Fungi Ecology Workshops!

Its mushroom season again! For all of the people out there who missed my post last year on Alison Pouliot and her awesome Fungal Ecology Workshop I thought that I would do a recap and update her current seasons workshop dates.

Last year Ol’Pauly and I went to one of Allison’s workshops in Daylesford.  It was fun and very inspiring.

Alison Pouliot.

I thought perhaps I knew a thing or two about mushrooms. I mean, I know the different types that you can buy at the shop. However, from the minute I walked in the room and saw Allison’s fabulous fungi display I realised that, in fact, I knew virtually nothing at all. That wasn’t a problem though because that’s precisely what this workshop was all about. By the end of the day we had learnt how to tell the difference between an edible mushroom and an inedible mushroom. We learnt where to find them and that there are mushrooms that glow in the dark! I dare you to google “Bioluminescent fungi”! Woah!

Her impressive collection of fungi was beautifully displayed around the room in their respective family groups, with field guides from around the world and interesting anecdotes about various species. It gave us a wonderful picture of the habitats and the diversity of fungi the world over. Best of all it enabled us to get up close and personal and to get a great sense of what’s what in the world of fungi.

Later in the day we went out to the forest, where we got to see them in their natural habitat, which made the world of difference. Getting out to the different sites to look for mushrooms was more fun and surprising than I could have ever imagined. At one site we had a plan to walk a kilometer or so along a particular track. I think Alison was quietly hoping that people wouldn’t stray too far so as to keep the group together. Well, as it turned out that wasn’t going to be a problem. After an hour and a half nobody had managed to get further than 150mt from the cars. Being such an amazing season there were different species everywhere we turned. The diversity in such a small area was outstanding. How Alison managed to drag us out of there I’ll never know =)

Oh, and we did find the glow in the dark mushrooms. I couldn’t believe it until I saw it!

Pictures courtesy of Alison Pouliot Photography

It was truly the best day out I’d had in a long time. I would recommend Alison’s workshops to anyone young or old, novice or expert. There is something for everyone. If you’d like to join one of Alison’s workshops here are the details for the remaining season for 2012.

SATURDAY 05 May – WOODEND
Workshop: The fungi, An Introduction to a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: 5427 1845 or reception@woodendnh.org.au

SUNDAY 06 MAY – WOODEND
Workshop: The bizarre and the beautiful, A Deeper Exploration of a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: 5427 1845 or reception@woodendnh.org.au

TUESDAY 08 MAY – GLENLYON
Workshop: Meeting with Mushrooms, Fungi workshop and feast
Bookings: info@ellenderwines.com.au or 5348 7785

WEDNESDAY 09 MAY – GLENLYON
Workshop: Meeting with Mushrooms, Fungi workshop and feast
Bookings: info@ellenderwines.com.au or 5348 7785

SATURDAY 12 MAY – BEAUFORT
Workshop: The fungi, An Introduction to a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: 5349 3110 or bchlc@netconnect.com.au

SATURDAY 19 MAY – APOLLO BAY
Workshop: The bizarre and the beautiful, A Deeper Exploration of a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: Open soon

SUNDAY 20 MAY – FORREST
Workshop: The kingdom fungi, A journey into a forgotten kingdom
Bookings: 5236 6591 or gbrew@swarh.vic.gov.au
(*see note below)

SATURDAY 26 MAY – CRESWICK
Workshop: The fungi, An Introduction to a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: 5345 2356 or creswick@ourneighbourhood.org.au

SUNDAY 27 MAY – CRESWICK
Workshop: The bizarre and the beautiful, A Deeper Exploration of a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: 5345 2356 or creswick@ourneighbourhood.org.au

SATURDAY 02 JUNE – INGLEWOOD
Workshop: The fungi, An Introduction to a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: Michael 5494 3542 or emandem@iinet.net.au or Jill on 042 751 7437 or jmcf@bordernet.com.au

SUNDAY 03 JUNE – INGLEWOOD
Workshop: The bizarre and the beautiful, A Deeper Exploration of a Curious Kingdom
Bookings: Michael 5494 3542 or emandem@iinet.net.au or Jill on 042 751 7437 or jmcf@bordernet.com.au

Note: The kingdom fungi, A journey into a forgotten kingdom workshops in Summerfield and Forrest are slightly shorter workshops and cost $55. Further info: alison@alisonpouliot.com

