Food & Health Archive

Permaculture Q&A: Perennial Plants for Temperate Climates

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

All month long, we are giving our readers direct access to our expert authors to answer permaculture-related questions. This week, a number of people inquired about growing food in temperate climates, specifically, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Canada.

Our award winning author Eric Toensmeier (Perennial Vegetables, Paradise Lot), and two authors from our UK publishing partner Permanent Publications, Anni Kelsey (Edible Perennial Gardening) and Stephen Barstow (Around the World in 80 Plants), unanimously agree that perennial plants are perfect for cold weather climates.

Perennials require less maintenance than typical annual crops and are perfectly adapted to short growing seasons. Their growth happens early in spring (when it’s still cool and the soil is damp) and use the available solar energy optimally over the season. But, with so many, potentially unfamiliar, plant varieties to choose from, how do you decide what to grow? Here are some tips to get you started.

Susan from Saskatchewan (Canada) writes:
I live in a zone 2 area and am having problems finding plants/trees/etc. for the severe temperatures we experience. Our long winters limit the frost-free days we have to produce quality food as well. Do you have suggestions on what will survive in our climate?

Stephen Barstow: I live in Norway at 63.5N. Some people think because we are so close to the Arctic circle, we are limited in what vegetables and fruits can be grown. For the past 30 years, I’ve been cultivating a garden with around 2,000 edible plants and now believe that my climate is ideal for growing leafy green vegetables and fruit!

Particularly in northern climates, perennial vegetables have many advantages and yields are, surprisingly, often better than conventional crops. Perennials are perfectly adapted to short season conditions as they come into growth early in spring (when it’s still cool and the soil is damp) and use the available solar energy optimally over the season. Conventional crops take much longer to get going. My book Around the World in 80 Plants profiles many perennial vegetables perfectly adapted to even Northern parts of Saskatchewan. You will recognize some of them as garden ornamentals in your area. I call them Edimentals (edible ornamentals). And, others you might think of as weeds or wild edibles (people have always moved their favourite wild edibles into gardens to be closer to the kitchen). Here are number of edible plants you could try growing:

Edible Perennials

  • Hosta
  • Hemerocallis (Daylilies)
  • Malva moschata (Musk mallow)
  • Matteuccia (Ostrich fern)
  • Rheum (Rhubarb)
  • Allium cernuum, A. fistulosum, A. nutans, A. senescens, A x proliferum and many other hardy onions
  • Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach)
  • Rumex spp. (Sorrels)
  • Urtica (Nettles)
  • Taraxacum (Dandelions)
  • Aralia cordata (Udo)

Unlike herbaceous plants, which die right back every year, so that the roots are protected from extremes of temperature, this isn’t true of trees and bushes and the hardiness zones are much more relevant for fruit and berry bushes. You could try:

Fruit Trees & Bushes

  • Amelanchier (Saskatoon berry) – large fruited varieties are available (Native)
  • Haskap (Lonicera edulis) – very early fruiting (from Siberia)
  • Sea buckthorn (Hippophae) – new thornless varieities are becoming available
  • Others: Buffalo berries, Chokecherries, Gooseberries, Redcurrants and many more should also be possible.

You could also join various Garden Web, Permaculture, and Facebook fora which are dedicated to gardening in northern areas, there are several in Saskatchewan. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration to start growing!

Jeri from Massachusetts writes: 
I have limited space in my backyard to plant a garden and most of the location options are in partial shade. I would like to focus on edible perennial plants. With room for two 4×8 raised beds, what are the easiest plants to grow together that are shade tolerant and produce the most food?

Anni Kelsey: I live in the UK. The Massachusetts climate seems similar to where I garden, but with greater extremes in summer and winter, and possibly also wetter. Therefore, broadly speaking, what works for me should be okay for you. In a small space like yours, I would go for the following:

Green Leafy Vegetables

  • Wild rocket or Turkish rocket are perennial, hardy and easy to grow.
  • Asparagus is, of course, a well known and very tasty perennial.
  • Kales are always a good bet. Sea kale is perennial and you may have access to some other perennial kales. I have grown many “annual” kales leaving them to grow for as long as they will.  They all seem to ‘perennialise’ and continue year after year unless the winter is exceptionally cold.  It does not effect their continued growth to let them flower, but I suspect it is better to encourage them to put energy into edible green growth, so probably best to remove flowers.

