The importance of sourcing food locally and where the ‘Newcastle Farmers Markets’ can fall a bit short.

Primary Producers get a very rough trot with food prices driven by harsh deals and bullying from Supermarket chains so the Supermarket chains can still make profit while selling a products at unreasonably cheap prices. SM chain ability and willingness to import food from far afield helps devalue locally produced foodstuffs.

This pressure on farmers contributes to damage of our food security in several ways….
Smaller producers don’t get deals to provide SM chains produce as these poor prices mean only very large producers can meet the set requirements. This has created a food marketplace that doesn’t favour diversity of food types or diversity of location where any food item is grown. It is beneficial to have larger number of smaller producers rather than fewer massive ones for the sake of product diversity, redundancy and food security resilience in the face of climate change and its associated unpredictable climate swings and natural disasters. A great example of this, is the banana shortage in 2011 caused by a cyclone Yasi wiping out the majority of all Australian banana plantations in one event.

It is a bad idea to have all of our eggs in one basket so to speak…

The less distance food travels, the less need for packaging waste and unhealthy preservatives, also the greater chance of us being able to access fresh products that store and travel less well (because they don’t need to!).
Of coarse, don’t forget the concept of “Food Kilometres” which talks about how much extra carbon we are expending into the atmosphere for every additional km food has been transported. This is only a part of the carbon footprint of a product but it is one that we can somewhat improve for those foods that you can actually grow in your region. I’m not saying we should never engage in imported or long-travelled products that might not be able to grow in your area, just that we can do way better with all of the things we can produce near where one lives.

There are produce vendors that buy from a larger vendor and resell the product for a higher price rather than value-adding, and are thus adding to the cost of a product without actually contributing anything to its value. By value-adding I refer to; drying, pickling, candying, cooking with it, etc.
The more of these buyer/sellers or ‘middle men’ a product goes through, the more inflation occurs when really that money would be better off in the hands of struggling producers for the sake of the continued availability of that food. If you are lucky enough to live near or drive past a farm, buying from a Farm Gate stall is a fantastic way to reward a producer for their fresh produce as the money goes straight to them!

What about the Newcastle Farmers Markets you say? Well… personally i’ve been finding it harder than it should be to locate locally grown produce that hasn’t come from further than 50km away.
Some producers are within the local area but in total very few, while many are still just vending the same product that is sold at supermarkets. This can make it difficult to find product that is genuinely embodying the qualities of local, affordable, if not organic, when relying on the word of a vendor only. Perhaps this needs to be left to some sort of screening process for who participates in a given market event?

However, at the Newcastle Farmers Market there are at least a couple of vendors you can be 100% certain are selling very locally produced goods;

There are some nearby avenues through which you can more easily access locally produced foodstuffs that are definitely worth mentioning.

  • A store called Local Crop on Hunter street which specialises in produce as locally sourced as possible and are open throughout week AND weekend days.
  • Bean Stalk Co-op is a cooperative you can sign up for, through which you can organise weekly boxes of mixed vegetables, and other bits and pieces on the side. Pickup Church St Mayfield on Tuesday evenings.
  • Newcastle also has a Food Collective which allows you to order online which options to collect from 50 Clyde St Hamilton North, drive-through or have delivered.

Aaaaaand finally, I know it isn’t for everyone and i’m definitely biased, but growing what you can where you live is the very best way to obtain at least some of your food for yourself and family. You also access the plethora of other benefits that having a garden can afford you and your community.

Good luck finding someone selling edible flowers at a shop or stall.

Productive gardens that can withstand holiday neglect!

Sometimes I hear people say… “I cant have a garden, it’s too much responsibility and I like to go away on holidays”. Little do they know, it is possible to have the best of both worlds!!
So much of the joy of growing using Permaculture principles and techniques is setting up a somewhat self-regulating and maintaining system which still provides you and other organisms with the things they need.
For you frequent holidayers and other busy humans, there are a few points I can make to try and persuade you of this truth. As it happens, a key of it is to challenge and transform existing perceptions.

Tiny Suburban Food Forest

A shift from Annuals to Perennials
There are some adjustments you can make to your idea of what is edible. Remember we only utilise around 2% of the world’s edible foodstuffs and many of these plants will grow for numerous years with minimal maintenance required. Unlike the annual vegetables you have likely grown up eating which tend to be at the higher end of the input scale, generally only living for a couple of seasons at a time.

