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

Editor’s Note: I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Susan for taking the initiative for this excellent series, and, I’d also like to second Susan’s request for volunteers to continue it! There may also be individuals who would like to start a similar series for other climate zones. Either way, you’re encouraged to contact Susan, as outlined below, to find out how to proceed.

This is the late Winter post for the 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 have been sending me information on a month-by-month basis, then this information has been 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.

Note: I have decided to finish my involvement in this research project, finishing with this post, which will then be a full year of all four seasons here in temperate climate Australia, as it began in September last year (2012). However, because people have found it to be useful, I would like to again extend an invitation to anyone who might be interested in continuing it, to contact me for details of what’s involved:

  • 5555susana [at] gmail [dot] com

At the end of this article I am including a summary list of all of the plants that have been featured in this project over the past year, mainly to inspire everyone to contemplate creating food gardens that are self-perpetuating because of the inclusion of as many of these plants that can possibly grow where you are. However, be aware that these plants have been grown across the range of the temperate climate zone here in Australia, but, knowing that with the application of the knowledge of what microclimate and correct positioning can do to enhance your growing potential, much can be done. Further to that, designing your food gardens to mimic nature and your local ecosystems can only increase their stability and future thriving.

Grower #1

Grower # 1 – Chris McLeod Fernglade Farm
Latitude 37.5 ° S
Broad climate information Cool Temperate with temperature ranges between 0 degrees and 40 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is delivered fairly consistently throughout the year except in drought years when January and February are usually dry. Rainfall in a drought year will still reach about 500mm/year and in a wet year it can be over 1,400mm/year. It is not a particularly windy spot, but at least once a year winds will peak in excess of 100km/h (a Tornado went through last Christmas Day).
Brief description of garden/farm

The site is at an elevation of 700m above sea level in a volcanic massif (about 25 kilometres long). The highest point on the mountain range is about 1,020m above sea level and the range is predominantly forested although it has been logged intensively from about 1860.

Fernglade farm is on 22 acres of which about 4 to 6 acres are actively managed. The farm has no fencing and is open to the wildlife of which there is plenty and a lot of the surplus goes towards them. There are about 300 fruit trees in two separate food forests, 14 raised vegetable beds (and areas set aside for self seeded vegetables), 2 hugelkultur beds, a few berry beds, raised beds for potatoes, worm farm, 12 chooks and 60+ medicinal and culinary herbs.


Botanical name Apium graveolens
Common name(s) Celery
Parts used for food Stems, leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Celery is growing nicely at this time of year and it is a pick and come again type of vegetable. This plant is happily growing in amongst rocket and self-seeded carrots.

Botanical name Asparagus officinalis
Common name(s) Asparagus
Parts used for food Spears
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Asparagus is reaching for the sky and every day now produces new spears. The plants range between one and three years with the oldest plants producing the earliest spears. Asparagus is a real giver at this time of the year.

Botanical name Brassica rapa ssp. rapa
Common name(s) Turnip
Parts used for food Leaves, root
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Turnip when purchased don’t have a lot of flavour, but when home grown have an almost sweet taste. I think that some varieties can get as high as 20% sugar content. I eat the leaves as well as the beet which you can see popping out of the ground (a cream colour). It is the plant with the yellow flowers, and is in a forest of mustard and rocket. There are some chives too.

Botanical name Citrus australis
Common name(s) Australian Round Lime
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Raw, cooked, preserved
Notes Australian Round Lime has quite a long cropping season and the fruit has quite a mild flavour which makes for good fresh eating.

Botanical name Citrus maxima
Common name(s) Pomelo
Parts used for food Fruit, peel
How used Fruit raw. Peel, preserved, can be used for marmalade.
Notes The fruits of the tree are not yet ripe, but being so big, they have fallen in any serious wind (there are still heaps of fruit on the tree) so I’ve been eating the fallen fruit. They taste just like a grapefruit, but with quite a thick skin.

