Eat more- waste less: Mushy rice experiment!

My kids are those annoying children that are super fussy when it comes to eating. At first doctors and professionals told me not to worry as they would grow out of it. Well they aren’t. In fact, they’re getting worse. I honestly have no idea on most days what to cook or make for school lunches. Too many days whole sandwiches come home. So I’ve taken to making a meal plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners to ensure some sort of nutrition is reaching those little bellies.
On Thursday I was to give my son and daughter sushi. I thought I’d get all organised the night before and make the rice, and that’s when my rice disaster began.
Instead of having sushi rice, I had a lump of mushy rice. I tried to somehow make it work, but it didn’t. Instead I had to give them store bought sushi, but that still left me with my mushy problem. I couldn’t make myself throw it out, but I couldn’t eat it as it was, and so began the mushy rice experiment.
Kiana Dec 14 007

My mum suggested that I make some sort of stuffed rice number. This is my recipe:
1 bowl of mushy Jasmine rice;
2 tablespoons of turmeric;
Olive oil;
1 small onion;
A cup of sultanas (I salvaged these from the little box of sultanas that you can buy from the supermarket. My daughter stopped eating them. They became a bit funny, but I kept them for cooking);
¼ cup pine nuts;
A pinch of cinnamon;
A pinch of salt;
Add a tablespoon of turmeric to the rice and set aside.
Chop the onion and fry over low heat until golden. Add the sultanas and fry for a few minutes.
Add the remainder of the turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pine nuts. Fry for another 3 minutes or so.

Kiana Dec 14 008

Kiana Dec 14 010

This is the tricky part. You will need a bowl of water close by to stop the rice sticking to your hands and a bowl of flour.
Grab a small bit of rice and flatten in your palm. Add a little of the sultana mix to the rice, then add a little more rice, so that it becomes encased in the rice. You may need to dip it in flour to stop it being too sticky.
Then fry until it is quite crunchy on the outside. It should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. So the taste test?? It tasted good and nice to know that I avoided throwing them out.

Kiana Dec 14 013

You can use other fillings. Get creative, but mostly try to avoid mushy ride. Remember not to overcook rice and add too much water to it to make sushi!

Spring time detox

Spring is in the air in Sydney. The smell of jasmine fills my backyard, flowers are out and after a very wet and cool August, the weather is slowly warming. My daughter is now five and a half months old and getting cuter by the day. She arrived into this world in a house full of madness. My son, then my middle daughter had the chicken pox, so we were confined to my bedroom in quarantine until the house was deemed safe for her to move around in. During this time, I read a lot and to keep me from going crazy my mum borrowed some magazines from the library. One of the magazines that she borrowed was ‘Green Lifestyle Magazine’ ( It was while reading this magazine that I learnt about Palm Oil. I already knew a little about Palm Oil, but that article really opened my eyes, but first, some facts about palm oil.
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the tree Elaeis guineensis. The oil comes from the fruit and kernels of the tree. Most palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia (86%).
palm oil
What is it used for?
Palm oil has many uses. It’s used in anything from toothpaste, soap and shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning products to candles, biscuits, cereals, chocolate and ice cream! Even environmentally friendly, or organic products contain palm oil.
What’s the problem with palm oil?
The main issue with palm oil is that large areas of rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. This results in the loss of species and habitats for animals such as the Orangutan.
Additionally, the rainforests that are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations sit on top of peat bogs which are large stores of carbon. As the rainforest is cut and burnt, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.
Is all palm oil problematic?
With so many products containing palm oil and its derivatives, it is unrealistic to rid the world of palm oil, so what alternative is there? There is a certification scheme called RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) which aims to ensure palm oil used is sustainably sourced. Though this is welcome, we must beware of greenwash and having marketing departments confusing consumers.
Firstly, just because a company is a member of the RSPO it doesn’t mean that they are using sustainable palm oil. Being a member of the RSPO means that they have made a commitment to ‘EVENTUALLY purchase sustainable palm oil, in most cases that commitment is to be in place by 2015’ (
Usually, if a company is using sustainably sourced palm oil, that they will display this logo and to complicate things further, if a brand states that they use sustainable palm oil, but don’t talk about whether this is certified, then what they may be doing is buying GreenPalm certificates to offset their usage. GreenPalm SUPPORTS the production of sustainable palm oil, BUT the physical palm oil used in the product is not certified.
Now, armed with more knowledge on palm oil, I decided to do some researching to see what I may have, which could potentially have unsustainable (bad) palm oil. When I looked into this website, I was left gobsmacked: . What I found particularly interesting, and concerning at the same time is that palm oil is referred to by some many names, which makes it difficult for many to decipher whether products that they buy contain palm oil. Here are just some of the names by which palm oil is known (for a more comprehensive list of names, please see:
• Vegetable oil;
• Elaeis guineensis;
• Elaeis oleifera;
• Sodium lauryl;
• Laureth sulphate (can also be derived from coconut oil);
• Cetearyl alcohol;
• Palmate, palmitic acid or Cetyl palmintate;
• Glyeryl stearate; or
• Sodium kernelate.
With my magnifying glass in hand, I set about going through the myriad of everyday products in my home to find whether they contain palm oil and unfortunately I found many. In fact, going through the listing of products from the list in the link above and my fridge, bathroom, kitchen etc, I was overwhelmed.
Here is just a sample of some of the products that I have on my ‘no, does not contain good palm oil’, ‘yes, contains good palm oil’, ‘Don’t know’! This is only a sample though. With limited nap times, I couldn’t go through everything in my home.

The bad list
The bad list

Not sure if these contain unsustainable palm oil
Not sure if these contain unsustainable palm oil

So with spring in the air, I’m on a palm oil detox mission! I expect that I will not rid my home of unsustainable palm oil altogether, but I hope in the next 6 months to reduce the unsustainable palm oil present in my home by 50%. I will report on this over the next 6 months and will share any tips and difficulties I face. I look forward to you sharing your journey also.
Wading through the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this issue is difficult. You almost need a chemistry degree to understand it despite best intentions, however this website is useful and there is an App that should help when out and about shopping:
Other resources include:

Eat More – Waste Less Winter Soup

Turnip soup
Turnip soup

As I sit here in a rare moment of quiet (baby is asleep – yippee!) and look out of my window at another cold and wintery day in Sydney, I think of the delicious soup that my mother made me waiting in my fridge. This soup is made of swede, or turnip (called swede because it is thought to have originated from Sweden).
Growing up in Iran whenever I got sick, my mother was forever trying to force this vegetable down my throat. ‘It’s a natural antibiotic’, my mum would say. To me, all boiled up, the bitter taste was the most disgusting thing I could put in my mouth. So most of the time I would refuse and if really forced would try and stifle the gag reflex as I would put a few pieces into my mouth covered in salt to take the edge off the bitterness.
My family even got my husband caught up on the ‘natural antibiotic’ bandwagon one year when we went to Iran for a skiing trip. Suffering from a terrible cold and cough, he was forced to eat copious amounts of turnips and drink the juice (the water used to boil it).
Eating boiled turnips
Eating boiled turnips

Drinking turnip juice!
Drinking turnip juice!

It was while living in Abu Dhabi that as Australians we were invited to an Australia Day celebration at the ambassador’s house. What they did to the vegetable changed my mind about the humble turnip. They roasted it and served it with other root vegetables, like roasted potatoes and sweet potato. I couldn’t believe that I was eating the turnip and actually enjoying it. Since then I am singing its praises. I even planted turnips in my veggie patch last year and was really surprised with the amount of foliage and leaves that it has.
This year, with various colds going around my household, I bought some turnips with the stem and leaves also (with baby number 3 around, it’s been hard to get out into the garden much). I didn’t want to throw away all that vegetable matter and wasn’t sure if it could be eaten. A conversation with my aunt and cousin in Iran confirmed that you can actually eat the leaves. So my mum got to creating this soup recipe and I tell you on a cold winter day, it is the best. As well as tasting great, it’s good to know that all of the vegetable was eaten and there was no waste created.
I’m not sure if it is an ‘antibiotic’, but there are many health benefits to the swede/ turnip including:
• Being a good source of vitamin A & C;
• Good source of calcium, potassium and fibre; and
• Being low in calories.

