Monthly Archives: February 2014

Domestic Beef Cattle: Terminology and Breeds (Part 1)

A skeleton of the extinct Aurochs, the origin of our modern beef cattle.

A skeleton of the extinct Aurochs, the origin of our modern beef cattle.

DOMESTIC CATTLE, AN INTRODUCTION

Domestic cattle (Bos primigenius species) belong to the Bos genus which includes cattle, yaks, aurochs, guar, and bantengs. These animals are almost entirely large to very large grazing, ruminant mammals with long tongues that are used to grab and twist the plant material and grinding teeth used to macerate their food. Our modern domestic cattle originated from the aurochs (Bos primigenius), which is now extinct.

The subspecies of cattle that came from the aurochs in Western Asia is called Bos primigenius taurus. These cattle are where all the European breeds originated, and subsequently almost all North American cattle breeds as well. In fact, many researchers believe that all the European breeds originated from as few as 80 aurochs in Mesopotamia (which includes parts of modern day Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, and Iran) about 10,500 years ago. The subspecies of cattle that came from the aurochs in Southern Asia is called Bos primgenius indicus. These cattle were also domesticated, and this is where the Indian Zebu cattle originate. The Brahman breed originate from the Zebu.

It is interesting to note that many cattle have the ability to interbreed with other Bos species.

We can divide cattle into four major types: Beef (meat), Dairy, Draft, and Multi-Purpose (Beef-Dairy, Beef-Draft, Dairy-Draft, and Beef-Dairy-Draft). Many of the older, heritage breeds are dual or triple-purpose animals. However, this article is focusing on Beef Cattle. When raised in a way that cattle are designed, which is not in a feedlot or concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), the beef and fat can be very healthy and nutrient dense.

I’ve tried to outline the available and most common breeds in the U.S. (since that is where I am from) as well as notable breeds from around the world. There are a lot, so I am going to break this up into a number of articles. And please note that there are not a lot of good photos for some of the breeds, so I did the best I could.

But first, let’s start with cattle terminology.

Basic external cow anatomy

Basic external cow anatomy

TERMINOLOGY

  • Backgrounding: a beef cattle operation for growing feeder cattle from weaning until they are sent to be finished
  • Beef: meat from cattle, but not from calves.
  • Bos indicus: subspecies of cattle from South Asia, commonly called Zebu, they have a hump. Brahman is the most common breed in the US.
  • Bos taurus: subspecies of cattle from Western Asia, but often referred to as European. Most cattle in the North America comes from these breeds.
  • Bovine: the general family grouping of cattle
  • Bull: male bovine (uncastrated), usually means a breeding age animal (sexually mature)
  • Bullock: young male bovine (young bull), usually referring to an animal less than 20 months old
  • Calf: young bovine, male or female, under 1 year old
  • Calve: to give birth to a calf
  • Cattle: according to the Oxford Dictionary… cattle are large, ruminant animals with horns and cloven hoofs, domesticated for meat, milk, or as beasts of burden. Includes subspecies Bos primigenius taurus and Bos primigenius indicus. There is no singular form/word for cattle
  • Composite: a breed that has been formed by crossing three or more established breeds
  • Cow: female bovine, one that is sexually mature, and usually one that has already delivered a calf
  • Cow-Calf Operation: a farm/ranch that maintains a breeding herd of cows and sells weaned calves for sale
  • Cud: feed that a cattle regurgitates into their mouth so they can chew it and swallow it another time
  • Dam: the calf’s mother
  • Dehorning: removing the horns from calves so that they are easier to handle and safer to farmers/ranchers and each other, this is not always practiced
  • Dogie: pronounced “dough-ghee”, cowboy term for a calf with no mother
  • Feeder: cattle that need additional feeding, for weight gain, before going to slaughter
  • Feedlot: beef cattle operation where cattle are placed in confinement and fed/fattened before slaughter – I am strongly opposed to this for health and ethical reasons!
  • Fed Cattle: cattle that have been fed in a feedlot
  • Finished Cattle: cattle that are ready to go to slaughter
  • Freemartin: if twins are born, and one is a male and one is a female, the female usually is infertile and is partially intersexed – these animals are called freemartins
  • Heifer: young female bovine, used to describe a cow that has not delivered a calf
  • Heiferette: a cow that has calved once before she reaches 24 months of age, she is no longer producing milk and is usually fed for slaughter
  • Herd: a group of cattle
  • Leppy: cowboy term for an orphaned calf
  • Maverick: wild cattle (like those in the Western US) that have never been branded or gathered
  • Ox (Oxen): a castrated male that is used for draft (pulling, carrying) purposes, sometimes females or bulls are used
  • Polled: cattle that are naturally hornless.
  • Replacement Heifer: a female calf that has been chosen to replace another cow in the herd
  • Ruminant: any mammal that has a four-part stomach (rumen, reticulum, omasum, abomasum)
  • Scur (Scurred): any horn tissue that is attached to the skin and not the head
  • Seedstock (Seedstock Producer): cattle (or the producers of these cattle) that are purebred and registered
  • Sire: the calf’s father
  • Springer: a cow or heifer that is close to calving
  • Steer: male bovine that has been castrated (testicles physically or functionally removed) before reaching puberty, raised for meat
  • Stocker: weaned cattle that are fed on grass or other high roughage diet
  • Terminal Sire: sire (father bull) that is used in a crossbreeding program
  • Tipping: removing the insensitive part of the horn
  • Veal: meat from very young cattle (typically under 3 months old). Most veal comes from dairy breeds. Veal calves can be raised in a very inhumane manner or in a very humane manner… all veal is not created equal!
  • Weaning: separating calves from their dams (mothers) so that they no longer suckle, this can be allowed to happen on its own or can be forced
  • Yearling: cattle (male or female) that are between 1-2 years old
    • Short Yearling: calves that are between 12-18 months old
    • Long Yearling: calves that are between 19-24 months old
  • 3 in 1: A dam (mother cow) with her calf, where the cow has been bred again and is pregnant. These three (cow, calf, unborn calf) are sometimes sold together in one “package”.