Self-seeding annuals 

Self-seeding annuals

There are many annual edibles that happily self-seed and thus propagate themselves, meaning –> you don’t have to do it! You just have to know what they look like and where to find them in your system, then let them flower and seed freely.
Part of this will also mean figuring out which edible plants like your particular climate and soil conditions best and favouring the use of those, at least to begin with until more favourable and diverse micro-climates are created.

The more you know, the more attractive the system is. Aesthetics are 9/10ths psychological
To the unacquainted, the more ‘untamed’ look of a low-input garden can be seen as just messy, unkempt or unstructured. The thing is… plants organise themselves into a natural structure/order where they will perform the best. Often by taking plants and making them conform to our pre-formed ideas of order, they are put into spots where they do less well and thus require more input from us.
As you learn more of this natural order, the diversity and cooperation you can see between your different garden elements provides the beauty and awe any garden can inspire.

Flowing with and embracing nature rather than butting up against it

Pumpkin did its own thing over the holiday period

If you rail against the inevitable for long enough you can burn out and lose your passion. This uphill battle represents an enormous waste of both psychological and physical energy that could go into boosting your system’s productivity. It might be at this point you pull everything up and turf or pave the entire yard, then pay someone to pressure-spray or mow it on a regular basis. Ie; Puposefully desertifying your surroundings. The only organisms that win then are the Grass-cutters and concrete cleaners.

Alternatively, you could share a garden with a neighbour or utilise a local Community garden for your food production. Then you cab plant a lovely Native Habitat garden in the excess space instead which will still ‘give-back’ to you and the environment while still likely being even less maintenance than turf.

-“Each time a garden is replaced by a Caravan-port, a Permaculture fairy DIES…”-   ;-P




Zone i… the internal Permaculture Zonation. Permaculture psychology 101.

Beware: More philosophical discussion ahead. I write this post as I have had difficulties in the past reconciling the feeling of powerlessness to change the issues facing us in the world. Environmental degradation, climate change, war… so many things seem too big for little old me to make a difference. BUT I CARE, and I cannot stop caring. I come across many others that care in my line of work and they often mention feeling or having felt very similarly. Hence my want to share my thoughts on this.

Permaculture being a very holistic approach to life and sustainability, it would be silly to neglect the subject of our psychology within this. Especially considering our mental state guides the very ways we behave, decisions we make, and actions we take in day to day life. Following this logic, the setup and management of more tangible Permaculture zones (I→VI), even society itself, will be governed somewhat by Zone i/me.


For human beings to make the right environmental decisions in order to minimise their continued negative impact on life-supporting ecosystems, awareness is crucial. If one hasn’t the specific knowledge of how their behaviour influences the environment, then acquiring the ability to choose the actions of lesser negative impact or greater positive impact isn’t possible. The more awareness we have and observations we make of our surrounding ecosystems, the more knowledge we gain on how our particular choices affect this environment, and the more power we gain to choose how we act accordingly. Granted, it is difficult for those fighting for their lives or well-being to find the time or energy to think and act on this scale, being more concerned with day-to-day survival of themselves and their loved ones. As such, those of us with the privilege to live in the first world and have ready access to the appropriate knowledge, have the responsibility of forging the way on these important local and global matters.


However, the more you know, the more deliberation is required in working out the path of lesser destruction. This process of deliberation requires a greater expenditure of energy, and becoming aware of the faults in our current method of existence can be painful. Especially as by knowing of a problem, there follows some degree of responsibility within your individual power to improve on it or fix it. It is this effort and pain that many people, perhaps the vast majority, wish to avoid. Finding it easier to just keep following the old comfortable behavioural patterns already developed and known. It is at least partly this path of least resistance and humanity’s penchant for it that drives the need to maintain the status-quot in the face of massive climate change. Ironically, what will end up a much more painful and destructively forceful change in our collective behaviours in the long run.

So… in order to make a change from current standards of living to much more equitable and sustainable standards, one must endure suffering. There are things one must give up, things one must change, things one must repeatedly consider… but the other side of this coin is a sense of connectivity with nature, local/global communities and a sense of peace knowing you are doing your part.


