The Irish strawberry tree (Arbutus Unedo) is named for the plant’s prevalence in Ireland, although it grows across much of Europe, and the resemblance of its fruit to (you guessed it) strawberries. A member of the heath family, along with blueberries, the Irish strawberry tree has been culturally and historically important in many European growing regions.
They make an excellent hedge or windbreak planted close together and provide a unique and pleasing addition to the spring and summer table.
Yarrow is easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions in climates from alpine to subtropical. In the tropics it can be grown as a shorter-lived plant. It likes sun, but tolerates semi-shade. It copes well with poorer soils and dry periods, although it prefers rich, moist soils. While it can be grown from seed, it is most easily propagated by division of the whole plant.
Broad beans (Vicia faba) are prized as much for their fleshy beans as they are for their potential use as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. This ancient food of early Mediterranean civilisations is still widely cultivated across the world today. Sometimes known as ‘fava beans’ (fava from the Latin word for bean), they’re a popular staple across the Middle East and Africa, and are commonly eaten as a snack across virtually every continent.
We all love coffee, but often the beans have travelled a long way to reach our cup. Is it possible to grow it yourself and cut down on those food miles?
Despite its name, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is neither a grain nor is it related to wheat. Originating from Asia, this fast growing annual is most closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. It’s most prized for its triangular edible seeds which have a long tradition as a staple in many countries from Japan (as soba noodles) to Russia (as kasha). They are having a small revival in modern times due to the fact that buckwheat is gluten-free, despite its confusing name for wheat-avoiders.
Despite their name, the only thing potato onions have in common with spuds is the way in which they are planted. While potato onions can be grown from seed, they are most commonly grown by sowing a bulb of the previous season’s crop, in the same way that potatoes are grown from a previous season’s tuber.
Mulberries are a wonderful example of a multifunctional permaculture plant. Most well-known for their abundance of delicious and nutritious berries, they are also a great shade plant, providing shade in summer and allowing sun in during winter.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is a herbaceous annual that can grow 30–50 cm tall by approximately 1 metre wide. Being a member of the Fabaceae family links them to other legumes such as peas and beans. Peanuts are a fantastic plant in any garden, but particularly for an intensive permaculture system, as they provide both food for us and food for the soil.
There is nothing quite as exquisite as fresh homegrown raspberries. Tasting a homegrown plump and juicy berry, you realise that the supermarket raspberries you have tasted just don’t compare. Bought raspberries are expensive and have often been sprayed with chemicals and travelled hundreds of kilometres to get to you, leaving them lifeless and lacking in taste.