2012: FUNGAL ECOLOGY SEMINARS

TUESDAY 03 APRIL – CRESWICK
Seminar: Introduction to the fungi kingdom seminar
This 90 minute illustrated seminar introduces participants to the amazing diversity of the fungi kingdom.
Bookings: 0437 518 159
Cost: $2

TUESDAY 10 APRIL – LOCKWOOD SOUTH
Seminar: Fungi, The Forgotten Kingdom
Bookings: Judy Crocker 0428 506 525
This interactive session introductes participants to the fascinating diversity of the fungi kingdom in an exciting and illustrated 75 minute seminar. Following the seminar will be a 75 minute fungi identification session where we will examine and identify participants’ fungi specimens. Seminar run from 7pm until 9.30pm.
Cost: Free

THURSDAY 12 APRIL – TRENTHAM
Seminar: Fungi, The Forgotten Kingdom
Bookings: 5424 1354 or trentham@ourneighbourhood.org.au
This interactive session introductes participants to the fascinating diversity of the fungi kingdom in an exciting and illustrated 75 minute seminar. Following the seminar will be a 75 minute fungi identification session where we will examine and identify participants’ fungi specimens. Seminar runs from 7pm until 9.30pm.
Cost: $20

THURSDAY 03 MAY – WOODEND
Seminar: Fungi, The Forgotten Kingdom
Bookings: 5427 1845 or reception@woodendnh.org.au
This interactive session introductes participants to the fascinating diversity of the fungi kingdom in an exciting and illustrated 75 minute seminar. Following the seminar will be a 75 minute fungi identification session where we will examine and identify participants’ fungi specimens. Seminar runs from 7pm until 9.30pm.
Cost: $20

WEDNESDAY 23 MAY – WYNDHAM VALE
Seminar: An Introduction to the Fungi Kingdom
Bookings: Susie Inglis 9974 0835 or 0447 133 334 or facilitator@wmcn.org.au
This seminar will introduce participants to the fascinating diversity of the fungi kingdom in an illustrated and hands-on 90 minute seminar. Topics such as fungi ecology, diversity, natural and cultural history, edibility and toxicity, fungi peculiarities and curiosities will be covered.
Following the seminar will be a 90 minute fungi identification session where we will examine and identify participants specimens. Participants will learn about the major field characteristics used to identify fungi in the field. Seminar runs from 11am – 2pm and a cold lunch is provided.
Cost: $25

Or go to Alison’s website for more details www.alisonpouliot.com

Have fun-gi’s.

Su Dennett and I with our beautiful Saffron Milk Caps.

BTW, Allison isn’t paying me to advertise this! She doesn’t even know it is going up. Quite simply, I enjoyed myself so much that I am giving my wonderful readers the opportunity to enrol in one of her amazing workshops wile there is still space.

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Knowing What To Sow And When

Knowing what should go into the garden at different times of the year can be tricky. It certainly takes a lot of practice to remember it all by heart but there are some resources out there that will help you get it all right.

You can buy “Sow What When” charts which are great for a quick and handy reference. I keep one on the back of the laundry door because that door leads out to my vegie patch. I don’t refer to it very often these days but, it seems to come in handy for my house guests. I often find people scanning through it on their way outside.

There are also a couple of sites that I would recommend:

www.sowwhatwhen.com – Australia Specific

www.gardenate.com – Worldwide

There are probably others but these are the main ones that I know of.

On the topic of what should be sown now – I have been sowing peas and broad beans this week. I have a number of beds where I grow each of them. This allows me to sow blocks of them every fortnight or so. This helps to stretch the harvest over the fruiting season. I’ll do this from now until July and they should be ready to harvest about 10 weeks after each sowing.

This is my latest posi for my peas and beans. If you look carefully you can see that I have just extended this bed into the lawn area. It was previously a narrow bed that housed my cucumbers and zucchinis. I decided to make it wider to accommodate both my peas and some extra broad beans. I just have to add a bag of sheep manure to that soil and it will be ready for sowing... better go soak some more seeds!

I soak my peas and beans in water with about 1/4 tsp of epsom salts (no more!). Soak them for about 12 hrs. The peas will take up the magnesium in the epsom salts and this will kick start their growth.

Soaking the seeds overnight will speed up the germination process so you’ll see things popping up through the soil very quickly, within about 5 days of sowing. I like to do this with the larger seeds like peas, beans and corn.

Before you sow peas and beans do a quick soil soil test. If your pH reading is below 7.0 you can add a bit of dolomite lime and, if you have some handy, a bit of mushroom compost. This will raise the pH so that it is slightly alkaline which is a more favourable growing environment for your peas and beans.

