About Kat Szuminska

designer, educator, gardener, activist, creative problem solver katoombastreetpermaculture.com, mattandkat.com, openaustraliafoundation.org, bluemountainscommunitygardens.org

Fresh Friday Tree Friends and Friends


Such a short time after Winter solstice, first budding flowers on trees are already appearing

Bright sunshine brings busy gardeners. today its lively and warm. its also the school holidays, so mothers and kids are playing in the sandpit and enjoying the day in the shelter of a nestled garden space.

We identify together three plants which on first inspection have similar leaves. As you look more closely borage, comfrey and dock all have quite different colours and textures. Borage leaves are bumpier more rounded, a blueish green. Some are still displaying those distinctive jewel like petite blue star flowers now, so its a great one for bee forage. Comfrey leaves are dying back now, their greenery wilting quickly from view to turn into great food for the soil. Comfrey leaves are hairy too, and have much pointier ends than borage. Comfrey leaves are usually a deep dark green, not dissimilar coloring to nettle. Now they’re yellowing and quickly turning brown. Yellow dock, which we’re also awash with, has smooth leaves in contrast with the other two.

all three have medicinal properties, with different parts used for a number of remedies, so they’re truly multipurpose plants. Borage is also known as star flower, best known for being packed with gamma linoleic acid or GLA, bringing anti-inflammatory relief, used for treating skin complaints and along with evening primrose oil, for hormonal balancing. comfrey invites a whole book by itself, but the most requests we get for it because of medicinal use here are due to its bone and joint healing properties, coming recommended by word of mouth from on neighbour or relative to another,.
Dock’s leaves are edible but somewhat bitter, a taste which has to be acquired.Its the roots which i hear can be used as a detoxifying tea, in moderation.

There are lots of all three which can be harvested at the community gardens, some, remnants in a spot we are clearing of all non-local plants. So if you’d like to grow comfrey borage or dock at home please let a gardener know, and we can help you find some to take home. Both dock and borage self seed easily so be careful where you plant them.

One mission among many today is the propagation of trees. Sue girard, local horticulture and permaculture educator is running two courses over the next 6 months in propagation. Students will also be helping those recently affected by fire to restock their gardens.

Today, Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens donates a dozen bay and walnut tree propagules (that’s seedlings) today for students to get and understanding of tree growth, and provide new tree beginnings for lost gardens of Winmalee. Walnut and bay are both used for their fire retardant properties.

The flyer below is just for you if you’d like to learn to propagate fruit and nut trees as well as vegetables in 2014 …


Bee Aware of your Native Bees: Native Bee Seminar

BAYNB_invitiation_PHase2Seminar_BMCC Did you know we have about 200 species of native bee in the Greater Western Sydney and Lithgow areas? Bees and other insects are very important for our food production and biodiversity. Learn what they look like, where they live, how to encourage them into the garden & find out about citizen science. Australian Native Bee Seminar Come along & learn how you can be part of this new & exciting community project Date: Monday, 30th June 2014 What time: 6:30 – 8 pm, refreshments provided Where: CWA Hall, 137 Megalong St, Leura Bookings: bushcare@bmcc.nsw.gov.au or (02) 4780 5320 Supporter Logos

This seminar will give a terrific introduction to native bees, especially for those interested in finding out about the bees already living in the mountains. We are lucky enough to be installing our very own bee hotel in August at the community gardens, one of 5 locations between Western Sydney and Lithgow taking part in this delightful project. Download the flyer BAYNB_invitiation_PHase2Seminar_BMCC

Two Soups: Soup Number One Jerusalam Arichokes

International Permaculture Day visitors from around the globe enjoyed a couple of sensational seasonal food on the Sunday at the community gardens. As promised,  For those who asked about recipes and those of you who didn’t quite brave the weather on Sunday, you can still join in and get a little seasonal action, celebrating food culture in the kitchen at home with these wonderful warming winter soups. Here is the first of Sunday’s two soups, featuring very easy to grow local ingredient jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus turberosus). These often overlooked as standby and survival crop, in the right hands, in this case Sue’s, create dishes to look forward to.
jerusalem artichoke
If you’re not already growing Jerusalem artichokes at home, you can pick some up from the community gardens in the next couple of weeks, or at the Slow Food stall at Leura Harvest Festival this weekend.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Soup