Botanical name Citrus x meyeri
Common name(s) Lemon ‘Meyer’
Parts used for food Fruit
How used Fresh, cooked, preserved
Notes Lemon ‘Meyer’ is a better summer producer of fruit, but some of the fruit has recently been ripe. It has a less zingy flavour than the Eureka and is probably better fresh eating. At the bottom of the photo you can see the companion comfrey plant sunning itself. All 300+ fruit trees now have a comfrey companion plant as the ones that did last summer went much better than those without.

Botanical name Daucus carota sativus
Common name(s) Carrot
Parts used for food Tops now, root later
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Carrots have spread their seed all over the place and here is one right next to a Californian poppy. The tops can be eaten and they taste exactly like carrots. The tops if cut will grow back. Carrots are always better grown from seed as transplanted seedlings will be forked or skewed, whereas seed grown carrots tend to be arrow straight.

Botanical name Eruca sativa
Common name(s) Rocket, Rucola, Arugula
Parts used for food Leaves, stems, flowers
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Rocket has spread right through the food forest and herbage and you can see a few of the white-flowered plants moving from the vegetable beds to off under the fruit trees.

Botanical name Foeniculum vulgare
Common name(s) Fennel
Parts used for food Leaves and stems now, root later
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Fennel is an excellent addition to any salad, but I find that it has to be used in small quantities or it overpowers all other flavours. This plant will happily self seed and produces a huge edible base.

Botanical name Origanum vulgare
Common name(s) Oregano
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes What home-made pizza would be complete without fresh oregano? It dislikes competition from other plants though so has its own dedicated growing space.

Botanical name Petroselinum crispum
Common name(s) Curly Leaf Parsley
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Parsley has self seeded here and does better than the seedlings that I deliberately planted. This one is growing amongst some geraniums and a local ground cover called "creeping boobalia". Great for falafels.

Grower #1 is still harvesting food from Allium cepa var. proliferum, Allium schoenoprasum, Beta vulgaris var. cicla, Brassica juncea, Centella asiatica, Citrus limon ‘Eureka’, Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Polygonum odoratum, Rosmarinus officinalis, Salvia officinalis, Sanguisorba minor, Thymus citriodorus and Tropaeolum majus.

Grower #2

Grower # 2
Latitude 38.15°S
Broad climate information Mediterranean buffered by maritime influences. No frosts.
Brief description of garden/farm

Courtyard, raised beds, mostly shaded in winter, as well as some planters that get winter sun.


Botanical name Allium cepa
Common name(s) Onion
Parts used for food Tops during winter
How used Fresh, cooked

Botanical name Allium tuberosum
Common name(s) Garlic Chives
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, cooked

Botanical name Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Common name(s) Perpetual Spinach
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, cooked

Botanical name Lactuca sativa ‘Sword Leaf’
Common name(s) Sword leaf Lettuce
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, can be cooked
Notes Self-seeded annual

Botanical name Lactuca sativa ‘Tree Lettuce’
Common name(s) Tree Lettuce
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, can be cooked
Notes Self-seeded annual

Botanical name Petroselinum crispum
Common name(s) Curly Leaf Parsley
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Fresh, cooked

Botanical name Raphanus sativus var. caudatus
Common name(s) Rat-tailed Radish
Parts used for food Leaves, flowers, pods
How used Fresh, can be cooked
Notes Have been eating the leaves this month, pods will appear later. Self-seeded annual.

Grower #4

Grower # 4 – Yvonne – Melbourne
Latitude 37°
Broad climate information Mediterranean temperate
Brief description of garden/farm Inner city urban garden full of edible plants – the majority perennial – with more than 20 fruit trees,
40 herbs, a constantly updated array of berries (trees, shrubs and vines) and many other edible goodies.


