Now the mid-winter solstice is behind us, days are cool but lengthening, ideal for sowing watercress, dwarf beans and snow peas. The best news is there’s a long list of delicious food plants that can be sown now for your spring menu. Here’s sixty to get you started. Just think of all those recipes you can use them in!
The culture of winter gardening evolved in Europe, a response to their long, gloomy winters. By contrast, Australian winters are briefer, sunnier and filled with interest – if you know what to do. What is a European winter garden? What can an Australian gardener in a temperate zone do to keep their garden filled with interest? What can food growers grow during the coldest season?
Chinese potato (Plectranthus rotundifolius) has so many common names there’s just one meaningful conclusion: it’s a productive plant valued by many cultures.
Cultivated in tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia, this perennial relative of coleus produces clusters of edible tubers about the size of a peanut and which have a nutty flavour. Sometimes referred to as a ‘lost crop of Africa’, Chinese potato can be easily grown in soil or containers, it’s cute and it’s definitely one warm climate heritage root crop you experiment with in a balcony garden.
Fast food: By learning how to recognise self-sown edible plants in the garden, you’re on the way to the quickest free meal you’ll grow.
The Wartime Kitchen and Garden television series and book by the BBC. The big swerve in 19th century British horticulture away from ornamental gardening to domestic food security. A television series and a book explore low tech solutions, reuse, thrift, and home grown food.
A taste of summer from Bellis, a sustainable house and garden in drought-affected subtropical Brisbane: 108 edibles available for my kitchen.
“Dear Jerry, my cocoa plants are infected with black pod disease. They are cropping OK, but can I do anything to improve their health?”, asks Peter in Townsville, Australia.
Hi Peter, Phytophthora is primarily a root rot disease and it can spread throughout a plant using the vascular system. Some plants are more susceptible than others and there may be multiple host plant species in your garden.
Certain types of Phytophthora can devastate entire landscapes (like Jarrah dieback, P. cinnamomi) and ruin orchards. This disease is recognised by conservationists as a key threatening process, it cannot be eradicated so you manage it.
If you want protein-rich pigeon peas by the bucketful, grow them in drought. And plant pigeon peas for food, shade, shelter, forage and bees. Grow them in a school food garden to discover which species of native bee live in the vicinity. Use this food plant as a school science project!
Help! The fruit on my lemon are distorted and covered in ugly warts. What’s gone wrong? Can my tree be saved? Is there an organic remedy? Answer: An infectious fungal disease called lemon scab is responsible. And yes, this infection can be defeated organically and in more than one way.
Pandan (Pandanus amarylliifolius) has long been a staple in tropical food gardens in South and South East Asia. Its leaves impart a unique aroma and flavour to drinks, rice, cakes and desserts. As with all garden produce, the quality of freshly picked pandan surpasses that of the dried or the frozen equivalent. Fortunately, pandan is easy to grow in a subtropical or tropical climate, they make an attractive display, it is an easy plant to propagate and maintain in a kitchen garden.
“I decided to note down the 111 different things currently on the menu from my 300 square metre subtropical food garden. Ongoing drought has affected fruit production – I made just 340 jars of jams and marmalades this autumn instead of the usual 800…Whatever the weather, there will always be winners and losers in a garden, the key is growing a variety of useful, climate appropriate plants so there’s always food on the table”.
“Let’s keep planting the right lilly pillies for trouble-free hedges and a diversity of Syzygium species to enhance our environment and keep our culinary traditions alive.”