Different individuals will have a varying level of innate tolerance or resilience to dealing with this suffering. Some will be barely able to function under the pressure, while some will have an inexplicable drive to forge through it and overcome it. The feeling of being overwhelmed can be easily reached when the problems are so numerous and complex, lending itself towards a mode of ‘analysis paralysis’. In this state, it is tempting to just say “its too much for me to handle so i’ll do nothing”. Nevertheless, to do nothing is to be part of the problem.

However I maintain that regardless of your personal ‘innate’ level of resilience, there are tactics that you can employ to help improve your ability to tolerate this required suffering.  The trick is to balance the weight of this responsibility with your actual ability to create change, not letting the seemingly overwhelming number of problems confronting us as humanity push you back into a pattern of ignorance and lethargy.

If you start small and work your way toward a greater understanding, your ability to tolerate the necessary burden will grow with that understanding. Also, you will gradually access more of the positive feedback of love and connectivity which helps power the furthering of the journey. Limiting excessive or unnecessary exposure to sensationalised news cycles can definitely be somewhat helpful, as long as you aren’t completely cutting yourself off from new information.

It has helped me personally to remember that an individual has only so much time and energy per day and lifetime. Believing you can do more than what these time and energy limits allow is a fast way to burn-out, fostering more disappointment at your lack of effective impact. There are ways of spending this finite time and energy that can maximise your individual impact such as; setting a good example, educating others and collaboration.

Setting a good example: By making the best, most appropriate environmental choices available to you, you are proving to others that those choices are viable and an available path for others to follow.

Educating others: Your positive impact on massive problems can only be so much as a lone individual, but as soon as you make the information/knowledge available to another human your impact can be multiplied many times over. The best way to do this is not to ‘preach’, but to engage in thoughtful discussion and conversation. Coming from a ‘holier than thou’ position tends to breed resistance to an idea.

Collaboration: The Capitalist model of current society encourages competition as the main operative relationship option, particularly in business. In nature, sure there is competition, but there is also an enormous number of diverse forms of collaboration. Many hands make light work and it will take a collaborative effort to overcome all of the issues facing us on this earth. It is also important to mention that as social beings, collaboration is a great way to reaffirm that we are not alone in this battle and there are an increasing number of others on the same page. Technically everyone on this Earth is on the same boat, sinking or not.

If you have any thoughts on this please don’t hesitate to message me and discuss. 🙂

Wattle Full-Throttle – Rich & Rapid Returns

The other day, an older white male was wandering by a Merewether verge in which several Acacias (Wattles) have been planted. The predominant comment this man made was… “Wattles?! Why would you plant those useless things?!” This reaction is one that I have some across a number of times now, and I believe that it comes from the meeting of a few societal trends and a lack of ecological understanding which I will try and rectify in this article.

This attitude meets with something I’ve encountered fairly frequently in plant selection (outside Permaculture circles at least)… people can be uneasy with plants of shorter life-span. Be it for the reason of wanting to keep their paid-for product around for as long as possible, or the whole concept of death seen as solely a bad thing and an uncomfortable reminder of their own inevitable demise.

Acacia moderating heat-stress on veggie garden.

Without getting overly philosophical, western society generally seems to have a disconnect with the transience of life, despite that cycling of life and death providing for our very existence. This is probably a reflection on our increasing disconnection with nature and our supporting environment. It is likely that this in turn has a lot to do with ego, individualism and consumerism. More fear of loss is present and death is then regarded as the ultimate loss. Marketing for Funeral Insurance and other death-related industry play upon and exacerbate this fear. Ie; “Don’t leave your surviving family to pay for your excessive carcass-processing fees! Pay us lots of money BEFORE you die! It could be at ANY MOMENT!!

Railing against the truly inevitable is a profound waste of physical and psychological energies, so I believe it is worth shifting our approach to the transience of life. To be comfortable with change as change is inevitable. EVERYTHING is impermanent and without death, there would be no new life. A wise guy from times of old named Heraclitus once said, “the only thing that is constant is change” which rings very true to me.

A healthier approach to transience is observed in South America, exemplified by the Mexican Festival of the Dead, where birth and death are regarded more as a continuum → No matter what we are in life, in death we are all the same…. Fertiliser!! ;-P
I don’t mean, ‘once you’re dead we should all just forget about you’, but rather, instead of getting morose beyond mourning, we should celebrate what the dead-in-question loved in life and how that life is now providing the building blocks for other life.