Related Video: Four Perennial Vegetables Perfect for Shady Spots


  • Welsh onions are hardy and productive and easily grown from seed.  They provide onion greens from spring to autumn; the stem thickens like a leek in summer and you can harvest some bulbs as well, as long as you ensure some remain to continue the supply.  They may grow larger in sun, but are fine in shade.
  • Ramps (similar to the UK’s wild garlic) are woodland plants suited to shade and are plentiful in spring.
  • Perennial leeks come up in late winter and last for about six months. They do not flower, but propagate by the bulb dividing.


  • Sunchokes are very easy and productive root vegetables.  Leave some in the ground after harvest to re-grow next year.
  • Skirret is a lovely root vegetable grown initially from seed.  It can be a bit temperamental, but is worth the effort.  Once you have some plants established you harvest roots from the clump in autumn and replant.  They also make new baby plants round the main stem in spring.
  • Yacon has very productive roots and are available in the US.  However they are frost tender and are harvested when they die back in autumn.  The growing tips have to be kept frost-free and dry over winter but if you can do this they are worth considering.  They are large plants though so only one in your space I think!

For more information on perennial plants and where to purchase nursery starts, check out Food Forest Farm owned by Paradise Lot co-author Jonathan Bates.

Maria from Illinois writes:
I’m new to permaculture and my husband and I are starting to incorporate these principles into our Chicago back yard. My question is about placement and zones on a small lot (25 x 60). I’m wondering about the placement of the espaliered apple tree, the peach tree, and the berry bushes. Is it necessary to place the apple tree south-facing against a wall? Also, some authors recommend soil amendment when planting fruit trees/ bushes, and some don’t. Should we get our soil tested before eating any of the produce?

Eric Toensmeier: Hi Maria, I definitely recommend getting soil tested for lead before eating anything, and indeed even before doing much design as the test results can really change design ideas (like requiring big raised beds, for example). University of Illinois probably has a soil testing unit. Your soil test will also tell you if you need to amend your soil. In a typical urban or suburban lot you will probably need to improve your organic matter, break up compaction, and usually add some minerals. Fertilizers like minerals are bought in, but organic matter could come from compost, the urban waste stream, a year in cover crop, or other strategies. Cover cropping can help with compaction too, but for serious compaction I like the Meadow Creature Broadfork.

In small lots light is often a limiting factor. Most of the fruits you want to plant probably need full sun, so parceling out the sun space you have for them is a constraint that may guide your design. I like to plant taller things to the north so they don’t cast shade on shorter light-demanders. This is one of the main organizing principles of my home garden design. I don’t think Chicago is so cold that an espalier apple tree demands a south wall but it would probably be pretty happy there!


Photo Credit (Espalier Apple Tree): Celiakozlowski, Wikicommons

Permaculture Advice For Beginners. Hint: Start Small

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Interested in applying a permaculture approach to your land, but not quite sure where to start? In the below Q&A, authors Olivia Rathbone (The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook) and Tao Orion (Beyond the War on Invasive Species) share some advice for beginner permaculturalists.

This series is part of our Permaculture Month celebration where a panel of expert authors answer permaculture-related questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here or check out these links to see what others are asking:
How to Grow Pawpaws by Steve Gabriel
Mulching Options for Your Garden by Josh Trought
A Permaculture Approach to Managing Hedge Bindweed by Tao Orion
And more…

Jen from Vermont writes:
I’ve been reading The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook and so thoroughly enjoying it. It’s written in a way that makes such good sense to me. I’m about to move into a new home and I’m thinking about where to begin with cultivating gardens in partnership with my kitchen. The vision of the OAEC gardens is so thorough and complete. What advice would you have for someone who is beginning?

