Back Issue Home || Kit Home || Search

Issue 15 - Spring 2000

New CropsSell before you sow! Part 2

From the Australian New Crops Newsletter, No. ll

Contact Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland,

Gatton College, 4345;

Phone: 07 5460 1311

Email: r. tletcher@mailbox.uq.edu.au

Part l dealt with crops, growing, supply and other nitty gritty items. Now read on...

Your farmers market stall should be ‘theater’. Display, layout, containers, signage, composition, color, contrast, structures and lighting, as well as the

products and service you offer customers and how you talk to them, all come together to tell your story.

What makes you unique?

Well-stocked displays, for example, convey abundance and attract attention, as do creative display ideas such as a ‘waterfall’ of potatoes made by an inclined board covered with spuds of all shapes and colors.

Simple themes work well, too, such as interspersing product displays with leaves, herbs or flowers, or stringing balloonsor chili peppers around the canopy or entrance way.

Roadside markets need something special:

* a rural recreational or entertainment experience such as simple picnic tables, a pick-your-own opportunity or farm tours and festivals.

* unique customer education: opportunities such as food preservation workshops,

* specialty recipes, lower prices, specialty products not ordinarily found in supermarkets, or - fresher, higher quality produce.

* Offering customers a ‘real fresh berry topping’ sundae (if you are a berry grower) can entice customers away from the supermarkets!

In promoting a pick-your-own operation through newspaper ads, use a large, attractive display ad with coupons for a season opener. Then run classified ads each week of the season to give customers continual reminders about when and where they can get fresh strawberries or vegetables.

Keep using classified ads to alert people about items approaching maturity, give directions to the farm and state prices and hours of operation.

As convenience stores and supermarkets spring up like dandelions, many road side market owners have turned to ‘entertainment farming’,rural recreational activities, to survive and thrive

Busy urbanites are seeking places to go for a weekend family outing, where the kids can feed the goats or find out how bean plants grow.

In addition to an ongoing selection of farm attractions and fresh farm produce, set up weekend themes or festivals to attract customers.

People are willing to drive one, two or three hours - if there are enough attractions to make a worthwhile family outing.

Get paid upfront (before the season starts) with ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ (CSA) farming. Customer/members sign up in advance to buy ‘shares’ of the farm’s harvest, accepting less if a crop is damaged or fails. This is different than with conventional farming where the farmer bears all the risk.

Share holders often come out to the farm to help plant and pick the crop; have it delivered to a central pickup point; or, for higher price, have it delivered to their doorstep. Advance payment guarantees the farmer a market for everything he or she grows, creates working capital at planting time so the farmer can purchase equipment and supplies as needed, and allows the farmer to devote more time and energy to growing.

CSA’s (US) also offer an urban-rural link that many feel is the soul of community supported agriculture.

Selling to retail outlets

Whether it’s a fancy restaurant or a grocery store known for its top-of-the-line produce department, go after the top markets in your area. Convince them that you can get them the best product they’ve seen - and then deliver what you’ve

promised.

Do this even if you are able to sell them only a few products - as they find that you are dependable, you can increase the order size. Once you’ve established yourself as a supplier to ‘the best’, use them as a reference. This gives you a real ‘in’ when selling to other markets.

If the retail buyer is reluctant to try out your product, offer a guarantee by offeiing to take back without cost products that don’t sell.

Work closely with retail produce buyers to promote new or exotic items

Supply stores with recipe pads and encourage produce managers to set up sample tables.Spend on packaging.

Customers like to be romanced, so tell a story on your packages; give a little background of your farm or the history of the product.

Provide cooking and storage tips.

lnvite the consumer to write to you with their comments on the product or suggestions for recipes.

The key to commanding premium prices in selling to retail stores is to

offer them unique, smaller-volume items in a non-standard ‘premium pack’

Selling to restaurants

Since affordable labor is a big problem faced by chefs, they are glad to buy food products in a semi-prepared form, such as pre-sliced vegetables, pre-peeled potatoes, pre-washed greens or tomatoes and potatoes sorted according to size

The less time spent preparing produce in the kitchen the better. Chefs use big tomatoes, for example, for slicing, and little tomatoes for salads.

Attractive packaging helps market products in high-end wholesale marketing

lt may pay to spend a little extra to have your farm logo or a striking color label put on your shipping boxes. If the product looks as good as the packaging, the wholesale buyers will buy.

Some packaging boxes are so attractive they double as retail display cases.

You might also include extra labels for the retailers to use as in-store displays above their produce.

Make sure that your pricing reflects the added cost.

