Monday, 27 February 2017

Morag Gamble's super pesto recipe using simple garden greens (8 mins)

Pesto is incredibly delicious. It's healthy too and so easy to make using whatever greens are in your garden. I went foraging today and harvested some great ingredients for a new batch of yummy pesto. At dinner time, the children devoured it - reckoned this is one of the best batches I've made yet ... (thanks kids!)

Pesto - more than basil
Pesto is usually associated with basil, and yes I agree, it's a wonderful flavour, but you can also make pesto from all kinds of garden greens or better still, a wondrous blend.

Today in my foraging, I harvested three types of basil, parsley, rocket, welsh onions, society garlic, cranberry hibiscus and sorrel. I blended these together with some toasted ground sunflower seeds, the juice of a lime and some olive oil and created an amazingly simple, but superbly flavoured pesto that can be used for all kinds of things, such as:

  • pasta (veggie spirals are great with this)
  • bruschetta (it's great on the organic wood-fired local sourdough bread)
  • soup 
  • salad
  • dip

Extend the harvest
Often when the basil is on, it's on! Making pesto is a great way to appreciate this abundance. I typically make up a big batch, then freeze in an ice cube tray. It's a great way to extend the basil harvest.

Super greens for the kids
Also, because you can include any number of leafy greens, it is actually a great way to get your kids to eat an enormous dose of very nourishing greens.


Here's what I use for a really lovely texture of smooth pesto. As you can see, it's more of a ratio I am suggesting here rather than exact ingredients. There is huge flexibility in the types of greens. It varies soo widely between seasons and regions!

  • 2 cups leaves from your garden (basil or mixed greens - garlic chives, welsh onion, rocket, parlsey, mizuna, kale, spinach, silverbeet, pumpkin, sorrel, cranberry hibiscus, Brazilian spinach, nasturtium, and 'weeds' too like chickweed ... )
  • 1 lime/lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup raw or toasted ground seeds/nuts (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/3 cup parmesan

NB: The leaves and flowers of the garlic chives replace the garlic in typical pesto recipes. It tastes great!


Basically I just toss all the ingredients into a food processor and buzz until smooth, then spatula it all into a mason jar. It's important to tap it down to ensure there are no air bubbles in the mix (will oxidise/go brown where there are bubbles) and I top it off with a little oil to keep it fresh. I store this in the fridge for about a week or two, but it doesn't usually last that long though.  If you want to store it longer, it's a good idea to freeze it.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Gardening With Almost No Rain: Where There's Mulch, There's Life

It's been a tough summer around here for edible gardening this year - consistently hot hot days and very little rain. It's understandable that many have given up and are just waiting for the cool months to arrive. However I wanted to share that because of the perennial food system I have designed and created here, there's still a wonderful abundance of food in my garden and it looks lush. It really does work!

I've been out wandering through my garden observing what is still flourishing and where the garden is looking best considering such lack of water.  Yes, I've lost a number of things, but there's still such a diversity of leafy greens, spices, herbs, fruits and teas available. I even found a surprise bunch of bananas on the path this morning!

The surprise bunch I found on a back path this morning - had been watching a few others forming but missed this one. It's been a banana feast of a day!

We are conserving our tank water for house use, and because the river is so low, I am hesitant to use this source (reticulated to each block at Crystal Waters). The river ecosystem needs it more than we do!  There's platypus, endangered fish species ...

I am watering a little in patches, but not much, so what other strategies do I have for keeping my edible landscape not only alive but productive....

  • mulch 
  • terracing and building good soil
  • perennials
  • hardy and self-seeding annuals
  • food forest system
  • a flexibility in my choice of food (eg: eating pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, cranberry hibiscus leaves etc which are all wonderfully delicious and healthy)

My first observation is that where there is mulch there is life. Places in the garden where there is thick mulch and/or living mulches the soil life is still alive and thriving. The plants in these places are doing well.  Check out this rocket/arugula. I'm appreciating this salad green. In areas away from the mulched zones I can certainly tell the difference. The ground is rock hard and dusty - even grass is dying.

Rocket/arugula going well in the fully mulched no-dig garden.

We live on a 1:5 slope and the main part of my edible garden is terraced. The terraces slow down any water or organic matter movement down the hill - retaining them as high up in the landscape as possible. Also it's a chance to build deeper richer soil right where I need it - to give the plants a better chance of survival during these drier times.

