Archive for the ‘Yacon’ Category

Where is everybody?

June 28, 2015

All on its own….the first asparagus of the season :


Another two in this spot, a skinny one and a fat one trying to hide beside a clump of Dianella :


This is the earliest they’ve ever appeared. It’s usually late July or August before they come up. I’m not complaining!

Also, the first yacon tuber of the season. Not a very big one…..there’s been too much competition for water and nutrient, because they were planted under a hungry tamarillo :


Not the first pepino of the season, but the most I’ve ever harvested in one go  :


On the chicken front, Clover is still laying, albeit only 2 or 3 a week, but still, I’ve never had a hen laying this far into winter before. Admittedly, some are funny pointy ones, a couple have dropped out at night and smashed on the floor of the coop, and one had only half a shell, but she’s trying. And 4-year-old Molly, who stopped laying and moulted in January, looks like she might lay again this spring and early at that. Her wattles and comb have reddened considerably, so that now I have to look twice to tell her apart from Clover. It would be nice to have eggs right through the year and not have to buy them at all in winter.

September update

October 3, 2014

Good things finally started happening.

For one, the spring equinox occurred on the 21st. That means the sun will speed up on its return to the southern sky and that means more generation from the solar panels (it doesn’t really speed up, what changes is the rate of change. Or something. Don’t worry about it).

And those aforementioned little darlings (the solar panels) turned 1 on the 18th. I forgot to wish them happy birthday or otherwise mark the occasion, because the smart meter wasn’t reconfigured to show solar exports until the 1st of November and all my spreadsheet calculations in regard to solar credits start from there. But I was recording what the panels produced every day up to then, so I know that over the year they produced nearly 4000 kWh and that’s a daily average of 11 kWh. Much more than I would ever use from the grid so it’s not surprising I’m in credit moneywise and expecting to stay there.

It warmed up, too. How nice to be able to shed a few layers of clothing and not have to trek daily to the wood pile for firewood.

The new chook run is finally finished, the coop is ensconced within and all awaits the new occupants :


The first run had one wall protected by being built against the polyhouse; this new run, although covered with a tarp over the top, was open on both sides. I was really pleased to be able to re-purpose some pine panels (the remains of the original vegetable planter boxes) from down in the back corner and use them to cover one of the sides. They were treated pine which concerned me a bit (the reason for abandoning the original beds), but a neighbour, who’s a vet, said he wouldn’t worry about the chemicals in possible contact with the chooks :


The various varieties of kale in the big planter boxes suddenly took off. I put a few plastic butterfly look-alikes in amongst them to see if they had any effect on dissuading egg-laying females. I watched as a butterfly hovered near. It flittered and fluttered over the plants, dithered and dathered, hither and thither and finally flew away. Success! I smirked to myself for a couple of hours afterwards until I suddenly thought—maybe it was a male looking for a bit of what you fancy and was so bemused by the multitude of potential lovers that he couldn’t cope with so many to choose from and departed the scene in utter frustration. I haven’t found any butterfly eggs or caterpillars yet, so maybe the phoneys are doing their job :



Blueberry futures :


This dark purple variety of kale called Redbor has been in a wicking box on the deck for ages. It’s finally flowering which means I can collect seed :


The strawberry buckets are covered in flowers. Can’t wait for fresh strawberries on my breakfast cereal :


I started planting out the first of the tomatoes. Most are going into wicking boxes where I don’t have to worry about constant watering :


This is Senposai, also called Japanese Greens. It produces huge amounts of foliage which is great for stir fries. Being a brassica, it has the obligatory white butterfly look-alike to guard it :


The plants in the old wheelbarrow have really taken off. I’m not surprised as I filled it with compost from the bin where I put the stuff from the composting toilet :


I’ve made a new bed behind one of the rows of wicking boxes. The dwarf nectarine had been there for some time and also some sage and I’ve added some garlic chives and a couple of strawberries. The rabbits don’t usually come this close to the house, but if they do, it’s easy enough to put up a wire fence :


I’ve planted a Heritage raspberry into one of the hugelkultur beds :


Down in the food forest, the tamarillos that didn’t ripen earlier are starting to colour up :


There are a couple of odd coloured ones that look like they’re going to ripen yellow and orange even though all the others on that particular tree are turning from green straight to red. I know a yellow-skinned variety exists; I’ve grown a single plant of it from seed, but it hasn’t flowered yet. I’m wondering if there’s been a gene mutation somewhere in the development of these two fruits. (I’m doing an online genetics course at the moment so my mind is full of mutations…not literally though, I hope) :