Another key to marketing high-value products wholesale is the personal touch

Educate buyers and consumers about your product in order to make them willing to pay a premium.

If you are selling to a distant specialty broker, for example, give them product information to educate their sales staff and flyers and point-of-purchase materials for their sales-people to take to the chefs and produce managers.

Specialty distributors, who purchase your product for distribution to high-end restaurants, natural food stores or gourmet shops, can be one of your best buyers for high-end crops

For some resourceful growers, selling through specialty brokers or distributors leaves them free to spend most of their time in production, while getting top dollar for their crops.

The high-end specialty trade is a highly crowded, competitive market that demands the highest quality product and packaging.

The supply-demand issue is very critical. You can't just grow anything and expect to get high-end prices.

In union there is strength, yet farmer cooperatives traditionally have had a high failure rate. One reason may be that larger co-operatives with a packing opera-

tion often develop bigger, more centralized operations, with high staff costs plus expensive machinery. Ensuing debts can lead to failure.

Marketing associations exist to help market and promote growers’ products, with no centralized site for packing. As well as promoting farm products by type of product, marketing associations can also promote farm products by growing region.

Dry it, pie it or put it in cider - value-added processed products

Fruit that may be worth cents-per-unit weight as a fresh market product may be worth dollars as processed jam.

- create additional products for you to sell

- enable you to market less-than-perfect produce as processed products

- provide a source for year-round sales and

- generate off-season work.

Start small and build a solid local base before attempting to sell to larger or more distant markets.

Test market your product at farmers markets.

Supply local gift shops and small independent retail stores with specialty items that they can’t get through normal distributors.

First get ‘visibility’ such as testimonials. publicity in local papers, proof-of-sales. etc. This will entice large distributors and supermarkets to carry your product.

Next issue - Packaging, promotion, informatlon.

TOP


Organic Gardening From Down Under

pH & Trace Elements

The pH Scale

The pH scale measures whether your soil is acid or alkaline. It ranges from 1 which is extremely acid to 14 which is extremely alkaline. The best range for plants is the middle range, 5.5 to 7.5 A pH of 7 is "neutral". This does not mean it is not acid or alkali but a happy balance.

If your plants are healthy and growing well it is a good indication that your pH is fine. (and you need not worry too much about soil pH) I don't.

If, however, you are doing all the right things, feeding and mulching and watering, and your plants are not responding it may be that your pH level needs adjusting.

In soils that are too acid or too alkali, some elements become unavailable to plants; soil bacteria stop working and are unable to break down matter to release the nutrients your plants require for good health, (even though the nutrients are in the soil). Some elements build up to toxic levels.

To correct a too acid soil you add lime.

To correct a too alkali soil you add Flowers of sulphur.

How much you add depends on how acid or alkali your soil is and your soil type (sand, clay, loam)

Soil test kits can be purchased from most produce stores and cost around $17.00. They give detailed instructions on the correction of pH levels and ideal pH ranges for most plants.

Natural Sources of Trace Elements for Composting

Sulphur

Cabbage leaves

IRON

STINGING NETTLE, COMPOST, DANDELION, HORSE MANURE, SPINACH

BORON

BEETROOT LEAVES, HORSE MANURE, COMPOST, SEAGRASS, UNTREATED SAWDUST

MANGANESE

CHICK WEED, COMPOST, UNTREATED SAWDUST

COPPER

STINGING NETTLE, YARROW, DANDELION, CHICK WEED, HORSE MANURE, COMPOST, UNTREATED SAWDUST

ZINC

HORSE MANURE, CORN STALKS, COMPOST, UNTREATED SAWDUST

CALCIUM

DANDELION, LUCERNE HAY, COMFREY, HORSE MANURE, COMPOST, SEAGRASS, BLOOD & BONE

MOLYBDENUM

CORNSTALKS, COMPOST, GRASS CLIPPINGS

NITROGEN

BIRD MANURE, BLOOD & BONE, GRASS CLIPPINGS

PHOSPHORUS

COMFREY, SEAGRASS, HORSE MANURE, BLOOD & BONE

POTASSIUM

COMFREY, HORSE MANURE, SEAGRASS

MAGNESIUM

GRASS CLIPPINGS, SEAGRASS


Comment - Larry Geno

Helping the Bushfood Industry by Saturation Bombing of PBR Varieties

A number of bushfood enthusiasts are disturbed by the emergence of patented bushfood plants under the Plant Breeders' Rights. According to the Act, the simple act of discovery, followed by selective propagation and stabilisation, can result in individual ownership of a wild occurring specimen. Many of us see this short cut as contrary to the goal of building a bushfood industry through expanding available species and populations for maximum choice in planting and marketing.

