Living off the fat of the land: A two metre row of Sauropus androgynus, aka rau ngót or sweetleaf, provides more nutritious leaves than two people can eat in the warm seasons. While growth of this trouble-free vegetable slows down in the cool seasons, sweetleaf provides protein, fibre and nutrient-rich leaves all year round in subtropical Brisbane.
Gac, Momordica cochinchinensis, is a tropical fruit related to bitter melon (M. charantia). I saw my first gac on sale in a tea plantation in Srimangal, Bangladesh. Native from SE Asia and China through Indonesia to far northern Queensland, gac is a traditional food and medicinal plant.
The actions I have taken here at Bellis and which I encourage others to adopt are the brakes, airbags and seatbelts to help protect us in the coming global environmental car crash.
You may be aware that Gene Technology multinationals are on the media warpath claiming that communities are wrong to oppose their new GM yellow rice, an artificial plant invented with higher amounts of Vitamin A than normal rice as their contribution to help combat malnutrition of the world’s poorest people. Think again.
Between 2013 and 2019, UK Aid funding allowed the International Potato Centre and partners to deliver pro-vitamin A-rich, sweetpotato cultivars to more than 2.3 million families in five African countries and Bangladesh.
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!
“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”.
“Salsa verde, chilled and freshly made from home grown tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica), is great on a hot day. An excuse for not cooking on (another) one of those sticky subtropical summer days”.
We ignore the following key aspects of sustainable food production at our peril:
* A culture of forgetting – we forget our horticultural history;
* Declining crop diversity, both in the range of species grown and in the genetic diversity within each crop;
* The oversimplification and impoverishment of systems of food production;
* A reluctance to apply the precautionary principle where using the least toxic solution in crop protection comes first;
I’m waiting for the summer wet season to start. Until the rain arrives, there is little cloud to filter the hot sunlight. Thank goodness for old net curtains and shadecloth! I thought I would check my crops against those commonly grown in Vietnam. Despite the average weather, I have 114 different crops growing in my 300…
With 100 square metres of good soil you can feed a person all year round. That’s what my ‘Dig for Victory’ grandparents taught me when I was a teenager in London. Here in sunny subtropical Brisbane you also need a minimum of 7,000 litres of stored water, ideally 10,000 litres, to sustain that production through…
When I started my garden at Bellis in 2003, it consisted of Queensland Blue couch, fences and a house. Starting a garden completely from scratch is a rare opportunity for many gardeners. This was my first chance. I wanted to record the transformational effect of gardening sustainably. One way to record progress was a species…
Cucumber mosaic virus is a threat to food security. Last year this highly destructive disease was identified on a farm near Bundaberg, and now it has been found on a Charters Towers watermelon farm. As a student at Kew Gardens, this was a case study, and we were drilled about implementing ‘on site’ quarantine procedures to…