Botanical Alchemy from Darwin backyard plants

Plants are amazingly diverse and used by humans in so many ways, not forgetting their intrinsic connection to all other beings.  Here in the Top End we have an abundance of incredible native plants in our landscape and the ability to grow a huge array of Tropical plants for amenity, aesthetic value, happiness, food or in this case dyes.

square colours landscape.jpg

We have had a bit of a focus on wild food with GULP with a recent twist on dyeing.

Aly de Groot is a local fibre artist inspired by the NT flora and fauna. She has lived and worked in the Top End with local plants as fibres and dyes for many years, often working with indigenous communities on ghost net projects and recycled arts. Using the inspiration of traditional techniques to create a whole other realm of fibre art.

Aly models

When Aly offered to facilitate a workshop for GULP using back yard plant dies before she leaves to Queensland (hopefully not forever) we snapped up the fantastic opportunity for her to share her skills.

The workshop was open to anyone interested, but we limited the numbers so it was not too crammed. An enthusiastic group of wonderful Darwin residents came together on Summer solstice with local food dishes to share, ideas of dye plants and some great enthusiasm. The idea was that Aly guided the morning session and shared her dyeing techniques and after a shared lunch anyone wishing to carried on with experiments of collected plants that we thought might make good dye.

In the morning we went for a little wander in Rapid Creek (the suburb and to the creek edge) to collect some plant material. The rule when collecting is to only take a little from each plants, particularly if it is flowers or fruit, so the plant can still reproduce. We were just looking for Eucalypts or Melaleuca trees with low lying leaves; which are very common and the Weeping Teas Tree (Leptospernum maddium) is very common as a nature strip tree, but usually found along creek edges.

 

Walk tree sepia

There are many native plants that you can dye with, but we don’t want to encourage everyone to go ripping up Mangroves or native shrubs from the bush, so we have stuck to those easily grown in gardens or replenished.

The Eucalyptus leaves make up a dye bath for the base of dyeing. This can be any plant that is plentiful and will make the base of the colour. Late on we also used green tea. Eucalyptus or Melaleuca leaves make a grey, brown colour and green tea more of a yellowy green colour.

The next step is to choose the dye plants or objects that will make the pattern.

dyeingplants

We tried garden turmeric root, Ceylon Spinach berries, Amaranth flowers,

A board of dye plants

Kaffir lime leaves, turmeric (again), Stinky Cheese Fruit root (Monrinda citrifolia)- a common naturalised Top End plant that pops up in gardens and Weeping Tea Tree Leaves.

tumeric rosella

Frozen rosella calyx, like those you would make jam with, were also trialled.

dyeing plants

Then different dye plants and rusty treasures are laid onto the silk fabric…

Wrap all

Rusty nails and old items make great dark patterns, dry tea is added to make orange patches, some onion peel and Okinaoa spinach thrown in for measure and experimental purposes, each placed to add not only colour but pattern through texture.

green plants

Once an agreeable amount of plants are placed inside the material is tightly wrapped up.

 

Roll colour

 

 

The parcels of botanical goodness are wrapped really tightly, with plastic string and other rusty wire adornments and then boiled in the base dye bath.

boil boil

After boiling them for an hour or more, they are pulled out and like Christmas presents, the surprises inside revealed.

UNravelling

The fabric is then rinsed off and ironed. Silk is used as it takes on colours more readily and does not need as many mordents as cotton. Traditionally in the NT strips or strings of plant fibres are dyed then woven; usually Pandanus or Sand Palm.

tumeric result

Noni (Stinky Cheese Fruit) root, turmeric root,  dried tea leaves , rosella and kaffir lime leaves were very effective. The scarves were a fantastic outcome and grew our love of local plants even more.

More plant dye experiments and workshops are planned by the GULP team…

Dye outcome

Group shot

Thanks Aly for your inspiration, thanks City of Darwin for supporting GULP and thanks all participants for the great food and dyeing ideas…

Words and photos by EM Lupin

Fair Food the Documentary- Darwin Premiere

GULP NT have teamed up with the Enviro collective (CDU) and Lakeside Drive Community Garden to Premiere this great doco in the NT.

The AUSTRALIAN FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ALLIANCE INC (AFSA) has produced the film which looks at food systems and fair food.

The movie will be screened under the stars at Lakeside Drive Community Garden at 7pm, with cooking demos, produce talks and Garden tours from 5pm.

There will be time for a short discussion after the movie, local fabulous food served. The movie is by donation and a great way to spend an August Sunday.

We hope to see you there…

Fair Food Flyer Gourd (2)

Go Bananas

So it seems such a while ago now that we celebrated the banana at our GULP NT banana festival in conjunction with The Mulch Pit and Lakeside Drive community gardens. It is so sad for back yard gardeners that their bananas are being asked to be removed and many people are upset and bananas are a very big part of their life and the deadline for removing bananas is getting closer.

Banana chop chop

The idea of the festival was  due to backyard bananas  being eradicated from Darwin and rural backyards we would celebrate its importance and our love of bananas while they are still here.

The eradication is due to the finding of banana freckle in some bananas in the NT and is a quarantine program to save the bigger banana industry from this ( in a zone that stretches south of the rural area, and then there is a further zone around Bachelor  and a couple of zones East and West) Here is a map . Anyway this story is long and very emotional for many but basically we are  loosing our bananas and can’t grow any for perhaps two years. Now a lot of people are pretty upset about this (and rightly so, as there has not been great communication about the methodology, science and need behind all this) and there may or may not be good reason , but the idea was to celebrate this amazing plant. The banana plant is held highly as a food source in so many places included our wonderful multicultural Darwin and surrounds.