Look at the bush or a garden… it isn’t a painting, it is a living system that is always in flux and that flux holds its own distinct beauty. So really an individual’s value isn’t so much about how long it hangs around, it’s about what that thing achieves in that limited time and how many other lives it supports and benefits.

Wattle sheltering Raspberries

Wattles are a great example of this, generally very fast growing and comparatively short-lived trees. The old adage ‘live-fast, die-young’ applies very well in that a single Acacia can produce food and habitat for thousands upon thousands of various animals and plants, during and beyond its lifetime, all the while acting to quickly protect and regenerate highly disturbed environments.
Throw in that beautiful floral display and pollen that isn’t actually that likely to cause allergies compared to say Rye-grass that flowers at similar times… why on earth wouldn’t you plant some?!?!

I gots the Quats!!

Citrus fruits come in many shapes, sizes and flavours… a large number of which have been cultivated as food by humans for many thousands of years. Apart from your more obvious/better-known fruits in the western world  (ie; Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Mandarins), there are some less-common, but still very much enjoyed Citrus fruits available to diversify your crop and diet.

One of my favourites is the Nagami Cumquat which you can maintain very easily as a small tree specimen for places of constrained growing space. I have set my small tree up in a wicking-barrel which allows me to grow it freely on the side of the driveway, a highly exposed and hard-surfaced area which previously rated as productivity-ZERO.

The smaller but more numerous Nagami Cumquat fruits can be eaten whole and fresh (skin included!), or turned into a range of delicious products like preserves and sweets. The skin and pith is sweet while the centre is tart and acidic, these flavours meet in the mouth when eaten whole and fresh… flavour SENSATION!!  😀
It’s probably worth noting that there are a couple of other varieties of Cumquats which I find far less enjoyable eating. The fruit bitterness often leads these varieties’ usage being limited to mainly high sugar jams and marmalades.

Driveway Quats!

This year my tree went into overload, exceptional cropping for a very small tree.

Sometimes you will see a larger tree in someones yard fully laden with fruit and they might not even know what they have. In these cases I believe its always worth a knock on the door to see if they’d be interested in trading fruit for some finished product so everybody wins.

The form into which I processed my excess fruit this year was dry-candied… i’m a sucker for natural sweets (candied peel, crystalized ginger, etc) and having a long-lived reserve of this stuff really floats my proverbial boat. Here is briefly how I did it;

  1. Slice your Cumquats into disks or smaller pieces… I like discs because you get the spoked-cross section… pretty pretty! Also, this way, most of the seeds will come out themselves.
  2. Bring the appropriate volume of sugar syrup to boil – you will need enough liquid to just cover the amount of sliced Cumquats you have. Sugar syrup is only 50% sugar, 50% water. So if you have 2 cups of water, you will add 2 cups of sugar… I used raw sugar.
  3. Once the syrup has gotten to boiling-point, turn the heat down and add the sliced Cumquats to simmer submerged by the syrup for about 10-15 mins. You will see the Cumquat skin start to go more transparent… you do not want to over-cook them at this point because it will turn into slop and become jam or marmalade.

    Some of the batch
  4. Strain and drain the slices with a sieve or colander… definitely worth keeping the fluid for turning into jelly or flavouring cakes etc. Wonder if it’ll turn into Cumquat toffee?? An experiment for another day.
  5. Restrain yourself…. the finished product is way too delicious… try your best to share with your friends and family! Given – it hasn’t been only me, but since last Saturday, most of a tupperware container of these has vanished into the nether! :-O

I don’t think these really need any other treatment but i’m sure they could be coated in dark chocolate to great effect.


Symptomatic String Algae – Addressing the verdant irritation.

It is no secret that I like a good healthy and biologically-diverse water-body or 5 in any garden
 ohhh so many benefits you’d be mental not to have one!

My most voluminous one is an IBC tank (International Bulk Container) that i’ve converted into an above ground native fish breeding tub. Having an above-ground water body of this kind has several qualities which lend itself to high algae load so i’m going to use this as an example of how to holistically deal with algal blooms
 particularly the annoying but not deadly ‘String’ or ‘Matt’ Algae!

