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.

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.

tahitian spinach xanthosoma brasiliense

Tahitian spinach

Botanical Name: Xanthosoma brasiliense

Some other names: Celery stem Taro, Tannier Spinach, Tahitian Taro

How to grow it:

Tahitian spinach is a perrenial clumper which comes from the same family of plants as the widely grown ornamental “Elephant Ears”. It will grow to 1-2 metres, and like it’s cousin, is very ornamental with huge leaves & stems.

It’s favorite conditions would be moist conditions in the tropics, though it will grow in any frost free conditions. Great in a boggy situation or on the edge of ponds.

In colder climates, you could grow it inside in a pot until conditions warm up. Prefers some sunlight, but will handle light shade well too.

It does well in large pots – I grow some in my greenhouse where it loves the warmer moist conditions.

Addition of manure, compost, worm juice or seaweed will help produce massive leaves & stems, but it requires very little care – seems to respond better to watering than feeding.

Propogation is easy once you have one patch established – you can either thin the patch out by taking the larger stems roots and all, or you’ll find lots of small side suckers to start new plants

tahitian spinach xanthosoma brasiliense
Propagation of Tahitian spinach by root division

Nutrition:

Contains vitamins A, B, & C with protein, iron, calcium, potassium. Excellent source of fibre.

Using it in the kitchen:

Some sources say that the leaves can be eaten fresh, but I don’t find them particularly palatable. If you were to use them, I’d try only the youngest leaves sparingly.

The leaves and stems can be cooked into curries, soups, stir fries & casseroles where they’ll tend to take on the flavour of the dish. The stems provide a nice texture not unlike celery.

You could also use the leaves cut finely into quiches & omelettes.

tahitian spinach xanthosoma brasiliense
Leaf & stem cut down & prepared for cooking

 

In my garden, Tahitian spinach serves mostly as a survival food. I’ll occasionally use it in soups for a bit of variety, but it’s more important to us when severe wet season weather hits & destroys many other vegetable plants – that’s when it tends to thrive!

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.

Lemongrass

Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus

Some other names: Citronella grass, sweet rush, fever grass, camel’s hay

How to grow it:

Lemongrass is a perennial clumping grass to about 1 metre. It is harvested for the green leaves & white tender bases used extensively in Asian cooking.

It originates from a tropical climate and so it will do best in subtropical and tropical climates, but with some frost protection, will grow in cooler areas too. Loves heat and water, so you’ll do much better if you can create that sort of microclimate.

Will do OK in poor soils, but can be amazingly fast growing if given moist, well drained, fertile soil. Responds very well to mulching and high nitrogen fertilisers.

Propogation is by separating the “bulbs” at the base of the plant. Any piece with some roots attached will strike easily. For a large amount of plants, try putting a spade through the centre of your existing patch, dig half the clump up, remove the soil & carefully separate the roots. You’ll get lots of small & large pieces for replanting.

lemongrass-cymbopogon-citratus-2
Lemongrass is easy to propagate by division

Will also do well in pots – keep them mulched, watered and fertilised. Pots could be a very good option in cooler areas as the plant could be moved to a protected position in winter.

Nutrition:Stalks contain Vitamins A, B, & C, iron, chromium, calcium and potassium.

An herbal tea made from the leaves is thought to be good for fever, digestive problems, and is even thought to have anti-cancer properties. Research is continuing.

Using it in the kitchen:

If you enjoy asian cooking, then it should be almost compulsory for you to have lemongrass in your own garden. The distinctive flavour of fresh lemongrass from your own garden cannot be compared to any preserved product, or even fresh product more than a couple of days out of the garden.

Prepare by cutting the stalks off at the base & again where the white parts meet the green parts. Peel off a couple of outer layers to reveal the white tender inner parts of the stalk

Use it with garlic, chilli and/or ginger for a wide range of soups, curries & stir fries.

When cooking soups, I don’t bother cutting the stalks off – I just tie the whole cut plant in a knot, and submerge the lower parts into the broth. You can then just remove prior to serving – the flavour would have all transferred to the soup.

lemongrass-cymbopogon-citratus-3
Lemongrass stalks prepared for use in cooking

You can also use the green parts of the leaves and/or the stalks for making tea – try it with some of your other tea herbs.

Other uses

Lemongrass makes a great source of mulch. Regularly cut the green parts back for mulching garden beds or adding to compost – you can harvest many times a year.

Also a great plant for erosion control and for creating natural barriers for weeds and small animals.

