Friday, June 29, 2012

Martin Crawford on BBC Radio

Martin Crawford

Martin Crawford is one of the world leaders in Forest Garden design. He is the author of the book, Creating a Forest Garden.

From his Wikipedia Page:
Martin Crawford is Director of the Agroforestry Research Trust, a British charity which conducts research into temperate agroforestry.

Martin Crawford has spent over twenty years in organic agriculture and horticulture and is director of The Agroforestry Research Trust, a non-profit-making charity that researches into temperate agroforestry and all aspects of plant cropping and uses, with a focus on tree, shrub and perennial crops. It produces several publications and a quarterly journal, and sells plants and seeds from its forest gardens.

He has been on BBC Radio shows The Food Programme and Gardener's Question Time.

The Food Programme: Forest Gardens

Gardener's Question Time: Forest Gardens:
(his interview occurs at about 31 minutes into the show)

Gardener's Question Time: Nut Trees:
(his interview occurs at about 31 minutes into the show in this one as well)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plants in my Azorean Garden (please help me identify!)

I wanted to share some photos (LOTS of photos) I took of the plants in my new garden. As I wrote earlier, this space was designed and planted to be a formal garden. There are a wide variety of flowering bulbs and perennials as well as a number of specimen plants. Here is a good representation of what I have growing. I also added a few photos of plants I have not yet identified. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Aloe genus
I don't think this is the True Aloe (Aloe vera), but it is very closely related.
I got a blister, which ruptured, from pruning with kitchen shears instead of my garden clippers (still waiting for those to arrive). It was constantly sore for a full day before I remembered I had all these aloe plants growing in the garden. Literally within three or four minutes of rubbing the gel from a broken leaf onto the wound, I was pain free. I love this plant!

Agapanthus genus for sure, probably Agapanthus africanus
These flowers, both white and this blue-purple, area all over the island. Also known as the African Lily or Lily of the Nile - which is funny because it is neither a lily nor hails from Africa. It is from South America. Reportedly has historic and rarely used medicinal value.

Cycad, unidentified species
Can anyone identify this?

Trailing African Daisy (Osteospermum fruticosum)

Common Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva)
This is the "original" Day Lily. It is edible from root to flower, although the leaves can be fibrous.
I've eaten a few of these flowers here already, and I really enjoy them... crunchy and slighly sweet.
Note that not all Day Lillies are edible.

Unidentified fern
Can anyone identify this?

Unidentified flowering shrub
Can anyone identify this?

Geranium genus, unknown species 1

Geranium genus, unknown species 2

Indian Shot (Canna indica purpurea)
Reported to have an edible, starchy root and edible young shoots.
I'll let you know when I try it.

Bulb plant. Looks similar to Wild Onion, but I keep forgetting to examine it closer.
Can anyone identify this?

Unidentified Hen and Chicks species (likely from either the Sempervivum or Echeveria genera)
These plants are fairly common around here. I've seen a number of homes with these in the yard.

Hibiscus genus, probably the Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
We have a number of these hibiscus growing in our garden.
Young leaves can be used as a spinach substitute.
Flowers are edible and can be made into a tea.
I'll let you know when I try them.

Another ruffled Hibiscus plant, unknown species.

Hydrangea genus
Hydrangeas are considered an invasive species in the Azores. They are all over the place. You could probably walk around the entire island without losing sight of at least one Hydrangea plant.
This plant here was in dire need of a good pruning.
I pruned it last week, and it already is bounding back.
There are now well over a dozen flower heads forming.

Pretty sure this is a Monstera plant, probably Monstera deliciosaProduces an edible fruit reportedly similar in flavor to pineapple.
I'll let you know.

Pretty sure this is a Lion's Tale Agave (Agave attenuata)
Agave have many edible parts. I'll experiment with these as the garden is full of them.
I'll let you know.

A large Century plant (Agave americana marginata)
Thy typically live 15-30 years... not a full century.

Unidentified Lily species (possibly Lilium 'Casa Blanca' )
Can anyone identify this?

Calla or Arum Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica
These lilies are all over the place in the understory of the undeveloped land next door.

Unidentified palm 1.
Can anyone identify this?

Unidentified palm 2.
Can anyone identify this?

Lantana genus, likely a variety of Spanish Flag (Lantana camara)

Rose, unknown species 1

Rose, unknown species 2

Unknown varigated shrub.
Can anyone identify this?

I believe this is a Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia genus).
This floating plant filled the fountain in the garden.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old Sleningford Farm

I stumbled upon this site last week, and I thought I would share it.

