It is said that if you feed the garden it will feed you and that is the reason so many keen kitchen gardeners have compost containers or heaps. Mine are a pair of Reln bins (originally supplied by the ACT government) with bottoms open to the soil, sides that can be released by clips and a divided lid. Filled with layers of leaves, kitchen veg and fruit scraps, a little torn paper and old pot soil they are slow but successful, especially when the compost is dark and full of worms.
However this winter, the trek to the bins over raked, damp soil resulted in gluggy soles on my shoes. It was time for pine needle gathering. A friend and I headed to a stand of pines near a public path and bundled fallen golden brown pine needles from mounds on the path's edge into a couple of garden bags. It was an uplifting activity, oh, that fresh pine smell, a passersby to ask if we were being good citizens or doing it as a community project.
Not only is my new informal path good enough to show visitors but it is scented. Pine needles contain terpenes. These are aromatic compounds which produce the scent of rosemary, lavender, cannabis, lemon rind and fresh orange peel and are said to protect plants from animal grazing and some insects while others attract pollinators.
According to Medical News Today, March 2020, scientists are carrying out research into the health benefits terpenes may offer the human body. They also form the basis of essential oils. Pinene from pine needles is important in the Japanese therapy of "forest bathing". So, as you walk to the compost bin you might feel as though you have also improved your health.
Currently, in Great Britain, there is a community project to determine whether compostable or biodegradable branded tea bags do break down in home composters and, if so, how quickly. The University College London Plastic Waste Innovation Hub's citizen science research aim is to increase understanding of composting's environmental impact and inform improvements to waste management. Check out bigcompostexperiment.org.uk
Meanwhile, if the piles of fallen leaves in your garden need easy collection, try a pop-up garden bag. I was recently given a green one with 85L capacity (53cm tall when popped), reusable, durable, and light weight with two cloth handles to carry to the compost bin.
On June 28, I asked if readers were growing broccolini. No one responded about purple broccolini but a gardener with a community plot in Holder told me her green variety is growing well and Larraine Nicholls, of Deakin, said she had purchased one seedling from Paul (Canberra Colour) at the Southside Farmers' Markets. At its recent peak, Larraine harvested enough for two to go with her beef casserole.
There were lots of eyes watching from the walls of the National Portrait Gallery when Dr Anna Howe of Hackett and I had a discussion at the opening of the Darling Portrait Prize recently. The first topic was a possum deterrent remedy to protect your parsley, lettuces, lemons et al - a 10m string of tiny lights from Bunnings that run off a solar panel and are strung along the vegetable garden atop stakes. They flash a winking white light so don't place outside a bedroom.
We first met Anna five years ago in her potager-style gardens at her townhouse in Hackett (Kitchen Garden, May 9, 2017) when she was making purple carrot cake. In Autumn this year she planted out a punnet of mixed lettuce (about 20 seedlings) for the visit of her sister, Susan Howe de Rudder, from Nimes, in France. They all grew and she still has two red, one oakleaf and two frisee lettuces from which to pick leaves for side salads.
At the NPG we talked about inexpensive carrots in 1kg bags from supermarkets which must mean Australian carrot growers are struggling. At Nimes there is a marvellous central market featuring local produce. Many of the stalls sell prepared vegetable dishes including shredded celeriac with mayonnaise and finely shredded/spiral carrots Susan says the dish is called carrot rapee, the most banal of French entrees, but delicious, with just a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkling of parsley and a little oil. A little bit French for Bastille Day.
Anna also likes the website: skinnytaste.com and says the vegetable spiralisers are sold at KMart, Target, Big W and Kitchen Warehouse, among other places.
She also notes that Vietnamese and Thai restaurants serve shredded carrots and Stephanie Alexander has a recipe for carrot salad with Thai dressing in The Cook's Companion which she adapted from a dish using unripe papaya.
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