In my book, Lemongrass qualifies as a survival food as it’s so hardy & easy to grow and is great for flavouring food. I’d also use the tea for fever in a survival situation and it’s a useful source of garden mulch.

jerusalem artichoke helianthus tuberosus

Jerusalem artichoke

Botanical Name: Helianthus tuberosus

Some other names: Sunchoke, Sunroot, Topinambour

How to grow it:

Jerusalem artichoke is a hardy perennial to over 2m which is grown for it’s roots. During the growing season there is a showy display of sunflower-like yellow flowers. Note that the plant is nothing like an artichoke, and for that matter doesn’t come from Jerusalum either!

Will do best in full sun and in well drained, fertile soils, but I’ve received reasonable crops in poor soils too.

It’s ideal climate is temperate, where given the right soil conditions, can spread quite rapidly and become somewhat of a pest. In the tropics and subtropics it’s a little more temperamental – the root quality seems to deteriorate year by year and it may be best grown as an annual

It’s an excellent plant for drought conditions and needs very little fertiliser. It’s one of those plants you can put in “out of the way” and it will continue to produce year after year.

Propogation is by root division in spring – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. As the plant has high potassium needs, it’s worth sprinkling some wood ash around the planting area. Comfrey would make an excellent mulch.

Would probably grow well in pots if a new pot is planted every spring.

Nutrition:

High in potassium and iron and also contains calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamins A, B, & C.

Using it in the kitchen:

The edible tubers are harvested once all the foliage dies down. It’s best to harvest only what you intend to use, as they don’t keep very well. Any tubers left in the ground will resprout in spring.

Tubers can be scrubbed and grated raw into salads – they have slight nutty flavour.

They can also be cooked like potatoes and have a similar texture. Try them in soups, casseroles & curries or on their own as a baked or boiled vegetable.

jerusalem-artichoke-3
Jerusalum artichoke tubers cleaned and ready for baking or boiling.

Jerusalem artichokes are a great survival plant, particularly in temperate zones as they regrow every season with very little care.

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.

Galangal

Botanical Name: Alpinia galanga

How to grow it: Galangal is a hardy perennial plant to 2 metres that is grown for it’s underground rhizomes and used to flavour oriental flavoured dishes.

Grows in full sun to shade, handles annual dry seasons well, but responds well to lots of water.

Grows all year round in the subtropics & tropics, and will die back and resprout in spring in cooler areas. Doesn’t like frost, so in cooler areas use as an understorey plant.

For large and easy to harvest rhizomes, plant in a deep, loose soil.

Propogation is by root division basically anytime it’s warm – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. I’ve often struck plants from rhizomes found in fruit and vegetable stores and markets, so keep your eye out.

galangal-alpinia-galanga-2
Galangal propagation by rhizome division

Will do well in pots for a year or two until it becomes potbound & you have to dig it all up & start again.

Using it in the kitchen:

Galangal is used almost exclusively in asian soups, curries & curry pastes. It has a unique aroma that adds authenticity to these dishes, and in my view, cannot be omitted or replaced. Lucky it’s a gorgeous plant & virtually unkillable!

galangal-alpinia-galanga-3
Galangal – irreplaceable for asian food fans

Slice it thinly and add it to soups, or chop it finely and add it to stir fries, curries or curry pastes.

It also has a pleasant perfumy aroma that goes well with herbal teas.

Not the most important of survival plants for it’s very limited use, but it’s really easy to grow & looks great. If you love asian food – it actually is a survival plant!!

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.

drumstick-tree-moringa-oleifera-2
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!

Comfrey

Botanical Name: symphytum officinale

Some other names: Knitbone, Boneset, Woundwort, Bruisewort

How to grow it: Comfrey is amongst the easiest & most hardy of all plants I know. Once established, it is virtually “unkillable” and it would be wise to carefully consider where to plant it – as it will always be there!

Like many perennials, comfrey will do best in a deep, well drained, fertile soil, but it has a wide tolerance for all conditions. Will tolerate drought, sunlight, lack of sunlight, will outcompete all weeds and can be continually harvested for most of the year.

It has deep roots which will mine nutrients and moisture from deep in the soil. Other than maybe a bit of seaweed spray, I’ve never directly fertilised my comfrey plants and they always seem to thrive.

The best way to propogate is break off a root, further break it down to 2cm pieces, and plant it sideways in the soil. It seems that any piece of root will strike, so one established plant will make many, many new ones.