I really do prefer terraces than raised garden beds because runoff can be diverted naturally into the beds meaning they don't dry out so much. In addition, the terraced gardens maintain good drainage in wet times. It was a bit of an initial effort and investment, probably no more than constructed raised beds, but it certainly has been worthwhile. The evidence in this particularly challenging gardening season has shown this again to me.

The terrace close to my house - basil, corn, tarragon, turmeric, garlic chives, lettuce, sorrel and many more things growing well now.

Most of the perennial edibles I have in my garden I have tried and tested over decades to be tough, robust and resilient plants - in wet and dry times and without much care or attention. These are the plants which I noticed growing well year after year, and even thriving after working overseas for 9 months with no watering system in place.

Some of these include: Brazilian Spinach, Cranberry Hibiscus, Rosella, Sweet Potato, Parsley, Cassava, Tarragon, Tulsi, Sorrel, Pineapple Sage, Madagascar Beans, Lemongrass,  Aloe, Welsh Onions, Garlic Chives, Turmeric ...

Oranges forming.... I have many varieties growing to extend the harvest season.
Bananas forming nicely in the rich zone below the compost.

Society garlic - edible flowers and leaves.
There is no shortage of sweet potato shoots to eat at this time of year.

Under the shade of the citrus, the aloe is thick and plump - good in smoothies, juices, and of course on sunburn!
There are some things that just keep going even in the tough times. I find my self-seeding rocket, sweet basil, cherry tomatoes, curly kale, pumpkin, corn, chilli, even a few highly mulched cos and oakleaf lettuces are good for my lunch salad.

Keeping a close eye on the corn - I planted it very close to the house. 

Pesto coming very soon!

Most of my garden is set up as a food forest system. The dappled shade provided by the pioneers helps so much to keep things cool, as well as there being ample chop and drop materials to keep the mulch layer thick. The nutrient mining comfreys help to keep the soil open and healthy and the creeping ground covers (pumpkin, sweet potato) act like a second layer of mulch all contribute to a level of abundance that would not be otherwise possible in times like this.

There's passionfruit dripping off the vine, the mulberries are fruiting again, the acerola cherries just had a great flush, the figs are ripening, lots of banana bunches plumping up, oranges and mandarins are forming, the limes are already dropping and the Buddha's hand are ready.

I can't wait for the figs to be ready - watching these ones closely now.
The unusual Buddha's hand - lovely in a tea or finely grated into a salad or dressing. No juice, just rind and pith.

Our chickens are happy still laying well snuggled in the middle of this food forest. They get lots of shade and protection there - the clambering pumpkins filter the morning sun, the cassava hedge softens the midday sun, and the coppiced mulberries protect them from the hot afternoon sun. In the morning, they stay in their fully enclosed and mulched zone (which we built to protect them from predators like goshawk) and then in the afternoon (when we're home), they roam freely through the food forest.

The chickens have even taking to come down to the house for a chat and Blackie began laying on a chair near the door. With more of a food forest system in the veggie area too - less annuals, a thick layer of living mulch and bushy perennials - I find the chickens do not cause damage. Usually, when there are more annuals and freshly mulched garden beds around, I try to keep them out of this area.

I think this helps immensely. I was so encouraged by the response to my recent question (in Do you eat your pumpkin greens?) about what unusual plants, or plant parts you eat. On all the facebook groups, there was a great response from around the world describing an incredible array of fruits, roots, leaves, seeds and weeds that people eat. Such fantastic information was shared! A sustainable food future requires us to embrace these foods and keep asking what is edible beyond that which we have come to know, and are able to buy at the shops.

The Rosella flowers are forming! I can't wait for some more fresh Rosella tea. I have been rationing out the last jar of dried rosella tea from last year - my favourite, especially blended with lemongrass or lemon myrtle.

Edible leaves of the Rosella plant.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Do you Eat Your Pumpkin Greens?

Believe it or not, pumpkin leaves are delicious. They are now one of my favourite greens that I forage for in my permaculture kitchen garden. I understand that the prickly texture of the leaves can be initially off-putting. I used to think this too. However, with just light steaming, the prickly texture softens and the leaves become a wonderful addition to my meals.

I use pumpkin leaves in so many things - in omelettes and quiches, in soups and stews, in stir fries, in spinach and feta parcels, as a gluten free wrap for rice/quinoa and veggies, as an alternative to grapevines for a dolmade wrap.

