growing (6)

Do you know what 'foodscaping' is?


I've never heard of the term 'foodscaping' until I've stumbled upon this article explaining the unfamiliar word and the real value which it brings to people. Turned out, it is a word that has to be in our dictionaries necessarily.

In short, foodscaping is a particular type of landscaping, a.k.a. edible landscaping, in which large areas of private, or even public properties are used to grow food instead of decorative plants. Foodscaping is all about planting a garden which looks beautiful and feeds you at the same time. A blend between landscaping and farming, this is in fact a new trend in the gardening industry which gathers more and more supporters worldwide. It is not like having a vegetable garden in the backyard or a few hotbeds to grow fruits and veggies, but it is more like an implantation edible plants into the landscape. If you’re wondering how to landscape your front yard, think berry bushes instead of a shrubbery, strawberries and lettuce instead of grass, fruit trees instead of willows or palms.

One of the benefits of embracing the idea of foodscaping is that it is a very sustainable source of organic, healthy food which also means savings at the local greengrocery. A research of The Australia Institute called “Grow Your Own” reports that the main reason for growing their own food for 71% of the Australians is to have a healthier meal at their dining tables. Еvery second household grows fruits, herbs, nuts and veggies, which equates to almost 4.7 million households growing food. While only 20% of the households in the Northern Territory tend to grow food, in the southern states, such as Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, more than 57% of the households are involved in food gardening.

In a country with so many drylands, the lawn is quite an institution, and Australians have developed a good taste for making a lawn look attractive and colorful. It is ridiculous how more advanced countries modernise their urban spaces by devastating food-producing areas in order to ‘landscape’ them. But what’s the point of maintaining an unproductive landscape in a world where the climate is so unstable and the energy sources are limited? In a world of overpopulation and extremely large amounts of food waste, why not interleave our food system by embracing foodscaping as a standard?

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9779027497?profile=original9779027677?profile=originalI bought the seed earlier this year from an American outlet, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and have been pleasantly surprised. A bit like a cross between celery and silverbeet stems with some added innocuous little spines that wipe off easily.

Both the stems and flowers are edible, though it will be some time before I get to eat a flower and I'll probably leave the first one in the hope of more seed for the future.

I've looked at a few You Tube preparation videos and people seem intent on removing all fibre from the stems with a peeler. This may be necessary if my plants become old and tough, but I like fibre in my food and I don't find it necessary to prepare them this way at the moment.

I've mainly been using the stems in stews and casseroles but here are some more recipes I've just found online that sound really good complete with some good advice about preparation:

Cardoons are cousins of artichokes and thistles. They are cultivated for their edible stalks, much like celery, but they aren't eaten raw. Traditionally grown and served in European Mediterranean areas, cardoons have been revered as delicacies there for over 300 years.

Cardoon is a vegetable like artichoke in that it oxidises and discolors. Chefs will usually toss it into acidulated water (water with lemon juice) to keep it from discoloring.

When thinking of cardoon, keep the flavor of artichokes in your mind when planning the dish.


Cardoon Gratin

Let's address our elephant in the room immediately: the Cardoon! I will be the first to admit that I have not shown much love to this vegetable. The last time I tried it, which was years ago, I quite unsuccessfully put it into a tabbouleh, hoping its artichoke-like flavor might fit nicely into the salad. I'm sure I didn't cook the cardoon properly, so my attempt yielded a stringy, tough cardoon that was completely unappetizing. This year, it was my mission to give it the respect its elder status has earned, so I found two dishes for you that are worth making. Up front, a classic French preparation that is rich and delicious, a creamy gratin. This recipe was mined from an old issue of Saveur, and is apparently a famous dish from Tours, prime cardoon country. Make sure you do not short the cardoon its cooking time. That's the key to making it palatable. Also keep in mind that it acts like a sponge, so be sure the liquid you use to cook it in tastes really good.

3 cups cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1.25kg cardoon
1 cup gruyere, grated

Put the cream, stock, and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season with salt and pepper.