 

BREEDS

See the other articles:
Domestic Beef Cattle: Terminology and Breeds (Part 1)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 2)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 3)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 4)

American Breed

American Breed

American Breed

American Breed

1. American

  • Origin: USA (New Mexico). Developed in 1950 from Brahman (1/2), Charolais (1/4), Bison (1/8), Hereford (1/16), and Shorthorn (1/16).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Low-fat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Variable.
  • Horns: Horned.
  • Temperament: Gentle.
  • Notes: Drought-tolerant.

 

American-British White Park

American-British White Park

American-British White Park

American-British White Park 

2. American-British White Park

  • Origin: Britain. Likely descending from Roman-era British cattle with Angus and Shorthorn.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: “textured meat, with excellent flavour and marbling”
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: White with black or red points.
  • Horns: Polled, but with occasional horns.
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Traditionally a dual-purpose milk and beef animal.

 

Amerifax

Amerifax

Amerifax

Amerifax

3. Amerifax

  • Origin: USA. Developed in 1970’s. Angus (5/8) and Friesan (3/8).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: No reliable information can be found.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Black or red.
  • Horns: Polled (natural)
  • Temperament: No reliable information can be found.
  • Notes: Fast growing. Popular as a grass-fed animal. Good mothers.

 

Ancient White Park

Ancient White Park

Ancient White Park

Ancient White Park

4. Ancient White Park

  • Origin: Britain.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Rich-flavored meat with fine-grain and limited marbling.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: White with black or red points.
  • Horns: Large, lyre-shaped horns.
  • Temperament: “great temperament”, “far from docile”
  • Notes: High-quality meat. This is basically the horned version of the American-British White. This is the cattle breed at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa… they are beautiful cattle. They also do well on grass/pasture.

 

Angus

Angus

Angus

Angus

5. Angus (a.k.a. Aberdeen Angus)

  • Origin: Scotland.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: High percentage of prime meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Black or red (although they are registered as different breeds).
  • Horns: Polled (natural)
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: High-quality meat. Fast growth. Easy calving. The most common beef breed in the world. I find it interesting that this breed was developed in Scotland with its cool and cloudy weather, but it is often raised in the desert southwest of the United States.

 

Ankole-Watusi

Ankole-Watusi

Ankole-Watusi

Ankole-Watusi

6. Ankole-Watusi

  • Origin: Africa. Originated in the Nile Valley about 6,000 years ago!
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Wide range of colors and patterns.
  • Horns: Extremely large!
  • Temperament: “even though the horns can be intimidating, Ankole-Watusi cattle are docile, even trainable”, “excellent temperament”
  • Notes: Easy calving. Fast growth. Milk has high concentration of fat (10%). Tolerates temperature extremes.

