by Heather Jo Flores
Take a moment to ponder your relationship with the wild plants in your garden. Chickweed, thistle, pigweed, plantain. Cleavers, lemon balm, nettle. These not only provide forage for insects, birds, and animals, they also provide food for you.
Most of the common vegetables we enjoy in our salads, such as lettuce, carrots, parsley and mustard, were once considered weeds.
So why not let their wild kin act as volunteer herbs and vegetables?
Edible weeds taste great in a variety of recipes, and are known to be more nutritious than domesticated plants. You probably already know about a few of these, and perhaps you've even tried dandelion greens or purslane in your salad.
Here I offer a rundown of my favorite weeds to eat and ways I like to prepare them, organized by season.
Fresh Eating. You can make a delicious salad with the very early leaves of just about any of the plants listed in this article, but my favorites are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), chickweed (Stellaria media), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Chop them all together with lettuce, sunflower seeds and a light vinaigrette.
Weedy Smoothies. When the weeds are still young but starting to taste bitter when eaten raw, try putting them in smoothies. I love a smoothie with avocado, kiwi, peeled cucumber, hemp seeds, lamb's quarter (Chenopodium album), sheep sorrel and purslane.
Baked Weeds. Use weeds like spinach to make lasagna, enchiladas or spanikopita. Try it with lamb's quarter, pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri), burdock (Articum lappa) and/or chickweed (Stellaria media).
Yum-Yum. Collect the large, bitter leaves of late-season dandelion, burdock and broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major). Add some long branches of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and pigweed. Hang them in bundles in a warm, dry space for a couple of weeks, to let them dehydrate. When dry, shuck the leaves off the stems and crumble them together with sea salt, powdered cumin and dried seaweed. Use this to sprinkle in soups, salads, salsa and everything else, to boost nutrition and aid digestion.
Weed Pesto. Collect the earliest shoots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), cleavers (Galium aparine) and miner's lettuce. Put them in a blender with olive oil, garlic, asiago and a handful of seeds from the milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Spread on fresh bread or tortillas.
Proper identification. Some plants are quite poisonous, and I have included the botanical names in this article in hopes that you will be careful to correctly identify any plant you eat. With any new food, it is wise to always try just a little bit first, then wait a day or two to see if your have an allergic reaction. Chances are, everything will be fine, but better safe than sorry!
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY #foodforest #edibleweeds
Shining the spotlight on women writing about permaculture.
Women have a high rate of participation throughout permaculture, but aren't proportionally represented in leadership roles. The spotlight often goes towards men while women who are organizing and farming get overlooked. This can make it more difficult to find the work out there that women have done. In researching this article I was surprised to find that any combination of words I could think to type in around women writers in permaculture found few, or oftentimes no results.
So, to make it easier for everyone to find these excellent resources, I've compiled a list of female authors and their books, some in the permaculture movement, some who may not identify as permaculture designers, but who still wrote important books for self-sufficiency and gardening.
Listed in alphabetical order, by author's last name:
Jenni Blackmore: Permaculture For the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre
A very readable, personal account of her twenty years of trial and error farming in Nova Scotia. A great read for anyone who can’t afford a large farm in a sunny climate.
In addition to being a micro-farmer Jenni is also a painter and certified Permaculture Design Consultant. She lives on Quakadoodle Farm.
Catherine Bukowski: The Community Food Forests Handbook
Focusing on how to build and maintain a food forest project when working with a community of people. Focuses on the social aspects of a project and changes that occur in a group from the beginning to the end of a project. More info here.
Novella Carpenter: Farm City
An urban farming memoir set in Oakland that has contains many stories of her raising animals. In 2011 she was told by the city that she would need to close the farm but instead she was eventually able to get a Minor Conditional Use Permit. This allowed her to keep her more than 40 animals and inner city garden. She is currently an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco. Here's her blog.
Robin Clayfield: You Can Have Your Permaculture and Eat it Too
Robin has been teaching permaculture and in particular, the social aspects of permaculture, for more than 20 years. Her playful style complements a serious body of revolutionary work, well respected by fellow permies around the world. Her extensive website is here.
Rosalind Creasy: Edible Landscaping
While this is not technically a permaculture book it does address designing your outdoor landscape with edible plants instead of being only decorative and was highly influential when it was first published in 1982. Her work goes as far back as 1970. She has written several other books and appeared in many publications. Her website is a fantastic resource for edible landscaping tips.
