Friday, 26 February 2021

The Polyculture Project - Regenerative Landscape Designs - Olivier Bastin - Namur, Belgium

Last year we launched our first Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course. We had an amazing group from all over the world and have been encouraged and inspired by the excellent work the group produced throughout the course. During this 20 week course, it is our primary goal to provide confidence and inspiration to our participants to start building regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.  Judging by the design projects the participants completed at the end of the course it looks like we're on the right track and we're looking forward to our next course starting May 1st this year.

Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course - How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens and Farms


With permission, we'll be sharing some of the final designs from the course with you over the next few months. This week, we're presenting a design from Olivier Bastin who created his design for a local citizen co-operative in Belgium, La Coof. Professionally, Olivier is a bioengineer working in the field of naturals solutions for water and soil treatment/management with emphasis on biodiversity (including site design). You can find his website and contact details here. He is also currently working on developing his own project, a small berries "superfruits" polyculture. 





























If you would like more information on this design or to contact Olivier, you can use the contact form on his website.

If you would like to join the course this spring, you can find out all about what's included here, and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrolment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2021 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. The offer is valid until the 15th of March 2021.

In our next post, we'll be looking at Sarah and Neil's design for their home garden in Bulgaria. 





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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


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Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm, and landscape design, urban gardening and much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.


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Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Donate directly to our project via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via Cash App to £Sytoma 
  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.



Sunday, 21 February 2021

Four of our Favourite Plants with Edible Flowers

During this post, we're going to take a look at a few of our favourite plants with edible flowers. Most of these species flowers also provide excellent forage for a wide range of pollinators, so don't eat all of them :) 


We include the below species in all of our forest garden and polyculture landscapes and are always on the lookout for new species so please let us what your favourite edible flowers are in the comment section below.  

Orange DayLily - Hemerocallis fulva


Famous for its beautiful orange flowers the Orange Daylily is adaptable, very tolerant of lots of different soil types, and highly attractive to a range of pollinators including butterflies.  Daylily flowers last just one day, but each of the many stalks bears numerous flower buds, so the actual bloom time is much longer - more like weeks. The plants in our garden are really happy growing in the shade, creeping along the boundary wall of the property, making an ideal candidate for shady groundcover or a border. They are very hardy, and once established you should reliably have an annual harvest.


Overview: Hemerocallis fulva is a perennial growing to 1m at a medium rate and spreading via tuberous roots, making it an excellent ground cover plant on a boundary or semi-shady edge of a forest garden. USDA hardiness zone 5 - 10. The species is hermaphrodite and the plant is not self-fertile and the vibrant colour of the blooms attracts a range of beneficial organisms to the garden, including butterflies. 

Edibility:  PFAF website gives the plant a 5/5 edibility rating, listing the tubers and leaves as also being edible. Flowers can be eaten raw or cooked and their flavour has been described as a combination of asparagus and courgette. They make a nice garnish and given their relatively large size, maybe stuffed or made into fritters, much like the flower of the courgette plant. Medicinally, an extract of the flowers is used as a blood purifier. The flower buds taste pretty good too.


Where and When to Harvest: Orange Daylillies start flowering in mid June in our region and continue for a month or so. As the common name suggests, blooms only last a day, but flowers keep coming on multiple stems. Harvest the whole flower by snapping off at the base.

Top Tip: The pollen on the anthers provides a delicate floral flavour as well as having health benefits when eaten!


Calendula- Calendula officinalis

(Calendula officinalis)--Calendula is a lovely, self-seeding annual native to Europe. It's often seen in cottage gardens and is fantastically appealing to a wide range of insects and other creatures, including lots of beneficial organisms. We've been growing it as part of our annual productive polyculture, Zeno, for some years now, and after the first couple of years have no longer needed to cultivate it from seed as it readily self-seeds.


Overview: Calendula is an annual plant growing to 0.6m in height at a medium rate. It is usually in flower from May right through until October and the seeds ripen from August to November. The species is monoecious and is pollinated by Bees. It's pretty tough and can grow in poorer quality soils, as well as being able to tolerate some drought. USDA hardiness zone 2 - 11.

Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 3/5. They are nutrient-rich and often added to salads, giving them an exciting splash of color. The dried petals have a more concentrated flavour and are used as a seasoning in soups, cakes, and also for tea. Medicinally, Calendula has a good reputation for healing skin ailments.

Where and When to Harvest:  The flowers can be harvested as soon as they start to appear, usually in May/June.  The bloom time is very long, sometimes as much as 6 months, so there's no need to rush :) We usually leave some flowers on each plant for other visiting organisms, but the more you pick, the more prolifically the plant flowers. The blooms are easily harvested using a traditional deadheading method.

Top Tip: Sometimes used as a poor man's saffron, try drying the petals and crumbling into a fine powder to spice up dishes.


A quick intermission just to let you know about our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.

Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea 


Echinacea is a spectacular herbaceous perennial attracting bees and butterflies while in bloom. If the cones are left intact in winter, birds dine on the seeds. A very easy to grow plant, tolerant of drought, heat, humidity, and poor soils. The plant is famous for its medicinal properties, a very popular herb, especially for the treatment of flu and colds.

Overview:  Echinacea is a herbaceous perennial growing to 1.2m  at a medium rate. It is in flower from July to August and is is hermaphroditic, attracting a variety of pollinators to its blooms.  Clumps can be divided when they become overcrowded (about every 4 years) and if some of the seed heads are left in place it self seeds. USDA hardiness zone 2 - 10.

Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 1/5 without much information other than the leaves can be eaten, however, plenty of other sources online site the petals of the flowers as being edible.  Excellent for brightening up a salad or a tasteful garnish on a desert.  I'm not sure the spiny central cone would make for pleasant eating anyway :) Excellent reputation medicinally as an immune system booster. Typically seen as a tea.

Echinacea purpurea and Crab Spider - Thomisidae 

Where and When to Harvest:  Flowers typically bloom in late summer. Snip off the whole flower heads and pick the petals off for use in the kitchen.

Top Tip: If harvesting for tea, consider snipping a whole flower stem just above a node to also gather some leaves, which may also be added to the flowers for tea.

Rose of Sharon - Hibiscus syriacus


Rose of Sharon more often referred to as simply Hibiscus is a beautiful shrub, that takes well to pruning and can be used as a very pretty hedge or a stand-alone ornamental. Flowers start to bloom in August and September and will continue to flower right up until early October in our region.  It's a very easy plant to care for and attracts a wide range of beneficial organisms.


Overview: Hibiscus is a multi stemmed deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 3m in height at a medium rate. It flowers in the late summer through to early autumn bringing a bit of tropical beauty to more temperate climates just when we think it's all over :) Can tolerate most soil types and succeeds in semi shade. USDA hardiness zone 5 - 9.
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Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 4/5. Can be eaten raw or cooker. A mild flavour and mucilaginous texture, they are delightful in salads, both for looking at and for eating.  Apparently Hibiscus flowers Enchiladas are amazing and used inside the enchiladas in place of meat. We'll give it a go this year. May also be dried for tea. Multiple medicinal uses.

Where and When to Harvest:  Harvest the Hibiscus flowers when in full bloom by plucking off the tree and removing the calyx — the bulb-like part of the plant between the flower and the stem. 

Top Tip: Hibiscus makes a great addition to iced tea!


***Take Care when Eating Wild Plants and Plants you are not familiar with***


Although these plants have been used for decades in the kitchen by some, as with any plants we consume, it's worth doing your own research first. For example, there are some reports of toxicity with other parts of certain plants, and some people may experience an adverse reaction while many people report no issues at all. 

Some more Plants with Edible Flowers


Here are a few more of our favourite plants with edible flowers:

Plants with Edible Flowers

Allium spp. 


It would be a crime to not mention Allium spp. here seeing as all of the plants in this genus have very tasty edible flowers, if you're into the taste of garlic that is. 

We have a range of fantastic alliums available from our nursery that you can find here 

Edible Alliums for polycultures and permaculture



If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes we'll be running our second Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course that starts on May 1st, 2021. 


We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2021 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. The offer is valid until the 15th of March 2021.

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know the very first of its kind, and if you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm, and landscape design, urban gardening and much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Donate directly to our project via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via Cash App to £Sytoma 
  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Four of our Favourite Trees with Edible Leaves

During this post, we're going to take a look at some trees that have edible leaves. Since trees can produce prolific amounts of leaves, there is a great opportunity to access a generous supply of greens, with relatively minimal effort when compared to cultivating annual greens and salad leaves.  


Trees with Edible Leaves 

We include the below species in all of our forest garden and polyculture landscapes and are always on the lookout for new species so if you know of any trees or shrubs with edible leaves please let us know in the comment section below.  So here our four of our favourite trees with edible leaves. 

Linden - Tilia spp.


Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees or bushes, native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. More commonly referred to as Linden or Lime, this tree is not to be confused with Citrus medica, the tree that produces actual lime fruits. Tilia cordata - Small Leaved Lime and Tilia platyphyllos - Large Leaved Lime are probably the most well known in Europe, although it can be difficult to differentiate between them sometimes as they tend to hybridize, resulting in Tilia vulgaris - Common Lime. Both trees and the hybridized form have edible leaves, in addition to producing a flower that is much valued as a herbal tea.

Tillia in Flower
Tillia sp.

Overview: Lime or Linden tree is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 45m at a medium rate. This impressive height gives the tree a sense of stature and beauty, making it a good choice for the upper canopy of a forest garden or perfect a s a stand alone ornamental. It is often grown in parks. Beautiful flowers bloom for around 2 weeks between June - July, and for a few days fill the air with their rich scent. Seeds ripen in October. The species is hermaphrodite and is pollinated by Bees. It is noted for attracting wildlife and attracts aphids who deposit their honeydew droppings on the leaves in the summer (an extra treat for the forager!). Prefers moist soil and can tolerate strong winds.

Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 5/5. The heart shaped young leaves of the Linden tree are highly edible and are great in salads. They have a mild flavour which is considered better than lettuce, and serve well to bulk out salads.  Flowers not only make a delicious tea, but have medicinal properties too, reportedly soothing anxiety and reducing fever. The sap of the Linden tree is sweet and can be made into a syrup.

Where and When to Harvest:  The leaves are best when eaten young in May, but fortunately because of the tree's suckering nature, young leaves can be found pretty much thoughout the whole summer as the tree puts out new growth on the suckers at the base. Flowers should be harvested a day or 2 after opening when they are at their most potent. Can be spread out on brown paper to dry, ideally in a well ventilated and dark room

Top Tip: Look for the young leaves that are shiny, as these have the best flavour and texture.


Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna


C. monogyna is a widely known shrub or small tree belonging to the Rosaceae family. It's showy, white flowers often bloom on May day, marking the height of springtime in a stunning way. Historically, Hawthorn has an established reputation of being highly effective in regulating blood pressure, and it's an interesting plant to the forager and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, can be a wonderful addition to the edible forest garden.

Edible Fruits of Crataegus sp.
Edible Fruits of Crataegus sp. 

Overview: Hawthorn is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 6m in height at a medium rate. The beautiful flowers have inspired artists for years, and they make an excellent hedging plant, providing valuable food for a variety of insects. Blooms in May an impressive display and the species is hermaphrodite with flies and midges being the main pollinators. Seeds ripen from October to November. Grows in a variety of soil types and can tolerate drought.
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Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 3/5. The young leaves of the Hawthorn can be used in salads. They are quite mild but also succulent. May also be dried for tea. Flowers can be added to the salad bowl. Although the berries of the Hawthorn known as 'Haws' are edible and quite tasty, in my opinion it's not worth the effort because there is little flesh in relation to the seed. However, Hawberries are full of pectin and so are very useful to help jams and jellies set. Medicinally, Hawthorn has a reputation as being an excellent 'cardiac' plant.

Where and When to Harvest: The leaves can only really be eaten when they are very young, around the end of April, when still make a perfectly acceptable spring green for salads. Flowers should be harvested freshly when they bloom in early May. The Hawberries can be harvested when fully ripe and ideally after the first frost. They taste a little like apples.

Top Tip: Watch out for the thorns on the branches when you harvest the leaves in spring!.

A quick intermission just to let you know about our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.


Morus alba - White Mullbery

If you are a follower of our work you will know how much we love our Mulberries! For a detailed blog post about Mulberries see here. White Mulberry cultivation has a long and rich history dating back thousands of years ago as a requirement for silkworm rearing. The species is native to northern China and India, and is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere. The berries are easily recognizable, but a less well known is the fact that the leaves are also edible. 

Morus alba leaves  

Overview: Mulberry is a deciduous tree growing to 18m in height at a medium rate. The tree can take an attractive, rounded form and has excellent polyculture potential as it tolerates light shade. It is in flower in May and the fruit ripens mid - late June in our area.  The species is monoecious and self fertile, although a huge magnet for wildlife, who love to feast on the succulent fruit. Prefers well drained soil and can tolerate drought.

Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 4/5. The young leaves and shoots of the Mulberry tree are very edible, but unlike the trees previously profiled they need to be cooked as a vegetable. They can be cooked in a similar way to spinach, wilted down and seasoned with soy sauce for use in a stir fry.  Very rich in carotene and calcium. The leaves can also be stuffed with a rice and spice mixture in the same way as grape leaves.  There are some reports of the bark of Mulberries being used as a thickener in soups. Fruit is simply delicious, and can also be dried.

Morus alba fruits in June

According to Issei Shinagawa from Hong Kong a cup of Mulberry leaf tea a day will turn your grey hairs black as well improve your general health. All fresh leaves are fine to use for the tea. You can simply run your hand down a branch and strip all the leaves, they come off really easily. The leaves can be dried whole or cut into strips. I dried some cut leaves on our kitchen table by a sunny window and they were dry within a day and half.

Morus alba leaves drying for tea
Morus alba leaves drying for tea 

Simply crumble a few leaves into a cup and pour on the hot water and you have a very decent tasting cuppa.

Where and When to Harvest:  The leaves and shoots should be harvested in late April or early May as the tree starts to shoot out. Again, the younger leaves have the best flavor and texture. and it is the tips of that new growth that are good to eat.  Harvest only as far down as the stem can easily be snapped off.

Top Tip: The best mulberry greens are the tips of actively growing shoots from trees that have been cut back, so you could consider maintaining a Mulberry tree in your edible landscape in this way!   

Hardy Rubber Tree - Eucommia ulmoides


 As the name suggests, rubber can in fact be made from this tree but it is not widely used as the extraction process is too complicated to make it economically viable. It's a good urban tree, low maintenance and tolerates air-pollution, but it's also a surprisingly good choice for an edible landscape because it is rather attractive and its leaves are also edible.


Overview:  Hardy Rubber Tree is a deciduous tree growing to 18m in height at a fast rate. Native to China, as the name suggests, it is possible to produce rubber from the sap. The tree is very low maintenance and very attractive with an unusually dark green colour developing in the summer. It is in flower in April and the species is is dioecious. It grows in most soils and prefers full sun/partial shade.

Edibility: Listed on the PFAF website as 1/5 without much information other than the leaves can be eaten.  I couldn't find much information at all about the use of this plant in the kitchen, but we are growing the tree in Aponia, our market garden, and I regularly pick a few leaves as I pass the trees in the garden and the best way I explain the experience is like chewing nettle flavored chewing gum. You can see in the photo below the latex within the leaf tissue that provides a chewy texture to the leaf. 


Where and When to Harvest:  The best time to harvest the leaves for eating is in the early spring when the leaves are emerging. Later in the growing season the leaves toughen up and become more bitter.

Top Tip: If you prune sections of the plant during the growing season it will promote new growth so you can maintain a source of fresh leaves. 

***Take Care when Eating Wild Plants and Plants you are not familiar with***

Although these plants have been used for centuries in the kitchen by some, as with any plants we consume, it's worth doing your own research first. For example, there are some reports of toxicity with Lime flowers and Mulberry leaves, but many people report no issues at all. We have certainly been drinking Lime flower tea for decades with no adverse effects.

Other Woody Perennials with Edible Leaves 


Vitis vinifera -  Grapevine - Most people are familiar with stuffed vine leaves -  'Сарми' in Bulgaria or Dolmades in Greece - a very popular dish here in the Balkans. 




Here are a few more trees and shrubs with edible leaves 




Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 


If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes we'll be running our second Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course that starts on May 1st, 2021. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2021 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. The offer is valid until the 15th of March 2021.

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know the very first of its kind, and if you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm, and landscape design, urban gardening and much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Donate directly to our project via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via Cash App to £Sytoma 
  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.