Pumpkin leaves and other types of edible self-seeding and perennial greens are a fabulous resource for school gardens, community gardens and verge gardens - robust, easy & productive! Where space is a premium, it is also really great to know how to use more parts of each plant to extend harvest times. It's also great to stack these types of plants - using different growing heights to increate the use of space.

From a health perspective, pumpkin leaves are very low in cholesterol and are a good source of calcium, protein, vitamins A & C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

As you can see, pumpkin leaves are really healthy, incredibly versatile and super abundant - but so typically overlooked. Actually all of the pumpkin plant is edible - the leaves, the seeds, the fruit, the skin, the flowers and the young shoots.

Just imagine how much food is growing on those pumpkin vines and when you harvest some leaves, more and more keep growing - just like sweet potato leaves, choko leaves, carrot leaves, broccoli leaves and so on. 

In hard times of the year, when things are too hot, too dry or otherwise inclement for lush gardening, I have always looked to my hardy perennials and self-seeding vegetables as my main source of food. After many years of doing this, especially looking for food after extended trips away, I have come to rely more heavily on these most of the time. It simplifies gardening so incredibly.

Cranberry Hibiscus is another favourite perennial green in my subtropical permaculture kitchen garden. I love the colour and taste - a bit lemony like sorrel. (Photo: Morag Gamble)

My planted annual garden is small. At the moment (after 2 months of heatwave), I am nurturing just few lettuces and rockets, and a small patch of corn. The rest is hardy self-seeding annuals, perennials and trees. 

Essentially, my kitchen garden is a food forest system and it works! There is just so much food.

With this way of thinking about your garden, can you see how easy it can be to create abundance? We don't need to fight to grow if we work with nature.  

I simply cannot keep up with the amount of food that is growing in my garden. In fact, I don't try to - most of it is for maintaining the system balance - for the the bees and other pollinators, for shading and feeding the soil, for nourishing the chickens, for providing food and hiding places for insect predators.... If I harvested and ate everything, there would not be food available for all of this, and without this diversity, resilience and system health, there'd be little food left during extreme weather conditions like there is now.

Right now, I am also relying on the abundant and shiny leaves on the Brazilian Spinach plants scattered throughout the garden. This is definitely one worth having. It is a compact plant that is robust and versatile too. Soft new growth I love in salads, while the older ones I use in all sorts of meals that I include a spinach-like green. (Photo: Morag Gamble)

I love learning about new parts of plants I can eat and discovering new edible types of hardy plants. I find it fascinating and incredible just how much food is around us all the time if we know where to look.

What unusual plants, leaves, herbs, fruits, nuts, roots do you eat? 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Kitchen Garden Polyculture: Managing the Abundance

I love my polycultural kitchen garden here in the Australian subtropics. It's always full of food, flavours, teas, medicines, bees and wildlife - no matter what season, and it always looks lush and colourful. My kitchen garden is really a forest of food, for not just me but the many other species that also call it home.

I have found that they key to supporting a thriving and diverse polycultural and mostly perennial kitchen garden is managing the abundance - not letting things take over.

Each plant brings so many benefits and can be used in so many ways. They each contribute to the dynamic balance in the cultivated ecology that is a permaculture kitchen garden.

New film

In this short film, I discuss this and show you how I use and manage one of my favourite bushtucker trees (Lemon Myrtle: Backhousea citriodora) that is right up close in my zone 1 permaculture garden - just off my verandah next to the entrance path.

I hope you enjoy watching this week's film (the rain affected the film quality a bit, but was wonderful for the soil and plants!).

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Detox Your Home: 15 Cleaning Products You Don’t Need to Buy

The laundry and bathroom are some of the most toxic rooms in a typical house - full of dangerously toxic products that are bad for you, your family and the planet. It doesn't have to be that way and it's easy to change.

There’s a type of natural soap, that can replace a huge selection of these toxic products and in the process also save on packaging, shelf-space and money - a simple and effective solution.
Non-toxic castile soap can be used instead of the 15 cleaners listed below (and many others). 

  1. shampoo 
  2. shaving cream
  3. hand wash 
  4. face cleanser
  5. body wash
  6. baby wash
  7. bubble bath 
  8. dishwashing detergent
  9. laundry detergent 
  10. surface spray
  11. oven cleaner
  12. floor cleaner
  13. toilet cleaner 
  14. dog wash
  15. car wash

What is Castile Soap?

