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Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

Today was the first day of the rest of my life. 

To mark the occasion I market-shopped for seedlings and produce.

'Tis my big day out every fortnight.

Being on the chilly side -- finally -- my gardening preference went with a good selection of brassicas and some purple carrots. For gardening umph I purchased a heap of Mizuna seedlings which I find to be a no nonsense versatile veg with a unique taste. After doing my homework I also came home with some burdock.

Burdock is an extension of my support for Jerusalem Artichokes as  both plants are high in inulin and other prebiotic goodies. 

Over one hundred plants for $22. 

Then there was the produce: 

  • I could still get red Italian long sweet bell peppers(pictured at right). My absolute fav! I cook with them all the time so I always keep some in the freezer. Last time I got some, I fermented a huge batch into a delicious paste. Takes up less space and has a stronger zing taste.Will keep for months in the fridge. I use them mainly in my preferred  sofrito blend (bell peppers, celery, spring onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme,cumin, turmeric).
  • Three crisp cabbages ear marked for sauerkraut.
  • A good few kilograms of  small roma style tomatoes,
  • More potatoes. Some large sweet potatoes. Garlic. Carrots. Daikon... A few more turmeric stems which I can either ferment into paste or plant out.

I am so keen to ferment this stuff. Fermented veg is my new lifestyle and it doesn't take us long to go  through jars of the stuff. I always have to remind myself that most ferments will need a week or more to kick in. The thought of going without is not gonna be on my radar.

Any meal excuse: add a ferment.

Sample: A good slice of fresh baked sourdough bread buttered with humus, two slices of camembert, sliced tomatoes and a good dollop of lacto fermented beets and turnips.

On hand are a range of seeds just coming up from my last sowing. These are the slow coaches like parsley ..and some that may still want to sleep below the covers.

Now that the rains have come my garden is recovering from the long dry. So opportunity is knocking. 

Since I love 'em heaps I'm planning on 'preserving' my prickly pear paddles and harvest them as a ferment: napalitos pickle flavoured with some of the dill I have growing..

FYI: The cactus ferment calls for the addition of grape or mesquite leaves. Grape or mesquite leaves? What on earth for? 

It turns out that these leaves -- like oak leaves too-- are high in tannins which make the fermented veg crisper. And if you haven't got these leaves an option is, of course (slaps head), tea leaves. 

Who woulda thought?

Another of my garden plants ear marked for fermentation are the collards.That is an experiment for sure. I'll do it but I'm not optimistic. 

As my tomatoes ripen, much as I'd like to make them into a fermented salsa the problem with toms are their sugars and what you'll get fermenting tomatoes is effervescence and alcohol.

But there is a workaround.  A hack. With sofrito in mind,  ferment all of your salsa ingredients except the tomatoes. Keep this in your refrigerator and add some of the mix to  fresh ripe tomatoes when you are ready to serve. You can also let the flavours blend together for a day or so. 

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Comment by Dave Riley on June 16, 2016 at 0:48

Generally, long term, you need the highest quality stainless to stand up to the acid. Like surgical level -- but then the ferment isn't washing over the lids. 

This is useful:

I use retailed mason jars (from $2.50) and fido jars I get from Op shops. I don't ferment for ever -- then I refrigerate. I keep adjusting these times because here in the sub tropics we are warmer than fermenting protocols in cooler climes.

I believe in the adage: suck it and see. 

The guy in the vid refers to the greater probiotic value the longer the ferment.I'm not sure if that's true as microbes are extremely fecund and in succession work their magic. Their numbers and rate of reproduction will depend on energy sources, temperature and pH (as created by microbial action itself).Indeed, as far as I can make out, one technical way to test your ferment is to monitor its pH. At some point I assume reproduction will begin to plateau and/or new species take over from the ones that ruled before. This happens with yogurt over a 6-12 hour period and with veg ferments variously from 3 to 7 days or more. Sauerkraut's flavours will enrich through long time ferment if  the kraut is stored between certain low temperatures -- such in a temperate climate cellar. Similar with cheeses...but your camembert is a short ferment. So celebrating 'long' , I guess, is more about flavour...and specific bug demographics.Consider an 8 year old cheddar for it 'better' for you or is it the taste you want?  if you want 'numbers' you can take a probiotic capsule, but that in itself doesn't guarantee that its occupants will settle where you hope they will. Microbes really need to be married with their ecology before they feel at home in yours. 

