Category 19

Eating Organically: The Green Standard

eating organically

More and more people are willing to spend the extra money for organically grown and prepared food, with an Australian industry now worth $2.6 billion annually. So what’s all the fuss about and are there genuine reasons why we should be choosing organic?

We’ve all been there, standing in the supermarket looking at the organic chicken, small and pale in its plastic wrapping and three times the price of the plump conventional chicken alongside it. Or the plastic-wrapped organic broccoli next to its conventional naked offering, and we have wondered is it worth it? If we can afford it and, importantly, if we’re putting our family at risk if we don’t?

Crop Rotation: Keep It Moving

radishes

Practising crop rotation when growing annual vegetables not only increases long-term yield, it preserves the fertility of your soil while deterring pests and diseases.

We can’t treat annual vegetable plants like perennials because they grow in a completely different way. Perennials are longer-lived and send their roots down deeper to access more water and nutrients. Generally slow feeders, perennials use only moderate amounts of nutrients to drive equally moderate rates of growth.

Annual plants, which have less than a year to complete their life cycle from seed to seed-bearing plant, are much shorter lived. Most have 80 percent of their roots in the first 30 centimetres of soil, so they can’t reach very deep for nutrients or water. They compensate by having extremely rapid growth rates and have high nutrient demands to fuel that growth.

Urban Foraging – Amaranth

Amaranth is a common and highly nutritious weed easily recognised by its beautiful but rather peculiar nodding seed heads.

What Is Amaranth?

Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) is an ancient grain, one of the first domesticated wild plants in Southern America, cultivated for at least 8000 years. High in iron, protein, magnesium and potassium, its value was recognised in ceremonies by the Aztec civilisation and mirrored today by its status as a so-called superfood.

There are about 70 species of amaranth, all edible, and many of them have become successful colonisers (or weeds), making it a reliable food source in many cultures. Many of the species turn into tumbleweeds, helping the spread of the seed. Amaranth is eaten all around the world including South India, where it is known as kuppacheera; Greece (called vlita) and China (called yin choi).

Rental Retrofits: Lease On Life

retrofits

With almost one in three Australians now living in rented accommodation, it’s more important than ever to ensure permaculture practices are not just implemented by those who own their own home. Even if you’re renting, there are plenty of simple and reversible things you can implement in your home to reduce your living costs and make positive environmental impacts.

Invert And Convert

Portable solar electricity systems, comprised of solar panels, batteries and an inverter can be installed with very little fuss and are capable of powering many small appliances in modern homes. While the initial outlay can seem expensive, these systems can enable a move away from reliance on the power grid, reducing both costs and carbon emissions.

Thinking outside the square can return great results, too, like using a freezer as a fridge. If you consider how well insulated a freezer is compared to a conventional fridge, and how much less the compressor needs to work to keep the unit at above-zero temperatures compared to the below-freezing temperatures it’s designed to run at, it’s easy to see the energy-saving potential. In most cases, a successful conversion will require replacing the thermostat, so do your research depending on the age and model of your freezer.

Dehydrating Fruit: Cut And Dried

Dehydrating fruit

With summer comes a bounty of fruit, often in very large quantities. Dehydration is a relatively easy and effective way to make the most of the season’s generous gifts.

There are many ways to preserve fruit. You can turn it into jams, jellies, relishes or bottle it whole. But what makes dehydrating a really useful tool to have in your preserving kit is that it gives you a break both from working with hot glass jars, as well as recipes that often require large amounts of sugar.

Dehydration, however, requires you to simply wash, cut and place on trays. You can disappear while the hours-long process takes place, checking in occasionally to see how the drying is going. If dried well and stored in an airtight container, the fruit will be shelf stable and delicious for at least 12 months. Dried fruit has a greater concentration of nutrients, calories and fibre, so it’s best consumed in moderation due to its high fructose content.

In The Garden: February-May

map of aussie

FEBRUARY

Plant winter vegies including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, Florence fennel, leek (seedlings) and parsnip. Once the weather starts to cool, get your garlic in the ground.

MARCH

Brussels sprouts (seedlings), broad beans, beetroot, broccoli (seedlings), cabbage (seedling), carrot, chives, coriander, daikon radish, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, mustard greens, pak choy/bok choy, radish, rocket, shallots (plant bulbs), silverbeet and turnip. March is a good time to plant vegies that need a long growing season.

APRIL

Brussels sprouts, broad beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chives, endive, fennel, garlic (plant cloves), kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mizuna, mustard greens, onions, pak choy/bok choy, parsley, peas, radish, rocket, shallots (plant bulbs), silverbeet, spinach and turnip.

Regenerative Agriculture: On Home Soil

soil

In a world of a changing climate and an increasingly politicised and broken food system, regenerative agriculture is a large-scale example of practices we can adopt in our own backyards which are beneficial for both our health and our environment.

A lot of the farming you see in this country is what is known as industrial agriculture. Large-scale, high intensity production designed to maximise yield and profits in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

But the environmental impacts it’s having not only on the soil, but on our water systems, our biodiversity and our carbon emissions is devastating. But as the name suggests, regenerative agriculture takes a restorative approach to farming, where food production can actually lead to healthier soils, increased biodiversity, cleaner waterways and carbon sequestration, not to mention more nutritious and better-tasting results.

Rockmelon

Cucumis melo – cucumis is the Latin name for cucumber and melo from an Ancient Greek word relating to apple.

Origin

From tropical western Africa and introduced to southern Europe 2000 years ago, melons have been a popular fruit for a very long time. A distinctive group of melons called cantaloupes were developed in a place called Cantallouppi near Rome, where they became very popular with the emperor Tiberius. They were then introduced to Armenia from where they reached Iran, which became a secondary centre of diversity.

Description

Rockmelon needs no introduction to most, but the wide variation that exists is not represented commercially. Their shape and size can resemble anything between a cucumber and a pumpkin, the surface can be netted or warted and their skin colour can range from white through to black.

Kids’ Patch 19

kids

Our kids’ patch winners for this issue are Willow, Levi and Airlie from Kincumber, NSW, you’ve won a copy of The Runaway Dandelion by Jill Regensburg.

Next issue we are giving away some snazzy kids T-shirts. Designed in Australia by Izwoz, they feature some cool vegetable prints and are made from 100-percent organic cotton. To be in the running, parents can email a photo to editorial@pipmagazine.com.au along with your child’s name, age and suburb, or post the picture on Instagram using the hashtag #pipmag