Sour sobs dye

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Across South Australia right now is a sea of yellow. Oxalis pes-caprae also known as sour sobs is in flower. In our house we call it the love heart plant as its little leaves are in the shape of love hearts. These normally get pulled out in gardens due to them smothering and competing with plants around them. Before getting rid of them pluck the flowers and make a dye with them. This is a lovely activity to do with kids.

Kids seem to already know some of the secrets of this little plant because they will often pluck the stalk and suck the ends for the sour flavour hit. If you have a little person collecting flowers with you, let them eat the stems and leaves too. The stems, root and leaves are all edible. It has a lemony sour flavour and is harmless in small amounts. If you want to eat it in larger amounts just boil it first and discard the liquid before eating.

To make the dye collect a few cups of flowers. Fill and boil a kettle with about 1.5 litres of water. In a pot, add the flowers and boiled water and let steep. After 5 mins or so you will get a vibrant yellow water.

The fabric doesn’t need to be in the water for long to become dyed but if you leave it in for at least half an hour it should allow for the dye to be soaked up well by all the fibres and give a more even colour. Use natural fibres for this – eg cotton, wool, linen.

To make yellow, use either vinegar. To make orange, add bicarb soda. Now, I’m still trying to find an effective natural fixing agent for this dye as the yellow went orange after the first wash and vinegar and salt wasn’t strong enough to hold the colour after the wash.

 

 

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Broccoli budda bowl

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I recently did a Growing Great Veggies course taught by Nat Wiseman from Village Greens and Steven Hoepfner from Wagtail Urban Farm. They both very generously shared their knowledge honed through experience running market gardens using organic methods. Well worth attending if you get a chance. The course was held at the Glandore Community Garden and growing in one of the patches was this gorgeous broccoli.

Broccoli is a favorite in our house and the whole plant can be eaten. The seeds can be sprouted. Leaves can be used in salads, juices or cooked. Stalks can be cut finely and used in stirfries or diced and put in stews and sauces. The heads can be chopped into florets and can be eaten raw or cooked in dishes like Gado Gado. The flowers are also edible. It’s such a versitile plant and fairly easy to grow through Adelaide’s wet winters.

A simple way to prepare broccoli is use it in a budda bowl. Budda bowls are a great way to put together simple seasonal produce into a nourishing meal. Braise the broccoli florets in stock, cook until tender. Roast some pumkin seasoned with oil, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Assemble the bowl by adding broccoli, roast pumpkin, wild or salad greens (mallow, chickweed, cooked nettle), saukraut, and cooked chickpeas. Garnish with dandelion petals. For a simple dressing put together 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Orange and fennel chicken

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This recipe brings together all the winter flavours of Adelaide into a super simple dinner. Fennel seeds, orange and lemon can be foraged fairly easily. The hero of the dish is the oil that’s been freshly pressed from a friends family farm, bringing all the flavours together.

1kg chicken thighs

2 oranges

1 lemon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons salt

2 large fennel bulbs

1/3 cup cold water

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 teaspoons cornflour

Create the marinade by mixing together the oil, mustard, fennel seeds, salt, zest and juice of the oranges and lemon. Add the chicken, toss through so the chicken is well covered and marinate for a few hours or overnight if you can.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the tube bits off the fennel and then cut each bulb into 12 wedges. Place the fennel into a large flat baking tray and put the marinated chicken and marinade on top of the fennel. Toss the marinade through the fennel but make sure the chicken is sitting on top of the fennel when placing it in the oven. Give the chicken a last drizzle of oil and bake for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Take the baking tray out of the oven then place the fennel and chicken into a serving plate. Make a gravy out of the juices by putting the baking tray onto a high heat on the stove. Mix the water and the cornflour together until there are no lumps. Then add to the pan juices. Add the clove of garlic and using a whisk mix the gravy for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

 

 

Street trees and guerrilla grafting

 

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There is a street in Adelaide that’s planted out with citrus trees as the street trees. They’re mostly oranges but there are a few lemons and cumquats in the mix. I’d love to know the story about how this cooperative act came about. They are clearly still enthusiastic about the citrus trees because I saw some more newer plantings down the end of the street. Verges and their street trees have so much potential for both food production and greening up spaces.

In my local council alone there is around 220km of verges. Right now there is a mix of street trees and under them dolomite and gravel. The gravel gets sprayed 2-3 times a year with glyphosate which is a known carcinogen. This results in bare ground that heats up in summer and is dusty. Ideally, money spent each year on poison and contractors could get diverted into planting out the verges. Local native ground covers as a bare minimum would make more sense that the current default option. On the other end of the spectrum is Buderim’s Urban Food Street which is 11 streets that grow edible food on their verges.

Other than planting a fruit tree on the verge, street trees can have edible fruit grafted onto them. This is the time of year to get grafting. All you need is some grafting tape, secateurs, grafting knife, and scions. You can use what you have handy for grafting tape if you don’t have it – eg electrical tape or plumbing tape. Any small very sharp knife can be used. Scions are just a piece of the edible tree you are going to attach to the root stock.

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Select a tree close to home or a place you frequently visit that you’re prepared to look after. Pick a branch that hangs over the verge so the fruit doesn’t fall on the road or the foot path.  The main principle is most fruit trees are compatible with root stock from within their genus. That means plum onto plum, cherry onto cherry and pear onto pear. Other stone fruits – eg apricots, nectarines and peaches can be grafted onto ornamental plum. Time to get grafting!