Carol Deppe: The Resilient Gardener
Presents gardening techniques in disaster design, whether the disasters are financial or climate change related. A relevant book for our times. She has two other books, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. You can access many of her essays and articles on her website.
Heather Jo Flores: Food Not Lawns
There are more than 50 Food Not Lawns chapters worldwide, mostly due to inspiration from this book. Heather makes the connection between gardening, activism, and community building, as tools for sustainabilty. Food Not Lawns is a great book for the urban dweller as well as country living. Heather also runs this blog and the Permaculture Women’s Guild, which offers an online permaculture design certificate course taught by 40 women. She's a trained teacher and professional writer and offers a series of online classes for women writers who want to use their stories to change culture.
Jackie French: Backyard Self-Sufficiency
Jackie is a self-described "Australian author, ecologist, historian, dyslexic, honourary wombat." She loves writing as much as she loves gardening, and she has written a bunch of books. Learn more here.
Vera Greutink: Edible Paradise
Vera lives on a 1/4 acre plot of land in the Netherlands where she has created her own edible paradise. In this book she shares her no dig permaculture techniques she has used for 15 years. Learn to grow a landscape of herbs, flowers, and vegetables as well as building compost. Also contains a monthly garden job guide.
Maddy Harland: Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture and Hope
Discusses the potential of use of permaculture principles in society alongside current events. She demonstrates those principles in contrast to the way things are usually done. She is also the editor of Permaculture Magazine.
Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume: Urban Homesteading
Focused on their own hands-on personal experience in an urban environment, this 2011 hands-on exploration connects to an ever-evolving blog, here.
Juliet Kemp: Permaculture in Pots: How to Grow Food in Small Urban Spaces
An excellent reference for anyone who doesn't have good access to land, this book also provides ideas for making best use of vertical space and microclimates. Written in almanac format with a month-by-month list of suggestions. Juliet also writes fiction.
Looby Macnamara: People and Permaculture
This has been a very influential book because it was an early arrival in the discussion of social permaculture, taking permaculture ethics and principals and applying them to our interactions with each other, ourselves, our families and society. It also contains many useful activities. Looby also wrote 7 Ways to Think Differently and is currently working on her next book Activating Cultural Emergence. She also runs Applewood, a 20 acre demonstration and education center.
Rosemary Morrow: Earth Users Guide To Permaculture
This book can be found on most lists for best permaculture books. It is a practical permaculture design guide good for use on whatever sized plot of land you are working with. Contains information on water use, managing pests and wildlife, and much more. Published in 1993 it is older than most books on this list. Rosemary began teaching permaculture in the 1980s and is still travelling all around the world teaching it today.
Trina Moyles: Women Who Dig
Features the stories of women from many different countries and their experiences with farming. Tackles climate change, economics, gender roles and much more. The secondary title is Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World. She also writes fiction and poetry and her non-fiction works have been published in several magazines. You can find more on her here.
Jenny Nazak: Deep Green
The subtitle of this one is "minimize your footprint, maximize your time, wealth, and happiness." Need I say more? Jenny is a long-time permaculture activist, writer, and educator. Find her on FB, here.
Starhawk: The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups
Starhawk has written a ton of excellent books, both fiction and non-fiction, about living in greater harmony with nature. This one is all about social permaculture, and how to navigate the all-too-often debilitating challenges of working with groups. She also teaches permaculture courses that emphasize an earth-based spiritual approach to activism.
Crystal Stevens: Grow, Create, Inspire
This book contains practical step-by-step ways to build the skills to become more self sufficient. Crystal is also the author of Worms At Work. She is an herbalist, a teacher and a regenerative farmer. She is published in many magazines and speaks at conferences.
She lives on a 10 acre farm in Missouri with her husband and two children.
Ruth Stout: No Work Garden Book
Again, not technically a permaculture book but groundbreaking in the organic world. Loved by many, the title says it all. She uses thick mulch to, as she puts it, garden from her couch. You know you want to read this book. She went on to write several more books and magazine columns. She lived from 1884-1980.
Amy Stross: The Suburban Micro Farm
Teaches how to farm effectively with limited land and free time. Her own tenth of an acre micro-farm is a real life example of her writings. You can stay caught up with her micro- farming adventures at TenthAcreFarm.com.
Linda Woodrow: the Permaculture Home Garden
One of the few permaculture gardening books that focuses on sub-tropical climates. Linda Woodrow's "Witches Garden" blog is awesome, and she writes about way more than just permaculture.
