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.

 

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.

 

Yacon Polymnia sonchifolia

Yacon

Botanical Name: Polymnia sonchifolia

Some other names: Peruvian ground apple, Apple of the earth

How to grow it:

Yacon is a perrenial tuber to 2 metres that has very attractive above-ground foliage. Every year at the beginning of winter, the foliage dies back and this is the best time to dig up what I’ve always found to be a massive supply of sweet tasting tubers. If the smaller roots are left in the ground, the plant will resprout again in spring and you’ll get crops year after year.

It does well in my sub-tropical climate, but will do just as well in cooler climates. Will grow in full sun to partial shade and due to it’s tuber system, is quite drought hardy.

Will respond well to fertilising & mulching, and for best results, will prefer a deep, loose soil. It will still produce well in any well-drained soil but it doesn’t like boggy conditions.

It will also do very well in big pots, but needs to be needs to be started again every year or it will become potbound very quickly.

Any root, tuber or sucker seems to resprout, but if your soil freezes in winter, you would be well advised to keep some roots in the fridge for replanting in spring.

Due to the attractive foliage and strong root system, plant will do well amongst other ornamental plants, or I tend to plant it out of the way in areas that I don’t water – it seems quite happy without any care.

Nutrition:

Vitamins A, B, & C, potassium, calcium, magnesium & iron.

Yacon derives it’s sweetness from inulin – a sugar that’s indigestible by humans. That makes it suitable for diabetic and low calorie diets.

Using it in the kitchen:

Every year when the foliage dies back we end up with a glut of the tubers. I like to give some of the crop away as a novelty, and my kids like them peeled and eaten raw. They have a sweet and slightly earthy taste – delicious!

yacon-3
Eat Yacon tubers fresh or baked.

They’ll keep pretty well in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.

They can be peeled and chopped into green salads and fruit salads and are great in the juicer with other vegetables.

They can also be baked with the skins on (the skin peels away easily after cooking) or added to soups, casseroles or curries.

In spring, the young shoots & foliage can be added to stir fries, curries & soups.

Although we don’t eat them all year round, smaller tubers could probably be dug up at any time making Yacon a great survival food – it requires basically no care and in all but the coldest climates will keep producing every year.

water pepper Polygonum hydropiper

Water pepper

Botanical Name: Polygonum hydropiper

Some other names: Tade, Marshpepper knotweed, Smart weed

How to grow it:

Water pepper is a hardy annual plant to about 60cm that is considered a weed of waterways in many parts of the world. It’s attractive foliage varies from deep red to green.

It will grow well in boggy conditions or shallow water, but will do better for leaf production in moist, fertile soils. Prefers sun, but handles shade well too.

Being an annual plant, it will set seed & die in winter, but in my subtropical climate it seems to be available all year round by self seeding.

Propogation is by seed, cuttings or root division. It seems that either insects or birds like the seed as it comes up all over my garden, but not in an invasive way – it’s very easy to remove by hand

water pepper Polygonum hydropiper
Water pepper plant setting seed

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

Nutrition:

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

Using it in the kitchen:

Water pepper doesn’t have a great deal of flavour – perhaps a hint of horseradish, but what you’ll realise as soon as you try some is that it’s hot – a peppery kind of hot.

If you like the heat, add leaves freely to salads and sandwiches and if you don’t, tear them up and add them to salads sparingly. The red tinge on the leaves will add interest.

water pepper Polygonum hydropiper
Water pepper leaves – peppery hot.

I tend to use them for their health giving benefits, and I don’t mind a bit of bite in fresh salads.

water chestnut Eleocharis dulcis

Water chestnut

Botanical Name: Eleocharis dulcis

Some other names: Chinese water chestnut, Somwang, Apulid

How to grow it:

Water chestnut is a perennial sedge plant grown in swampy conditions for it’s tasty corms which are harvested in winter/ early spring. It has long, hollow leaves out of the water.

It grows best in the subtropics/tropics but will still do OK in cooler areas provided there’s over 6 months of warm weather. Does not tolerate significant frosts.

I grow mine in an old bathtub with about 30 cm of soil covered by about 10cm of water and it produces big crops every year. Likes full sun in a warm position of your garden.

To plant, prepare your soil in advance of spring with some old manure or compost and plant corms (2-3 per square metre) in the soil when wet – not flooded. Once the shoots grow to above the level of your container, you can fill with water & the plant will take off without any other help. For bigger corms, it’s important to harvest all of the crop each year, perhaps leaving just a few in your container for the following year. The plant will grow like a perennial, without any help, but without thinning, the corms will get progressively smaller as each year goes by – not good as they are finnicky to prepare for eating.

