In the inner southern suburbs of Adelaide, a small group of permaculturalists have been gathering to experiment with artisanal food skills. From cheese-making to sourdough, they’ve been exploring and sharing the skills that make good food. To herald the end of summer, we sourced 180kg of tomatoes from local farmer’s markets and had a go at making passata. A 15-hour food preservation epic, our kitchens are now lined with long-necks filled with crushed tomatoes. This film is a little something I shot amid the spraying tomatoes and bubbling barrels.
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The air around our legs clattered with the tumbling bodies of locusts, their gleaming translucent wings bursting outwards as they hop through the grass. While at our urban community garden plot grasshopper populations have been noticeably high, in the browning stubble of paddocks on the eastern side of the Adelaide Hills the numbers still indicate the population spike that comes from good rains and plenty to eat. Indeed, with the recent plague, there’s been a surge in discussion about the possibilities of eating those that feast on our farms. Walking through these farms on a Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the description of John the Baptist, as a gentleman who “wore clothing of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6).
While that introduction alone is enough to get John invited to headline a permaculture skillshare, the Judeo-Christian tradition has further references to hopping cuisine. Articulating the ancient Hebrew holy laws regarding food, the Old Testament book of Leviticus reminds the faithful that there are “some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat, those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest” (Leviticus 11:21-23).
After acquiring a copy of Lynda Brown’s The Preserving Book, Jeremy promptly developed a rigorous program of regular DIY preserving workshops, hosted by our very own contender for South Australia’s smallest kitchen. (Despite its size, our kitchen’s generosity of spirit, if not space, seems infinite, with successful cheese-making workshops as well as daily cooking duties completed with cosyness and ease).
With a parade of syrups, cider, champagnes and cordials, the DIY Preserving Autodidactory program has been largely successful, although not always in the direction intended. Adapting one recipe for mint cordial, Jeremy also brought a selection of other herbs (fennel, lemon verbena) to test in the same proportions as the mint. The highlight, even better than the original mint, was fennel: sweet, punchy and ever-fresh.
After nail-biting excitement of cultivating a sourdough starter, with only the subtlest of indications that the primordial swamp of rye flour and water harbored intelligent life, I thought the best way of testing the starter was to bake with it. For this, I adapted Yoke Mardewi‘s recipe for Pain au Levain, “an easy but delicious bread for your first attempt”.
Several summers ago I had my first attempt at making a sourdough starter. The weather was apocalyptically hot, and unfortunately, the wild yeasts were not long for this world in such conditions. I’ve been pondering trying to repeat it, successfully, for sometime, and after seeing this great little film about Californian baker Chad Robertson, I’m inspired again!
It seems there are countless different recipes and proportions for enticing wild yeasts into your bread-making life, however, for literary guidance I’ve settled on two books. Sandor Ellix Katz‘s indispensible classic Wild Fermentation offers spontaneity and flair while inspiring confidence and experimentation, while Yoke Mardewi‘s Wild Sourdough is a more meticulous Australian guide, replete with flow charts and timed processes.
This article is adapted from a segment Joel did on Radio Adelaide‘s Gastronaut.
With healthy winter rains on the Adelaide Plains, neglected corners have once again been swallowed beneath a green tide. In a segment earlier this year, I presented a handful of the last edible weeds standing midway through an Adelaide summer. The cooler months bring with them a wealth of unsolicited edibles in the form of chickweed, mallows, plantain, nettles, thistles, and others. (In fact, almost all of these were the most prolific plants in the nature strip outside my house).
Winter brings with it lillipilli trees heavy with fruit. Footpaths and roads are buried beneath the purple fruit, and trees in parks and streets shiver heavily with the berries. An indigenous food plant of tropical and subtropical Australia, despite their ubiquity here in Adelaide, lillipillies (Syzygium sp.) still seem to transform many faces into a mask of terror when they see others popping the shiny berries into their mouth. Their arrival at winter Urban Orchards has provoked plenty of discussion – from participants incredulous that they’re edible at all, to the reminisces of participants who have spent time in South East Asia and who are reminded of forgotten tropical fruits with every crisp, subtle bite.
Following one particular Urban Orchard, I came home with a shopping bag full of lillipillies, gleaned from the South parklands. I’d remembered that Vic Cherikoff’s Bushfood Handbook contained some super-retro lillipilly concoction, and I was keen to expand my experience of this under utilised semi-wild food.