Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea

Society Garlic

Botanical name: Tulbaghia violacea

How to grow it: Right up there with the easiest of edible plants to grow. Will tolerate almost any conditions – I guess if there was one thing it would be full sun for best production. It may not handle colder climates with heavy frosts.

It’s pretty as an ornamental as it will flower quite prolifically for a large part of the year. Makes a great border plant as once it’s established if forms a rock-solid weed barrier.

Easily propagated by division in spring or autumn. Grows very well in containers, but you may need to thin it every couple of years as it’s liable to get potbound

Medicinal uses: High in vitamins A, B & C, Society garlic is being studied for it’s antiviral properties and potentially for raising testorone levels . Thought to stimulate appetite.

Using it in the kitchen: Up until fairly recently, I would usually choose Garlic chives in preference to Society garlic – thinking that the leaves were more tender & the flavour more subtle. This is true, but I’ve come to love Society garlic’s much stronger garlic flavour – which according to the literature, doesn’t stay on your breath (apparently making you more sociable – thus the name!)

I love it chopped finely and added to salads, and to just about any cooked vegetable. Try using both the white & green parts

Try it with mashed potatoes or sour cream & I swear you’ll never turn back to chives!

 

Fantastic survival plant as it’s ornamental, incredibly hardy, and can so easily be used in the kitchen.

 

Betel leaf Piper sarmentosum

Betel leaf

Botanical name: Piper sarmentosum

How to grow it: Betel leaf is very easy to grow in warmer climates and if kept well watered is lush & attractive. Prefers a shaded position and so makes an ideal understorey plant. I’ve found that it burns easily in full sun & and the leaves aren’t as as tender.

Needs plenty of room as it will sprawl over a large area if allowed. Will slow right down in the cooler months.

Easy to propagate by root division or tip cuttings – spring & Autumn are your best times. In wet season you could easily take a rooted cutting and plant it out just before rain is expected.

Not really suited to container growing it needs quite a bit of space to spread.

Using it in the kitchen: Betel leaf is used in the classic asian dish Miang Kham where a variety of different fresh and cooked foods are wrapped in the leaves as a snack or starter.

When tender they can also be added to salads, soups and curries.

I’ve also seen them arranged on a plate and topped with food – a quite spectacular way to present dishes.

Great survival plant as an established plant requires very little care & the leaves are versatile in cooking.

 

Surinam spinach Talinum triangulare

Surinam Spinach

Botanical name: Talinum triangulare

Some other names: Waterleaf, Surinam purslane, Ceylon spinach

How to grow it: Naturally grows in the tropics, but has a fairly wide climate range. Certainly grows well in my cooler sub-tropical climate. Copes well with dry periods but responds well to water – the leaves have a more tender flavour in rainy season

Surinam spinach is perennial and dies down in the cooler months. It’s frost tender –  so may need to be treated as an annual in cooler climates.

Handles sun OK, but definitely likes the shade better. Great understory plant for trees.

Propagates really easily from stem cuttings as soon as danger of frost has passed. Once you have it established, it will self-seed quite easily but I wouldn’t consider it invasive as the seedlings are so easy to remove.

Awesome plant for pots – will tolerate quite a bit of neglect and doesn’t get too rootbound. You might need to move it to a protected position for cold winters.

Nutrients: A rich source of protein,  vitamin C, vitamin E, Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, potassium, & β-carotene,. Surinam  spinach is also widely used in traditional medicine

 

Using it in the kitchen: 

Fresh leaves make a tasty addition to salads, sandwiches, juices or smoothies. The pink flowers are edible and can be used in salads.

Also used as spinach, in stir fries or omelettes. Wilts really well when added at the last minute to cooked dishes.

Not a bad plant to have in a pot right near the back door – if you like it you’ll want to use it often.

 

Great survival plant as it’s a hardy perennial, self seeds easily & is so versatile in the kitchen.

 

Sambung Gynura procumbens

Sambung

Botanical name: Gynura procumbens

Some other names: Longevity spinach, Sambung Nyawa, Leaf ginseng

How to grow it: Sambung is one of those really easy perennial plants that tolerates a wide range of soil types and grows well in sun or shade. It will do better in moist & fertile soils producing larger and more succulent leaf.

Grows all year round in warm climates, and will die back in winter in the cooler climates – generally will reshoot in spring.

Spreads rampantly in it’s growing season – one plant can provide an enormous amount of fresh leaf. Fortunately it’s really easy to cut back and control and is quite an attractive plant.

Really simple to propagate – any piece of stem seems to strike, and if you allow it to spread, you can usually find a rooted piece of stem to replant.

One of the better plants for container growing- you can really get a good supply of leaves going if you keep the water & fertiliser up to it

Medicinal value: There’s not a lot of scientific information around for Sambung though it is being researched for for it’s medicinal value. Being widely known as “life extender” and “Longevity spinach” gives a clue to it’s value, and traditionally it’s been used fresh or as tea for diabetes, cancer, prostate health, and arthritis. Just 3 leaves a day is thought to prolong life.

Using it in the kitchen: Fresh leaves make a tasty addition to salads, sandwiches, juices or smoothies.

Also used as spinach, in stir fries or omelettes. I like to add it to stocks to increase flavour and minerals.

Really versatile vegetable – I tend to throw a few leaves into just about any dish that requires some greenery.

 

Easily qualifies as a survival plant as it’s so easy to grow and incorporate into your diet.

 

Okinawa spinach Gynura bicolor

Okinawa Spinach

Botanical name: Gynura bicolor

How to grow it: Okinawa spinach is simple to grow and makes an attractive, sprawling plant which would be at home amongst your ornamental plants.

Grows all year round in warm climates, and will die back in winter in the cooler climates – generally will reshoot in spring. It’s better suited t the tropics/subtropics.

