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

This is the third monthly post for the research project about perennial plants and perennialising annual plants providing food in temperate climate Australia — we have now completed the posts for Spring 2012. 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 the following month. The first monthly posts can be found by clicking on my author name (Susan Kwong), just under the post title above.

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 chooks and 60+ medicinal and culinary herbs.

Botanical name Allium schoenoprasum
Common name(s) Chives
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Raw, cooked
Notes These are great and the flowers attract the bees. I haven’t worked out yet when I’ll have to stop harvesting these.

Botanical name Armoracia rusticana
Common name(s) Horseradish
Parts used for food Root, leaves, seeds
How used Young root and leaves raw or cooked. Seeds can be sprouted. Leaves used as a salad green.
Notes This plant must be related to triffids! Some plants germinated by themselves in my tomato beds and I just pulled them out of the ground and put them into a mulch bed, gave them a bit of water and then forgot about them. They all survived despite the lack of care!

 

Botanical name Artemisia princeps
Common name(s) Japanese Mugwort
Parts used for food Young leaves, young seedlings
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Used as an ingredient of Japanese mochi dumplings.

 

Botanical name Asparagus officinalis
Common name(s) Asparagus
Parts used for food Shoots/spears
How used Raw, cooked
Notes I have a whole bed of asparagus plants, but only one of them is well established enough to be able to pick spears. They have grown very well since the warmer weather has kicked in. Photo – some plants are edible in this bed whilst others need another year.

 

Botanical name Beta vulgaris
Common name(s) Beetroot
Parts used for food Leaves, root
How used Raw, cooked
Notes This is a winter staple here and I eat both the root and the leaves. They’ve had less flavour this year than last year. They’ve also self seeded. Also, seeds and flowers are edible and taste like beetroot.


Gone to seed

 

Botanical name Beta vulgaris
Common name(s) Ruby Red Silverbeet
Parts used for food Stems, leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes This is purely chook food as it tastes like compost to me. It has however, self seeded so it just grows around the garden. Photo shows a self seeded one growing with a lime balm plant.

 

Botanical name Brassica juncea
Common name(s) Mustard, Giant Red
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers, seeds
How used Fresh
Notes I eat both the leaves and flowers of this plant and it has almost doubled in size since the last update. The flowers have the same effect as wasabi paste. I understand that this plant is a prolific self seeder. Pic is post cabbage moth attack.

 

Botanical name Brassica rapa nipposinica
Common name(s) Mizuna
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Raw, cooked
Notes This has self seeded and is a good staple salad green when there is nothing else to eat as it grows most of the year around.

 

Botanical name Citrus australis
Common name(s) Australian Round Lime
Parts used for food Fruit, leaves
How used Fresh, preserved
Notes Similar to the Eureka but less prolific and has more of a lime taste, however the leaves are edible and are great for Asian inspired dishes.

 

Botanical name Citrus limon
Common name(s) Lemon – Eureka
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, preserved
Notes Eureka lemons also produce well but have a thicker rind in this cooler climate. Cold tolerant but the fruit is not as juicy as the Meyer, however, this may change over summer.

 

Botanical name Citrus limon x reticulata
Common name(s) Lemon ‘Lemonade’
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh
Notes The lemonade trees are producing fruit for the first time this year and it is worth the wait as they are less tart than a lemon, but with more flavour than an orange. They have distinctive, very dark green branches.

 

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. They have been producing all year and are both sweet and juicy.

 

Botanical name Coriandrum sativum
Common name(s) Coriander
Parts used for food Leaves, stems, root
How used Fresh, cooked
Notes Self-seeding annual. This grows very well right through winter here, but is now going to seed and won’t be around next month.

 

Botanical name Diplotaxis tenuifolia
Common name(s) Perennial Rocket
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes This is my backup supply of rocket when the other plants have all bolted to seed and the new rocket plants haven’t yet grown enough to harvest. It tastes identical to rocket.

 

Botanical name Eruca sativa
Common name(s) Rocket
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers
How used Leaves raw, cooked. Flowers raw
Notes I love the bite from the leaves of this plant. It is bolting to seed at the moment, but because it has self-seeded prolifically new ones grow as the older ones are fed to the chooks. Pic is of rocket post cabbage moth attack.

 

Botanical name Fragaria spp.
Common name(s) Strawberry
Parts used for food Fruit/berries
How used Fresh, frozen, preserved
Notes I’ve finally netted the strawberry beds against the local wildlife and they are beginning to produce. The pruning that the plants received from the wombat, wallaby and rosellas hasn’t harmed the plants in any way. The early strawberries are quite small but sweet.

 

Botanical name Levisticum officinale
Common name(s) Lovage
Parts used for food Leaves, stems, seed, root
How used Fresh, cooked
Notes Perennial. This is a staple salad green which has self sown and established itself about the place

 

Botanical name Matricaria recutita
Common name(s) German Chamomile
Parts used for food Flowers
How used Fresh in salad or tea
Notes This is great in a tea and has sedative properties. The fresh flowers are many times better (and sweeter) than the dried tea that you buy in stores. Self seeding annual.

