In Production Today – October

October in subtropical Brisbane: seed production in full swing

October in subtropical Brisbane: seed production in full swing

In Brisbane, winter crops have finished flowering. Their seed is ripe and ready for harvest.

Brisbane’s spring weather is desiccating – generally sunny, warm and dry. Often breezy, like tonight. A harsh southerly change is ripping across town. Three weeks ago the mizuna flowers were being visited by honeybees and native bees, but now their seed rattles in dry capsules.

Mushrooms require cool, damp conditions, and while they burst through the ground during the first week of October (which was cool for a few days), they are the last I expect to pick this year. Watercress, which also loves cool, moist soil, shrivelled within days once temperatures started rising to the late 20’s.

Brassica seed heads attract various ladybirds, including the mildew-eating ladybird. Ladybird larvae are everywhere. Caterpillars too  are prolific, and there are three generations of the native pest species, Helicoverpa punctigera, attacking pigeon pea seed and tomato fruit as well as Brassicas. Spiders have hatched to ambush whatever they can find.

The last useful rain fell in July, and it has been too dry and windy for the small showers that we have had to make any difference. It’s been drier for longer than even during the depths of the last five year drought. Despite the dryness, a green tree frog is very active, fattening itself up on the cockroaches visiting the kitchen scraps compost bin outside.

Warmth is hastening seed ripening, and I am having a very good season. The same conditions mean a ‘bush-fire’ season, and the country between here and Bundaberg is tinder dry. Around Gympie farmers are burning off their bush blocks as quickly as conditions allow. Thick, leafy undergrowth produced during the last two soaking wet summers is now crisped. Smoke haze drifts across the Dividing Range – the sun glows orange at sunset.

The golden sweetpotato ‘Marguerite’ in the nature strip is flowering particularly well, but overall the diversity of edibles has dropped dramatically. Last month there were 157 taxa (different types of plant) on the menu. Now there’s 89, and some are in very small quantities.

The chervil is brilliant, lush and leafy and enjoying shade from some corn. The ‘White Vienna’ kohl rabi stems are perfect, but the leaves have been stripped almost bare. The ‘Paris Market’ are almost ready to eat – I think these these little carrots are best for the subtropics because they grow quickly through our brief winter and mature before the sizzling heat from October onwards.

Edible roots
Aerial potato, Dioscorea bulbifera
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia
Daikon or Japanese radish, Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus ‘Long White’
Turnip, Brassica rapa subsp. rapa ‘Early Purple’
Turnip, Brassica rapa subsp. rapa ‘Gold Ball’
Winged yam, Dioscorea alata

Edible seed
Chilean Wine palm, Jubaea chilensis
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan

Edible leaves
Annual nettle, Urtica urens
Bok Choi, Brassica rapa var. chinensis
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolius
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Common chickweed, Stellaria media
Corn salad, Valerianella locusta ‘Large Dutch’
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
Dill, Anethum graveolens
Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Green Bowl’
Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Green Curled’
Ethiopian cabbage, Brassica carinata ‘Old Women Meet and Gossip’
French Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Good King Henry, aka Lincolnshire spinach, Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Green amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Heart leaf ice-plant, Aptenia cordifolia
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Kale, Tuscan, Brassica oleracea Acephala Group ‘Laciniato’
Kale, variegated, Brassica oleracea Acephala Group
Kohl rabi, Brassica acephala Gongyloides group ‘White Vienna’
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Royal Oakleaf’
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus
Miners’ lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata (syn. Montia perfoliata)
Moroccan mint, Mentha spicata ‘Nana’
Multiplier spring onion, multiplier scallion, Allium fistulosum
Multiplier leek, Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Giant Red’
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus ‘Jewel Mixed’
Native mint, Mentha satureioides
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Triple Curled’
Parsley, flat-leaved, Petroselenium ‘Giant of Italy’
Phillip Island hibiscus, Hibiscus insularis
Purple fennel, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus ‘Red Verona’
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus ‘Palla Rossa’
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Sacred basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Shungiku, aka edible chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum coronarium
Silverbeet, Beta vulgaris Cicla Group ‘Rainbow Mixed’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata
Welsh onion, aka spring onion, scallion, Allium fistulosum
White peppermint, Mentha x piperita ‘Officinalis’
Wild rocket, Diplotaxis tenuifolia

Edible petals
Cobbler’s Pegs, Bidens pilosa
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Dwarf Ducasse’
Heartsease, Viola tricolor ‘Johnny Jump Up’

Fruit
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Red Cayenne’
Green banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Pisang Ceylan’
Mandarin, Citrus reticulata ‘Parramatta Sweets’
Pawpaw, Carica papaya
Plantain, Musa x sapientum ‘Bluggoe’
Pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata ‘Jap’
Winter melon, Benincasa hispida

Medicinal / Spices
Aloe vera – leaf juice used to heal sunburn, scratches
Bulbine frutescens – leaf juice used to treat burns, rashes, as an infusion for sore throats
Cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
False cardamom, Alpinia nutans
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties
Ginger, Zingiber official – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus – stem juice kills warts on hands
Phillip Island hibiscus, Hibiscus insularis – used as a tea to soothe sore throats
Rosemary, dwarf, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’
Rosemary, fastigiate, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’
Thyme, Thymus serpyllum – antibiotic, used as a gargle against sore throats
Turmeric, Curcuma long – spice with anti-cancer properties

89 taxa

October in subtropical Brisbane: seed production in full swing

Jerry Coleby-Williams

22nd October 2012