About Kat Szuminska

designer, educator, gardener, activist, creative problem solver bmfoodcoop.org.au, oaf.org.au, permaculturebluemountains.net, bluemountainscommunitygardens.org, katoombastreetpermaculture.com, mattandkat.com

Planting Ahead for Spring

Group of three seedlings in repurposed toilet paper rolls
So many decisions to make at this time of year. What should I plant, where and when? As with so many things in life in 2015, I can definitely say there’s an app for that! In point of fact there are quite a few that can help in designing your next planting sessions. A really simple one I’ve used for quite a few years now to help remind me about WHAT I can plant WHEN is at Gardenate.com

Gardenate on the web or via a low cost app for your phone gives a good list of annual plants to get you started, tells you whether it’s the month for sowing seeds or seedlings for lots of edibles.  To get going you just need to say which country (the app covers Australia UK) and what climate you have. Being in the upper mountains I chose cool mountain, but in the lower/mid mountains the growing season starts a little earlier and winters are less, well, wintery, and so you’d mainly go for temperate. A sunny protected spot and even an upper mountain gardener might look to see which plants are ‘planting now’ for temperate neighbours and might be started off optimistically early.

If you buy fully formed seedlings from a shop then it’s a bigger financial risk to chance your bigger initial investment. It’s worth it if you want to grow plants which are marginal in the area usually, like grosse lisse tomatoes. As the name suggests these are big, and need a lengthy season of sun to get to their mature ripening size. Source them early to get a head start on mountains shorter season. Cherry tomatoes on the other hand are a much safer bet in the upper mountains.  It’s also well worth thinking ahead a little and seeing what seeds you can buy, without too much more work you can get a lot more plants for your money. Get an even better deal by hooking up with seedsavers, friends who garden and save seeds to see what’s grown well for them in your area and if they have any seed to share. In truth, knowing exactly what to plant when is a lifelong learning experience. You can optimise for a good outcome based on the information you’ve collected before, but you can never understand everything. It’s what keeps gardening interesting and sometimes infuriating!

Thanks to Growstuff.org, gardeners around the world can now share our growing experiences and seeds beyond immediate gardening friends.  The more gardeners join up and share information and experiences the more we can all learn from each other about what grows well in our areas. There are nearly fifteen hundred gardeners around the world connected up, and already a couple in the mountains.

GrowStuff Aus Map

The project is run by a geek-meets-gardening community as an open source project, so as well as tracking your seedlings, your friends, and cousins tomato plants in QLD or overseas, you can even contribute to improving Growstuff code if you like.  Find out more at Growstuff on Github

Image of Seedlings by Stacie

Come to Our Spring into Action: Introduction to Permaculture


Course investment is a snip at only $100  for 4 sessions.

Places are strictly limited, small class size so you make the most of each session

Book online:  springinto2015.eventzilla.net

Cool Cuttings: Friday 24th July

 Winter WreathPlum Blossom Arrangement
Gardener Harumi made a wreath with vines from the garden which Rob trimmed a couple of weeks ago. She also made this beautiful flower arrangement with plum flowers from the garden.
“Last Friday” Harumi reflects  “I felt spring in the garden. I celebrated the arrival of spring with home-made plum wine from Japan on that night.  It is cold again but spring will bring blossoms soon.”

Event: Celebrate 10 Years of the Labyrinth – Sunday 7 June

labyrinth 30
You’re invited to join us in Celebration
Ten Years of our lovely Labyrinth

Sunday June 7th, 10am onwards

Chai and Soup

All Welcome!

Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, Victoria St. Katoomba
labyrinth 28
labyrinth 31
labyrinth 27

labyrinth 26

See more pictures from the opening visits and festivities on flickr

Let’s Make Baechu Kimchi

Today we looked at how to make baechu kimchi, partly because I was running out, and partly generating a little inspiration to plant our own cabbages and other brassicas in the community gardens.

This recipe is adapted from Sandor Katz’s Baechu Kimchi, excellent instructions in his book Wild Fermentation. This jam-packed little guide to making fermented foods is the second most used book on my cooking bookshelf at home. While there are heaps of different kinds of Kimchi, mostly when people here talk about Kimchi they’re mostly talking about cabbage or Baechu Kimchi, so we’ll just call this Kimchi from here.

