Origin: Wet, cool highlands
Plant: Sept – Jan
Harvest: Oct – March
Tropical green. Add to salads. Perennial cress grows in a damp, shady position.
Kang Kong (aka water spinach or swamp cabbage)
Origin: hot, humid tropics SE Asia
Plant: Sept – Jan
Harvest: Oct – May
Kang Kong is one of the tropical greens. Cut leaves off the trailing vines and use the vine tips in stir-fries. Harvest often before the plant reaches 20cm high to stimulate extra lush new growth; feed well with organic fertiliser. Grow in ponds or very damp ground. Kang kong will re-appear each year. Use in quiches and stir-fries.
For recipe inspiration you can try Kang Kong stir fry, simple and highly nutrious. One serve of Kang Kong has 297mg Potassium, 2g Fibre, 2.8g Protein, 110% of your Daily Vitamin A requirement, 82% of your Vitamin C, 7% Calcium and 8% of Iron all with only 41 Calories. Its also loaded with antioxidants, not bad for a plant that can sometimes be called a pest in the Asia Pacific region
Harvest: Anytime except for winter.
Propagate: Drumstick tree is propagated by 50cm long cuttings planted in spring.
The leaves are the most nutritious part of the tree, being high in calcium and protein and leaves can be picked for salads and stir-fries or sprinkled over pumpkin soup just before serving (can take pumpkin soup to another level). They have a mild mustard taste, while the roots of the tree can be substituted for horseradish where required. The seeds can be fried or roasted and the young pods can be added to soups and stews. Flowers can be eaten also (make a batter using besan flour, dip the flower in the batter and drop in hot oil until lightly browned). Pods freeze well. High-quality oil is extracted from the seed and the seed powder left over from this process has been trialed for purifying water. The sap is used for a blue dye. Keep tree well-pruned by cutting back annually to 1 – 2 metres; this will encourage new leaves and also keep leaves and pods within easy reach. Plant trees as a living fence.
As the drumstick tree is a sun and heat-loving plant, it does not tolerate frosts but is particularly suitable for dry regions.
Comfrey (aka Knitbone, Woundwort)
Origin: Asia and Europe
Harvest: When leaves are of reasonable length – the more you harvest, the more the leaves grow.
Comfrey can be used as a fertiliser or mineral supplement, cut and placed directly on garden beds. A compost tea can be made using comfrey leaves – collect a bucketful, cover with water and leave to break down for a few weeks (don’t leave bucket near work areas as this mix pongs). When ready to use, strain and dilute 1:10 with water.
Comfrey also works well as a weed-barrier – plant in rows with pigeon pea, arrowroot and lemongrass.
Comfrey can be chopped up in steamed vegetable dishes or added to soups and fritters or rissoles. A leaf can also be dipped in batter, deep-fried then drained on paper towels. A few raw leaves can be added to green smoothies.
Young inner leaves can be rubbed over a cut to stem bleeding.