Trim your cardoons, then slice them into pieces around 2 inches long, immediately dropping them into the cream bath to prevent discoloring.
Heat the cardoons until the cream comes to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for about an hour. Remove the cardoon pieces with a slotted spoon, putting them into a gratin/casserole dish and continue to boil the cream until reduced to 3/4 c.
Pour the cream over the cardoons, top with the gruyere, and bake at 350 until the top has colored a little bit, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Sauteed Cardoon with Thyme and Pine Nuts

Almost all the cardoon recipes I found used a lot of cream and cheese or deep fried the stalk. I wanted to find a method that anyone could eat, not just those of us who never watch what we eat. I discovered a recipe on the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog. This is indeed worth making. Remember that cardoon discolors like artichoke hearts do, so make sure it goes immediately into its cooking water after trimming.

Sauteed Cardoon1 lemon
1/2 lb cardoon, trimmed
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 T olive oil
2 T sherry
2 T honey
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1 T thyme (fresh)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Cut the cardoon into large pieces and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion. Saute until softened and beginning to color, then toss in the cardoon for about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and reduce it until it is nearly evaporated, then add the honey, stirring to heat through. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute or so until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper, finishing with the thyme. Delicious!

Cardoon Potato Gratin:

8-10 stalks Cardoon
2-3 medium potatoes
8 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 pint half and half or cream
S & P to taste

Blanch the cardoon stalks in water that has a splash of vinegar or lemon juice until medium tender. You can peel them if you like. We don't. Cut the cardoon stalks in 1/4 inch crescents, across the grain, like you would celery. Peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into batons, about like a french fry. Toss the cut, blanched cardoon stalks with the potatoes directly in a gratin dish. Reserve a handful of the cheese for the top and toss the rest of the cheese with the cardoon/potato mixture. Add the pint of half and half (or cream if using.) Season with salt and pepper.
Bake in a 425 oven 40 minutes or so: until golden brown and the potatoes are all the way through.

Soup of Pureed Cardoons
adapted from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables by Elizabeth Schneider
Elizabeth said about this recipe: This puree looks and tastes like artichoke hearts: but less work and money.
4 servings

2 pounds cardoons

4 cups broth: beef or other broth
4 cups water
4 small shallots, sliced (or onion, leek, etc. if you don't have shallots on hand)
few sprigs parsley
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughtly crushed (I'd use my mortar and pestle for this, you can also try a ziploc bag with a rolling pin)
6 tablespoons write rice, medium or short grain
Salt, White pepper, and lemon juice to taste
2 Tablespoons cold butter
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced toasted almonds

1. Cut off the base and leaves from the cardoon stalks; rinse well, and cut crosswise into 1-2 inch slices. Cover with cold water; bring to a boil, then drain.
2. Add the stock, water, shallots, parsley, coriander, and rice to the cardoon. Simmer, partly covered, until tender - about 45 minutes.
3. Puree mixture very thoroughly in a food processor or hefty blender in batches. Strain through a sieve.
4. Return to pot. Season with salt, white pepper, and lemon juice to tast. Reheat gently. Off heat, stir in the butter. Ladle into heated bowls and sprinkle with almonds.

Below - roasted Cardoon stalks. Fibrous threads have been removed prior to brushing with olive oil and roasting for about 30mins. Described as "a bit chewy but with a lovely artichoke flavour".



9779029259?profile=originalThe Cardoon have been a very useful veg throughout winter and have been a big hit with anyone I have given stems to. As you can see above the plants are still going strong....I'm now wondering for how much longer. I read someones elses post on the net that they cut them back and they came again.

Wondering how long before I get flowers also. I've emailed Baker Creek Heirloom Seed to thank them for all the items I bought that did well (Rapini Broccolli, carrots of various types, Strawberry Spinach - almost lost under the front of the Cardoon in the pic above and so far not ulilised) and asking for more info about it's growing habits.

The stems can flop over onto neighbouring plants but are easy cut back (watch out for the small thorns along the edges - these are easily wiped off with the secateurs).

