Tamsin’s Table sits on a 113 acre working farm in Poowong East, ninety minutes south of Melbourne in a lush, green part of West Gippsland. The area is also home to the remnants of the blue gum forests that once covered the rolling hills. A small number of these old giants remain, dwarfing nearby trees.
This is where Tamsin Carvan and her wood-working partner, Al, have established the farm, a rambling kitchen garden and a life living off the land. It started with a philosophy – “I wanted control of what I ate and how and why I ate it”– and became a way of live, Tamsin says of establishing the farm. “What keeps me doing it though is the sheer joy and satisfaction of it. Although of course like anything worthwhile, there are times when it is ridiculously hard.”
Tamsin grew up in the Blue Mountains. She then lived in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra, before ending up in Poowong East. “I guess you could say I took the long way ‘round,” says Tamsin. “I don’t think of moving here so much as a tree change as just coming back to the kind of environment in which I felt best, most alive, happiest. I spent my childhood and teens running around the bush and riding my bike and horses through all terrains and all weather.”
Lunches and workshops are run out of the kitchen in the old farm house. Everything Tamsin uses in workshops or serves at her table is pulled fresh from her productive garden or raised on the farm. “We raise all our own meat – beef, pork, poultry – as well as our own fruit and veggies. Our motley crew of chooks keep us in eggs for most of the year and although I'm not milking now, I do try to have a couple of house cows in rotation.”
The garden is now waking up after the long, cold, winter and the farm is teaming with life. Tamsin has given us her tips for using the best of spring.
“Spring for me is all about tiny delicate shoots, leaves, pods,” she says. At the top of Tamsin’s list is asparagus “which we don't even bother cooking at all, it is delicious just snapped from the bed and eaten there and then or in salads.”
Then there’s the tiny broad beans, or green garlic which is effectively unripe garlic which Tamsin loves for its more delicate flavour. This can be recreated in back yards or on balconies closer to Melbourne. Tamsin tells us that “garlic can easily be grown in pots – my neighbour Carol once grew some of the best garlic I've ever seen in a bed of compost inside an old tyre!”
Tamsin also loves sweet young vegetables like shelling peas and the more complex flavours of weedy leaves like nettles.
“All these spring flavours are fleeting, delicate and special, so I tend to do as little to these ingredients as possible.”
A favourite way to use some of the new life in her garden is in a beautiful spring pasta.