Castile soap is such a multi-functional, versatile, natural, toxin-free, vegan soap. It is great for a nice lather. It’s is easy and safe to use, is kid-friendly eco-friendly, organic, GMO-free and fair-trade. Also, a little goes a long way. In my permaculture household, this soap is so useful and it is also safe in my reedbed system for the grey water. Castile soap is a type of soap not a brand. A quick google search will show you many different brands, and also ways you can make it yourself.

Castile Soap History

Castile soap originated in the Castile region of Spain in the 12th century. It is a vegetable based soap, based on the original Aleppo soap from Syria created, it is thought, around 3000 years ago. There are claims that even Queen Cleopatra used this type of soap.

How is Castile Soap different?

Most things we call liquid soaps today don’t actually don’t contain any soap. They are actually detergents based on petrochemical-based products

Castile soap is made from plant oils, rather than tallow (animal fat) or detergents (petrochemicals). We can usually find it in bar, flake or liquid form. The liquid form is most popular because it is so very versatile. Olive oil is the traditional base oil, but it can be made with coconut, hemp, avocado, almond, wallet and other vegetable oils.

Real castile soap is free from toxins. Putting toxins on the skin, our largest organ, is probably as bad as eating them, or worse because they are directly absorbed into the bloodstream without being filtered through the digestive system.

Castile soap lathers really well without the health risks of the typical foaming agent, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) that is found in around 90% of personal care products. There are abundant studies relating to the toxicity of SLS.

Also, castile soap actually requires far less water than traditional soap for a good lather and it will foam up in hard or soft water.

Castile Soap for Personal Use

1. Shampoo
Mix one part castle soap with 3 parts water, and optionally a table spoon of jojoba oil. I quite like just using a bar of peppermint scented castile bar soap for my shampoo, as well as body soap.

2. Shaving cream
I just use a little bit of undiluted liquid castile soap and lather it up on my legs and underarms - makes a smooth shave and is not drying. Good for guys too.

3. Foaming hand wash
In a foaming soap dispenser, I add 1 part castile soap to 10 parts water. A fabulous replacement for the toxic anti-bacterial liquid hand soaps*. 

4. Facial cleanser
Put a tiny bit of liquid castile soap in the palm of your hand, mix it with water and use it to wash your face. I love it, my face always feels so clean. Rather than making a blend with oils etc, I simply follow up this wash with a small amount of jojoba oil gently massaged into my face and neck. 

5. Body wash
I use it straight - just a little squirt on a bath sponge. You can dilute it too - a good ratio for mixing a lovely lathering body wash is 2 parts soap to 1 part water. Others like to blend it with raw honey and an oil like jojoba for a more skin-nourishing wash. You can add in essential oils, or just leave it unscented.

6. Baby wash
Because it is chemical free and made of natural ingredients, castile soap without the essential oils are particularly suited for babies and those with sensitive skin. Still a good idea to keep it free from baby’s eyes. (‘Tear-free’ formulas use a synthetic numbing agent - another additive!)

7. Bubble bath
A squirt in the bath adds great fun for our little one, lots of bubbles to play with. They don’t quite last as longs as the ‘traditional’ bubble bath, but these detergent-based bubbles are certainly worth avoiding, especially for young skin.

Household Cleaning - safe for the kids to help you with!

8. Dishwashing liquid
There are a few ways you can make dishwashing liquid. Just a squirt in the wash water will do, and in the rinse water at a splash of vinegar. (if you mix the two it doesn't work).

9. Laundry detergent
To make a safe, chemical free liquid laundry detergent, mix 1 part soap to 3 parts water. You can add your favourite oil  - I often use either eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender. (NB: Clothes drier vents emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) if scented laundry detergents are used - some of which are classified as hazardous air pollutants).

10: Surface cleaning spray
Add about 2 tablespoons of castile soap to 500mls of water in a spray bottle. Add essential oils if you like. For cleaners, I like eucaluptus, tea tree, peppermint or a citrus oil.

11. Toilet bowl cleaner
Mix soap and water 1:3 and spray on the bowl, then sprinkle with bicarb (baking soda) and scrub with a toilet brush.

