Thursday, 19 July 2018

Kombucha Continuous Brew

We have been keeping various ancient cultures for years.  We started with milk kefir, then went on to things such as water kefir and sour dough.  Some cultures we have kept going for years, others we have lost, and others we decided to stop doing for now due to various reasons.  One of the cultures we have at the moment that I really enjoy is kombucha.

Unfortunately the origin of kombucha has been lost to history.  Several romantic theories have been made about the origins of kombucha, none appear to be based on anything other than dramatic story telling, and these stories eventually merged to the one that is often told today.  The truth is that we know roughly where kombucha originated, we know vaguely when it started to become popular, but it doesn’t make one ounce of difference.  The drink tastes good, it is simple to make, and it reportedly has several health benefits.  Who really cares when or how it was discovered.

I thought I would write a blog post to share the down sides of continuous brew kombucha, and test some of the health claims.  I think you may be surprised by the results.
Kombucha scoby continuous brew
Continuous brew kombucha

Saturday, 14 July 2018

How to store water chestnuts over winter

Chinese water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) are very simple to grow at home and are very productive.  For some reason people used to tell me how difficult they were to grow, but the hardest part was finding any for sale in Australia that were not in a can!

To grow water chestnuts you don’t need acreage, you don’t need a stream or a pond, and you certainly don’t need to live in the tropics.  Chinese water chestnuts can easily be grown in most of Australia if you have access to soil, water, and sunlight. I grow them and I sell them so you can also grow them.  I grow water chestnuts in a cheap bucket.
Organic home grown water chestnuts

Being perennial vegetables, you can plant once and harvest forever.   In order to do this you need to store some water chestnut corms over winter while they are not actively growing. Let me explain how I over winter water chestnut corms.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Growing potatoes from True Potato Seed

Usually in Australia potatoes are grown from clones.  Sometimes pieces of existing potatoes or small potatoes.  Confusingly people sell 'seed potatoes' which are just small potatoes that are used for planting.  Every plant that is grown from 'seed potatoes' are genetically identical clones.

True Potato Seed is different, they are actual botanical seeds.  These are made in the same way that any plant makes seeds.  Every plant that arises from true potato seed is genetically identical.  If you plant a dozen true potato seeds you will get a dozen different varieties of potato.  If you find one you like you can grow them vegetatively from there.  This is how plant breeders have come up with the different varieties of potatoes you can buy.

This year I got some True Potato Seed and grew some potatoes from those true botanical seeds.  Each and every plant that grows from true potato seed is genetically unique.

This year the ones I grew were diploid potatoes, which are different from the usual tetraploid potatoes.  They are more of a wild variety of potato and have not had polyploidy induced in them.  They also had a huge amount of genetic diversity which I love.  The seed grown potato plants looked nice and on some plants the flowers were stunningly beautiful.
diploid potato yield per plant
Yield from one plant, not huge the first year

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Variegated maidenhair fern Adiantum raddianum 'Variegata' in Australia

I don't grow many ornamental plants but I love maidenhair ferns, I think that they are beautiful.  I have some on my desk at work to help may day be less dreary.

Years ago I heard of variegated maidenhair ferns, they sounded really nice.  I looked for them and no one seems to sell them.  For some reason there are very few pictures of variegated maidenhair ferns anywhere on the internet.

I searched for a variegated maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum 'Variegata') for years.  For some reason very few people own variegated maidenhair ferns in Australia.  I found a few people who used to have one, and some places that used to sell them but no longer do, but getting one myself proved difficult.  I spoke to a few fern collectors, all of which had fond memories of once seeing this plant, but none who currently had one.  Then I eventually tracked one down and bought it.
Variegated maidenhair fern Adiantum raddianum 'Variegata'

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Strawberry x Raspberry hybrid plant photos

I have been messing around with plant breeding for as long as I can remember.  Some simple things, others more complicated.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I have recently crossed a strawberry with a raspberry.  I am very excited about this.

I wasn't planning on putting up any pictures until Spring once I know what will survive winter and the plants will be a lot larger and more worth looking at.  But I have had some people email and ask for photos, so I made this post to put up the first few pictures.

They aren't great pictures, and the surviving plants have grown a fair bit since the pictures were taken.  It takes me a while to get photos from the camera to the computer and I hadn't noticed how small they were when I took the last pictures, but they are the first pictures of strawberry raspberry hybrids that have been taken in one hundred years.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Horseradish seeds

I have been growing horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) on and off for many years now.  It is an interesting perennial vegetable that is worth growing.  The young leaves can be eaten but it is the pungent roots that are the real crop here.  Horseradish has been grown as food and medicine for centuries.
Perenial Vegetable Horseradish Australia
Horseradish Plant - flowering size plant
Being a brassica, horseradish can suffer from cabbage white butterfly.  Other than that it does not seem to suffer from many pests.  There are a few diseases that are said to bother horseradish, but I have never seen these diseases and am not sure if we have them in Australia.

Horseradish can flower.  Many people tell me that it can't, but mine does.  Mine doesn't flower each year though.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Guinea pigs communication

Guinea pigs are an amazing little animal.  We have had them on and off for many years.  Our first guinea pig died at about 8 years of age.  He used to belong to someone else but they couldn't look after him so we got him.  He was a great little pet and I was sad when he passed.

We currently have three large and fat females who used to be someone else pets but now live with us.  Hopefully they have long and happy lives with us.

Our guinea pigs are great at turning grass and weeds into rich fertiliser.  They are also fantastic at mowing grass in places that are difficult to get the mower or when I simply can't be bothered to mow.  They are also interesting to watch and nice to have around.

I move the guinea pig cage several times per day (morning and afternoon during the week, more often if I am home during the day and not too busy) and they eat out the lawn for me.  I also give them weeds that they like from the vegetable garden, and sometimes give them vegetable scraps and apple cores and things simply because they like to eat them. 

When the guinea pigs see me they oink loudly.  When guinea pigs want people to feed them they make this oinking noise (commonly referred to by cavy fanciers as 'wheeking').  Sometimes they have plenty of feed but they will see me and excitedly start to oink in the hope that I will give them something nicer to eat.  More often than not I do exactly what they want me to do.  It is hard to say no.
Two of our guinea pigs
Yesterday I learned something new about guinea pigs.  I love learning new things!  Yesterday someone told me that guinea pigs only use this oinking sound to communicate with people.  Apparently guinea pigs didn't used to make this sound until they were domesticated.  They said that no other animal have a specific sound purely to communicate with people like this.

I had never thought of that before, but it is true.  Our guinea pigs only make this oinking noise to call to people that they know who are likely to feed them something they like.  They don't ever make this noise to each other, they don't make this sound when they see my kids, they never make this sound when strangers such as the postman walk past them, or any other time when we are not in sight.  If they did I would hear them.

Sure your dog or cat may make a noise that is just for you, but all cats and dogs don't do it for their owners.  Guinea pigs are well known for all oinking for people anywhere in the world that they are kept.  This does not appear to be a learned behaviour, they all seem to do it.

It seems to be a behaviour that is written in their genes.  Considering that guinea pigs were domesticated about 7,000 years ago, and were raised exclusively in people's kitchens from that time until the 1500's, this makes sense.  When you consider that most of these animals would have been eaten and not lived very long that is a LOT of generations of guinea pigs that were raised in people's houses where people provided all of their food.  Having some way to tell people they want more food sounds like it would have been beneficial and would have been unknowingly selected for.

Guinea pigs are fascinating creatures, I love how they do things like this.  I wish I had more of them.