June 17, 2024

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This post shares two tips to make sure your small scale homegrown food production keeps trucking along even when Life happens and your best gardening intentions go out the window.

Rain, rain, rain... and more rain

In December last year a tropical cyclone crossed the coast north of us and dumped a huge amount of rain. After the cyclone, the sun shone for a week and then the rain came back. 

That was nearly 6 months ago, and since then we've probably had about as many sunny days as I have fingers -- on one hand.

(I wrote the draft for this post in late May, then got sidetracked by other things and left it sitting in a drafts folder. It's now mid June and the sun is, thankfully, shining again at long last.)

Needless to say, during that 6 months our garden got wet. Everything was boggy. There was a swamp outside my kitchen window where there should have been a pasture.

Even the ducks were avoiding the puddles.

The supermarket is so much easier than growing your own in conditions like these.

Which is why, if you want to keep the homegrown food thing going, it's a good idea to grow some edibles within easy reach, and also some edibles that will keep right on growing when your region throws its worst at them and when you yourself can't or don't want to get out in the garden. 

Grow food within easy reach

The picture at the top of this post is of okinawa spinach (left) and sweet potato greens (the leaves of sweet potato plants are edible and very nutritious).

Both of these greens can handle dry weather and thrive in wet weather. I have them growing right beside our porch, where I can harvest them without going out in the rain.

After this experience, I'm planning on finding ways to bring a lot more food plants closer to the porch.

Cocoyam, okinawa spinach, sweet potato growing at the edge of a porch

Above, left to right, you can see cocoyam, okinawa spinach, sweet potato greens (in the blue tubs), and celery (brown tub). At the base of the tree -- turmeric. 

(And yes, mingling throughout there is a healthy crop of weeds. I like to tell myself that they're contributing to diversity, insect habitat, soil health...)


Learn about 7 easy, nutritious food plants that you can harvest from for years without replanting

Growing and processing your own food is a huge task. In One Small Serve, I'll show you a smaller, simpler approach to fit into a busy life. 

Grow things that will thrive without attention

Besides growing things where they're easy to access, it's also a good idea to grow food plants that don't need much of your time and attention to thrive.

Because, well, Life happens and the garden gets bumped to the bottom of the list. 

When we first set out to learn to grow our own food, we grew lots of "proper" veggies -- which require gardeners to be a lot more conscientious than I'm ever likely to be. We don't grow many proper veggies now. Instead, we grow what can survive a brutal wet season or long periods of complete neglect, and still be productive... 

Below is an armload of mulberry leaves, a green pumpkin, a choko, an overripe bunch of bananas, and some more okinawa spinach -- all collected in a ten minute ramble during a break in the rain.

Mulberry leaves, bananas, dragon fruit, pumpkin, choko, okinawa spinach

None of them look very fancy but all of them, once established, grow with zero effort or expense on our part. Here's how I might use them...

  • Green pumpkins make a fair substitute for zucchinis. Which is a good thing because there is NO way zucchinis would have survived this wet weather. 
  • Our dragon fruit have finally started producing and they are so much better than the supermarket ones. They never last long enough for me to wonder how to use them other than scheming to get my share whenever some ripe ones make it into the kitchen.
  • The simplest way I know to use chokos is to cut them up, skin, seed and all, and add to stir  fries, early in the process along with other hard veggies like onions or carrots. Older chokos whose skin is too tough for us to eat go to the pigs. Very small ones can be copped and added to salads. Here is a recipe for winter soup made with chokos, or read more about other uses for chokos, here.
  • Ripe bananas can have the yucky bits trimmed off (put them in the compost or worm farm, or give them to the chickens or pigs) and then be frozen with or without their skins. They make great deserts as is or combined with custard, yogurt, kefir, cream, or dipped in homemade chocolate. (Freezing them with skin on means they don't stick to each other in the freezer, but are fiddly to peel later. If freezing without skins, place them in the freezer in a bag, cloth or plastic. Then get the bag out and toss it around a bit when the bananas are almost frozen, to prevent them from sticking together.)
  • Young, tender mulberry leaves can be cooked and eaten like any other leafy green, or dried to make tea. (They're very nutritious; more details here and here.) The ones in this picture are older and will be going to the pigs, who love them. Mulberry leaves are a very useful high protein fodder for pigs, goats, cattle, and horses. Not to mention silkworms
  • Malabar spinach is a reliable leafy green for tropical and sub-tropical gardeners who don't actually spend all that much time in the garden (me -- guilty as charged). Read all about it here.

Below are three more edibles that thrive on neglect in the tropics and subtropics, and can handle any amount of rain (ginger does need reasonable drainage; the taro plants are happy with wet feet).  

At the bottom left is ginger. At the top is celery stem taro, also called tahitian spinach (Alocasia esculenta), and at the bottom right, taro tuber (Colocasia esculenta). These two taro plants are closely related; one grown for its stems and the other for its tuber.

Taro, celery-stem taro, ginger, all laid out on a table ready to use

Here's how I might use these...

  • Celery stemmed taro needs peeling, then you can slice it into salads or cook it any way you want (CAUTION: this is the ONLY taro plant or taro plant part you can eat raw; all others must be cooked). It's crunchy and full of little hollows, so works well with salad dressing.
  •  Taro tubers need to be peeled thickly and can then be baked, steamed, or boiled. Use as a satisfying, filling side veggie in a multitude of ways or cool your cooked taro and look for a taro cake or desert recipe online. Recently Alain and I went out for dinner and were served taro chips -- fine shavings of taro tuber well rinsed in several changes of water then deep fried. They were delicious.
  • Ginger - you know how to use ginger. My favorite ways are to grate it and add to sauerkraut or salad dressing, or to make ginger honey.

So there you have it, some of what we're eating in spite of 6 months of very, very wet weather and almost no gardening other than quick visits to harvest, between the rain showers. 


One Small Serve

Establish a "one-serve-at-a-time" home-grown food habit that's easy to maintain. Includes a series of free extra tips + free email support.

Comments are welcome!

What happens in your garden when it won't stop raining, or when other aspects of life keep you out of the garden for long periods? 

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