I try not to waste too many but quite a few have ended up back in the bed as worm food. They're just so darned prolific! Nothing seems to set them back. They do wilt a tiny bit in the current dry heat, but a bit of a drink fixes that quickly. I've found a few caterpillars sitting on the leaves but no real sign of damage, I think they ended up there in error or found the leaf not to their liking (rather bitter).

No diseases seem to bother it either.

Definately a keeper for future years. Fingers crossed that I get viable seed from this lot. I still have some left from the original batch and have also given seed to Elaine and Nathan, just in case.

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Winter Maintenance Tasks in our Garden

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been catching up on some much needed maintenance in various sections of our garden. We have been growing a lot of our edibles in containers while my husband built us a permanent raised garden bed which is now finished and ready for planting.  Prior to that we had an 18m long no-dig raised garden bed made out of hay bales which served us well for a year and also a 20m raised bed on the ground, which we've been resting whilst planting other areas.  It's now been revamped and I'm currently planting out in that too.




Some of the maintenance tasks I've been attending to are:

MAKING TEPEES: Since cherry tomatoes, beans and peas are all reaching for the sky, I’ve pulled out some of my collapsed bamboo tepees that I have made and have been repositioning them to support my new crops. Bamboo stakes and baling twine are used to make 3 or 4 legged tepees in under a minute and I love using bamboo as it’s a sustainable resource and locally available very cheaply. I can make a tepee for about 80c! They are very durable, last me usually 1-2 years and I fold them up and store when I’m not growing climbers. They take up minimal space too.

Recently I transplanted 4 snow pea seedlings that had been in a little micro garden plant nursery till I had the time to put them in a new home. They are now happily installed in their new pea pot climbing up a 4 legged tepee. I last had heavy feeding tomatoes and a few salad greens in this pot so I’m rotating with a legume to add nitrogen to the soil and revitalise it.



PLANT NURSERIES: I have set up a few baby plant nurseries in micro gardens – polystyrene boxes filled with nutrient dense light and fluffy potting mix. I allow my seedlings to harden off and get started before transplanting into the big wide world. They are close to the house so I can give them the extra attention they need before moving them to a raised bed.



RENOVATING MICRO GARDENS: I have developed an intensive cropping system from very small gardens which means I can obtain a high yield in the minimum space. I have less work to do as I don’t have to travel around the garden as much but to produce nutrient dense edible crops, these gardens need that extra bit of love. I top up during the growing cycle with my home made potting mix to reinvigorate the mini box gardens and also to replace the depth as the plants suck up the nutrients in the organic matter. There is always some shrinkage in this system but I have far less pests and high production so I feel that’s a fair trade off.



CROPS WE’RE HARVESTING: We tasted the first passionfruit off our vines a few days ago and they were so sweet – very little acid and definitely worth waiting for. They are planted in a naturally sandy soil so nutrients leach quickly. I’ve had to boost the organic matter with compost, adding coconut fibre which holds moisture well and digging in our food scraps. Have also added lucerne mulch to help feed the soil. This part of the garden is along our boundary fence and a pain to reach with the hose so they’ve had to pretty well look after themselves for moisture. Once a week I’ve been taking a watering can over with some E.M., molasses and seaweed to give them some love and let them know I still care! Also use Natramin, Nutri-Store Gold and Organic Xtra fertilisers to build up the mineral content and balance within the soil.

We’re also harvesting loads of chillis, pumpkins, spinach, salad greens like lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, mustard greens, tatsoi etc and herbs of all kinds, tomatoes, leeks, spring onions, capsicum, mandarins, lemons, avocadoes, eggplant and beans.  A bunch of bananas is nearly ready too.



HERBS: Herbs play a big role in my cooking and also for health but I hate going out at night in winter with a torch to grab a handful of herbs at dinner time. It gets dark so early so I’ve transplanted some of my most used herbs into some pots and put them on our outdoor dining table as an edible centrepiece. Much more convenient.



I’m letting our Lemon Basil go to seed and will replant when it gets warmer.  Have just harvested sweet basil and mustard greens, mild chilli and chia seeds and they are drying for processing soon. 