In most cases, bushfood species have not been collected or evaluated across their total range of environments, over multiple criteria nor to represent the full range of their genetic variability, an obvious precursor to selection of specific individuals that maybe propagated clonally. PBR of just discovered bushfoods is contrary to the interests of the industry because it discourages the full search and required research. It is even contrary to the interests of the PBR process because, eventually, there will be less material available for new PBR varieties! These arguments apply especially when the species is rare and endangered.

I've found one solution to stem the flow of this practice, PBR only controls replication of a variety by clonal propagation (and this includes cuttings). Only identical clones of a PBR variety can reproduce the characteristics that earned the PBR. Self pollinated seedlings of a PBR clone have random genetic drift and cross pollinated seedlings will be crossed hybrids of the two parents. In other words, seedlings of PBR plants are not protected, only clones .

Where an initial desirable specimen is discovered and patented with PBR, our response should be to grow and distribute hundreds and thousands of its seedlings, related seedlings and seedlings from similar parents. This will swamp out the original 'imposed' selection that achieved unfounded PBR, generate new and better individuals for more applications, discourage others from following the PBR path and give us maximum diversity of selections upon which to build an industry.

This year I'm sending out hundreds of pink flesh finger limes, at least a few of which I am sure will be better than the PBR variety.

But, we should still proceed to change the act and avoid PBR bushfoods.


How do you say that??

An occasional series on plant names and their pronunciation

Acacia podalyriaefolia (a-KAY-sha pode-il-AIR-if-olia)

Acronychia laevis (ac-ro-NICK-ee-a LAE-vis)

Aleurites moluccana (al-yoo-Ryteez mol-u-carna)

Alpinia caerulae (al-PIN-ee-a sa-RULE-yah)

Brachychiton acerifolium - (brack-ee-KY-tun as-SIR-if-oilum)

Dianella caerulea (di-a-NELL-a ca-rule-ya)

Elaeagnus latifolia (ell-ee-AG-nus lat-if-olia)

Elaeocarpus grandis (ell-ee-o-CARPUS grand-is)

Hardenbergia violacea (hard-en-BER-jee-as vio-lacey-a)

Piper novae-hollandae (Py-per nova-holl-AND-ay)

Pleiogynium timorense (plu-o-GUY-nee-um tim-or-ENSE)

Syzygium luehmanni (siz-IDG-ee-um loo-MARN-eye)


Bushfoods Go French

AUTHENTIC FRENCH CUISINE

ROMANTIC ATMOSPHERE

B.Y.O. - AIR CONDITIONED

NOW LOCATED AT:

33 VICTORIA STREET

TAREE

TELEPHONE: 52 5022

Bush Food goes French

French chef Laurent Gonfond has discovered a passion, and a talent, for Australian bush food cuisine, and is bringing it to the public at his Taree restaurant.

Laurent's interest was sparked over a year ago when he first began to experiment with various preparations for kangaroo and now the most popular dish on the menu is marinated fillets of kangaroo. Another favourite of his customers is crocodile steak with bunya nut sauce.

World famous bush food expert Vic Cherikoff visited the restaurant recently and commented that Laurent's unique interpretation of our wild food is one of the best he has tasted.

The response to the "new" taste of Australian wild foods has prompted Laurent to extend his popular menu to include the following bush food meals.

Entrees

  • Smoked Kangaroo with
  • Bush Tomato Ratatouille
  • Main Courses
  • Emu Fillets with Quandong
  • and Chilli Sauce
  • Crocodile Steak with Bunya
  • nut and Wattle sauce

Desserts

  • Lemon Myrtle Bavarois
  • Macadamia Nut Ice Cream with wattle pancakes

Of course, customers can always choose from 25 Provencal inspired dishes from Laurent's home land, France. Dishes such as Chicken baked in fillo pastry, Veal fillets sauteed in a light orange and Cointreau Mousse are all popular favourites

Laurent's French Home Cooking, is open to the public on Monday to Saturday nights in the Caravilla Motel, 33 Victoria Street, Taree. For reservations phone 03 525022.


Aromats - Essential, Sensual...and sublime

Illustrations by Jan Blok from‘Fragments of Green’ by Janet Hauser. Photos by Brian Rogers

The Concise Oxford Dictionary tells us that ‘aroma’ comes from the Greek aroma-atos-spice. The Chambers Essential English Dictionary (essential?