 

Botanical name Mentha spicata
Common name(s) Spearmint
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh
Notes Nice in tea. All mints are used here at the farm as green mulch (chop and drop) but also as top up food for the chooks.

 

Botanical name Mentha spp.
Common name(s) Common Mint
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh
Notes Same as for Spearmint, above

 

Botanical name Morus spp.
Common name(s) Mulberry
Parts used for food Berries
How used Fresh, jam
Notes Variety is Hicks Fancy. These are dark mulberries varying from a red to a black. They are a tasty fruit, but again being early in the season they are not very sweet. The rosellas have discovered the black mulberry, but seem to avoid the white mulberry for some reason. I’m not fussed by the predation as it gives the tree the opportunity to focus on putting on wood rather than sending its energy into fruit production.

 

Botanical name Petroselinum crispum
Common name(s) Curly-leafed Parsley
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes This grows all year around here. Self-seeding. Much more cold and heat tolerant than the flat leaf variety.

 

Botanical name Petroselinum neapolitanum
Common name(s) Flat-leaf Parsley
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Self-seeding. This grows all year around here. Pic shows Flat Leaf going to seed, note ladybug hard at work.

 

Botanical name Rheum x cultorum
Common name(s) Rhubarb
Parts used for food Stems
How used Cooked
Notes This is really hard to get established and I have 5 of them, but only have the heart to pick from 1 plant which seems to finally be growing well after a few years in the ground.

 

Botanical name Ribes x culverwellii
Common name(s) Jostaberry
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, preserved, frozen
Notes This is the first year that the jostaberry has produced fruit. Being an early berry, it is more savoury than sweet. The plant has the look of a gooseberry shrub.

 

Botanical name Salvia officinalis
Common name(s) Sage
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, cooked
Notes Many culinary uses.

 

Botanical name Sanguisorba minor
Common name(s) Salad Burnet
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, tea
Notes Herbaceous perennial. Prolific elf seeder. Flavour similar to cucumber. This is a good source of Vitamin C and is added to salads and is now in the process of going to seed, but still tastes great.

 

Botanical name Thymus citriodorus
Common name(s) Lemon Thyme
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, cooked
Notes I love this thyme plant for the flavour of its leaves and I always pick a few when I’m passing by. Photo is Lemon Thyme growing at the base of a 10 year old olive tree.

 

Botanical name Tropaeolum majus
Common name(s) Nasturtium
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers, buds, unripe seed pods
How used Leaves, flowers, unripe pods/seeds fresh. Flower buds, still-green seeds/pods 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. I have variegated, red flowered and yellow flowered varieties.

 

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 The broad beans were grown in amongst the cottage flower garden in mulch and they have been very productive. I’ve also noticed that growing them in mulch, they haven’t lodged (i.e. fallen over) like they did the previous year when I planted them in compost. They have self-seeded about the cottage flower garden.

Grower #1 is still obtaining food from Melissa officinalis/Lemon Balm, Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Basil’/Basil Mint, and Polygonum odoratum/Vietnamese Mint.


Grower #2

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

 

Botanical name Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Common name(s) Perpetual Spinach
Parts used for food Leaves, stems, seed heads
How used Raw in green smoothies, cooked
Notes All of my Perpetual Spinach plants are now going to seed, so to extend them providing me with food, I am cutting the tops off, leaves, stems, and seed head, and blending them in green smoothies. The plant tastes more bitter than before, but that is well offset by the fruit in my smoothies.

Grower #2 is still obtaining food from Fragaria spp. /Strawberry, Hypochaeris radicata/Flatweed, Lactuca sativa /Sword Leaf Lettuce, Petroselinum crispum/Parsley, Santolina rosmarinifolia/Olive Herb and Sonchus oleraceus/Sow Thistle.


Grower #3

Grower # 3
Latitude 32°S
Broad climate information Mediterranean climate, winters mild, rarely have frosts, summers hot, dry and windy. Mean annual rainfall about 870mm, most of it falling between May – Sept. Can go many weeks without rain in the summer months.
Brief description of garden/farm Established suburban garden undergoing conversion to food production. 720 sq m block with as much garden as I can squeeze in around house, studio and driveway (and I have my eyes on that). Front garden south facing, exposed to strong winds (7km from coast), competing with two huge street trees (Queensland box and unknown eucalypt). Back garden north facing, more sheltered, partially shaded by 2 coolabahs and jacaranda, established citrus trees, chook pen. Soil type – water repellant SAND, greatly improved by addition of bentonite clay and constant addition of compost and mulch. Watered twice weekly from bore during summer months, plus hand watering as needed.