 

Aubrac

Aubrac

Aubrac

Aubrac

7. Aubrac

  • Origin: France. Developed in the 1600’s by the Benedictine monks of the mountainous Massif Central region
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Light Brown.
  • Horns: Medium.
  • Temperament: “extremely docile”, “excellent temperament”… I should note that in their native country, the cattle are decorated with flowers and walked through the town and country once a year to their grazing grounds
  • Notes: Good pasture production. Long-lived. Easy calving. Milk is used in cheese production. Only brought to the US in 1995.

 

Barzona

Barzona

Barzona

Barzona

8. Barzona

  • Origin: USA (Arizona). Developed in the 1940’s from Afrikander, Angus, Hereford, and Shorthorn.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: No reliable information can be found.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Red, sometimes white.
  • Horns: Polled or Horned.
  • Temperament: “good, and they are easy to handle”
  • Notes: Excellent in heat and drought.

 

Beefalo

Beefalo

Beefalo

Beefalo

9. Beefalo

  • Origin: USA. Developed in Montana in 1962. Any beef breeed (5/8) and Bison (3/8).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Extra-lean meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Various.
  • Horns: Polled or Horned.
  • Temperament: “wild”, “tend to be aggressive”, “difficult to handle”
  • Notes: Hardy. Efficient.

 

Beefmaster

Beefmaster

Beefmaster

Beefmaster

10. Beefmaster

  • Origin: USA. Developed in Texas in the 1930’s with Brahman (1/2), Shorthorn (1/4), and Hereford (1/4).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: No reliable information can be found.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Red, usually, but other colors are accepted.
  • Horns: Polled or Horned.
  • Temperament: Gentle.
  • Notes: Good grass/pasture production. Hardy. Good pest resistance.

 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/breeds/cattle/american/images/american-web-2.jpg
  • http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/breeds/cattle/american/images/american-web-1.jpg
  • http://s130.photobucket.com/user/djinwa/media/IMG_1409-1.jpg.html
  • http://www.sofwhitecattle.com/files/DSCN14740001.JPG
  • http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/breeds/cattle/amerifax/images/amerifax-web-1.jpg
  • http://www.vbarcattle.com/amfax3.jpg
  • http://www.bbar.com/wp_images/WhiteParks_0064.jpg
  • http://leapingwatersfarm.com/wp-content/themes/farm/images/bg-img-05.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Red-angus.jpg
  • http://www.turkiyehayvancilik.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Angus.jpg
  • http://watusicattle.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Princess-Hillary-8-16-11.jpg
  • http://watusicattle.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/UgandaRodney.jpg
  • http://www.asta.fr/IMG/jpg/27_Aubrac_rd_012.jpg
  • http://img.kazeo.com/222/2222306/XL/taureau-aubrac-st-hippolyte.jpg
  • http://khavens.weebly.com/uploads/3/0/7/2/3072061/7001465_orig.jpg
  • http://www.barzona.com/images/Carmichael_6308_BlueBoxSugarRayxRamBoy.jpg
  • http://www.readthesmiths.com/articles/Images/Humor/beefalo.JPG
  • http://www.beefaloaustralia.com/Bold%20Venture.jpg
  • http://www.wildoaksfarms.com/BeefmasterBULLS/HERDSIRES/CP-2.gif
  • http://swingingbranch.mysite.com/images/starburst-2.jpg
  • http://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/18/flashcards/699018/jpg/cow_term1315582343589.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Aurochse.jpg

 

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    Utilizing The Unlimited Geothermal Energy Of The Earth For Sustainable Heating And Cooling

Utilizing The Unlimited Geothermal Energy Of The Earth For Sustainable Heating And Cooling

Today, I am sharing a guest article by Patrick Gibson, a Biotechnology Engineer in Australia. 

The earth is literally welling over with energy that we can tap into. While some of it we can directly experience such as the wind, sunlight and wave energy, there is another kind that is not so visible but has plenty of potential for supplying our large-scale and household energy needs: this is geothermal.

Heat that is trapped underground can be used to heat (and cool) nearly any building over ground. The advantage of underground heat is that it remains nearly constant throughout the year. And you don’t even have to go too deep to be able to reach this great energy source. Just a few feet beneath the surface, temperatures remain a constant 5.56° to 26.67° Celsius.