Will handle a bit of shade, but thrives in full sun with plenty of water

Really simple to propagate – any piece of stem seems to strike, and if you allow it to spread, you can usually find a rooted piece of stem to replant.

Great for container growing- looks like an ornamental and produces plenty of leaf for the kitchen.

Medicinal value: Okinawa spinach is rich in protein, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and has many uses in traditional medicine.

Using it in the kitchen: Fresh leaves make a tasty addition to salads, sandwiches, juices or smoothies. The purple underside of leaves can be quite appetizing.

Also used as spinach, in stir fries or omelettes. I particularly enjoy the growing tips added at the last minute to stir fries.

Really versatile vegetable – I tend to throw a few leaves into just about any dish that requires some greenery.

 

Easily qualifies as a survival plant as it’s so easy to grow and incorporate into your diet.

 

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel

Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare

How to grow it: Fennel is a very hardy perennial that prefers full sun, but seems to cope in partly shady conditions too.

Plants respond well to good drainage and regular watering, but handle periods of drought well too.

I grow mostly Florence fennel as it produces a bulbous vegetable and a little bit of Bronze fennel for it’s appearance. Both varieties produce good seed and plenty of leaf growth. The flowers preceding seeds attract wasps into the garden which helps keep pest levels down.

If you ever let a Fennel plant self seed, you’ll find it comes up everywhere in the following season – it’s up to you whether that’s good or bad – I just remove the ones I don’t want like a weed. To avoid rampant self seeding – cut the flower heads of early before they set seed.

You can grow fennel in pots, but I’ve found it can get straggly – the plant has a long tap root which doesn’t like being contained.

Nutrition: Great source of vitamins A,B,C & E, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium & manganese. Fennel has too many medicinal uses to list here, but it is a great tonic to your digestive system, promotes calmness and can improve libido.

 

Using it in the kitchen: Fennel is one of those unique plants in that every part of the plant can be eaten and is used widely. Generally speaking, all parts of the plant have a mild anise flavour.

Firstly the young leaves can be eaten in salads, in egg dishes and as a garnish.

The stems and base can be used as a fresh or cooked vegetable. I like to grow Florence Fennel for it’s thick base which I love to slow roast with garlic and olive oil. Can also be grated into salads, chopped into soups & sliced thinly into stir fries.

fennel-foeniculum-vulgare-2
The bulbous roots of Florence Fennel

The seeds are used in curries and slow cooked meals, and can be chewed to suppress appetite or reduce sugar cravings.

The roots are delicious too as a roasted or steamed vegetable similar to parsnip

 

Fennel is a great survival plant as it self seeds easily and is hardy to most conditions.

 

Water celery Oenanthe Javanica

Water Celery

Botanical Name: Oenanthe Javanica

Some other names: Water dropwort, Water Parsley, Chinese Celery

How to grow it: Water Celery is another of those “hard to kill” plants – once you’ve found a good position for it, it will grow year after year with virtually no care. Grows equally well in sun or part shade.

In warmer areas it will grow all year round while it’s kept moist & in colder areas it will rebound quickly after frost. The biggest problem is will spread rapidly via its roots and become invasive – but then it’s very easy to remove & thus control.

Water celery, as it’s name suggests, needs moisture to grow prolifically. Bog areas and ponds are ideal, but it will grow almost anywhere while it gets water – it might get stringy or stop growing when conditions are dry.

I find it grows well without addition of fertilizer – perhaps an occasional foliar spray is all that’s needed.

Propogation is dead easy – just pull up some plants roots and all (shown below) & place them in their new spot with an initial watering, and you’ll never have to worry about them again.

Water celery will grow well in closed containers like buckets & styrofoam boxes. I prefer to put drainage holes about 50mm below the level of the soil so that the soil surface actually dries out. This way you can harvest the stems right down to soil level without the stagnant water. If you grow this way, I suggest regular thinning of the roots – the plant will become potboud very quickly. Great plant for the greenhouse – it will love the water & heat.

Water celery Oenanthe Javanica
Water celery grows well in closed containers (no drainage)

 

Nutrition:

Leaves & stems a good source of protein with vitamins A, B, & C, iron, calcium, phosphorous & potassium. Cooked white roots are a source of carbohydrate.

 

Using it in the kitchen:

Water celery is so versatile and nutritious I use it in almost every meal.

The green leafy parts have a celery like flavour that goes great in salads and on sandwiches. Tender green stems cut finely can also add a bit of texture and unusual flavour to salads.Harvest and chop the leaf & stems & add to stir fries, soups, curries & casseroles. The stems will tend to keep their texture after cooking.

Water celery Oenanthe Javanica
Water Celery straight from the garden & prepared for a stir fry

The white roots can also be chopped & added to cooked dishes.

Avoid picking the older, taller stems as they can become a bit stringy – not unlike celery.

A fantastic survival food – I can’t recall a time when water celery wasn’t available for picking. For this reason, I’ve never thought to try preserving it for lean times.

warrigal greens tetragonia tetragonioides

Warrigal greens

Botanical Name: Tetragonia tetragonioides

Some other names: NZ spinach, Sea spinach, Botany Bay spinach, Cook’s cabbage.

How to grow it:

Warrigal greens is a low growing perrenial which is very hardy & produces good spinach leaf crops in the warmest of weather It’s also very salt tolerant and can be grown close to the beach – in fact I’ve often spotted it growing on sand dunes at my local beaches.

It doesn’t tolerate frost, so may needed to be planted as a annual in cooler climates, but in frost free climates it will grow all year round.

It will handle full sun or shade equally well and prefers free draining soils, but it still grows in my subtropical climate’s wet season. Will hang in there with less plant growth in drought periods.