Now, a bit of background; Algae is an immense and extremely diverse group of photosynthesising organisms
 often thought of as very simple plants. Particularly focussing on freshwater ponds, you get a range of slimy and short-length algae that cling

Stringy and abundant! HALP!!

to surfaces which are generally beneficial. String Algae is a filamentous type that starts growing to tough fine string lengths of over 7cm and keeps going!!! This can grow very rapidly under the right conditions and double its volume in 24 hrs
 not deadly to us but a big inconvenience for small fish and tadpoles who tend to get caught up in it. Plus it can get quite unattractive! It even tied up some Water Lily flower buds and stopped them surfacing this year. Honestly
 I was toying with the idea of drying quantities of it and turning it into baskets or hats or something!!

Conditions that favour rapid algal growth are water warmth, high sun and high water nutrient availability, so any algal problem can be first seen as a response to any or all of these imbalance conditions.

  • Water warmth: Ponds that are shallow and of small water volume are often the worst for this as they warm quickly from external factors. It helps to maintain some depth when planning/constructing even small ponds and sheltering away from overly-high sun exposure, particularly during the afternoon.

    → This is not a problem for my 800cm deep IBC tank although the vertical depth of its walls means it picks up some extra sun-heated surface area than an in-ground water body. (Am planning on cladding the tank to reduce it’s sun-exposed surface area.)

  • High sun: I mentioned Algae is photosynthetic, sun is it’s energy! Meaning if you have a pond or dam with dawn till dusk sun, you’re likely to have a fair bit of algae!

    → I’ve situated the IBC tank with a large tree to it’s West. This shades for most of the afternoon but over all a fair bit of sun is received through tank walls. Cladding will help stop light getting through.

  • High water-nutrient availability: If you feed fish make sure you don’t over-feed as that feeds the Algae. It also helps to have lots of strong growing aquatic plants which readily take up excess nutrient as it becomes present. I like using things like Duckweed amongst others, as it readily takes dissolved nutrient out of the water, converting it directly to chicken food.

    → Speaking of chickens, I believe they have figured out a way to perch on the edge of my IBC to eat KangKong (Water Spinach)
 fresh chicken poop may be the excess nutrient load i’m trying to avoid! :-/

While you are getting on top of all of these issues, there are a couple of things you can do that will help decrease the String Algae in your pond or dam… NOTE: Avoid using chemical Algaecides
 they will kill all of the beneficial algae as well as the targeted stuff, leaving a gap in your food chain and a chance for something nastier to jump in!

IBC Tank conversion for Native Fish Breeding

It turns out Barley Straw that is submerged in water will be decomposed by a fungus, releasing a compound that blocks the formation of new String Algae. This doesn’t kill the adult strands but seems to definitely reduce or stop it’s baby-making for a period of time. The act of pulling the long strands of adult String Algae out of a pond’s depths suddenly feels like a far more fruitful activity!

A bit of a shortcut
 you can buy the Barley Straw Solution in a bottle now from your local garden supply joint. I got some and tried it in the IBC. Seems to work well but this isn’t something to solve the problem completely
 just a handy tool! Of coarse, if you havn’t addressed the roots of the problem then the speed with which the algae bounces back is still rapid.

The systematic approach always wins!!!

For the love of Aussie Bees – Got’s the BEE FEVER.

I’ve always had a healthy respect for bees… in the last few years my respect has broadened and grown to encompass many more bee species as i’ve discovered their seemingly less obvious existence (at least to modern white Australia). The sheer diversity that Australia holds in native bees is of huge wonderment to me and I rarely get quite as excited as when I manage to spot one lured back to the suburbs or out on a bushwalk.

More recently, it seems like a dam has broken in my head… I think triggered by the successful division of the original Stingless bee (Tetragonula carbonaria) box here and/or the acquisition of a couple of new colonies at the end of 2015. I’d been researching trap nest construction for a couple of years and floodgates wide open, I decided it was time to get serious about my home’s beneficial insect housing options to bolster the more solitary of the native bee species as well as any other happy coincidental residents that felt like moving in.

Insect hotel Alpha

One moderately sized insect hotel wall quickly became two as I feared running out of space for the quantity and variety of nesting material I wanted to try. I’ll talk more in the future about specific types and the species they have attracted but the range briefly includes Mud blocks, Cob blocks, Pithy stem bundles, Hollow stem/Wax paper straw bundles, Drilled hardwood holes down and across grain, same with soft-woods, varying hole sizes from 3-10mm. Some large hole-dwelling wasps will seemingly use up to ~13mm holes.

