Sunday, 3 September 2017

Turmeric: How to grow, harvest, use and store

I've been digging up lots of turmeric from my food forest and kitchen garden lately. I use it every day and love it fresh - in juices, grated in salad, but also in curries, egg dishes, teas, soups and rice. Fresh and raw is best though - it's more potent that way.

I've made a 8 minute film about how I grow, harvest, use and store turmeric. The link is here. I hope you enjoy it.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and has been used in India for over 2500 years. Well known as the orange/yellow colour in curries, and more recently in the popular golden mylk, it is a medicinal powerhouse with a great health benefits. 

It is a superb natural cold and cough remedy with its antibacterial and anti-viral qualities.  The anti-inflammatory action of its active ingredient, curcumin, helps to relieve chest congestion.

Turmeric is a fabulously easy plant to grow in warmer climates and it has so many beneficial uses.

Plant a segment of turmeric when the soil begins to warm, and nine months later, when the tops die back, dig for the abundant rhizomes. One of my plants yielded 5 kg last year!

5 kgs from one piece of turmeric in just 2 years.

In courtyards, balconies and courtyards, you can grow it in big pots and grow bags. It certainly does prefer a warm humid climate, but there are niches you can find or create to extend it's range somewhat.

Thanks to Bernie, a Turmeric farmer ( for writing and saying there are three key forms of turmeric: 

  1. LONGA: deeply orange and contains lots of curcumin - the one to grow and use for medicine.
  2. AROMATICA: yellow, the one in my film, mostly for culinary purposes.
  3. NATIVE: Australia has a native turmeric in North Queensland. Polynesia has a black turmeric, and Hawaii folk has white turmeric. 
Remember too that your body can only absorb curcumin when you add some pepper and oil too. This is why golden milk is popular, but also why it works in curries.

(Please note, it is recommended that people on blood thinners should not consume turmeric).

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

What is real Good Food: Morag's ABC Radio Simple Life segment 29 August

What is good food - real good food?

This is Simple Life segment recorded live at 9:30, August 29th as part of the Evening Show on ABC Radio QLD with Trevor Jackson.

GOOD FOOD: GOOD LIFE (17:46 mins)

Good food for salad and eggy bake.

Pigeon pea. Have you tried it? This plant has been used as a dahl ingredient for 1000s years.

In this week's conversation I weave a story of food to explain how good food is more than a good recipe or even good ingredients. Good food is about the rich tapestry of connections that are cultivated through the food - the connections with the seasons, with our local environment, with the soil, with neighbours, with friends, with each other in our family, with our play, with our learning and our workplace.

I've been in pursuit of real good food for 25 years after being inspired by my experience of living with Ladakhi villagers on the other side of the Himalayas. Since then I have always sought to connect with food, value simple home-grown produce, learn how to cook from scratch, and also learn as much as I can about plants, growing, harvesting, collecting and preparing.

I hope you enjoy listening to this week's conversation. You can tune in live every Tuesday evening from around 9:30pm on 612 ABC Radio. If you'd like to receive notification of all my podcasts you can subscribe to my newsletter and subscribe to my Soundcloud channel.

See a previous post on related to this radio interview: Good Food: Good Life

Spectacular Okinawan spinach - great leafy green to add to a perennial garden.

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Aloe vera: how to grow, use and eat! (7 min film)

Did you know Aloe vera (syn Aloe barbadensis) can be used as a leave in conditioner, or that the fresh clear gel is great to toss into smoothies? Take a look at my new film (7 mins) about Aloe vera to hear about how to grow, harvest, use and eat this wonderful plant.

You may also like to look at a previous blog I wrote about Aloe vera (

Do you eat it or use is on your hair or face? What's your favourite way of using it?

Feel free to share this video and blog

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

10 ways to make great use of Canna

Perennial Canna (Canna edulis) is an abundant permaculture plant in the subtropics, also known as Queensland Arrowroot. I can't imagine how I would have got my garden to this stage without it's help. 

Fabulously quick growing plant that has large leaves which hold a lot of water. They provide so much organic matter and look really luscious in the garden. Their height and form adds so much structure to a new permaculture garden.

