Spring is in the air!

Mizuna and new seeds near the kitchen door.

Mizuna and new seeds near the kitchen door.

Though the blog has been quiet over Winter, volunteers have been steadily working in the gardens all through the cooler months, doing garden maintenance, cleaning up and organising the kitchen, continuing with the creek restoration and flood protection and practicing our gardening skills. Also going on in the gardens is a noxious weed removal program being run by Amanda, completely spray free and 100% carbon neutral – All the weeds are processed on site, with all their nutrients being buried in Hugel beds.

New Hazels are in!

New Hazels are in!

Over the past few weeks, we prepared two new garden beds and are using them as a seed-raising area as well. We also constructed some seed propagation boxes and sown them as well, transplanting the first Mizuna of the season last Friday. Also to go in the gardens last week were some small Hazels donated some time ago by Cathie and some Yellow Raspberry canes from Kat. As the Community Gardens have no regular source of income, we’ve even potted up a few plants for sale on Fridays by donation!

With so much going on and so much to do, learn, share and enjoy, new volunteers are always welcome! For more information, go to next week’s Meetup page.


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

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.

Winter Weeding

New gardeners Jeff and David set to work restoring a patch in our zone 1 heritage soup garden. At the same time we shared a lively conversation around permaculture ethics while we work.

In the first garden bed we focus on identifying and removing three unwanted plants.
Greater Celandine 大白屈菜

We remove greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), creeping buttercup, and the smaller of the forget-me-nots with slightly different methods. With the first we loosen the soil around the roots with a garden fork before teasing the plant from the earth at the base. As we gently remove the plant, its many roots show themselves. ‘As above so below’, these come from the centre in a rosette like formation, clumped at the centre, looking like a bunch of skinny flaccid carrots. These plants often have tendrils which can extend quite far, so to stop their spread we are very careful when pulling roots up, and follow them loosing soil as we go to catch every last part. Roots left in the ground can grow into new plants.

Rununculus repens (Creeping Buttercup)

Creeping buttercup (Rununculus repens) as the name suggests has a vigorous creeping habit. To prevent complete domination, follow the root trails with the attention of Sherlock Holmes and don’t give up til you have them all.

I’m in two minds about making them all into weed tea fertilizer because the roots are so hardy and happily survive submerged for a long time, but the above ground leaves will breakdown. so we agree to make the tea and drain away liquid, after which to then dry and black bag the remaining root. With plants like this its safest not to try and compost them unless you’re using the Berkley method of hot compost where the compost is turned and the average temp is between 55 – 63 degrees Celcius. I’ve done this very diligently with Agapanthas root and still had sections of live root from a big clump left at the end. So careful out there!

Forget-me-nots (not sure of the latin name for these ones, if you know please share in a comment at the end) are much easier, they pull very easily and breakdown quickly in compost.

Our conversation takes us around the globe and the work is completed easily this way.

Afterwards we don’t want to leave bare soil, which exposes soil organisms destroyed by sunlight, and more importantly our leaves disturbed soil structure open to erosion by rain and wind, both of which we’ve had an abundance of recently. We pick nearby comfrey leaves and dress the area with this fertilizing mulch. Until next week, when we plant afresh for winter in this spot.

PIA update: Biodynamic Tree Paste, Pruning and Kimchi

Last Friday brought many new faces to Permaculture In Action in the Gardens, so we began with introductions, Lemon Verbena tea and a walking tour, featuring an introduction to the ongoing creek restoration work from long-term Permaculture and BMOCG stalwart, Michael.

Then, after a quick forage. Cathie, Gloria and others cooked up a feast – thank you to the garden and to all the lovely people who brought treats with them! Meanwhile, Kat got the gardening started while Carlos and Jim helped me set up a biodynamics workshop.

A few weeks ago we noticed a fungal infection in one of the fruit trees near the Education Space, so on Friday we did a workshop on how to make and apply Biodynamic Tree Paste, and there was plenty of expert help! I brought the ingredients and facilitated. Dave brought scientific knowledge about clays. Carlos and Sayako gave the potion some love and human energy by mixing it with their hands. Sayako, Harumi and Jim were all guns on the stirring stick and Cathie taught us all the correct way to stir-wait-create chaos-wait-stir. There was plenty of discussion on the nature and flow of energy and it was all very exciting!

While we took shifts stirring the tree paste, Jim planted some garlic, people talked and got on with other jobs and though some people had to go, the rest of us enjoyed a beautiful feast and before long, time had slipped away and Carlos and Gloria gracefully stayed on to paint the paste onto the first three trees.

Next week: More soup; Kat is going to do a workshop on making Kimchi; we will continue painting the trees with the BTP (Biodynamic Tree Paste); and we’ll prune some more fruit trees. Please bring an old brush, your favourite secateurs and your PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) including eye protection and gloves and enough clothes to  you comfortable (I use my hiking boots in this weather).  I’ll be late to arrive, but Kat will be there from 10:30. Hope to see you there! Warmly, Rob