An Excellent Renewable Source Of Energy
Lately, a number of energy providers have been designing heat exchange systems that can use heat pumps to indirectly tap into the heat wells underground. Sustainable homes and businesses are taking advantage of these systems to cut down their energy costs and feel great about using renewable sources that cause the least environmental impact.

If you use a geothermal heating system, you can say goodbye to energy-guzzling air conditioners and gas, oil or LPG run heaters that have high running costs and need regular maintenance. Geo-exchange systems can work as both heating systems in the coldest of winters and cooling systems in the summer.

Geothermal heating systems are incredibly effective as coolers. When it’s a torrid 45 degrees C outside, you can enjoy a balmy 24 degrees C indoors. This is possible by simply reversing the heating system, taking warm air from the building and transferring it to the cooler underground.

In the winter, the temperatures below ground are warmer than those at the surface. This enables the heat pump to draw heat from under the ground and circulate it through the building through a system of ducts.

How Geothermal Systems Work
Geothermal heating systems don’t directly draw heat from the ground. A network of pipes is laid below the ground near the building, and fluids like water or a mixture of water and anti-freeze passes through them. This fluid carries the heat between the ground and the heat pump. The heat pump then circulates the cooled or heated air through the ducts or radiant floor heating methods. When you combine the energy system with good indoor insulation, you get the best out of it.

Many permaculturists are also advocating the heating of greenhouses with geothermal systems. The ground surrounding your greenhouse and glass structures can become a giant battery of sorts, and maintain the most optimal temperatures no matter the season.

The Costs Involved
The initial costs of installing your geothermal system can vary from place to place. Costs depend on how easily the underground pipes can be laid near your building, the elevation and composition of the soil etc. In some areas, pipes can access underground heat wells within 6 feet, while in other areas the pipe network may have to go deeper. You will have to consult an engineer and service provider to find out the costs of laying down a heating and cooling system for your home.

At the same time, the efficiency of geothermal systems far exceeds any other kind of system, including air-source systems. A typical gas furnace may have an energy efficiency of 94 percent, compared to that a geothermal system offers as much as 400 percent of energy efficiency. This means that for every 1 unit of electrical energy consumed, it delivers 4 units of energy. If placed in a well-insulated building, it can lower running costs by as much as 70 percent.

The cost of maintenance is also significantly lowered because of the longer life cycle of these units. While your typical gas furnace will last about 7 to 10 years with regular maintenance, a geothermal system can last over 15 years. The ground pipe loop is even longer lasting; they usually come with a warranty of a whopping 50 years. This means that once you’ve laid down the pipes, not only you but even your children or the subsequent building owners will be able to enjoy its benefits. Like many other sustainable home fittings, this can increase the resale value of your home significantly.

Add to that the fact the these systems are as quiet as a mouse and there are no fears of carbon monoxide poisoning involved, there is no reason for homeowners to not take advantage of this excellent source of clean, renewable energy!

 

Patrick

Patrick is an Engineer of Biotechnology, he studied at Victoria University, Melbourne. Patrick works for a leading certification company as a quality control inspector, and his vast field experience has taught him to make use of almost everything land has to offer.

 

 

 

Reference and Credit:

 

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Overwintering Cattle Without Barns or Supplemental Feed?

I have raised this question in the past on some forums and in person to cattle ranchers/farmers, and I have had various responses. Some people just think I am crazy. Some people have gotten very angry with me. When there is such a variation in responses, it makes me wonder. Maybe I am crazy, or maybe I am thinking so far outside the box that other people don’t know how to process it.

I have said many times on this site, as King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I am certain that I am not the first person who has asked this question. Maybe there is already someone who has answered it… I just can’t find them.

Typically when I write an article for this site, I select a specific subject about which I am interested, I research it, then I share my findings. This is a bit different, because I cannot find the type of information for which I am looking. I am reaching out to my readers and their connections for more information.

The current method for caring for livestock during the Winter takes a lot of energy and time.

The current method for caring for livestock during the Winter takes a lot of energy and time.

Here is the basic question:
Is there a way to overwinter beef cattle without a barn and without having to provide supplemental feed?

Here is the background and other pertinent information:
I am planning on raising beef cattle within the next few years. I am planning on doing this in central Tennessee. The Winters there are cold, and there is a chance of snow accumulation, but it is nothing like the snow when I was living in Minnesota. Of course, the pasture growth will come to a standstill. The cattle will have higher metabolic demands due to the cold. I understand this, and this is why many people utilize barns or other buildings/shelters for their animals during the Winter months. Everyone that I know of, that has true Winter, will provide supplemental hay, silage, or other feed during these months as well.