Turnip - stalks leaves and all
Turnip – stalks leaves and all

I hope you enjoy this recipe!
1 onion
½ teaspoon turmeric
¾ cup mung beans
¾ cup jasmine rice
3 cups of water
I bunch of turnips (3 to 4) including stalks and leaves
Salt and pepper
Finely chop, then sauté the onion
Add turmeric to onion and sauté for another 30 seconds
Add rice and mung beans to onions mix, then add the water.
Boil for 10 minutes
Clean and chop the leaves and the head of the turnip, then cut it all into I cm pieces (I cm cubes). Add all of this to the soup mixture and let it simmer on low heat until the rice, mung beans and turnip are cooked.
Season with salt and pepper to your tastes
When serving, you can add more sauted onion and a dollop of greek yoghurt or sour cream.
Bon a petit and Nooshejan!


It’s summertime in Sydney and one of the best things about summertime is my veggie patch! Nothing gives me more pleasure than strolling around my backyard and checking my vegetables – their progress… Do my plants look happy or not? Ooohhh…look at that! etc
This is year two of the wonders of summer vegetables. Last year my veggie patch yielded many summer delights and interestingly my successes last year are my failures this year and vice versa.
As I have 1.2m x 1.2 planter boxes, I have been trying to practice the idea of crop rotation and companion planting. Last year this worked overall and I tried to incorporate these principles this year also. These principles state that you should not plant the same things in the same spot every year. This is to maintain the health of your soil and vegetation. I have been interested in practicing this for my vegetables from the Cucurbita family (Zucchinis, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin). The reason for this was to ensure the second season of Zucchinis for example did not get any diseases from the first season. Last year towards the end of summer all my Cucurbita family vegetables ended up dying – having suffered a bad case of a fungal disease (white fluffy spots all over the leaves). I wanted to avoid that this year.
This sounds great in theory, however, one of the lessons I learnt last year is that Zucchinis grow and spread – so this year I tried to spread out my Cucurbita seeds between the different planter boxes. So all my planter boxes have something from the Cucurbita family growing in them . Essentially, what this means is that I was not able to totally practice crop rotation for zucchinis this year.
If you want to know more about this concept, please check out this fact sheet:
So what grew this year? Pretty much everything that didn’t grow so well last year:
• Lebanese cucumbers – I am very excited about this. I cannot believe the amount of cucumbers I have harvested – daily! I eat them straight off the vine. LOOOVE cucumbers! And this is the first time I have ever succeeded in growing them.
• Tomatoes – they went gangbusters last year and this year actually. This year, they self seede, so I didn’t even plant them. They just grew from the tomatoes that feel into the planter box last year;
• After my failure to grow eggplant from seed, I bought some seedling and to my complete and utter delight, I had some lovely shiny purple eggplants to savour this year. I am so excited about this development also – first time ever I have managed to grow eggplant;
• Then what do you know – another success? My capsicum! Last year I planted them and they didn’t grow. I forgot about them and went to the garden one day to find a beautiful shiny and big capsicum staring at me. I was like a child in a candy store. Running and telling my husband to ‘quick – run – look! A capsicum!’
• Okra – I do love Okra and they have provided me with a bountiful harvest this year. Yum-o!
• My herbs actually have grown well. Last year I was really struggling, but this year it is so lovely to go out and pick fresh basil, thyme, sage….
• My Zucchinis have grown okay – but nowhere near as good as last year when I could not eat them fast enough;
• Squash have been okay too, but the plants are definitely infested with that fungal disease;
• Beans; and
• My Butternut squash is slow going, but when I look at those beauties growing slowly in the sun, I am very excited by all the delightful dishes I can make out of them.
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The main challenge I am facing in my garden however is the fungal disease of the cucumber and zucchini plants. I found this recipe in my organic gardening magazine which I used to good effect a few times, but I think you have to keep applying, which I will HAVE to do this weekend as my cucumbers look like they are suffering a little:
• Add one drop of vegetable oil and one drop of detergent to two litres of cool water. Add four level teaspoons of bicarb soda and mix thoroughly. With a sprayer apply to both sides of the affected leaves and all over the plant. The idea is to inhibit the growth of the fungus by making the foliage of the plant alkaline.
I feel there is much for me to learn and I look forward to my crop next year where I hope to build on my successes and learn from my failures of the last two summers.

What to do with over ripe pears?

Some pears looking to be saved from the worm farm!
Some pears looking to be saved from the worm farm!

What to do with overripe pears? My sister works for Batlow apples, so I am always well supplied with apples and when my son surprised me one day by declaring his love to pears, I inherited a lot of pears. We have slowely been making our way through the pears, but yesterday I noticed a few were looking particularly sad and had been placed in the sink, ready for their journey to the worm farm. But, rather than give these to my worms, much to my children’s chagrin (looking at the worms in my worm farm is like the highlight of their day. They stand there squealing with delight at all the wriggling, squirmy and squishy action!), I decided to ask some friends for ideas on what to do with them. I mean I had no idea for recipes really. Some suggestions that came in were:
– Banana and Pear Loaf;
– Danish; and
– Muffins.

So I decided on a Banana and Pear loaf which my niece and daughter delighted in helping me back. This is the recipe that I followed:

I followed this recipe overall except that I used 2 bananas, used more pear (about 2) by grating them into the ‘wet’ mixture and lastly, I did not add walnuts because my niece is allergic to nuts.
Thank you Alchemy Kitchen (
Banana, Pear and Coconut Loaf
250g very ripe bananas, mashed (that’s about 3 medium bananas)
100g sunflower oil (or other flavourless cooking oil)
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
50g dessicated shredded coconut (unsweetened)
10g baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 soft sweet ripe pear, such as Rocha, chopped into small pieces
a little butter to grease the loaf tin
1. First, lightly butter and base line a 2 lb loaf tin.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas roughly using a fork or a potato masher. Add the oil and caster sugar and stir together until just combined. Next add the beaten eggs, again stirring until just combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, coconut, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just incorporated and no dry mix remains. (To fold, add dry ingredients to wet and taking a spatula or a metal spoon, cut through the centre of the batter. Move the spatula or spoon across the bottom of the bowl, and back up the side and across the top bringing some of the cake mixture from bottom to top. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Keep folding the mixture and turning the bowl until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Folding avoids overworking the batter, giving a tender crumb in the finished loaf.) Finally, mix in the chopped pear, making sure it is well-distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A cocktail stick inserted in the centre should come out clean. If there is batter clinging to it, pop the loaf back in the oven for a further 10 minutes then test again. Leave to cool in the tin. While you can eat it straight away, this cake is best wrapped in cling film and left for 24 hours before eating. A wonderful alchemy takes place and it becomes more banana-y, pear-y and utterly delicious.

In the oven
In the oven
Yummo!We did not wait 24 hours to enjoy this treat!
Yummo!We did not wait 24 hours to enjoy this treat!

Organic garden winter wonderland

I loved creating my veggie patch in my backyard last year. Over summer I had many days filled with wonder at what was growing in my backyard. It was also a great opportunity to get my children involved and help them learn about where their food comes from. Also it was a cheap way of eating organic!

