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Making Local Food Work

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Meredith’s speaking at Making Local Food Work

Here is the text of Meredith’s opening address:

Thanks for coming. We hope that you’re all looking forward to today with as much enthusiasm and anticipation as we are. ‘Local’ means different things to different people. For today’s event, it means Southern Gippsland – from the sea to the Strzeleckis and beyond, from Westernport to beyond the Prom. Here are some of the places people have come from today – I like saying the names:
Koonwarra
Mt Best
Strzelecki
Korumburra
Moyarra
West Creek
Wonthaggi
Ruby
Stony Creek
Leongatha
Glen Alvie
KernotBass
Walkerville
Mirboo North
Allambee South
Bena
Arawata
Fish Creek
Kongwak
Inverloch
Foster
Ranceby
French Island.
This is an area that has an enormous amount going for it; and it’s easily considered a resource for other parts of Australia, even the world. No problem with that of course.
But those of us who live here also need a lot of different things from LOCAL food. We’re concerned about:

  • Health of friends and family
  • Making a living
  • Living at minimal cost to the environment
  • Being a part of a community that is resilient, one that is about cooperation rather than competition.

Grow Lightly has been working on these things for a decade or more, from a very very small start. We have grown a lot but still find there are many things we want to do that we can’t do as things stand. Meanwhile we have become aware of many other plans and projects, all working towards similar goals. The trouble is, we don’t all know about each other.
In southern Gippsland there are:

  • Food swaps
  • Farmers and community markets
  • Community gardens
  • Gifts of vegetables and fruit to friends and neighbours
  • Share tables at meetings of community groups, clubs and associations
  • Opportunities to pass on surplus to people who need it – one we know about is the Milpara Emergency Food Bank
  • Cafes, shops, pubs that want to highlight local produce
  • Very many farm-based small businesses working on value-adding
  • Other small businesses marketing what they produce locally
  • Increasing numbers of small market gardens
  • And increasing numbers of people wanting to find out about organic agricultural and horticultural practices; or about how to do more for themselves, become more self reliant.
  • There’s the work done by Landcare
  • Clubs, associations, interest groups and workshops on all SORTS of topics – honey, olives, flowers, soap or compost or wicking-bed making …
  • Festivals and celebrations

THESE ARE ALL GOING ON IN SOUTHERN GIPPSLAND.
At the same time, there are gaps – small communities that have trouble getting access to good fresh fruit and vegetables; enterprises that can’t readily distribute what they produce to a local clientele; others that need easier access to foods grown or prepared locally; people who want to start a garden or a food-based small business, but don’t know where to start.
Put simply, that’s what today is about.
Grow Lightly has been planning a gathering of people such as this for simply ages. We ALL need to find out more about what’s happening in this area, and think creatively about new ways of working together.
Today you’ll hear directly from twelve different local projects, but that is the tip of the iceberg. There could have been twice or three times that number. We are inviting you to do as we will: to start with what you hear and see, as well as with your own priorities and commitments, but during the day to use your imagination, develop your own bigger picture and use this opportunity to pass on your ideas – about what you would like to see happen, as well as what you might be able to help with – and help us all work out where we might go from here.
Thanks again for coming – and thanks in anticipation for helping to make local food work in southern Gippsland.

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Purple Congo Potatoes

How is this for wonderful colour! The purple congo potato is available at the Grow Lightly Food Hub (open Thursday to Sunday). Purple potatoes are rich in the antioxidant, anthocyanin and other phytonutrients. The colour remains when the potato is cooked. And they taste great too. Below is a recipe that a reader of this blog submitted along with a photo of her creation. Thanks Elena.

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Purple Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

700 g medium purple potatoes, halved

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1⅓ cups plain flour, plus extra for rolling

1 large egg

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook them until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and, once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Return the potatoes to the pot, add the butter and mash well. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour, egg and 1 teaspoon of salt, mixing until the potatoes come together into a soft dough.

2. Lightly flour a cutting board and place the potato dough on top. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each into a 2cm-thick rope. Use a knife to divide the rope into 2 cm pieces. Roll each piece of dough over the tines of a fork to make indentations on each piece of dough. Transfer to a floured plate and repeat with the remaining dough.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the gnocchi in batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pot, simmering until the gnocchi float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi to a large plate.

Make the sauce: Set a large pan over medium heat and add the butter. Cook the butter, stirring often, until the it turns golden-brown and smells nutty, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic, sage and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked gnocchi and cook until warmed through. Divide among 4 to 6 plates, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

recipe adapted from Tasting Table

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Look at the amazing colour! Delicious as well.

An occasional series: Unusual edible plants that grow in South Gippsland

Babaco or Champagne Fruit Vasconcellea × heilbornii, Carica pentagona
Owoce Babako

Babaco is a medium to tall upright shrub/small tree.

Deciduous in South Gippsland, it is a papaya like plant with large pendulous hanging fruit, turning yellow when ripe in spring. This species requires regular water, and is extremely frost sensitive. It thrives in sunny moist well drained conditions.

The fruit is seedless and has tropical overtones; however it requires sugar to bring out the flavour. Suggest cutting in slices and sprinkling with sugar.

If the plant is not pruned back hard each year, the fruit will develop higher and higher on the plant, eventually resulting in a tall poorly fruiting specimen. Cut back large stems each year, leaving smaller stems to grow fruit the year after.

Propagate from cuttings. The stems should be cut into 20 cm segments when there are no leaves in spring. Leave the segments on a cool dry shelf for a week, then plant into a pot filled with potting mix and water as per normal. Roots will develop over several months, the plants will be ready for planting out in autumn.

 

Thank you to Rhys Freeman for this information.

IMAGE: By derivative work: Agnieszka Kwiecień (Nova) original files: [3]: from Flickr by M. Martin Vicente, CC-BY 2.0. [4]: from Flickr by M. Martin Vicente, CC-BY 2.0. Babaco.jpg: Siegert, PD. (Own work [1] [2] Babaco.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons