My role as permaculture gardener in the subtropics quite often is one of simply foraging, enjoying and managing the abundance.
With a good design in place and appropriate species selected, the amount of food I find I can grow in a small space is staggering.
Much of this abundance comes not from growing more, but of growing different things, learning more about each of the plants edible parts, and changing my perception of what a food garden looks like.
|You can eat the young leaves of Yacon anytime while you are waiting for the tubers to form.|
- Young pumpkin leaves are edible - I use these a spinach alternative, stir-fry or lightly steam - the roughness goes. The young shoots and flowers are also edible, and of course the seeds.
- Sweet potato shoots and young leaves are edible.
- Beetroot and carrot leaves are very edible in raw.
- Many perennial leafy 'greens' - red hibiscus spinach, sorrell
- Choko vines - leaves, young shoots and roots are also edible, as well as their edible fruits.
- The young leaves of yacon - these are edible cooked up as a green
- Edible canna (Canna edulis) - young shoots as well as the rhizomes.
- Mustard spinach - as well as the leaves, the young flower stalks, flowers, seeds are edible.
|Pumpkin is a self-seeding annual. I eat pumpkin leaves, young shoots and flowers - but I leave the female flowers like this one if I want to get pumpkins later.|
It's quite possible to at least double the food you think you are growing simply by changing our perception of what is food.
There are so many edible perennials to choose from. In a previous post, INCREDIBLE EDIBLE PERENNIALS, I suggested a list of easy ones to get warm gardens started and how to use them.
Even though I regularly give away big bucket of cuttings at my free community talks, the garden still looks abundant. This is the beauty of edible perennials - they just keep giving and the regular trimming actually keeps them looking good.
Amongst the perennials, I love to grow super-hardy and self-seeding vegetables and herbs. Together with the perennials, they form the structure of my garden. Amongst these plant the more sensitive and short term varieties.
Now that we are coming to the end of the warm season, I am carving out areas in the garden abundance to put in some cooler season plants - using these perennials to build up organic matter in the soil, and to provide protection for the new young plants.
I like this simple and peaceful way of gardening. It creates great habitat for other species (and me!). The soil is alive and worms are thriving.
Imagine how much food we could actually grow in our backyards and cities - in small spaces everywhere.
|The tuscan kale is still going strong - even after the recent hot weather knocked the silver beet about. Kale is so tolerant and adaptable. The new shoots that form on the main stalk can be carefully sliced off and planted too.|
|Red Hibiscus Spinach is a delightful edible perennial which adds so much vibrant colour and leaf contrast to the garden.|
|The long green & red chillies keep coming back each year. They grow abundantly without care under the shade of the bananas.|
|The cassava is growing well in the food forest - in an area nothing much else would grow. I am expecting a good cop this year. Meanwhile I sometimes use the young leaves - I cook them and discard the water first, then add them to whatever dish I am preparing - stir-fry, eggy-bake, soup...|
|Madagascar bean is an abundant perennial plant that produces large amounts of purple spotted lima-type beans. I wait until they have gone completely dry and brown on the vine before harvesting. These make a super-hearty protein rich meal.|
|This weeping rosemary, hanging over my terrace wall, is a favourite herb in my cooking, along with the oregano and thyme planted next to it.|
|There is a density to my garden - lots of food, little space for weeks - huge amounts of food, fibre, fodder, mulch, medicine ... Here turmeric, pumpkin, sweet potato, comfrey, taro, bacon and banana are all doing wonderfully well in this food forest terrace - as are the interspersed dwarf citrus|
|Citrus does well at my place - I have limes, lemonades, a variety of mandarins, lemons and oranges, ruby grapefruit, and the Buddha's hand. The lime tree is full at the moment. I use fresh lime in so many things - salads, stir fries, juices, in soda water. I also rub it on fruit to stop it browning.|