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May 2009

Bloomin Backyard Bananas

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That’s what my backyard banana plants are doing at the moment – blooming.

Last year was the first time our two banana plants flowered. We had two huge bunches of bananas – they were about 1 m long! I was delighted given that I was sceptical they would fruit so well this far south. We had a freezer full of bananas for months – banana bread, banana smoothies, banana muffins, and Little Eco’s favourite – just simple chopped frozen bananas.

This year I’m determined to do a better job of ripening the fruit so that we can actually eat more than a few fresh bananas. I had too many ripen at once and had to freeze most of them. This year I will try cutting a small hand off every few days and place it in a paper bag inside.

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Bananas love a sunny position and lots and lots of water. So ours were planted in a spot that is often waterlogged to help dry the soil out quicker – so the fruit is really just a bonus. As are the banana leaves we have used a few times to wrap a whole fish in prior to baking.  

Another unexpected bonus is the worm food! Banana plants sucker, with new plants appearing at the base of trunks. Once plants are older than two years, it is recommended that you maintain only three suckers on each plant to ensure a good crop. So we regularly prune away extra suckers. Also, each stem only fruits once, so once a stem has fruited it needs to be removed.  All these banana prunings are much loved by our backyard worms. Banana stems are very fleshy and easy to chop and we place chunks in the compost. The worms then move in – hundreds of them. They love banana stems! The result is a wonderful rich compost.


Roo Stroganoff

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With all the mushrooms we have been harvesting (almost a kg a day!), I have been craving Beef Stroganoff - but I could not bring myself to make it given that I no longer eat farmed red meat due to its ecological impact…So I thought I would try Kangaroo Stroganoff. Kangaroo meat has a significantly smaller ecological footprint than farmed red meat such as beef or lamb.

I used this beef stroganoff recipe and substituted kangaroo steak for the beef. It was yum! Just as good as the beef version – but without the eco guilt.


How useful is the Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide?

Seafood_guide_front_cover Very! I received the pocket size guide a few weeks back. At only $9.95 I highly recommend it.

It is an easy to use quick guide to choosing sustainable seafood. It categorises seafood into:
Red = Say no
Orange = Think twice
Green = Better choice

As I suspected, some of my past seafood choices were ‘say no’ or ‘think twice’ choices, including Tuna, Barramundi and Prawns. I love that the guide tells me why they are not sustainable choices. For example, for prawns, high levels of bycatch is the main concern, with bycatch being as high as 10-20kg for every 1 kg of prawns caught!  The guide also goes on to explain each fishing method, or fishing gear type.

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I went to the local seafood co-op armed with the guide. Buying from a cooperative rather than a supermarket or regular fish shop has the advantage that there is no middle-man and all profits go direct to the fishermen.  My objective was to choose a reasonably priced sustainable seafood. I chose local Sea Mullet. I was surprised by its reasonable price of only $9.90kg, so asked the fishmonger whether it was good eating. He said it is at this time of year because it is caught out in the ocean. Apparently at other times of the year when it is caught from the estuaries it is not so nice. It is best to avoid this fish at those times anyway, as the Bycatch associated with gillnetting mullet in estuaries is of concern. I bought five good sized fillets. On my way to the cash register I realised it was only $5! I needed to use eftpost so to reach the $10 minimum I chose another green choice: Flathead. I got a whole Flathead, 5 Mullet fillets and 3 lemons – all for under $11!

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I was inspired by this recipe to pan fry the flathead with lemon and lemon grass. For the Mullet, this recipe inspired me to pan fry the fillets with onion, olives, lime, moroccan spice, and parsley. Served with home grown mustard greens (unfortunately the tomatoes were supermarket bought and probably not even local!) with a dressing made from locally grown and made Rasberry Vinegar (Yum!). It tasted much better than it looks.

Both fish recipes were very quick, easy and tasty. My favourite was the Mullet whilst Daddy Eco prefered the Flat Head. Little Eco was not fussed and loved both.

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Finishing off with something funny.... I showed Little Eco the fish and she pointed to the headless flathead and said “neck bit sore”. That’s an understatement!