Saturday, 30 December 2017

Wild parsley: finding leafy greens at the beach.


It's summer here and everyday we are at the beach. We're here on our annual family holiday to visit my parents in the Gippsland Lakes. I've come here every year since I was a toddler. We spend our days cycling around the sandy tracks finding birds and wildlife (koalas, kangaroos, echidna), jumping off jetties, or taking to the lake in a sailboat.

I am increasingly finding myself fossicking amongst the undergrowth around this secluded lakeside for wild greens and fruits. I've found so many interesting things - it's wonderful!


Wild harvesting at the beach

Every day the kids and I try out freshly wild harvested ingredients in our meals, or find some other way to use them, such as...

Wild Parsley (Apium prostratum)

The other day I found some wild parsley in front of the house. It’s sometimes called sea parsley or sea celery. I have never noticed it before - there at the lake edge amongst the pebbles and sand.  

It has quite fine and small leaves in is low growing. Perhaps because it is flowering now I noticed it. It is of the umbellifereae/apiaceae family and therefore has the umbrella shaped flower of fennel and carrots, but smaller.

I tasted the leaves - they are just like parsley or celery leaves, just pleasantly salty. Into the salad they went! You can eat the leaves, flowers, seeds, stems and roots.

It grows all along the southern coast of Australia, and even up the east coast to the southern parts of Queensland. There's even a particular variety that grows just on Lord Howe Island. 

There are two main varieties:
  • Headland Sea Parsley (Apium prostratum var. prostratum) has a prostrate form with broad leaves and it grows on coastal dunes and headlands.
  • Mangrove Sea Parsley (Apium prostratum var. filiforme) has a more upright form and it’s leaves are narrower. This one grows in swamps and on the edge of tidal lakes. This is the better tasting variety. This is the one I found.

It looks quite like parsley, but the leaves do vary from place to place. It's easy to identify because the smell and taste of the crushed leaf is so unmistakably like parsley or celery.

Wild parsley is actually very similar to European parsley and can be used instead of it in any recipe. It can be used raw, in soups, stews, salad dressings, sauces, to flavour butter or on seafood. It can be dried too.

It’s a perfect plant for gardens near the Australian coast because it is so hardy. It can actually grow right on the waters edge, sometimes even submerged by salty storm tides! It grows in composting seaweed and sand.

It would grow well in a pot or in a semi-shaded position in the garden. 

Interesting facts about sea parsley...

Did you know that sea parsley was actually an important vegetable for early Australian explorers. Captain Cook collected bulk amounts at Botany Bay to ward off scurvy.

Early settlers around Albany in Western Australia grew it as a hardy vegetable, but it has never really been grown commercially.

Although sea parsley is an annual, it has a robust tap root like a carrot, which gives it a semi-perennial capacity. It also self-seeds readily after it's summer flowering.

Sea parsley is a native Australian herb that is rich in immune-boosting chlorophyll, anti-oxidants and vitamin C. Not only is it healthy to eat, but it's great on your skin too. It is used in the beauty industry as an ingredient to reducing inflammation of the skin, treat acne and help with skin regeneration. 

It is quite easy to make your own natural face care products such as this simple non-drying mask.

Home made wild parsley face mask for oily skin.

  1. finely chop a handful of parsley
  2. mix it with 2 tsp of cold pressed apple cider vinegar 
  3. stir in a teaspoon of raw honey

Put it on your face for 5 minutes and gently wash off with warm water.

(Note: you could use normal parsley for this if you can't find sea parsley)

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

Pumpkin Greens: Harvest a Leafy Abundance



Pumpkins are so much more than the orange flesh, as delicious as that is. I actually use pumpkin all the time to make soup, curry, sauces, dips, baked veggies, but there's so many more benefits and bonuses from growing pumpkin such as ...
  1. Pumpkin leaves and stems are delicious, nutritious and a totally abundant source of leafy greens.  I eat them every day.
  2. I have pumpkin vines tumbling around under my food forest as a living mulch and habitat for lizards and frogs.
  3. I also allow pumpkins to climb up over the chicken house to provide summer shade.
  4. When they die back, I use the leaves and stems as mulch and organic matter.
  5. I make chips from the skin
  6. I toast the seeds and drizzle them with tamari.
  7. I eat the flowers.

