A new verge garden for Unley

written by Anne Wharton

Our Grow Grow Grow Your Own Group recently put a new raised bed on the verge on the corner of Dover St and Cambridge Tce, Malvern. Nolda who is maintaining the verge garden is particularly interested in bush foods. All the plants in the bed are native bush foods and have either edible leaves or fruits. Hopefully this will give neighbours some new ideas of what plants to try and grow in their own gardens and how to incorporate them into some tasty meals. More and more of our native foods are already appearing in some of the best restaurants. bush bed2

The bed is a wicking bed and should not need too much attention. All the plants are labelled and there is also braille signage around the edges.

The Grow Grow Group are hoping to establish more verge gardens in the Unley Council area later in the year.

For more information and some wild food recipes, have a look at Neville Bonney’s book “Knowing, Growing, Eating: Edible Wild Native Plants for South Australia”.

Food security?

by Peter Croft

Many of us grow some of our own food: in front and back gardens, on porches and balconies, and on verges.

It’s a great feeling doing this. The food is fresh and we know what’s gone into it. And it’s food metres rather than food miles.

sideThere’s a broader issue though: we are heading for a food crisis. At the moment, we have about 7 billion people on the planet but, on current trends, 9 billion by 2050. The apparent productivity gains of the green revolution of the 1970s, involving high-yield plants and intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides, have been overtaken by population growth. Poverty is now on the increase and many people in future will not have enough to eat.

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Bush foods workshop at the Unley Community Centre

by Steven Hoepfner (www.earthright.com.au)

Pigface (Kakalla)

Pigface (Kakalla)

Having never presented a workshop on Bushfoods before (a subject dear to my heart), I decided it was best to put native foods into context. Inspired by Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu, Black Seeds I explained to the audience which was in excess of 30 people (not bad for a stormy afternoon), that Australia at the time of our early European explorers was “not a land peopled by wanderers, but a landscape created by the enormous labour of a people intent on creating the best possible conditions for food production.” This point is ever more powerful when one realises that after 40,000 plus years of habitation, the only evidence of Aboriginal occupation on this land is some large piles of seashells along the coast and some intricate, enduring culturally significant art. A stunning example of ‘sustainability’ if you ask me.

During my talk, I mentioned my favourite bushtucker plants that are best suited to the Adelaide area, those being:-

  • Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia)
  • Pig face (Carpobrotus rossii)
  • Bower Spinach (Tetragonia implexicoma) New Zealand Spinach/Warrigal greens
  • Muntries (Kunzea pomiferra)
  • Desert Raisin (Solanum centrale)
  • Sea Celery (Apium prostratum)
  • Yam Daisies (Microseris lanceolata)
  • Quandongs (Santalum acuminatum) which has a semi-parasitic nature (hosts include native grasses, groundcovers, Acacia victoriae)
muntries

Muntries

All of these beside the Desert Raisin are naturally found occurring within 50km of the Adelaide CBD, and are well suited to growing here. These are the sort of plants that, once established, would do well in a unkempt corner of the garden, the verge or even a park down the road. As they have been growing here for millennia, they are well suited to our dry summers and out perform many introduced plants that aren’t edible.

I wont go into detail for all of the plants listed, but two of note are Muntries and Yam Daisies. Muntries love a sunny, dry position and thrive in a sandy soil. Trellis them to keep some of the fruit away from Lizards and you’ll be eating these pea-sized Apple/Cinnamon flavoured fruits in 3-5 years. Much quicker than an actual Apple tree.

daisy

Yam Daisy

The Yam Daisy, well, I could talk about this wondrous little daisy relative for hours on end. From it’s nodding habit as it sets its seeds, to the way it single handedly sustained families for generations and generations all across the south west corner of this beautiful continent. Most importantly though, the flavour. Raw, it taste a little like a cross between a carrot and a Coconut but once baked, the sweet Coconut flavour is undeniable! The best thing is, if you plant it in your veggie garden, it will thrive as it seems to have encountered cultivation somewhere in it’s history! Explorers recount seeing literally piles of the tubers of this plant around indigenous cooking areas upon first contact. There are anecdotes that refer to women being able to collect enough of these tubers to feed their entire family for the whole day, within an hour and a half! Sure beats my 9-5 workday! Sadly, with the introduction of hard hooved animals and widespread and soil depleting farming practices, this extremely beneficial plant has all but disappeared. All the more reason to set up a population in your own garden!

Bush foods is an addictive subject once you scratch the surface. I have focused on our local plants but there are many others from all of this vast and complex country. The fact that many are under extreme pressure from our expanding population is reason enough to try to preserve them in our backyards, let alone the tastiness of including them in a meal. I’m always thrilled when I offer a new flavour to a guest and watch them as they try to guess what it is.

With much gratitude to the organizers of the event, I closed my presentation by reading a simple, yet extremely poignant quote by poet and environmental activist, Gary Snyder. It reads, “Nature is not a place to visit, it is home.”

Grow well!