The cooler Autumn weather is finally here and we are loving our time together in the Kitchen Garden. Our harmonious space is springing to life again after the formidable heat of our South-East Queensland summer. The self-seeding delights of coriander, calendula, lettuce, corn, basil, and celery have volunteered themselves this season for which we are grateful.
Australian native ‘stingless’ bees have arrived in our garden space!
We are blessed with a beautiful native beehive. Complete with a panel for peering inside to view the unique spiral hive designed by the Tetragonula carbonaria species of native bee.
These bees do not have a stinger, and they produce approximately 1kg of honey each year.
Barely resembling a bee, they look more like a small fly. They are equally fascinating and peaceful to watch coming and going from the hive, pollinating our crops while collecting nectar and pollen on their travels. Please come by the garden and have a look. More on this soon.
Students are reviewing the process of pollination and the role of pollen in producing fruits and seeds. We are looking at different flowers and discovering if they are self-pollinating, or if they require cross-pollination. Which plants have flowers containing both female and male parts versus separate female and male flowers? It’s all very interesting really!
Additionally, we are exploring the pollen and flower parts (pistil and stamen) with our macro lenses attached to an iPad, enabling the children to take some pretty cool close-up photography. Our main goal was to capture a pollinator with some pollen, which is more tricky than it sounds at such a close range. The children loved this exercise and were both inspired and amazed at their ability to capture such images. Being able to see pollen as individual balls was quite a buzz. It was a joy to witness their excitement.
Some of these images were on display in the Kitchen Garden for Open Day this year and will remain on display for term 2.
At the end of last term, we cooked up some yummy corn cobs, smothering them in our homemade herb butter. Children gathered mint, garlic, parsley, and limes; and created a delicious spread to coat our cobs. We also fried up some eggplant to taste.
Amongst others, we have been starting some tomato and lettuce seeds to plant out in our hydroponic tables. Students are using rockwool as the growing medium; using the end of a pipette to pick up the tiny seeds, placing them into the rockwool then gently pipe water onto them. Students have been learning about different nutrients held within the hydroponic water tanks, which are then pumped up into the trays, feeding our seedlings as gravity pushes the water back down into the tank again.
Students are having a go at building a bug hotel within the confines of an old car tyre. Students are shown an example and are asked to create a ‘similar’ design using materials they ‘forage’ from around the kitchen garden.
We are in awe at the abundance of Snow Peas already! The children are tucking in.
This season we are going to try growing a special type of celery that has pink stems, it’s called Chinese Celery. Apparently, it has a strong flavor, so we are interested to hear how the children respond.
Brussel sprouts are another cool-season crop we will be attempting this season, as well as some broad beans and garlic.
In our new beds, we have planted some rhubarb which is a perennial plant. Perennials will last for more than two years with many rhubarb plants living for over ten years! Hopefully, our students will be tasting stewed rhubarb crumble for many years to come!
It’s the perfect time to inspect our Orange trees for any galls from the gall wasp. We have been able to see some of these galls and discuss how to prevent them from spreading. Using a vegetable peeler to open the galls, we can expose the larvae to the elements and disrupt the life cycle.
Another great discovery in the garden has been the fungus-eating ladybugs! Yes, these abundant yellow ladybugs eat fungi! They are called Illeis galbula. In our garden, they are adorning the zucchini plants which are covered in powdery mildew (fungi). To our amazement, we were also able to locate their larvae and discovered just how differently the babies present compared to the adults. Fascinating! This inspired a discussion about mushrooms (also fungi) and spores spreading on leaves in the garden.
We were given some gorgeous Betel-leaf cuttings from one of our lovely prep families. Thank you!
Native to southeast Asia, the Betel-leaf (Piper betle) is an evergreen vine with glossy, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are often used as a wrap for rice and meat dishes. We are very much looking forward to working with this plant in our recipes.
Students love a good hunt in the garden. Earlier this term, students were provided with clues and tasked with hunting down our required ingredients: mint, coriander, calendula, lettuce, chives, and basil. They did an excellent job. We tried our hand at using a vegetable peeler on our carrots and continued to hone our knife skills on some cucumbers. Then we bundled everything up in a delicious rice-paper roll with some nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce). The students demonstrated great skill with the sticky wrapping, some having experience with this ingredient from last year.
Close-up of ladybugs eating aphids!
Time Lapse of Ladybug Life Cycle
Recipe 1: Corn on the cob with eggplant in parsley, garlic, mint, and lime butter.
30 Small pieces of corn
Half a block of butter, 125g (dairy)
A Handful of parsley
2 Cloves of garlic
6 mint leaves
1 lime (citrus)
1 large eggplant, cubed
(Add cannellini beans if desired).
Harvest fresh parsley from the garden and chop finely
Remove garlic from the peel and mince finely
Juice half the lime
Add prepared ingredients to a small bowl and add butter (at room temperature)
Stir to combine.
Using the back of a spoon, smear a small amount of the mixture onto each slice of corn.
Using tongs, transfer the cobs onto a hot pan, turning for 3-5 minutes until the cobs begin to brown slightly. Cut Eggplant into cubes and add to the frypan.
Recipe 2: Tangy Rice Paper rolls
From the garden:
Lettuce, mint, basil, coriander, calendula, chives, carrots, cucumber
Vermicelli noodles, cooked in hot water
Dipping sauce ‘Nuoc Cham’.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut carrot and cucumber into thin strips,
Finely chop all other garden ingredients and add to the centre of the rice paper
Add a handful of vermicelli noodles and roll up
Dip in Nuoc Cham,
Winter is nearly upon us!
Stay well, and Happy Gardening.
Nicole Young, Kitchen Garden Coordinator