It responds well to fertilising and mulching – the leaves will get much bigger if well fed. Can tend to get a bit invasive if it’s happy, but it is also very easy to remove.

Propogation is very simple – just pull up some plants roots and all & replant them into their new position or pots, water them in and they’ll be on their way with very little care. Warrigal spinach also flowers & sets seed late in summer, and if left to, will self seed rapidly.

Grows well in pots – regular pruning prevents the plant spilling over & setting seeds in nearby pots.

I like to have a couple of patches growing in different conditions, and pick from the best one.

Nutrition:

Leaves a good source of protein with vitamins A, B, & C, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous & potassium.

Using it in the kitchen:

Warrigal greens leaves are thought to be relatively high in oxalates, which means if you’re going to be eating a lot of them, they should be blanched & rinsed in cold water. If you go to this trouble, the leaves can be used in salads or cold dishes – very nice.

I tend to eat it without blanching in combination with lots of other leaves, and use it mostly in stir fries & omelettes – at the last minute as they wilt very readily. Could also be added to soups, curries & casseroles for it’s nutrition rather than adding any body or flavour to the meal.

warrigal greens tetragonia tetragonioides
Warrigal greens – should be cooked first

A great survival food for it’s hardiness & regular supply of nutritious leaves – especially in summer when many other “spinach” plants are struggling.

vietnamese mint persicaria odorata

Vietnamese mint

Botanical Name: Persicaria odorata

Some other names: Vietnamese coriander, Laksa leaves, Hot mint, Vietnamese cilantro, Rau ram

How to grow it:

Vietnamese mint is of those “hard to kill” plants – it will grow anywhere, and if it likes it’s spot will become invasive. It is easy to remove though and quite a pretty plant.

In warmer areas it will grow all year round and in colder areas it will rebound quickly after frost. I find the summer heat will cause it to lose some vigour, so suggest planting in a shady position that gets a bit of morning sun.

Vietnamese mint will grow in shallow water or bog situations, and in fact it’s more likely to get invasive with unlimited access to water. You could try it in a closed container to prevent it spreading.

I find it grows well without addition of fertilizer – perhaps an occasional foliar spray is all that’s needed.

Propogation is very simple – just root some cuttings in water. Once they’ve rooted, plant them in the garden & keep watered for a few days. You could skip all this by just putting cuttings in the ground as rain is expected – they so easily strike.

vietnamese mint persicaria odorata
Vietnamese mint stems root easily in water

Great plant for the greenhouse – it will love the water & heat. Will also grow great in pots – just keep it well watered.

Nutrition:

Leaves high in protein & potassium and other vitamin & minerals. Many herbal actions.

 

Using it in the kitchen:

How you use Vietnamese mint depends on how much you like the flavour. If you don’t like coriander – then forget it – you won’t like vietnamese mint. It has a strong flavour similar to coriander – but hot. The leaves can be eaten in combination with other greens in a salad or on a sandwich.

If on the other hand you do like coriander, you’ll most likely enjoy these leaves added to oriental dishes at the end of cooking. They can be a real bonus for your cooking as they’ll grow in the heat whereas coriander usually won’t – all year coriander if you like!

As one of it’s common names suggest, these leaves are great in a laksa or hot soup – added at the end like a garnish.

vietnamese mint persicaria odorata
Vietnamese mint – remove the stems before use

A good survival food as the the plant is so hardy and the leaves so useful in asian cooking.

Tree spinach Abelmoschus manihot

Tree spinach

Botanical Name: Abelmoschus manihot

Some other names: Tree lettuce, Hibiscus Spinach, Slipper Cabbage, Aibika, Ibika

How to grow it:

Tree spinach is a perennial shrub that grows to about 2 metres. Does best in full sun with a well drained soil, but I’ve found it does well in a wide range of conditions including drought.

In cooler areas you might have to treat it as an annual as it is frost tender, but in warmer areas it will grow all year round.

Grows well in large pots but does need good moisture and feeding in its growing season.

Propogates fairly easily by tip or stem cuttings. I find the easiest way is to cut 10-20cm stems, snip off all the leaves & put them in pots or the ground on a rainy day.

There are many different varieties of tree spinach and it may be a bit of work to obtain it in your locality, but it’s well worth the effort!

Spinach tree Abelmoschus manihot
A second variety of Tree Spinach growing in my garden

Nutrition:

Tree spinach is extremely nutritious being very high in protein, and also high in vitamins A, B & C, and calcium, potassium, iron & magnesium. It’s high mucilage content is great for detoxifying the body. Eat it regularly and often!

Using it in the kitchen:

The young raw leaves are tasty and kind of crunchy – use them freely in salads & sandwiches.

Older leaves can be added to hot dishes like quiches, soups & casseroles at any time – the high mucilage will help thicken the meal. If using in stir fries, omelettes or as a cooked vegetable, only cook for a minute or so or you might find they become slimy.

Spinach tree Abelmoschus manihot
Cook Spinach tree leaves quickly

Tree spinach is one of the better survival foods due to it’s hardiness & regular supply of nutritious greens which can be used in almost any type of meal.

sweet potato Ipomoea batatas

Sweet Potato

Botanical Name: Ipomoea batatas

Some other names: Kumara, Yam, Kamote

How to grow it:

Sweet Potato is a sprawling perennial vine that will spread over a large area if left unchecked. For best tuber production, it’s probably best treated as an annual where the soil can be prepared with fresh manure each season – otherwise the crops in the second year of production will be much smaller.

Prefers full sun, but will happily ramble into part shade areas and still produce tubers.

Essentially Sweet potato is a sub-tropical/tropical crop, but is worth trying in cooler areas after all chance of frost has passed.

