Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

The Garden in March, 2015. Hopefully the Summer heat and humidity is in the past and seedlings get a better start in life. Despite the wet Summer, the garden looks bedraggled and unsure of itself.It hasn't quite decided which plant will rule the soil or the air. 

African Yams, chokoes, Russian cucumber and Sweet Potato have taken to the sky trails along jute trellises strung like spider webs this way and that. The Frangipanis have settled in, and while as yet not much use for shade, many of the trees are beginning to keenly  flower. The pawpaws, after a lacklustre existence thus far, are fruiting forth.The Jerusalem Artichokes are flowering preliminary to die back...and last season's white potato leftovers (the spuds that missed my fossicking)  have sprouted and broken through the earth's surface.

I've invested in an early planting of seed potatoes -- Nicola and Sebago -- with the plan to later add other varieties to the soil. This has been my best year for peppers but, like tomatoes, I get ready die off as ripening approaches. Sometimes the whole plant dies.So I have to pick early if I want  fruits for the table.

I'm hesitant about planting out my next batch of seedlings because I have lost so many over Summer. Heat, relentless sun...the soil's incapacity to hang onto water: all these elements make the beds are brutal kindergarten.

For now, there's not much to harvest. The very last of the parsley, plenty of basil, lemon grass is thriving, the 'greens' are limited to exotics, the spring onions have all been pulled. My much yearned for cucumbers don't do so well. My many katuk bushes have been feeding me but they haven't bushed up as yet so when harvesting I have to be gentle.The kangkong -- water spinach -- has recovered from its desultory habit and infestations and is now harvestable.

Ready to amaze are more New Guinea Beans that I'll know what to do with. This time of year, its' well worth growing as a Zuchini substitute . But then Winged Beans have not done much at all, although I keep trying and Snake Beans are placement fickle.


The skytrails are the most exciting Summer invention. Jute twine strung above ground in patterns or on impulse has proven a great method of trellising that nonetheless holds up to stormy weather. When I cut back the vines, the whole lot -- string and all -- can be deployed as mulch. I haven't solved the upright challenge as yet, mainly because the bamboo canes I've been using are  slippery perches. Even when they get pulled to the side by the twine, so that they rise up like leaning towers, they still 'work' and allow for fiddling and customising. 

My best work was the shade lean-to I strung off the back veranda against the late afternoon sun. The native legume I used quickly embraced the trellis system. Unfortunately I'll be crying when I have to cut it back for the darker and cooler days of Winter.

The plan was to use choko but the choko vines have been desultory over Summer, only now taking off.

The Summer may have been wetter than expected, but the soil temp was still high.Mulch was harder to come by and my shade options have not, as yet, consolidated. I've now planted out with growing-more-of-my-own mulch in mind. More lemon grasses, Cannas, Vetiver....and I now deploy branch trimmings, cardboard and newspapers as carpeting for the garden paths.

Where the weedy grasses have taken off I lay down weed mat to starve them of sunshine. This works extremely well, and I plan to use the same mat option to cover fallow beds.So have weed mat/will travel. Very useful stuff.

It was a great season for weeds, and since I use very weedy grass clippings as mulch, they got away from me in places -- more so than previous years. So 'grasses' are mixed up with my pigface beds, despite the initially laying down of wet newspapers. I've learnt -- leastways I think I have -- to be patient, and this weedy infestation will spend itself so long as I keep a careful eye on management and sponsor other plants to overrule the infestation.

I don't normally weed. I think it's a mug's game to be out there pulling weeds every other week. I do it a couple of times each year because I have to, but I'm a keen supporter of autocratic suppression  and even if my mulch is the source of the weediness, more mulch also serves to smother opportunistic growth. You can never have too much mulch. Layer upon layer until you reach a point where the beds are no longer weed prone.

In the offing -- hallelujah from on high! -- when my frangipanis are closer to  heaven  than they are now, I'll have more therapeutic shade to play with and manipulate. I can't wait for the Plumeria to grow UP more....

Got no choice. Gotta wait.

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Comment by Dave Riley on March 9, 2015 at 17:46

Of note there are a couple of Italian squashes other than what we call Zucchini.

Summer squash varieties include zucchini, patty pans, yellow crookneck and eight ball squash. Zucchini and yellow squash in particular are sometimes referred to as "Italian squash." Summer squash tends to have relatively thin skin and may be eaten either raw or cooked. Winter squash varieties include pumpkins, acorn squash, delicata squash, spaghetti squash and hubbard squash. You should cook them before eating them. They are wonderful in soups and casseroles, or simply roasted and enjoyed with butter or high-quality olive  SOURCE

The key aspect about Zucchini we know well -- eg: Black Jack -- I reckon, is the productivity for the space, easy small harvest size and delicious flowers...and the flavour: the green zucchini has a taste edge.

Across the Middle East the zucchini rules albeit with variation...SOURCE..but the issue for us -- given that the flavour variation isn't huge between squashes -- is ease of growing and cooking (as well as recipe options). And the thing is that some squashes grow better in some conditions than others.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 9, 2015 at 17:28

Right - ordered some organic home-grown seeds from Melbourne.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 9, 2015 at 16:57

Good grief what a fabulous site! Thank goodness for the internet. I vowed never to grow this thing again but it looks like, with some careful management, that our Zucch/Tromb needs will be met much more simply with 'New Guinea Bean'. Must say, 'Cucuzza' sounds decidedly delicious.

