Wonder crop from Andes, yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius), is closely related to sunchokes and sunflowers. It can grow to 2m but mine only reached about a meter. It’s supposed to be hardy but it likes regular watering and is not as prolific as sunchokes. There’s a good description of it on https://www.greenharvest.com.au/Plants/Information/Yacon.html.
I grew mine in a big wicking pot but will probably release a few plants into the ground this year. Roots were ready to harvest by the end of June and they tasted like a cross between a watery apple and a sugarcane. Very unusual for a root crop.
Sometime ago I read that soaking activates nutrients and makes food more digestible. We started soaking and sprouting grains for ourselves and then for our precious chooks. Here’s the system we use for our chickens… Continue reading
Another prickly one – Nettles (Urtica dioica) are rich in chlorophyll, nitrogen, iron, vitamins A, B1, B5, C, D, E and K, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and more. I grow some each year for healing tea and occasionally blanch and blend them into soups. In the olden days nettles were used not only as hormone balance tonic, immune system booster but also to make wine, clothes and nutritious soup. They are also a good a “trap crop” – they attract caterpillars away from edibles.
Nettles can also be used to create potent and nourishing compost tea for the garden. I was lucky this year – staff from Yanchep National Park, where I occasionally volunteer, allowed me to weed a big patch of nettles. They pointed me to the most succulent specimens, untouched by poison and visibly bulging with nutrients. I managed to pick two huge garbage bags and proudly took them home. Making compost tea is easy – put your nettles into a container, cover with rain water, weight them down with a stone and wait for about 3 weeks. When it gets smelly, dilute about 1:10 for watering. Undiluted it works as a herbicide. Apparently it’s best for green leafy veg and heavy feeders.
A bunch of organically grown nettles is drying out now so in time I should be able to enjoy a nice cuppa while my garden soaks about 200L of “nettle tea”.
They are everywhere. Spiky, dramatic, drought tolerant and full of acidic sap. Potential danger to an untrained eye but a true one stop shop for survivalists. Native tribes of Mexico used agave not only to distill mezcal from it – flowers, leaves, base of the plant and sap are edible (after lengthy boiling or roasting) and some parts of it have medicinal uses. Nails and needles were made from agave spikes while fibers were used for weaving. Continue reading
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite perennials. I plant them as pioneering species and ground covers around trees and shrubs. Their young leaves are a staple in the kitchen and we often eat their healthy tubers. My chickens occasionally get the surplus greens, cooked peels and less savory parts of the tubers.
I grow a few types of bamboo but Bambusa oldhamii is my favorite. Soothing rustling of leaves, straight poles for building, source of mulch, fodder, erosion control, soil building, potential fuel are just a few of the uses. Oldhamii can grow up to 20m and is apparently fairly drought tolerant. I propagated a few old culms last year (they need to be at least 3 year old) – 80% of the cuttings developed roots but only 30% survived the summer.
Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a Category 3 Declared Pest and it needs to be controlled as it is prolific, spiky, tough and propagates easily. All Opuntias have hairlike prickles called glochids so take care when gathering fruit and pads. This year we planted several and are monitoring the progress.