For best results, a well drained deep soil is preferred and plenty of water in it’s growing season, but in my climate (summer rain/winter drought) it grows in just about any soil conditions – the tubers will be smaller in inferior soils, but leaf production is still good.

Propogation is usually by tubers, which can be cut into pieces with at least one eye for growing. It also can be propogated by tip cuttings which strike well in warmer weather.

Not really suited well to pots, unless you’re growing just for the leaves and tips, in which case they’d grow quite well I’d think.

Nutrition:

Leaves and shoots are a good source of vitamins A, B & C and protein.

Tubers are high in carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A & C, iron and calcium. Considered amongst the most nutritious vegetables available to us.

Using it in the kitchen:

There’s many different varieties of sweet potato and even more methods of cooking them from around the world.

sweet potato Ipomoea batatas
Delicious and nutritious harvest of Sweet potato

In my home we mostly bake them in small chunks, and eat them hot, or add them to salads after they’ve cooled. We also add them to soups, curries, and casseroles. They don’t take as long to cook as most root vegetables. They can also be steamed/boiled or mashed with other root vegetables.

In western culture, it’s often overlooked that the growing tips and young leaves make a tasty & nutritious spinach. Delicious added to stir fries, soups or even omelettes. Would be one of the most reliable sources of greens outside the coldest part of winter.

Sweet potato is a terrific survival food if it grows well in your area just by allowing it to perennialise – it’s actually hard to get rid of once it’s established.

Other uses:

All parts of sweet potato make nutritious animal fodder.

Above ground parts can be used as mulch, and the plant serves very well as a living mulch around and under fruit trees or any orchard.

sweet leaf sauropus androgynous-1

Sweet Leaf

Botanical Name: Sauropus androgynous

Some other names: Katuk, Star gooseberry, Tropical asparagus

How to grow it:

Sweet Leaf is a hardy perennial shrub that has a wide tolerance for growing conditions.

It will do best in moist well drained soils, but I’ve found it will grow well in poor soils too. Seems to grow equally well in sun or shade.

In warmer areas it will slow down leaf production when the weather cools off and in cooler areas it will die back only to reshoot in spring.

Regular watering is preferred to keep it growing, but it will also handle periods of drought – it’ll just stop growing. Regular fertilising will make a big difference to leaf production.

I grow lots of it as it’s an attractive plant and would be right at home amongst other ornamental plants.

Propogation is by seed (if you can get them) but easier by tip cuttings. In rainy season you can just take tip cuttings  and put them in the ground or in pots. Make sure they are well watered for a week or two.

Sweet Leaf will also grow quite happily in pots – keep them near the kitchen, well watered & fed for a regular supply of tips & leaf.

 

Nutrition:

A really good source of protein, calcium, potassium & phosphorous plus vitamins A, B, & C.

Using it in the kitchen:

Leaves have a taste similar to peas and are a favorite for anyone who visits my garden. Great fresh in salads and sandwiches on their own or in combination with other greens.

Leaves can also be added to stir fries, soups, curries & casseroles for their nutrition moreso than their taste which is somewhat lost through cooking. Adding at the last minute to stirfries & omelettes will preserve their flavour.

sweet leaf sauropus androgynous
Freshly harvested Sweet leaf leaves – add to salads or cooking

Tip cuttings can be steamed or stir fried on their own as a vegetable & are sometimes known as tropical asparagus. They are much better this way in the growing season – a bit tough when the weather cools down.

A great survival plant for it’s long season of highly nutritious leaves.

Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus

Nasturtium

Botanical Name: Tropaeolum majus

Some other names: Indian Cress, Monks Cress

How to grow it: Nasturtiums are an annual trailing plant to about 40cm, but they’ll happily grow up fences, trellises & other plants. Although strictly speaking an annual, they behave like a perennial as they self seed so readily. In cooler climates, they might need replanting each year in spring.

They gow happily in full sun or part shade, but I’ve noticed that their leaves can get a bit bitter in the mid-summer sun – best to have them in a few different garden spots for regular supply.

They respond well to watering and fertilising, but they are so hardy they actually don’t seem to need any care at all.

Put them under taller plants & trees for an attractive living mulch that will also help repel many garden pests.

They’ll do well in pots too – try them in a hanging basket for great effect.

Propogation is simple – by cuttings that will strike in water, by root division, or by seed which can easily be collected at ground level. You can often find them as seedlings in garden shops – sold as ornamental flowers rather than food.

Nutrition:

Very high in vitamin C along with iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The whole plant is considered a powerful antixidant so use it regularly & often!

Using it in the kitchen:

Nasturtium leaves have a peppery taste that make an interesting addition to salads and sandwiches. Check that you like the flavour though – you might want to use it sparingly to begin with.

nasturtium-tropaeolum-majus-3
The Nasturtium bounty – leaves,  flowers & seeds.

The flowers are also edible and add great colour to salads. My kids also love sucking the nectar out of the flowers which is very sweet & delicious.

I’ve had no success in cooking the leaves – the flavour tends to dominate the dish they’re added to, so I prefer to use them fresh.

The green seeds and unopened flower buds can be pickled in vinegar to make a nice caper substitute, and the dried seeds can be ground up as a pepper substitute (not as hot as black pepper)

A truly hardy, nutritious & useful plant in your survival garden.

mushroom plant Rungia Klossii

Mushroom plant

Botanical Name: Rungia Klossii

Some other names: Rungia, Kenkaba, Moku, Tani

How to grow it:

Mushroom plant is a perennial clumping shrub to about 60cm.

It’s fairly hardy overall, but will do much better in moist well drained soils. Prefers a partly shaded position, but will handle full sun too if kept moist. Mulching and fertilising improves leaf production a lot.

In warmer areas it will grow all year round and in colder areas it needs protection from frost

Once established, it’s a very attractive plant and wouldn’t look out of place in an ornamental garden or under trees as a living mulch.