Let's work together to bring more support and recognition for these pioneering writers, gardeners, and designers! Share this article, read these books, and also check out these other resources, by and for permaculture women:
#womenwriters #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture #permaculturebookswrittenbywomen
by Heather Jo Flores
By no means an exhaustive selection of great plants for gardening with children, the following twelve plants can all be direct-sown, grow quickly and easily, and are fun to harvest for food, cut flowers, or seeds.
Popcorn is always a hit with children, and many varieties grow quite well in a home garden. There is also a vast array of interesting Indian corns available, in a rainbow of beautiful colors. Sweet corn is another option, and nothing compares to a fresh ear right out of the garden as a refreshing snack on a September day.
Small gourds grow fast and dry easily to make rattles or small bottles and containers. Large gourds need a longer growing season but make a magnificent addition to the garden; they can be dried and made into birdhouses, bowls, and musical instruments.
The leaves, flowers, and immature seeds of nasturtiums are edible and also repel certain insect pests, making them great companion plants. Trailing varieties are a nice addition to a bean tepee or sunflower house, and the bright flowers are a delight to children and adults alike.
Because potatoes can be grown by just throwing them on the ground and tossing some straw on top, they are great fun to raise with children. Also try planting them in a bag or crate: Just fill it one- third of the way with soil, toss in some spuds, and cover with leaves or straw. As the shoots emerge, add more mulch, and in a few months you will have a bagful of fresh sweet spuds to eat.
Large or small, pumpkins and other squash are a favorite for children of all ages. Giant varieties, such as ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’, can grow to up to two hundred pounds and make excellent jack-o’- lanterns.
Smaller types are more manageable for small hands and can also be carved or used to make pie, stew, or bread. Some varieties are grown primarily for their seeds, which are a healthy snack and have been known to prevent intestinal worms.
Try making pumpkin tattoos: Use a nail to scratch children’s names or little drawings into the skin of immature pumpkin fruits. Be careful not to go too deep—just scratch the surface. When the fruit is mature, the name will appear as a healed scar on the surface, and the finished product will last months longer than a carved pumpkin.
Radishes are great for children because they grow very fast and can be planted in just about any space, even a small container. The brightly colored roots are ready to eat in just over a month and can be carved into rosettes or other designs.
Scarlet Runner Beans.
Jack and his beanstalk are legendary to many children, and while there are no boy-eating giants at the top of most beanpoles, runner beans are fast growing and produce brilliant red and orange flowers. The seeds are large and speckled purple and can be eaten, replanted, or used for a variety of craft projects, like beads or mosaics.
Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries . . .
Need I say more? Children love to hunt through the berry patch for a juicy snack, and when they’ve planted it themselves they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment with every bite.
They come in many colors, from yellow to orange, white, red, and even tiger-striped. Tall or short, large or small, sunflowers are easy to grow and are a must for any children’s garden. The cut flowers last several days, and seeds provide protein and amino acids for young bodies and wild birds alike.
Give a child a small shovel and a bagful of tulip bulbs, and when spring comes you will have a yard full of surprises. Tulip flowers are edible and quite delicious, and they help attract beneficial insects into the garden. The general rule for planting bulbs is to bury them twice as deep as they are long, with the pointy end up.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like turnips would be a hot item in the children’s garden, but many varieties grow to be quite large and can be carved and stuffed for a delicious baked meal. John Sundquist grows lots of turnips at his farm, and the children who come out for tours love to see the giant purple, orange, and white roots jutting out of the ground. Fresh turnips smell wonderful, are an excellent source of fiber, and are known to reduce cholesterol.
Last but far from least, zinnias come in every color of the rainbow and are one of my personal favorite plants of all time. They bloom when they reach about three feet in height, just the right height for young eyes and noses to enjoy. One of the many beautiful gifts from Mexico to our gardens, zinnias make excellent cut flowers and can last weeks if you change the water every few days.
#gardeningwithchildren #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture
Subscribe to this blog via email and get fresh articles every week! This does not add you to other lists, but you can opt into those below.
You're good to go!
FREE yearlong permaculture course
Tiny classes delivered to your inbox every week for a year to guide you step by step through designing your ecological life and landscape.
Join the #freepermaculture public discussion group
Writers! Let's Crosspollinate!
We'd love to feature your article here and/or swap guest posts with you.
FREE Permaculture Coloring Book!
FREE Permaculture coloring book when you subscribe to our (monthly) email list.
We'll send you the info.