GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

Christmas greetings to everyone and I hope you find some peace in your own Lake Lacuna.


Chitting:  Mr Curly’s goat cart leads me nicely to a potato topic – one of those easy to grow, almost round-year crops that are so versatile.   I think crunchy, golden potatoes roasted in duck fat are one of the best things about a Christmas dinner – in fact potatoes just about done any old way would make my husband happy (I think it must be the legacy of those English school dinners!)  Chitting potatoes is the term old gardeners, like my father, would use for forcing the potatoes to grow shoots before you plant them by placing them in a cool, dark place for a while.  This almost guarantees success.

Harvesting potatoes

When you are ready to plant just mound up the soil that you have enriched with compost and pop them in about 50cm apart – they don’t like a heavy clay soil.  As they grow, pile up straw around the stem.  The potatoes grow from shoots on the stem and unless you do this ‘hilling’ you end up with a smaller crop and green potatoes from too much light.

Harvest after about six weeks. There’s nothing quite like freshly dug new potatoes, and you can now also increase your scintillating conversational repertoire chatting about  ‘chitting’ and ‘hilling’.

TOP TIP:  I am writing this with raw potato poultices stuck to my ‘once’ very painful achilles tendons (achilles tendonitis).  Potatoes, particularly the skin and just under it, contain high levels of potassium (plus calcium, iron and phosphorus) and greatly assist with helping bruising and painful swelling.  Just grate some raw potato and attach it to the painful area with glad wrap or a bandage.  Repeat every couple of hours until the swelling and pain goes.  It’s the only thing that has worked for me!

Thank you to the 3,000 plus people who have followed my blog since it started five months ago and especially those who have given me feedback and made comments – let me tell you, it is nothing but a pleasure for me.  I think you all deserve a Christmas present so here we go.

Luscious and Interesting Plants for your Garden:

‘Datura’  Brugmansia sauveolens This apricot variety in my garden has large trumpet flowers, an interesting plant shape and wonderful exotic fragrance – especially at nightfall.

 A native of South and Central America it easy to grow from a cutting.  Just prune it back hard after flowering because it can get leggy.

It is renowned for having hallucinogenic properties so I wouldn’t recommend munching on it – besides the perfume is heady enough to get you high!


The extensive family of strange, but beautiful, ‘Beehive Gingers’ with the flowers appearing like little orchids or crab claws out of the waxy bracts.

The ‘cones’ are long lasting, make beautiful cut-flowers and come in a vast range of colours from golden, scarlet – through to chocolate.  Zingiber spectabile.  The upright leaf stems give an exotic tropical feel to the semi-shade parts of the garden and grow from 1-1.5m.


I first came across this stunning climber at my neighbour Clive and Belinda’s place – I love to be surprised by a plant I have never encountered before – especially something as gorgeous as this.  The glorious fragrance and beautiful flowers make a spectacular show. They cleverly use it to cover their pergola to give them some summer shade but then let in the winter sun because it tends to be deciduous in our area.  I have used it to cover and arbour that leads to my terraced garden and is in it’s full glory over Christmas.

Vigna caracalla – otherwise known as ‘Snail Vine’ – the mauve, purple and white flowers look like curled up snails.

A leguminous vine from South America it develops long brown pods with seeds that are easy to propagate. It’s a great plant for making use of the vertical spaces in our gardens – something, I think, we don’t do enough of. 

NOTE:  My two older grand-daughters (6 and 8) recently put entries into the local country Bangalow show – I think their entries were flower arranging and biscuit making.  I noticed that another of the entry categories was ‘gluton free chocolate cake’ – a ‘typo’ that put a smile on my face.  A peaceful and loving 2012 to everyone – and happy gardening and cooking.