Pantree Produce

The Lyttleton Stores 'Backyard Grower' System: Moving Toward Local, Circular Economies

Written by Manu

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I never tire of marveling at the incredible diversity of climates and ecosystems here in the Blue Mountains. It is an incredible asset, as it means we can grow a diversity of foods within a relatively small area. Our backyard growers from the lower Mountains will be bringing us ginger and turmeric soon, mid-Mountains growers are providing us with citrus, whereas upper Mountains growers will be keeping us stocked with apples throughout autumn. Our local farmers, including Erica and Hayden at Epicurean Harvest in Hartley and Aaron at Harvest Farms in Bilpin, also supply us with wonderful, nutrient-rich, organic local produce. What a wonderful, resilient space we have the potential to create, just through cultivating this diversity of growers, scales and climates!

Our 'Lyttleton Backyard Grower' system allows local backyard growers register with us, bring in their excess produce and swap its cost price for store credit. This allows growers to buy anything they may require within the shop, be it a loaf of bread, some veggies or a workshop. I organise regular meet ups every couple of months, where backyard growers can get together and discuss their successes and turbulations, share seeds, knowledge and experiences.

The financial, environmental and social benefits of growing and eating local organic food are quite substantial, namely through eliminating food miles and providing individuals with a greater sense of responsibility towards their immediate environment. We must, however, also see its value in building social relationships. Our 'office cubicle' way of living is making us lonely, depressed, and anxious, and people in our peri-urban environments are slowly reacting to this. Things are slowly changing. Social media groups have re-established local swap and barter systems through Facebook groups such as 'Pay it Forward', and some of us are keen to take this concept back to our streets and local spaces.

I see this at Springwood Community Garden, as older members, who walk up the hill from the local aged care facility, bump into young mums and/or dads, who feel they need to be out and about. The inter-generational relationships I have seen come out of a simple communal garden space are immense and important. We have forgotten how important inter-generational contact is for our own well-being.

In our little veggie patch and shop, we are striving to empower people to grow their own food, come to our meet ups and exchange knowledge and experiences. We do our best to entice you to come to your local produce shop rather than shop in a supermarket. So come and visit, make connections, hang out in our community hub, read from our reference library, have a chat, and, of course, eat yummy, local food together.

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Edible flowers

Calendula and german chamomile flowers.

Calendula and german chamomile flowers.

After a longer-than-usual break from blogging I am back. It has been a busy month. Organising our backyard permaculture retrofit has been an absolute pleasure. We will definitely be running one again. Such a wonderful way to connect Lawson and Blue Mountains locals and creating local community resilience. We are now sharing beautiful Red Ancona chickens with Ann, Mark and their children, who live two blocks down the road! Their food forest is well under way and they have a brand new vegetable patch, all built by local workshop participants. What a great way of creating circular, local economies!

Now that I have a little more time, I am focusing on my plan to convert the Lyttleton vegetable garden into a vegetable and edible (and medicinal) flower garden. We were lucky to inherit self seeded calendula and borage from the previous owner, but we've expanded our collection by adding dahlias (edible flowers and tubers), aquilegia (sweet edible flower), Californian poppies, rosellas, nasturtiums, violas, zinnias, okra, snapdragons, perennial beans, cornflowers, anise hyssop, mint bergamot, salvias, edible chrysanthemums, german chamomile, red clover, edible sweet lupin, and angelica. The result is an ever-flowering garden, where the buzzing of bees is so loud you may need to speak a little louder...

Shunjiku: edible chrysanthemum.

Shunjiku: edible chrysanthemum.

Common sage flowers.

Common sage flowers.

Feverfew at Lyttleton Gardens

The feverfew is flowering in the Lyttleton market garden. It's a wonderful herb for the vegetable patch as it attracts beneficial insects, repels pests, and has wonderful medicinal uses. It can be infused to make a general tonic, which is said to calm nervousness, aid migraines, and even bring down fever. If you would like some cut fresh just ask us in Pantree and will pick some for you!

Lemon Balm Syrup

So much fresh beautiful lemon balm in our garden! If you would like some please ask in the store or ask in the garden if the gate is open - we will happily pick it fresh for you. 

Make a tea from a bunch of lovely fresh lemon balm by infusing the leaves in not quite boiling water, too hot and the flavour cooks - too cool and flavour won't fully come up either. For each big bunch use two cups of water and once the infusion is fully steeped and the flavour is strong, strain the leaves and put into the compost bin. 

With the strong tea simmer with half a cup of rapidura or raw sugar, until the mix has reduced from about 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups and put into a sterilised bottle or jar. To sterilise the jar wash thoroughly first, rinse with hot water to get all soap off, then boil in water so that it is piping hot when you pour the syrup into the jar. 

Use as cordial, in cakes, on pancakes, in salad dressings or cocktails!