It is an amazingly useful plant that I have used it extensively in the establishment phase of my garden to:

  1. create a super fast growing in-garden windbreak;
  2. create a super fast growing in-garden sun shade for sensitive plants in summer;
  3. develop a vegetative terrace to stop soil, water and mulch slipping down the slope;
  4. establish a weed barrier along with comfrey and lemongrass around new garden areas;
  5. make a living fence. I plant Canna beside a little chickenwire fence . I find the wild animals and chooks are less likely to jump/fly over the fence if they cannot see what is on the other side;
  6. produce abundant organic matter for the garden;

    Amazing growth in one season. You can keep chopping it too throughout the growing season and it will continue to grow back. What a gift!
  7. grow plentiful chop and drop mulch;
  8. cut as food for the chickens;
  9. grow materials to bulk out the compost piles;
  10. provide habitat for frogs.

There are of course many delicious ways to eat it too, but I'll leave that for another post.

This is what you find at the base of edible canna - swollen rhizomes. You can snap these off to cook without disturbing the plant. 

Canna edulis is different from the ornamental cannas (Canna indica) grown for flowers (this one only has the occasional little red flower), and Indian Shot Canna which has the spiky seedpods with big black seeds. Neither of these have the big purple-skinned edible rhizomes. 

I grow Canna edulis because it I like the fact that it is edible too - it really is so productive and abundant, with virtually no pests or diseases and can grow in just about any conditions (as long as it's warm). Here where I get some frosts, it dies back over winter, but returns with the warm weather .

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Good Food: Good Life: My recipe for simple eggy bake straight from the garden.

'Eggy bake' is a common meal in our house and one of our all time favourites - named by the kids. Mostly it's just abundant greens from the garden and eggs from their chickens.

Eggy bake - this version with grated cheese on top from local cheesery. Typically we eat it plain. Rarely we have leftovers.

Another household favourite is pumpkin soup (veggie soup really) using all freshly harvested vegetables - pumpkin, choko, potato, herbs, turmeric, ginger, garlic chives, mustard spinach and many other veggies and greens we find.

I think our 4yo will discover one day that usually pumpkin soup is orange, not green, but both these meals are great ways to get him to enjoy lots of freshly-plucked organic greens.

Weeping rosemary hanging over the terrace wall gets plucked for most meals. 
Anyway, I started typing up a recipe for the book I am working on, The Good Life Guide, and realised that this meal was far more than the recipe could communicate. A simplicity of just listing the recipe ingredients and steps seemed somehow to diminish the inherent qualities of the food.

Tulsi leaves and seeds also end up in most salads, soups, curries and bakes.

 For me it is the rich tapestry of connections that are cultivated through this food that brings it's true quality to light - the connections with the seasons, with our local environment, with the soil, with neighbours, with friends, with each other in our family, with our play, with our home education, and our workplace.

Garlic chives and their flowers have an amazingly powerful garlic flavour.
Here is my first attempt to describe the eggy-bake process...

  1. Send the kids up to collect the eggs from the chook house we built using timber our neighbour harvested in his woodlot and a gift of reclaimed iron sheeting. We have an eclectic mix of rare breed chickens that the children look after. The eggs are all different shapes and sizes - but all have superbly orange yolks because they free range often.

  1. Wander around the garden with a handmade basket collecting a wonderful array of herbs, flowers and leafy greens (and purples). I take a leaf from this and a leaf from that so I don’t harm the plant, and can come back again day after day for more. It's a peaceful way to garden and harvest.

    I collect things like soft pumpkin leaves and shoots, sweet potato leaves and shoots, mustard spinach, any brassica flowers and soft flower stalks, many varieties of kale, welsh onion leaves, the bolting shoots from coriander/cilantro, tulsi leaves, garlic chives and garlic chive flowers, Brazilian spinach ...there’s so many things to collect, even pea leaves, bean leaves, beetroot leaves, young chia leaves, young amaranth leaves, weeds - chickweed, dandelion leaves. The more diverse the selection, the more diverse the nutrients in the food.
    The magnificent red mustard spinach is making it's way into every meal in these cooler months.
    I love this time in the garden, watching the birds, noticing things - new shoots on trees, self-seeding veggies, subtle changes and simple beauty. I think about what I can add to the garden to increase the diversity or adapt to the changing season.
    Brassica flowers are a wonderful treat. I often snack on them in the garden.