But i guess my main interest is deploying vessels 

  • I can fit into my refrigerator -- and that's primarily a height issue.
  • Are not so cumbersome that it is a task to access the fermented veg on a daily basis.So I like jars I can pick up with one hand.
  • Being able to see the fermenting veg is handy -- and nice, given the wondrous colours -- but not absolutely necessary so long as you label your stock.
  • I also mainly ferment in vessels separate from those I later store the ferment in. I may store in glass, but that's open to sunlight -- so I initially ferment in other vessels -- and i do like the EasiYos I've collected. Traditional stone crocks are very expensive. 
  • However you can ferment in the jar you will store in -- no probs.  

Mind you I go with the flow rather than angst over rigs and such. As long as you can drown the ferment you're anaerobic -- even if the surface may mould up a little. You just scrape that off. 

Just think of aged cheeses. And remember this is about good bugs ruling over the bad -- not sterility.

On this I was just reading this great article which warrants attention: Are mason jars ferment safe? Read it to get a feel for your Vacola usage. It imports this useful quote from Sandor Katz:

I hear that much controversy is brewing on the internet over vessels for fermenting vegetables, and the implications of whether or not they are totally anaerobic. I have made hundreds of batches of kraut in all sorts of vessels (most of them open crocks), and I have witnessed, consistently, that it doesn’t matter. Each vessel has advantages and disadvantages. No particular type of vessel is critical. People have been fermenting vegetables for millennia in crocks open and closed, in pits and trenches, in sealed and open vessels. It can be done many different ways. The only critical factor is that the vegetables be submerged under brine(Read more...)

Comment by Christa on June 15, 2016 at 21:10

Dave, I was wondering if Vacola bottles could be used for fermenting.  There are a few boxes full under the house and quite a few of them have stainless lids.   The last time I used them was to make christmas cake and puddings in the jars.

Comment by Cathie MacLean on June 15, 2016 at 7:12
Back to burdock (although you can count me in for any fermenting demo :) ) I would think the tin/plastic would be just about exposed at the top of the growing area and slope down to the base of the bed say 40cm deep, mulched well. I remember reading once that someone grew it by cutting pvc pipes lengthwise and grew in those on a similar slope. That would be great for harvesting if you had a staggered harvest. Now I wonder if my seed is still viable? I've had it a while.
Comment by Lissa on June 15, 2016 at 4:55

Thank you for the links Dave. Ros Bono is a member here but seems to have stopped posting her workshops. I have added this one.

Green Dean is also a member.

Comment by Lissa on June 15, 2016 at 4:46

We're both trainers Dianne - we both think alike when it comes to these things lol. We see learning and opportunity.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on June 14, 2016 at 8:17

Sounds great Dave, Intro with you we will see how many people we get before we give out venue so if you like PM me with a suitable date for you, as long it isn't on a date we are having a GV.... Dianne

Comment by Dave Riley on June 14, 2016 at 8:04

There is an introductory workshop available next weekend I see. Details HERE (fb). In Mansfield.

Green Dean also does them. 

Sure, I'll do a DIY thing. I'm not skilled up, but I can show folks the basics. Since we have a few tables here for the mosaics club we can do it all outback on the veranda. If numbers are small we could move long as someone picks me up at a railway station for transit.

I have my kids' place in Bracken Ridge also for small numbers. But parking is terrible. 

Comment by Dianne Caswell on June 14, 2016 at 6:27

Now isn't that funny Lissa, I sent a PM to Dave asking the same question last night.

Comment by Lissa on June 14, 2016 at 4:26

Dave - Would you consider doing a lesson (in your home? somewhere else?) on the making of simple fermented veg?

Comment by Dave Riley on June 14, 2016 at 1:45

Review this comment for references, Dianne.

I ferment in a different vessel -- a crock(in my case the EasiYos  -- than what i store the ferment in. I use glass jars with tight lids for storage in the refrigerator.

While a 'crock' can be anything(not metal of course) -- even your final storage jar -- you need to be able to keep the light out. So mason jars are the preference for both roles. 

For the DIY you can also Google 'lacto ferment' + 'the name of your vegetable' and select the easiest DIY recipe. For example. However, my preference is this old Polish recipe -- but I add turnips. I love turnips.

I use general cooking salt -- which here is sea salt in the main -- bought from any grocer. For better results you need to de-chlorinate your water and while boiling for 20 minutes will remove chlorine it won't remove chloramine. So get some Spring Water or simply use a recipe that does not require any fluid addition -- and root veg won't really require extras. Store the spring water in the freezer between ferment sessions.

