Animal ForageFood ForestsFood Plants - AnnualFood Plants - PerennialMedicinal PlantsPlant SystemsSeedsTrees

Food from Perennial(ising) Plants in Temperate Climate Australia for September 2012

This is the first monthly post for the research project about perennial plants and perennialising annual plants providing food in temperate climate Australia. The original article introducing this project, stating its aims, and providing participant instructions, can be found here. Growers are sending me information on a month by month basis, then this information is collated and published early the following month.

Grower #1

Grower # 1 — Chris McLeod, Fernglade Farm
Latitude 37.5°S
Broad climate information Cool Temperate with temperature ranges between 0 degrees and 40 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is delivered fairly consistently throughout the year except in drought years when January and February are usually dry. Rainfall in a drought year will still reach about 500mm/year and in a wet year it can be over 1,400mm/year. It is not a particularly windy spot, but at least once a year winds will peak in excess of 100km/h (a Tornado went through last Christmas Day).
Brief description of garden/farm The site is at an elevation of 700m above sea level in a volcanic massif (about 25 kilometres long). The highest point on the mountain range is about 1,020m above sea level and the range is predominantly forested although it has been logged intensively from about 1860.
Fernglade farm is on 22 acres of which about 4 to 6 acres are actively managed. The farm has no fencing and is open to the wildlife of which there is plenty and a lot of the surplus goes towards them. There are about 300 fruit trees in two separate food forests, 14 raised vegetable beds (and areas set aside for self seeded vegetables), 2 hugelkultur beds, a few berry beds, raised beds for potatoes, worm farm, 12 chickens and 60+ medicinal and culinary herbs.

Botanical name Allium cepa var. proliferum
Common name(s) Tree Onions, Egyptian Walking Onions
Parts used for food Greens, top bulbils, onions
How used Greens used as scallions. Top bulbils pickled, or used fresh without peeling when immature. Onions used as salad onions, or cooked.
Notes Self-propagates. Aromatic pest confuser.

Botanical name Artemisia absinthium
Common name(s) Wormwood
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Wormwood is a great plant to add to ports and liqueurs as a digestive, which is a traditional European usage of the plant (as well as poisoning intestinal worms should you have any). It is quite edible but bitter, eat sparingly.
Notes Perennial

Botanical name Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Common name(s) Perpetual Spinach
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Perennial. Harvest outer leaves repeatedly.

Botanical name Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis
Common name(s) Chinese cabbage (non-heading)
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes I eat it much like you would eat Kale as a leaf by leaf exercise. It is very hardy and still tastes OK (to me anyway) even when it has gone to seed. I recently ripped the seed head off one of the cabbages and chucked it elsewhere, so I’ll see what happens. It has a lot of seeds.

Botanical name Calendula officinalis
Common name(s) Calendula, Pot Marigold
Parts used for food Leaves, flower petals
How used Fresh. Leaves also added to cooked foods.
Notes Stays in leaf all year. Medicinal. Insect repellant, compost activator, suppresses root nematodes. Annual or short-lived perennial that self-seeds.

Botanical name Cichorium intybus
Common name(s) Chicory
Parts used for food Leaves, root
How used Leaves and flowers used fresh. Cooked leaves used as bitter greens. Roasted root used as coffee substitute. Roots boiled using several changes of water, then eaten.
Notes Perennial. Medicinal. Animal fodder. Dynamic accumulator. Bee plant.

Botanical name
Citrus australis
Common name(s)
Australian Round Lime
Parts used for food
How used
Fresh, preserved

Botanical name Citrus limon
Common name(s) Lemon – Eureka
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, preserved

Botanical name Citrus x meyeri
Common name(s) Meyer Lemon
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, preserved
Notes Sweeter, less acidic flavour than other lemons.

Botanical name Daucus carota sativus
Common name(s) Carrot
Parts used for food Root, heads
How used Raw, cooked
Notes The self-seeded carrots came about because I originally let a small group of open pollinated heirloom carrots go to seed and their progeny popped up everywhere. Carrots can be eaten from a very small size to quite a large size, although once they start to seed, the carrot itself splits and it gets a bit woody for my taste – even the chooks are a bit dodge on them, but they may just be enjoying better food options. The heads can be eaten in salads too and they taste like carrots. Carrots are one of those vegetables here that you just rip out of the ground when you need a carrot.
I buy quite a few of my seedlings from a lady who grows the seedlings old school style (out in the open) as distinct from in a greenhouse. They are really hardy and always self seed and do well. I obtain seeds from the Diggers Club and these have a very good germination rate.

