3 Bold Reasons To Eat Native

Dianella berries – tart and crunchy

Fit Native Foods

When we started growing native food plants, we thought these young plants would have similar needs to the others. But it turned out they were more hardy. And best of all, they grew in the shade of the fast growing fruit trees like Mulberry, Jack-fruit, Pear, Mango [and our 100 or so other trees.]

Bush Lolly – sweet and juicy

Old-World Exploration Within Modern World

Meet the world of underutilised native foods. These foods are growing in neglected areas out of reach of the suburban lawn-mower. Hidden from the chemical sprays of council workers, and laying low in ditches beside massive fields of cereal crops.

Native foods are resilient to their hometown soil and micro-climate. Some have fallen extinct, some have a precarious existence, but many native foods have enjoyed a renaissance. Many have been developed and are now commercially propagated and enhanced by programs of natural selection.

Lilly Pilly – crunchy, tart and juicy

Best Reasons to Put Native on Your Plate

1. Culinary Joy

New foods can bring colour into our food pallet. Trying a new food can take us on a culinary adventure. Sadly, many of us walk past a native food without ever tasting it. Chefs all around the world are searching for ingredients that are out of the ordinary.
Worldwide there are more than 50 000 edible plants. Remarkably, three of these plants [rice, maize and wheat] provide 60 percent of the world’s food energy intake. Fresh native foods are rarely on our dinner plate.

Australian Native Raspberries – sweet and plump

2. Super Health Benefits of Eating Native

A lot of native foods are superfoods. They are vibrant in colour and rich in nutrients. Sadly these loud qualities can turn some cooks away. Many chefs are finding ways to capture the vibrancy and strong flavours. Western foods, such as Peas, enjoyed genetic selection and culinary attention for centuries. Native foods need chef-pioneers explore ways to harness the super nutrition and complement the bold flavours.

Native and non-native tea herbs growing happily together at Silk Farm

3. Growing Local Suits Us Locals

The greatest benefit of eating Native food is the boost to the environment. By growing indigenous foods, a farmer won’t need to alter the terrain as much. There is a species for wetland, another for zones that are high and dry. Nor will the farmer need to add chemicals or soil enhancers. The plants that are native don’t need specialist support. They know what they are doing and just need appreciation and room to grow.

The native birds will appreciate the habitat. Sure, they will eat some of the crop (as they already eat the non-native crops), but they will also return fertiliser, pick off insects pests and work to regenerate the land. All these factors build a richer food future.

cockatoo dropping a macadamia nut
cockatoo drops nut

Our Top Bush Tuckers

  1. Finger Lime – Many of our friends hunger for this fruit. It performs well on the edge of a forest where it can get a little direct sunlight to form fruits.
  2. Macadamia – the visiting children have learnt when they are ready to eat. They have a devoted smashing station made with two rocks. They look for slight blemishes on the shells. The pattern is mottled like a leopard skin. This develops when the fruit has fallen away and the nut has matured.
  3. Native Raspberry – we select to grow the less seedy fruits. They deliciously tart and fruit nearly all year around but most importantly they are fruit over winter.
  4. Dianella – Wollongong Uni Innovation Campus has the best we have ever tasted. And hardly anyone knows to eat them. These look stunning and taste great.
  5. Walking-Stick Palm – small but delightful and easy to pick.
  6. Anniseed Myrtle – Fantastic leaves for herb tea.
  7. Sandpaper Fig (the skin is tough like a kiwifruit and the flesh is sweet). This grows to be a huge tree – so make sure it is not going to block the sun coming to your home or over your neighbour. It will help to hold the bank of a local creek or an area too steep for other uses.
  8. Native Rosella – the flowers are like a soft lettuce. This is a short-lived delicate shrub. Shrubs and understorey plants that are edible are hard to find in a permaculture system – so this is a must in our food jungle.
  9. Davidson Plum – strong bitter flavour, spectacular plant, erect and ferny with fine pastel pink flowers. It is also an understorey plant until it reaches maturity.  The fruits fall when they are ready so keep a layer of soft mulch underneath to pillow their fall.
  10. Sea grape – small fleshy fruits. Commonly grown in large areas like a steep bank.
  11. Native Orange – the skin is tart but the flesh is perfumed and sweet. There is variation in the fruits on the single tree. This plant deserves to be cultivated and developed.
  12. Lilly Pilly – The best Lilly Pilly my family has tasted are ones that were growing in the carpark of MacArthur Square Shopping Centre. It grows happily here too. Search for varieties with big purple fruits
  13. Lemon Myrtle – good for herb tea and as a perfume. We were very happy for years with this Myrtle until we discover the Anniseed Myrtle. (Just personal taste).
  14. Blueberry Ash – These fruits look pretty but a bit skinny in comparison with Dianella.  A bonus is it fruits late in summer when other plants are having a rest.
  15. Mountain Pepper – delightfully peppery leaves, loves growing here in part shade.
  16. Native citrus
  17. Pigface for flowers and edible stems
  18. Native Leeks
  19. Kangaroo Grass
  20. Nardoo
  21. Native Clumping Bamboo – we have successfully overwintered our first native bamboos from far north queensland and hope to support this crop in the solar traps of our food forest.
European limes, Davidson Plums, little Sandpaper figs and big pink Malay Apples

Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

Design Matters

The 3 things that make Permaculture different:

  1. It has an ethical core. The test is: if it isn’t good for the earth and good for people in a fair share, then don’t use it.
  2. Imitate Natural Systems. Permaculture uses biological resources and natural energies and observes the clever ways nature responds and adapts. Nature cycles the energy resulting in now waste. Efficiency is Natural.
  3. Permaculture uses a set of Principles, Strategies and Techniques

Integration is Key

Permaculture uses organic gardening practices but it goes beyond. It integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden. Although organic food production often has many innovative elements, a Permaculture designed garden joins each of the elements into functional relationships.

Being Mindful

Permaculture design is mindful of our relationship with our environment.  We see we are living in a period of energy resource limits. And we acknowledge that emissions are contributing to the heating the planet. Many of us are feeling the changes and seeing our environments polluted.  Whilst a few wealthy people have the resources to ignore climate change, most of the world’s people cannot. Rich people can relocate, get air-conditioning,  and import truck-loads of water.  But even the wealthy cannot fix nitrous oxide build-up or save their beach homes from collapse.

Big, Little, and More

Permaculture thinking can be applied to many physical and social structures. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimise the impact of a culture on the surrounding environment. A good permaculture design has great potential. It can connect neighbours. The biggest Permaculture site in the world, The Chikukwa Project, has helped the whole community.

Permaculture design has:

  • Focus on closing the nutrient and water loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs.
  • Creation of healthier soil and diversity of produce.Our Permaculture Design and Demonstration Site.
  • Responsibility for waste. There is an aim to eliminate waste. i.e. no excess nitrogen nor weed seed, released.
  • Variety keeps residents engaged and excited about growing their food.
  • Imitating nature by conserving the soil and water, and genetic capital. There is an intensive use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control. You are unlikely to see food plants in rows. The permaculture site will look more like a food-forest with some open glades full of herbs and perennials.
  • Optimisation of natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.
  • Nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.
  • experimental permaculture chickenDependence on observation. Permaculture design is a mixed technology.  Bill Mollison (co-founder of permaculture movement) said that permaculture, like a bicycle, it is adaptable and has great potential but is only as good as the user.
  • Minimal risk. If we fail at permaculture, nature simply takes over. The soil will continue to heal, the forests grow and someone else can step in to rebuild our efforts.

difference between organic gardening and Permaculture

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

permaculture plans for farms

Closed and Open Nutrient Cycling

There is a significant difference between closed and open food-production systems. In a truly closed system (one in vacuum or in space) energy is not lost it is simply transferred from one being or element to another. In a permaculture system, (which can never be fully closed), energy is ideally used by one element effectively and passed on for the benefit of the next before it leaves the system.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

The Ideal Permaculture ‘Farm’ brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture, the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

Soft Technology Tea - Tea doesn't have to cost the earth
Tea doesn’t have to cost the earth

When is Permaculture not Organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic:

  • being adaptable as nature when we use local resources rather than imported certified organic resources
  • When we want to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from a non-organic plant supplier
  • Permaculture is capable of enhancing a supply and converting it to organic. for example: when we grow food-plants along polluted river or roadsides to filter out toxins and break them down to safer levels. We know we may not be able to eat these plants but we can keep them as our ‘catastrophe’ backup.