The yacon is starting to appear :


The comfrey is shooting up again. The Girls will be glad; they love it :


The basil mint is running rampant. I don’t really like it that much, but I can do the permaculture chop-and-drop thing with it and use it as mulch :


The redcurrants have come into leaf and there are lots of tiny flower buds forming :


The cherry is flowering for the first time :


The Bartlett pear is covered in flowers but its pollinator mate next door doesn’t have a single flower on it, so I’m not sure if it will set fruit  :


The flowers are so pretty :


The rabbits love nasturtiums and I can’t grow them unprotected, so I throw a few seeds inside a circle of wire which is protecting a fruit tree. Somewhere in there there’s a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple :


Yep, there it is :


Plum futures :


Apricot futures :


And possibly, apple futures :


Chokos sprouting :


The passionfruit that was hacked to bits to get a new trellis into place around the water tank seems to be none the worse for its ordeal. There won’t be any fruit this year though :


But there are flower buds on the one over the old chook run :


And plenty of oranges for a vitamin C hit until the tomatoes ripen :


The egg situation has been the only flaw in the month. The Girls laid 4 eggs between them at the beginning of the month and haven’t laid since. So I’m buying eggs. Not pleased Girls.

The autumn garden

April 2, 2012

I love autumn in Melbourne.

Warm, sunny, windless days; gentle rain (hopefully); new growth from all the plants that went dormant over summer. It’s a good time to get into the garden and re-assess progress towards self-sufficiency.

This persimmon is starting to colour up:

There are 12 fruits on the tree this year. It’s the third year of flowering. In the first year it set 2 fruit, but they dropped off before they matured. Last year there was just one and I pampered and mothered that fruit like it was precious gold. All the leaves fall before the fruit is fully ripe and a leafless persimmon, covered in bright orange globes, is a sight to behold. I swathed my single fruit in netting to keep the parrots and possums off and allowed it to ripen till it was soft. I cut off the top and spooned out the pulp. It has the texture of rich apricot jam and is something to die for.

So I’m determined to enjoy that sensation 12 times over this season! I’ll have to cover each fruit individually, since the tree is too awkward and brittle to net. I’d better start thinking about it soon, before the leaves drop.

The plants in the greywater line are continuing to grow well despite no additional water over summer. Every time I shower, do a load of washing, use the kitchen sink or clean my teeth, they get watered. All the greywater from the house goes down the line. When I want to feed them with seaweed fertiliser, I fill the laundry trough with water, add a cup of Seasol and pull the plug.

Here’s the post that explains how I did it and here’s how it looks now:

There are feijoas, redcurrants and yacon and I’ve just planted a few tamarillos into the gaps. The large leaves of tamarillo transpire a lot of water in the hot weather and they need a lot of water to feed their shallow roots. I did very well last autumn with tamarillos because it was a wetter than usual summer. They were planted right down the back (silly, in retrospect), where dragging the hose is a real pain and luckily they didn’t need it. This summer was much drier and I just couldn’t get the water into them, so I gave up. At times, after a scorching day, the leaves hung limply on the branches and I thought I would lose them. A shower of rain at the right time saved them, but it wasn’t enough to produce decent-sized fruit. I’ll get some fruit, but they will be pretty small. So in future, tamarillos will be planted closer to the water tank, in fact I’ve just planted 3 right at the base of the tank in amongst maidenhair fern. If they don’t do well there, they won’t do well anywhere!

I noticed this beautiful little web early one morning between the wires of the deck posts. The sun was low in the east and illuminating it from behind and there was a bit of mist in the air as well. The tiny spider was still in the web—it’s the little white blob to the left of centre (the flash went off and has reflected back off the spider). What a masterpiece!

Celery is doing well in a wicking box. Celery loves plenty of water so I wouldn’t grow it anywhere else but in a wicking box now:

Basil is also doing well in a wicking box. It’s in flower and I’ve left it for the bees. I’ll use it all up in a final batch of basil pesto before I pull it out and might get some seeds from it if the parrots don’t get them first:

Silver Beet in a planter box. It’s the variety called Spinach Beet or Perpetual Spinach. I like this variety and after growing Fordhook Giant for many years, I think this one is far superior in taste and texture. Of course, it isn’t really ‘perpetual’, that’s a phony advertising ploy. It will run to seed in it’s second year just like other biennials:

In the front of the box is some form of bunching onion. I don’t know the species or variety. It was given to me and the giver called it spring onions, but I don’t think it’s that. Whatever it is, it’s very useful. It just keeps on producing new growth at the edges.