12. Oven cleaner: Mix 1 part soap: 3 parts water in a spray bottle. Spay on stove top or in oven and sprinkle with bicarb. Rub it in with a sponge to remove grime. If really dirty, let the soap and bicarb sit just a bit before wiping off with a sponge.

13: Floor cleaner
To give a hardwood or tiled floors a good mop, add half a teaspoon of castile soap to a bucket of warm water. The soap will lift the dirt off without leaving a residue.

14. Car cleaner
Mix 2 tablespoons of castile soap into bucket of hot water as an effective car wash.

For Pets

15. Pet shampoo - Castile soap is good for pets too, and safer for them. It won’t irritate their skin or build up on their coats. Keep to the unscented versions, as essential oils can be toxic to cats.

Important: Avoid mixing castile soap and vinegar

The vinegar ‘unsaponifies’ the soap – reducing it back to its original oils. You’ll be left with an oily, filmy substance on top of whatever you were trying to clean! This is because vinegar (or other acids like lemon juice), is an acid and the castile soap is a base they cancel each other out. 

Vinegar is fine however as a rinse agent, to use after the soap has been washed off and to help remove all traces of dirt and build-up and add shine.

Point 3: *About these anti-bacterial soaps, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration in the United States) said,  "There is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products—for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps)—could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects."

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

5 Tips to Have Free Fresh Vegetables Year After Year

My garden is my seed bank - full of all sorts of vegetable seeds that emerge when the conditions are right for them. In amongst the perennial plants and trees, an abundance of self-seeding annuals just keep coming back year after year. What a gift!  

Knowing how to save seed too is such a fabulously useful skill. In my latest short film I demonstrate two simple ways to save seeds from cucumber, and these methods are also useful for other similar plants - tomato too.

Watch the clip below from my YouTube Channel, Our Permaculture Life

Diversity of Nutritious Leaf Greens for Free

From my self-seeding kitchen garden, I have a such a wonderful time foraging through an abundant and diverse range of plants for leafy greens and salad leaves - often coming inside to the kitchen with over 20 varieties of leaf to add to my meals. 

Free Seeds Year After Year

The added bonus of focussing on saving seed and encouraging self-seeing plants is that you don't need to keep buying your seed every year, and each year you have the chance to help your seeds further adapt to your particular conditions - micro-climate, soil type and water availability. 

Value the Things that Thrive

To increase the abundance of food in your garden, look out for the things that seem to thrive without your loving attention. In my garden there is a range of both perennial and annual plants that do. Some examples of this are: coriander, parsley, lettuce, mustard spinach, sacred basil, cherry tomatoes, garlic chives, welsh onions, turmeric, pumpkin, sweet potato, Brazilian spinach... I know I can always find food in every season. 

As well as nurturing this cultivated ecology, an edible wilderness, I also save seeds so I can store some for successional plantings to stretch the length of harvest time, but also simply to share them. 

Learning how to save seed, and propagate seed, are invaluable skills we need to have and pass on. The benefits this approach could bring to the health and resilience of families and communities is definitely now recognised. I encourage you to dive into it - it's amazing!

When it comes to getting free vegetable and seeds from your garden, here are my five tips:

  1. Start with non-hybrid seeds so you can save from year to year.
  2. Allow at least 5% of your vegetables to go to seed for abundance (one lettuce = 10,000 seeds!)
  3. Encourage self-seeding vegetables to flourish and adapt to your garden - let the healthiest, tastiest and most resilient go to seed.
  4. Let your garden soil be your seed bank too, and be delighted by the flourishing of fabulous food without having to plant - the seeds sprout when they recognise that the conditions are good for them. (use this as an indicator for when to plant out other seeds). 
  5. Collect and exchange seeds locally.

If you enjoyed this film and post, don't forget to subscribe to both my blog (on this page) and YouTube channel: Our Permaculture Life
Here are a couple of links to previous films and articles about seed saving.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Seeking Patrons of Permaculture

If you like the practical permaculture Our Permaculture Life blog and YouTube Channel that I regularly share, I'd be honoured if you'd consider becoming my patron. 

I really don't like the idea of having advertising all over this blog and my Youtube ChannelI think it would take away from the integrity of the material, and let's face it, it's pretty annoying. I know for example, when I read blogs that are full of advertising links, I do question the independence of the thinking embodied in the articles.  