    I notice where I need to add some more compost or mulch. The compost is made from the chicken bedding, and the
    Azolla we harvested by hand from the lake. The mulch is often chop and drop materials, but we do also go and pick up some local bales of grass straw that another neighbour orders in bulk for us all to use. The kids love to ride in the trailer with the bales slowly back along the little internal road within the ecovillage with the wind in their hair, singing in the breeze,  watching for hawks and kangaroos.

    I could ask the kids to harvest the greens too because they know where all the great greens are at any moment - the garden is their playground - and sometimes I do, but I just love this time in the garden pottering for a few minutes.

There's always a surprise somewhere in the garden.

  1. Ask my children to whiz it all together in the food processor with a bit of fresh milk from the neighbour and handmade ricotta from another neighbour.

  1. Cook it in a solar cooker (for a lunchtime meal) or solar-powered electric oven (for dinner).

  1. Duck out to the garden again just before the eggy bake is ready and collect some salad greens. I like to wrap little bits of eggy bake in a leaf.
    Fresh mixed salad with self-seeding tomatoes and lots of perennial greens, edible weeds and edible flowers.

  2. Sometimes I go the extra bit and drizzle a salad with a homemade dressing - shaking together a little organic olive oil made just down the valley (sourced from the local organic food store), with some homemade kombucha vinegar (using a SKOBY dropped off by a neighbour, a chopped up garlic clove hand-delivered from a friend in Tasmania (traded for limes), and some herbs and spices from the garden like rosemary, oregano, thyme, or chilli, ginger and lemongrass. Even simpler, I grab a lime, lemon or grapefruit and squeeze it over the salad. Delicious just like that!

    Fresh greens, snowpeas. tomatoes, citrus and garlic

  3. Ask the children to set the table. Often they gather a little posy of edible flowers and lemon myrtle leaves and make a beautiful arrangement.
  4. Sit down together and enjoy, discussing the particular flavours and textures that we like in today’s version. You see, they are always different - and that’s the beauty of it too. 

It sounds quite complicated, but really it’s ultimately simple. All the ingredients are all just here around us, it’s seasonal, it connects us with our neighbours and friends, and our local environment,  we all help to make it happen, we all enjoy it immensely because of the heart and soul that we know has gone into every part.  And, from start to finish, cooking from scratch, it usually takes us around 30 minutes to prepare and cook as long as we keep it thin in the glass cooking trays.

Brazilian Spinach has leaves all year round for harvest.
This is slow food, but it's not slow, quite rapid actually. With three children - two of them boys with huge appetites - preparing good food quickly seems to be the best approach, as well as getting them involved in the process.

Keep in mind too that I typically garden for about 10 minutes a day to maintain this garden - not a huge commitment, but an enormous benefit to our health and to the education of my children.

Some other reasons I love this way of cooking:
  • this is community food
  • it's package free - the natural packaging of the eggs go back to the soil. The milk comes in re-used bottles.
  • it's part of nutrient cycles in the garden and is waste-free
  • it is so satisfying and just makes me smile so deeply when I sit down to share this meal

What's a simple meal you cook from scratch? 
What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Slow down and shop sustainably

What you buy, and what you don't buy, can have enormously positive impacts for people, for animals, for diversity, for the planet and local communities and economies.

Australia has a huge consumer appetite, one of the biggest of all countries. We are what the ACF calls, ecological 'bigfoots'.

That we care to make a change is important. It's what makes a difference. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of our consumer culture, and also the devastating impact it is having on the wellbeing of the poorest people on earth. We are all connected and what we do matters.

You can listen to my latest Simple Life Segment on ABC radio for a discussion about these issues and accessible ways to rethink we buy things - all things really! Every Tuesday night I chat with Trevor Jackson, Evening Show host, at around 9:30pm. I hope you can tune in.

It's not easy, but it's possible to find alternatives. It is empowering - taking back control of what we use in our daily lives, to meet the needs of our family and in our workplaces.

It would be great to hear where you think change can be made, and ways you've been able to make changes in your consumption patterns.

Growing and sourcing fresh seasonal food from local sustainable sources is a great way to be an ecoconsumer.