This seems like a lot of time and work, and I wonder what Permaculture solutions we can find for this.

I have been contemplating this for many years, and I feel pretty certain there are ways to overwinter cattle, and other medium to large herbivores, without building major structures and without supplemental feed. I don’t think it is a simple fix. I don’t think it is going to happen in a season or two. But I know it can be done. The question really is, what will it take, and is it worth it?

When a person new to Permaculture asks me what Permaculture is, I usually say something along the line of, “Permaculture is a design science that uses natural systems as a model for sustainable or regenerative agricultural and community systems.” When I am addressing a “problem” in a Permaculture design, I look to nature for the solution.

So what happens in nature during the Winter to large herbivores that live in cold climates?

  • They have developed the ability (through Natural Selection) to survive through the Winter.
  • Many survive, but some die – these ones either had bad luck or bad genes.
  • They have lots of fat stored for the Winter.
  • They lose a lot of weight in the Winter.
  • There are less wild animals per area in nature than domestic animals per area on most farms/ranches.
  • They don’t use barns… they hunker down in the woods during the coldest or windiest times.
  • They forage better than domestic animals in the Winter.
  • They don’t have babies in the Winter.
  • There are probably a few more traits I am overlooking, but this is a first glance.

Now, let’s look a bit closer at these traits…

1) Adaptation:
I think this is probably one of the most important factors we need to consider. I think the solution for this is to start with breeds of cattle that are more adapted to the cold (Highland Cattle come to mind, but there are others). We would also need breeds of cattle that forage well; this can be a learned or inherited trait. We also need breeds of cattle (and lines that have not lost this trait) that historically do well when fed only, or solely, on pasture.

In nature, some animals don’t survive the stress conditions of Winter. This is why some people got so angry at me. I think they expected me to turn a bunch of cattle out into a snow bank and not return until the Spring thaw… any that survived would make it to the next round of selection. Of course this approach would work, and I have thought of ways to humanely implent it. I loved Mark Shepard’s STUN approach: Simple Total Utter Neglect. Mark uses the STUN philosophy with plants, not animals (at least not that I am aware of).

But dealing with animals is different. A true STUN technique would not only be expensive, it would also be inhumane. These animals are under our care. They have lost a lot of their survival instincts, because we bred it out of them as we selected for faster growth or fat marbling or whatever. We need to figure out a way to be humane while still challenging the animals and see which ones perform the best in less than ideal circumstances. We need to choose which animals we use for breeding stock… those that put on the most fat before Winter, those with the least Winter weight loss, those with the fastest regain of weight in the Spring, those that don’t get ill in the Winter conditions, etc.

This process is also not going to give maximum monetary return during the development phase. This will require a longer timeline for a return of investment. It will take the right people to see this process through.

2) Stocking Rate:
We stock our animals much higher than nature does. Can we reduce our numbers before Winter by selling them off or butchering them? Can we increase our pasture quality to support greater stocking rates?

Sepp Holzer's roundwood shelter.

Sepp Holzer’s roundwood shelter.

3) Winter Protection:
Deer use the woods/forest for Winter protection. We can put our animals in the forest during the Winter. These areas can handle the animals for longer periods of time better than the pastures in the Winter as well. There are also simpler structures that can be built. Sepp Holzer has built some very interesting roundwood shelters. I know there are other, even simpler designs as well.

Bison huddle together and rotate positions so each member takes a turn on the outside of the herd where it is colder and on the inside where it is much warmer. Can we select for animals that group more in Winter?

4) Winter Forage:
There are multiple ways to solve this. We can select for animals that forage better in the Winter. Some breeds (again, the Highland comes to mind) will dig through the snow to get to the ground, while others will not touch the pasture if there is a mere quarter inch (0.6 cm) of snow accumulation. This can be a breed specific trait or an individual trait or a learned trait.

We can leave many fields to grow taller before the Winter so that animals have more forage available. There are already producers doing this, and they are cutting back significantly on supplemental feed in the Winter. They do lose some total production from each pasture, but they make gains because they are not using all the time and energy to make hay from those fields.

We can actively seed or select for species of plants in our pastures that continue to grow in colder weather or maintain higher nutrient quality later in colder weather or when dried in the field. We can also select or chose plants that are not blown over by the wind (known as lodging).