Olivia Rathbone: Hello Jen! Congratulations on your new place and I am glad you are finding some inspiration from The OAEC Cookbook! As a beginner, just getting started with a kitchen garden design, the first and most important permaculture principle that we advocate at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center—a farm, educational center, and eco thinktank in West Sonoma County, CA—is PATO, Protracted and Thoughtful Observation.

At this exciting time, it is tempting to jump right in and make big changes, but really the most valuable thing you can do in this first year is to simply study the natural and man-made elements in each area of the land, notice how they change through the seasons and how you can work with rather than impose upon the land that you are stewarding. Get to know every nook and cranny—the soil, the arc of the sun, the flow of water, and all the plants and critters living there. Some people find it useful to keep a journal or to mark their observations on a calendar or a map. A daily or weekly ritual of sipping a cup of morning tea in a special spot or walking a path around the land with the intention of listening and absorbing nature’s clues is a great way to find inspiration and guidance in your design process.

One of the most elegant and practical design features of the OAEC North Garden is the main pathway, which was once the path that the cows had trodden on their way out to the back 40. The original gardeners here had the wisdom to work with that contour line and design the garden around it. Little by little, your appreciation for what you have and your vision for what you want will start to come together.

Another foundational principle is the idea of designing in “zones” as a way to save time, energy, and resources. For convenience, the crops that are used every day—like culinary herbs—can be planted close to the kitchen so that the cook can easily grab a bit of parsley at the last minute to spruce up dinner. On the other hand, the potato patch, which needs very little tending or watering throughout the season and is harvested all at once, can be planted further away, off the beaten path. Likewise, crops can also be grouped together by their needs for sun or water. At OAEC we have the nopal cactuses, rosemary, and other drought tolerant crops planted in a sunny, south facing dry garden and the tender, thirsty salad greens grouped together in a more temperate, irrigated section.

There are loads of great books out there with more ideas on plant groupings, water conservation methods, etc, but ultimately, not everything written in books or online will work for every situation. OAEC’s kitchen gardens of today came about through 40 years of trial and error research and many of those experiments failed miserably! For example, the ubiquitous use of straw mulch that so many permaculture books advocate, turned out to be the perfect habitat for earwigs here. My advice—start small, don’t be afraid to fail and learn, and remember, your most important resources are your new neighbors! Fellow gardeners are almost always eager to share their lessons learned, and hopefully, future meals together to enjoy your garden’s bounty.

Scott from Oregon writes:
My wife and I own some land and are trying to make the transition to being self employed and living on the land full-time. What are some of the more important first steps that can be achieved on a small budget for maximum benefit in your opinion? Are there opportunities for funding that are available to young permaculturalists that you are aware of?

Tao Orion: Hi Scott! First I would undertake a community-scale needs and resources assessment and line it up with your personal needs and resources assessment. Ask yourself, what are your community’s needs, and what are some resources that could be available to you and your wife that could assist you in crafting your rural livelihood? Considering how to piece together diverse income streams is also a key component of ‘making a living’ off the land, especially in the developmental years if you don’t have a large amount of capital to invest in building farm infrastructure like fencing, outbuildings, etc. Start with small, slow, scalable developments to achieve some modest yields. Take time to plan and implement your final design—get your home garden, greenhouse, and irrigation system in place and productive before planting your 10 acre food forest. Don’t spread yourself too thin as you will have a long list of projects!

One way to save money is to propagate the fruit and nut trees and shrubs you eventually want to plant. This will give you time to also make the best decisions about where they should go. There are some unique funding streams available for beginning farmers. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides money for building fencing, hedgerows, and hightunnel greenhouses. Also, check to see whether there is an organization that facilitates Individual Development Accounts (IDA) programs in your area, as this unique program matches your savings by a factor of three (up to $12,000 total) while providing business planning and management classes.

Good luck and have fun!

Designing Your Own Solar Cooker & Dehydrator

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

In today’s world, nearly everything we use, from phones and computers to cars and kitchen appliances, requires energy derived from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset some of that energy use by harnessing the renewable power of the sun?

