|Turmeric, of the ginger family, has been used in India for over 2500 years. Well known as the yellow colour in curries, it is actually a medicinal powerhouse with a great health benefits. Eat some every day. Fresh is best – in juices, curries, grated in salad, or in yellow rice. Plant some, and nine months later dig for the abundant rhizomes. One of my plants yielded 5 kg last year!|
Aloe vera, a perennial succulent, another with incredible medicinal benefits, has been used therapeutically for over 5000 years. It cools burns and sunburn, soothes bites and rough skin. Add the clear pulp to smoothies, or finely slice it into salads to improve digestion and to detox. It’s drought tolerant and pest-resistant, but can get sunburnt. I keep it close to the kitchen for burn emergencies.
Yacon, or Peruvian ground apple, is a fascinating and bountiful addition to a perennial food garden. It grows to two metres and does well even in poor soils. The ground heaves with the abundance of tubers that form underground in autumn. In the subtropics, the plant dies back in winter, but re-emerges in late Spring when the temperature and moisture rises again. Eat the crunchy sweet tubers grated in salads, juiced, or cooked. Eat the leaves too.
Arrowroot is an ancient Inca food and an extremely useful perennial. It is prolific and easy to grow and the edible rhizomes and young shoots provide year-round food. The lush leaves are great as mulch and build up soil organic matter. Also the fast growing leaves provide an in-garden windbreak or summer shade if placed well. I eat the purple-skinned rhizomes before the shoots develop into leaves - in soup or curry.
I call this hardy edible groundcover my ‘happy spinach’ because it looks fabulous, has a great texture and guarantees I’ll have fresh greens in my garden all year round. Brazilian Spinach is so easy to grow and even after a hot day, it still looks glossy and healthy. Use it raw or cooked. As a border plant, it requires almost no attention and has few pests.
Tulsi, a sacred healing herb from India, helps reduce stress, strengthen immune systems, promote longevity, increase endurance, fight infections, relieve congestion and headaches, and improve digestion. It’s also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. In a permaculture garden its constant flowering attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects, and it provides protection for small birds that help with pest management. A favourite garden tea of mine is a blend of tulsi leaves, mint, lemon myrtle, lime, turmeric, ginger with a dash of honey.
Society garlic provides greens and flavour all year round and is very drought hardy. It makes an excellent edge – dense clumps of upright leaves can hold back mulch and help to keep weeds out. Both the leaves and mauve flowers are edible, and make a great addition to salads, dressings, omelettes, stir-fries, soups and sauces.
Labels: herbs, perennials, permaculture