Botanical name Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Common name(s) Perpetual Spinach
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Perennial

Botanical name Rumex cristatus
Common name(s) Greek Dock
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Perennial

Botanical name Rumex scutatus
Common name(s) French Sorrel
Parts used for food Leaves
How used Raw in salads, green smoothies; cooked
Notes Perennial

Botanical name Tetragonia tetragonoides
Common name(s) Warrigal Greens, New Zealand Spinach
Parts used for food Leaves, best when young
How used Raw, cooked
Notes Perennial


Grower #6

Grower # 6 – Heather-Gaia Thorpe
Latitude 44 degrees South
Broad climate information

I live at the foot of the Great Western Tiers. These mountains are sometimes snow-covered in Winter.

Our climate is described as Mediterranean but we have colder Winters. We are subject to The Roaring 40s and quite severe equinoctial gales. We normally have wet Springs and fairly dry Summers. Temperature range is 32°C to -3°C. Summer average is 22°C, Winter is 14°C. Rainfall unknown at present.

Brief description of garden/farm ¾ acre in the village of Bracknell in Central North Tasmania. We are implementing our permaculture design. We are currently about 2/3 of the way through this. Our soil is clay loam and has been built up with compost, straw mulch and sheep manure. It has a history of excessive use of Roundup and superphosphate. We have not used any chemicals in the 6 years we have been here. We are mainly using “no dig” method for gardening. We have fruit trees, berries, vegetables and ornamentals. There are chickens and goats kept on the property.

Grower #6 is still harvesting food from Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Beta vulgaris/ Beetroot, Beta vulgaris/ Silverbeet, Calendula officinalis, Allium porrum, Brassica spp./‘ The Bracknell Brassica‘, Lactuca sativa and Pastinaca sativa.

List of plants featured throughout the year:

