Lucky Canberrans must support our country producers within an arc from Yass to Collector to Braidwood.
Bellchambers Produce in Fyshwick, established in 1948, is a place for the home gardener to browse. There are paper bags of chicken mash for your organic poultry, bins of black sunflower seeds and dog food.
A bloke in a ute parked next to me had the tray filled with pea straw and six bags of Martin's Premium Potting Mix. I purchased some of the latter - Martin's Fertilizers are based in Yass.
Hessian sacks of seed potatoes had lured me to Bellchambers. Six years ago I was given a seed potato (which had been "chitted" or allowed to develop one large eye) at an Italian cafe in Cronulla. My single spud, which the cafe people said was bintje, produced 14 new potatoes 10 weeks later (Kitchen Garden, February 11, 2015).
This time I have planted the Dutch cream variety atop a 15cm layer of potting mix with a top layer of Who Flung Dung mulch and more potting mix. My potato looked like David Pope's Canberra Times cartoon (September 17) of a Federal Minister's head. If planting in the ground Bellchambers recommends a trench 20cm deep and when the potatoes have flowered you can bandicoot some baby new potatoes. They store better with a bit of dirt on them.
The Heritage Nursery at Yarralumla has a printed sheet called Growing Potatoes in Canberra which includes tips such as "growing potatoes is a great way to break up heavy soils in new gardens". They had bags with nine certified seed potatoes in three varieties but, as the nurseryman said a week ago, "sold out, COVID". Tatey growing bags have an easy-to-harvest hatch if you are short of space.
On September 20 clouds cleared to a blue sky and a group gathered in the stone walled garden at Helen Stephens Gallery in Collector for drinks and nibbles at the opening of "Insectarium". The guest of honour was possibly Seamus, the wool-curled sheep over the wall who welcomed some nose stroking.
The jewel-like art works of bees with honeycomb, beetles, bogong moths and butterflies will be on exhibition until October 25 (Fridays to Sundays 11am-4pm). Try Some Cafe just up the road for a bite to eat (check their opening times).
Enjoy a tasting at Collector Wines where the spring pink 2019 Shoreline rose has "mandarin, cherry, rosewater and spice aromas". We came away with six bottles. Outside, there are benches and tables beside raised beds of plants and rows of crab apples in pink and white bloom. The village creek is full and Lake George is blue with water.
Cathy and Jenny, producers from Garlicious Grown in Braidwood, launched their black garlic in 2014 and it is used by leading chefs and shortlisted in the Food and Beverage Industry Awards this spring. They have shared a special recipe with us.
The current season has been tough in Braidwood, soils were baked in the fires and curing garlic was heat affected from January temperatures. After the dry months, recent rains have improved things for the organically grown March plantings
Gourmet quality stock is available from Essential Ingredient in Kingston, Canberra Visitors Centre at Regatta Point, Deli Planet Fyshwick Markets, Choku Bai Jo in Lyneham and Curtin, IGA Ainslie, Friendly Grocer in Chifley and Spence, Bitten Goodfoods Braddon and Bower Birds at Gold Creek.
Black garlic is a high antioxidant superfood.
In the Canberra home garden, garlic plants seem to be thriving. Mine are in the ground and one in a pot as a test - its foliage is luxuriant. However sodden ground and potting mix risks rot so keep watch.
Rib eye steak with black garlic smear, rosemary powder pont neuf and potatoes
4 medium-sized Desiree potatoes
sunflower oil for frying
for seasoning: salt flakes and
Garlicious Grown black garlic and rosemary powder
350g aged rib eye steak on the bone
Peel potatoes and square off the ends. Cut lengthwise into four wedges. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook for eight minutes or until just tender. Strain. Fry the parboiled potato wedges in the oil until golden and crispy. Drain well and place wedges on absorbent paper towel.
Prepare a seasoning mix using 50/50 salt flakes and Garlicious Grown black garlic and rosemary powder. To serve, stack the potato wedges to form a bridge-like structure and season well.
Grill steak to your liking, allow to rest. Just prior to serving, smear two caramelised black garlic cloves across the top of the steak. Serve with washed and drained fresh watercress and a side of black garlic and rosemary powder pont neuf.