More essential than Oxford’s?) declares that aroma is a noun denoting ‘sweet smell’, while Rogets Thesauraus gives such delightful variants as odorament, effluvium, nidor, redolence, spicey, balmy, muscadine and ambrosial.’ So now

you know.

In fact, we all need little explanation of aromas for we are (almost) all quick to detect them and classify them as good, bad, divine or perhaps ‘pheeuw’l

Aromas, smells, fragrances and odours are linked with both culinary and non culinary experiences.

There are perfumes which are so yummy you want to eat them but there are also yummy food smells which you would prefer not to wear as a body odour enhancer (excuse me, aren’t you wearing Parmesian cheese?) There are

delightful and appetising aromatic leaves which linger seductively when you brush against them but don't translate to the stew pot.There are leaves that can raise a humble soup to something sublime but smell frankly mundane in the wild.

Our noses tell us much about a food before we have eaten it - for some a smell may elicit anticipation, for others, repulsion. The sense of smell seems more deeply embedded in us than that of sight - the most delicate waft of a perfume or a flower can evoke memories more vivid than any picture.
There are smells for every purpose in the plants of the world and Aus-
tralia has some of the most striking (though not always the sweetest) of them all. We are blessed with a wildly diverse range of aromatic plants - from the well known Eucalyptus citriodora to the frankly rank Stinking Hakea (Hakea rubriflora). Our brown boronia (Baronia megastigma) contains a heady and highly prized oil used in perfumery here and overseas.
Most, if asked to name the fragrance that typified Australia.would likely search for words to describe the lemon pungency of our citrol laden plants or the musky warmth of some of our melaleucas.
From Wrigley and Fagg (Aromatic Plants), we learn that ‘pleasant aromas. . are mostly attributable to volatile essential oils. These are complex mixtures of odourous organic chemicals known as esters, alcohols, aldehydes and ketones.
The literature I was able to obtain concentrated almost exclusively on the non-culinary uses of our fragrant plants, no doubt due to lack of research and a scarcity of toxicity studies.
However, an increasing number of our natives are being used for flavour and aroma in dishes as wide ranging as cheese-cake to coffee.
Currently, the most popular aromatic leaf is that of the Backhousia citriodora - our Lemon scented myrtle or Lemon ironwood. I’m not a chemist but my nose tells me that this is a warm, almost spicey lemony leaf with a slight sharpness.
A friend of mine who runs a spice business has created some nearly indescribable curry dishes using just a small amount in his blend.
Lemon myrtle is an attractive garden tree which can grow to 15m but can be pruned to any height you desire with no ill effect (in fact, it seems to flourish under hard pruning). It has a stately form and dark green glossy leaves. These can be harvested and used fresh in a refreshing tea (one to two leaves per cup is all it takes) or the leaf can be dried, ground and stored. I have found that my dried leaf loses its aromatic qualities with storage and tend to dry small amounts only.

It is found along the Queensland coast and as far south as Melboume but should do well with low frost conditions and ample water.

The Prostantheras are a much under-rated genus of highly fragrant shrubs which flower prolifically and yield up fragrance in both leaf and flower. Prostanthera incisa, the Cut leaf mint, is the most commonly used in bushfoods. This attractive, rounded shrub grows to 1 .5m and has small, toothed leaves which, even with the soflest touch, exude a strong and minty aroma.

The small purple flowers which appear in spring should be enough in themselves to recommend this plant as a hedge or a welcome mat your entry. Prostranlhera ovalifolia, the Oval leafed mint bush, has a similar size and form but a slightly less ‘biting’ fiagrance. It also flowers profusely and suits a position in which you can brush up against it as you pass. The leaves make a minty tea and, dried, can be used as a flavouring.

Eupomatia laurina or Little Bolwarra is a very handy shrub or small tree which is reasonably hardy, very attractive and has the distinction of flowers which are described as either ether-like and unpleasant or seductively fragrant!

There is no argument about the fruit, termed native guava which look a little like rose hips and taste rather like guava.

Some may be a little wary of the gingers - it’s fair to say that, in the right position, they can certainly dominate! However, for those gardens with a shaded, wet area, our native ginger (Alpinia caerulea) is both a robust ‘set and forget’ sort of plant and also highly fragrant when flowering. The small blue seeds which develop can be eaten.

They have a slightly tart, refreshing tang and are high in Vitamin C but I would rate them as only ‘interesting’ on the bushfood scale as they have only a small amount of furry flesh around the many seeds of the fiuit.