Insect hotel Beta

It doesn’t all happen at once but adding the biggest range of nesting materials ensures the greatest diversity of inhabitants. Of coarse, housing is only one side of the coin with these things… you need a good amount and diversity of flowering plants to provide food and initial attraction to the area. An accessible source of water is needed too, this means pond with floating aquatics to land on, or even just putting a stick or rock in your bird-bath so bees can drink without drowning.


Australian Paper Wasps in the Garden – another case of Knowledge is Power!

Often, when I talk to people about wasps, I find they look upon them very unfavourably as a menace to family health and often for this reason… something to be destroyed on sight.

Most often the wasps that come to these people’s minds first are in the Paper Wasp family which, as their name suggests, build their fantastic nests out of papery material often found in protected locations under eaves and hidden in dense vegetation like hedging. I believe one of the reasons they are more frequently found close to dwellings in suburbia is that they havn’t got as much access to all of the nice high ‘out of our way’ spots that taller trees and natural dense stands of vegetation that they’re used to in the wild. Lawns make terrible wasp habitat!

In the danger-zone
Large colony In the danger-zone

The thing is most native Paper Wasps have very little interest in attacking you unless they regard their nest is under threat. Fairly understandable really… living in a colony means that many of their young’uns are together and under threat at the same time, hence the desire to defend said colony is relatively strong. Human parents would probably get pretty violent if they found their Childcare centre was under attack too!!! ;-p

The only time i’ve been attacked is if I’ve accidentally pruned too close to a nest I neglected to detect, in which case I say ‘fair enough guys, message received!’. Working close to active nests, i’ve found remaining calm also helps in keeping the wasps calm. Of coarse I keep an eye on them for warning signs too, such as individuals on the nest beginning to turn and face you.

Now, don’t get me wrong… if a member of your family is allergic to wasp stings I can fully understand the need to keep paper wasp nests away from your living areas etc.

BUT… I happily co-exist with these guys both where I live, and in gardens I work at all around the Central Coast and Hunter Valley. Not only that, but they provide a POWERFUL pest control function in these gardens which saves me a lot of effort and energy.

As soon as a population establishes itself within range of a vegetable garden I see almost no Cabbage Patch Butterfly caterpillars on Brassicas (Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Asian Greens, Broccoli etc.) with wasp individuals continually scouring leaves for more grubs.

Native Paper Wasp making a right mess of a 3-Striped Potato Beetle Larva
Native Paper Wasp making a right mess of a 3-Striped Potato Beetle Larva

Native Paper wasps are also the only thing i’ve seen actively attempting to control the larvae of 3-Striped Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila) making me think they’re likely to go for larva of Leaf-eating Ladybeetles (Epilachna spp.) too. Natural Pest Control Champions!

So next time you find a Native Paper Wasp nest, take a deep breath, think again and evaluate all of the positives and negatives of its presence and location. If you still want it gone, perhaps think about armouring up and translocating the nest rather than burning or poisoning the whole colony.

A bit of knowledge can make all the difference in how you regard these amazing little critters!

Grafted versus Non-Grafted Passionfruits – Possibility for alternative rootstock options?

Now, there are very few people from experience that don’t like eating Passionfruits in some form or another. Common, easy to grow and sweet, these relatively thirsty climbers have been grown by households in Australia for a long time.

When you go to acquire an edible Passionfruit plant in Australia you have a few main options; the variety – Black, Panama, Banana, and whether it is grafted or un-grafted. First available in the season are the grafted var’s as the non-grafted take a little longer to get going. You may be wondering… whats the real difference?

Happily growing and fruiting amongst native vegetation by creek no rootstock required
Naturalised Black Passionfruit

I personally avoid buying grafted Passionfruits as the rootstock used is from an exceptionally weedy Passionfruit variety from South America called Passiflora caerulea. The reasons given for its use as a rootstock is that it is cold-hardy and disease resistant, but it also readily sends sub-surface runners and shoots out which have to be constantly kept back or it will quickly overtake the top of the graft (desirable bit) and probably a lot more of your yard! Vigorous to the point that it will smother vegetation in yard and bush alike, it also produces natural cyanide in its stems, leaves and immature fruits so don’t let livestock or other animals (incl. children) eat it either.