You Gnome Me?

So I came home and found this guy under the cherry tree. Nice!

You know I have always loved gnomes but, somehow I have never gotten around to buying one. Someone certainly knows me well 😉

I’m going to call him Al.

I love garten schmuck!

Thanks xx

Pixie Versus The Old Boiler

I was away for a few days during the week while I was at the National Sustainable Food Summit in Sydney. I left my mum home to look after things around the place while I was gone – namely make sure that Chickie and the chooks were watered, fed and locked up safe at night.

Well, things didn’t quite go to plan! You see we have a new addition: Meet Pixie Pantaloons.

Pixie Pantaloons

Pixie used to live at a neighbours house and just wasn’t well received by the other resident chooks. Sadly, they had bullied her so much that they had literally pecked a hole in the back of her head. So, we decided to take her in. Her wound has now healed and she is very happy to call this place home. She’s a delight! Compared to my other girls, she is wildly social. More on that later.

So, I was just about to sit down to a rather fancy dinner… I won’t mention ‘how’ or ‘why’ but, I received a nervous call from home that went a little like this:

“luuuuuv. We’ve lost one of your chooks!”.

“What?!”

“Weeeeeeeeell… we went  out to close them in and well luv, Pixie… she wasn’t there”.

As you can imagine, the conversation went on  =)

Well the long and the short of the story is that she was found at about 12:30 in the morning after she had been chased out of her hiding spot by the neighbours cat.

So, you would think that it was a happy ending and that it probably ended there.  Nope!   Why?   Oh I guess it was a little thing called Karma!

Yes indeed. The next day, in an attempt to make it up to us, mum decided to clean out the chook house (which was just cleaned but, we won’t tell her that!). This was the result:

That’s mum – stuck inside the girls house for 45min while she waited for my brother to come rescue her. He is wonderful my brother! Of course, before he let her out he had to call my cousin so that they could have a little giggle at the situation and take a photo so that everyone else could enjoy the moment too! (You’re smiling aren’t you?)

All I can say is that she is very lucky that she had her phone on her at the time because we weren’t due home until late that night.

How To Propagate Strawberries

Ok folks here is a very quick and cheap way to get new strawberry plants for free!

During late summer – early autumn you will notice your strawberry plants sending out long stems that have a knobbly clusters like you see in the picture below.

Strawberry stolons or "runners".

These are often referred to as “runners” or in botany we call them “stolons“. Quite simply they are a specialised above ground shoots that emit roots, allowing stoloniferous plants, like strawberries, to colonise themselves.

Strawberry stolon

Strawberry stolon. Roots forming.

It is best not to propagate too many stolons from each plant as this can exhaust the parent plant and weaken the growth of your developing runners. I think four is plenty.

To propagate your own strawberries you will need:

  • a pot or tray
  • some potting mix or compost
  • a pin
  • Or if you don’t have a pin you can use a piece of thick wire and some wire cutters.

You can easily make your own pins from an old coat hanger just as I have done below.

Old coat hanger wire cut into short pieces.

Bend the wire over the wire cutters.

Now you have pegs.

DIY pins.

First fill your pot or tray with potting mix or compost. Pat it down with the palm of your hand so that it is level and firm. This will give the roots something to grab on to.

Fill your tray/pot with potting mix or compost.

Now take your stolons and place them on your filled tray or pot.

Stolons in place.

Pin it into place on top of the potting mix. You want the stolons to be fixed firmly in place so that the base of the stolon is in contact with the potting mix.

Insert your pin to anchor stolon.

When your new plants have developed a good root system you will see the roots through the holes at the bottom of your pot or tray (this can take around 3 weeks).

Cut your new plant free from the parent plant, making sure that you cut nice and close to the base. This will prevent the spent stem from rotting and potentially harming your new plant.

Cut close to the base.

And there you have it! New strawberries from old plants!

Naturally, if your strawberries are in the ground and you want to propagate them direct into your soil you can do so. I would advise you to pull back your straw and pin the runners into place where it suits you, not where it suits the plant. It is your garden after all!

Of course you can grow from seed or division but this truly is the easiest way to propagate. Also, propagating in this way means that you will produce clones of the parent plant and this is great because then you know exactly what kind of fruit will get when the plant matures.

If you don’t have your own plants to propagate from have no shame asking a friend or neighbour that does. Remember, love is sharing!

Bottled Tomatoes

Since we’ve reached that part of the season when we’ve eaten just about all of the tomatoes we can handle I figured it was time to show you how we preserve our tomatoes.