I also get quite frustrated with YouTube advertising at the start of films, and also the pop-up ads throughout. I did have the wrong setting on my YouTube channel for a while and I was aghast when I realised that adverts for huge fast food chains and other totally unrelated businesses were at the start of my films.

I hope you've noticed that I'm not into the selling and marketing side of blogging - just a sharing of practical and useful information about living more simply. 

I want to live my life with meaning and purpose, share widely, be there for my family and make a positive contribution in the world. 

Because I'm so determined to keep my blog and YouTube channel ad-free, my brother (my film making and photography advisor) suggested I look into Patreon - a way supporters can contribute small regular amounts to authors and creatives to continue their work. 

Basically it works like this:

  • supporters pledge $1, $5, $10 or more per month (and can stop at any time, no questions).
  • supporters receive behind-the-scenes pics and videos, discounts on my masterclasses and access to a monthly live-streaming Q&A session, and more.

So today, hiding away from the 44 degree heat outside, I sat down and created my own Patreon page. Please check it out on

It's there on that page that you can pledge $1/month or more to support me in creating more authentic, original and ad-free youtube clips and blog posts that include practical, easy-to-follow ways we can:

  • grow great food
  • detox our homes
  • support nature kids
  • care for communities and the planet. 

With a community of supporters I feel I could create so much more useful content. Will you join me?

Thanks for reading!  I'd love if you would share this post to those you think would also find good value in the Our Permaculture Life blog and YouTube channel. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Super Quick, Super Delicious, Super Healthy Meal - Fast Food From the Garden

It was just me home for dinner the other night - a rare occasion. I headed out to the garden to harvest a flurry of greens for one of my favourite quick dinners - a stir fry, and I threw in a few big chillies into my harvest basket too this time - just because I could make it as hot as I wanted tonight. No 'little person' tongues about. 

For me, there is nothing quicker than ducking out to the garden, roughly chopping the greens, tossing them in a pan for a few minutes with some coconut oil, garlic, ginger, turmeric and onion. I happened to have a little organic rice and chia leftover in the fridge from our sushi making the night before, so I tossed that in for a minute too. The whole process from walking out my door to harvest, to sitting down to eat was only 15 minutes.  My favourite kind of fast food.

I'm always delighted to see how much abundance and choice there is in the garden even though I literally spent about an hour in the garden since early January. We were away for a month and now we're having a heatwave.  I have been spending a lot of time looking at it from a shady spot, making lovely plans of what to do as soon as it cools off a bit (I'm loving the rain we're getting tonight - finally!)

This is what's in my clutch of leafy greens and purples. As you can see, most of it is from perennial plants, self-seeding vegetables, trees, and just a couple of things I planted before I left.

  1. Brazilian Spinach (perennial)
  2. Surinam Spinach (perennial)
  3. Sweet potato leaves (returning annual)
  4. Pumpkin leaves (self-seeding annual)
  5. Cranberry Hibiscus leaves (perennial)
  6. Okinawan spinach leaves (perennial)
  7. Sorrell (perennial)
  8. Cassava Leaves (perennial)
  9. Welsh Onion leaves (perennial)
  10. Self-seeded mustard spinach (self-seeding annual)
  11. Amaranth leaves (self-seeding annual)
  12. Red Chard (planted annual)
  13. Green Chard (planted annual)
  14. A Comfrey leaf (perennial)
  15. Society Garlic leaves (perennial)
  16. Society Garlic flowers (perennial)
  17. Sweet Basil (self-seeding annual)
  18. Purple Basil (self-seeding annual)
  19. Tulsi: sacred basil (perennial)
  20. Parsley (biennial)
  21. Chillies (perennial bush)
  22. Lemon Myrtle leaves (bushtucker tree)
  23. Kaffir Lime leaves (tree)
I had some turmeric and ginger on my shelf previously harvested, and I also tossed in some of last season's coriander leaves which had I blended with olive oil and froze in ice-cube trays. I am so glad I did. For me stir fries and pumpkin soup just don't taste the same without it. I've just planted some more seedlings in today, along with another dozen open hearted lettuce in my new no-dig garden.

You of course don't need to have all these particular plants. Take a look around your garden. You might actually be surprised how much food you can find that is beyond the 'typical' - broccoli leaves, carrot tops, beetroot leaves and so on. And if you haven't got into perennial greens yet, go for it. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I use them in just about every meal and they are so easy to grow and care for -  a gift really!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Can I Eat Watermelon Seeds and Rind?