I feel that part of the reason Blue Passionfruit is so frequently used as rootstock may be that a single plant will produce 1000 plants for grafting onto due to its running habit and that saves money, effort and time growing 1000 whole other rootstock plants as grafting fodder.

If you live in an area like Victoria or inland that has much colder periods of the year, the

Passiflora herbertiana fruit
Passiflora herbertiana fruit

Blue grafted varieties may be right for you. The rootstock being a bit less excessively-vigorous in the cool but you’ll still need to keep an eye on those runners as it can still be a weed in these areas. Possibly growing these in a container may help you to restrict much of this unwanted spread.

If you live in an area classed as warm-temperate, subtropical through to the tropics you’ll be able to grow non-grafted Passionfruit quite easily and with much less maintenance. The trouble more seems to be keeping water up to them in a low input system. Ie; minimal fertilisation, watering etc. tending to do much better in a partially sheltered understorey situation.

Three colour shades over flower age.
Passiflora herbertiana flowers

The main basis for this post is that i’m growing a native Passionfruit (Passiflora herbertiana) which is a bushfood local to the NSW east coast and ranges, into Queensland. The fruit itself is small, edible and sweet but has a distinct aftertaste. I havn’t heard of anybody trying this but I wonder if using this native species as a rootstock could reduce the relatively high water requirements of the cultivated Passionfruit varieties. At least for the areas where the native has natural distribution. I believe Passiflora herbertiana is not as cold hardy as Blue Passionfruit but having evolved in an arid country like Australia I assume it is more ably adapted to drought and minimal irrigation. Also the risk of it taking over or becoming an environmental weed is about zero.

Currently just an idea, if you’re reading this and have any input or thoughts I’d greatly appreciate the discussion. 🙂

Artichokes – The Perils of the Common Name… (in this case, delicious peril!)

What does this title mean?! Well… i’m on about vegetables called Artichokes. In the vegetable world there are three kinds i’m aware of so far, all rather distinctly unrelated to each other!

Globe Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) – cultivated from a type of thistle with the core of the young flower buds eaten, steamed or picked. These are what you’d probably think of when you first hear Artichoke, buying them ready-pickled in jars from the supermarket.

Jerusalem Artichoke Harvest

Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are closely related to sunflowers and produce a large mass of reasonably knobbly tubers at its base come the cooler seasons. Clean with a brush and cook with skin on. Delicious roasted, baked or steamed with a nice subtle flavour and buttery texture. The plant is very easy growing and even gives you a spread of miniature sunflower-type flowers before it dies back. I love the plant and am I’m a big fan of the tubers but I have had reports of some people experiencing gastro-intestinal discomfort, from mild gas to wild and stormy intestinal disturbance. I’d suggest that if it’s your first time eating Jerusalem Artichoke try not to eat an excessive amount of it at once and see how you go! 😉

Chinese Artichokes (Stachys affinis) are closely related to Lamb’s Ears (good Permaculture toilet-paper) and in the mint family. Another name which I might try to use for these are ‘Crosnes’ as there seem to be a number of recipes using that name. Recently, I came across these at random in a catalogue and decided to give them a try last season. Recently had my first big harvest which prompted this article.

Where runners go --> Crosnes grow!
Chinese Artichokes or Crosnes

The plant can be treated as a mint in that it likes a moist positions ends shallow runners out rapidly to fill the space it’s grown in. This spreading is a good thing though because Where Runners Go – Crosnes Grow. It also seemed to grow quite happily around and beneath numerous other plants in the bed. Harvest when the plant plant dies back in winter and you’ll find these amazing pearly white smooth grub-like tubers in the first 10cm of soil.

They can be eaten fresh in salads or cooked in stir-fry’s for a crisp and refreshing texture that remains after cooking. Mildly flavoured but I think totally delicious! In fact I’m so thoroughly overjoyed with Crosnes that i’ve been spruking them all over the place!

The main reason that we don’t see Chinese Artichokes or Crosnes in the supermarket (at least in Australia) I suppose could be due to the fact that they rapidly dry out in the open air. They can be effectively stored in a container of moist coconut peat or sand. The same goes for storing Jerusalem Artichokes.