  • Aethionema cordifolium – Lebanese Cress
  • Allium cepa — Onion
  • Allium cepa var. proliferum — Tree Onions or Egyptian Walking Onions
  • Allium fistulosum — Spring Onions
  • Allium fistulosum — Spring Onions ‘Red Welsh’
  • Allium porrum — Perennial Leeks
  • Allium sativum — Garlic
  • Allium schoenoprasum — Chives
  • Allium tuberosum — Garlic Chives
  • Aloysia triphylla — Lemon Verbena
  • Amaranthus cruentus — Amaranth
  • Apium graveolens — Celery
  • Armoracia rusticana — Horseradish
  • Artemisia absinthium — Wormwood
  • Artemisia princeps — Japanese Mugwort
  • Asparagus officinalis — Asparagus
  • Austromyrtus dulcis — Midyim Berry
  • Barbarea verna — Land Cress
  • Beta vulgaris — Beetroot
  • Beta vulgaris — Silverbeet
  • Beta vulgaris — Silverbeet ‘Ruby Red’
  • Beta vulgaris var. cicla — Perpetual Spinach or Perennial Spinach
  • Brassica chinensis — Bok Choy
  • Brassica juncea — Mustard ‘Giant Red’
  • Brassica oleracea — Kale ‘Tuscan’
  • Brassica rapa nipposinica — Mizuna
  • Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis — Chinese Cabbage (non-heading)
  • Brassica rapa ssp. rapa — Turnip
  • Brassica spp. — ‘The Bracknell Brassica’
  • Calendula officinalis — Calendula
  • Capsicum pubescens — Perennial Chilli or Rocoto Chilli
  • Carica papaya — Paw Paw or Papaya
  • Centella asiatica — Gotu Kola
  • Cichorium intybus — Chicory
  • Citrus australis — Australian Round Lime
  • Citrus maxima — Pomelo
  • Citrus hystrix — Kaffir Lime
  • Citrus limon — Lemon
  • Citrus limon ‘ Eureka ‘ — Lemon ‘ Eureka ‘
  • Citrus limon x reticulata — Lemon ‘Lemonade’
  • Citrus reticulata — Mandarin
  • Citrus reticulata ‘Imperial’ — Mandarin ‘Imperial’
  • Citrus x meyeri — Lemon ‘Meyer’
  • Coriandrum sativum — Coriander
  • Cucurbita pepo — Pumpkin
  • Cydonia oblonga — Quince
  • Cymbopogon spp. — Lemongrass
  • Cynara scolymus — Globe Artichoke
  • Cyphomandra betacea — Tamarillo
  • Daucus carota sativus — Carrot
  • Diplotaxis tenuifolia — Perennial Rocket or Perennial Wall Rocket
  • Eruca sativa — Rocket or Rucola or Arugula
  • Ficus carica — Fig
  • Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ — Fig ‘Brown Turkey’
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Fragaria spp. — Strawberry
  • Fragaria x ananassa — Strawberry
  • Geranium robertianum — Herb Robert
  • Helianthus tuberosum — Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Helichrysum italicum — Curry Plant
  • Hypochaeris radicata — Flatweed
  • Ipomoea aquatica — Kang Kong
  • Ipomoea batatas — Sweet Potato
  • Lactuca sativa — Lettuce
  • Lactuca sativa ‘Sword Leaf’ — Lettuce ‘Sword Leaf’
  • Lactuca sativa — Tree Lettuce
  • Laurus nobilis — Bay Laurel
  • Lentinula edodes — Shiitake Mushroom
  • Levisticum officinale — Lovage
  • Lycopersicon esculentum var. cerasiforme — Cherry Tomato
  • Malus domestica ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ — Apple ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
  • Malus domestica ‘Discovery’ — Apple ‘Discovery’
  • Malus domestica ‘Granny Smith’ — Apple ‘Granny Smith’
  • Malus domestica ‘Red Delicious’ — Apple ‘Red Delicious’
  • Malus domestica ‘Rokewood’ — Apple ‘Rokewood’
  • Mangifera indica — Mango
  • Matricaria recutita — Chamomile
  • Melissa officinalis — Lemon Balm
  • Mentha sachalinensis — Garden Mint or Common Mint
  • Mentha spicata — Spearmint
  • Mentha spp. — Mint
  • Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Basil’ — Basil Mint
  • Mespilus germanica — Medlar
  • Monarda didyma — Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm
  • Morus spp. — Mulberry
  • Musa acuminata x Musa balbisiana — Lady Finger Banana
  • Ocimum gratissimum — Perennial Basil
  • Olea europaea — Olive
  • Origanum vulgare — Oregano
  • Oxalis tuberosa — Oca or New Zealand Yam
  • Passiflora edulis — Passionfruit
  • Pastinaca sativa — Parsnip
  • Petroselinum crispum — Curly Leaf Parsley
  • Petroselinum neapolitanum — Flat Leaf P arsley
  • Physalis peruviana — Cape Gooseberry
  • Plantago lanceolata — Plantain
  • Polygonum odoratum — Vietnamese Coriander or Rau Ram or Vietnamese Mint
  • Prunus domestica ‘Angelica’ — Angelica Plum
  • Prunus persica var. nucipersica — Nectarine
  • Punica granatum — Pomegranate
  • Pyrus pyrifolia — Nashi Pear or Asian Pear
  • Rheum rhabarbarum/Rheum x cultorum — Rhubarb
  • Ribes x culverwellii — Jostaberry
  • Rosmarinus officinalis — Rosemary
  • Rumex acetosa — Sorrel
  • Rumex cristatus — Greek Dock
  • Rumex sanguineus — Blood Spinach, Red-veined Dock etcetera
  • Rumex scutatus — French Sorrel
  • Rungia klossii — Mushroom Plant
  • Salvia officinalis — Sage
  • Sanguisorba minor — Salad Burnet
  • Santolina rosmarinifolia — Olive Herb
  • Smallanthus sonchifolius — Yacon
  • Solanum muricatum — Pepino
  • Solanum tuberosum — Potato
  • Solanum tuberosum ‘Purple Congo’ — Potato ‘Purple Congo’
  • Sonchus oleraceus — Sow Thistle
  • Stachys affinis — Chinese Artichoke
  • Stellaria media — Chickweed
  • Stevia rebaudiana — Stevia
  • Symphytum officinale — Comfrey
  • Taraxacum officinale — Dandelion
  • Tasmannia lanceolata — Mountain Pepper
  • Tetragonia tetragonoides — Warrigal Greens or New Zealand Spinach
  • Thymus citriodoris — Lemon Thyme
  • Tropaeolum majus — Nasturtium
  • Urtica dioica — Nettles
  • Vaccinium spp. — Blueberry
  • Vicia faba — Broad Bean
  • Vitis vinifera — Grape


