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Author Archive for Mark Bennett

in season now! eat, cook, try…

…recipesHidden Garden turmeric from the Hidden Garden kitchen

The team at Hidden Garden Sustainable Farms are helping the Christmas Island community reduce their food miles.

Before Hidden Garden, most of the island’s fresh produce had to be shipped in and the cost to both the environment and the consumer was high. Now the journey from field to plate can be done in a day. Support your local economy by eating local and invest in your own health by eating fresh. Our focus this month is on turmeric – golden fingers of goodness that pack a nutrient punch.

Our April harvest included fresh, organic turmeric, lettuce, eggplant, passionfruit, Spring Onions, snake beans, red and green chilies, okra, cucumber, and young ginger…

 Why not try … turmeric

Scientific name: Curcuma longa” Also goes by: many names including: Kunyit, Haridra, Haldi, Halada, Manjal, Zirsood, terre merite, Holdi, Indian Saffron, curcuma, Pasapu, and Arishina. Hails from : India  – the largest producer of turmeric since ancient times. Tastes: a little on the bitter side – it is mildly aromatic with scents of orange or ginger –  fresh turmeric is more complex than the ground. Cooking styles: grown in India and south Asia, turmeric with its deep orange colour is used both as condiment and food colour. Popular in many Asian and North African dishes pounded into a paste or minced and grated into curries. Nutrients:  known  for its medicinal properties – excellent source of iron and manganese – also vitamin B6, dietary fibre, copper, and potassium. Phytonutrients in turmeric include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, tumerones, and tumenorols. The verdict: a versatile rhizome eaten fresh or in powdered form. It has been celebrated for centuries as both food and medicine.  Fresh turmeric can be used sparingly as a raw ingredient in salads and dressings, and cooked in curries, dhals, and pilafs as well as in many North African meat and vegetable dishes. The tubers freeze well and keep for weeks in the refrigerator.

Chicken curry with fresh turmeric

You’ll need:

  • 1 -2 tablespoons of peanut oil or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 birds eye chilli, seeds removed, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • A thumb-sized piece of raw turmeric, finely grated
  • A thumb-sized piece of raw ginger, finely grated
  • 1 large onion, roughly diced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1 large free range chicken, cut into 8 sections
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 3 dried whole lemons or limes
  • Juice of half a fresh lemon

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan or pan
  2. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cover with lid – the mustard seeds will pop loudly against the lid
  3. When the popping slows add the turmeric, ginger, chilli, garlic, and the onion. Fry stirring over medium heat until the onion is golden and translucent
  4. Add the dried spices and stir for a minute or so, scraping them off the bottom of the pan
  5. Turn up the heat, add a splash more oil and brown the chicken pieces.
  6. When the chicken is nicely coloured, add the coconut milk, turning the heat down – gently simmer (don’t boil)
  7. Add the whole dried lemons or limes and stir
  8. Cook gently for an hour or until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Add the fresh lemon juice before serving
  9. Serve with steamed basmati rice

Cook’s tips:

  •  Dried limes or lemons (also known as ‘loomi’) are used in Middle Eastern cooking – you’ll find them online from speciality suppliers such as Herbies. Delicious in chicken curries or fish stew they are often dark brown in colour with a citrus-like fermented flavour. Simply make a few holes in the skin of the black lime with a skewer and leave in the pot during cooking.
  • Peel fresh turmeric using the lip of a dessert spoon

If you have another recipe for turmeric …please share with us…

In season now! – eat, cook, try…

recipes from the hidden garden kitchen

 Support your local economy by eating fresh and local. It’s better for you and packed with flavour.

Our March harvest included fresh, organic okra, bananas, passionfruit, salad leaves, lettuce, eggplant, spring onion, wing beans, red and green chillies, baby capsicum and mizuna…

 Why not try … Passionfruit

Scientific name: Passiflora edulis’. Also goes by: many names passionfruit (English), maracuya (Spanish), grenadille or fruit de la passion (French), maracujá (Portuguese) and lilikoʻi (Hawaiian). Hails from: southern Brazil. Tastes: sweet and exotic – slightly tart. Cooking styles: grown in tropical and semi-tropical regions around the world, passion fruit feature in many recipes and cooking styles. Nutrients: antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, fiber, and protein.The verdict:  popular fruit in a range of desserts, cocktails, cordials and juices. Can also be used in marinades and vinaigrettes for tropical flavour.