Botanical name Eruca sativa
Common name(s) Rocket
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Leaves raw, cooked. Flowers raw.
Notes It has gone to seed, but still very edible. I remove the flowers and seeds on some batches elsewhere to slow down its growth rate, but this lot (pictured) just does its natural thing.

Botanical name Melissa officinalis
Common name(s) Lemon balm
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh leaves in salads and smoothies, infused as a hot or iced tea, added to cooked foods for a lemony flavour.
Notes Perennial that repels flies and ants. Medicinal.

Botanical name Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Basil’
Common name(s) Basil mint
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Leaves used fresh or dried as flavouring agent, best used fresh.
Notes Perennial. Medicinal. Can anyone confirm if this is the correct botanical name?

Botanical name Polygonum odoratum
Common name(s) Vietnamese Coriander, Rau Ram (also Vietnamese Mint)
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh
Notes I divide off cuttings every year and spread about the place. Is always in leaf. Makes a great tasting rice paper spring roll and pho. Even survives the occasional frost. Very hardy and useful for flavouring over winter.

Botanical name Rumex scutatas
Common name(s) French Sorrel
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Leaves raw or cooked. Flowers eaten fresh.
Notes French Sorrel is an acquired taste but stays green all year and self-seeds very prolifically (plus from observation I think it self mulches).

Botanical name Sanguisorba minor
Common name(s) Salad burnet
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, tea
Notes Herbaceous perennial. Flavour similar to cucumber. Medicinal.

Botanical name Symphytum officinale
Common name(s) Comfrey, Knitbone
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh leaves blended in smoothies or soups, freshly chopped into salads, juiced, or cooked and used like spinach.
Notes Herbaceous perennial. Medicinal. Mulch plant, compost activator, dynamic accumulator, weed barrier, can be made into liquid manure. Animal forage.

Botanical name Tasmannia lanceolata
Common name(s) Mountain Pepper
Parts used for food Leaves, berries
How used Leaves used fresh as garnish, dried and milled as flavouring agent. Berries used fresh, frozen, or dried as a pungent spice.
Notes Shrub. Medicinal. Good for windbreaks. Berries also eaten by native birds. Indigenous to my area.

Botanical name Tropaeolum majus
Common name(s) Nasturtium
Parts used for food Leaves, flower buds, unripe seed pods
How used Leaves, flowers, unripe pods/seeds fresh. Flower buds, still-green seeds pickled.
Notes I eat this as a salad green all year and it has self-seeded. It is mildly peppery tasting and I enjoy it.

Botanical name Vicia faba
Common name(s) Broad bean
Parts used for food Seeds/beans, leaves
How used Immature seeds/beans eaten raw or cooked. Older beans, young leaves cooked. Mature beans dried and stored for later use, can be prepared and eaten as sprouts.
Notes Self-seeded annual. Leaves available to eat now, beans will come later.


Grower #2

Grower # 2
Latitude 38.15°S
Broad climate information Mediterranean buffered by maritime influences. No frosts. Average annual rainfall 750mm.
Brief description of garden/farm Courtyard, raised beds mostly shaded in winter, as well as some planters that get winter sun.

Botanical name Fragaria spp.
Common name(s) Strawberry
Parts used for food Fruit/berries
How used Fresh, frozen, preserved
Notes Self-propagating short-lived perennial.

Botanical name Lactuca sativa (var. or ssp.?)
Common name(s) Lettuce (looseleaf) – Tree Lettuce
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, pick leaves from the outside
Notes Self-sown annual. Called Tree Lettuce because it keeps growing up as you harvest the leaves from the outside. Anyone know the variety or sub-species name?

Botanical name Passiflora edulis
Common name(s) Passionfruit
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Eat fresh when fruit is ripe and has fallen from the vine.
Notes Evergreen vine

Botanical name Santolina rosmarinifolia
Common name(s) Olive Herb
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Freshly chopped in salads, marinades, savoury dishes.
Notes Perennial. Olive aroma and flavour.

Grower #2 has also obtained food in September from Beta vulgaris var. cicla and Symphytum officinale (profiled earlier).

If anyone wishes to profile a particular plant in more detail, that would be another useful spinoff to this project, and would be most welcome. Or just add comments to the monthly post, whichever suits. We are always edified by greater knowledge of our plants!

Describing Climate

I recently came across some more information for describing climate which might be useful to some. Please post a comment if you have any other climate maps that have been useful to you.