Every part of the watermelon is edible - the juicy flesh, the high protein seeds and the rind. Here's at least 7 ways to eat watermelon:
  1. fresh cool watermelon flesh
  2. raw sprouted watermelon seeds
  3. roasted watermelon seeds
  4. roasted watermelon seed flour
  5. watermelon seed tea
  6. watermelon rind pickle
  7. iced lime watermelon rind

Last Saturday, the children harvested their first watermelon from our no-dig watermelon patch with utter delight. It’s gone already!  It was just so deliciously juicy and absolutely full of flavour, but not overly sweet. We have all delighted in its cool juiciness. 

Watermelon is great in school gardens, community gardens and home gardens with a bit of space.

Hugh is so delighted with this harvest.

Cold chunks eaten straight from the fridge have been the perfect food for this hot time we have been experiencing. Watermelons are of course mostly water - over 90% - great for helping to keep hydrated. This January was our hottest on record, and February is looking like being the same - consistently hot without a break and no rain. This is meant to be our wet season here in the subtropics!

Until my children started eating their own watermelons, they refused to eat seeded watermelon, as much as I tried. The flavour is just so amazing and the pip-spitting competitions so fun. All refusals to eat seedy watermelon forgotten.  Did you know that seeded watermelons tend to have better flavour than their seedless relatives? My kids believe me now.

Young Hugh is now quite adamant that we must save at least a quarter of the pips from our delicious fruits for future plantings and for sharing - a seed saver in the making (woohoo! - smiling proud mum moment). 

Are Watermelon Seeds Edible?

Watermelon seeds are not only perfectly safe, but they are good for you. 

While he was collecting all the seeds, Hugh asked if they were edible, or whether they were slightly poisonous like apple seeds with their cyanide. We did some research together and discovered that the seeds are totally edible and have so many uses.

Hugh researched that there are between 200 and 800 seeds in a watermelon.

The seed is a nutritious part of watermelon that is typically overlooked - well actually almost forgotten now the dominance of the seedless hybrids.

The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and are most similar in flavour to sunflowers or pumpkin seeds. Sprouted watermelon seeds have less, calories fat and carbohydrate than sprouted almonds and sunflower seeds, but more protein. About 1/8 cup has 10 grams of protein.  They also contain vitamin B and magnesium.

Raw Watermelon Seeds: sprout the watermelon seeds and shell them. First soak the seeds in water overnight, then wait for a few days until they’ve sprouted. You can eat them like this or fry them in the sun, dehydrator, or oven and eat.

Roasted Watermelon Seeds: While the nutritional value is less, they taste better roasted - a bit more nutty.  After sprouting and shelling, you can dry them in a dehydrator, or roast them for 15 mins in the oven until brown and crispy. They taste great on salads, as part of a seedy snack mix, or just eaten straight - with a dash of olive oil and himalayan salt

Watermelon seed flour: Roasted seeds can ground into a flour using a coffee grinder. These can used in cakes, biscuits and many other recipes needing flour.

Watermelon Seed Tea: Grind 30-40 watermelon seeds  (fresh or dried) and boil up with 2 litres of water for 10 minutes. This tea is good for those with digestive issues, or those who are prone to urinary tract infections. 

Edible Watermelon Rind

An interesting observation is that the children are also eating all of the watermelon, right down to the rind. We’ve been feeding the rinds to the worms and guinea pigs - not a single bit of flesh wasted.  Food critic Hugh thinks that in store-bought watermelon, the white bit seems nowhere near as juicy and tasty. 
Pickled Watermelon Rind: The worms and guinea pigs are not going to be so lucky with our next harvested watermelon. I have just discovered that you can pickle watermelon rinds. There seem to be lots of recipes posted online - I’m going to try out a couple soon.

Iced & Limed Watermelon Rind
Blend cool chunks of peeled watermelon with the fresh juice of lime and a few icebox for a refreshing cool summer treat.

(NB: make sure it is homegrown or organic before eating the rind, otherwise you'll want to give it a thorough wash).

Edible Watermelon Leaves?

I’m looking for a reference to this but have yet to find it. If you know of any information about whether it is OK to eat watermelon, and places where this is part of the food culture, please let me know.

