How we can eat our landscapes – by Pam Warhurst TED video

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TED Salon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.

Pam Warhurst co-founded Incredible Edible, an initiative in Todmorden, England dedicated to growing food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community.

For National Volunteer Week.

How to grow carrot tops


Did you ever put a carrot top in a dish of water as a child?

Next time you have carrots, leave about a cm of the top (crown) and place this in a sauce of water. Keep the water topped up to about a 1cm. The carrot top will regrow green leaves in about 3 to 6 weeks and you can eat these. You’ll be able to cut the leaves several times before the plant will be ‘exhausted’. Add the feathery leaves to salads or use as a garnish. They are full of minerals and taste similar to parsley.

Carrots are a biennial root, which means you could plant the carrot top in some soil and you may be able to grow a second taproot. The carrot may even flower in 6 to 8 weeks.

See also Hunkin’s cool illustration of this carrot experiment.

Plans to increase productivity


I’m determined to increase our yields in the second half of this year and hopefully make colossal leaps closer to our goal of being self sufficient. The most obvious answer to producing more fruit and vegetables is to grow more plants and concentrate on prolific plants.

At the moment we have four vegetable beds and about 20 dwarf fruit trees in pots. We also have several passionfruit vines and a choko. These are mostly all within hosing distance from our water tank. I am considering other creative options to increase our bounty without creating too much more work for ourselves.

I’m considering placing a few edibles in pots in our patio area. We have a few old Styrofoam boxes that would be ideal for lettuce and other cut and come again plants. Perhaps one or two of them could be dedicated to Asian greens.

I’d like to expand our production of starchy vegetables by growing yams and sweet potatoes in planter bags.

There is some space for more plants directly behind our house. We currently only keep our wheelie bins here. I’d love to create an Italian style courtyard in this area with a wood-fired pizza oven. My plans for an herb spiral and a horta plot could complement this area if grown in recycled wine barrels. I’d also like a dedicated space for some perennials.

I could put a second pumpkin plant in this area. It should be far enough away so it doesn’t cross fertilize with any of the other squashes in the vegetable patches.

I’ve avoided putting edibles in the front yard, as we don’t spend much time there and they are likely to be neglected. There are some spaces along the front fence line, which I’d like to fill in with native lilly pillies. I’m a big fan of these low maintenance bushes. They make a neat hedge if you plant them about 30 cm apart (or a forearm-lengths worth). The red berries of all types of lilly pillies are edible, with riberry one of the tastier varieties. The berries are best used to make a jam, relish or sauce.

One project I’m putting off is creating a pond because our fences unfortunately do not keep our neighbours’ cats out. Suitable edibles for a pond include: kang kong, lotus, native ginger, rice, taro, water chestnuts and watercress.

Inside the house we have started to grow sprouts. The downside is that it’s hard to remember to change the water twice a day when we both work full time. I could possibly explore growing other edible plants indoors.

The other gardening plans I have for the rest of this year is to plant in some more companion plants and flowers. I’d also love to create a recycled bench from wooden packing crates. Somewhere I can rest my weary legs after I’ve finished all the other hard work.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind

Today the winter wind blew with all its might. A lemon tree branch was snapped and the chives were flattened. The garlic has tousled green bed head.

Outside the local corner store a yellowing tree was uprooted. The poor thing didn’t stand a chance. It was two metres high with roots barely a third of a metre. A side effect of our long drought is that the rain doesn’t penetrate the soil well, so many plants have poorly developed root systems. This is why it is better to water your plants for longer but less often.

Here’s some edible plants that make good wind breaks:

  • Black mulberry
  • Carob
  • Feijoa
  • Jaboticaba
  • Longan
  • Loquat
  • Mango
  • Olive
  • Pine nut
  • Red cherry guava
  • Rose apple
  • White sapote
  • Yellow cherry guava

Smart Permaculture Design by Jenny Allen

Bush tucker for backyards

Before we got interested in growing our own food, we planted over a hundred Australian natives around our garden borders. Grevilleas are our favourite, and I’m pretty sure you could fill an entire backyard with all the different varieties.

Last year we attended a session on bush tucker at Kumbartcho by Jan Sked, and realized that if we had chosen a little better we could have added more bush tucker plants in our garden. It’s really important to correctly identify any plant you wish to eat or cook with because many natives have poisonous berries and leaves.

Here are some Australian plants that are edible and suitable for a suburban backyard.

If you are interested in exploring native food cooking, grab a copy of the self-published “Go Native – Wild Food Cookbook” by Jan Sked (email: Here are some of the better cookbooks as recommended by Jan Sked:

Edible plants for shady areas

The majority of vegetables love the sun, so you’ll need to position your main vegetable beds where there’ll get over 6 hours of sun a day. The following plants may like the shade or part-shade. Don’t forget to check to see if they are suitable for your climate and space before planting.