Listed here are some benefits and outcomes from our project:

  • Knowing that a plant is already providing food in a climate that is similar to yours encourages you to feel confident to plant it and reasonably expect it to succeed.
  • There has been an increased awareness of annual plants that self perpetuate and therefore the opportunity to favour those plants in your gardening efforts for greater future ease. Of course the same goes for all the perennials that have been profiled.
  • I and others have become more familiar with the botanical and common names of our food plants.
  • There has been increased awareness of other edible plant parts beyond what is commonly eaten, and other uses for the plants profiled.
  • We have seen that a more biodiverse diet is possible from self-perpetuating food plants in temperate climate Australia because of the number of these plants that will successfully grow here and provide food. But please know that this project has merely scratched the surface! We had six growers contributing off and on (kudos to them for their contributions in amongst their busy lives!), so we saw a relatively small sample really, but we encountered well over one hundred plants. Definitely beyond that which we find if we look at the normal range of seeds and other plant material, and foods, on offer in the general marketplace.
  • I have enjoyed seeing what’s available to eat in each month and season, and have noted the great contrast between this reality bite (including what’s available at my local farmers’ markets), and the foods being sold at the big supermarkets.
  • It has been interesting to see what is available to eat, and when, across the range of climatic situations in temperate climate Australia , and the differences that altitude, latitude, and other variables cause.
  • We now have a list of climate-suitable perennial and self-perpetuating annual plants for reference and inspiration!


So finally, this is a last big thank you from me to the growers who made this project possible, for all their efforts in the growing of their wonderful gardens, and the information provided to me to collate. Every month I marvelled at the beautiful and bountiful plants that were providing them and theirs with food. Thanks too from the growers and myself for all the positive feedback and encouragement from readers’ comments and emails to keep it going — we have appreciated the support and the knowledge that people were gaining benefit. And grateful thanks also goes to Craig Mackintosh, PRI editor, for very helpful editorial and publishing assistance that has made our project read well and coherently, and look amazing — and for bringing the traffic numbers so that these posts actually get read!



7 thoughts on “Food from Perennial(ising) Plants in Temperate Climate Australia, for August 2013

    1. Spinach is high alkaloid plant as well but people eat baby spinach raw and cooking seems to deal with alkaloid issue – maybe its the same for carrot tops etc?

  1. I also want to thank Susan (and all of the contributors) for this excellent series which has provided a great deal of useful information and, importantly, very clear images to reinforce its usefulness.

  2. Hi Susan. Thanks for your inspiration and effort in putting this fascinating series together. It is really good to see the different food plants that people are eating.

    Hi Greg,

    Fair enough, I hadn’t heard of that before (rhubarb yes, carrot tops no). Has anyone else heard of this? The alkaloid in question is daucine.

    Carrots are reputed to have the following properties:
    – Diuretic (ie. makes you go to the toilet to urinate)
    – Antilithic (ie. reduces the likelihood of kidney stones)
    – Weakly anthelmintic (ie. destroys some parasitic worms)
    I’ve no reason to doubt you, but the only warning I’ve ever seen is not to drink excessive quantities of juice as it induces hypervitaminosis A (ie. not good as you’ve consumed too much – usually via juicing).

