Sharing what we know, and what we have
Spending time exploring ways to restore planetary health is arguably better for our mental health than doom scrolling. This is a good thing, because sometimes coming up with ideas of what to do next actually takes quite a bit of thought and research. If we’ve already been trying to live as best we can, sometimes it feels as though there’s not much more we can do. But of course, there always is more that can, and must, be done.
Sharing what we know, and what we have, is an ongoing way to contribute.
Growing Edible Gardens Alongside Wildlife in the Blue Mountains
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can share what we’ve learnt during COVID and the time many of us spent setting up edible gardens; and also what’s been learnt running Blackheath Community Farm for the last five years. Unfortunately, living in a World Heritage Listed area, with all the wildlife that love our gardens as much as we do, means that many people have simply given up on growing edibles, because the frustration of losing crops has outweighed all the benefits. Not everyone wants to go to the cost and effort of building garden enclosures or putting up netting, which is what’s necessary to protect so much of what we’d love to grow.
A few days ago I did a call out to the Blue Mountains Garden Groupies and asked which edible plants they were able to grow without needing protection from wildlife. I got an enthusiastic response and have summarised the plants everyone mentioned in the list below, grouped in ways that I personally would use them. Feel free to give feedback on anything I’ve missed, or different ideas for using certain plants.
The lists that everyone provided depended very much on which wildlife had access to each person’s garden. Those who live closest to the bush and have kangaroo, possum and bush rat visitors can grow far less than those that have only recently established a garden in the middle of town … sometimes it takes a couple of years for wildlife to find out what you’re doing!
We’ve set up a perimeter fence at the Farm that keeps kangaroos out, so we mainly have to cope with birds and rodents. In my garden at home we also have possums. I left a couple of suggestions out if I knew for sure we couldn’t grow them at the Farm or in my garden.
At the Farm today we weeded and began preparing a demonstration bed where we’ll start to grow more of the things on this list so we can show everyone what’s possible if you’d like to grow food without nets.
Planetary Health Initiative Demonstration Bed
Over the next few weeks we’ll also begin creating a demonstration bed at the old Katoomba Golf Club as part of the Planetary Health Initiative. If you’d like to be involved, contact email@example.com
Tonight’s Un-Netted Blackheath-grown Three Course Meal (except for the peas and silverbeet which grew in the Farm enclosure)
Tonight I made a dinner mostly of food grown without nets in Blackheath … there’s so much you actually can grow, so it’s definitely worth trying again if you’ve felt disheartened by your first attempts. Ingredients included Blackheath-grown purple congo potatoes, oregano, garlic, snow peas, nasturtiums, oca, onion, silverbeet and raspberries.
Purple Congo Potato Rosti, with oregano pesto, char-grilled snow peas, nasturtium flowers and Oca leaves (NZ yam).
Miso soup with vegetarian dumplings, char-grilled onion and silverbeet.
Homemade vanilla icecream with freshly-picked raspberries.
If you don’t have oregano, now’s a good time to ask gardening friends because most gardeners will be cutting the plants back and dividing them around this time (unless they’re making bucket loads of pesto).
And here’s the list:
Wildlife Compatible Edibles
At the top of the list was leeks, which were described as ‘tough as old boots’.
Leaves of edible Geraldton Wax flowers (Jambinu)
NB. These were mentioned but there are lots more bush tucker plants as well.
Greens that are excellent for pesto
Oregano and marjoram
Rocket and wild rocket
Spinach, especially perennial variety
Greens that are excellent for salads
Sorrel and red sorrel
Rocket and wild rocket
Veggies that are great for saute, stir fry, curries, quiches or frittata
Leeks, onions, shallots, chives and garlic chives
Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Herbs that are great for pasta sauces, stuffings, and to give flavour to almost anything
Oregano and marjoram
Greens/veggies that are excellent for soups and stocks
Leeks, Garlic, Onion, Chives, Shallots
Veggies that can star as an accompaniment to any meal
Radishes and pickled radish pods
Veggies that are great for pickling
Radishes and radish podss
Veggies that are staples …
New Zealand yams … oca
Veggies or Herbs that are great in cakes and biscuits
Limes – Tahitian, Makrut
Raspberries if you don’t mind sharing some
Pomegranates (leaves edible)
Strawberries (red painted decoy rocks have been successful at Springwood Community Garden)
Lady finger and red Dacca bananas