The Acronychias get points on looks, fragrance and fruit. There are 15 different species of this rain-forest tree, most of them having a common name with Aspen’ in it somewhere. Acronychia acidula is the one you’ll find on most of the bushfood lists, but, for my money, Acronychia oblongifolia, Yellow Wood or common aspen takes the prize. This is a medium sized tree with small, white and reasonably fragrant flowers in Autumn and cream-coloured, marble-sized fiuit in winter.

The tart, almost piney fiuit have a flavour which adds a unique pungency to drinks, ice cream and even mayonnaise!

The dryer regions have so many aromatic plants it’s hard to know where to begin. One of the more interesting genus is Capparis, commonly known as Caper bushes. Our Capparis spinosa is actually a sub-species of the better known Mediterranean caper but Capparis mitchelli is the more widely used. Known as the Wild orange, it’s an untidy shrub when young but becomes a handsome tree with maturity and has an edible fruit which is much sought after.

Capparis Iucida or Coast Caper is one of the few found outside the interior. Its flowers are knock-out aromatic and its small, purple fruit are edible.

And what can we say of the wattles? Their perfume ranges from intense to subtle-beyond-perception and they have a representative in every part of the country. The wattle pictured - Acacia amblygona - is a most unusual prostrate form with spiny leaves and a rather gangly habit. The small yellow ball flowers have a faint and very evocative smell of the bush and, one imagines, it is an ideal form for harvesting of the podsl

With a little planning and some hard work in tracking down the right species, almost any garden around Australia can have native fragrance year round. Tea tree and Eucalypts are certainly the ‘big guns’ when it comes to scents but there are literally hundreds of lesser known aromats which add much to the senses - and the menu!

And they're not just attractive to us...

The following is a brief look at some native foods and the sorts of insects and animals they attract. My thanks to the excellant newsletter put out by Fairhill Nursery, Yandina, Qld.

Creek sandpaper frg (Ficus coronata) A bushy tree 5 to 7m tall with sandpapery leaves and (sometimes!) succulent purple to black fiuit, which ripens mainly January to June but also at other times. Attracts a variety of birds and fruit bats.

Food plant for Common Moonbeam

Native Mulberry (Pipturus argenteus). Fast growing spreading shrub or small tree 4 to 8m hgh with silvery, hairy new growth. Clusters of insignificent white flowers are followed by edible, sweet, juicy white fiuit the size of small mulberries.

Food plant for the Common Grass Yellow, Northem Jezebel and No Brand Grass Yellow

Zig Sag vine (Rauwenhoffia leichardtii). A bushy climber that can be pruned to a shrub. Fragrant orange-brown flowers in autumn are followed by waxy elongated orange fruit with a pleasant, acid, edible flesh.

Food Plant for the Fourbar Swordtail and Pale Green Triangle

Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia). A beautiful rush-like shrub l-2m high and wide with inconspicuous flowers on rather prickly spikes in late spring and summer. Ideal for difficult areas. The base of the V young leaves is edible (but only justl).

Food plant for the Symmomus skipper and other skipper species.

Caper bush (Capparis arborea). A rainforest shrub of SE Queensland. Not that easy to find in nurseries. It has an edible fruit.

Food plant for Caper white

Paper bark - (Melaleuca quinquenervia.) Attracts a host of birds. The tree itself is called ‘the day and night pharmacy' for its many medicinal uses and the bark is commonly used to wrap food for cooking.

Native olive (Notelaea longjfolia). Another great bird attractant - I have found many references to it but none list which birds!

Native Tamarind (Diploglottis australis). Once again, I have seen a number of birds visiting my Tamarind but few of them are known to me by name. Perhaps someone with more bird sense can enlighten mel

And here’s one which isn’t edible but should be in every garden where it’s suitable - Birdwing vine (Aristolochia praevenosa).

Host to the Richmond Birdwing butterfly - a rare butterfly which is also fatally attracted to the exotic Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) - for this reason, the latter should be removed and the former planted in its place.

From the Editor

Aromats - Essential, Sensual and Sublime

Thoughts On the'Industry body'

Native Food Production in SA

Report from WA

Quandong Q&A

A little pepper tale

Essential Oil Isolates from Backhousia

Feature - Diploglottis

Down on the farm

Sell before you sow, Part II

Organic Notes

Comment - Larry Geno

How do you say that?

Bushfoods go French

Aromats

Bird/Butterfly Bushfoods

Some thoughts on the industry - Brian King

From the papers

From the 'List'

Backhousia anisata

Diversification Workshop

Products

Recipes

Early collectors - Banks

More on DOOR

Potting Mixes for Bushfoods

Pest control

ANPI Fact Sheets

Somewhat useful page


Get up-to-date info at Bushfoods magazine online