    The wikipedia entry suggests that there may be some dispute in relation to this concern:

    Carrot Methods of consumption and uses



  3. Hi Greg, thanks so much for taking the time to comment :) It is an interesting point, and broader topic, that you have raised. Some background first.

    It would be axiomatic to say that nearly all plants contain toxic compounds. But at every turn it is important to ask, “Toxic to whom?” “Toxic to what body part?” “In what quantities is this substance toxic?” “Are these toxins altered by the processes of digestion, or by cooking or other means?” “Is the toxin in every part of the plant, and in every life stage of the plant?” “Does the toxin have any beneficial properties if ingested appropriately?”

    As you can see it is a complex subject, but to put it in context, the normal parts of food plants that we commonly eat could be seen as being at one end of a spectrum, moderately safe to eat in quantity, with food-as-medicine plants, plant parts or herbs that are used in smaller doses at the other. All the plants involved have lots of similar chemical constituents, but they vary a lot in the amounts and concentrations, the array, what other constituents they might be paired with in a particular plant, and at a particular time.

    For example, we cannot generalise and say that all alkaloids are toxic and therefore should not be ingested. If you drink coffee, tea, or cocoa, you are imbibing significant quantities of alkaloids. It is possible to die from caffeine overdose because of the properties of this and other alkaloids, but of course it is entirely dose dependent. The same is true of the cyanogenic glycosides in apple seeds, peach kernels and similar. These substances have important and beneficial properties, such as being digestive stimulants, when eaten in the context of, and with the fruit that contains them, but if you isolate and concentrate one portion of that molecule in a lab, it can be damaging. Parsley and thyme contain neurotoxic (harmful to the brain and often nervous system too) substances that are quite fine for us to ingest when used as culinary herbs, but if you concentrate these substances as juices or herbal tinctures, then dosage limits must be strictly adhered too. Many of the benefits we obtain from eating plants are because of the constituents they contain and their properties, beneficial when ingested in the correct form and amounts, potentially harmful if overeaten, or overly concentrated.

    Many people would understandably be hesitant to eat unusual plants or uncommonly used plant parts of familiar plant foods, but I would highly recommend greater knowledge of food and medicinal plants and their constituents, and, at the very least, for people to definitely become aware of any plants that are actually detrimental to eat.

    But because there is the possibility of increased wellness and better functioning to be had, depending on the constituent and its properties, and the information out there can sometimes be misleading, I will refer you back to the article introducing this research project where I speak about increasing the biodiversity of your diet by eating between 30-50 different foodstuffs over a day. If you follow this, and a food that has some stronger compounds is part of that intake, then you can see how it could be a small but potentially beneficial part of your total food intake, depending on the food, with other more benign foods making up the majority of your consumption. It can be tricky though, as on the one hand there are some old traditions of eating mostly bland foods (depending on the food culture you grew up in) influencing some to shy away from bitter or other unusual tastes, and on the other hand, there are toxic compounds in plants and other foods that warn us away by being highly objectionable! So, a reiteration of advice from the introductory article:

    “From a very practical point of view, for those who are sensitive to different foods or for anyone who is trying new foods that are quite different to their normal fare, test a little of the food you are eating on its own, so that you give yourself plenty of opportunity to see if your body is ok with them. And the forager’s rule applies too: don’t eat anything unless you are certain of its identity, and how each plant part is to be consumed. If it seems like a good idea to proceed, eat a very small amount.”

    Over time I have been highly interested in broadening the variety of foods that I eat. The way that I personally navigate all of this is to be as informed as I can be seeking out as many sources of information as possible (rejecting those that seem insubstantial or unsubstantiated), being sure to follow the advice I give above about trying new foods and observing how that food affects me, and couple that with a developing intuition that relates what my body wants and needs to the foods that present themselves, or that I seek out.

    I hope that this is helpful!

    Also, thanks Bernie and Chris, my/our pleasure! :)

  4. love this list thanks… But some of the plant descriptions have been listed with incorrect pictures… Somehow they’ve been muddled up.

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