Josh Trought, founder of D Acres—an educational center in New Hampshire that researches, applies, and teaches skills of sustainable living—is experimenting with a number of alternative energy projects that can help reduce our reliance on gas and electricity.

In the following excerpt from his new book, The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm, Trought shows us how to prepare and preserve food using solar dehydrators and solar cookers. Simply constructed and easy to operate, these devices are a great way to incorporate solar power into your daily life.

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm: Solar Dehydrator and Cooker

Permaculture Q&A: Let’s Talk Pawpaws

Monday, May 4th, 2015

May is in full swing and that means it’s time to officially celebrate Permaculture Month.

Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate! Submit your questions here.

Our first questioner is from New Jersey and he’s looking for some advice on how to get started growing pawpaws. In the below response, Steve Gabriel, co-author of Farming the Woods, shares some tips on varieties, number of trees to plant, and where to source good nursery starts.

If you’re unfamiliar with pawpaws, here’s a little background for you. The fruit of a pawpaw tree is a relative of the custard apple and both looks and tastes very “tropical”—hints of vanilla, mango, banana, and avocado are common descriptors. The virtues of pawpaws are many, from being the largest tree fruit native to the eastern United States to its ease of cultivation and aesthetic form; not to mention, the fruits are extremely nutritious and delicious—high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese and a good source of potassium and several essential amino acids. For a complete history of this unique fruit check out Andrew Moore’s new book Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit (August 2015).

Joe from New Jersey writes:
I want to grow a pawpaw tree. What variety should I plant? How many? What size? And, where can I get some nursery starts?

Steve Gabriel: When choosing what variety to plant, consider local adaptability and production as well as any other goals. Peterson Pawpaws have some of the most meticulously developed pawpaw starts. For more information, it’s also worth checking out The Pawpaw Regional Variety Trial (a report conducted by Kentucky State in the 1990s) and the university website at

In terms of number of trees to plant, you will need at least two for cross pollination. Note that if you plant less than 20 – 30 trees you may need to hand pollinate when flowers emerge in May. This is a relatively simple task, outlined in our book. Download chapter 4 from Farming the Woods for more info on pawpaws and step-by-step instructions on how to hand pollinate. 

Ideally, you should start planting trees that are 2 – 3 years old. This means you can plant them in sun or partial shade and not have to worry about damage to the bark or roots. Younger trees need to be fully sheltered from sunlight because this species is found naturally in full shade environments, though some sun is good for fruiting and they do well in full sun once they are a bit older. Young trees can be stunted or die if exposed to too much sun.

Prices for nursery starts can range from $5 – $40 per plant! Lower cost plants are seedlings and higher cost are usually cultivars. Often these sell out because there is much more supply for this variety of fruit tree than demand. Here are a few places where you can order plants online:

Oikos Tree Crops
Peterson Paw Paws  (plants available through multiple nurseries across the country)
Stark Brothers

Growing and Marketing Organic Medicinal Herbs

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

In the United States, the herbal medicine industry has exploded over the last twenty years, but many of the herbs used are imported rather than grown domestically. In their new book, experienced small-scale herb farmers Jeff and Melanie Carpenter offer tips on how farmers, and other small-scale growers, can get started in the profitable world of growing organic medicinal herbs.

The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer is both a business guide and farming manual that teaches readers how to successfully grow and market organic medicinal herbs. The Carpenters cover the basic practical information any grower needs to get an organic herb farm up and running, including size and scale considerations, soil and plant conservation, growing and cultivation methods, harvesting, processing, business planning, and much more. The book also includes fifty detailed plant profiles, going deeper into the herbs that every farmer should consider growing—from the more common peppermint, lavender, and echinacea plants to the less familiar elderberry, arnica, angelica, and calendula.

Rosemary Gladstar, prominent herbalist and author—fondly known as the fairy godmother of western herbalism—believes this book is a vital and important resource for farmers. In her foreword she writes, “It carries a hopeful and pertinent message, provides detailed information and innovative tools and suggestions, and offers a roadway to success for the small family farm.”