Fruit Trees

  • Acerola Cherry
  • Babaco
  • Beach Cherry
  • Bilberry
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Capulin Cherry
  • Cherimoya – Custard Apple
  • Cherries
  • Chilean Guava
  • Cranberry
  • Dragonfruit
  • Goji Berry
  • Golden Fruit of the Andes
  • Gooseberries
  • Logan berry
  • Marionberry
  • Miracle fruit
  • Monstera
  • Morella cherry
  • Naranjilla
  • Pawpaws
  • Pepino
  • Pineapple Guava
  • Raspberry
  • Raisin Tree
  • Red currant
  • Rhubarb
  • Rose apple
  • Sea grape
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry Guava
  • Tamarillo
  • Teaberry (Wintergreen)
  • White Sapote
  • Yellow Guava


  • Macadamia
  • Walnut

  • Asparagus
  • Beetroot
  • Calabrese
  • Chard
  • Cress
  • Dandelion
  • Globe Artichoke
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Lettuce
  • Mitzuba
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions: welsh and tree
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Silverbeet
  • Spinach
  • Spring Onion
  • Three cornered leek
  • Yacon
  • Water Chestnut
  • Wild garlic

Herbs etc

  • Bay
  • Chives
  • Coffee
  • Golden Pineapple Sage
  • Horseradish
  • Japanese Pepper
  • Juniper
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon Verbana
  • Lemongrass
  • Mints
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Stevia
  • Tarragon
  • Tea
  • Watercress
  • Wormwood

Prolific edible plants

I half-heartedly planted a choko underneath our grape with a handful of compost. Matthew shook his head and said I’d regret it. Neither of us like chokos. It only took a few months for the choko to overtake the gnarly aged vine and started ascending the garage wall. A weedy tomato is also mixed into the montage. Chokos are notorious for being fast growers.

I wanted to know what other plants were heavy yielding. In retrospect, these are the types I wish I had leaned towards growing for our self-sufficiency challenge.

Here’s a list of prolific edible plants:

Bean, Broad – Coles Dwarf; Egyptian; Long Pod
Bean, Bush – Blue Lake; Brown Beauty; Cherokee Wax; Dwarf Snake Bean; ES 58; Frenchie; Golden Wax; Hawksberry Wonder; Provider; Strike; Roma; Stringless Green Pod; Tendergreen; Violet Queen; Walter; Windsor Long Pod
Bean, Climbing – Blue Lake; Climbing Princess; Daydream; Green Zebra; Kentucky Wonder; Lazy Housewife; Natural Salt (Lohey’s Special); Purple King; Zebra
Beans, Dried – Red Kidney
Beetroot – Detroit
Broad Bean – Big Ben; Coles Dwarf; Early Long Pod
Broccoli – Waltham
Capsicum – Californian Wonder; Jimmy Nardello; Lipstick (Pimento); Orange Bell
Carrot – Nantes
Chilli – Cyklon; Jalapeno; Serrano;
Cucumber – Crystal Apple; Double Yield; Giant Russian; Green Gem; Japanese Climbing; Lemon; True Lemon; West Indian Gerkin; Wisconsin Pickling
Eggplant – Black Beauty; Little Finger; Rosa Bianca; Thai Green; Turkish Orange
Honeydew Melon – Early Silverline
Kale – Red Russian
Leek – Musselburg
Pea, Bush – Greenfeast; Southern Cross; Sugarsnap
Pea, Climbing – Alderman (Telephone)
Pea, Snowpea – Melting Mammoth; Oregon Sugar; Sugarsnap
Pumpkin – Delica; Golden Nugget; Jack Be Little; Waltham Butternut
Rockmelon – Noir des Carmes
Silverbeet – Fordhook Giant; Lucullus
Snowpea, Climbing – Melting Mammoth; Roide Carauby; Youkumo Giant
Spinach – Winter Giant
Squash, Button – Early White Bush; Golden Scallopini; Green Tint; Patterson Juane et Verte; Yellow Bush Squash
Squash, Winter – Blue Hubbard; Table Queen (Acorn)
Tomatillo – Toma Verde
Tomato, Bush – Budiah; Burpees Quarter Century; Burwood Prize; KY1; Napoli; Pink Ping Pong; Roma; Thai Pink Egg; Tiny Tim; Yellow Sausage
Tomato, Climbing – Baby Red Pear; Beans Yellow Pear; Beefsteak; Black Cherry; Break O Day; Broad Ripple Yellow Currant; Cherry Fox; Cherry Yellow Pear; Cherokee Purple; Daydream; Golden Sunray; Green Zebra; Gross Lisse; Harbinger; Lemon Drop; Moneymaker; Mortgage Lifter; Olomaic; Oxheart; Peruvian Cherry; Ponderosa Pink; Purple Lalabash; Purple Russian; Raspberry; Red Cherry Cocktail; Red Cloud; Red Fig; Siberian; Snow White; Speckled Roman; Sunray (Golden Orange); Super Sioux; Tigerella; Tommy Toe; Verna Orange; Yellow Pear
Watermelon – Northern Sweet;
Zucchini – Black Beauty; Early Prolific Straightneck; Golden Arch Crookneck; Rondo de Nice; Round; Yellow Straightneck

It’s pretty long list, but please let me know if I’ve missed any heavy bearing edible plants.

From comments:

Sweet potato

Drought tolerant edible plants

I’ve been doing some research about different types of seeds and their characteristics. I love making lists and flicking through seed catalogues, so this little exercise has combined these two joys in one.

Although, I’m not a big fan of watering. It’s…. well…. it’s boring. Thankfully we’ve had lots of rainfall recently so I’ve been able to skip the odd day or two. Matt has a water gauge and has been faithfully recording the rainfall on a registration chart. Sadly, between bush fires and torrential rainfall Australia remains a predominantly dry sunburnt country.

Here’s a list of tough drought tolerant edible plants:

Bean – Scarlet Emperor Runner
Broccoli – Waltham 29
Cucumber – Sweet and striped
Leaf Amaranth
Rockmelon – Planters Jumbo
Tomato – Cherry Yellow Pear, Purple Calabash Climbing
Warrigal Greens (New Zealand Spinach)
Watermelon – Sugarbaby

Once again, if you know of any other edible varieties that are drought tolerant, please let me know.