Sunday, December 15, 2013

Photo album: Going Garden, June 2013

I created an album of photos taken by Jasmine van den Heuvel in June 2013, of my old forest garden in Portland. The new owners have changed a few things around in their first year and a quarter:
  • Replaced half to two-thirds of the zone 1 perennial beds with annual beds
  • Removed the double row of failing raspberries near the house and mostly left it open (at least for now?) as a big path
  • Ironically, after we removed the herb spiral which didn't work very well and dug a catchment pond, the new owners filled in the pond and made a little herb spiral in its place
  • Replaced the dead olive in zone 2 and its perennial understory with annuals
  • Replaced a large swath of the former driveway, including a sickly or dead pawpaw circle, with a strawberry mound
  • Planted some new trees: figs on west side of house, pawpaw in back yard
  • Removed the backyard chicken paddock fences
  • Replaced the wood shed in the backyard with a second chicken coop (or run?) next to our original coop

View the album

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Notes on some small seed crops

A few years ago, I sent an email to the Portland Permaculture Guild list with these notes on various small seed crops:

Of the small seeds, fennel seed comes the closest to meeting my overall food forest goals, as a perennial insect nurturing weedy multi-use plant, with seeds providing good calorie yield per square foot. However, it misses my goal of being edible in large quantities; I'm eating about 50 calories per day of it, and don't think I would want to increase that beyond 100-200 at most. Read a more detailed write-up.

Good King Henry works well as a perennial, decently yielding low-maintenance seed crop. But it bears seeds even smaller than quinoa, which require processing to get off the chaff. My limited experiment suggested the labor time:calorie yield is good, making it worthwhile to process them if you're serious about growing your own calories, but it does take a while. GKH seed requires the same sort of soaking as does quinoa, but I don't find that at all time consuming or difficult. I find the cooked seeds hearty and delicious, and everyone else who's sampled them has liked them as well.

Sunflower seeds have a lot of potential, though we've had trouble direct seeding due to slug pressure, and we've consistently failed to harvest and/or process the seed heads in the autumn to actually eat them.

Favas and early peas also have a lot of potential for us in winter-rain Mediterranean climates, though again we've had trouble with slug pressure. Our slug problem also means we've yet to successfully grow, let alone overwinter, scarlet runner beans, but I'd love to get that going as a perennial large-seeded legume.

We tried Lupinus perennis, the perennial lupine from the east coast which native americans supposedly ate. I found that the seedpods ripened unevenly and if I waited too long to harvest, the pods ejected the seeds in the garden while if I harvested too soon, the pods never really opened up to easily release the seeds at all. As a result, I had trouble effeciently separating the small seeds from the pods. And then I had trouble with the soaking process; apparently lupines need thorough leaching to get rid of the bitter toxic alkoloids. If I recall correctly, I followed a method where I scalded the seeds first, then let them soak in cold water for a few days. Many of the seeds swelled up properly, and tasted fine, but enough of the seeds did *not* swell up that they acted as nasty little rock-hard, bitter landmines amongst the deactivated beans. I gave up on these as a human seed crop and transplanted them into the chicken yard.

We've been growing evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) as a root, leaf, flower, and seed crop, but I find the seeds pretty much unusable. They're easy enough to harvest, but they're so tiny that I can't run them through our grain grinder or just sprinkle them on food and expect to crush them up in the course of eating. I have to deliberately eat a pinchful at a time and chew them up really well. Sadly, the seeds have no flavor at all; it's like eating tiny crunchy nothingness. I don't enjoy eating tiny crunchy nothingness, so I've given up on these as a seed crop.