The Carpenters demonstrate that incorporating medicinal herbs into existing farm operations can not only increase revenue in the form of value-added products, but also improve the ecological health of farmland by encouraging biodiversity and permaculture as a path toward greater soil health. Check out the videos below to hear more from the authors themselves about their herb farming operation and their mission to be stewards of the land and safeguard the tradition of farming for future generations.



RECIPE: Veggie Mandala with Chervil Aioli Sauce

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

With the birth of spring comes its profusion of gifts—the warm sun, higher temperatures, and (best of all) fertile soil. With each day, more colors seem to burst forth—both in nature and on our plates.

This is certainly true of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center—one of California’s first certified organic farms. Spring not only brings color and life into their gardens, but also an abundance of diverse crops to add to their daily meals. In their new book, The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook, kitchen manager Olivia Rathbone showcases the biodiversity of all four seasons with over 200 inspired vegetarian recipes.

A favorite spring dish, popular at OAEC parties and celebrations, is the Veggie Mandala with Chervil Aioli Sauce. This brightly colored assortment of vegetables and edible garden leaves is traditionally served directly on the surface of the entire length of the farm table. But, whether you use serving platters or eat right off the table, this light dish will be welcome shift from the heavier foods of winter. Check out the recipe below and see how easy it is to make!

If you’re still hungry, here are a few additional sample recipes from The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook.


Veggie Mandala

An OAEC tradition for parties and celebrations is to create a giant colorful mandala out of diverse garden veggies served directly on the surface of the entire length of the table. An assortment of raw, blanched, and roasted elements adds to the diversity of the flavors.

Serves 4-6:

2 ½ pounds assorted brightly colored veggies: brassica florets, roots, and whatever other veggies are happening in the garden or at the farmers’ market

1 bunch large edible garden leaves: Rainbow chard, variegated collards, fig or grape leaves, the large side leaves of cauliflower or broccoli—whatever looks big and healthy

Serves 30-40:

15 pounds assorted brightly colored veggies: brassica florets, roots, and whatever other veggies are happening in the garden or at the farmers’ market

5 bunch large edible garden leaves: Rainbow chard, variegated collards, fig or grape leaves, the large side leaves of cauliflower or broccoli—whatever looks big and healthy


Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables into attractive flippable spears and keep separate. Decide which vegetables make sense to blanch, roast, or leave raw, choosing a few for each category. For example, in the summertime, leave juicy vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers raw. In the winter, roast the fennel and winter squash. Parboil or roast the remaining roots or florets, depending on your mood.

Spread the vegetables to be roasted in a single layer on separate cookie sheets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 375° oven for 20 minutes, flipping as needed. Meanwhile, blanch each type of vegetable separately (see below for how to blanch veggies). To serve, clean your serving table well with soap and water. Cover the surface with large edible leaves, then thoroughly arrange the assortment of veggies in a beautiful pattern with a bowl of Chervil Aioli (see recipe further below) or an herb pistou for dipping. Circle around the food and meditate on the abundance!

Blanching Veggies

One of the secrets to getting people to fall in love with vegetables, especially green ones, is blanching. By locking in the vivid color, fresh texture, flavor, and nutrients, veggies are elevated to center stage rather than being relegated to a forgettable side role. When cooking for a crowd, this is also a convenient way to prepare veggies ahead of time to be reheated or incorporated into a dish later.

Get a big pot of water (the higher the water-to-vegetable ratio, the better) to an aggressive boil on the stove. Add lots of salt, about ½ cup per gallon of water—this helps prevent the color from leaching out into the cooking water and perfectly preseasons the vegetables. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Slice and stage the raw veggies.

Note: Be sure to blanch each vegetable separately, as cooking times will vary.

