The June 18 meeting of Eurobodalla Gourmet Gardeners saw 16 of the Club meet at the home of Lorraine & Andrew Nicholls in Broulee to share some experiences & food, hear about the St Peter’s school market garden initiative, and get the low down on some food preserving.
As usual, members were treated to an impeccable lunch of their own creations, then the group heard from 2 presenters. First Sam Shepherd from St Peters school in Broulee who has led a wonderful Market Garden program at the school this year. This is a long terms vision of Sam’s, and together with securing some grant funding, the first 2 terms have seen some wonderful collaborations and produce. The school has a group of year 7 and other interested students who started from scratch with a 15-row planting bed, and a hydroponics system.
Sam spoke passionately about his ‘45 pairs of hands’ that take organic gardening to the next level – explaining how students do a caterpillar grub ‘sweep’ over the plants – so it means we have not had to spray yet. Sam’s belief and interest in food is additional to his Head of Mathematics role – and he openly promotes the synergistic effects of playing in both spaces – ‘good fresh food and the outdoors makes you brighter for maths, and the plants get scared of the serious numbers students are throwing at them in terms of measurements, markets and growth rates!’. Anyone interested and willing to help with this wonderful program should call the school on 4471 5111, the possibilities are endless.
Above: Forming of the garden beds, Training the climbing beans and Market day reaps the rewards
Following this Andrew spoke about his food preserving interests, adding he was inspired by his Nana to make sure the beautiful summer fruits he likes - apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears & plums can be enjoyed for the 48 weeks of the year when they are not in season. Using skills that were second nature to his Nana, and equipment that is still available (Fowlers Vacola), and the industry technology still used today (eg SPC, etc), we can keep fruit when it is at its best in season and store it – you know – at the time when you are full and just can’t eat any more ! The group heard about vacuum sealing and saw the wonderful set-up, and a range of fruits Andrew has bottled. The group was also introduced to and spoke about other systems of preservation – dehydrating, freezing, salting, and syrup/alcohol storage. Similar systems can be used to store vegetables, including pickling.
The traditional Vacola preserving system use temperature sterilisation and vacuum sealing to capture the flavour, nutrient and goodness of the summer fruit so they can be enjoyed year-round. L-R white flesh peaches, nectarines and yellow flesh peaches using Fowlers jars.
For some 15 years Andrew has been setting about 200 bottles a year to store and eat at another time. This includes using the fruit in desserts like a crumble (quick and easy) and also on breakfast cereal. “Additionally, they make great gifts, from the heart, my energy, my interests” he added.
In agricultural show circles preserving used to be an art form – to demonstrate how successful a harvest was, and also how people would preserve and present their foods. In terms of sourcing fruit, he now buys most of his fruit as seconds, but a great network of roadside trees also exists !
This Fowlers preserving kit was made out of copper, and is stamped # 283 – being released by the Fowlers company in 1932 to commemorate the opening of the Sydney harbour bridge. It’s past life has included use under a tractor to collect sump oil on a farm of Andrew’s Uncle near Tarcutta, NSW.
Andrew made the point that we have all had the feeling of a very successful garden harvest, with more fruit than we can know what to do with. The tendency these days is to let someone else deal with the spoilage or waste, and just buy your next lot of fruits and vegies from the Supermarket. But this is not sustainable thinking, and this way you can capture and celebrate a great harvest.
Pam Hamory – from the Gourmet Gardeners group, and a staunch member of the fantastic Eurobodalla Show Society is seriously keen to get all the schools in the district ready to put forward their best efforts for the 2020 show – to be held on Australia Day weekend (25 & 26 January) 2020.