My family have been preserving tomatoes for at least the past 80 years (that we know of) and as yet Ol’Pauly and I are the only ones from our generation to continue the tradition. Its something that we both love to do and we’re more than happy to share the process with anyone who wants to learn.

We use Fowlers Vacola jars for our preserves because they are of the highest quality.

Standard jar next to Fowlers Vacola jar. Note the thick rim of the Fowlers Vacola jar.

As you can see they are very thick glass and although they are on the expensive side ($3-4.50 per jar) they are most definitely a worthwhile investment as they do last a long time. Some of the jars that we are using today were handed down to us and are at least 50 years old.

If you use Fowlers jars I recommend that you follow our family rule: The jars are for family only! I have made the mistake of loaning them to a friend who threw the jars in the recycling bin! In our family we have a clear understanding that: these jars are like boomarangs – they come back! And at the end of each year there is a big round up of all of the jars so people know to expect a knock at the door.

Of course, you can do this with ‘standard’ jars that you’ve recycled from the supermarket. However, you will need to buy new lids often, as they don’t last very long. I use these jars for the preserves I put aside for friends. I do this so that I don’t have to worry about tracking them down afterwards. The process is essentially the same as for the Fowlers jars.

Before you get started:

Ensure that you have all of the equipment that you need for processing your tomatoes. This equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before use.

!! Never mind if you know you have cleaned it before you put it away last. All equipment must be washed immediately prior to use!!

You need to fastidiously clean your jars, lids and rings. Use a scrubbing brush or a bottle brush, and hot soapy water. I add a bit of bleach to the water too.

Then rinse in hot water with a splodge of white vinegar. The vinegar does two things: it assists in the sterilisation of your equipment and it also helps to remove soapy residue. This will leave your jars shiny and streak free.

Note: You do not have to use heat to sterilise Fowlers Vacola jars. They simply need to be very clean.

Thoroughly rinse all food items that will go into your bottles in clean water. Drain and set aside. In this case that would be your tomatoes and any herbs that you may be adding to your bottles.

Ensure that all of your equipment is placed in their appropriate positions ready for the processing to start.

OK – Here we go:

Fill your pot with water and bring it to a gentle boil.

Score the skin of all of your tomatoes by cutting a small X in the bottom. Set aside.

Blanch the tomatoes by placing them into the boiling water for only a minute or two. The aim is not to cook the tomatoes. We just want to loosen the skin so that it comes away easily when the tomatoes are plunged into the cold water.

Now is a good time to place your rings into a bowl of warm water, where they should rest for at least 15 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the pot with a colander or sieve and plunge them into a bucket of cold water. This will encourage their skins to begin peeling off.

Peel all of the tomatoes, placing their skins in a scrap bucket and placing the skinned tomatoes aside.

It is at this point that you will chop or puree the tomatoes if you prefer not to bottle them whole.

Now we go over to our clean jars. Place the wet rings into the grove on the outer rim of the jars, making sure that it is on evenly and that there are no twists in the ring. The rings should remain wet.

Just under the rim there is a groove where the ring sits. Pull the ring into this position.

The ring is in position.

A twist in the ring. Always correct twists in the rings as they will prevent lids forming a seal.

Place the jam funnel in the opening of your bottle. This is to ensure that the rim of your jar is absolutely clean. If there is any residue, no matter how tiny, it could prevent the lid forming a seal.

Pour a little water or juice into the jar, about 1/3 full should do. Packing the fruit into liquid helps to eliminate large pockets of air.

As you pack the tomatoes into the jar neatly place any herbs you prefer in and around the fruit. Presentation is always important of course! 😉 Note: I forgot to pack the basil into this lot. Oops!

While the funnel is in place add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per 500ml jar (1/2 tsp to 750ml, or 3/4 to a Lt), or if you are using lemon juice that’s 2tsp per 500ml jar (1 tbsp to 750ml or 2 tbsp to a Lt)

Top the jars up to within 1 cm of the lid of preserving liquid, whether that be water or juice. Don’t fill them any higher!

Double check that the rim of the jar is completely clean.

Place the lids on top of the jars so that they are level and snap on the clips. Or if you are using standards jars, screw on the lids.

If you have a preserving unit like the one below place the bottles into the unit and fill to 5cm above the jars with cold water (or tepid water for standard jars). Turn the unit on.

Fowlers Vacola preserving unit.