Check out this short film I just made about how I harvest and use this thriving vine to supercharge the amount of greens I have access to in my garden, particularly in the warmer months when other things wilt and wither away.




Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.


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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

40 things I call spinach greens ...


Spinach is a very loose term around here. Anything green that can be tossed into soups, stir-fries, stews, curries, quiches gets called a spinach green (even though it is sometimes purple).

I love the idea of taking a leaf from this and leaf from that. This way of harvesting...

  • is easier on each of the plants
  • sources a much wider range of nutrition for your meal because each plant accumulates different minerals micronutrients from the soil
  • encourages a perennialisation of the garden
  • makes use of hardy plants
  • means there is something always available
These are some of the things I toss into my basket as a 'spinach' mix:
  1. silverbeet
  2. rainbow chard
  3. four types of kale
  4. four types of mustard greens
  5. pea shoots
  6. fava greens
  7. cranberry hibiscus
  8. Surinam spinach
  9. Brazilian spinach
  10. pumpkin leaves
  11. sweet potato leaves
  12. taro leaves
  13. cassava leaves (boiled first separately)
  14. comfrey
  15. borage
  16. amaranth
  17. landcress
  18. sorrel
  19. kang kong
  20. okinawan spinach
  21. mushroom plant
  22. broccoli leaves
  23. celery leaves
  24. beetroot leaves
  25. chickweed
  26. purslane
  27. dandelion
  28. lamb's quarters
  29. dock
  30. nettle
  31. wood sorrel
  32. lush young cobbler's pegs
  33. nasturtium leaf
  34. young turmeric leaves
  35. young QLD arrowroot leaves
  36. young pomegranate leaves
  37. young fig leaves
  38. young choko leaves
  39. yarrow leaves
  40. welsh onion leaves
You get the picture. This is just the beginning really. There are so many edible greens everywhere. There's no point struggling to grow one or two types when such abundance is possible easily in a polycultural resilient garden.

Make every day is different and delightful by expanding the repertoire of greens. Become a forager.

What greens do you favour and appreciate in your garden?

Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.


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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Cool it with cucumber


Cucumber is so cooling - to eat and on your face!

I just harvested some cucumber from my permaculture kitchen garden for a dinner salad and couldn't resist nibbling a few slices while I was getting it ready. And, being the end of a hot day I suddenly felt compelled to grab a slice and wipe it all over my face too - not just my eyes, but my brow, my cheeks, my neck...

It felt so great! Immediately my face felt calm, relaxed and cool, and I did too. 



It has been a pretty hot and sticky subtropical afternoon, and I've been down to check on the cows at the paddock. Tomorrow is our weekly milking morning - we take turns in our lovely cow collective.

When I think of cucumber for the face, the obvious picture that comes to mind is someone lying down with them placed over their eyes. Being a busy mum with an active young family, I personally have never found the time to do this (to be honest, I think I'd get little bored  - maybe I need to practice slowing down more!).  

There's no need to do any special preparations with cucumber. Believe me, a quick swipe of freshly sliced cucumber all over your face still does wonders!  Even an hour after doing this simple thing, my face is still feeling so refreshingly cooled and clean.

Cucumber is mostly water but also contains vitamin C. It's probably a good idea to do this regularly - to soften skin, reduce swelling and puffiness, and take the heat out.  From now on, I'll make sure I always leave one slice for the face when I fill a plate!


One slice for me, one slice for my face

Because it takes out the heat, cucumber is great too for minor burns, sunburn and itches.

Cucumber is originally from India where it has been cultivated for at least 3000 years. I always look forward to cucumber season in my garden.

Here's a previous film clip I've made about saving cucumber seed:




Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.



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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

My defeated silverbeet tells me it's time to focus on the summer greens. Read your garden.





I looked out this morning and saw my silverbeet wilted, defeated. It's not a lack of water... it's actually too wet and humid here now. What will I do? Nothing actually - I will not try to fix it.  

What I will do instead is feed this to the chooks, compost it and/or do a chop and drop, and eat something else.