My daughter watering her plants
My daughter watering her plants

But alas, summer is definitely over in Sydney and many of my summer veggies were removed to make way for winter ones. After a little research on what winter vegetables exist and what would grow in my garden I came up with my list of goodies:
• Carrots;
• Beetroot;
• Kale;
• Turnips;
• Spinach;
• Spring onion, onion;
• Snowpeas;
• Lots of herbs!
Well the list is not as impressive as my summer vegetables, but given the number of things I was growing, I am trying to be more sensible and scale things back a little.
To prepare I visited my compost which has been slowly composting vegetation and food waste. I saw slowly because I have left it to mature for many many months. It is taking a long time because it is completely shaded, hence once I use the compost I want to move my compost bin to a sunnier area.
This addition of compost was obviously good for my plants, but I think that there were seeds that had not died off, so my veggie path became overrun with weeds like onion weed. This has become confusing, as I don’t know if any of my onions/ spring onions grew at all. When they are little, they look the same I think!
I am also trying to get a double benefit in planting some snow peas in all my garden beds. I am hoping that they will add some beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria to my soil in preparation for my summer crop.

My blueberry plant. I have some planted in the ground, but don't think they are in the ideal spot, so I am trying to grow one in a pot. Let's see how I go
My blueberry plant. I have some planted in the ground, but don’t think they are in the ideal spot, so I am trying to grow one in a pot. Let’s see how I go

A very old lemon tree that just keeps on giving.  maybe it was a little bit of the love I gave it over summer, but the crop this year is A LOT better than last year. Much juicier.
A very old lemon tree that just keeps on giving. maybe it was a little bit of the love I gave it over summer, but the crop this year is A LOT better than last year. Much juicier.

My special looking carrots, but damn they taste good!
My special looking carrots, but damn they taste good!

I planted my beetroot in summer and let me tell you, I don’t know what the problem is, but honestly it is taking SO long for them to grow. I mean they’ve been there for like 6 months and all I feel is a little bulb!
My carrots however are a delight. I am so in love with my carrots! I am like a super excited child when I pull and a big (if somewhat strange looking at times) carrot comes out. And the smell, oh the smell. If you were to see me, I am sure you would think me strange, but the smell of carrot taken straight out of the ground is so beautiful. When I do pull them out, I just stand there inhaling their aroma!

My ever slow growing beetroot, though I do at least pick the leaves off sometimes and include them in salads.
My ever slow growing beetroot, though I do at least pick the leaves off sometimes and include them in salads.


Tomatoes and nasturtium growing side by side.
Tomatoes and nasturtium growing side by side.

Fresh dill...grown from seed. It took a while but it got there.
Fresh dill…grown from seed. It took a while but it got there.

Turnip in the ground. I never knew it would have such a large amount of foliage.
Turnip in the ground. I never knew it would have such a large amount of foliage.

Turnip out of the ground. It tasted really good in my soup.
Turnip out of the ground. It tasted really good in my soup.

My other vegetables are growing well too and it is only last week that I removed my tomatoes. What a good crop they were. They became like a baby to my mum and I, but especially my mum who tended to them every day. So many tomatoes grew, but towards the end, they would stay green and not ripen. So I am preparing for my summer season of tomatoes.
Who knew that I would have so much winter heartiness and delicious veggies growing in the colder months! Do you have any suggested winter vegetables that I should try?

World Environment Day Blog Off!

Okay, so I am not a selected blogger that the United Nations Environment Program has shortlisted in its Blog Off prior to World Environment Day (5 June 2013). This year’s theme is food waste ‘Think. Eat. Save’ and they are having a competition between bloggers: 

This is an issue that I am particularly passionate about, as I see there should be no reason for wasting food. To me it is a waste of resources and I feel terrible throwing away food when there are people going hungry.

So, while I am not a shortlisted blogger, I am a blogger nonetheless and earlier this year, I put forward this ‘letter’ to an editor as part of my attempt to be accepted into a sustainability leadership program. Here are my thoughts on food waste and if you’d like to know what other Bloggers think about it and to vote for one, please visit the UNEP website at the link I provided earlier.Image

What should the horse meat scandal have brought to light? Apart from the ethical horror of eating what many see as a beautiful animal, it should have brought to light the globilisation of food and its consequently large ecological footprint. While there are complex and interconnected reasons for the large amounts of water and energy that go into producing our food, the value of food and what you and I are willing to pay for it is something that is yet to be discussed in great depth by the mainstream media.