Peel Aubergine? Never! Not even the bought ones nor soak them with salt either. Bitter my foot! Doubt I'd peel Cucuzza either.

Now, is it an annual? I got rid of mine as season's end but then I was overwhelmed by the fruit so couldn't rid my fence fast enough of its green embrace.

Or a perennial similar to Choko? The Chokoes have been a bit fickle, few seem to have fruit this season. There is a lot of wee fruit but yet to see if they develop. Nothing sweeter than a small Choko - except maybe a small Cucuzza ;-)

I'll have a root around the seed suppliers, there's bound to be some.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 9, 2015 at 12:59

I checked for seed stock and can't find any. Sorry. I'll have to go through all my seeds methodically but the NGB wasn't among my 'beans' or 'cucurbits'.

I've been a bit disoriented by all my cucumber attempts and so I'm not sure what I had pending. I used to grow heaps of NGB. But this around round the plants aren't as vigorous as before.The gourds are always 'entertaining'...

Just came upon's largest grower of Italian Cucuzza Squash.(Louisiana)

. How fast do they grow?
    The vine can grow 2 feet per day, and the squash can grow 10 inches per day.

. What is the right size?
    A small squash is best for stewing, a medium is best for frying, and a large squash is best for stuffing.

 Do you peel the squash?
    Yes, peel the squash the same as you would an eggplant.

Why is the stem left on the squash?
    The long stem actually nourishes the squash for up to one month after picking.


They are sold at the Cab Mkts for around $3.50 each...sometimes the stems/leaves are bunched and sold too.

Good information on selecting and preparing tenerumi (the leaves)....HERE.

I hate to say it ... but in reviewing the literature online I didn't realise this veg was so darn versatile! Also great alternative to zucchini over Summer...or when the chokoes aren't budding...and it thrives in our climate.

I've been too ignorant for my own good....

Fortunately to save the seeds you only need to let the 'squash' dry out on the vine before harvest to become a gourd, store and then cut it open or use it as castanets.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 9, 2015 at 11:14

Seriously considering re-visiting New Guinea Bean. Do you have any seeds available Dave? If so I can pick them up at your GV in April.

Comment by Rob Walter on March 9, 2015 at 9:51

I can report that my Bangladeshi neighbours love getting hold of the leaves and stalks as well.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 9, 2015 at 9:41

I've been using the New Guinea Bean in quick pickles  by  slicing them into discs. Much quicker than julienne. Throw in similarly cut carrot.

Half vinegar and water, a dab of sugar -- and you sprinkle the slices with salt first before strangling the water out of them.

Will keep for a week in the fridge.

The Sicilians love the NGB  but  there's more Italian ways with the veg: which is called cucuzza.

But then:

Sicilian proverb: Falla come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è.  (However you cook it, it’s still just squash.)

The Sicilians specialty uses the green leaves for  Cucuzza Tenerumi, Sicilian Summer Greens and Soup but there ares  many variations worth exploring.

Tenerumi are the vine tendrils of Sicilian zucchine called cucuzze, and are commonly eaten in the Ragusa area in eastern Sicily.Cucuzza, potato and onion soup, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil

  • “Zuccata” – candied preparation of cucuzza
  • Sauté of romanesco, cucuzza, onions & cherry tomatoes, drizzled with lemon olive oil.
  • Cucuzza and tenerumi risotto
  • Fried, breaded cucuzza slices (same for zucchini: thin slices lightly fried)
  • Poached eggs in stewed cucuzza, tomato, onion, garlic and mint
  • Cucuzza stuffed with ground meat, onion, fresh herbs, breadcrumbs
  • Tenerumi and cucuzza minestra with onion, tomato, vegetable broth, basil, ditalini pasta, grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil
  • Grilled cucuzza marinated with mint, garlic, vinegar and olive oil
  • Spaghetti with garlic, onion, diced cucuzza, tenerumi leaves, fresh yellow and red cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, black peppercorn, extra virgin olive oil and shaved Sicilian Piacentinu cheese (saffron-black peppercorn hard sheep’s milk cheese), which can be substituted with aged pecorino or parmesan.
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 8, 2015 at 22:10

The Asparagus hints were subtle indeed, Rob! Texture was soft, they didn't snap or crunch like a flat Italian-style bean. They are a different being, probably suited to the cuisines which love them.

Comment by Rob Walter on March 8, 2015 at 21:08

I agree about the New Guinea bean, Dave. It's a real ripper. Mine was constantly pruned by possums, so I didn't get the full triffid effect and ended up harvesting just one every couple of days, which is very manageable. The crazy thing is that they don't get any less tender until they're about 75cm long, so you can get an awful lot of food from one fruit.

I had my most successful summer cucumber crop this year with a variety called Suyo Long. It is billed as being mildew resistant, and mine showed no signs of mildew. In the end it was destroyed by caterpillars, but it produced large cucumbers very well until then. The only drawback was they the fruit were not quite as good as, say, a Lebanese variety. They are a bit drier and thus lack the luscious crunch of a freshly picked Lebanese cumber. I guess the thing to do would be to cross them, although I've just gone back to Lebanese in anticipation of cooler weather.

Elaine, I'm surprised you call the winged bean tasteless. I think they have a really distinctive flavour - hints of asparagus. They're best eaten almost raw. I do know what you mean about them being fickle, though. Some years they just don't do anything worthwhile.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 7, 2015 at 16:19

Great tip Dianne....Thanks.

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