Nutrition:

Corms are a good source of carbohydrates with vitamin B, potassium, manganese & copper.

Using it in the kitchen:

Harvested corms need to be peeled, removing the dark brown skins, First, cut off the top & base then peel the remaining brown skin with a knife.

Once peeled, the corms can be eaten fresh in hand, or chopped & added to salads. They have a slightly sweet, nutty taste and have a crunchy texture.

Cooked, they retain this crunchy texture and can be added to stir fries, curries, soups & casseroles. Very popular in asian cooking.

Since you’ll normally have a glut of corms at harvest time, it’s a good idea to freeze them. The best way to do this is to boil them for a few minutes, drain & cool. I like to freeze them on trays & then store them in freezer bags all separated – that way you can grab a few at a time for adding to dishes for the rest of the year.

water chestnut Eleocharis dulcis
Water chestnuts peeled and ready for adding to salads, stirfries or soups.

A good survival food as they are so easy to grow, and they will perennialise if not harvested every year.

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.

Turmeric Curcuma longa

Turmeric

Botanical Name: Curcuma longa

How to grow it: Turmeric is a hardy perennial plant to about 1 metre that is grown for it’s underground rhizomes and used extensively in cooking and in medicine.

It grows well in sun or shade – tuber growth is better in full sun. It does best in humid sub-tropical to tropical climates but could probably be planted every spring in cooler areas. Will not tolerate frost.

Likes a lot of water, but doesn’t grow tubers if it’s too waterlogged. The looser & deeper the dirt, the bigger tubers you’ll grow. Best time to harvest is when the leaves die down for winter, but I’ll ferret for tubers at any time of year. Basically I just let them grow as a patch & harvest what I want, when required.

Propogation is by root division in spring – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. In warm areas, you can plant them right up until summer & still get good crops. You’ll regularly see turmeric tubers at markets and organic shops nowadays – just grab a few pieces and put them in the ground in warmer weather.

Turmeric Curcuma longa
Turmeric plant dug up for dividing.

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

Nutrition:

High in potassium, calcium, iron & chromium, and vitamins A & C. Many beneficial herbal actions.

Turmeric is thought to be very good for digestive complaints and as an anti-inflammatory. It is also claimed to be helpful with cancer, alzheimers, and arthritis and is being investigated by medical science as we speak.

Using it in the kitchen:

Turmeric is used as a spice in cooking and as a colouring agent. Most of us are accustomed to using it as a powder, but you can also use freshly harvested tubers. Slice them thinly into stir fries, curries & soups or any meat or vegetable dishes. It goes well in the vegetable juicer to add colour and flavour to your favourite juice.

Turmeric Curcuma longa
Turmeric is a very versatile & healthy spice.

I suspect that turmeric is one of those “super-herbs” that keep us healthy through many actions, and so try and add it to cooking whenever I can.

Stores fairly well in a cool dry spot in the pantry, or can be sliced thinly, dried and reconstituted in water as required (or just added to hot dishes as is).

Turmeric is a great survival food for it’s hardiness, it’s long harvesting time, it’s usefulness in cooking & for it’s health benefits.

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.

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.

salad mallow Corchorus olitorius

Salad Mallow

Botanical Name: Corchorus olitorius

Some other names: Egyptian spinach, Tossa jute, Jew’s Mallow

How to grow it:

Salad Mallow is an annual shrub-like plant that will grow to 2 metres in Summer/Autumn. In the sub-tropics/tropics, it is at it’s best in wet season and is outstanding for producing lots of leaves when other greens are struggling with the rain.

It thrives in all soil types even boggy conditions, and does better in full sun, but will still produce in partial shade. Being an annual, it will die down in winter and need to be resown the following spring.

Will do very well in pots if well watered, mulched & fed – a great plant to have near the kitchen for a big supply of tasty salad leaves.

Propogation is by seed in spring, and for years I painsakingly saved as much seed as I could as this is one of my favorite plants. After a while though, I realised that the plant self-seeds very easily – in fact it seemed to come up all over the place like a weed as soon as the rains came. So now I don’t bother saving seed – I just let it come up wherever it wants, whenever it’s ready.

If you only have one plant, it can be propogated easily by tip cuttings.

A great plant for pots – keep a few near the kitchen and look after them & they’ll definitely look after you!

salad mallow Corchorus olitorius
Seed pods of Salad mallow – get them early enough & you can eat them.

Nutrition:

Excellent source of protein, vitamins, A, B, & C, potassium, calcium, phosphorous plus many other minerals. This is one of the most valuable sources of nutrients we can grow in our backyards. If I could choose just one plant for the best combination of nutrition and taste – this would be it!