Propogation is by separating the plant from the base or you can just take tip cuttings (shown below) and put them in the ground or in pots. Make sure they are kept well watered.

mushroom-plant-rungia-klossii-2
Mushroom plant tip cuttings

Will also do well in pots – keep them mulched, watered and fertilised for a regular supply of leaves.

Nutrition:

A highly nutritious plant – Vitamins A, B, & C, protein, calcium, iron in particular

Using it in the kitchen:

As it’s name suggests, the plant supposedly has a mild mushroom flavour – I’m not sure I can make that distinction but the leaves are delicious nonetheless.

Freely add the leaves to salads and sanwiches for their flavour & crunchy texture.

Leaves can also be added to stir fries, soups, curries, omelettes & casseroles but only at the last minute if you’re keen to preserve their flavour which is generally lost through cooking.

mushroom-plant-rungia-klossii-3
Freshly harvested Mushroom plant leaves – delicious!

When harvesting, I usually take the 5-10cm stems and pick the leaves off in the kitchen – this encourages leaf production.

A great survival plant as it tolerates shade and gives it’s harvest of leaves for most of the year.

Mukuna wenna Alternanthera versicolor

Mukuna wenna

Botanical Name: Alternanthera versicolor

How to grow it:

Mukuna Wenna is extremely easy to grow and will handle almost any conditions. Like many other plants described here, it can tend to become a weed.

It’s a spreading perennial plant to about 40cm that seems to handle sun or shade equally well. If you have cold winters it may die back and reshoot, but elsewhere it will grow all year round.

Definitely more vigorous in wet or boggy soils, but it’s also quite drought tolerant. In drier conditions it may tend to get “stalky” and bolt to seed, but you’ll always have usuable leaf for harvesting.

Regular fertilising will help it grow, but I’ve found it needs very little care of any kind.

Makes a decorative ground cover in garden beds and under trees and will grow very well in pots & even hanging baskets.

It’s very easy to propogate, simply pull some stems and roots up from an established plant, replant in it’s new position & water in once. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cutting that won’t strike. Same goes for tip cuttings if your plant isn’t well established.

Nutrition:

I can’t find any nutritional information on Mukuna Wenna, but given that it’s a valued herb in eastern medicine, it would be safe to say it’s rich in vitamins & minerals. I think that the rich red colour of the leaves must offer something to our nutrition that isn’t available in greens.

Using it in the kitchen:

Leaves are pretty bland really – I find them best used with other leaves for variety & nutrition.

The purple leaves are really striking & appetising in a green salad, and for this reason I use them a lot.

Leaves can also be added to stir fries, soups, curries & casseroles for extra colour & nutrition.

An excellent survival food as leaves are available all year round and the plant is so hardy.

Mitsuba Cryptotaenia japonica

Mitsuba

Botanical Name: Cryptotaenia japonica

Some other names: Japanese Parsley, Honeywort, Japanese Chervil

How to grow it:

Mitsuba is a perennial herb to 50cm that is beyond hardy – it will quickly become a weed if left unchecked. I find it sprouting up all over my garden if allowed to seed. Fortunately it’s also very useful & tasty.

The leaves will be more tender in a shaded position, but it handles full sun well even in the hottest months. As far as I can tell, it handles all soil types.

In warmer areas it will provide leaves & stems all year round, in colder climates it may die back in winter, but will readily sprout as soon as the frost has passed.

It has a decent tap root and so will continue to do OK in dry weather, but keep it watered and it will grow prolifically. It will continue growing when the rainy season hits & I tend to lose many of my other parsleys. Will benefit from the regular addition of fertiliser.

Propogation is by seed which should be easy to obtain. If you allow it to self seed (which it does very easily), the following year you’ll have it coming up all over the place. I tend to cut the seed stalks down to encourage leaf production and extend it’s season. Being perennial it will keep growing indefinitely.

Grows just as well in pots – a few plants in a small pot will provide a surprising amount of greens.

Nutrition:

High in vitamin C & calcium. Also contains vitamin A, B, potassium, iron & protein.

Using it in the kitchen:

Leaves have a mild parsley flavour and would make a good substitute when your other parslies are struggling.

It has much more value used freely as a salad leaf and in sandwiches instead of lettuce. Has a really refreshing taste

The whole plant can also be added to stir fries, soups, curries & casseroles.The stems are particularly good in stir fries -don’t cook them for too long or their flavour will be lost.

mitsuba-cryptotaenia-japonica-3
Freshly harvested Mitsuba plants – leaves for salad, whole plant for cooking

Mitsuba makes a great survival food as it grows so easily in all conditions, and will spread rapidly through self seeding.

basella alba malabar spinach

Malabar spinach

Botanical Name: Basella Alba

Some other names: Ceylon Spinach, Indian Spinach, climbing spinach, Basella

How to grow it: Malabar Spinach is a perennial twining, sprawling vine that is at it’s best in the heat of summer. It does well in full sun, but will produce larger juicier leaves if grown in partial shade.

It will thrive in moist, fertile and well drained soils, tending to develop tough leaves or bolt to seed if conditions are too dry.

When it’s happy, it is a very attractive plant quickly growing up trellises and other plants for most of the warm season. It’s best suited to sub-tropical to tropical conditions where the rain & heat of summer suit it perfectly but will also grow with a shorter season in cooler climates.

Will do well in pots if well watered, mulched & fed – for best results make sure it has a trellis to climb.

I’ve grown two varieties – one with a green stem the other with red. I don’t think there’s much different in terms of flavour or productivity, but the red stems look great!

Malabar Spinach is a very easy plant to propogate, in fact I usually just let it self seed and pick out the surplus seedlings like they’re weeds. If you allow it to go to seed, next spring you’ll find it sprouting up all over the place!.

