I'm sipping herbal tea, dipping comfrey pikelets into soy sauce and watching Morag Gamble scoop up handfuls of soil writhing with red composting worms. As co-director of SEED International (the SEED refers to Sustainability Education and Ecological Design), Gamble is presenting a From Garden to Kitchen workshop which aims to equip participants with the skills to harvest food fresh from their backyards or even balconies.
We're chowing down on the pikelets and two other vegetarian dishes (Brazilian spinach crustless quiche and lemon myrtle cheesecake) which Gamble has prepared earlier using hardy subtropical edibles grown on her property at Crystal Waters, a permaculture community established near Maleny. Teas are made not with teabags, sugar and milk, but with crushed lemon myrtle leaves, or red calyx of rosella and clippings of lemongrass. Gamble also offers a tray of citrus fruits harvested from her garden that morning, including ruby grapefruit, tangelo and navel orange. As I take a bite, I can practically taste the sunshine and rain that nourished them.
The unlikely venue for this workshop is my local library - for Brisbane City Council Libraries are moving well beyond books to offer free short gardening courses. Gamble is one of the key presenters in this series, exploring topics such as kids gardening, kitchen gardening, incredible edibles, permaculture design and eco conscious living. For the full range, with dates to facilitate forward planning, see the SEED International free permaculture workshops page.
Another big drawcard of From Garden to Kitchen is the cuttings Gamble distributes towards the end. My companion and I come home with plantable snippets of Brazilian spinach, comfrey and lemongrass as well as some mustard greens seeds. By her own estimate, Gamble has given out more than 10,000 plant cuttings from her own permaculture kitchen garden to workshop attendees, along with oodles of advice for those trying to establish their own cutting beds. 'If you walk out into your garden, you're surrounded by food and colour and lots of interesting things to harvest,' she says.
This workshop is something of a revelation for me. I realise that I've been throwing away so many edible bits of plants because I didn't know any better - like celery leaves, beetroot leaves and carrot tops. From Garden to Kitchen also opens my eyes to the possibilities presented by comfrey - which Gamble describes as a cell repairer, a weed barrier, a fertiliser (when steeped), a delicacy for backyard chickens and a leafy green in its own right.
Gamble has so much useful knowledge to share it's just as well that SEED International goes beyond the free Brisbane City Council Libraries workshops to longer, fee-paying permaculture workshops spanning several days. These include a six-day Intensive Permaculture Design Certificate Course which offers a 'permaculture immersion experience' within the Crystal Waters ecovillage plus fresh food sourced from the local area.
Thank you Damsel Martin. I love offering these workshops throughout Brisbane. Hopefully I may see some of you at future events - I always bring something in for you to take home for free...plants, permaculture food, information sheets.