Prawn skewers with spiced passion fruit and achiote-chilli butter

Not everyone likes fruit and seafood, but the spicy Latin American flavours work with the sweet but slightly tart passionfruit and fresh juicy prawns.

You’ll need

  • 1 kg fresh raw prawns – deveined
  • 15- 20 skewers, (soak in water first to prevent burning)

Passion fruit marinade:

  • 2/3 cup passionfruit juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground achiote powder (pure achiote does have a subtle, smoky flavour as well as great colour. It can be ordered online or try substituting turmeric or paprika powder)
  • Salt and pepper

Achiote-chilli butter:

  • 1 teaspoon ground achiote powder
  • 1 green chilli (seeds removed)
  • 120 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

How to

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a glass bowl
  2. Process all achiote-chilli butter ingredients and set aside
  3. Marinate prawns in passion fruit marinade for 2-3 hours.
  4. Pre-heat the BBQ.
  5. Slide 5 prawns on each skewer
  6. Brush the prawns with the melted achiote-chilli butter and place on hot BBQ grill, for 3-4 minutes each side or until the prawns are fully cooked.
  7. Baste with the butter two or three times each side.
  8. Serve with rice and/or green salad
  9. Garnish with fresh chilli and lime halves, brushed with melted butter mixture and caramelised for a minute on the grill.

Why not share your favourite passionfruit recipe?

HG generalWith demand exceeding supply…

…and exciting new contracts on the horizon, we are looking to raise further capital to develop Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm Christmas Island to its full potential. We have already invested in farm and irrigation equipment adding substantial value to our shareholder’s investment. Additional funds would allow us to establish our retractable roof greenhouses giving crops year-round protection from heavy rainfall; double our dam water storage capacity; purchase specialised horticultural equipment and upgrade our harvesting and processing facilities.

We are actively seeking equity investment, green bond finance and public and private community development funding platforms. We are also expanding our fund-raising beyond Australian shores, targeting international markets that respond favourably to agri-tech opportunities, particularly North America, Canada and the UK. To maintain project momentum, we are asking our existing shareholder base to raise AU$300,000 to expand the open row cropping area, and begin our chicken egg and mushroom production facilities.

Please contact:

  • Tony Camphin +61 411 176 693 or
  • Mark Bennett +61 403 004 88

to discuss this unique opportunity to become an investor in Christmas.

Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm Christmas Island okra…recipes from the Hidden Garden kitchen

There are so many reasons to eat fresh and local. Eating food in season reduces the energy needed to put food on your plate (less CO2 emissions and less food miles), plus it supports our local economy.  But the main reason is taste – it’s fresher, tastier and better for you! Our January harvest included fresh, organic chives, cucumbers, lettuce, beans, okra, basil, radishes, snake beans, eggplants

Why not try … Okra

Scientific name: ‘Abelmoschus esculentus’ and also ‘Hibiscus esculentus’.  Also goes by: many names including ladies’ fingers, bamia, ochro, gumbo,  Quimgombo, Quingumbo, bendi, Kopi Arab, Kacang Bendi, Bhindi. Hails from: disputed originsNigeria, Ethiopia, South Asia. Tastes: lemony. Cooking styles: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian. Nutrients: calcium, phosphorous Vitamin A, iron, fibre, Vitamin B6,  folic acid…the verdict: versatile vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked, whole or sliced –  it can also be used as a natural thickening agent in soups, curries, braises or stews.

Middle Eastern stew of lamb & baby Okra

You’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon of ghee (use butter and oil as subsitute if unavailable)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 500 grams thickly cubed lamb
  • 800 grams tinned tomatoes
  • 1 table spoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder (omit spices if unavailable)
  • salt and pepper
  • 250 ml stock or water
  • 500 grams baby okra, topped and tailed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Fresh coriander if available  

How to

  1. Trim the baby okras and wash in cold water and then place in a colander to drain.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the ghee/oil or butter and add in the meat in batches and brown on all sides.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and chopped onions to the meat and sauté till brown.
  4. Add tomatoes, mash or stir until softened, then add tomato paste and spices. Season well.
  5. Add the stock or water (meat should be covered – if not add a little more.
  6. Add trimmed Okra & bring to boil, then cover and simmer for around two hours or until the meat is tender.
  7. Add lemon juice and chopped coriander, gently stir and simmer for another 5 minutes taking care not to mash the okras.
  8. Serve with rice

Have another recipe for Okra? Share with us…

Our journey to first harvest!

