Tag Archives: weeds

A new adventure: Trees, Bees & Cheese

In November 2012, Sophie, Asher and I finalised our acquisition of just under 50 acres near Second Valley, on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. This comes after a number of years looking for land, weighing the merits of buying and dreaming of a regenerative, permaculture-based small farm. It’s an exciting adventure, and the process of our developing relationship with this patch of ground is now being documented at the blog Trees, Bees and Cheese. We invite you to check it out.


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How to make fennel cordial

After acquiring a copy of Lynda Brown’s The Preserving Book, Jeremy promptly developed a rigorous program of regular DIY preserving workshops, hosted by our very own contender for South Australia’s smallest kitchen. (Despite its size, our kitchen’s generosity of spirit, if not space, seems infinite, with successful cheese-making workshops as well as daily cooking duties completed with cosyness and ease).

With a parade of syrups, cider, champagnes and cordials, the DIY Preserving Autodidactory program has been largely successful, although not always in the direction intended. Adapting one recipe for mint cordial, Jeremy also brought a selection of other herbs (fennel, lemon verbena) to test in the same proportions as the mint. The highlight, even better than the original mint, was fennel: sweet, punchy and ever-fresh.

Finished, homemade herbal cordials, complete with labels courtesy of Giles

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Edible weeds: chickweed, mallow, sow thistle, plantain and nettle

This article is adapted from a segment Joel did on Radio Adelaide‘s Gastronaut.

Foraging for nettles, Maude Island Farm, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada

With healthy winter rains on the Adelaide Plains, neglected corners have once again been swallowed beneath a green tide. In a segment earlier this year, I presented a handful of the last edible weeds standing midway through an Adelaide summer. The cooler months bring with them a wealth of unsolicited edibles in the form of chickweed, mallows, plantain, nettles, thistles, and others. (In fact, almost all of these were the most prolific plants in the nature strip outside my house).

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Lillipillies: cordial, hot toddies and agar-agar whip

Lillipillies: the unsung tucker of the 'burbs

Winter brings with it lillipilli trees heavy with fruit. Footpaths and roads are buried beneath the purple fruit, and trees in parks and streets shiver heavily with the berries. An indigenous food plant of tropical and subtropical Australia, despite their ubiquity here in Adelaide, lillipillies (Syzygium sp.) still seem to transform many faces into a mask of terror when they see others popping the shiny berries into their mouth. Their arrival at winter Urban Orchards has provoked plenty of discussion – from participants incredulous that they’re edible at all, to the reminisces of participants who have spent time in South East Asia and who are reminded of forgotten tropical fruits with every crisp, subtle bite.

Following one particular Urban Orchard, I came home with a shopping bag full of lillipillies, gleaned from the South parklands. I’d remembered that Vic Cherikoff’s Bushfood Handbook contained some super-retro lillipilly concoction, and I was keen to expand my experience of this under utilised semi-wild food.

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Mud graffiti

I’ve often pondered what the most environmentally sound way of creating street art. The aggressive fumes of aerosol that try to guarantee its permanence just doesn’t appeal. Perhaps paste-ups are a good approach, where you can use whatever paint you like to create an image on whatever paper you like, then stick it up with flour and water. Or then there’s this:

Even if it didn’t call for passers-by to tuck into dandelions it would be great! Knocked together by US artist Jesse Graves, The process is much the same as making any other stencil, but instead of aerosol, you take with you a pot of mud, about the consistency of peanut paste, and a sponge for dabbing the image onto the nearest surface. There’s more about this, and another artist that produces moss grafitti at Wunderkammer Journal of Environmental Art; and Jesse Graves has a catalogue of past works and a ‘how-to’ here.

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Edible weeds: purslane, prickly lettuce and dandelions

This article is adapted from a segment Joel did as a semi-regular guest on Radio Adelaide’s weekly food show ‘Gastronaut’.

Last year’s winter rains saw the forgotten edges of our backyard proliferate with growth. As the bits I couldn’t get to – down behind the shed, and outside the kitchen window – disappeared beneath a thicket of thistles and dandelions, I consoled myself with the permaculture-based observation that weeds are an essential part of ecological succession, colonising available niches as they prepare the ground for healthier ecosystems.
As the driveway disappeared beneath prickly lettuce, I was fascinated to read in Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire, that traditional Andean farmers leave the wild ancestors of potatoes – what we might call weeds – growing on the edge of their potato patches so that the cultivated varieties can cross-pollinate with their wild relatives, “refreshing the gene pool” and imbuing them with wild resilience and robustness.
This idea of the wild, weedy edges indicates the resilience and value of weeds. Pat Collins, a herbalist from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales describes how many weeds not only have culinary or medicinal use and are good companions for fruit and vegetables, but they are also good indicators of deficiencies in soil health. Through their lives, weeds work to cultivate the life of the soil through improving soil structure and rebuilding organic matter.

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