WHEN Haley McKee was 10, she and her family moved from a small home in the heart of England to a six-acre Roleystone property with dense bushland and roving kangaroos.
It was here – amongst the trees – that she developed a special bond with nature.
However, her passion for gardening came later in life, sprouting from a deep-rooted love of baking.
“I wanted to grow my own herbs and edible flowers to use as ingredients and so I gave gardening a go,” McKee said.
The Melbourne-based mum and owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery recently launched her debut book, featuring recipes – such as porcini caramel chestnut cake – with tips on how to grow the key ingredient.
The cakes, tarts, cookies and brownies include home-grown elements such as rose petals, beetroot stalks, basil and chestnut flowers.
“We have a community garden across the road from where I live and I take my little boy, Ray, who is nearly two, over there every day and we water the garden,” McKee said.
“It’s so exciting when suddenly the tomatoes are in full bloom, or we can pick off a couple of tarragon flowers, or the marigolds are in season – I really like that surprise element to the garden and the waiting game. I’ve just planted a whole load of carrots and we have to wait 10 weeks now.
“Then there’s that buzz of looking at your produce in a different way and thinking: ‘How can I put this in a baked dessert?’.”
McKee said she gravitated towards cakes because she was a big fan of big flavours.
“I feel that cakes are the perfect medium to infuse: so once you have the basic butter, sponge or chocolate cake you can really kind of twist it wherever your imagination takes you,” she said.
McKee stressed that her expertise lay in baking, rather than gardening, and the tips and facts she had gathered over the years were aimed at beginner green thumbs.
“I’m lucky to have a friend who is a professional horticulturalist and my husband’s family are eastern European and excellent gardeners, so I’m surrounded by experts,” she said.
Sticky Fingers Green Thumb is available in stores.