Previous month:
January 2013
Next month:
March 2013

February 2013

Time for Australian Garlic

Australian Garlic is now in season 1 Tricia Hogbin

Right now we are in the middle of the Australian garlic season. Australian garlic is seasonal and available for only a few months of the year, from around November through to the end of May. Outside of those months most shops will only stock imported garlic.

What's wrong with imported garlic? 

Food miles aside, imported garlic is fumigated with the highly toxic chemical methyl bromide on arrival in Australia and is also often bleached.

I’d rather go without than resort to buying imported.

I treasure foods more when I only eat them in season. That first sweet orange or crunchy apple is even more delicious after having gone without for a few months. However, I like to enjoy garlic all year round. Dahl, hummus, lentil loaf – many of my favourite staple frugal meals just wouldn’t work without garlic.

How to store garlic

If you store garlic properly it will last until around six months after harvest. After that, it will probably sprout.

A bamboo steamer is a great place to store garlic

I store whole bulbs in a bamboo steamer in the pantry. As long as they are in a dry, dark place at room temperature and have good air circulation they will stay fresh for months.

Storing potatoes garlic and onions in the pantry in a bamboo steamer Storing potatoes garlic and onions in the pantry in bamboo steamers

Storing potatoes garlic and onions in the pantry in bamboo steamers 2

How to preserve garlic

To ensure an all-year-round supply I freeze garlic. To freeze, I separate the cloves and place them in a container in the freezer.

Frozen garlic cloves

Grated frozen garlic

I don’t bother peeling the cloves and then use them without thawing when I need.

Other ways of preserving garlic include drying or storing with salt or in vinegar. I like the idea of storing in vinegar. Chopped garlic is submerged in a bottle of white or red wine vinegar and stored in the refrigerator. The vinegar and garlic is ready to use in salad dressings for up to four months.

Where to find Australian garlic

The best place to find Australian garlic is at your greengrocer, farmers market, or direct from the farmer. Several Australian garlic growers now sell online, including Hunter Valley grower Patrice Newell.

So if you don’t want to be tempted to buy imported garlic in a few months’ time, now is the time to buy garlic.

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 23rd February 2013]


Foraging Scurvy Weed

Scurvy Weed can be easily distinguished by its gorgeous bright blue flowers
Our paddock is full of Scurvy Weed. It popped up after the rain and is thriving.

Surprisingly Scurvy Weed is not actually a weed but a native plant called Commelina cyanea. This plant also goes by the politically incorrect common name of Native Wandering Jew.

For the past few weeks I’ve been walking through it, first wondering whether it is toxic to guinea pigs and chooks, and then, when it became really abundant, whether it is edible.

A bunch of foraged Scurvy Weed - a native Australian plant that has edible leaves.

I was pleased to discover its leaves are edible. The terminal buds can be eaten raw or cooked. I felt like I’d discovered a field of spinach and lettuce at my back door.

It was eaten by early non-indigenous colonists to alleviate scurvy, and hence its common name.

To prepare Scurvy Weed simply pick off the terminal buds

I foraged a bunch and added a couple of handfuls of terminal buds to a frittata.

It was delicious, although admittedly, its taste was hard to distinguish from any other green leafy vegetable in amongst the other frittata ingredients.

I’ll definitely be using this fresh, local and free vegetable as one alternative to leafy and salad greens from now on.

Wondering where you can find your own patch of Scurvy Weed?

It grows in moist forest or woodland areas along the east coast of Australia. It’s particularly fond of moist and disturbed soil so you may even see it pop up in your back yard. It was common in my Newcastle backyard.

It does resemble the introduced weed Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) which is not edible, but Scurvy Weed can be easily distinguished by its gorgeous bright blue flowers. The introduced weed Wandering Jew in contrast has white flowers.

Foraged Greens Frittata

Foraged Greens Frittata

Frittata is one of my favourite ways of trying new foraged greens. I really like Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetraganoides) in frittata and will one day try Stinging Nettle frittata.

To make a foraged greens frittata simply use your favourite frittata recipe and substitute a vegetable for your foraged greens.

Learn more about foraging

If you are interested in learning more about foraging there’s a range of handy field guides including Useful Weeds at our Doorstep by Hunter’s own foraging expert Pat Collins and The Weed Forager’s Handbook: A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland.

