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01 Jul 11:28


by thedesertecho



companions planting was never so easy


A Permaculture garden is the ultimate multicultural society. However, whilst diversity is encouraged in the garden that doesn’t mean Permaculturalist’s are egalitatarian, oh no not all plants are created equal, just start up a conversation about comfrey or conversely kikuyu grass and you’ll see. But a plant’s indigenous lineage doesn’t guarantee it spot in the veggie path, especially in Australia where the natives are quite mean with their nutrients, the eucalypt tree even has a nasty trick where it drops its toxic leaves on the ground to discourage competition. So in a community garden it’s not great, but as a woodchip path it is quite a good grass suppressant.

Foreign plants do quite well here, they appear here there and everywhere without you having to spread a single seed and they are very hardy. Any other gardener looks on these “weeds” with bored cynacism and reaches for the round-up.

Don’t judge them on those nasty rumours that Monsanto spins, they can be useful and some are edible too.


Native to Europe and Asia, can use to loosen overgrazed, compacted pastoral soils as well as in the humblke veggie patch.

Dandelion companion planting
Their long deep tap roots break up hard soil and bring nutrients up from deep down to benefit shallower rooted annuals without competing for surface nutrients. They also release ethylene gas which aids in fruit ripening, so a patch of

dandelions around your late green tomatoes might be a good idea. Their bright yellow flowers attract beneficial insects such as bees to pollinate your garden.
Most intriguing of all is their power to combat fusarium wilt, a soil-borne fungal disease that effects tomatoes grown in the same soil year after year. This disease reduces health and yield of tomatoes, but dandelion roots produce an acid that starves the disease of iron.

Dandelion as edible
Used as a nutritious salad green, often confused (by me at least ;) ) with RED RIB DANDELION which is actually a chicory, but still a great addition to a salad!

Benefits of dandelion include:

high in iron, calcium, vitamin K, B6, E, K thiamin, antioxidants, beta- & alpha-carotene
treatment for liver disease, kidney and spleen complaints, skin conditions, digestive aid
cancer fighting properties
acne remedy



Sow thistle too is said to aid growth, but I’m slightly suss on this particular edible. There was a particularly old and serrated one in my garden bed which I brushed passed. Where it touched my skin I came up in what can only be described as a horribly itchy flea bite like rash. With a reaction that extreme I’m loathed to put it in my mouth, no matter how nutritious it is. Turns out I’m one of those unlucky people with an allergy to the old Sow!

So this a lesson to everyone before eating any new food whether it be a weed or just an exotic fruit, test a little bit first don’t go swallowing a whole green smoothie full of it! One day I will try cooking it then doing a patch test on my wrist first, but until then I think I will just stick to the nettles and dandelions until I’m REALLY HUNGRY!



Native to Europe and Northern Africa, be heartened that when you feel its sweet sting at your ankles and merrily hop in pain that it is an indicator that your soils is oh so fertile, pop a tomato next door for optimum results.

This was one of the Permaculture lessons that blew my mind, Peak Oil aside, could that horrible stinging nettle that I had long called weed be a friend?

Nettle in companion planting
Nettles are said to increase disease resistance and resilience to insect attacks. People even go so far to say it improves the flavour of its neighbours, increasing their production of aromatic oils. As a tomato companion they improve their keeping quality by slowing down the fermentation process and for eggplants they are the ladybird’s preferred breeding ground so bad news for the resident aphids. And remember why nettles make a good mulch?

I recommend you pick up a copy of Adam Grubb’s Weed Forager’s Handbook to learn more, it’s really fascinating.

Nettles as edible
Eat the tender young leaves dried, blended or cooked for these benefits:
high in antioxidants
40% protein by dried weight
dense in mineral, especially calcium (for the vegan’s out there you onlyneed 150g to get your recommended daily intake)
reduces pain of arthritis
anti-dandruff properties
mild hayfever remedy
eczema remedy
diuretic & hypotensive – reduces blood pressure
astringent for nosebleeds and internal hemorrhaging
detoxifying blood tonic
reduces benign enlargement of the prostate
add dried to chook feed, helps to protect against disease

So next time you feel tempted to pull that weed, maybe rethink the definition and pull the ornamental taking up valuable tomato space instead.

Nettles are a protected place for caterpillars to transform into beautiful butterflies.

Butterfly metamotphosis photos taken by my clever dad


The post EDIBLE WEEDS appeared first on The Desert Echo.