Here's a few references that I thought might be useful, just a small selection:

What other great resources do you know of and use to help you change your buying patterns?

Choose natural, sustainably grown and compostable fibres. 

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter

Sustainable Fashion: stand up for something good.

What does it take to have a sustainable wardrobe? What is fast fashion and why do we need to reconsider this trend of consumable, disposable clothes? Every single item comes with a cost. What can we do differently? What are the things you need to consider? What are the principles of sustainable fashion?

Listen in here ( to my Simple Life segment on the Evening Show: ABC Radio Queensland from 8 August where host, Trevor Jackson, and I chat about Sustainable Fashion.

Join the growing movement of people and be part of change for good.

Try these figures on for size....
  • 25% of pesticides are used in the production of non-organic clothing
  • A simple t-shirt can cost less than a cup of coffee but uses 2700L of drinking water (enough for one person/yr)
  • 95% of all clothing thrown away could have been recycled. 
  • 0ver 30% of clothes donated to charities ends up in landfill. Only 3-4% ends back in their shops. Most of it gets sent overseas.
  • 2/3rds of the clothes worn around the world are synthetic, made of petrochemicals and shedding micrplastics
  • Australians throw away enough clothes each year to completely fill an enormous football stadium twice over!

Stand up for something good. Choose clothing well ...

consider clothing 'end of life'

Choose compostable clothing (cotton, linen, silk, help, wool) or fibres that can be recovered (eg: Cradle to Cradle   I wouldn't try to compost dry-cleaned clothes as they are too toxic - mmm, probably avoid wearing them too then.

are they good to wear many times?

Unfortunately, clothing items are only worn 7 times on average before they are discarded. Select things that are durable, of high quality, and can be worn often.  Often things fall apart or start to 'pill' quite badly after just a couple of wears.

is it adjustable?

I love clothes that can be altered. This is great for kids. Make a few darts here and there on bigger sizes, then they can get more wears as they grow into it. For me, I like adjustable clothing because my shape never seems to stay the same from one week to the next and it's good to have that flexibility - this is why I love sarongs and wrap skirts.

is it mendable?

Choose things that can be fixed - fabric and styles that allow mending.

is it ethically produced?

Choose clothing that has not caused pain and suffering by the person and community that made it, nor should it harm animals in making. The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative industries, but also a most polluting and wasteful industry emitting lots of greenhouse gases. It is also a most unfair and unethical industry. You might want to take a look at the Good on You app to get the lowdown on brands of clothing

is it environmentally responsible?

Many of the poorer communities where clothes are made, know what the latest colour will be because that is the colour of their rivers due to contamination  due to unmanaged production processes. So many environmental impacts are caused by the unregulated textile industry in many parts of the world.

is it organic?

Clothing made from organic clothing is better for your skin, for the makers and for the environment. Organic clothing aims to protect soil, natural habitats and biodiversity, and increase water efficiency as well as taking chemicals out of the production cycle.

is it pre-loved?

Getting a new item of clothing doesn't mean it can't have been pre-loved. You can often find some quite wonderful pieces. Swap. Share. Join Buy Nothing Groups. Shop at charity stores.

does it support others?

Consider whether your clothes are supporting others through fair trade practices, charities...

stop and think

Do I need it?? Every single item comes with a cost. Choose to care. Ask "What impact do the clothes I'm wearing have on my health, my family's health, on planetary health and the on the people who made them?

Here's a simple checklist

  1. wear things lots
  2. renew, reuse, upcycle
  3. repurpose
  4. donate
  5. recycle - last. Only 0.1% of clothes sent to recycling come back as clothes. Disappointingly, most clothes brought to recycling centres are down-cycled, not recycled, and are used in things like insulation. 
  6. throw away - never
One of the things I love to do is sew my own clothes using retro fabrics, redesigning old clothes or sourcing organic natural textiles to work with. I've haven't yet learnt to knit or crochet well enough to make clothes but I'm in awe of those that do.  

Making your clothes is more than a 'nice' thing to do (which it is) - you can design things that really suit and create your own unique style - but you are also doing something really positive and practical through non-participation in the fast fashion industry.

read more: 

Action Aid:

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter