Plant what you will

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

Gar­den growth in tem­per­ate ar­eas is slow but steady. We plant broc­coli seeds all through the win­ter so there is a ready sup­ply of this su­per health-giving veg­etable. Yes, I do get a bit sick of broc­coli, but like ev­ery­thing else in the gar­den it is there for a per­ma­cul­tur­allysound set of rea­sons.

A per­ma­cul­ture premise is that there must be at least three good rea­sons for grow­ing, do­ing, and es­tab­lish­ing any­thing. For broc­coli: • it grows well through our win­ter, looks great, and the bugs stay away at this time of year; • it’s ver­sa­tile in the kitchen; • it’s al­ways high on the ‘su­per good for you’ lists in health news.


I can’t see the point in grow­ing food I’m not too keen on so you won’t see too many broad beans or leeks. Leeks are great in soup when blended with pota­toes but oth­er­wise I need them to be small, thin, and cooked with ba­con, onions and gar­lic and but­ter. Grow­ing a few broad beans each year means more va­ri­ety in our eat­ing and a wider pool of nu­tri­ents for our bod­ies.

Gar­den­ing re­quires com­mit­ment and con­sis­tency to pro­vide a plen­ti­ful food sup­ply and there is no point in wast­ing hard work, so my ad­vice is to plant your favourites, stick to ba­sics and rel­ish the pre­pared and cooked re­sults of your ef­forts. It makes do­ing the dishes worth­while.

the herbal dis­pen­sary in Raglan.” My sis­ter Margery was quite in­sis­tent.

This kind of thing wasn’t on my ‘must do’ list on a visit to Raglan, a sea­side vil­lage on the Waikato’s west coast. I had a cruisy walk on the beach in mind, but an ac­ci­den­tal walk-by of The Herbal Dis­pen­sary and the con­stant stream of cus­tomers piqued my in­ter­est.

Bas­kets of pro­duce, fresh sour­dough bread, and herb and veg­etable plants were spilling out onto the wide shop frontage. A peek in the door sug­gested a cross be­tween a whole-food co-op, a herbal dis­pen­sary and a gift shop, with or­ganic dried goods, eco-friendly house­hold prod­ucts and gift­ware co-min­gling. Through the open, back door there was a glimpse of a thriv­ing herb gar­den.

When Bron­wyn Lowe first opened a small dis­pen­sary in a for­mer doc­tor’s of­fice in 1996, she thought it was a good day when she turned over $100. “I didn’t have a clue about busi­ness.” Twenty years and seven moves later, she em­ploys three qual­i­fied herbal prac­ti­tion­ers and owns the build­ing her store is in.

“I thought it would be good to open a shop, raise the pro­file of herbal medicine, and then re­tire to my gar­den. I cer­tainly never ex­pected to be here 20 years later!”

But in­stead of re­tir­ing to the gar­den, Bron­wyn brought the gar­den to the shop. It is both a plant re­source and a quiet re­treat but you won’t find man­i­cured beds, just plenty of weeds and ev­i­dence of har­vest­ing. Cus­tomers come in want­ing rose­mary or thyme or le­mon ver­bena for tea, and staff duck out the back and pick it for them. They also make oint­ments and creams, in­fused oils and tea blends, sourc­ing some of the fresh in­gre­di­ents from the gar­den. Cal­en­dula flow­ers are made into in­fused oils and oregano is used to make bou­quet garni.

Dot­ted among the plots are rows of salad greens – rocket, miner’s let­tuce and let­tuces – which are picked fresh and bagged up for cus­tomers.

Bron­wyn has also found time to teach at Win­tec (the Waikato In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy), at the lo­cal high school and to com­mu­nity groups. In 2010 her shop won the Top Shop Award in the Sus­tain­able Re­tail­ing cat­e­gory of the Waikato Re­tail Ex­cel­lence Awards and in 2015 she won the Waipa Net­work Busi­ness Awards for Ex­cel­lence in Small Busi­ness.

You feel very im­pressed sit­ting in her green space, talk­ing herbs, and it doesn’t seem like she’s go­ing to re­tire any­time.

“To my sur­prise I re­ally en­joyed it. It’s a fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity, and di­verse. I found the one-to-one con­sults were re­ally re­ward­ing and so var­ied. I see a lot of peo­ple with gut or di­ges­tive prob­lems, fer­til­ity is­sues, anx­i­ety, low­ered im­mu­nity func­tion and low­ered adrenal func­tion from stress.”

Bron­wyn says nine out of ten of her clients present with adrenal stress.

“Most peo­ple in our mod­ern so­ci­ety will have ex­hausted adrenals at some stage of their lives.”

She de­scribes the adrenal glands as be­ing like the en­ergy cen­tre of the body and the key to the whole ‘fight or flight’ syndrome.

Dan­de­lion is an ex­cel­lent bit­ter herb for stim­u­lat­ing the di­ges­tive juices, and it’s also a di­uretic, sup­port­ing elim­i­na­tion by the kid­neys. How to use: finely chop leaves into a salad or dry and make a tea. To dry roots: dig the root, wash, chop and dry in a low oven (about 30°C), or dry for a cou­ple of days in a de­hy­dra­tor. You need to chop it first be­cause you won’t be able to af­ter­wards. Bor­age sup­ports the adrenal glands. Tra­di­tion­ally it was used for courage by the Ro­mans who made a drink of bor­age be­fore go­ing to war. How to use: chop very young leaves into sal­ads. Put flow­ers and leaves in ice drinks, ice cubes and jel­lies. “It gives a nice cu­cum­ber flavour,” says Bron­wyn. Cleavers is a good cleanser and sup­ports the lym­phatic sys­tem. This sticky, clingy weed grows abun­dantly in hedgerows in the cooler months and car­ries burred seeds, which stick to cloth­ing (and your pets). How to use: pick a large bowl be­fore the plants goes to seed, chop roughly and pour cold water over it (the fo­liage is too del­i­cate for hot water). Let it stand overnight and drink over the next day or two, or use it to make a wild weed pesto.

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