Put your first round of raw-cut veggies into the basket and lower gently into the rapidly boiling salt water. For small veggies like peas, 30 seconds should do; with larger cuts or root veggies, like julienned carrots, you may need to cook them for 4 to 6 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because a few seconds can mean the difference between vibrant al dente and mushy gray. When the color brightens up and the texture is cooked but still retains a hint of firmness (stick a fork in or taste one), pull the colander basket out, draining out as much of the hot water as possible, and then submerge the colander in the ice bath to halt the cooking process. When the veggies have completely cooled, remove the colander and drain completely. Let the pot of water come up to boiling again before starting the next round and add more ice to the ice bath as needed.

Blanched vegetables can be frozen like this or stored in the fridge for a day.

To serve immediately as a simple side, return the vegetables to a clean pot on the stovetop and reheat on medium-high either covered with a dash of water or uncovered tossed with oil. Serve with simple olive oil and salt, a dash of tamari, or a tab of herb butter.

Chervil Aioli

Serves 4-6 (makes a little over 1 cup):

1 farm-fresh egg yolk from clean, healthy chickens (don’t use factory-farmed eggs for this—or any—recipe)—room temperature

1 very small clove garlic, less than a teaspoon crushed (optional)

1 cup oil


Squeeze of lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chervil, or substitute a combination of tarragon and parsley

Serves 30-40 (makes 4 cups):

4 farm-fresh egg yolks from clean, healthy chickens (don’t use factory-farmed eggs for this—or any—recipe)—room temperature

2 very small cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon crushed (optional)

4 cups oil


Squeeze of lemon

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chervil, or substitute a combination of tarragon and parsley


Let your egg sit out on the counter until it comes up to room temperature. Separate the egg and reserve the white for another use. If you’re using garlic, crush it with a garlic press or mortar and pestle into a smooth paste and stir it into the egg yolk. Add about a quarter of the oil and whisk until a very well-incorporated mixture forms. Drizzle in the rest of the oil in a thin stream while whisking it all the while. Add salt and lemon to taste. Stir or blend in the chopped chervil. Use right away.


A Mini-Festo for Earth Day – Rebuild the Foodshed

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

For the past month, author Philip Ackerman-Leist has been on a Twitter MiniFesto campaign – each day sending out a new tweet designed to spark conversation and pass along some lessons he learned whilst working on his last book, Rebuilding the Foodshed.

You might also know Philip as the author of his memoir Up Tunket Road or as Director of the Green Mountain College Farm & Food Project and the Director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College. Or, from his carbon offset approach to commuting to work.

We know that Philip spends some of his time answering tweets and questions from his PastureFone (a mobile phone that doubles as a cattle herding device we think), and we all know that some of our best thinking can come when we’re away from devices, and getting dirty, or frustrated, with our daily chores.

So on this Earth Day we’re offering up the full Minifesto of Ackerman-Leist below, and a link to a downloadable and printable file that you should feel free to print and download, and then put up in the nearest outhouse wall, bathroom stall, or other popular, quiet reading places.

Your Revolutionary Minifesto Friends at Chelsea Green Publishing

Minifesto: Tweets for Rebuilding the Foodshed

I. Start from the grassroots—and move all the way down to the highest levels of government.

II. Sustainable farms are run by the sun: the rest of the food system needs daylight, too.

III. When thinking about farms: management first & scale second. You figure out where location fits. (Hint: about 1.5)

IV. Fully understanding the expanse between farm to plate demands the full distance between one’s ears.

V. Local was never intended to be universal.

VI. Small successes are easier to manage than big failures.

VII. Success leads; policy follows.

VIII.Crow tastes like chicken: Be prepared to eat some.