Increasingly we are spending proportionally less of our income on food and therefore there is the expectation that our food will cost less.  What this does is place more strain on smaller farmers in favour of large corporate agricultural produce and the rise of the major supermarket chains and their homebrand products. 

While some consumers may be happy with the super low prices, this reduction in the value of food could be one contributor towards the significant amounts of food wasted globally (it is estimated that at last half of the food produced around the world goes to waste).  Feeding the 925 million of the world’s hungry, addressing climate change and global water shortage may be a daunting task, but there is something that ordinary people can do each time they go to the super market and each time they cook. I’m unsure however that a greater number of people will ask these questions when faced between a $1 carton of milk against the sometimes higher prices that smaller scale locally grown produce may demand.

More news from the garden

This was not supposed to turn into a gardening blog, but at the moment it is one of the main things I am doing actively on the sustainability front – apart from work of course! It is also one of the most satisfying as day after day I go and manage to harvest some goodies. As my last post showed, my zucchinis are growing wild. I cannot keep up with Zucchini recipes. I have been making stuffed zucchinis and zucchini flowers, and putting zucchinis in almost every dish I make! And as I have read and observed, you have to watch carefully and harvest regularly before they become mega zucchinis or cucumbers – like these two zucchinis.

I got to these two a little late. Here they are accompanied by the start of my tomato harvesting
I got to these two a little late. Here they are accompanied by the start of my tomato harvesting

They then turned into this! They were not the most tasty stuffed zucchini. The flesh was a little mushy, but they were nice and at least I used them up.

A dinner of stuffed zucchini flowers, stuffed zucchinis, garden greens from my garden and edible marigolds and nasturtium
A dinner of stuffed zucchini flowers, stuffed zucchinis, garden greens from my garden and edible marigolds and nasturtium

Of course part of the joy of having this garden and investing all this time into is, is to share it with my kids. To get them involved. While my son is kind of interested, my daughter is definitely a bit of a dirt girl and loves joining me in the garden. I even bought her her own gardening kit for Christmas.

My lil' girl helping out in the garden and here with a lot of spinach!
My lil’ girl helping out in the garden and here with a lot of spinach!


Yummy Spinach, roasted pumpkin, feta and walnut salad!
Yummy Spinach, roasted pumpkin, feta and walnut salad!

While I have had some bugs get into my garden, I have managed to still harvest lots of goodness, though I now check my rocket (that is a favourite) regularly to make sure I get in before the caterpillars, and I bring in my basil from outside every night to keep them away from the possums that are brazen and lurk all over my garden at night. I am also managing to get my tomatoes as they go red, but just before an attack from something. Now I have to say and I dont know if it is totally becuase of the marigolds and nasturtium, and my attempts at companion planting, but my organic garden is going well (knock on wood!). I thought I would not be able to get any tomatoes as previous attempts were failures with most tomatoes damaged by caterpillars. In this instance, some are damaged, but not many.

I do admit to one failure and any advice is appreciated – my corn are really quite pathetic. They have about 20 kernels on them and then only on one side….don’t know when went wrong there, but they are not looking particularly happy right now and the yield is low.

Apart from that though things are going well. I’m looking forward to my winter crops now!

Happpy gardening.

The Garden, oh the Garden – Part 3b: Eating Organically

Over the last few months, my vegetables have been like my children. They are my babies. Sometimes they bring me joy and sometimes frustrate me. I go out every day and check on them. How are they doing? do they have enough water? do they need more fertiliser? more garlic chili spray? I haven’t named them yet, but have been close! I doubt I am unique in this regard.

A few weeks ago some friends came over for ‘high tea’ at my place and where once these girlfriends and I may have talked about boys, men, sex, politics and philosophy, this time we talked about our children and our vegetable gardens. What we planted, what worked and what didn’t. How things have changed!

As the last post showed, I went bananas with my planting and have been going organic, hence no pesticides.

So what have been my successes?

