This week the kitchen garden meets nature. First stop Jerrabomberra Wetlands (hat, boots and water bottle recommended). From the car park walk into the first bird hide called Ardea (a genus of herons). It is dark and quiet and we watch a pair of ducks bobbing their heads as they swim (spring flirting) and a pair of masked lapwings on an islet in Kelly's Swamp.
From the next hide a couple with binoculars point out shoveler ducks with three ducklings. A quad of pelicans do a fly past. The sound of church bells is drowned out in the sunken frog-watch area where water is a centimetre below metal gratings. Something is splashing around in this reach of the Molonglo, an Australian water rat, a carp or maybe a platypus. The area where you walk between reeds as high as your shoulders is particularly alluring.
Driving along Dairy Road there is a burst of colour. Canberra City Farm is a partner with Floriade: Reimagained and vibrant poppies, tulips and pansies, well mulched, line the fence. Christine Vincent was the Floriade team leader from CCF with four female assistants for the planting plus two males who did bed preparation and mowing.
From the gates of the City Farm you can compare Canberra red clay soil with beds black with compost. Broad beans are surrounded by a rosemary hedge and bright orange calendulas. One plot is filled with huge artichoke plants and massed borage, hundreds of bees buzzing its blue flowers.
People can walk in through the wetland gateways but, because of COVID restrictions, twice weekly opportunities have been set up for interested people to visit on supervised tours. You can book on firstname.lastname@example.org for a one-hour tour on Monday or Thursday mornings.
The President of CCF, Dr Fiona Tito Wheatland, says there are 55 allotments, half 40 sq metres and half 20 sq metres. The age range covers 60 years with many younger people accessing the plots in the last round of offers. This year two beds reserved for refugee families, nominated by Canberra Refugee Support, have been taken up.
In the heart of the farm is a row of espaliered fruit trees planted by long time committee member Keith Colls with help from other volunteers. It is now being tended by Vanessa Goss. Keith says the idea is to demonstrate how backyard gardeners can grow fruit trees in a small space. These trees are on dwarfing stock so are planted close together and will never grow above three metres tall for easy netting to control pests and also to pick the fruit. Half are quinces and half eating apples except one which is a Yarlington Mill cider apple. To the north are five varieties of hazelnut trees.
Fiona Tito Wheatland says warm weather and regular rain means most of the crops are thriving. Winter bitter greens, kale, coriander, silverbeet and beetroot are being followed by chicory,
Warrigal greens, broad beans, garlic and bulb fennel,still growing strongly. Recently farm members harvested a square metre of horseradish and young allotment holders are picking Asian greens such as bok choy and tatsoi.
Carole Ayliffe and her propagation team have seedlings for sale to the public and for plot holders to use on the farm. These are listed on the website: https://ccfarm.org.au/newsite/?page_id=231
They include Freckles and oakleaf lettuces, red and green mizuna, black krim, brandywine, oxheart, and rouge de marmade tomatoes, listada de gandia and Thai long green eggplants, spacemaster cucumbers, melons and herbs.
Next week we will explore the add ons in the paddocks which are part of Canberra City Farm.
You are probably hungry by now so here is a recipe shared by Fiona. On my visit, plot holders (and one sleeping dog on a lap) had gathered for morning tea so I took the advice of a friend and drove along Dairy Road to As Nature Intended for lunch. The pierogi, Polish dumplings, come with olive oil, kraut, green leaves and a variety of fillings including cabbage and mushroom. The coffee is Sacred Grounds organic Fairtrade. The shop sells organic fruit and veg, and every pantry and laundry ingredient you might need.
Fiona's quick breakfast dish
Put olive oil in a pan with sliced onions or garlic and add some chopped smoked meat - a small amount of pork cheek recommended because it is luscious but bacon or corned beef also good. Don't use too much but cook it slowly, without becoming crunchy. After the meat is ready add some more green onions and toss in any combination of chopped greens - silverbeet, spinach, collards, shelled broad beans or snow peas. Cook lightly then serve with a poached egg or scrambled eggs.
For vegans or vegetarians, instead of the meat, add smoked nuts after you add the greens. Also good as a side dish for dinner.