As for cutting -- I much prefer julienne -- but it's up to you. The smaller the cut the more sweat and fluid you'll get. 

Some recipes will say 'add whey' (or inoculant)  but really, that's not necessary. I used to add clear whey from yogurt making but you are only really speeding up the ferment and maybe introducing milk solids. 

But it is an option: whey is the yellowish clear liquid that may form on the surface of plain yogurt. To harvest it strain some yogurt.

However, I will sometimes add ferment juice from an old batch of veg...

So here's a recipe in full from one of the references:

Fermenting beets can get a bit tricky. Like fruit, beets have a relatively high sugar content that can convert to alcohol quite easily. In order to prevent that, lacto-fermenting beets in small quantities with other vegetables such as turnips or cabbage is helpful.

This is a classic combination of cold-weather root vegetable fermentation, and makes a lively addition to winter meals that can be lacking in much-needed enzymes and probiotics.


  •   2 cups washed, quartered, and sliced turnips (I julienne)

  •   1-1/4 cups washed, quartered, and sliced beets (I julienne)

  •   2 tablespoons salt

  •   Water as needed


  1. Prepare turnips and beets. Put them in a quart jar, alternating layers so that the red and white are evenly distributed, leaving 1-1/2 inches of headspace.

  2. Combine salt with 2 cups water. Pour over the vegetables, leaving 1-1/2 inch of headspace (just covering the vegetables). Weight down as needed.

  3. Cover jar with a lid and an airlock, if using. If you are not using an airlock be sure to burp the jars every day to release pent up gases.

4. Allow to ferment at a cool room temperature for 3 to 12 days, depending on preference. Longer is usually better, especially for tough root vegetables.

5. Transfer to cold storage. 

I wouldn't add the water unless absolutely necessary. By that I mean so long as I can drown the vegetables -- and with julienne thats' much easier than with chunks.
I'd also use less you don't need that much to sweat that quantity. 
With Julienne  you can ram the veg down with your fists and the fluid comes pouring out like blood.
Those ziplock bags are pretty good weights -- and weights i reckon is the core technology challenge.
The trick is  to spread the bag on the surface of the mix filling inside the whole circumference and then add the water to the bag to generate the weight. Then click click close the bag. No matter if fluid comes up the sides. You just want to drown the flesh. 
Any exposed veg that changes colour or crusts  at all isn't a problem. Just scrape it off. Most aerobic ferment  surface bugs are benign. 
In this weather, in Brisbane, I'd ferment for maybe 5 days. Taste it after 3.  But then that depends if you have a coolish place to ferment the vessel. Use the turnips, but if you do or don't, burp the ferment daily to get rid of any gas build up. 
if you ferment in a glass jar keep the jar in a dark place while it ferments. 
Thats' it. Easy right?
An alternative ferment is carrots or carrots and daikon done the same way. Or add carrots to the turnips and beets.You will get failures sometimes primarily because the mix of veg doesn't  work rather than from your technique.
You can ferment 'almost' anything in way of veg --although the high sugar ones may need work arounds. 
Here's a list of possibilities from 'Fermented Vegetables' -- which offers the DIY:
Arugula, Asparagus, Basil,  Beans, Green,  Beets,  Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Burdock (Gobo), Cabbage, Green and Savoy,  Cabbage, Napa or Chinese, Cabbage, Red, Carrots, Cauli ower, Celeriac,  Celery,  Chard,  Cilantro (Coriander), Collard Greens, Corn, Cucumbers,  Eggplant, Escarole,  Fennel,  Garlic, Garlic Scapes,  Grape Leaves,Horseradish,  Jicama,  Kohlrabi,  Leeks,  Mushrooms,  Mustard Greens,  Okahijiki Greens (Saltwort),  Okra,  Onions,  Pak Choi (Bok Choy),  Parsley, Parsnips,  Peas, Peppers,  Radicchio,  Radishes,  Rapini (Broccoli Rabe),  Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Scallions (Green Onions),  Shiso,  Spinach,  Sunchokes,  Sweet Potatoes,  Tomatillos,  Tomatoes, Turmeric,  Turnips,  Winter Squash,  Zucchini and Other Summer Squash, 
Fermentation takes vegetables up to another gastronomic level...and i find there aren't enough meals in the day to get myself the hits I yearn. On bread. As a side to a dinner plate. Snacking. Added to a dish while cooking.Preserved so you always have stock on hand. With plain boiled rice. Mexican foods. Middle Eastern menus.... As I say elsewhere I add some of my ferments to my porridge ferments.

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