Pam Jenkins, from Diamond Creek, talks about her:
- Flowers and leaves for garnishes, food and drinks.
- Annual edible garden in early Spring.
- Annual edible garden in early Winter.
- Her orchard.
Flowers and leaves for garnishes, food and drinks
Spring in the garden is a time of abundance. Many of the plants that we grow for show also have edible parts and many of our vegetable and fruit plants have edible parts that we usually discard. In the video, I talk about a few of the different plants that can be eaten as a garden snack, used as a garnish or included as something different in your diet.
Below are links to some history of the plants along with suggested uses and recipes for some of the plants mentioned.
The youngest leaves have a nice lettuce type of flavour. As the season progresses, they toughen and become more bitter. The flower petals can be variable between quite sweet to somewhat bitter. Read this chatty site that demonstrates sugar coating primroses and other flowers.
It appears that the most popular way of using samphire is as a pickle. If you only have one plant and don’t want to denude it, read these suggestions to add flavour to some dishes.
Although we call them lilies, they are not true lilies. Rather, they are members of the Zingiberales family, which includes edible roots such as ginger, turmeric and galangal, and also bananas. Their rhizomes were used as a source of starch by the indigenous peoples in tropical America for many thousands of years. The Dutch tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce them as a food crop in the 1500s. They were introduced to Great Britain in the 1800s when the Victorian plant breeders got to work to create many of the attractive flowering varieties that we see today. Watch this video of a couple from Queensland harvesting and cooking some rhizomes.
In 16th century Mexico, botanists accompanying the Spanish conquistadors ‘discovered’ and described tree dahlias, one of the parent species to all the hybrids that we know and love. The tubers had been used by the local Indian population as a food source and the stems used as a water source for thousands of years. 200 years later, plant breeders in Europe tried, unsuccessfully, to breed them as a potential food source but instead discovered ways to produce the varieties of flowers available today. Don’t forget to try some petals later in summer. Each variety has a different taste, some of which are really nice and some not quite so good. Read more.
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Before trying some of the more unusual plants, do a little reading and make sure that you have correctly identified it. When you are ready, go for a wander around your garden and taste test some of the edible plants this spring. Enjoy!
Annual edible garden in early Spring
This video was filmed in early Spring 2020.
Now that Spring is in the air and the fruit trees have mainly finished blossoming, it is time to take a second look at my annual garden to see what worked and what didn’t do as well as I might have wished.
The lettuces have been regularly harvested and are now going up to seed. I will allow a couple of them to flower with two purposes in mind: the flowers will attract bees, other pollinators and beneficial insects and I will be able to collect seed later. Of course the flowers tend to fall over so I will tie them to a stake to prevent them from becoming a trip hazard and to keep them slightly neat. As the weather warms and the day light hours lengthen, annual vegetables tend to go to seed, including the spring onions, kale and rainbow chard.
Some of the vegetables that I planted late in autumn didn’t get established before the cold weather set in so I am harvesting the carrots at baby carrot size and the beetroot hasn’t produced a beet so I am thinning them out by picking them for salad greens.
The garlic is looking healthy with lots of greens which will help them grow big bulbs over the next few weeks.
The peas and broad beans have been flowering for what seems to be weeks now. I think that they wait for the equinoctial gales to roar around them before they really start producing pods.
After producing its main head, the broccoli has been setting a regular amount of side shoots that we have been harvesting but the Brussels sprouts take longer to mature and I don’t know whether we will end up with the tight little ball of sprout or something looking like a leafy flower or any harvest at all.
The square foot garden bed has become very jungle like with not a lot of room for weeds. Some of the plants will be harvested to free up some space for spring vegetable plantings. Before planting my summer crops, I will work in some compost and animal manure and, depending upon whether I will be planting heavy or light feeders, I may also add some blood and bone to the mix.
With the few days of warm weather came the return of the cabbage butterfly so I have had to net the brassicas that I intend to keep harvesting. That warm wind dried out the wicking beds to some degree so I had to top up their reservoirs for the first time since autumn. I had allowed some of the mulch to get a bit thin in some of the beds and the soil had dried out a bit so I watered from the top and let it percolate down. Parts of the perennial garden also got a bit dry so I watered and mulched there as well.
Lots of jobs to do now to keep ahead of the pests and the weather. The seeds that I planted indoors are mostly growing and being hardened off ready to move to their new positions in the garden as soon as it is prepared. Thank goodness for Covid-19 making me stay home and get the summer annuals off to a good start!