Pat Collins from the Total Health and Education Centre in Muswellbrook also runs workshops on how to forage and use weeds across the Hunter region and further afield. To find out more about upcoming workshops subscribe to their newsletter by emailing info (at) patcollins.com.au or phone 6541 1884.

Do you or would you forage greens to eat?

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 16th February 2013]


Room for change

Collaborative living

Our home has a spare room that sits empty most of the year. We’re not alone. More than 75 percent of Australian homes have one or more spare bedrooms.

We decided to earn a little extra cash from our spare room and took in a housemate.

In collaborative consumption lingo, we utlised the "idling capacity" of our spare bedroom.

Collaborative consumption describes the rapid explosion in sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping. These traditional actions are far from new, but new online technologies have made them easier.

Rachel Botsman, co-author of the book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, suggests we are surrounded by unused or underused assets that have an untapped value, or idling capacity. Collaborative Consumption is about using the latest technologies to redistribute idling capacity and maximize usage.

The financial benefits of renting a room to a friend and her son soon faded into insignificance against all the unexpected bonuses of collaborative living.

We shared cooking, child-minding, chores and my daughter got to experience a sibling-like relationship.

I know a number of families who regularly rent out rooms to students or travellers. One friend has shared her home with 12 international students in the last eight years through the Newcastle University Homestay program. She loves that each introduces her and her family to a different culture.

There are several online communities that make it easy for home owners to realise the idling capacity of their spare bedroom and even their couch.

Airbnb.com helps people rent their homes to travellers. I checked out what’s available in Newcastle and discovered dozens of people renting out rooms, from $36 a night for a tiny room with a view to $111 for two bedrooms, bathroom and lounge.

For home owners more interested in receiving a helping hand than money there’s helpexchange.net or workaway.info where hosts provide food and board in exchange for a few hours work.

There’s even an option for people willing to offer accommodation for free at couchsurfing.org. I was surprised to discover over 140 people offering free accommodation in the Newcastle area.

Perhaps you like the idea of sharing your home, but only while you’re not in it? There’s a suite of home swapping websites where you can arrange to swap your home for another, either in Australia or abroad.

These collaborative living options are a nice way to save resources, help a friend, make some money, or just enjoy some extra company. There’s room for change in everybody’s life.

Are you tempted to realise the "idling capacity" of your spare bedroom? Would you, or have you, shared your home? 

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 9th February 2013]


Tips for travelling light

Tips for Travelling light by Little eco footprints

I love travelling with less luggage. I enjoy the freedom of not struggling to carry loads of luggage on and off public transport or worrying about losing a bag. Managing less stuff also frees up more time to enjoy the trip.

I’ve spent far too much time on past holidays trying to organise and keep track of my belongings.

After years of over packing and lugging around more than I need, I think I’ve finally nailed travelling light.

My daughter and I recently travelled interstate for a week with carry-on luggage only.

Here are my favourite tips for travelling light:

1. It’s OK to wear the same clothes often.

No one cares what you wear. I once wore only six items of clothing for an entire month and nobody even noticed.

2. Hand-wash clothes in the bathroom sink.

I hand-wash or spot-clean clothes in the bathroom sink every second night or so when travelling. With so few clothes there’s no sense in waiting for a full load of washing. I favour light weight and quick dry clothing. Washing regularly means you’ll only ever need to pack 3 days’ worth of clothes.

3. Embrace multi-purpose clothing.

I have a black wool top that I use as a T-shirt, pyjama top, or as an extra layer when it’s cool. Clothes that can be layered are great. Adjustable clothing, like long pants that can become ¾ pants or shorts are handy too.

4. Take few shoes.

This trip I took only one pair of sandals that I am comfortable wearing in most situations. They are great for walking long distances but I’m also happy wearing them out for dinner.

5. Pack similar complimentary solid colours so that all your clothes match.

Black or dark colours are particularly good if you need to easily switch between smart and casual.

6. You don’t have to take absolutely everything you could possibly need.

Borrow once you get there, or in the worst case, buy it.

Do you have any tips for travelling light?

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 2nd February 2013]

To my regular readers - you may have noticed I'm only posting my column most weeks. This is not what I'm intending for this space - but between juggling work, moving to our little farm, and settling into our shed home it's all I can manage at the moment. I indend to blog more regularly one day. In the mean time - you can get a sneak peak at life at our little farm by following me (Triciaeco) on Instagram or by simply popping over and checking out my Instagram page