If you don’t have a preserving unit, place the jars into an empty pot with a cake rack sitting inside the pot. (The cake rack prevents the bubbles rattling the jars, which can cause them to break). Put your jars into position and fill to 5cm above the jars with cold water (or tepid water for standard jars).

A large stainless steel pot with a round cake rack placed at the bottom.

The jars must be completely submerged at all times in order for the jars to form a seal.

You need to bring the water to a rolling boil. This should take approximately 1hr. If the water boils before the hour is up don’t allow it to boil for more than 5min before switching off the unit or turning off the heat (pot).

**If you are using standard jars DO NOT use cold water to submerge hot jars as you risk breaking the glass!**

Using your bottle tongs, carefully remove the tomatoes from the water and place on a cooling rack or towel that has been spread over your bench.

Allow the jars to cool completely, undisturbed for 12 hrs.

Check that seals are all in tact. If all is well, label your jars with product name and the date of processing. If there are lids that did not seal you may need a new ring or lid. Replace and reboil.

How was that? Helpful?

If you’re interested, I run workshops on gardening and preserving the harvest. These workshops are aimed at teaching people how to do all sorts of practical things just as you see here at EveryDayInTheGarden. If you’d like to join one of my workshops please send me a message via the contact form and I will keep you up to date with any upcoming events. I also host “Garden Parties” for small groups throughout the year. I like to think of them like Tupperware parties but, for practical skills, knowledge and yummy cakes.

Speaking of cake:  Just in case you missed my post last year about tomato cake, now is the perfect time to make one. I swear it doesn’t taste savoury, it’s a little like carrot cake. My tip for serving it to friends is this: Don’t tell people what it is before they’ve tried it. Ask them to tell you what they think it is! I’ve experimented with this many times. If you tell people its tomato cake, they’ll turn their noses up at it. However, if they don’t know before they try it a) they never guess what it is and b) they all love it!

Are you preserving your harvest? Let me know what you’re preserving.

Summer Herbs II

This post is for Alexa who wrote to me asking for more information regarding summer herbs. I thought that many of you might find this topic interesting so I have posted my response here for everyone’s benefit.

That reminds me that it is time to give my Thyme a haircut!

Alexa – hi Im in high school and I need to do this hospitality project, part of it is that I have to name 5 summer herbs but Im struggling to find any! I was wondering if you could list a few for me it would really help me, thanx 🙂

Hi Alexa,

Thanks for your question. I can see how this could be quite confusing as there is a lot of talk about herbs on the Internet but, mostly the information is non-specific in terms of their seasonal classification. It can also be tricky in some parts of the world, like here in Australia, where we don’t necessarily have clearly defined seasons. In cold climates for example it would be much easier to tell that you have “summer herbs” because they would be the ones that either can’t survive in winter or go dormant during that time. However, in my garden that is not quite so evident – because many of the perennial herbs that would, in a cold climate garden, go completely dormant, don’t. Sure, they start to look a little tired and die back a bit but, after a good prune they reshoot and continue to grow into the autumn and winter. Mint, sage and oregano are just a few of those continual growing “summer herbs” that I have in my garden.

So, I would say that “summer herbs” are those that like the warmer weather and do most of their growing during the spring and summer months. They are herbs that we plant in the spring to enjoy harvesting during the summer. They will often be the type of herbs that die down at the end of summer (but, not always!) or in the case of perennials, ones that need to be cut back hard before the frost arrives.

One place that might give you a good clue as to which are “summer herbs” and which are “winter herbs” is to look at a few recipe books. For example mint is one of those herbs that is used a lot in summer dishes and drinks. Pineapple sage and lemongrass are beautiful in fruity, summer iced teas and are also a nice accompaniment to bottled fruits like peaches. Basil is another important summer herb – very often teamed with fresh tomato dishes because they share the same growing and harvesting seasons and also because of their naturally superb flavour combination.

The following are some of the summer herbs that I have growing here in my garden. I have listed their Common names and their Botanical names for easy reference. I hope this helps.

Jodi

Every Day In The Garden’s Summer Herb List:

  • Basil Ocimum basilicum
  • Chamomile Matricaria recutita
  • Chives Allium schoenoprasum
  • Comfrey Symphytum officinale
  • Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
  • Horseradish (or Seeradish) Armoracia rusticana
  • Mint Mentha spicata
  • Oregano Oreganum spp.
  • Lavendar lavandular angustifolia
  • Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
  • Lovage Levisticum officinale
  • Parsley Petroselinum crispum
  • Pineapple Sage Salvia elegens
  • Summer Savory Satureja hortensis
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