Will grow very happily in pots, though it won’t reach anywhere near the size & productivity of the ground grown ones.

The comfrey controversy:Comfrey is a very nutrient dense plant with high levels of vitamin A, B, C & E, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium + many more minerals. It also has constituents that lead to a range of herbal actions.

Medical science however, has determined that the plant includes alkaloids that are dangerous to humans – “proven” through laboratory testing in rats. There is very little evidence to suggest that humans or livestock have actually been poisoned by the herb, but nevertheless, it is now banned for internal (mostly) and/or external use in many countries. It is surely ironic that you can buy a pack of cigarettes from the local corner store which has been proven to kill millions, but you cannot use comfrey no matter how beneficial it might be!

In history, it has a long record of use and there are many, many anecdotal accounts of it’s effectiveness in dealing with many different diseases including chronic ones like cancer, arthritis, asthma and digestive disorders. And that’s only by taking it internally. Externally, it’s been used for dealing with broken bones, bruising and even healing open wounds.

So given that authorities have banned it’s use, I can’t recommend that you use the herb, only that you research it’s potential benefits/drawbacks for yourself.

My own experience using Comfrey externally leads me to value the herb medicinally more than any other in my garden. I’ve used it on a variety of complaints in my family and found it to very effective, if not amazing! Open wounds healing in a fraction of the normal time, rashes disappearing overnight, even pain relief and quick healing of sprained ankles etc.

Other uses: Fortunately, even though comfrey is banned in many countries for use as food or medicine, there a still numerous uses for it in the garden.

Due to it’s deep roots, it mines nutrients from deep in the soil that aren’t available to other plants, and the leaves can be harvested very regularly and used as mulch on the garden. Containing good levels of Nitrogen, potassium & phosphorous + trace elements makes it almost a complete plant fertiliser. It can be soaked in water for a week, and then used as a rich liquid fertiliser. Comfrey is a known compost activator, and can be added regularly to the compost to “speed things up”.

If you’re concerned about taking comfrey internally, try chopping it up and giving it to your chickens – then eat the eggs. In fact all livestock will benefit from it’s regular use.

comfrey-symphytum-officinale-2
Freshly harvested Comfrey root

Choko

Botanical Name: Sechium edule

Some other names: Chayote, Alligator pear, vegetable pear, christophene, citrayota

How to grow it: Choko is a sprawling, hardy perennial vine to several metres that will happily climb fences, trellises & other vegetation. It is usually grown for it’s fruit, but all parts of the plant are edible making it a very useful plant.

It’s grown very successfully in the sub-tropics/tropics where it’s warm season growth can be quite massive – invasive if it isn’t given the room. In cooler climates, it will die back in cooler weather and won’t tolerate heavy frosts. May need to be treated as an annual in these climates.

It’s fairly hardy overall, but will do much better in moist well drained soils. It’s roots might rot in heavier soils. Needs full sun for best results.

The easiest way to propogate Choko is to bury a fruit in the ground in spring. It strikes very easily as you’ll notice from any fruit that falls to ground – they’ll start growing with almost 100% success. Tip cuttings in spring also work well.

Not a great plant for pots – unless you want growing tips and tendrils for your stir-fries. Plant 2-3 fruits in a pot and cover with mulch. Then harvest the shoots & tendrils very regularly to keep the plants under control.

Nutrition: Choko is an excellent source of Vitamin C, and has good levels of Vitamin B, zinc, copper, manganese, and potassium.

Using it in the kitchen:

Choko is an amazing food plant. Most people are aware that fruits can be eaten, which in season are abundant. Try eating the smaller fruits chopped in salads and stirfries. Larger fruits are great quartereed and baked, as well as added to curries, soups, and casseroles.

What people aren’t so aware of is that the plant is a bountiful source of shoots and tendrils which are highly nutritious in salads and stir fries or even sandwiches. Any shoots that snap off will be tender and added at the last minute, have a great texture in stir fries.

Tubers can also be harvested in the dormant season and used the same as yam or potatoes.

Seeds have a nutty flavour and can be eaten fresh or roasted.

choko-sechium-edule-3
Full size choko fruit


Other uses

Chokos are a great plant to grow over the chooks run to provide shade, protection and a regular supply of fresh greens.

The prolific leaf growth can be cut back several times during the growing season and used as mulch – this will encourage growth of new shoots for use in cooking.