Watermelon Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, related to squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers. Watermelon however is actually a berry. Botanists class them as pepos - berries with thick hard rinds and fleshy interiors. There are more than 1200 watermelon cultivars and some can weigh up to 90 kilograms. 

More about watermelons

Watermelons originated around 5,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert of Africa where its wild ancestors still growing.  It was cultivated in the Nile Valley from the second millennium BC and watermelon seeds were been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

How to grow
Watermelons are easy to grow. They are a tropical or subtropical vine that needs lots of sun and consistent water, temperatures higher than about 25 °C and about three months of reliably hot weather. Each vine produces about two to six melons.

Give them lots of good compost to start them off, and enough space to grow and ramble - the space also good for air circulation and for pollinators to get to work. Mulch the area well

Watermelons prefer to be watered deeply to keep soil moist, rather than frequent, shorter sprinklings. It’s also a good idea to water at the base of the plants rather than sprinklers to prevent disease.

When to harvest
Watermelons will not ripen after you’ve picked them, so wait until they are fully mature and get to know the signs.

  • tendrils to begin turning brown and dying off
  • tap the melon—it should sound hollow
  • turn over the watermelon - the colour should have changed from from white to pale yellow where it touches the soil
  • ripe melons smell sweet at the stem end.

Do you have any wonderful recipes for watermelon, watermelon seed, watermelon seed flour, watermelon seed oil, watermelon rind pickle? Please share in the comments.

A couple of references..

Monday, 6 February 2017

Golden Milk Recipe & How to Avoid Toxic Additives in Your Turmeric

Turmeric is great for our general well-being and is an excellent healer, but I just found out that there are some fillers and nasty colouring in most of the cheaper turmeric powders that are no good for our health.

I love a turmeric milk (golden milk, golden latte) at night - for a good night sleep and for a general boost in health and vitality.  Turmeric milk is a delicious and easy way to increase my turmeric intake each day. I do try to have turmeric in most of my meals - grated onto breakfast, in fresh juices, in salad dressings, in curries, soups, marinades and so on. 

Turmeric milk is a traditional Ayurvedic drink from India that is becoming increasingly popular at cafes. I see more cafes offering it and more people enjoying it than every before. Recently I was reading about a cafe in England that said more people are choosing this over regular lattes.

The flavour of golden milk is similar flavour to chai -  lightly spiced, and it's actually super easy to make at home. This is one of the variations of golden milk I make. 

Golden Milk Recipe

I play around with the spices a bit, and also the types of milk - I've found them all super delicious, and of course super healthy. This recipe is for 2 cups. 


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup organic coconut milk (or other milk - homemade almond milk is nice, oat milk ...)
  • 1 tsp organic turmeric powder or paste, or 2cm of fresh turmeric finely chopped/ground in mortar and pestle 
  • 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil (turmeric is fat-soluble, so the use of coconut milk and oil helps to increase its benefits).
  • 1 tbsp honey (or stevia)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp roughly ground black peppercorn (the piperine enhances the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000%)
  • a few slices of ginger (optional)


  • Place in a little saucepan and heat gently for a few minutes, not allowing to boil.
  • You can  make a bigger batch and keep in the fridge for the next few days - just warm it a little when you want to drink it.

A drink of golden milk is very soothing and nourishing. As well as building your immune system, it is good for healing an array of ailments including common colds, sore throat, indigestion, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual cramps, headaches and arthritis.

Warning: Your Turmeric May Be Toxic

The other day I wrote about taking care with using almond milk (often used in golden milk) because of it's ecological impact (check the link here). Today I wanted to share some shocking information I just came across about turmeric powder - a serious health concern that I think everyone should know. “Oh no…”, I can hear you say, “not that too!”

It has come to my attention that lot of standard and cheaper turmeric powders have added fillers - some common ones are saw dust, rice flour, starch, chalk... 

Of MORE concern however are the colour dyes used to give the fillers the turmeric colour - metanil yellow colour (E105 - a synthetic colour not approved for human consumption as it may cause nerve damage and is carcinogenic), cadium and lead chromate are most common colours used.

Because of the information above, I do HIGHLY recommend you choose one of the below for all of your turmeric needs:

  • grow your own fresh turmeric (Curcuma longaor 
  • buy fresh organic turmeric or organic turmeric paste
  • buy authentic organic turmeric powder which is guaranteed not to be adulterated.

COMING SOON: How to grow your own turmeric ...