Monday, August 27, 2012

Life changes

My life has changed a lot in the last eight months. Notably, I've finally made my long-planned move out of Portland and to Hawaii! Not part of the plan: I broke up with Theressa (AKA Tulsey) in February, shortly before she sold her house in March. The breakup with Theressa did not go smoothly, and we haven't been in contact since April. She has moved to Hawaii as well, but other than that I don't know what she's doing.

I spent several months tying up loose ends in Portland, and finally moved to the wet side of the Big Island of Hawaii in August, with my new girlfriend Jasmine. We plan to spend 6-12 months learning about the landbase here before trying to buy a parcel suited to our vision of tribal living on a permaculture homestead with hunting and gathering in public lands.

We haven't had much internet access since we arrived, but I've been keeping notes on our activities and learnings. I'm going to post this introduction and weekly summaries of our experience with retroactive dates to match our actual timeline of living here (I'm writing this at the end of September but will post it with an August date so that my weekly summaries all follow it in logical order!) I hope to take some time to work through my large backlog of planned posts about temperate plants and systems. I'll also begin posting thoughts on tropical food systems and semi-primitive living. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Crop summary: Darmera peltata - Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb

Years ago, on the Klamath River of northern California, I came across and later identified Darmera peltata, known as Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb. The plant grows on rocks along rivers and in other wet places, putting out long stalks terminating in the center of large roundish leaves.
I felt excited when I learned that you can eat the leaf stalks, but I didn't have a chance to actually try them out until this summer. Plants for a Future says to peel the stalks and eat them raw or cooked. After a little trial and error, I determined that the basal portion of the stem has a lot of fiber, but still a soft, juicy core with a mild flavor and a lot of water. I pulled off the outer full-on fibrous layer, chewed on the inner parts, and wound up with fiber wads which I spat out or swallowed. Towards the top of each stalk, the outer fiber layer hadn't developed yet and I could eat the entire stalk without peeling, a very nice nibble. The very top inch or so of stalk has the same pliability, but tastes fairly bitter. Perhaps cooking would mitigate the bitterness; I didn't try cooking any of the stalks so can't say how that affects the flavor or tenderness.

I wouldn't grow Umbrella Plant in an urban setting with limited clean-water aquatic space; I would instead plant some aquatic or wetland root crops. But I would definitely consider Umbrella Plant for graywater areas where you wouldn't want to eat plant parts in contact with the soil anyway. And if I had a stretch of natural creek or river on larger acreage, I would experiment with it as a water edge plant in rocky areas.