Choko is an excellent survival plant as it’s easy to grow, prolific, and the entire plant can be used as food.

Cassava

Botanical Name: Manihot esculenta

Some other names: yuca, tapioca, mandico, alpim

How to grow it: Cassava is a short lived perennial bush that can grow to several metres. It’s an attractive plant with lush foliage on red-green stems.

Cassava is grown extensively in the tropics & sub-tropics and will do best in these climates. Will have a shorter growing season in cooler climates and is better treated as a annual – planted when the weather has warmed up.

Likes full sun and a position where the soil drains well. Cassava likes a regular supply of water, but does very well in drought conditions. As long as there is some water in the season, it will continue to produce. I’ve found it will grow well in poor soils as long as it doesn’t get waterlogged.

Propogation is by stem cuttings. In late winter or early spring, cut off a large stem from the dormant plant. Then cut the stem into 15-20cm pieces with at least two nodes on them. Plant them in position or in pots & they’ll strike quite easily when the weather warms up.

Grows OK in pots, but you’ll need big ones if you plan to harvest the tubers

Nutrition: Cassava roots are mainly a source of carbohydrates, but are also high in calcium, phosphorous & vitamin C.

The leaves are high in protein.

Cassava contains varying levels of Hydrocyanic Acid which is poisonous to both humans and animals. Both the leaves & the tubers must be cooked to remove this toxin. There are low toxic varieties, and I know in some cultures the leaves are eaten raw, but I’d recommend cooking at all times.

Using it in the kitchen:

To use Cassava leaves, they must first be boiled in water for 10 minutes, with the water discarded.

Then they can be added to salads, soups, casseroles, and curries.

The tubers can be used just like you would potatoes. They make great chips or roast veges. Remove the skin & rinse in water before use.

cassava-manihot-esculenta-3
Roots of Cassava ready for baking or boiling (peel first).

Cassava makes a great survival food as it’s hardy to drought conditions and both the leaves & roots can be eaten.

Other uses

The large lobed leaves can be harvested regularly during the growing season & make great mulch for the garden.

Arrowroot

Botanical Name: Canna edulis

Some other names: Achira, Canna Achira, Queensland arrowroot

How to grow it: 

Arrowroot is amongst the most hardy and productive of all edible perennial plants. If you know the ornamental Canna lillies, then you’ll have a good idea about the growth habit of Arrowroot. It will grow to about 2m and produce lush green foliage for all but the coldest months of the year. Prefers full sun, but handles light shade well too.

In the tropics, it will grow all year round without dieback and in colder climates it will die down in winter – resprouting at the first sign of spring. If you experience a winter freeze you may need to treat it as an annual, planting new rhizomes every spring.

Arrowroot will tolerate all water conditions from bog to drought, but will obviously produce more if given a regular water supply.

I’ve never watered mine – it seems quite happy with whatever rainfall nature provides. Of course you can expect higher production in deeper and more fertile soils, but really, they’ll grow just about anywhere.

Propogation is as simple as digging up the tubers and replanting them in their new position. Just make sure each tuber has an eye from which to sprout from – some tubers have several.

Nutrition:

Revered mainly for the starch content in the tubers, which can be made into an easy to digest flour or thickener. Also contains protein, potassium, calcium & phosphorous. Not the most potent plant nutrition wise, but a handy addition to stretch out a cooked meal.

Using it in the kitchen:

Young growing tips & unfurled leaves can be used as a cooked vegetable or added to stir-fries for an interesting texture.

Peeled tubers can be grated or diced raw into salads – they have a slightly sweet, crunchy texture.

Most commonly though, the tubers are peeled and used like potatoes – in casseroles, soups and curries or chopped into chips or a roasted vegetable. They tend to take on the flavour of the meal and retain their crunchy texture. I think they’re best cooked a little longer than you would potatoes.

To thicken a meal – especially soups, try grating them.

Arrowroot is a brilliant survival food as they’re incredibly hardy and productive and can be harvested at any time of year. I only use the tubers occasionally, but am well aware that there’s plenty of food in the garden anytime you’ve got some arrowroot in.

arrowroot-canna-edulis-3
Arrowroot tubers cleaned & ready for cooking.

Other uses:

Arrowroot makes a great mulch for your garden & can be cut down to the base several times in any growing season. It’s worthy as a plant in your garden just for this purpose.

Also makes good animal fodder (the leaves are high in protein) and an excellent windbreak or border for your vege patch.

All in all an extremely useful plant.