Collecting seed is easy. In Autumn, the plant develops red berries which I usually let dry on the vine. Just collect them up and replant them the following spring. For better germination, soak them in water overnight the day before planting. If you can’t get the plants locally, you should have no problems getting seeds online.

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Malabar spinach fruits containing the seed.

Nutrition:

Malabar spinach had high levels of vitamins A,B, & C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, and decent amounts of Iron and copper. It has good levels of mucilage which is a valuable aid in detoxifying the body.

A highly nutritious plant.

Using it in the kitchen:

The young, juicy leaves make a great addition to salads and sandwiches and are often plentiful when other leaf vegetables are struggling with the hot midsummer sun.

All leaves & shoots can be added to soups, stews & quiches where the mucilagin will help thicken the meal.

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Malabar spinach – both the shoots and leaves are delicious & tender.

Also great in stirfries, omelettes or just on it’s own as a steamed vegetable, but don’t cook it for too long as the mucilage can have the effect of giving it a slimy texture. Usually I add them only at the very last minute.

My personal favourite way to use it is to plant it thickly in tubs in spring, and when it’s growth takes off, pick the young shoots off daily for stirfries & omelettes. Eventually it will get away from you by climbing or sprawling, but usually I can keep it contained for a couple of months this way. The shoots are delicious & tender!

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Malabar Spinach grown in tubs for daily picking of the shoots

Malabar spinach is a great survival food in warmer areas because it so readily self-seeds & has high nutrient value. Once you grow 1 plant successfully you’ll pretty much always have it.

Other info:

The red juice of the berries is used as a non-toxic food dye, and as ink in some countries. My kids have used it for body painting too.

lemon balm lime balm Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm and Lime Balm

Botanical Name: Melissa officinalis

Some other names: Balm, Bee Balm, Honey plant, Cure all, Melissa

How to grow it:

Lemon Balm is a perennial herb to about 50cm which is so easy to grow it can become invasive. It does well and has a stronger flavour in full sun, but will produce larger, more tender leaves for a longer period if grown in partial shade. I grow it in several patches with varied sunlight and moisture & find that I have it available all year round.

In the subtropics and tropics (where I live) it does better in Autumn to spring, in cooler climates it might die back & resprout in spring.

Will do well in pots if well watered, mulched & fed – again, preferring a partially shaded position.

The simplest way to propogate is by root division- just grab a handful of roots and all from the middle of your patch, separate the pieces and plant directly into the ground. Keep watered for a couple of days and they’ll strike easily. Will also strike well from cuttings or grown from seed.

Nowadays it’s also very easy to obtain in garden outlets or online.

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Lemon balm is easily propagated by root division

Nutrition:

Lemon balm contains vitamins A, B & C and volatile oils that have many herbal actions. It is well known to be calming and sedative – just try grabbing a handful of leaves and take a deep breath with the aroma! Also thought to ba a natural antioxidant.

Using it in the kitchen:

The leaves by themselves are not particularly palatable – a little bit chewy for my liking. Combined with other greens though, they go very well in salads & sandwiches and attract many comments from guests in my home. The lemon flavour is very striking & pleasant.

Leaves can also be added to hot dishes, but you’ll need to add a good handful or two to have much impact flavour-wise.

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Leaves used fresh in salads or make a soothing tea.

Probably Lemon Balm’s best known use is as a calming herbal tea. Simply grab two handfuls of leaves and stems per cup of boiled water. Allow to steep for several minutes. Personally, I like to add a variety of different leaves to the lemon balm too.

Other info:

Although I’ve written here about lemon balm, I actually prefer Lime Balm for it’s flavour. It’s an identical plant in apearance & uses, but has a refreshing lime flavour instead of lemon. It might be a little harder to obtain in your local area though.

 

Lebanese cress Botanical Name: Apium nodiflorum

Lebanese cress

Botanical Name: Apium nodiflorum

Some other names: Stonecress, Fools Watercress.

How to grow it:

Lebanese Cress is what I would classify as a “hard-to-kill plant – once you have it, you’ll most likely always have it. It’s a rapidly spreading perennial ground cover that likes wet conditions, but will handle periods of drought. Grows in full sun, but prefers some shade especially at the hottest times of the year.

In warmer areas I find it prefers the wet season & cooler weather – it will still grow strongly in the heat (provided it gets water), but the leaves may be tougher & less palatable especially in full sun. In cooler climates it will go dormant or even die back in the winter so your best harvest times will be spring & autumn.

Lebanese Cress likes moist conditions best of all and so will grow well in bogs or anywhere it gets a permanent water supply. if there’s a problem with it, it can be invasive though it’s fairly easy to remove if necessary.

It does respond well to fertiliser, especially foliar sprays & worm juice.

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Did I mention that Lebanese Cress can be invasive?

Propogation is very simple – just pull up some plants roots and all & replant them into their new position or pots, water them in and they’ll be on their way with very little care.

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Propagation by division of roots

I’d suggest you start 2-3 different patches with different sun/shade/water conditions expecting you’ll have tender leaves in one of the patches at most times of the year.

Nutrition:

Leaves a good source of protein with vitamins A, B, & C, iron, calcium, phosphorous & potassium.

Using it in the kitchen:

The leaves of lebanese cress have a refreshing flavour that is like a cross between carrots & celery. Delicious!

Use them frequently in salads and sandwiches. I like them chopped up & added to coleslaws.

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It would be well worth having some growing right near the kitchen in a large pot so it can be picked for a quick sandwich or salad on those rainy days when it’s hard to get in the garden.