28 Jun 12:12


Protip: Any two-axis graph can be re-labeled 'coordinates of the ants crawling across my screen as a function of time'.
25 Apr 17:36

TA 24 Apr 13: The Power of Oil


Interesting discussions on the role of oil

The Power of oil - Laurie Taylor presents a special programme which explores the role of oil in shaping our society, economy and environment. He talks to James Marriott of Platform, co-author with Mika Minio-Paluello of 'The Oil Road'. They're also joined by Timothy Mitchell whose work focuses on the relationship between democracy and oil; and by Professor John Urry, whose latest work pioneers a sociology of energy, analysing our carbon addiction in the light of ever dwindling resources.
20 Apr 10:17

TA 10 Apr 13: Thrift 'Chic' - Thatcherism


Tony F, I think you'd like this radio show: it's leftie, academics talking about social "science". Give it a go some time.

Dr Tracey Jensen charts the rise of 'new thrift' projects in popular culture; how to do more with less in an age of austerity. Also,'Thatcherism' - Laurie Taylor is joined by Dr Robert Saunders, co-editor of Making Thatcher’s Britain and Geoff Andrews, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Studies to discuss Margaret Thatcher’s ideology and its impact on academic research and universities.
19 Apr 08:50

Shorts: Argentine Invasion

by (Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich)

If you're interested in supremacist ants (and let's face it, who isn't?), then his is one for you.

From a suburban sidewalk in southern California, Jad and Robert witness the carnage of a gruesome turf war. Though the tiny warriors doing battle clock in at just a fraction of an inch, they have evolved a surprising, successful, and rather unsettling strategy of ironclad loyalty, absolute intolerance, and brutal violence.

17 Apr 09:42

Film: 28 Mar 13 - Danny Boyle


Sounds like a good bloke

Francine Stock talks to Oscar winning film director Danny Boyle about a lifetime spent making films, including his latest "Trance", a noirish art heist starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, in which a fine art auctioneer (McAvoy) joins forces with a hypnotherapist (Dawson) to recover a lost painting.
17 Apr 03:37

Top 5 – Ways to cook Eggplant

by Liz

OK so I’ve mentioned once or twice that this has been a really good year for eggplant and I’ve just realised I haven’t done a top 5 on it yet, so here it is – my Top 5 ways to eat Eggplant.

Listada de Gandia

Eggplant MasalaI just love this recipe.  I love the flavours.  I love the texture.  I love the mix of spices.  For me this is the perfect eggplant recipe.

Baba ghanoush – Middle Eastern mezze is one of my favourite things to eat and no mezze would be complete with baba ghanoush.   I make mine by cooking an eggplant whole on the barbecue, then puree the cooked smoky flesh with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  Sometimes I also add tahini, other times I add a bit of chilli, or both.  Just delicious.

Pasta alla Norma - I am the only member of my family to really enjoy eggplant so I often find myself preparing it in ways that I can enjoy while not inflicting it on the others.  Pasta alla Norma is a great in this respect as I can easily substitute something else (usually bacon) for the eggplant in everyone elses dishes.  If you aren’t familiar with the dish Pasta alla Norma is pasta with eggplant and ricotta in a tomato sauce.  Diary of a Tomato has posted a great Pasta alla Norma recipe, you can find it here.

Stew with Lentils and Pomegranate – Michelle from From Seed to Table has mentioned this stew a number of times but I only started making it recently.  The recipe itself is from the Food and Wine website and is a lovely, healthy, full flavoured way to use  eggplant.

PickleI find that eggplant is one of those vegetables that is definitely a little feast or famine.  Once they start coming you get tend to get lots at once or none at all.  As a result you need a way of preserving it.  I tend to favour Indian pickles but Harvest with Glee and Nina both recommend a more Italian method of preserving it.  If you look through Nina’s comment on this post you will find a great recipe.


17 Apr 03:31

MoreOrLess: Thatcher in numbers 13 April 2013

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who has died aged 87, was Britain’s first female prime minister and one of the most influential political figures of the 20th Century. She was a pioneer of free market economics, helping to spread the ideas around the world. But the Iron lady was a divisive figure with passionate supporters and critics. Both hold to strong beliefs about what she did. But what does the data tell us about the many claims made about Mrs Thatcher?
07 Apr 22:14

26 May 2013 10:00 : Blitz #138: Warrandyte


Testing this The Old Reader share function...

Sunday May 26, Warrandyte.  Tasks include construction of wicking beds, demolition of a shed (or recycle if possible), construction of chookyard fence, constrution of chook house, planting of fruit trees and vegies,  Our back yard is securely fenced so child friendly. Please contact for address and for catering purposes.