Grower #3 is still obtaining food from: Aethionema cordifolium/Lebanese Cress, Beta vulgaris var. cicla/Perpetual Spinach, Centella asiatica/Gotu kola, Fragaria x ananassa/Strawberry, Ipomoea batatas/Sweet Potato, Lactuca sativa/Lettuce, Morus spp/Mulberry, Petroselinum neapolitanum/Flat Leaf Parsley, Physalis peruviana/Cape Gooseberry, Rheum x cultorum/Rhubarb, Tetragonia tetragonoides/Warrigal Greens, Tropaeolum majus/Nasturtium, and Vaccinium spp./Blueberry.


Grower #4

Grower # 4 – Yvonne, Melbourne
Latitude 37°S
Broad climate information Mediterranean temperate
Brief description of garden/farm Inner city urban garden full of edible plants – the majority perennial – with more than 20 fruit trees,
40 herbs, a constantly updated array of berries (trees, shrubs and vines) and many other edible goodies.

 

Botanical name Rumex cristatus
Common name(s) Greek dock
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Salads, green juices/smoothies, cooked like spinach
Notes This is an incredibly robust plant that thrives on neglect and drought.

 

Botanical name Rumex sanguineus
Common name(s) Blood Spinach, Bloody Dock, Red-veined Dock, Bloody Sorrel, Bloodwort, Bloody Wood Dock
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Green juices/smoothies and tender smaller leaves for salads.
Notes Leaves can be a bit tough so choose youngest, most tender ones, unless juicing.

 

Botanical name Rumex scutatus
Common name(s) French sorrel
Parts used for food Leaves, especially tender young green leaves
How used Salads, green juices/smoothies, even reputedly in soups
Notes Very hardy plant but slow to get established and slow-growing.

 

Botanical name Taraxacum officinale
Common name(s) Dandelion
Parts used for food Leaves, roots, flowers, flower buds
How used Leaves for salads and green juices/smoothies.
Notes Grows as a self-seeding weed in brick paving.

 

Botanical name Urtica dioica
Common name(s) Nettle
Parts used for food Leaves but watch out for the prickles.
How used Smoothies, soups
Notes Springs up in the garden as a weed.

Grower #4 is still obtaining food from Geranium robertianum/Herb Robert.


Conclusion

Big thanks to the growers again, without whom this research project would not exist!

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!

And once again, if anyone wishes to profile a particular plant in more detail, please feel free, we’d love you to. Email:

  • editor (at) permaculturenews.org

9 Comments

  1. I await this list eagerly and whenever I see it in my rss feed reader it makes my day. I can’t begin to thank the contributors for giving us this amazing information and for sharing their precious time freely with we out here in the wider community. I am putting this info to good use on our 4 acre Northern Tasmanian property and am learning a whole lot about what was once “weed” to me, and that have now taken on a complete 180degree turn in my collective concious. Again, thank you SO much to everyone who contributes. Once we get our garden up and running to the max I will weigh in with what grows well here to pay back in kind. Cheers for all of the effort that goes into producing an article like this…you truly are appreciated :)

  2. Hi Susan,

    Great article. It is really interesting to see what is being produced by other people in different areas at this time of year. I keep reading references to Nettles and was wondering if anyone knows how I can get my hands (pun intended) on some?

    Regards. Chris

  3. I’m really amazed & stunned that Grower #1 found no redeeming quality in the Swiss Chard (Beta Vulgaris) other than Chook food. Chard when cut young is great in salads raw and no matter what size wonderful stir fried or sauted. Perhaps it is just inexperience. I’ve used the large leaves , lightly blanched as the basis for creating vegetable & grain bundles. Wrapping up all sorts of vegetable / grain combos then steamed and eaten. In lieu of grape leaves or cabbage leaves. Chopped raw and added to sandwiches, wraps, burritos, etc. they are fabulous and dripping with vitamins.

    Your Chooks are very lucky!

  4. Comment for Chris McLeod:
    Hi Chris,
    Keep your eye out at friend’s gardens and on weedy public land for nettles and nab a small plant (transplants better when small) when you see it. Once it seeds in your garden you’re set. No one sells them so you need to have plants always on the go in your garden. Similarly with plantain, another useful weed.
    Yvonne Pecujac

  5. Thanks everyone for the positive feedback, so great to hear that what we’re doing is valuable!

    Hi Lilian, to answer your question about copying and reusing the data, I contacted each of the growers, and Craig Mackintosh, the PRI editor. Craig said that because we are donating our information in this case, PRI does not own it, therefore we have the final say over the use of data from this series. However, if any data is used, according to the individual permissions received, he prefers that people link it through to the PRI website. Increased traffic through the PRI site leads to heightened web presence, greater awareness of PRI aid work, and increased course attendance, which then supports and finances that aid work. So, as long as you link to the PRI site, you can use the data from Growers #2 and #3, Grower #1, Chris McLeod of Fernglade Farm, and I, the author, would like you to also credit us personally, and Grower #4 asks that you obtain permission from her first before using any of her contributions, which you can do by contacting me on 5555susana (at) gmail.com. If you need further clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Cheers, Susan :)

  6. Thanks Pat for pointing out my error in the common name for Petroselinum crispum, it has been corrected above.

    Cheers, Susan :)

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