5) Winter Birthing:
This is a classic, anti-natural cycle practice. This makes sense for a factory farming model that disregards an animal as a living being and disregards farming as part of the greater earth ecosystem, but it has no place in a sustainable agricultural system. If we do not schedule birthing in the Winter, we can avoid a lot of Winter livestock work and energy and supplemental feeding. Thankfully, there are many producers who are allowing for natural reproductive cycles in their animals.

 

So, with all this said, I would love to get information about and/or from people who are actually doing this in part or in full. Please share!

 

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Photo References:

  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gCZjnB7gf0Q/UP73sWIy_DI/AAAAAAAAW-k/K_Slc0cZ2t4/s1600/Grass-fed+cattle+in+winter+snow.png
  • http://images.travelpod.com/tripwow/photos/ta-011a-a17c-65a3/highland-cattle-in-winter-our-local-wild-life-kylesku-united-kingdom+1152_13004794340-tpfil02aw-7239.jpg
  • http://www.jenowens.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/seppholzer.jpg

 

Reishi (Ling Chi) Mushroom

Common Name: Ling Chi, Reishi, Varnished Conk, Ling Zhi, Ling Chih, Mannentake
Scientific Name: Ganoderma lucidum
Family: Ganodermataceae

The beautiful, medicinal Reishi!

The beautiful, medicinal Reishi!

Description:
This shelf-fungus has a shiny (varnished) appearance, and it has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years! Fruiting Body: 0.8-13.8 inches (2-35 cm) wide and 1.6-3.1 inches (4-8 cm) thick and it is usually fan or kidney-shaped. The growing edge is whitish, and it yellows and turns reddish-brown when it matures. It is a polypore mushroom, so it has pores on the underside of the cap instead of gills. It is found in tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate climates all around the world on a large variety of trees, but prefers warmer-climate, deciduous, hardwood trees (especially oak and maple). There has not been nearly as much outdoor, small-scale cultivation as there is commercial, large-scale cultivation, but it has growing requirements similar to Shiitake, so it should be considered in your Permaculture designs and Forest Gardens.

A classic polypore with pores instead of gills under the cap.

A classic polypore with pores instead of gills under the cap.       (Much thanks to David Spahr (www.mushroom-collecting.com) for the use of his images. Highly recommend his site for those in Maine, New England, or Eastern Canada!)

The closely related Ganoderma tsugae

The closely related Ganoderma tsugae

Closely Related Species (There are a number of closely related species that are found around the world. Defining species is difficult with fungi because they can have such similar characteristics, but is slowly becoming more clear with DNA analysis. The following fungi are the more common similar species found in North America. They likely have similar medicinal properties, but no reliable information/studies can be found):

  • Ganoderma curtisii: smaller, orchre to whitish or only a partly reddish cap, found in eastern and southeastern North America.
  • Ganoderma tsugae: very similar, all white flesh, only grows on conifers, especially Hemlock, found in northern North America.
  • Ganoderma oregonense: larger with larger pores as well, found in Oregon, Washington, and California (prefers cooler climates).
Reishi prefers to grow on hardwoods.

Reishi prefers to grow on hardwoods.

Mushroom Niche: Decomposer and/or Parasitic. The researchers are still trying to decide, although it appears that this mushroom may be what is called a “facultative parasite”. This means the Reishi mushroom may just be an opportunist… if it can survive on a living tree as a parasite, it will do it… if the tree dies, it will live on it as a decomposer… if the fungus is only given decaying wood to grow, it will be fine as living its entire life as a decomposer.
Natural Culture Medium: Stumps, logs, and occasionally from the ground on buried roots.

History:
Reishi has been used for at least 2,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and became so revered that it is the most commonly rendered mushroom in the art of ancient China, Japan, and Korea – no other mushroom comes close. This mushroom, or other very closely related species, are found all over the globe. Today, it is intentionally grown more often than harvested from the wild, but it is still used primarily as a medicine.

Red is the most common form and likely has the most medicinal benefit, but there are also black, purple, blue, yellow, and white forms/species.

Red is the most common form and likely has the most medicinal benefit, but there are also black, purple, blue, yellow, and white forms/species.