A great survival food for it’s hardiness & uninterrupted supply of nutritious leaves.

kang kong Ipomoea aquatica

Kang kong

Botanical Name: Ipomoea Aquatica

Some other names: Water Spinach, Swamp Cabbage, Ong Choy, Chinese Watercress and many other local names throughout Asia.

How to grow it:

Kang Kong is a terrifically hardy perernnial that will grow anywhere at anytime it’s growing conditions are met – that is, when it’s hot & wet. It grows like mad in these conditions, and will meander or die back when it’s cold and/or dry. Seems just as happy in sun or shade.

In the tropics, it will grow all year if it has regular water, but is best planted as the wet season begins and will require no maintenance. If there’s a problem with it, it can get out of control – a great reason to harvest it regularly.

In cooler areas, it will die back in winter and reshoot in spring. In cold areas it’s growing season might be quite short.

Given it’s water requirements, it does best in a boggy area or on the edges of ponds. It’s just as happy in shallow water as it is in wet mud. It does well in a shadehouse or hothouse and it’s growing period might be extended due to the extra warmth.

Kang Kong will certainly benefit from the addition of manure, compost, worm juice or seaweed, but will also do pretty well without any maintenance at all. Once I put a cutting in a vase of water to root, and it grew & produced leaves for months without any help at all – quite amazing!

Very easy to propogate from stem or tip cuttings – they’ll readily shoot in water or just put them in the ground on a rainy day or when rain is imminent. The plant will start flowering as the weather cools down and seeds can soon be collected for planting in the following seaason.

I’ve had great success growing Kang Kong in closed containers – simply fill any closed container (20 litre bucket, pots with no drainage, styrofoam boxes etc) with soil leaving 5-10 cms from the top. Fill with water to a level just above the soil, and put your cuttings or seeds in. As soon as the plants start growing you can start harvesting. This growing method can be very productive and is great for drier climates – just add a bit a bit of water when needed – the foliage will reduce much of the water loss.

It’s best to start a new container every spring though – one season is plenty for it to become rootbound and the following year will produce rather straggly leaf & stems.

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Kang Kong happily grows in containers without drainage.

Nutrition: Despite the fact that it requires very little care, Kang Kong is a highly nutritious plant with high levels of protein, calcium, iron, potassium, & vitamins A B & C. A valuable addition to the diet.

Using it in the kitchen:

Young leaves are fairly bland taste-wise and easily substitute for lettuce in green salads. The best thing is they are so prolific when it’s too hot or wet for other salad greens. In season I eat the greens fresh on a daily basis both in salads & sandwiches.

As a spinach, leaves can be used in almost anything – quiches, omelettes, soups, casseroles anything that would benefit from some nutritious greens. I prefer to add them at the last minute as they wilt very quickly, but they also do well in slow, long cooking dishes.

The stems can be chopped finely & used in salads, but are at their best when chopped quite thickly & used in stir fries. Very tender & tasty.

Kang Kong is a brilliant survival food as it’s so nutritious, it grows like mad and keeps coming back every summer.

Other uses:

Kang Kong makes great animal fodder due to it’s high protein content. Just feed it fresh to your livestock and grow it in boggy areas of paddocks.

Due to it’s prodigious growth it could also make good mulch or compost in the garden, but I’d sun dry it for a week first – it will sprout very easily in moist warm conditions.

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Freshly harvested Kang Kong leaf & stem

Garlic chives Allium Tuberosum

Garlic chives

Botanical Name: Allium Tuberosum

Some other names: Thai leeks, Chinese Chives, Gow choy, Oriental garlic.

How to grow it:

Garlic chives are a perennial herb to about 50cm with strap like leaves that distinguish it from it’s close cousin Onion chives. I’ve found it to be much more hardy & prolific than onion chives. Handles all soils well & does best in full sun.

In warmer climates it will grow & can be harvested all year round, in colder climates it might die down in winter, but resprout pretty quickly when the weather warms up.

Will benefit from the addition of fertiliser and regular watering, but seems to grow happily without much care

Will do very well in pots but will need to be pulled up & thinned out every couple of years.

Garlic chives have a very strong root system and will handle neglect where most other plants won’t. Often when I’ve seen a run-down vegetable patch, the only plant outcompeting the weeds & handling drought are the garlic chives. Seems to grow faster if it’s harvested regularly.

It grows easily from seed, but once you have plants established, the best way to propogate is to dig the whole plant up, divide the bulbs and roots into small sections & replant. Within a week or two, the plants are on their way again.

You won’t have to look very hard to find seeds or plants at your local nursery.

Nutrition:

High in Vitamin C also rich in vitamins A & B, iron, calcium, sulfur and magnesium. Good tonic herb to take regularly.

Using it in the kitchen:

Garlic chives can be used in all dishes – cooked & uncooked where the delicate flavour of onions & garlic are required.

The upper green parts can be used in salads & sandwiches to great effect. They can be chopped finely, but I prefer them cut in 2-3cm sections as shown below – the flavour seems a little more noticeable.

When used in cooking, the upper parts can be added to soups, casseroles, omelettes & stir fries but I suggest adding them only at the last minute or the flavour will be lost. The lower white parts can be treated just like you would leeks, or my favourite is to add them to stir fries for a delicious garlic flavour burst.

Rarely a meal goes by that I’m not using garlic chives both for the flavour & health giving properties.

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Garlic chives are a great survival food as they seem to survive any conditions and have great nutrition. If I was in a survival situation, I’d cherish them for the flavour they would add to my food.

Garden sorrel rumex acetosa

Garden sorrel

Botanical Name: Rumex acetosa

Some other names: Sorrel, Common Sorrel, English Sorrel, Spinach Dock, Narrow Leafed Dock.

How to grow it:

Sorrel is amazingly hardy, growing all year round in frost free climates, and much of the year in colder climates in just about any soil type.