Oh, and I love it that daylight saving is over. I’m a morning person and now it’s lighter earlier, I can get out into the garden at a reasonable time and get an extra hour of work in before lunch.

How much am I growing?…3 month update

February 6, 2012

I wrote this post back in November about how I was going to record all the food I bought and all the food I grew, for a whole year. I want to see what percentage of my food I’m actually providing from the garden.

I’m writing it all in an exercise book and I’ve also put it on a simple spreadsheet which adds up the totals and calculates the percentages.

So far, in the first 3 months, the average is 25%. In other words, of all the food that’s come into the house in that time, 25% of it has come from the garden.

Not too bad, but it’s summer—the best season of the food-growing year, with tomatoes, zucchini, beans, cucumbers & carrots in abundance and fruit (not a lot this year) from the trees. I know I won’t be able to keep that up over the winter. There’ll be peas, leeks,  plenty of greens (silver beet, chinese cabbage & kale), but my broccoli leaves a lot to be desired (I really must do something about keeping the Cabbage White Butterfly off the plants and I must learn to grow better broccoli). Right in the middle of winter there will also be oca & yacon and asparagus in the spring.

So it looks like I’ll finish up with something less than 25% for the year. The only thing that might boost the % is that I may not need to buy much over the winter. The fridge is bursting at the seams with bottles of pickled veggies, pesto, tomato paste, pasta sauce and marmalade. There will be tomatoes in the freezer and jars of dried tomatoes in the cupboard, plus potatoes under the sink and pumpkins, if I’m lucky. I have enough bread flour and wheat to make a year’s supply of bread and enough pasta and rice for at least that time, too.

Oh, and I forgot eggs. A dozen eggs a week will help boost the totals, too (speaking of which, top egg weight this past week was 53 g—going up!).

In no way am I self-sufficient in food and I doubt whether I ever can be, especially where meat protein is concerned, but it’s an interesting exercise anyway.

First yacon harvest

June 24, 2011

The yacon stems have dropped nearly all their leaves so I harvested the first of the plants today. They don’t need to be dug up—I just grab the stems and yank. This is what was underneath:

The elongated brown tubers are the edible parts. They’re actually swollen roots. They’re very crisp and juicy with a sweet taste and need to be peeled. They’re good in salads (sweet or savoury). I also like them cut into quarter-inch slices and fried in butter. They don’t soften but remain crisp and take on the flavour of the butter.

The knobbly pink tubers are the ones that are planted again to provide the next crop which will form underneath them. The little raised white bits are where new stems will grow.

After a clean-up in the sink this is how they looked:

The growth tubers can be planted again right away, but if I’m not ready to do that,  I’ll store them in a box of moist sand or cocopeat until spring, when they will begin to shoot.

Yacon provides a useful winter harvest when there’s not much else around.

Winter food

May 10, 2011

The weather’s cooling down now, but the garden’s not exactly in limbo.

Spot the persimmon. The leaves are putting on their autumn show and there’s just one fruit hiding in there. Last year the tree set three fruits for its first effort, but they all dropped off before maturity. This one looks as though it will make the grade:

Tamarillos are ripening, too. These ones are a bit late. I’ve already picked 2 kilos from the earlier-ripening trees:

Oca foliage. Oca is a South American plant with pink, wrinkly underground tubers. I’m hoping there’ll be a good lot of tubers under all that:

Another South American tuberous plant—yacon. Should be some nice tubers under there, too:

This Japanese Seedless mandarin is going to have a nice crop. Last year the possums showed a bit of interest.  I’m ready and waiting with the net at the first sign of damage:

This new little Meyer Lemon has a nice crop, too. Lemon butter coming up:

Wicking box with garlic and lettuce. First time I’ve tried garlic in a wicking box:

Celery, also in a wicking box. Celery just loves all that moist soil:

Broccoli coming on. No problems with Cabbage White butterflies now:

Silver beet going well in the new planter box:

And finally, Corn Salad, also called Mache by the French. It’s a delicate winter green, with a beautiful buttery flavour:

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.