8 decent size Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped

2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup potato, roughly chopped to 2 cm pieces

2 Tablespoons dried porchini mushrooms

1l vegetable stock (if using powdered stock make it a mild one)

About a cup of oil and a tablespoon of butter (or oil)

small handful of parsley


Preheat oven to 200 C

As soon as you know you’re making this soup, cover dried porchini in a glass measuring jug with a litre of hot water and leave to stand. The longer you leave it the stronger the porchini flavour will be imparted to the liquid. The initial recipe I used says soak them 24 hours but if you do this step first, this will be fine to use by the time you need to add the mushroomy goodness.

Next chop jerusalem artichokes and potatoes into chunky slices, transfer to a baking tray, cover with oil & sea salt making sure all surfaces are well covered. Roughly chop mushrooms and put in a separate tray or dish, again cover well with oil.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.

When you’re bored of the artichokes and mushrooms being in the oven, (or just after the allotted time above), leave them in the oven til you’re ready for them. Take mushrooms out after 20 minutes. with artichokes, the longer they’re in there the more roasted flavour goodness you’ll get.

On the stove in a nice heavy pan or roasting pot, in a generous dollop of butter or oil, fry chopped onions and garlic until translucent, then add porchini + their water along with 1/2 additional stock. Cook for at least 20, preferably 30 minutes before blending with a stick blender or in small batches in blender with jug. If after blending you think the consistency is too thick at this point, add additional stock until you like the consistency. Season additionally to taste. I find with the salt used for roasting the artichokes that I don’t need any more at this point, so make sure you try it before adding any more.

Preheat bowls to serve with warm water. Add a swirl of cream, chop parsley and sprinkle over the top and serve immediately. Makes enough for 4-6 people depending on how hungry/gluttonous they are.

Event: April 18th – Earthship Workshop with Duuvy Jester


Imagine a home-made from recycled and natural materials which is cool in Summer, warm in Winter made with a whole lotta love.Sustainable building doesn’t get any better than Earthships! This week offers two opportunities to get acquainted with this lovely way of building, with Aussie earthship builder Duuvy Jester -

First up, get a flavour for what’s possible with Earthships at a screening and Q&A on Wednesday evening - see http://permaculturebluemountains.net/2014/04/08/film-night-wednesday-16-april/ for more details.

Then on Friday the community gardens plays to host a fabulous workshop where you’ll learn how you can adapt your very own Earthship to suit the Blue Mountains. This Friday 18th April 11am-6pm

Enquiries and bookings info@terraeden.org See you there!
DuuvyJesterApril18th Workshop

Gardening Session Friday 11th April

We’ve had a fair bit of rain lately, making the ground lovely and loose. Perfect for weeding and digging out pernicious roots. So gardeners Sarah Belinda Bente Lynn and me dig in to get lots of weeding done today. A couple of garden beds in the heritage soup garden are tidied up, rainbow chard seedlings planted. Meanwhile I dig up a few kilos of jerusalem artichokes growing on the wrong side of the creek, I’m pretty sure I got most of the tubers, but they can easily grow back from the smallest root. Along with onions, potatoes and a few other garden veg, a multiple garden soup medley is created, along with a little spice is perfect for this wet day. Jerusalem artichokes are a reliable staple which are quite different when cooked just after harvesting, as we did today. If you have a fine flush of these tubers, you might want to try this recipe out. (thanks to Sue Girard for this one).

Jerusalem Artichoke soup

(Serves 4)

2 teaspoons olive oil·

800g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled, chopped·

500g sebago (brushed) potatoes, peeled, chopped·

3 bacon rashers, rind removed, finely chopped (optional!)·

4 bay leaves, torn·

8 sprigs fresh thyme·

1L (4 cups) home made stock·

750mls (3 cups) water·

Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the artichokes, potatoes, (optional bacon), bay leaves and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add stock and water and increase heat to high. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Season soup with salt and pepper. Yum