Essentially Permaculture is trying to close the energy loop by optimising what we have.

Fostering A Culture of Community Recycling

compost is pretty hot stuffThis is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis. For example: At Silk Farm we use recycled oil (to make fire starters) and the oil cans (for our simple worm-farm towers) from a non-certified organic restaurant who sometimes uses leaves and fruits from our garden. This ‘trade’ stimulates our local relationship and fosters a culture of resourcefulness.

Permaculture Can Actively Convert Resources

worm towersWe would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable).  In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it.  Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

Build you knowledge about permaculture by doing a permaculture design course with us.

And you can build your design skills with our Design-Think-Tank Sessions.

 

 

Integrated Technology 7000 yrs+

Rocket Stove Powering On

Get Hot Chow With Low Costs

Rocket stoves are super efficient. All you need is a bundle of sticks or dried cobs to cook dinner for the whole family.  Best of all, this fuel is easy to find. There’s no need to chop down trees or burn fossil fuel.

Last month we went on a great adventure shaoying from shaoyingtours.comstaying in an ancient village in the Shandong province of north-eastern China. We went with fellow Australian, Shoaying. She grew up in rural China and has expertise in Permaculture and Environment Management.

Shoaying is patient, knowledgeable, well-organised and fun. We were keen to see early stove technology known as the Kang.  April and Shaoying on Mulberry Island - shaoyingtours.comOur Permaculture courses demonstrate the use of integrated technologies such as a hybrid Rocket stove.

According to research at Tongji University, “The Chinese Kang is an ancient integrated home system for cooking, sleeping, domestic heating and ventilation. It is still widely used today in nearly 85% of rural homes in northern China. In 2004, there were 67 million Kangs used by 175 million people.”

Archeologists have found Kangs from 7,000 years ago. The Kang is still cooking, heating, drying herbs and garments and ventilating millions of homes everyday.  Ingeniously, the flue of the stove fans out underneath the big family bed in the next room before rising up a chimney in the next wall.  The warmth must be a joy when it is snowing outside and fuel is low.

Unfortunately, the Chinese Kang is in slow decline due to intense urbanisation. Given that each household uses approximately 4kg of poor quality fuel, a small city of a million people would need to bring in 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day and dispose or reuse the ash. This would incur a transportation and network cost. Not to mention the need to redesign existing urban buildings to incorporate chimneys.

However, more efficient rocket-stoves are growing in popularity in other rural and sub-urban areas of the world.

Ancient Rocket Stove Technology hasn't changed much - shaoyingtours.com

What Is A Rocket Stove?

Essentially, a Rocket Stove has well-engineered air flow, there is a J bend to the chimney and  good insulation to increase combustion temperatures. The hottest spot in a rocket stove is not at the flame, it is a little further up where the gases get fully party. As a result, the gases burn off furiously, whipping around in circles before they go up the chimney. A modern rocket stove sounds like a primitive turbo. To get this effect, it has a very good air intake and an elbow in the chimney. The fuel sits on a grate letting the air rush up from underneath. The combustion chamber is underneath the cookplate. In many other wood stoves, a lot of the heat flies away up the chimney.  The rocket stove intensifies the burn then concentrates energy directly at the pan.

Today, science is building toward a standard for the term ‘Rocket’ stove.  Because there is a tiny-sized, yet big difference between a modern Rocket stove [or Rocket-mass heater] the ancient Kang.  The modern Rocket stove has an insulated post-combustion chamber (technical term for a space between the flametips and the cookplate). This chamber intensifies the burn and reduces potential pollutants.  In addition to this technical development, a moving cowl would increase the Venturi effect of the chimney.