Old Sleningford Farm is located in North Yorkshire County in northern England. I doubt I will ever have the chance to visit Old Sleningford Farm, but I would love to one day. Small scale sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, and bees. A forest garden. Charcoal production. Making their own preserves, chutneys, cordials, apple juice and apple cider.

Everything they are doing at their farm are things I love. Take a look at their site if you have the time.

I especially like this page about the development of their Forest Garden.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Brief Intro to Dovecotes and Raising Doves and Pigeons

A Dovecote at Oxwich Castle, Wales, United Kingdom - dating to mid 1500's

A dovecote (pronounced: “DOVE-coat”) is also known as a columbaria ("co-lum-BEAR-ee-uh") or pigeonaire ("pigeon-AIR").
A dovecote is simply a house for doves or pigeons. I have seen a few of these in person, but the only ones I ever saw that were currently in use were in Turkey. Historically, doves and pigeons were kept as primary food sources throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The earliest dovecotes are thought to be in Egypt and Iran. I am strongly considering adding a dovecote in my yard.
 Dovecote at La Providence Wine Farm, Franschhoek Valley, in South Africa's wine country.
So the big question is why would anyone want one? My three answers are Meat, Eggs, and Manure.

Young pigeon and dove meat is called “squab” in the culinary world. It is considered a delicacy. Moist and rich, squab is all dark meat. The skin is more fatty (like duck) than chicken, and the meat is less fatty (more lean) than domesticated chicken. I have had squab on a few occasions, and I have had friends who have eaten squab in many places around the world. I have not met anyone who has tried squab who has not really liked it. This is a great tasting bird!

Squab with Porcini Mushrooms... my mouth is watering!
Pigeon and Dove eggs can really vary in size. However, for rough size comparisons... a medium-large pigeon/dove egg is about half the size of a medium chicken egg and double the size of a quail egg. Pigeon eggs are not nearly as common as quail eggs, but could easily be substituted in any recipe. For any eggs calling for chicken eggs, pigeon/dove eggs could be used as a unique ingredient. I admit that I have not tasted pigeon/dove eggs... yet. I enjoy cooking and eating quail eggs, and I imagine that these eggs are quite similar, just larger.
The Scotch eggs use quail egg, but pigeon/dove eggs could easily be substituted.
Pigeon manure has a long history of being collected for fertilizer and for use in making gunpowder. The only information I could find places pigeon/dove manure at a NPK ratio of 4:2:1. This was (roughly) consistent from multiple sources, so I will run with it. This compares fairly well to chicken manure. Just like chicken manure, pigeon/dove manure should be considered "hot" (i.e. high in nitrogen in too raw a form) and should age, perferably in a compost pile, for a few months before applying it to growing plants.
Some modern dovecote designs.
Quick Facts:
  • Pigeons and Doves belong to the Columbidae Family.
  • The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) is the “common” pigeon seen in cities.
  • The Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica) was developed from the Rock Dove.
  • There are many species of wild and many varieties of domestic doves and pigeons, each with different squab and egg sizes.
  • Pigeons developed primarily for meat at called Utility Breeds.
  • Common Utility Breeds are: King, American Giant Runt, French Mondain
  • Pigeons and Doves form mating pairs (one male and one female), and they care for their young themselves - no human intervention required!
  • A breeding pair can produce 10-15 squabs per year.
  • Doves and Pigeons can live and produce young for over 10 years, there are some that have lived for over 30 years!
  • If there are sufficient food sources surrounding the dovecote, there is no supplement feeding needed.
  • Squabs reach adult size, but cannot yet fly, at about 4 weeks. This is when they are slaughtered.
  • Weight at slaughter is about 0.5 pounds (0.2 kg) in a traditional (no supplement feeding) operation, but can increase up to 1.3 pounds (0.6 kg) in a high-input, industrial operation.

The King Pigeon is a common bred developed for meat.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Fennel

The classic garden Fennel with "bulb".

Common Name: Fennel
Scientific Name: Foeniculum vulgare
Family: Apiaceae (the Carrot or Parsley family) - formerly known as the Umbelliferae family

Fennel is a cold-hardy, perennial herbaceous plant with feathery, bluish-green leaves, hollow stems, and an anise (or black licorice) scent and flavor. It is a very common culinary herb with a long history of medicinal use. With edible leaves, flowers, pollen, seeds, root, and "bulb" (only present in the Florence cultivar), its ability to attract beneficial insects, its ability to grow in a wide range of soils, its drought resistance once established, and its beautiful appearance, Fennel deserves a place in all gardens, traditional garden and Forest Garden alike.
Originally from the Mediterranean, Fennel is now found around the world, often near the ocean.

