Food from Perennial(ising) Plants in Temperate Climate Australia, for February 2013

This is the late Summer post for the ongoing research project about perennial plants and self-perpetuating annual plants providing food in temperate climate Australia. The original article introducing this project, stating its aims, and providing participant instructions, can be found here. Growers are sending me information on a month-by-month basis, then this information is collated and published the following month. All previous posts from this series can be found by clicking on my author name (Susan Kwong), just under the post title above.

Grower #3

Grower # 3
Latitude 32°
Broad climate information Mediterranean climate, winters mild, rarely have frosts, summers hot, dry and windy. Mean annual rainfall about 870mm, most of it falling between May – Sept. Can go many weeks without rain in the summer months.
Brief description of garden/farm

Established suburban garden undergoing conversion to food production. 720 sq m block with as much garden as I can squeeze in around house, studio and driveway (and I have my eyes on that). Front garden
south facing, exposed to strong winds (7km from coast), competing with two huge street trees (Queensland box and unknown eucalypt). Back garden north facing, more sheltered, partially shaded by 2 coolabahs and jacaranda, established citrus trees, chook pen. Soil type – water repellant sand, greatly improved by addition of bentonite clay and constant addition of compost and mulch. Watered twice weekly from bore during summer months, plus hand watering as needed.


Botanical name Austromyrtus dulcis
Common name(s) Midyim berry
Parts used for food Berries
How used Fresh
Notes Native to northern NSW/Queensland. Beautiful, graceful low growing shrub, growing on our street verge – hot, dry, windy.


Botanical name Carica papaya
Common name(s) Pawpaw, Papaya
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Green, grated in Thai style salad; ripe – fresh or dried
Notes These grew out of the compost — lots of them — and yet I’ve had no luck growing them from purchased seed. First fruit this year. I transplanted a group of about 6 close together, another 3 plants scattered through the garden. Plants are about 2 years old now, some laden with fruit, some with just a few. Grow well in light shade or full sun. Protect them from snails, the rot can set in where there is damage. Susceptible to frost. I pick the fruit when it is half orange and finish ripening inside. Absolutely delicious, not like anything I’ve had from the shop.


Botanical name Ficus carica ‘Black Genoa’
Common name(s) Fig
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh or dried, jam
Notes Sooo sweet, and they’re even good if they are half dried when you pick them.


Botanical name Ipomoea aquatica
Common name(s) Kang Kong
Parts used for food fresh leaves and stems
How used salad, stir fry

Needs wet conditions. I grow this in a pot that has no drainage, in full sun. Haven’t tried it in my pond yet. Tropical plant, so it dies back in winter here. Easy to grow from cuttings (buy some from the veggie shop).


Botanical name Mangifera indica ‘Kensington Pride’
Common name(s) Mango
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, dried, frozen (to make icecream), chutney (ripe or
Notes My tree not fruiting yet, but there is a big one hanging over a fence where I can pick a mango or two on my evening walk — my neighbour has a productive tree.


Botanical name Olea europaea
Common name(s) Olive
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Pickled
Notes We have one ‘Verdale’ (large tree, large fruit, but not very productive) and one ‘Mission’ (this is just a new tree). We are bottling this year’s olives, still eating last year’s. There are many unharvested olive trees growing in the area, we just have to go out with a bucket.


Botanical name Pyrus pyrifolia
Common name(s) Nashi pear
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh
Notes I have a double grafted tree with Kosui and Nijisseiki varieties. The Kosui has been more productive so far and looks like it ripens earlier than the Nijisseiki (haven’t picked those yet). Protect from fruit fly — while the maggots don’t seem to grow in the fruit, where the fruit has been stung it goes hard, brown and bitter. I made a big tree bag out of mosquito netting and covered the whole tree once the fruit had set. Crisp and juicy fruit straight from the tree – what a joy!


Botanical name Vitis vinifera
Common name(s) Grapes
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh or dried (if you have suitable varieties)
Notes We live in the city, so there are always rats around. Last year the rats ate the entire crop despite covering bunches with mesh bags. They just chewed through the mesh. This year they got the entire crop except for one bunch which was covered by a paper bag. I guess this made it too slippery for them to get a grip. Fortunately we have a friend who has more grapes (and figs) than he can eat. When I was a kid in the ‘burbs you couldn’t even give away grapes and figs because everyone had more than they could handle.

Grower #3 is still obtaining food from: Aethionema cordifolium – never stops; Betavulgaris var. cicla – not so much of it in the really hot weather; Centella asiatica – also never stops; Cymbopogon spp.; Fragaria x ananassa – now finishing up fruiting and putting out runners; Ipomoea batatas – a real survival plant that one; Mentha sachalinensis; Symphytum officinale; and Tetragonia tetragonoides.

Grower #5

Grower # 5 — Susan Girard
Latitude 33.714043 S; Altitude 1017m
Broad climate information Rainfall approx. 1,400 millimeters mostly in summer.
Summer daytime temperatures low 20°C, with several days over 30°C + (more recently!) Nighttime temperature in the low teens.
Winter temperatures <10°C in the daytime with approx 0°C on clear nights and 3 – 4°C on cloudy nights. Regular frost overnight. There are 1 – 2 settled snowfalls per year.
Brief description of garden/farm

South facing site, ¾ acres block, adjoining part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area (approx ¼ is protected, so Zone V). Mandala gardens X 2 – front and back yards, orchard, hothouse; chickens and ducks


Botanical name Malus domestica ‘Red Delicious’
Common name(s) Apple ‘Red Delicious’
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh. Stewed – pies, apple fool, etc. Dried – dehydrated fruit leathers.

Grower #5 is still obtaining food from: Allium schoenoprasum, Allium tuberosum, Aloysia triphylla, Barbarea verna, Calendula officinalis, Citrus x meyeri ‘Meyer’, Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Melissa officinalis, Monarda didyma, Petroselinum neapolitanum, Prunus persica var. nucipersica, Rheum rhabarbarum, Rosmarinus officinalis, Rumex sanguineus, and Vitis vinifera, all profiled last month.

Thanks heaps to the growers for their time and input! I, and others, are learning so much, and we are most grateful. For anyone else who is growing perennial food plants and/or self-perpetuating annual food plants in temperate climate Australia, and who’d like to contribute plant profiles, you can email me for the proformas – 5555susana [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks for reading and, happy growing, harvesting and eating! :)