 

Using it in the kitchen:

The tasty, juicy leaves are great in salads and sandwiches and are often plentiful when other leaf vegetables are struggling with the rain.

salad mallow Corchorus olitorius
Salad mallow leaves – use fresh or lightly cooked.

Can also be added to soups, stews & quiches as can the young seed pods which are used similar to Okra. Make sure you pick the pods young though – as soon as they start getting stringy, no amount of cooking will make them tender.

I also like to use the growing tips in stirfries, omelettes or just on it’s own as a steamed vegetable, which will encourage the plant to branch out & produce even more leaves, tips & seeds pods.

Leaves can be dried when they’re plentiful & added to winter soups & casseroles to provide a protein & nutrient boost – a great survival plant that will reward you year in and year out with very little care.

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.

Multiplier leeks allium porrum

Multiplier leeks

Botanical Name: Allium porrum

How to grow it:

The problem with “normal” bienniel leek varieties is the long time to harvest – usually 6 months or more. In the tropics/subtropics this is further complicated by the fact that the wet season can either damage or completely destroy your crop.

If you face either of these problems, try multiplier leeks. You’ll be unlikely to grow them to the same size as you see in the supermarket, but they are very tasty, and if you can get used to the smaller size, you can have leeks  just about all year round – they do get ratty or even die down in the hottest months

As far as I can tell, multiplier leeks will grow in any climate & any soil type. They are super hardy and generally super-productive. The only job to attend to is to pull them up and separate them every few months so they can grow to a decent size. If you don’t you’ll still get tons of leeks they’ll just be smaller.

perennial-leeks-allium-porrum-2
When multiplier leeks get crowded, pull them up,separate them and replant a few inches apart.
perennial-leeks-allium-porrum-3
One leek turns into many!

As leeks are one of my favorite vegetables, I have them dotted all over my garden. I’m happy eating them once they’re about 10mm in thickness, but they are better when they reach 20+mm.

Nutrition:

Vitamins A, B, & C, calcium, potassium, phosphorpus, Iron, silica & protein – virtually the same properties as all plants in the onion family.

Using it in the kitchen:

Use them the same as you would for normal leeks – in curries, soups and casseroles, but due to the fact they’re tender & mild, they’ll also go well in omelletes & stir fries – just cook them a little bit.

Multipliers Leeks are an excellent survival food as you get all the benefits of the onion family, stems are available all year round and the plant is virtually unkillable!.

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.

basella-alba-malabar-spinach-2
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.

basella-alba-malabar-spinach-4
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!

basella-alba-malabar-spinach-3
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.

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.

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.

kang-kong-ipomoea-aquatica-2
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.

kang-kong-ipomoea-aquatica-3
Freshly harvested Kang Kong leaf & stem

Ginger

How to grow it:

Ginger is a hardy perennial plant that is grown for it’s underground rhizomes and used in cooking, medicine and as a tea.

In nature, Ginger is an understorey plant, and so I tend to plant it under other trees. In commercial cultivation though, it’s grown usually in full sun and no doubt has higher yields.

The main ingredient needed for ginger is warmth. it will do well planted in spring in both subtropical and tropical areas. In cooler areas, you’ll have a shorter growing season and may suffer from smaller rhizomes – still worth growing if you can.

Although tolerant of drought due to the underground rhizome system, ginger does best in moist, well drained situations where it will produce large crops of swollen rhizomes. Best harvest time is when the foliage dies down for winter, but I just harvest it as needed – the rhizomes are smaller, milder & more tender early in the season, and will be much larger & more pungent later in Autumn & winter.

Propogation is by root division in spring – simply dig up some roots and put them in their new position. In warm areas, you can plant them right up until summer & still get good crops. Just get a piece of root from an organic source, break it up into pieces & plant into position. It strikes very easily.

ginger-zingiber-officinale-2
Ginger rhizomes dug up for division and replanting.

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

Nutrition:

High in potassium, manganese, copper & magnesium, and vitmans A & B. Many beneficial herbal actions.

Ginger is thought to be very good for your digestive & circulatory systems and will reduce nausea from morning sickness & motion sickness. Helps ward off colds & flu. Add a few slices to you tea or on it’s own.

 

Using it in the kitchen:

Ginger is mainly used as a spice in both savoury & sweet dishes.

You can grate, chop, mince or slice it into stirfries, curries, soups usually with some garlic & chilli. I find it has a special synergy with sweet potato & pumpkin – try it in your next pumpkin soup for a flavour treat. Also worth trying grated into your favorite meat marinade.

ginger-zingiber-officinale-3
Ginger root straight from the garden

I try and add it to food as much as possible for it’s health benefits, but beware – it can have a dominating flavour or actually taste quite hot.