Annual edible garden in early Winter
This video was filmed in early Winter 2020.
My annual garden is situated along the path to the chook shed. In permaculture terms, it is Zone 1, an area that I go to every day so that I can harvest my daily needs and check on the tender plants on the way to check for eggs.
I make use of many found, free and re-purposed articles. I allow plants to go to seed and either use them as ground cover until I need the space or have a more appropriate space to grow them. If I don’t need them I give them away, chop them down for green manure or compost them, possibly via the digestive system of the chooks. I leave plants in the ground well past their use-by date so my garden is rarely neat and tidy but there is usually plenty to eat if I just look around a bit.
I have a little garden around the chook pen to hide the moonscape that the chooks create with their scratching and dust bathing habits. In that area, I grow some flowers for colour and for beneficial insects, but the area mainly comprises medicinal herbs (lavender and wormwood) and fodder for the chooks (kale, Warragul greens and parsley). The chooks peck through the wire to eat all the kale that they can reach and eat a little lavender and wormwood from time to time.
My annual garden is grown in wicking beds made from cut down re-purposed 200 litre drums,1000 litre containers, baths and old concrete wash troughs. Check out the Gardening Australia website to see how Sophie made hers from 1000 litre tanks a couple of years ago.
The baths and wash troughs simply have a pipe glued over the plug hole up to the level appropriate for the water reservoir where any excess water can then overflow. In this design, it is important to have well draining soil so that the outlet doesn’t clog and you end up with a muddy pond full of very unhappy plants.
Items of interest include:
- Egyptian walking onions, Allium proliferum, which I can use as spring onions over winter or leave to produce a bunch of shallot-like bulbs to eat, and bulbils instead of flowers and seeds in summer. Over time, the bulbils get heavy and droop to the ground where they can take root and produce next year’s crop of onions. Left to their own devices, they will walk across a garden bed and you will end up with masses of shallots.
- Carrots, radishes and beetroot: I find growing carrots easiest if I plant them very close to radishes. The radishes germinate and mature quickly and they shade the ground which retains water thereby allowing the slower germinating carrots to get established. I also grow beetroot quite close by as well. Carrots grow long tap roots so feed deeper into the ground, whilst beetroot grows a bulb which is only semi-buried and its roots are nearer to the surface, so they don’t compete with each other for soil nutrients. In permaculture terms, this would be classed as a guild – plants that grow together in a non competitive or beneficial way. It’s a great way to grow a variety of vegetable in a small space without compromising their outcomes.
This year I am using the ‘square foot gardening’ method to grow most of my annual veggies. It’s an idea that is great for using up the space in raised garden beds where you don’t have a requirement for paths to access the plants. Weeding can be done by hand or using small implements (that is, if there is any room for weeds to grow). Take a look at this site, which explains the concept behind square foot gardening and has a useful spacing guide for commonly grown plants.
This video was filmed in Winter 2020. Winter is the ideal time to see the bare bones of the deciduous trees in the orchard area.
In permaculture terms, an orchard would be classed as zone 3 or 4. As this area doesn’t need year round daily or even weekly visits for maintenance or pest control, it is situated further away from the house than the annual and perennial gardens that are in zones 1 and 2.
General care starts in August when I clear the weeds so that I can see the new season asparagus as it emerges. I also throw around some manure and/or compost then mulch the area to give the trees some slow release food for their spring growth and summer to autumn harvest. This also helps to smother some of the annual weeds.
I generally have some ground cover such as nasturtiums under the apple trees as weed suppressors and am also growing perennial leeks to try to deter rabbits. There is a lonely narcissus, which is also there as a rabbit deterrent.
Under the pears, I planted some day lilies which have attractive sweet tasting edible flowers in summer as well as edible roots and young shoots in winter and early spring. The day lily leaves have a taste reminiscent of green peas but have to be eaten when they are young and tender as they get very stringy quite quickly. Those, along with some parsley that I will allow to flower and some garlic plants, form a beneficial plant guild. The hope is that this under-planting will attract beneficial insects and repel or confuse pest species.
This year the area enclosed by the pear and plum trees is overgrown with warrigal greens, flat leaf parsley and stinging nettles (which are useful plant) and a crop of oxalis (which is the bane of my life).
The citrus area, just up the hill a little, has quite young trees. The trees are settling in, except for one, and I am hoping for fruit from all of them next season. I don’t need to get into the area much at the moment and have therefore allowed the warragul greens to roam across the path way as weed suppressants. I will harvest them to use as a spinach substitute when I pull them back from the trunks of the young trees.