What a year 2016 was!

In what may well be a world-first, we brought a previously mined site back to life with fertile soil ready for planting. We’ve come a long way since 28 November 2014, when we finally got the green light to start work on our first Hidden Garden Farm on Christmas Island. Just over two years later, what was once a barren mine site is now a flourishing, sustainable farm site supplying fresh, organic produce to its local community. Instead of paying exorbitant prices for an iceberg lettuce well past its use-by date, locals can now choose from a range of fresh picked, affordable salad greens.

Of course, like many epic journeys, ours was not without its challenges – many of them from Mother Nature. But after an unprecedented wet season with more than double the amount of average rainfall, we have successfully grown more than 40 crop varieties and local suppliers’ shelves are stocked weekly with a growing range of Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm produce.

We’ve also invested in farming and irrigation equipment including an 85Hp tractor, commercial sprayer, rotary hoe and bed former, forage harvester, compost turner, ploughs and slashers.

We have been supported every step of the way by the Christmas Island community. Demand for our product far exceeds our supply – but we’re working on that! Our farm is literally growing every day.


It’s official! Work begins on Hidden Garden farm Christmas Island!

Christmas Island Flying Fish Cove

We’ve had to wait through more than one Christmas for work to begin on Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm Christmas Island. But the wait is over and we are finally underway. Our first milestone, an eight megalitre dam, is expected to be completed by March 2015, paving the way for a compost facility, propagation nursery, and mulching and preparation of the soil for cropping beds. Our first planting will be mid-year and first harvest will be celebrated in July 2015, along with the opening of the Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm’s permaculture training centre.

The journey to Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm Christmas Island has not been without its frustrations. Thank you to our investors, shareholders and friends of Hidden Garden, as well as all levels of Government, who have patiently travelled the Hidden Garden road with us. We came so close in the early half of 2013, meeting all the necessary bureaucratic requirements and just as it looked like things were finally moving we were swept up in the Australian Federal Election in September 2013, which delivered a change of government. It was back to the start. On Friday 28 November 2014 we finally received the signed Lease from the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mr Jamie Briggs, which now gives us the green light to commence work and start delivering high quality fresh produce for the Christmas Island community!

Practical Permaculture Internship (6 Weeks)

Hidden Garden Permaculture Courses and Workshops

Ask about our next internship dates by calling Mark Bennett +61 403004888

A Permaculture internship on Christmas Island’s Hidden Garden Sustainable Farm is a one-of-a-kind experience. Much more than a Permaculture farm, Hidden Garden offers a unique opportunity to be part of a ground breaking project that is literally breathing the life back into the land – degraded and depleted after decades of mining. Set against the back-drop of one of the world’s most diverse ecologies, Christmas Island is surrounded by abundant marine life, unique eco-systems and pristine oceans.

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Sustainable Soil Management (5 Days)

Hidden Garden Permaculture Courses and Workshops

Redefining ‘sustainable agriculture’ as our ability to build soil fertility as we improve production and reduce input costs.

The unprecedented global demand of modern agriculture is unsustainable. It depletes the soil and strips it of long-term nutrients. This course focuses on the relationship between the health of the soil and its ability to produce high quality, healthy food. We demystify the complex sciences of soil microbiology and plant nutrition to bring you a cutting edge system of sustainable soil management.

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Permaculture Design Certificate (10 Days)

Hidden Garden Permaculture Courses and Workshops

Learners will receive in-depth practical knowledge over this intensive 10 day Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), which delivers 72 hours of life-changing Permaculture learning and techniques and is a prerequisite course for the Diploma in Permaculture Design. Qualified, passionate instructors teach you to grow more resilient, productive gardens and properties guided by nature and aided by science and technology through Hidden Garden’s cutting edge Bio-Vital™ approach.

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‘Food for Free’ Course (2 Days)

Hidden Garden Permaculture Courses and Workshops

Learn how to grow healthy, living organic food for free through our introductory Permaculture course and further your journey of knowledge into food self-reliance. Empower yourself and become part of the solution towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Design and manage your own sustainable food production system – from backyard vegetable gardens, to hobby farms and larger-scale ventures.

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