Stores fairly well in a dark dry spot in the pantry, or can be sliced thinly, dried and reconstituted in water as required (or just added to hot dishes as is).

Ginger is a great survival food for it’s hardiness, it’s long harvesting time, it’s usefulness in cooking & for it’s health benefits.

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.

allium-tuberosum-garlic-chives-3

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.

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!

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.

chilli tree Capsicum frutescens

Chilli Tree

Botanical Name: Capsicum frutescens

Some other names: Pepper, hot pepper, chili

How to grow it: The Chilli tree is a perennial bush to about two metres that provides generous supplies of consistently flavoured chillies.

I’m unsure of the botanical name for the species I grow (I bought it many years ago at a market stall), but it differs from all other chillies I’ve grown by the fact that it develops into a larger plant & rebounds more strongly in spring. Many of the other chilli varieties I’ve grown tend to struggle with winter & then regrow at less vigour than the first year.

It handles a wide range of conditions – from drought to quite wet (not boggy) but will respond with better fruiting it grown in well drained soils that receive regular water. It prefers heat, but would grow in cooler climates with a shorter fruiting season. In my cool sub-tropical climate it gives fruit for at least 6 months of the year.

Responds well to fertilising and mulching – go easy on high nitrogen fertilisers – you want fruit not leaf!

Propogation works from tip cuttings, but is much easier by seed. Just pick some ripe fruits in late Autumn, dry them out over winter, and plant them when the weather warms up. You’ll get good crops in the first year.

chilli-tree-capsicum-frutescens-2
Chilli tree fruit – seeds of the ripe fruit will sprout in warmer weather.

It does well in large pots – You might have to trim it’s roots every 2-3 years for best results.

 

Nutrition: Fruit is high in protein & contain vitamins A, B, & C, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.

It has many herbal actions and is considered very good for the circulatory system and the blood. It is thought that regular consumption reduces the risk of heart attack.

 

Using it in the kitchen:

Chillies can be harvested at anytime they are fully grown, whether they are green, red, or any colour in between.

Anyone who cooks would be familiar with their use, but if you’d like to get more chilli into your diet, try adding them to the omelettes, scrambled eggs, soups, pasta sauces, and basically any dish that could handle a bit of spicing up.

At the end of their season, I harvest all the red ones I can, dry them out, crush them slightly and then put them in a bottle with cold pressed olive oil. After a couple of months this infusion tastes very good (and hot!) and can be added cold at the end of cooking (stirred in after the heat is turned off), or even drizzled onto pizzas for a bit of bite.

I can also vouch for chilli’s ability to ward off & reduce symptoms of colds and flus. Make a strong tea of dried chilli, fresh ginger slices, crushed garlic and lemon juice – add honey if you’d like the tea sweetened.. During the day or days you’re fighting off the cold, dilute this tea with hot water & sip regularly throughout the day. It works!

Chilli tree is a great survival plant as it grows for many years in a wide range of conditions, gives an abundance of fruit which is great for cooking and for your health.

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

Asparagus spears just waiting to be picked!

Asparagus

Botanical Name: Asparagus officinalis

How to grow it:

Asparagus is a flowering perennial plant which dies back in winter and is harvested in spring for it’s emerging spears. It’s a fascinating plant to grow and harvest.

An easy to grow plant, but you’ll need to have patience. It might take a few years before you get serious harvests. One of the best things about asparagus is that it will grow in most climates so it’s very likely it will grow in yours.

The better position you can give it, the better the results. Full sun, deep, fertile soil, regular addition of fertiliser. It is a very hardy plant though – in tougher conditions it will just give less spears.

You can start asparagus from seed if you can wait until the 3rd year for your crops. You’ll get better crops in the 2nd year by sourcing crowns (below ground parts) or dividing your own. I’ve always just gone the seed option and waited the extra year.

Nutrition: Asparagus is a seriously nutritious plant. Spears have high levels of Vitamins A, B, & C, E, & K, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper, manganese & many other nutrients. Also thought to be high in antioxidants

Using it in the kitchen:

You’ve never really tasted asparagus until you’ve picked some fresh & eaten it raw. It’s a much more subtle flavour and the spears are so tender they almost melt in your mouth. In my home, the spears don’t usually make it to the table as competition is so high for them straight from the garden.

If you do manage to get some to the kitchen, try eating it raw in salads

In cooking, it should be lightly steamed or stir fried – 1-2 minutes is plenty

asparagus-officinalis
Autumn foliage of Asparagus

They’ll store for a week or so in the fridge, but the basic idea is to eat them as soon as you can after picking.

Asparagus is a great addition to your edible garden as it’s so easy to grow & rewards with repeated crops of nutritious vegetables year in year out.