Banana shirt 1

Most people who have room in their yards grow bananas, and there can’t be too many people that don’t love them (so much they have awesome bananas shirts!)  and it is not just the ripe fruit that can be used, they are an amazing landscaping plant with most wonderful large green leaves.

There are many varieties of bananas in Darwin including Red Dakkas, Plantain, finger bananas, sugar bananas and many more.

The leaves can be used to wrap food, serve food, line cake tins, decorate and the list goes on.

The stem can be woven, made into paper and eaten  in amazing dishes, such as soup and curries.

banana stem 2

The green fruit can be eaten raw like a starchy root

The ripe fruit is eaten in many many ways …

We will write  more about this section in detail, but to start with, so we get it out there and show you some wonderful pictures. As we were so busy organising we handed over the camera- we were lucky enough to have our own banana stylist and photographer, Ashleigh Hayes, who is visiting Darwin and loves local food, learning all different foods and has a wonderful food blog (www.formysenses.com) Most of the photos below are hers and some by Emma lupin.

Anyway here is a brief run down of Banana festivities-

In the cooking area we had 3 (and a bit) fabulous cooking demonstrations,

Amanda, from West Papua who showed everyone how she prepares and cooks the banana flower- Banana flower cut

The most amazing part was the use of no chopping boards and cutting the flower with great skill in her hands! The banana flower was made into a fantastic stir fried salad with some amazing salty and spicy flavours. This dish is very Typical of a favourite dish from West Papua, where Amanda comes from originally.

Annabelle

Kimmy, who is Kerin from Bhurma and moved to Darwin 7 years ago showed us how she uses banana trunk to make a traditional dish, a soup with banana trunk and fish..

 

Banana trunk pile

The stem of bananas is stripped and then cut. It is important to use the stem of a small to medium banana plant that has not fruited.

Kimmy dish

The dish is a popular dish in Bhurma and is often cooked in soups or salads.

Banana trunk soup  Bhavini showed us how she uses green bananas to make an Indian curry, a favourite of her mum and one she loved growing up. Her family moved to London from India, where plantain were hard to come by, so when years later she moved to Darwin she was happy to

split plantain

Plantain cooked in their skin is a secret to this recipe

Bhavini

The curry is full of flavour and super tasty served with rice and a garnish of coriander.

Bhavini curryThere was a wonderful weaving workshop, where Lia showed participants how you prepare the stems of the banana to make fibre into fabulous woven items, you can also use the banana trash around the stem. There were some amazing creations!banana bowlbanana weave

banna trunk

So if you are very regretfully cutting down your bananas then you can peel the stems like an onion and cut them into long strips, then dry them out for a week or two in the sun (don’t let rain get to them) and then use them as an amazing fibre.

There was banana art displayed from the banana art workshop especially organised for the festival and facilitated by Alison Dowel the previous day..

ali art

banana artSaskia came along and made some great banana stem prints with the kids. Their structure is amazing and they make great stamps!

Banana Saskia printsWe were visited by our amazing and tall banana friends… IMG_2851

and the kids were entertained with Magic Megan and her face painting

Face paints

there were bean bag banana fights

bananas

and wonderful banana and coconut smoothies made on the pedal powdered smoothie bike leant by The City of Darwin and powered mainly by this awesome guy!

smoothie man

And many helpers..

Banana bikeThere was an amazing Play back Theatre where people’s banana stories were told back to them through performance, including one ladies story of the bananas she  was given from an old long time Darwin variety and she had taken from garden to garden and now had to get them chopped down.

There was a lively  talking circle to allow people to talk about their banana stories, how they felt about the eradication,  including some practical solutions for filling the gaps post banana plants from Lachlan Mackenzie of Lakeside Drive Garden, some scientific background to the banana freckle and its impact on bananas and banana industry from community member and scientist Rod Baker, the Rural residents Rights Group and other community members with their feelings on the eradication and their opposition to it infringing on people’s rights to grow food and other views and stories from other community members expressing their love for banana and their experiences of being asked to remove their plants.

Then there was food sharing of banana dishes and music..

Banana feast

Some of the banana dishes (above) and what a selection to try- (below)

IMG_2906

Lachi banana bowl

Lachi’s Banana flower and sweet leaf salad

Banana flower salad Georgia

Georgia’s banana flower and cucumber salad

Dan and AlexBanana eating love

jack

Banana bands

IMG_2909What an action pact evening and afternoon which really highlighted how high the banana is thought of by local people…

banana flower

Thanks so much to all those who played music (Groupie Funkers, Michael and Lou) , those who helped with the kids area, made smoothies, made food, to those from Playback theatre, Lia for helping with the weaving, those who contributed in the talking circle, all the cooking demonstrators, Magic Megan for face panting, Pick and Flick the stilt walking bananas,  those who bought food, Ali for her banana art workshop and all those who came along and The Mulch Pit for hosting!

Funding for parts of this event were provided by City of Darwin community grants and any donations on the day went toward the Mulch Pit and their new shed project!

Community Banana Festival

Here it is the fabulous announcement of The Community Banana festival! March 8th at The Mulch Pit in Night cliff.

Join us in our love of the banana and our sadness it is getting destroyed- Come and celebrate how amazing the banana is, join in a weaving workshop and learn about its fibres, see cooking demos of all its parts- trunk, leaves and fruit.

Enjoy some banana inspired songs, banana art. Bring a banana dish to share and be part of some banana theatre/ music

There will also be a space for discussion/ a panel!

Please contact us if you would like to contribute. We are looking for more banana trunk cooks and crafters! More banana info and links soon….banana poster lge