RAISED NO DIG GARDEN BED: This new no-dig raised bed is about 8m long and 1.2m wide with layers of compost, manure, soil, minerals, leaf litter, lucerne and other hay. We’ve had great success growing in raised beds – less pest problems, great drainage, not so hard on my back and much easier to maintain – so looking forward to planting out our larger winter crops in that very soon. The other raised bed (about 20m long) is currently being planted out with edibles from my plant nursery and will soon fill in the spaces as the weather warms up with other crops like zucchini and sweet corn.  It was previously intensively cropped so we've been making the most of our other garden spaces in the meantime.

Looking forward to sharing the techniques we use and picking up some tips from others. 

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Growing among friends with guilds

I don't know about you but i just LOVE bookshops. We didn't seem to have bookshops growing up in the country as a kid. I did venture into the newsagents after school on many occasions though. They seemed to have most things you could ever want in there, including books. I also love the variety on Amazon. I've just had delivered Robert Kourik's wonderful reference book 'Designing and Maintaining your edible landscape naturally.' It was out of print for many years and is never available in the libraries. I think people nick them because it's so good. Anyway, now I have my own. Ah joy!

Anyway, when I was last in the West End bookstore, I ventured out of the plants and gardening section into ‘relationships’, just for a change of scene. I dallied around books in the humorous, fictional and factual areas, books advising on growing and keeping a circle of girl fiends, boyfriends, lovers or others.

I got to thinking about the circle of others who may send us to insanity or bring us back from the brink. Friends protect, strengthen and help to create resilience in us. And so it is with plants. Building biological and physical associations into our garden planting is known as a guild. Garden guilds create strong and resilient plants. A favourite guild of mine is the combination of snow peas and Pigeon peas with chooks nearby. The pigeon peas give snow peas nitrogen and a living stake. The chooks give extra fertilisers and stop the caterpillars. They also thrive on the pigeon pea sprouted seedlings that pop up everywhere. I used to grind or sprout the pigeon pea seeds for the chooks too. A great protein feed for good eggs and happy hens. What's your good guild idea? I'd love to hear from you. See below the pic of the Chia Guild too....Such a happy combination.

I'll be running a mini 1 1/2 hour workshop on successful guild design at my place in Wishart this Thursday 14 October if you'd like to come along. Just $49 for a good time, great learning opportunity and a catch up with like-minded folks. Call me if you're interested 3349 2962 or email

Cheers, Linda

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New Fence New Options

I rather liked our old fence. It was really rustic looking and had timbers that reminded me of my grans place in Eltham Victoria- ancient as ever, a bit of intrigue and rough around the edges, yet still celebrating the life of a tree.

The birds would come and sit on the fence and look at me working the garden, waiting for a caterpillar to be turned up or a free feed from the fresh soil.

Sadly, the fence fell down and had to be replaced before the neighbours built a new granny flat out the back.

We resisted a 6 foot isolation wall and went for a fence we can still see over to exchange life commentaries if we choose. Rather than being a barrier between us it is an opportunity for more growing space.

We went for timber and now that we have a strong fence again, it's opened a world of possibilities. A new passionfruit Panama Gold of course- and our neighbour is looking forward to sharing a passionfruit harvest. The planting area has been laced with comfrey leaves to provide calcium and potash as well as nitrogen. I dug in composted old manure and compost from the bin. I expect to be sharing passionfruit within the year.

Our first crop of wing beans, grown up the fence , gave us a small harvest when the weather was warm. I love those little beauties and will be sowing more seed in late November. This time a scraping will help the seed to germinate before sowing.

Not only has the fence provided a new vertical growing space, we’ve utilised the old fence palings around the garden. The hardwood palings, have made planks for protecting the earth from compaction as I plant, and have created a bridge over the swale albeit a springy one that reminds me of the play equipment when i was at kinder a LONG time ago.

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Container growing tips


This week I posted a new article to my blog on container growing, which I thought would be of interest to the city dwellers in this group with limited food gardening space. The article talks about the challenges and how to overcome them, resulting in reasonable levels of productivity, whilst still using organic methods. You can read the article here. Please fell free to comment either on this site or on my own site.

Happy gardening
Peter Kearney
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