This is a clear sign to turn to the plants that love the hot humid weather that we get here in the subtropics. Just up the path a little is this powering pumpkin. Look at all those amazing leaves! Dinner.... There's lots of great perennial greens around too.


New pumpkin leaves are totally edible and delicious. As soon as they are cooked, any sign of prickles disappears. I also steam them for a few minutes and make great wraps with them. (Don't overcook them, because they are so tender, take care not to overcook them or they will fall apart as a wrap) 

It was only a few days ago I was picking great big dark green leaves from this silverbeet. You can see the leaves in my handful of leafy greens below. How quickly things can change when the seasons change.  We've had rain for a week now and lots of heat too.  I don't mind, I know I'll get more silverbeet in Autumn.

Cycles of nature and the natural cycles in the garden remind us to keep diversifying so something is always thriving and there's always food. It reminds us to embrace the seasonal changes and to look beyond what we normally think of as the 'food' in our garden.

I love pumpkin leaves in anything I would have used silverbeet. They're excellent food. 




Read your garden, read your plants - it's a beautiful language full of richness and indicators for what we can do as gardeners who want to work with nature.

Here are a few of the other greens I will be focussing on now:

  • Surinam spinach
  • Brazilian Spinach
  • Sweet Potato leaves
  • Cranberry Hibiscus 

Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.



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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Yum plum pine

The Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus) has such an interesting odd-looking fruit but sweet like a grape. It's also known as Illawarra plum, Brown Pine, Australian Plum.

It is a native Australian fruit that I've heard was quite popular with Aboriginal people in SE Qld and NSW.  Not surprisingly they were very tasty and very high in vitamin C. These fruits though are actually a seed sitting on top of a swollen stem. They are harvested around March-July.

I have a few of these planted in my garden, and I also know where there's lots of others around my streets. I love to go foraging for them.


What's drawn me to notice it at the moment in particular are it's gorgeous lime-green new growth with a tinge of red. It looks so full and heavy that the whole plant seems to be in a weeping form.  

There are lots of things you can use plum pines for.
  1. Eat the fruits fresh.
  2. Make jams and sauces 
  3. Cook it in sweets or savouries
  4. Plant it as an attractive edible screen or hedge - but tip prune it from a young age.
  5. Plant it in a pot.
  6. Plant it in your woodlot (if you have space). It is great for furniture and boat making.
  7. Plant it in your windbreak - the sturdy form and dense foliage makes it a good windbreak
  8. Being a rainforest plant, it's flammability is very low.  My fire sector and high wind sector are the same, so it is ideal here as a fire retardant windbreak.

Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.



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Friday, 1 December 2017

Make great compost and mulch from this plant


This plant is a great source of chop-and-drop mulch and compost greens. Having a good and abundant supply of free mulching materials and compost ingredients is a real bonus for any gardener. 

I'm not recommending you go out and plant this tree because in many places it is considered a weed (check this in your local area - it could be OK), but if you happen to have it, I think there's a lot of benefit you can gain from using its leafy abundance.

This is Paulownia or Royal Empress Tree (Paulownia tormentosa). It is a magnificent tree - huge leaves, tall trunk, shading branches, beautiful flowers with amazing scent and bee hum. 

Paulownia is claimed to be the fastest growing tree in the world, drought hardy, and able to tolerate a wide range of soils. (USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9).

It is however also considered a weed in many places. It's a weed in my garden too. A neighbour planted some a few decades ago when it was 'the' timber tree to grow. He never did get any financial return but it has created lovely shade and habitat for many species, and has suckered successfully into my place. 

It sprouted where we dug our house pad and disturbed the roots. Rather than poison it, we just keep harvesting it keeping it low and accessible. For me, the best way to keep Paulownia in check in a garden is using it.  It grows fast and doesn't mind being coppiced. 

SOME USES OF PAULOWNIA LEAVES

  1. chop and drop leaves for mulch
  2. add leaves to compost as a valuable nitrogenous ingredient (when green) or carbon ingredient (when brown)
  3. use leaves as a nutrient rich fodder for cows
  4. eat the young leaves
The lightweight timber is excellent for craft and non-structural building purposes. 

Happy gardening. Feel free to share this post.



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