinate.
Last Tuesday my dwarf pea plants were 44cm tall from the soil to the top tendrils and the telephone pole plants were 70cm tall. They are said to grow up to two metres in height and are winding around bamboo stakes. No flowers yet.
In River Cottage Much More Veg (Bloomsbury, 2017) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gives a recipe for pea hummus using freshly podded peas, raw if young, blanched if older, pureed with coriander, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning. Trickle with extra virgin olive oil and snipped chive stems. Serve with raw young Dutch carrots for dipping.
In River Cottage Light & Easy (Bloomsbury 2014) Fearnley-Whittingstall pops snow or sugar snap peas into boiling water for a minute, tosses them in dressing, plates them with Little Gem lettuce leaves, adds a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and a handful of pea shoots. A perfect recipe for home pea growers.
Local botanical artist Cheryl Hodges, of Jerrabomberra, has Wattle Day news. Canberra chocolate makers, Li Peng Monroe and Peter Channells of Jasper+Myrtle, had asked her to design a chocolate mould featuring Golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha). Wattle expert Dr Suzette Searle specified the illustration must include the gland at the base of the phyllode and Hodges had to work to a particular size and include the ‘break lines’ and space for the logo.
The illustration was sent to a chocolate mould manufacturer in Belgium and the process took several months to get the mould just right in terms of design, detail and also the weight of the chocolate.
For Wattle Day on September 1, the Governor-General planted an Acacia pycnantha at the National Arboretum Canberra and the chocolates were handed out at the end of the ceremony.
Jasper+Myrtle chocolates are sold at IGAs in Ainsie, Chapman, Chifley and Deakin, Cook Friendly Grocer and Essential Ingredient in Kingston.