Temperate Climate Australia Plant Material Sources

I have also been asked for information about suppliers of perennial food plants/seeds to be grown in our areas. Some of these I have used myself, but the rest have been shared with me by others. Please note that I have no commercial interest in these businesses, and I am not necessarily recommending them. If anyone has any to add to the list, your input would be most welcome.

  • C.E.R.E.S. East Brunswick, Vic
  • Phoenix Seeds, Snug, Tas
  • Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery, Geneva, NSW
  • Granton Plants, Granton, Tas
  • Diggers Club, Dromana, Vic
  • Eden Seeds, Lower Beechmont, Qld
  • Bulleen Art and Garden, Bulleen, Vic
  • Bendigo Wholefoods, Bendigo, Vic
  • Telopea Mountain Permaculture and Nursery, Olinda, Vic
  • Mt Eliza Farmers’ Market stall — localised seed seedlings, young trees, Vic
  • Isabell Shipard
  • – join a local network to swap seeds and cuttings


I hope that the information presented this month has been useful. I have definitely found it so, and am glad to have learned more about self-seeding annuals from reading Chris’ plant profiles.

If anyone else feels they would like to participate, you can email me for the proformas on:

  • 5555susana (at) gmail (dot) com

As I said in the introductory article, even if you have obtained food from one perennial(ised) food plant, then that can be useful to someone out there, so don’t hold back if you’ve been feeling that one or a few plants are insignificant!


  1. I enjoyed this article, and I look forward to seeing more. I hope to add some of my own in the future, once I learn more about what’s around me. :-)


  2. Hi Susan, Great to see this progressing well :)

    At a seed savers workshop with Jude and Michel Fanton, last weekend, I was given some Perennial Leeks (from Jude & Michel’s garden) as well as a perennial raspberry from one of the other participants (perhaps a Permaculture Sydney North member). Perhaps you’ll come across these in your research too.


  3. I was just sent this link by a friend and it is wonderful! Thank you for this fantastic article. We live in Northern Tasmania and our rainfall is 600mm/year with 3 months of predominately dry weather from December to early April. We inherited the property (on the Tamar River) from my father 2 years ago and have been taking it back from the weeds whilst studying horticulture to try to get the most out of what we are doing here. Because of the situation with the water we are going to use water wicking beds to minimise our water input and some of the edibles that you mention here I haven’t heard of before and will be most interested to find. Cheers for the links to Phoenix and Granton plants, will be checking them out ASAP. I love this site and get so much information from it that we apply here on Serendipity Farm. Thank you for everything that you share with us all and from 2 penniless student hippies please take our gratitude from the bottom of our hearts…without people like you we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing :)

  4. Thanks for the comments and positivity everyone, good luck with all of your ventures, which are always wonderful to hear about!

    Here’s another plant material resource:

    I’ve just had the most wonderful conversation with my brother-in-law, who is a Maori elder. He dropped by to collect something for my sister, and mentioned that he had read my PRI research articles cos he’d seen them on my Facebook timeline. Then he started to tell me about tomatoes and several varieties of potatoes, planted in the 1800’s, that were still feeding his family and their village to this day! His grandfather had planted them, and over the years people had always harvested them, but following protocol to leave behind enough plant material to ensure the plant’s continuation. He told me about several different kinds of potato: two that were purple in colour, one a very deep purple, and the other a bright purple, each of them tasting different, and fantastic especially if roasted in a hangi. (He had talked to me before about the Maori awareness of the earth as the giver of all life, that the food came from the soil, and that same food was cooked within the earth; my witnessing of a hangi, and the ritual preparation, touchingly showed me that awareness in action.) Another type of potato was not grown to be eaten, but to provide yeast for a traditional Maori bread made from pollen. The pollen was collected by the women, who put upright sticks near a body of water at a certain time of year, just before the release of pollen from the plant (I don’t have the name yet). The sticks, now wet with dew and condensation, captured the pollen, which the women then scraped from the sticks to be combined with the potato yeast, and made into bread. He then told me that certain people, like himself, were not meant to plant food, leaving that to others who had been given the dispensation to plant. He was meant to harvest food, both from the soil and the sea, and rally his community in sacred awareness and utilisation of these resources. I visited his village once, and watched as word came that a large shoal of fish was approaching the shores of their village, the men of the village all gathered to accept this gift from the sea, and the fish were then distributed to every person in the village, so that all were fed, so that all were cared for. All of this brings tears to my eyes, and encourages me no end!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button