IX. Main ingredient in a recipe for disaster: sticking to the recipe when you don’t have all of the ingredients.

X. Two ingredients not needed in a recipe for success: us and them.

XI. Leave the selfie at the door. Shift to panorama mode.

XII. All white ain’t alright.

XIII. PC quickly becomes passé: Do what’s right, not necessarily what is correct.

XIV. Get off the can (BPA, dude!) and out of the box!

XV. Change comes more from victual sharing than virtual sharing.

XVI. Food is neither left nor right of center, but in our politics we are left with the right to food question.

XVII. Food system as economic driver: A job doth not a fair wage make.

XVIII. The divide is less urban/rural than it is have/have not.

XIX. Trust the windshield view more than the dashboard indicators.

XX. Don’t just move the needle. Bend it a little bit. When all else fails, consider a new dial.

XXI. Nuance provides precision–and it’s too often the victim of well-intentioned advocacy.

XXII. Numbers & values: sometimes the same thing, sometimes in opposition.

XXIII. Behind every label lies a story…some are fairy tales.

XXIV. Fields of expertise: Farmers & fishers need to be at the table, too—not just profs, chefs, wonks, & good intentions.

XXV. Finitude sucks. Prioritization rules.

XXVI. Don’t forget to dig! (We might even require ag in school if it weren’t so complex.)

XXVII. Old dirt, same story: New horizons in soils help cultivate common ground, common sense, & uncommon potential.

XXVIII. Food system waste is nothing more than a lack of ecological imagination.

XXIX. Tomorrow is only 1/3 of the answer.

XXX. Impatience is your most important ally; patience is your best friend.

To follow Philip on Twitter go to @ackermanleistp

Anno MMXV “Twitterus rebuildum”


Download the Minfesto, print it and spread the revolution!


Minifesto-RebuildingTheFoodshed Day30 by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Permaculture Month: Ask the Experts

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

This May, in honor of Permaculture Month, we are once again putting our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session designed to help you become a better permaculturalist.

Over the years, the term permaculture has become increasingly popular among those who grow food on both large and small scales. However, the philosophy behind permaculture can be applied to all aspects of our daily lives and relationships. In essence, permaculture is a system of designing households and communities that are productive, sustaining, and largely self-reliant, and have minimal impact on the environment. Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning names (both present and future) in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all permaculture-related questions.

Our Permaculture Experts

The participating authors are: Toby Hemenway, author of a perennial Chelsea Green bestseller Gaia’s Garden and a new book out this summer The Permaculture CityEric Toensmeier, author of the award-winning Perennial Vegetables and the latest Paradise Lot, and a host of new Chelsea Green authors including Josh Trought (The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm), founder of D Acres—an ecologically designed educational center in New Hampshire, Olivia Rathbone (The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook), kitchen manager for one of the most successful and established permaculture sites in the word, Steve Gabriel (Farming the Woods), co-founder of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute and forest farming extraordinaire, and Tao Orion (Beyond the War on Invasive Species), teacher of permaculture design at Oregon State University and active in ecosystem restoration. Also joining this group will be plant specialists Stephen Barstow (Around the World in 80 Plants) and Anni Kelsey (Edible Perennial Gardening) whose books we are distributing in our catalog.

Toby Hemenway Eric Toensmeier Josh Trought Olivia Rathbone
Steve Gabriel Tao Orion Stephen Barstow Anni Kelsey

Do you want to learn more about a specific design you have in mind or how to incorporate permaculture into your community? Or are you just getting started and want to know how to best evaluate your backyard or homestead? Whether you’re tackling edible garden spaces or acres of farm fields, our expert authors are prepared to answer your questions on permaculture design, edible landscaping, plant guilds, perennial plantings, as well as the economics and social impact of permaculture.

To submit your permaculture question, use the form below. Feel free to put your query to the attention of a specific author (if you have a question about something you’ve read or tried in their book), or ask a general question and we’ll direct it to the right author to respond. Keep checking back throughout the month as we’ll not only be posting answers, but excerpts and other information to celebrate permaculture month.

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Wild Edibles: 5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Ever spotted a dandelion growing in your backyard and wondered, can I eat that? According to wild plants expert Katrina Blair, the answer is a resounding yes. And there are plenty of other commonly found weeds that fall into this category as well.

In her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Blair introduces readers to thirteen weeds that can be found growing all over the world—especially in densely populated areas like cities and suburbs. These nutritious “survival plants”, as she calls them, can be eaten from root to seed and used for a variety of medicinal purposes to achieve optimal health.

