Food from Perennial(ising) Plants in Temperate Climate Australia, for December 2012

Ripe Solanum muricatum (Pepino, Pepino Dulce, Melon Pear)

This is the first monthly post for Summer in the ongoing research project about perennial plants and perennialising annual plants that provide 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. The first monthly posts can be found by clicking on my author name (Susan Kwong), just under the post title above.

Grower #2

Grower # 2
Latitude 38.15°S
Broad climate information Mediterranean buffered by maritime influences. No frosts. Average annual rainfall 750mm.
Brief description of garden/farm Courtyard, raised beds mostly shaded in winter, as well as some planters that get winter sun.

Grower #2 is still obtaining food from Fragaria spp./Strawberry, Hypochaeris radicata/Flatweed, Passiflora edulis, Petroselinum crispum/Parsley, Santolina rosmarinifolia/Olive Herb and Symphytum officinale/Comfrey.

Grower #3

Grower # 3
Latitude 32°S
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 Cymbopogon spp.
Common name(s) Lemongrass
Parts used for food Leaf bases, green leaf blades
How used White part of leaf bases as flavouring in curries (can be frozen); dried green leaf blades as tea


Botanical name Cynara scolymus
Common name(s) Globe Artichoke
Parts used for food Leaf bases around flower bud, heart of flower (choke removed)
How used Steamed
Notes After the first flower is cut smaller flowers will develop further down the stem.


Botanical name Lycopersicon esculentum var. cerasiforme
Common name(s) Cherry Tomato
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Salad, stir fry, preserved in sauces, Italian-style pickles
Notes These just pop up all over the place from the compost.


Botanical name Mentha sachalinensis
Common name(s) Common or Garden Mint
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh as in salads, dressings, smoothies, dried as tea.


Botanical name Musa acuminata x Musa balbisiana (I think)
Common name(s) Lady Finger Banana
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh; makes brilliant banana bread; use leaves in place of aluminum foil.
Notes First time it has fruited this year, fruit was really small and didn’t ripen on the plant; ripened in a bag with an apple, very sweet. Needs loads more water and compost in our sandy soil than I gave it.


Botanical name Solanum muricatum
Common name(s) Pepino, Pepino Dulce, Melon Pear
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Peel and eat fresh, taste and texture similar to a melon
Notes Solanaceae family, low spreading shrub, layers easily where stems touch the ground, best supported to keep fruit off the ground. Grown in part shade (mine is under a ginkgo tree). Fruit changes from pale green to pale yellow with faint purple stripes when fully ripe; can be eaten green; skin is very thin and soft so susceptible to attack by snails, slaters and other grubs, and dogs who love to eat them straight from the vine.

Grower #3 Recipes

I’m very pleased and grateful to have been sent delicious sounding recipes from this grower featuring some of their profiled plants!

Pepino and Dhal Curry


  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 or 3 medium sized pepino melons, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 onions, chopped
  • Fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried chilli
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt to taste

Cook lentils and set aside.

Heat some oil or ghee in a bottom heavy pan. Sauté chopped onion, until translucent or slightly browned. Add ginger, garlic and mustard seeds and fry for a minute, then add spices and fry for a minute more.

Add chopped tomato and sauté till mushy.

Add chopped pepino, cooked dhal, and a bit of water if necessary. Add salt and lemon juice to taste. Cook gently for about 5 minutes.



  • 2.5 kg ripe tomatoes (see note below about substituting Cape Gooseberries for some of the tomatoes)
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 200g fresh ginger
  • 300ml dark malt vinegar
  • 2 tblspn black mustard seeds
  • 8 – 10 long red chillies
  • 2 tblspn paprika (or you can use chilli powder if you want it really hot)
  • 2 tblspn ground turmeric
  • 5 tblspn ground cumin
  • 250ml macadamia oil (if you need that much, I used less)
  • 200g raw sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt, or more, to taste

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water and remove the skins and seeds. Dice the tomatoes.
Cut the chillies in half lengthways and discard the seeds. Peel the garlic and ginger and chop, then blend in a food processor with some of the tomatoes if needed.

Heat the oil in a pan and when hot, add the mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin and paprika powder. Stir and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies.
Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt and vinegar. Simmer stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp and the oil has risen to the top (approx 1-1½ hrs).

Pour into sterilised jars.

You can use kasundi like chutney — with curries, with cheese, meat or eggs, in a burger, as a dip or just mixed with plain steamed rice.

I don’t know how long it keeps. We eat it too fast.

I have also used this recipe to make Cape Gooseberry Kasundi — replacing some of the tomatoes with a kilo of Cape Gooseberries. I also added half a cup of chopped dates to give it a richer texture as the gooseberries don’t have much flesh on them.

Eggplant (Brinjal) kasundi is worth a try too. I found a recipe online here.

Reader contributions

Many thanks go to one of our readers, Gordon from SE Queensland, who has sent the following clarification about Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis:

I’d like to add a bit to your information on Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis.

The most common name in Australia nowadays is probably Pak Choi or Pak Choy in my experience (and see Wikipedia, they have a great article on the varieties of Chinese Cabbage, mostly oriented toward chinensis). Chinese Cabbage mostly refers to Brassica rapa ssp. pekinensis (Wombok) which is the hearting variety with more whitish leaves (coincidentally, my parents used to grow this just outside Brisbane as a commercial crop in the late 1940s — early 1950s, though I have no idea what the market was like for it at that time).

What I did want to add to the information in the entry on Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis is that (at least for the stock I have) the large leaves have a slightly peppery taste, whereas the leaves on the seed stem have sweet taste (as does the stem and the flower). Both can be eaten raw or cooked (stir fried or steamed), though the large outer leaves are better cooked, and the seed stem leaves/stem/flowers are fantastic in salads. This is very much a cut-and-come-again plant. — Gordon

Gordon has also sent additional information for Morus spp.:

A Lao friend of mine has a demonstration sustainable farm in northern central Laos which has an international reputation and he harvests mulberry leaves as a food supplement for his livestock (goats and poultry) because he finds that he doesn’t have to give any other supplements. His 30-odd goats get all the grass and weeds harvested from around the farm, plus a few large baskets of mulberry leaves each day. He coppices the mulberry annually, and harvests leaves by counting down five leaves from the top of the "cane", then harvests the next five leaves.

The coppiced mulberry area was originally developed to provide leaves for silkworms, but he now has far more than he needs for the silk operation. But his largest income source from the coppiced mulberries is mulberry leaf tea. The leaves are hand processed in the same way as green tea (different to black tea processing mainly in that there is no fermentation stage) in a process that takes about 4 hours including the picking and washing.

He grows a different variety of mulberry for fruit, and now supplies frozen pulped fruit to organic cafes in the tourist areas, as well as mulberry wine (beautiful dark red wine). — Gordon

Excellent — clarifying or additional information is always welcome!

Big thanks to the growers again, without whom this research project would not exist!

If anyone else feels they would like to participate, you can email me for the proformas on:

  • 5555susana (at)

As I said in the introductory article, even if you have obtained food from one perennial(ised) food plant, then that can be useful to someone out there, so don’t hold back if you’ve been feeling that one or a few plants are insignificant!

And once again, if anyone wishes to profile a particular plant in more detail, please feel free, we’d love you to. Email:

  • editor (at)



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