In Production Today, September 2014

Spring is over in my garden. Winter crops are flowering – my garden is transitioning into its seed saving phase.

I’ve replaced several unsatisfactory fruit trees and used the opportunity to increase diversity (another blog, another time).

The mulberries are flowering, the ‘White Shahtoot’ mulberry (Morus alba var. laevigata, syn. M. macroura) for the first time. Also, my 13 year old Pouteria australis (syn Planchonella australis), a Native plum aka Black Apple, has its first flower buds. I sowed this tree in 2001, so I’m keen to see if I finally get fruit.

Last month, I filmed a story for Gardening Australia about brassica pests with my friend, Gurion Ang, a PhD Entomology student at the University of Queensland. Gurion confirmed that my garden has a healthy population of White Butterfly parasitoid wasp (Cotesia glomerata, Species Number 434 found at Bellis). This biocontrol manages Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) but the parasitoid pupae are often mistaken by amateur gardeners for pest eggs. Instead of keeping them, they are often destroyed.

I’m particularly pleased to have a small planting of Landcress, Barbarea vulgaris sourced from Greenpatch Nursery (Taree, NSW). This plant has a family connection, because my maternal grandmother started growing this during an unprecedented drought in England in 1975.

Instead of requiring lots of water, like Watercress, Landcress needs much less water to produce its peppery tasting leaves. Nan also noticed her cabbages did better than normal that year and grew Landcress from then onwards, believing it to be a good companion plant. Gurion confirmed my grandmother’s opinion.

Cabbage White butterflies find Landcress irresistible, they always lay eggs on this plant in preference to other brassicas. Caterpillars feed on the leaves and are unable to detect that Landcress contains saponins, soap-like compounds which kill them. Saponins give humans a stomach ache, so it’s important to lightly boil or steam leaves to neutralise them before eating: using them for coleslaw is not recommended.

Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri, also contains saponins and it too harms Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars. They start nibbling it but fail to make it to pupation. I’m going to use Landcress as a regular Trap Crop in addition to huauzontle.

Gurion also confirmed that my Ethiopian cabbage, Brassica carinata ‘Old Women Meet & Gossip’ and my ornamental kale, Brassica oleracea ‘Coral Seas Mixed’ have a waxy coating on their leaves, unlike Asian or European brassicas. Cabbage White butterfly love Asian and European brassicas, which lack the waxy leaf coat, but the African brassicas and ornamental cabbage and kale do not greatly appeal to Cabbage White butterfly, and their caterpillars never prosper on them.

An alternative use for Asian and European brassicas, is growing them as a sacrificial crop. Growing some of them alongside a favourite brassica they attract pests so your favourite crop grows unharmed. Just remember to eliminate the sacrificial crop before the pests pupate and start reproducing!

Edible Chrysanthemum, aka Shungiku, has had a name change to Glebionis coronarium (syn. Chrysanthemum coronarium). I’ll have to update my photo library.

If there’s anything here you fancy trying yourself, join the Seed Savers Network. Our seed is free to our members! If you want to buy seed or plants listed here, refer to my blog ‘Where do I get seed for that plant?’.

Here’s my subtropical food garden’s spring menu…Cabbage White Butterflies, beware!

Edible roots
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia
Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’
Radish, Raphanus sativus ‘Palestinian’
Radish, Raphanus sativus ‘Sparkler’

