Water Chestnuts 101

Water Chestnuts in the hothouse

Water Chestnuts : Eleocharis dulcis

Chinese Water Chestnuts are a sedge that grows naturally on water margins and bogs, they are a native of plant of Asia. They are a striking plant, and a tub full of the rich green reeds looks pretty amazing. To grow it in your garden you need to do a little bit of preparation. Here in NW Tassie we are in borderline growing conditions, we really do not get enough frost free days or heat and this affects the size of the corm. However in saying that I get a good crop at home every year, growing them in my little greenhouse, and they taste so much better than the tinned ones. They are prolific and once you have your container ready, really easy to grow. Once planted apart from topping up the water through the summer we do nothing to them until they are ready to harvest.

Containers:  Old bath, plastic tubs in fact anything that holds water, the container needs to be around 70 cm deep to allow for sufficient root growth. This year at Produce to the People we are using those soft plastic containers often sold to hold ice in.

Soil:  We use compost, with chicken manure. Once, harvested we make up the next years box, which means when we are ready to plant next year the work is already done. We use about a 1/4 chicken manure/straw mix fresh from the chicken house with compost mixed through. We also add a handful of dolomite lime as water chestnuts like a PH of around 6-7.5 and water occasionally just to keep everything damp.

Planting:  We plant the corms in early spring at around 3cm deep in small pots. Recommended planting spacing is 2- 4 corms to the square metre, if you overcrowd them the yield is reduced. To begin with only water enough to keep the soil damp. If the corms get too wet early on they can rot. Once the leaves get to around 10 cm high we transplant them into their big container and flood them so that they have 7-10cm of water sitting on top of the soil, keep them flooded until the reeds turn brown, which happens mid to late autumn. Then we withhold watering until harvest.

Pests and Diseases:  We have not had any trouble with diseases and the only ‘pests’ we have had at home was when we grew them outside in tubs in the orchard and our young muscovies discovered the tub. They happily ate the leaves and pulled out the developing corms, they were ecstatic me not so much.    The undersized or damaged corms make great chicken, duck and turkey food, full of carbohydrates and goodness.

Harvesting:  Harvesting is easy and fun, we tip the tubs up and pull out the dried plants, roots and corms.  Then just sort though the soil to finding corms.

Storage:  We store them in the garden shed in a bucket filled with damp sawdust. They seem to do well and although we lose a few to rot they are usually the ones that have been damaged that we haven’t noticed. You can also store the ones you are going to eat in the freezer, but once frozen they are no good for growing the next season.

Eating:  They are usually peeled before eating, I just chop off the top and bottom then peel with a knife. Chickens get the scraps. You can steam, boil, stirfry or even roast them. They make a nice addition to our winter menu. Not too bad fresh either, sweet and nutty.

Tips:  If you are in a climate like ours, I have found a couple of things to improve crop size. Fertilise the soil well and keep the container in a warm place. It is all about the heat, you can use the smaller corms for growing next years crop as corm size does not affect crop size. From one corm in a good growing season we get between 50-100 corms which is pretty amazing from one corm.



You may say “rip off”, we say “walk a mile in my shoes”…

Invest in produce to the people

We get asked at least once a month if we think some of the people are coming to our food hub to “rip us off”. My response is the same each time – “I am guessing you have never been in a position where you have not had the money to buy food for yourself or your family?”

It does frustrate me and I think perhaps says more about the person asking the question.

Each day we see people admittedly ashamed that they have to come to see us and I think that is a shame. I think as a community we can stand by those that might be doing it tough for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, or a couple of years for you never know when it might be you.

I’ve only walked in my own shoes but I would like to think that my community would look after me if I were ever in need.

There is a way you can help us continue to be there. You can invest $25 in Produce to the People and we will invest that money in one of our social enterprise ideas that will see us not only become financially self sufficient which means we can continue to run our food hub, but hopefully create local employment outcomes and more opportunities for the students at Burnie High and the wider community to participate on The Farm.

If you click on the “invest” link you are a couple of clicks away from being a part and PLEASE share the link far and wide so we get only closer to our target.

What kind of community do you want to be a part of?

Grow, gather, give and love the one you’re with.

NB: Here are links to the stats you see in the main image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-08/food-waste-value-australia/4993930  and  http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/driving-change/current-campaigns/local-campaigns/Pages/Healthy-Food-Access-project.aspx

small tractor silhouette

Innovation in the Food Industry @ UTAS Cradle Coast Campus

A bit of lobbying on our part has seen UTAS offer this Unit at the Cradle Coast Campus and we are super excited about it, and it is 100% tuition fee free!

The Australian Innovation Research Centre (AIRC) – a research centre in the Tasmanian School of Business & Economics at the University of Tasmania – is a leader in the field of innovation. The AIRC’s research informs its teaching with the Centre delivering units in the areas of organisational innovation, food innovation, commercialisation, and enterprisevia undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development programs.

Innovation in the Food Industry | Whether you’re producing, processing, packaging, purveying or presenting food, Innovation in the Food Industry will give you the tools and knowledge base to integrate innovation into your business strategy.

Topics covered include an understanding of creativity; application of innovation to the food industry at a business level; effects on commercialisation and entrepreneurship; food security and challenges to the food industry; regionalisation versus globalisation; innovation systems.

Local, national and international case studies will be drawn upon to illustrate this theory, as well as case studies of innovative food businesses and entrepreneurs. Additionally, guest speakers will be invited to provide their unique insight and knowledge into the industry.

DETAILS | This unit is web-dependent with a three day compulsory face to face component.

Dates: Online component commences – 11 August Face to face teaching dates – 23 & 24 August and 12 September

Venue: UTAS Cradle Coast campus – Building D – Room D201 Time: 9am to 5pm

Donwload the flyer for more information and please spread the word!

AIRC Flyer_BLD604_Cradle Coast_Web