  • Tomatoes – they are going really well – a little too well to be precise. I had planted the seeds and waited until they were seedlings before putting in the planter boxes. The problem is that the ballpoint pen I used rubbed off – so in the end I didn’t know exactly what I put in the planter box. All tomato seedlings looked the same to me, so I put them all in and now they are taking over the planter box, but they are doing really well. Lots and lots of cherry, Roma and normal tomatoes growing.
  • Squash – My little yellow squash are also growing fairly well.
  • Corn;
  • Zucchini – My zucchini is going gangbusters – so much in fact that it is crowding out everything else. I didn’t know that Zucchini plants would grow so large.
  • Turnips – initially did okay, but now, not so much. Maybe it is too hot right now for them. I’ll try again soon.
  • Spinach

The so so list:

  • Pumpkin, Okra, Cucumber, Lettuce, rocket – they are being eaten too rapidly by caterpillars…Chilies, and Capsicum.


The following crops have been an absolute failure!

  • Eggplant, Beetroot, carrots, shallots, onion, snow peas! I thought it would be really easy to grow snow peas, but they all shrivelled up and died 😦
  • Beans – I thoughts my beans would go great, but not so.
  • My herbs – total failure. No matter how many times I planted basil, they never took hold. Neither with the oregano, nor my parsley.

I have learnt a few lessons though which I will share:

  • Don’t plant everything under the sun. I tried to think in my head of all the vegetables that I eat and tried to plant those. It is too much and thus many of the seedlings never took hold.
  • Plant less quantities of seedlings. Because I lost track of what I did and did not have due to my bad disappearing pen incident, I planted too many seedlings. Now that I know how big some plants get, next year, I will only plant 2 zucchini plants and 2 tomato plants.
  • Cover my herbs with chicken wire. I am sure the culprits of my failure are the possums that frequent my house!

While I am disappointed with some of my crops, I am pretty excited to be eating from my garden and teaching my kids about where food comes from. Do you have any successes to share?

They say Zucchinis are great for lazy gardeners. I'm not lazy, but there is a sense of satisfaction with growing these beauties!
They say Zucchinis are great for lazy gardeners. I’m not lazy, but there is a sense of satisfaction with growing these beauties!


Ready for dinner!
Ready for dinner!
Delicious stuffed zucchini flowers
Delicious stuffed zucchini flowers
A lovely zucchini ratatouille like dish I made with cuscus
A lovely zucchini ratatouille like dish I made with cuscus


After...thriving plants
After…thriving plants
Butternut pumpkin
Butternut pumpkin
Some unwanted visitors on my lemon tree - Stink Bugs
Some unwanted visitors on my lemon tree – Stink Bugs
Another citrus I am yet to see fruit. It is not doing well either way.
Another citrus I am yet to see fruit. It is not doing well either way.



Fresh herbs

Avocado tree. Not doing wonderfully,  but this picture shows some new growth
Avocado tree. Not doing wonderfully, but this picture shows some new growth




The Garden, Oh the Garden – Part 3a: Growing Organically?

You can tell when my husband has gone grocery shopping – home brand things everywhere. When I shop, I try and include some organic vegetables and fruits and other produce in the mix. I’m not sure why my husband ignores the good example I try to set. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That I should be happy that doing the grocery shopping is one of the only chores he does.

I always thought that when back in Sydney, I would try and buy more organic things and I have tried to do that to a degree. I generally find it okay when something is even double the price of non-organic, but when potatoes and onions cost more than twice as much as standard ones, I do baulk and go for the non-organic variety.

I suppose first I should really state why I am bothering at all. For me personally, I believe that there would be health benefits to eating organic. Whether they have been scientifically proven or not, I don’t care about. I can see how eating organic is going to be worse.  Also, I went to a compsting workshop organised by my local Council where the presenter (Peter Rutherford) made a convincing argument about the acidification of our bodies, which can lead to many ailments including cancer and the fact that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were contributing towards this.

Then there are the many environmental benefits in reducing or eliminating pesticide and synthetic fertilizer application on a wide scale: to the air we breathe, to the water that we drink, to the soil that sustains us and the diversity of life (biodiversity). Having said that, I like many have budget constraints. I know many people that are very ‘pro’ organic will always argue that in the past people were used to spending more of our pay packet (as a proportion) on food compared to now. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I have a lot of bills and if there are cheap ‘home brand’ alternatives, then it can be hard to resist saving money on food.