Edible leaves
Basil, Greek, Ocimum minimum
Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Cassava, Manihot esculenta
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’
Cabbage, Chinese, Brassica rapa var. pekinensis ‘Tokyo Bekana’
Cabbage, Ethiopian, Brassica carinata ‘Old Women Meet and Gossip’
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum
Chickweed, Stellaria media
Chicory, Cichorium intybus
Chicory, Cichorium intybus ‘Red Dandelion’
Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis ‘Red Choi’
Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis ‘Pe Tsai’
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Mekong Red’
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
Coriander, Thai, Eryngium foetidum
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella
Curry bush, Helichrysum italicum
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
Dai Gai Choi, Brassica juncea var. foliosa ‘Wynnum Imperial’
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Dill, Anethum graveolens
Edible Chrysanthemum, aka Shungiku, Glebionis coronarium (syn. Chrysanthemum coronarium)
Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Pancellari Fine Cut’
Eschallot, Allium cepa var. aggregatum
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’
Fennel, Bronze, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’
Garlic, wet neck, Allium sativum
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Kale, Variegated, Brassica oleracea ‘Coral Seas Mixed’
Kale, Brassica oleracea ‘Red Russian’
Kohl Rabi, Brassica oleracea gongyloides group ‘Purple Vienna’
Lagos spinach, Celosia spicata
Landcress, Barbarea vulgaris
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium
Leek, multiplier, Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘First Fleet’
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Royal Purple Oakleaf’
Lettuce, Miner’s, Claytonia perfoliata (syn. Montia perfoliata)
Mangelwurzel, Beta vulgaris Crassa Group
Marjoram, Origanum marjorana
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Mint, Corsican, Mentha requienii
Mint, Nan & Grandad’s variety, Mentha sp.
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’
Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Red’
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
Nettle, Annual, Urtica urens
Old man saltbush, Atriplex nummularia
Onion, Tree or Egyptian Walking, Allium x proliferum
Onion, Welsh, or spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum
Onion, Welsh perennial, or perennial spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum
Pak Choi, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis ‘Shanghai’
Pandan, Pandanus amaryllifolius
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’
Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva
Sage, Salvia officinalis ‘Atropurpurea’
Sage, Salvia officinalis ‘Variegata’
Silverbeet, Beta vulgaris cicla ‘Rainbow Mixed’
Spinach, Spinacia oleracea ‘Giant Noble’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Swinecress, Coronopus didymus
Thyme, Golden, Thymus serpyllum ‘Aurea’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Bayside Beauty’
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata (recovering well from winter!)
Warrigal greens, Tetragonia tetragonioides
Watercress, Nasturtium officinale

Edible petals
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’
Banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Pisang Ceylan’
Bedding Begonia, Begonia semperflorens
Beetroot, Beta vulgaris ‘McGregor’s Favourite’
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum
Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella (excellent for tea)
Fig-marigold, Aptenia cordifolia
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.
Pansy, Viola tricolor ‘Johnny Jump Up’
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan
Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca sativa
Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta
Zucchini, Cucumis pepo ‘Blackjack’

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

Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Portuguese Peri Peri’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’
Lime, sweet, Citrus x latifolia ‘Australian Sweet Lime’
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia
Mandarin, Citrus x reticulata ‘Ellendale’
Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Southern Red’
Pepino, Solanum muricatum
Tomato, Cherry, Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Sweetbite’

Medicinal / Spices
Aloe vera – leaf juice used to heal sunburn, scratches, and for shampoo;
Annual nettle, Urtica urens – leaf and stem juice used to staunch bleeding;
Bulbine frutescens – leaf juice used to treat burns, rashes, as an infusion for sore throats;
Brahmi herb, Bacopa monnieri – aids cognitive function;
Cardamom, Eletteria cardamomum;
Cardamom, False, Alpinia nutans;
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties;
Ginger, Culinary, Zingiber officinalis – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow;
Ginger, Shampoo (species unknown) – from Seed Savers. Juice from leaves and roots (rhizomes) used to wash hair;
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus – stem juice kills warts on hands;
Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum – juice used to heal wounds, relieve toothache, staunch bleeding;
Krachai (root), Boesenbergia rotunda;
Rosemary, dwarf, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’;
Rosemary, fastigiate, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’;
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora (young seedlings);
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer properties;

113 taxa

Jerry Coleby-Williams
23rd September 2014


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Lucinda Coates says:

    Hi Jerry. I came across the following excerpt on Mangel Wurzel from an early newspaper while researching another topic for work and thought you might be interested:

    Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) Friday 27 November 1829 p 3b (accessed via Trove, 24/9/2014)
    Mangel Wurzel.
    This root was first introduced into this country, for general use, about the year 1786 by Thos. Boothny Parkins, Esq. then residing, at Metz, in France, who sent a packet of the seed to the late Sir Richard Jebb, Bart. The roots at Trente Place, the product of the seeds sown by Sir R. J. weighed about ten pounds each. Amongst the greatest promoters and earliest cultivators of this root, we find the late Sir W. Jermingham, and Sir Mordaunt Martin, of Norfolk In the year 1815, the latter sowed Mangel Wurzel and Swedish turnips in drills alternately; the result was, that every mangel wurzel was bitten by the hares and rabbits, and not a Swedish turnip was touched. Sir Mordaunt subsequently covered up a wheelbarrow full of mangel wurzel with a cart load of Swedish turnips, and his cows turned over the latter to get at the former, as horses do cut straw to get at oats; swine, too, he says, will leave a corn, stack to get at them, and will fatten thereon sufficiently for roasting pork. Dr. ?ettsom calculated, that from the produce of his garden, a square yard of ground planted with the mangel wurzel would yield fifty pounds in weight of salutary food. Mr. Harvey, of Alburgh, in Suffolk, says, he finds good mixed soil land, to be far preferable to either light, strong or wet land. In one year, upon his best land, Mr. H. had 47 tons, 15 cwt.; upon the light, about 40 tons, and upon the wet cold land, not more than 35 tons per acre. The quality Mr. Harvey describes is superior to any other root known in tins country; bullocks, sheep, or pigs will, after the first three or four days, leave every other root for it; bullocks, he says, do quite as well at mangel wurzel as at oil cake. In Hertfordshire it was first introduced amongst the tenantry of the Marquis of Salisbury, who have ever since been growers for the sole purpose of feeding and fatting of cattle. In 1813, Oliver Cromwell, Esq. of Cheshunt Park, Hertfordshire, had two roots which weighed together 61 lbs; the heaviest of the two weighed 31 lbs and measured 34 inches in length (including five inches of the stalk leaves), and 28 inches in circumference. On many farms in the Fens of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, the produce has been abundant beyond example. Mr. Clayden, an extensive farmer at Littlebury, in Essex, considers the root of great advantage to the occupier of a strong clay soil, which is not adapted to the growth of potatoes, as it comes early to market and may be carted off the land any time in October, thereby enabling him to winter more stock, and to sow his land with wheat if he thinks proper. Mr. Moyse, of Denny Abby farm, a gentleman of great practical knowledge in farming and grazing, planted in the season of 1827, forty acres, and calculated the produce of roots at 50 tons weight per acre; the year previous, Mr. M. says he had 48 tons, and the crop was not so abundant as the last. Mr. Moyse never strips the leaves from the roots, thinking, that the trampling over the land, and loosening the roots, occasion more injury than the value of the leaves will compensate, but, when he takes up his crop, ploughs them for manure, as is customary with green cote seed. In sowing for a crop, Mr. M. recommends (especially on good land) to plant them in ridges 30 inches asunder, and to leave the plants 18 inches apart.

    1. Dear Lucinda,

      That is very kind and thoughtful of you. It’s a beautiful and informative piece. When I managed the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (1992-2003), I delighted in having access to the library. Whenever I could, I read an Agricultural Gazette, which evolved into The Gardeners’ Chronicle, a UK publication. I think that is my most loved horticultural publication.

      Thank you so much!


  2. Cheryl Wedding says:

    Jerry notice that you have Old Mans Saltbush on the list of edible leaves can we eat them thought it was only a fodder plant

    1. Think again. You don’t think I would list something as being edible if it wasn’t, do you?

  3. bruna mumbulla says:

    hi Jerry
    thank you for the lecture at griffith uni, it was really interesting n inspiring. Could you please tell me
    when is your next open day. Will you have the lime tree which gives u 4 – 6 crops a year and the rare Mandarin tree for sale. Which avocado type is ideal for small garden? How do i get coriander to last in my garden?
    THANK YOU again for giving up your time to answer my questions and lecturing at Griffith.

    1. Hi Bruna,
      Thanks for the thanks.
      I am a busy person and if you want free advice, please ask single questions.
      Question 1. My Open Day is Mother’s Day weekend 2016.
      Question 2. You can buy Tahitian lime anywhere, try Bunnings.
      Question 3. As I said at my talk, I can only sell ‘Parramatta Sweets’ mandarin after it has recovered from cyclone damage and produces fruit.
      Question 4.Choose an avocado that has been grafted on Dwarfing Rootstock. Plant two trees, selecting an A pollinator and a B pollinator. Discuss at the place of purchase.
      Question 5. You never stop coriander from flowering – or you miss out! Collect their seed, use it as a spice, and keep on with successive sowings

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