Food Plants - PerennialPlants

Farm Update: In the Garden

Pictures and commentary from our garden. Plants that get a particular mention are pawpaws and sweet potatoes, and there are brief references to quite a few other food plants/herbs, most of them with links to further reading if you’re interested.

It’s been warm and wet at our place and when I walk through the garden or gaze at the pastures, I can almost see things growing.

Pawpaws: welcome volunteers

One welcome thing that’s popping up all over the place is paw paw (Carica papaya)i seedlings. (Also sometimes called pawpaw or papaya.)

In the image below you can see a pawpaw seedling coming up in the midst of a little patch of celery stem taro (which I also mentioned in this post). Behind it on the trellis you can see climbing beans and loofahs.

At the bottom of the trellis is sweet violet (I think it would be happier if it had more shade, and we’d see its beautiful edible purple flowers which are hiding from the sun down amongst its foliage). To the right and behind the trellis is a pumpkin vine, and to the left of the taro and pawpaw you can see pigeon pea foliage.

Paw Paw and Tarro
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More pawpaw seedlings (below). These are coming up amongst the asparagus.

Paw Paw
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And here’s another pawpaw seedling in a sweet potato bed.

Sweet Potato
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I’m gonna leave all of these pawpaw seedlings where they are for the time being.

You can’t have too many pawpaw trees: we can eat them ripe and unripe (lots of recipes online if you search), the pigs love them, and the chickens love them. The seeds are also edible and supposedly good for helping both people and animals with internal parasites, but I have no experience with that.

Other things I like about pawpaws are that they provide dappled shade at midday but allow morning/afternoon sunlight, they get from seed to fruit really fast (12 to 18 months with good soil), and, well, once you have the seed in your compost source, they volunteer everywhere.


Sweet potatoes: rampant climbers

Sweet potatoes. I think I could say I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love eating them, I love that they grow like crazy in the wet with zero input from me, and I love that long after you think they’re gone forever, they reappear. And that last point is related to one of the things I don’t love about them, which I’ll tell you in a sec.

The ones you can see below are spilling out of some of our blue barrels. I put them there when the weather was dry because the soil in the barrels was moist, and sweet potatoes love moistureii. Now that it’s wet, they’re set on taking over the patch of ground between the barrels and the arrowroot on the left. Once they’re strongly established there, I’ll remove them from the barrels.

Arrow Root
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So what don’t I love about sweet potatoes? Well, one thing is that we have several varieties at our place, and the one we like best to eat (with orange tubers, which is the one with the green stems below) is constantly being taken over by the one we like least (a red/purple-stemmed variety with tubers that have white flesh and are more starchy/dry-tasting).

I pulled these red/purple stems (below) out of this bed today. I have no clue how they got there; they seem to materialize where-ever there’s another variety of sweet potato we prefer. Then when my back is turned, they take over. Then I get all excited to find so many sweet potatoes, only to realize they’re all the white, dense, starchy ones we don’t like so much. Then the pigs get happy and we go to the co-op to buy orange sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Runners
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The other thing I don’t love about sweet potatoes is that I haven’t (yet) figured out an easy way to maintain a perennial patch and find the tubers easily for harvesting. This writer says it’s “too easy,” but I must be missing something. Please fill me in, in the comments below, if you know what it is I’m missing!!

Other things in raised beds

Next to the sweet potato bed there are some cut in half blue barrels with odd things in them that I wanted near the house for easy access.

I’ve made this pic a bit bigger so you can read the labels…

Garden Explained
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This beautiful little plant (below) is stevia, which is in the blue barrel to the far right in the image above. You haven’t lived until you’ve chewed a leaf you just plucked from a stevia plant.

I haven’t yet figured out how to harness that amazing sweetness in the kitchen (maybe in milkshakes?). I know you can make “syrup” with it, but I’ve so far only done that with the dried leaf powder, and the result was disappointing. I’ll be experimenting as time goes by, but if you already use fresh stevia in your kitchen, please comment and share your tips!

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That’s all for now; thanks for reading. Please comment to share your ideas and tips about these plants (or any others that spring to mind).


Kate writes at about empowered thinking and practical skills for deep change. Check out her online workshops and free downloads.

iSorry about the ads in this article that I’ve linked to for info about pawpaw. Because of computer glitches I’ve recently had to use a different machine with no ad blocker and YIKES, I had no idea how many ads there are out there!! I’ve obviously been living in la la land…
iiThey’ll hang on in dry times, and come back later after you might think they had disappeared, but they really thrive in the wet.

Kate Martignier

Kate writes at – an exploration into thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life.

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