It has deep roots making it quite tolerant to drought, but the leaves can get a bit chewy & sharp. In moist conditions, it will grow prolifically & provide plenty of succulent leaves.

Sorrel is an attractive plant too it would be equally at home in a garden bed with shrubs or flowers as it is in the vege garden. I like to have it in a few spots in the garden (full sun & part shade) & will pick from the one that has the most succulent leaves at the time.

It will also do very well in pots, but needs to be divided regularly as it will become potbound quickly.

Addition of fertiliser will only make Garden sorrel more prolific than it already is, but it seems just as happy when left to pull nutrients deep from the ground with it’s long roots.

Propogation is easy once you have one plant established – just simply dig up the whole plant, divide it into clumps with your spade & replant or put it into pots. Within a couple of weeks it will resprout & you can start eating the leaves immediately.

In my climate (sub-tropics), I’ve never seen garden sorrel seed, but in cooler climates seed can be collected in autumn or the plant just allowed to self-seed. It’s a very common plant – you should find it at most herb nurseries or you can get seeds online.

Nutrition:

Sorrel has high levels of vitamin C along with Vitamin A & B. It also contains calcium, potassium, iron & sulphur. Very nutritious for something so easy to grow!

Using it in the kitchen:

Sorrel leaves have a sour taste that varies in intenisty depending on which leaves you pick. The young leaves growing from the centre of the plant are very mild and the outer leaves can get quite sharp in taste particularly if grown in full sun in the hotter weather. So just pick leaves according to your own taste.

Use young leaves in salads and sandwiches they’ll add a mild flavour and have nice texture.

Older leaves can also be used fresh, but this will be according to your taste. You can also use older leaves in stir fries, soups, quiches, casseroles and omelettes generally in combination with other greens.

Sorrel is an obvious candidate for survival food as it is so hardy & prolific. I’ve never thought about preserving because it’s always available fresh from the garden

Other info:

I occasionally feed it to chickens & add leaves to the compost or mulch, but mostly I just eat it.

Would be good for erosion control or on the edge of gardens as it outcompetes all weeds.

If you like the flavour, try sheep sorrel – it has much smaller leaves and a sharper taste, but is higher in nutrients & has greater medicinal value.

It’s also worth learning about yellow dock – a common weed. In a survival situation it could be used in cooking the same as garden sorrel, but it’s definitely worth preboiling to reduce the sharp taste and oxalates.

drumstick tree Moringa oleifera

Drumstick Tree

Botanical Name: Moringa oleifera

Some other names: Horseradish Tree, Moringa, Ben oil tree, Benzolive

How to grow it: Drumstick tree is a leguminous tree to 10 m which originates in Asia but is grown around the world in subtropical/tropical climates.

It is very hardy – particularly to drought and grows in a wide range of soil types. Does far better in full sun.

It is tender to frost, so may need to be planted every year in cooler climates. Except in tropical areas, expect the plant to die down in winter & re shoot in spring.

Will also do OK in pots, but you’ll need to repot it every year or so, trimming the roots, or you can just grow new ones from seed every spring.

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Small Drumstick Tree in a container for harvesting leaves

 

Propogation is by seed or limb cutting – just cut a 1-2m limb off when the plant goes dormant in winter & put it upright into the ground. Once the weather warms up the limb will shoot and you’re on your way to another tree.

Nutrition: Advocates of the Drumstick Tree claim that it has 7 times the Vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the Vitamin A in carrots, 2 times the protein in milk, and 3 times the potassium in bananas! I’m not sure how accurate those claims are, but science does confirm this is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet and a potential treatment for many, many human ailments.

Using it in the kitchen:

The raw leaves aren’t especially tasty (nor are they disagreeable), but given their extraordinary nutrition, they could be added to salads & sandwiches with other greens on a regular basis.

They can be added to cooked dishes the same you would any spinach, but remember you’ll probably destroy the vitamin C content – so perhaps adding them at the last minute would be best.

The young seedpods can be cooked like green beans – the flavour’s quite simliar actually, and the dried beans can be cooked into stews and casseroles or fried or roasted like nuts.

If you search the plant on the internet, you’ll find many other uses in many cultures. A truly versatile and hardy plant and surely one of the best survival plants available to us!

Brazilian spinach Alternanthera sissoo

Brazilian Spinach

Botanical Name: Alternanthera sissoo

Some other names: Sissoo spinach, Samba lettuce

How to grow it: Brazilian spinach is a low growing perennial that will extend over a large area if allowed. It’s very easy to control though through regular harvesting of the tips.

Will survive in full sun, but prefers shade. A good plant for understory situations, or around the house where it won’t get too much sun.

In warmer areas it will provide leaves & stems all year round, in colder climates it may die back in winter, but will normally sprout as soon as the frost has passed. In very cold climates it will need to replanted from seed.

Likes a regular supply of water, but will hold it’s own in drought conditions – leaf production will slow down.

Propogation is by tip cuttings which root easily, or the plant can be divided at the base

Grows really well in pots – just make sure it doesn’t dry out too much or you won’t get much to pick

Tip cuttings take root easily
Tip cuttings take root easily

Nutrition: There’s not much information on Brazilian spinach other than it’s high protein content. It’s likely to be a good source of vitamins and minerals just like most other greens.

Using it in the kitchen:

The most notable thing about the leaves would be the crunchy texture which survives even with a little cooking. Has a milder flavour than most greens like it.

Remove all stems and add it to salads or sandwiches for a bit of crunch.

Leaves can also be added to stir fries, soups, curries & casseroles just like you would any other spinach.

Brazilian spinach is a good survival food as it’s available for most of the year and handles shade better than most plants like it.

A crunchy addition to stir fries and slads
A crunchy addition to stir fries and slads