If you are new to foraging, below are a few beginner tips from Katrina Blair to get you started on your hunt for wild edibles. And, next time you are taking a walk around the neighborhood keep your eyes peeled for these thirteen plants: dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed.

For more information on edible weeds and how Blair uses them for food and medicine listen to her interviews on Sierra Club Radio and Heritage Radio Network’s “Sharp and Hot”. Or if you’re ready to eat now, check out her suggestions for how to use lambsquarter.


5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

  1. Ask for help. Seek the guidance of a local plant expert who can help you identify the subtle differences between various plant species.
  2. Stay close to home. The wild plants that grow closest to where you live are the ones best adapted to support your ability to thrive in your current environment. Wild plants are extremely resilient and they help us embody those same qualities of excellence.
  3. Be mindful of where you harvest wild weeds. Use your observation skills to determine if an area may have been sprayed with herbicides or heavily fertilized with chemicals. If a plant is discolored or curls downward in an unnatural way it may best to harvest elsewhere.
  4. Start off simple. Look for the common simple plants first that are easy to recognize like dandelions. Dice them up finely and add to your dinner salad along with something sweet like apple slices.
  5. A little goes a long way. Wild plants are very potent so it is best to start by ingesting small amounts. Begin by nibbling a taste of a common wild edible plant and slowly introduce it to your body and taste buds.


New Cookbook Offers Hundreds of Garden-to-Plate Recipes

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Are you a gardener interested in finding new ways to cook with your vegetables or a farmers’ market shopper looking to expand your repertoire? Maybe you are a home cook who wants to prepare healthy meals for your family and friends or a professional chef looking for inspired recipes using wild edibles? Or are you a member of a community-based organization who cooks for crowds on a regular basis?

If you nodded your head to any of these questions, then The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook is for you.

This unique cookbook is a beautifully illustrated collection of 200 inspired vegetarian recipes using fresh-from-the-garden seasonal ingredients from the OAEC, a renowned farm, educational retreat center, eco-thinktank and home of the Mother Garden—one of California’s first certified organic farms.

You’ll learn how to incorporate a diverse array of ingredients including weeds, flowers, herbs, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and other forages, into your family’s everyday meals. The recipes also provide the quantities and measurements necessary to cook for a crowd—making each dish perfect to cook at home, or to share at parties, potlucks, and community events.

The OAEC has a passionate ethos about eating seasonally, and their book shows readers how to cook based on what is available in the garden at any given time of the year. Nothing illustrates this concept better than their signature dish, the Biodiversity Salad Mix, which frequently features more than 60 varieties of greens and wild edibles.

Acclaimed chef and author Alice Waters writes in her foreword, “It is a testament to the remarkable biodiversity of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center that something as ostensibly simple as a green salad can be such a revelation. But a revelation it is.” Pretty impressive for a bowl of greens.

Most likely you don’t have the resources to incorporate 60 ingredients into a salad, but lead author Olivia Rathbone encourages us to experiment with the biodiversity available in our own regions.

“We are not seeking out rare and endangered food crops of the world in order to ‘discover’ and profit from the next exotic ingredient to be marketed and consumed by the industrial food system,” writes Rathbone in her introduction. “Through trial-and-error research, we are taking full advantage of our regional growing conditions to find what works, and we encourage you to do the same kind of experimentation in your own backyard.”

And, for those less adventurous eaters, fear not, a reviewer from Booklist points out that many of the recipes “demonstrate simple techniques that work with many different vegetables.”

In The OAEC Cookbook you’ll find seasonal menus that offer a wide range of dishes such as: Carrot and Chamomile Soup and Pepita-Encrusted Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint. There are a variety of delicious salad dressing recipes, sauces, and pestos for garden-fresh greens. There are comfort foods like pots of savory Biodiversity Beans and Winter Sourdough Pizza and crowd pleasing desserts like Fresh Fruit Fools and Cardamom-Rose-Plum Bars.

Is your mouth watering yet? Check out the sample recipes below and start planning your next dinner party. Can we come?

Sample Recipes from The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook

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