  • The chemical that gives Fennel its characteristic flavor is called anethole. It is found in fennel, anise, licorice, star-anise, and tarragon, and basil (especially thai basil).
  • Used as one of three herbs to give flavor to absinthe, along with wormwood and green anise.
  • It is commonly mislabeled, and I have see this, as Anise (Pimpinella anisum) which is a very different plant.

Primary Uses:
The primary use is as a cullinary herb to provide an anise (black licorice) flavor to foods. The flavor is strong when fresh or in large amounts, but even if you do not like the flavor of black licorice, a small bit as a base to a sauce imparts a deep, subtle flavor that most people enjoy.
  • Leaves - fresh or cooked. Pick young leaves at the base of the plant as older leaves become more tough.
  • Flowers - Bright yellow flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. Great addition to salads or desserts.
  • Pollen - can be collected by placing a paper bag over a mature flower head and shaking. Added sparingly to meat
  • Seeds - Green seed pods (fresh or cooked) or ripe seed (typically dried).
  • Stalk - when still a little green can be placed on coals to impart a smoky, anise flavor to meats; when dried the stalks can be used as straws since they are hollow - they will give a faint flavor to whatever liquid passes through.
  • Bulb - the "bulb" is really fattened leaf bases and can be used as a vegetable itself or mixed with other dishes
  • Root - apparently a bit like parsnip, which makes sense since they are both in the Carrot family

  • Tea - both leaves, flowers, and seeds
  • Medicinal - many historical uses, especially to aid in digestion

Secondary Uses:
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant.
  • Benificial parasatoid wasps and spiders prefer the foliage.
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on Fennel over many other plants.

Yield: variable
Harvesting: Year round in mild climates, anytime during the growing season in colder climates, seeds in Autumn
Storage: Fresh parts can be stored for up to a week in a cool environment (bulbs longer than the leaves); Dried seeds and pollen can be stored in an airtight container for a long time
Fennel flowers give little bursts of flavor.
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10 (a lot of variation depending on the souce)
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available
Plant Type: Large Herbaceous Perennial Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous, but is cold-hardy, so it can be
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer 
Cultivars/Varieties: Many varieties available. The common "garden" fennel, Florence Fennel (F. vulgare var. azoricum) has been bred for large, bulb-like lower stems. The wild fennel is identical but for the bulbs.   
Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile
Flowering: Spring (May-June... depending on the USDA Zone where it is planted)
Life Span: Not really relevant as it reseeds so easily.
Fennel and Parsnip roots... yeah, almost identical in appearance, but not flavor.
Check out this blogger's account:

Size: 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters) tall and 1-3 feet (0.3-0.9 meters) wide
Roots: Tap root
Growth Rate: Medium to Fast
Fennel seed is commonly seed in stores, but is easy to harvest.

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Medium to Dry, can be fairly drought tolerant
pH: prefers fairly neutral soil (6.1 - 7.0)
Special Considerations for Growing:
  • Avoid growing Fennel near Dill as it can cross-pollinate. The offsping of this pairing will be of bland taste.
  • It is best to grow Fennel out a bit, by itself. It produces some growth inhibitors that are not kind to annual vegetables.
  • Fennel is not a good ground cover, but grows well through many ground covers.

Propagation: Usually by seed. Direct sowing is best. Can be divided in late Winter/early Spring.
Maintenance: Almost none.
Concerns: Can spread annoyingly well by seed. Just snip these little, wayward plants when they are young, and use in the kitchen.

Fennel pollen is easy to obtain and is a "new" trend in cooking.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book review: The Wild Table

I came across this book about a week ago, and I was extremely excited about finding it. I was not disappointed. This book is an amalgamation of many of my favorite things: food, wild harvesting, cooking, and sustainability. While this book is targeting a North American audience, many of the foods outlined in this book are found where I am currently living in the Azores, and they also can also be found where I was previously living in Turkey.

I should note that this is not an identification guide.Great hints are given for proper identification, but a good guidebook or two, and if you are lucky, a local wild food gatherer as well, should join you on your harvesting trips.

Overall, I found this an entertaining read, and I was very inspired to get out and search my local area even more for wild foods.

From the publisher:
A captivating cookbook by a renowned forager of wild edibles-with more than one hundred sumptuous recipes and full-color photographs. In the last decade, the celebration of organic foods, farmer's markets, and artisanal producers has dovetailed with a renewed passion for wild delicacies. On the forefront of this movement is longtime "huntress" Connie Green, who sells her gathered goods across the country and to Napa Valley's finest chefs including Thomas Keller and Michael Mina.