Insulation Builds Intensification

Insulation in a firebox is vital for conserving energy. As a result, the outer area of the stove stays cool. Only the flue heats up. In well insulated stoves, the energy is concentrated on the cook-top.  In China, locally made mud-straw bricks surround their stoves.  Sand or ash in the mud-brick can ensure even higher insulation-rates.  The Kang utilises the residual chimney heat. The chimney gases travel from the cooktop through the wall and fan out along a set of tunnels under the bed in the next room, then up a chimney on the next wall. Unlike the insulated stove, the bed has plenty of thermal mass, and the mattress is thin. So, the bed is toasty warm up by the time the dishes are washed.

Stove Fuel Resourcefulness

dumplings on rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Fuel is easy to find for the stove. For instance, most people burn a bundle of prunings from local orchards or stalks from the corn and wheat fields. In addition to these, dried corncobs  (after the juicy kernels have been removed) combust very well.  Each house has a collection of little bundles of sticks at their door and sunning on the roof.   Corn husks (the papery outer layer) are a convenient, easy, biodegradable material. Perfect to wrap the dumplings.  Also, rinsing and drying the wrappers enables easy re-use. Finally, these used wrappers become great starter-fuel for the stove.

steamed buns from rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Northern Chinese Kang Stoves are very adaptable. You can cook fish or soup at the bottom of the giant wok and stick corn cakes to the sloping sides. Alternatively, you can use water in the base and insert a grid at half way up to steam foods like the dumplings. The video shows how to make glass noodles.  Rocket Stove cuisine of Northern China doesn’t bake or grill foods. In summary, closed cook-pans with quick cook times are more efficient.

At the end of the day, home-made Mooncakes taste wonderful when steam-baked on a kang stove, the traditional way.

By the way, we have a
Permaculture Design Weekend Course
– Nov17th and Nov18th
come and join us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Joys

Little goes a long way

One tiny change can be a fun way to reduce waste, provide food, and connect with nature. Small solutions may appear to be whimsical yet they are inherently robust when well-designed. These tiny designs have the capacity to give you the tools, skills and understanding to make a lasting change. Starting small and feeling successful is a critical step in building resilience.

Observe and Interact

One of the core principles of permaculture is to turn the ‘problem into the solution’. For us there are some persistent little challenges. One of the greatest challenges is the bird-life. We love being close to nature but we also want to grow some food for ourselves.  Generations of wild-life enjoy easy pickings from our permaculture garden.  With good design tools we out-smart them. We get to benefit from their manure and let them eat the foods that grow outside the cages.

4 easy wicking pots
4 easy wicking pots

Whimsical World of Waste-Not

Boundaries and constraints often give rise to creativity.  For years, we have used re-purposed bird-cages to protect delicate plants.  In the intensive-care corner of the garden we often made wicking pots to nurture young rare plants.

 

In a whimsical moment recently we wondered: what it look like if we bundled these powerful features?

So, we made some wicking beds inside the bird-cage.  The tray is the water reservoir, the base holds our bio-char and compost which we mounded in the middle to increase surface area. (In a miniature way that Emile Hazelip used mounds to great effect.) Small gardens can be highly intensive. If you find a weed you have simply found a wasted space.

The cage acts two ways: as a support for young shoots and protection from wildlife . You can even use it as support for a cover if you wish to convert the whole thing into a tiny greenhouse. This concept of multiple-uses is another principle of permaculture.

Everlasting foods

New plants, like ginger, grow from selected green buds on fresh pieces at the grocery store. Set them to sprout in a warm place like a bathroom or kitchen window. The effort we spend in observing and caring for their development is well rewarded. We see the true value of the foods that we love.

Sprouts and Micro-greens are small but powerful

High levels of nutrition in a small space with little effort comes from sprouts and micro-greens. Within days, you have fresh food ready to eat raw or cooked. This food can be grown inside, even during winter. As long as they do not get too cold over night and are rinsed in luke-warm water each day, they supply nutritious fresh food.

Balconies all around the world connect people with the outside world. Imagine if these balconies grew some of their favourite foods, gave them more privacy and a mini sanctuary. What joy they would find in their tiny food forest.

If you want to learn more about Balcony design, tiny bird-house gardens, bio-char, wicking or Permaculture living you can join a workshop, sign up as a hybrid student (online and on-site) or enrol with us online. Drop us a line.