So what should I do? Maybe concentrate on foods that have been found to have a higher percentage of pesticide residues, so as to focus my ‘buy organic’ efforts.  What are these foods?

  1. Apples are the worst culprits – thankfully the Coles organic apples are not too expensive, so I buy those;
  2. Celery – quite a lot more expensive, so I haven’t bought organic yet;
  3. Strawberries – hard to find in local supermarkets or fruit shops;
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Capsicum
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale

A lot of the fruit and vegetables on the ‘bad’ list are hard for me to find, unless I go searching for an organic shop and there aren’t any in my local area.

So this summer, as I have been a working bee in my garden, I decided to establish my own organic vegetable haven!  Firstly I observed over winter, where in my garden gets sun and one of the main areas was by the fence between my neighbor and I in my backyard. So I moved some plants I had recently planted and bought some planter beds from Bunnings (a local hardware store). They were not super cheap and are not so great in quality, but being hard pressed for time as I am, I bought them anyway. I bought six (two were from Aldi, which were much better in quality)  1.2m x 1.2 m wooden boxes.

I then bought some soil from Bexley Sand and Soil Company. It is supposed to have been accredited to Australian Standard 4419, but when I got the soil it was full of contaminants like plastic, glass and other organic waste. Obviously this soil is made from waste management companies and while theoretically I support this, the sight of plastic and other goodies did not fill my heart with joy. I had however bought too much soil, so had to use it all anyway and decided that I would add organic fertilizer like ‘Blood and Bone’, worm castings and worm juice from my worm farm to improve its productivity.

I also did my research about companion planting (where you plant vegetables and fruit that like to be near each other – like tomatoes and basil – to ward off insects and other nasties), so I had all my garden beds planned out!  For more information on plants that like to be near each other – go to:

So with my garden beds filled, the fun part began. Rather than buy small vegetable plants from nurseries, I decided to grow my own from seed and not any seed – organic seeds. I went online to Eden Seeds and went shopping!

Shopping online is so easy and I have to admit I kind of went nuts – I bought so many seeds and in hindsight – too many. I bought different varieties of some vegetables, rather than one.  I just couldn’t wait to get them in the ground.

Here is my list: marigolds, Nasturtium, okra, radish, Greek Oregano, Egyptian beetroot, little finger carrots, Carrots all seasons, cayenne peppers, Californian wanderer capsicum, white Lisbon shallots, Lebanese Zucchini, black zucchini, Waltham butternut pumpkin, sweet corn, button squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Swede turnips, silverbeet, Lebanese cucumber, snowpea Oregon, beans, eggplant, coriander, cilantro, dill, leek, English spinach, Onion Gladalan, Red onion, iceberg lettuce, rocket, Cos lettuce, asparagus, lettuce lollo rosso, parsley, basil….phew! I know! That was a few hundred dollars worth of seeds alone.

What is my planter box ‘map’? in each box I have planted some marigold and nasturtium and the following:

Box 1: tomatoes, basil, capsicum, chillies, squash and snow peas;

Box 2: corn, beans, cucumbers and Lebanese zucchini;

Box 3: Black zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and okra;

Box 4: sweded turnips, radish, beetroot, carrots, shallots

Box 5: silverbeet, English spinach, onions

Box 6: the different lettuces, rocket

In other pots I then planted seeds for my herbs. I also bought some strawberry plants and blueberries.

Now my house probably sounds like a garden of eden brimming with fruit…well I am having some successes and failures, which I’ll talk more about in my next post…until next time – happy gardening – hopefully organically!

My bany tomatoes

I decided to plant things into a tray first and then plant them in the ground/. Here are my corn and other vegetables enjoying the sun!
I decided to plant things into a tray first and then plant them in the ground/. Here are my corn and other vegetables enjoying the sun!

Jayden & Mahya 038

My garden beds, ready to go
My garden beds, ready to go