Taking readers into the woods and on the roadside, The Wild Table features more than forty wild mushrooms, plants, and berries- from prize morels and chanterelles to fennel, ramps, winter greens, huckleberries, and more. Grouped by season (including Indian Summer), the delectable recipes-from Hedgehog Mushroom and Carmelized Onion Tart and Bacon-Wrapped Duck Stuffed Morels, to homemade Mulberry Ice Cream- provide step-by-step cooking techniques, explain how to find and prepare each ingredient, and feature several signature dishes from noted chefs. Each section also features enchanting essays capturing the essence of each ingredient, along with stories of foraging in the natural world.

The Wild Table is an invitation to the romantic, mysterious, and delicious world of exotic foraged food. With gorgeous photography throughout, this book will appeal to any serious gatherer, but it will also transport the armchair forager and bring to life the abundant flavors around us.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Multi-Generation Households

The term "Permaculture", as I have explained previously, is a portmanteau (or blending) of two words: Permanent + Agriculture. Since its inception, it has come to also be a portmanteau of Permanent + Culture.

A key part of all culture is family, and a vital part of a family is what I call the elders of the family. These are the oldest living members of the family. In most cases, these are the grandparents and greatgrandparents. To me, these should be the most revered members of the family. They should be fought over. There should be desire for the elders to live in the childrens' homes.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States any more.

As I have travelled around the world, most homes that I visit outside of the U.S. are filled with many generations of family. At first I thought that this was due to lower economic status, but the more I travelled, and the more I matured and began having children of my own, I began to understand that this rarely had anything to do with money. This is the way things were by choice not by bad circumstance. Many cultures have rules to decide with whom the parents will live. It is often the eldest son that is chosen for this honor, but there are many variations.
The only place where I have seen a significant number of grandparents not living with their children and grandchildren is in the United States. It seems that we have developed a culture where putting our aging adults out to pasture, with the occasional visit spawned by obligation and guilt, is now considered appropriate.
I firmly believe we in the United States have lost reverence for our elders. In removing the grandparents from the home, we are depriving ourselves and our children a lifetime of earned wisdom. Wisdom gained from being alive for more than sixty years. Wisdom gained from raising children to adults. Wisdom gained from dealing with a life of relationships and jobs and, well, just plain life. We have lost skills that were once passed from generation to generation. In a much more selfish and utilitarian view, we have lost built-in baby-sitters, house-sitters, garden waterers, and even dog-sitters.
Our children are missing so much without being with their elders. They are being raised by day-care workers who are earning a paycheck and have no vested interested in the morals, values, and education of our most precious resources. I know some have no choice, but many of us are actively making the choice to have our children raised by the State.
What about poor or declining health you ask? As a physician, I understand situations where there is need for medical care. I know there are times when the medical care required for a family member surpasses the family’s ability to provide. I get that. I have also witnessed many cases of caregiver burnout. However, while these situations occur, it is not as common as many fear. Fortunately, I have not had to do that myself, but my parents have, and while it was hard, I don’t think they regret it at all.
What would you prefer... dying at home surrounded by those who love you, even if you were a burden for a while, or dying alone in an “old folks home” surrounded by other dying people? There is no question on how I would like to spend my last weeks and months on this earth. And if we desire this for ourselves, how can we deprive our parents of this? Well, we do every day. I call it fear and selfishness.
It is not nice to watch your parents get old and sick and, yes, even die. However, this is part of life. Did we forget this? Are we so delusional to think that by not being with a person as they die we are somehow less affected by it? We are affected by death. We should be. Our children should understand it as well. It is part of the cycle of life we live while on this earth. Hiding from it or trying to sweep it out of sight (i.e. a nursing home), takes away so much from those dying and takes away so much from us as well. Being present for life and for death makes us more caring, more able to appreciate the moments we have, makes us more human.
And while death may eventually be part of having our elders live with us, there are typically many, many years to enjoy and cherish while they are very much alive. Please don't miss out on that. Please don't buy in to the status quo. Please remember what so many of our generation have forgot. Our elders are a vital part of our family. They are a vital part of our community. They are a vital part of our culture.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wild and Not-So-Wild Food Plants Near My House

The figs (likely Ficus carica) growing in my garden.

I wanted to quickly share some photos of the food plants I have found in my yard and within a block of my house. I will be using these in my kitchen for sure. Seeing what grows naturally around me gives me a good idea what "crops" will likely succeed in this area. 

A variety of mint (Mentha species) grows all over the place around here.

Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) which doesn't form a bulb is a"weed" in my garden.

These Azorean Blackberries (Rubus hochstetterorum) are welcome in my garden.

There are little tufts of parsley (Petroselinum hortense) growing in any crevice it can find.

There are many walls and fields overrun by Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum species) which have edible, almost spicy flowers.

I thought this was corn from a distance, but it is not. I still think it is in the corn/maize (Zea) family. I'll keep an eye on it and see how it develops.