Kimchi can seem wildly exotic and complex in flavour, salty, sour, sweet and hot, so its a surprise that it’s quite simple to make. Microbes pretty much do all the work for us. The most we need to muster is the patience to wait until flavors develop to our liking.  Getting the ferment happening is a two-part process, with a few hours between the two.


kimchi 1

1 Chinese Cabbage/Wong bok

A couple of Carrots

1 Daikon or a few other Radishes

A Yacon root, Nashi pear or Apple

4 Tablespoons Sea-salt dissolved in 1 litre water


6+ Chillies, or Kimchi chilli powder**

4+ Garlic – peeled

Ginger – 2-3cm piece, peeled

You’ll also need a fermenting crock (or non-reactive bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients with a plate which fits inside the bowl and something heavy to put on top), as well as a large non reactive mixing bowl, and clean hands to mix. The fermentation process is basically a lot of little microbes digesting and farting, which means you have to release the gas every so often. I use a giant 10L Gartopf, traditionally used for making sauerkraut, with a built-in moat, which when filled with water acts as a brilliantly simple air-lock. This makes it very useful for all kinds of fermenting.

Decant straight into jars instead and then just open the jars up every so often to release any build up.


I use the biggest firmest chinese cabbage, or wong bok I can find, Todarello’s in Katoomba often has fine specimens to chose from. Then I add fresh crunchy veg. The last batch I made contained  daikon carrots and leek, this time it’s just the chinese cabbage and carrot. Cauliflower chopped into very small florets is also lovely.

kimchi 1

Step one. I chop all the vegetables into chunky pieces, cabbage 2-2.5cm max, and slice carrots/yacon/radish/daikon medium thickness, leeks cut a little finer. Yacon, nashi pear and crunchy apples also add another sweeter dimension. Experiment and find variations that work for you. Add to fermenting crock. Other recipes have fish sauce, but I’m keeping this one vegan.

kimchi 1

kimchi 1


Dissolve 4 tablespoons sea salt (the cheapest Celtic salt from the food co-op works just fine) into some warm water, then top up to 1 litre in a measuring jug. Pour the lot in over the vegetables and give them a stir to mix through. At this stage the salted water may not cover the veg. Don’t worry about that yet. Put the weights for your fermenting crock over the top & pop the lid on, fill the moat with water. Or cover with a plate/lid which is small enough to make contact with the veg (we want to keep air out).

WAIT for 4-6 hours. I’m not good at this waiting part so I begin in the evening and leave overnight. The salt will draw moisture from vegetables over the soaking time, and all the veg suck in salt from the brine.

Next, test the veg. They should taste ‘salty but not too salty’* If not salty enough add more salt and mix through. If they’re good remove all the veg into a bowl, & pour away the brine (on some weeds you want to kill perhaps).


Blend chillies garlic and ginger with a blender or grate ginger chop fresh chillis/garlic or add chilli powder, then crush together with pestle and mortar.  Sandor’s recipe suggests the quantities as a certain amount ‘or more’ and really only you know how hot you like your kimchi so follow your flavour passions!

Add the chilli ginger garlic paste to veg and mix together with your clean hands. Again it’s all a big experiment. The flavour will also depend on how long you leave the kimchi to mature, the longer you leave the more sour and complex character develops. This will also vary hugely in different weather too, so every kimchi will have its own personality, reflecting the conditions, the seasonal ingredients available and your mood as you slice and dice. I put everything back in the crock and mix inside because I find that easier.

A summer kimchi matures faster than one in winter. In Katoomba 3-5 days seems long enough for my taste. When it’s done bottle and store in the fridge.

Instructables have also posted a variation on Sandor’s recipe. Find more versions and heaps of kimchi making tips at Maangchi.com including different way of cutting up the cabbage for an impressive looking dish.

I love using Kimchi in a variety of meals, for breakfast: poached or fried eggs with a side of kimchi and Meredith dairy soft goat cheese might sound unusual, but it is really pretty special. Kimchi also transforms Japanese noodle soups made with a kaeshi base into an even deeper warming Winter soup.

*Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation

**buy Korean Kimchi Chilli at the Laughing Elephant, Wentworth Falls

Oh yes, and it’s super good for you too…More about Kimchi on the ever awesome wikipedia

Fermenting Crocks will be available for sale in the food co-op‘s new shop when it opens in a few weeks. Thanks to the co-op for garlic, chillis, carrots and daikon.

Next week: we taste test the latest batch, made with locally grown bell chillis, and last week’s batch which I used Korean chilli powder.