Archive for July, 2009

Nibbles to surf the Net by

July 24, 2009

If you’re like me you can’t sit down at the computer without a bowl of nibbles nearby (no wonder I’m putting on weight!), so rather than resort to teeth-rotting jellybeans, I like to have something more healthy on hand. That’s where my latest harvest comes in and here they are:


Both are underground tubers; the pink ones on the right are oca and the brown ones are yacon. Both hail from South America, the home of that more well-known tuber, the potato.

Oca tubers are planted as you see them here. In spring they put up leafy growth which grows through the summer and autumn. Tuber formation is initiated as the days start to shorten. Hilling up the soil around the stems, as for potatoes, encourages more tubers. In winter the above-ground growth dies back and the tubers are harvested. I eat the small ones and keep the largest for replanting. They don’t need to be peeled, just scrubbed to remove dirt.

Yacon produces two kinds of tuber. The ones you plant are pink and lumpy with visible growth nodes. They also produce leafy growth in spring and grow through summer and autumn, dying back in winter. The edible tubers, long and brown, like those shown, actually form under the growth tubers. They appear to be just swollen roots. If the soil is nice and friable, harvesting is easy; simply grab the dead leaf stems, heave, and the whole lot comes up. The edible tubers are simply twisted or broken off and the growth tubers replanted. This is a good system, because you don’t have to keep some edible tubers for replanting as you do with oca. With yacon you can eat the lot! I generally peel them first; they have a crunchy texture, rather like an apple and a sweet taste.

Both species are best planted where they receive shade from the hot afternoon sun. Yacon has large leaves which wilt readily. Oca leaves are small, composed of three leaflets (like oxalis, it’s in the same genus) which fold back in the hot sun. Both need plenty of summer watering and both can also be grown in large pots.

yaconYacon leaf growth

Green Harvest have tubers of both species available for sale around this time of year, so check out their on-line catalogue.

Green cancer

July 20, 2009

It’s about 20 years since we got rid of our lawn. I finally woke up to the fact that it was just a waste of good growing space and in its place I could have hundreds more plants.

Bill Mollison, of permaculture fame, calls lawns ‘green cancer’.

Here’s an article about an American family that decided to turn their lawn into a wildflower meadow. The neighbours complained and the local council ordered them to mow it. Of course it could only happen in America!

Rob Hopkins of Transition Culture has a post about lawns which includes lots of links and part of an interview with Bill Mollison.

I think the ubiquitous suburban ‘green cancer’ will gradually disappear over the next decade as more and more people realise that if they want to eat, and eat healthily and cheaply, then their food is going to have to come from right outside their back door. I watch my neighbours on their one hectare properties, riding around on their mowers each weekend and wonder what they’re going to do when petrol is finally rationed. Will they choose to drive the mower or the car?

Wet stuff at last

July 13, 2009

The rain god must have read my last post and has sent down 40 mm of the wet stuff in the first 7 days of this month. So all the tanks are full (18,000 litres in 3 tanks) and so are the bins, baths, fishponds and sundry other water storage bits and pieces around the property.

I bought a couple of packs of shallot bulbs and some Desiree potatoes and have planted same. I had no success with shallot bulbs previously bought from the greengrocer (they grew, but didn’t form new side bulbs,  just got larger) so I hope these will be better. I have a feeling, though, that they might need the same treatment as garlic, i.e. should be planted in autumn in order to take advantage of the longer growing season. I’ll do that next year.

All the tomato seeds sown at the winter solstice have germinated and I’ve now sown basil on the heat mat. I always plant basil amongst the tomatoes. I may also try growing it in a wicking box.

I’ve filled seven of the nine new wicking boxes with the compost I had prepared; unfortunately the last two will have to wait till the next lot of compost is ready.  I sowed radish into some of them and it has germinated, even though covered with a layer of sugar cane mulch.

I love browsing through seed catalogues and they’re starting to arrive for the season ahead. The first came from Edens and I’ve sent off an order.

Next came one from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania. I bought seeds there for the first time last year and was pleased with the results. Although a fairly small grower he seems to have a good variety of unusual food plants. He doesn’t have a website but his address is:  PO Box 207 SNUG Tas 7054  and his email is : phnxseed at ozemail dot com dot au  (substitute for ‘at’ and the dots). He’ll send a catalogue if you email him a request. I like the way he includes a little printed sheet of cultivation information inside each packet of seed.

Diggers catalogue came in next, but I don’t order from them, since they’re only a 30 min drive from me. It’s more convenient to drive down and maybe also buy some plants from their nursery as well as seed.

Finally came the catalogue from Green Harvest.  They don’t have a huge variety of seeds, but make up for it with other things—books, organic pest management, tools, propagation equipment and organic fertilisers.

So I’m busy filling in seed lists and sending off cheques. Soon be spring!