Trivia:

  • Ling Zhi means “tree of life mushroom (herb)” in Chinese.
  • Reishi means “divine” or “spiritual mushroom” in Japanese.
  • Mannentake means “10,000-year mushroom” or “mushroom of immortality” in Japanese as well.
  • If the mushrooms are dried in the sun, the natural ergocalciferols (considered vitamin D “provitamins”) are converted into Vitamin D2 which is readily absorbed by the human body.
  • The stalk of this mushroom can be quite long or almost entirely absent. It depends on the growing conditions, one major factor is the amount of carbon dioxide present during growth.
  • Long-stalked mushrooms are highly valued. They occur in nature more often when growing in cavities of a fallen tree.
  • The cap is most commonly reddish-brown, but can be almost black, purple, blue, yellow, or almost entirely white. These color variations may represent closely related species, but they could just be various forms of the same species. We are awaiting more DNA testing to know for sure. It does appear that the red form has the most health benefits, but there are limited studies to show this.
  • While almost all Reishi is prepared with hot water or alcohol extraction methods, the very thin white margin (not the bitter yellowed part) can be cooked and eaten when fresh. These “Reishi Tips” are reported to have a meaty taste/texture, but I have yet to try them.

General “Mushroom” Vocabulary

  • Mushroom – lay-person term for the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus
  • Fruiting-body – what is commonly called a “mushroom”… the spore-bearing reproductive structure of a fungus. I will use the term mushroom from here on because that is how what the average person understands.
  • Spore – the reproductive unit. Typically only one microscopic cell. We can consider it like a mushroom “seed”.
  • Hyphae – microscopic, filamentous (thread-like) strand that is the vegetative part of the fungus. It grows from the spore.
  • Mycelium (mycelia is plural) – a mass of hyphae. These will develop a fruiting body to reproduce (release spores).
  • Spawn – material that contains actively growing hyphae of the fungus. Spawn can be used to inoculate the desired culture substrate (logs, branches, stumps, sawdust, etc.) for people to produce a crop of fruiting bodies/mushrooms
  • Stipe – the stem/stalk of the fruiting body/mushroom
  • Pileus – the cap or cap-like structure on top of the stem that supports the spore bearing surface
  • Lamella – the gills (aka ribs) on the undersurface of some fruiting bodies/mushrooms
  • Pores – spongy material with “holes” in it on the undersurface of some fruiting bodies/mushrooms… some mushrooms have these instead of gills
Reishi Tea is one of the most common ways to use this mushroom.

Reishi Tea is one of the most common ways to use this mushroom.

USING THIS MUSHROOM

Primary Uses:

  • Medicinal – There are a number of ways to prepare Reishi (see below). Of all the medicinal mushrooms, even though many of the claims are often overblown, Reishi seems to have the most history and evidence to support it being a medically active. There are dozens of scientific/medical journal articles detailing how this mushroom is effective in improving the human immune system. It settles down the overexpression of the immune system (provides relief from bronchitis, asthma, and seasonal allergies). It settles down inflammatory reactions (improves arthritis and prostate symptoms and atherosclerotic disease). But it also enhances the functions/elements of the immune system that fight off infections, tumors, and cancers. It is a very strong antioxidant, hence its anti-aging reputation. It has direct antimicrobial properties, and can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and can even slow down blood clotting. These last few properties need to be considered if a person has or is taking medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, or blood clots/bleeding disorders. If you have any medical problems or are taking any prescription medications, as a physician, I have to recommend that you talk with a trusted medical provider before consuming this mushroom as a medicinal, although it appears to be very safe.
  • Used as a “health” component in teas, candies (chocolates!), energy bars, energy drinks, coffees, beers, wine, etc.

Secondary Uses:

  • Art and craft pieces. Some of these pieces have been passed down in families for generations.
3-5 grams per day is the most common "dose" of this medicinal mushroom.

3-5 grams per day is the most common “dose” of this medicinal mushroom.

Preparation Methods:

  • Typical dose is 3-5 grams per day. Keep in mind the weight of the mushrooms you start with and the volume of liquid you end up with – this will give you the final concentration of your extract. You can then dose accordingly.
  • Decoction (aka “Hot Water Extraction”)  –  This is the most common method of consuming this mushroom. One can use fresh mushrooms, but dried mushrooms are used most frequently.
  • Fresh Mushroom Decoction: break the mushroom into pieces, boil in water for 60 minutes, let steep for 30 minutes, strain, and use. If the lid is kept off the boiling pot, the extract will become more concentrated.
  • Dried Mushroom Decoction: Dried pieces of mushroom are placed into almost boiling water and simmered for 2 hours. If the lid is kept off the boiling pot, the extract will become more concentrated. Some sourced recommend grinding the dried mushroom, and others recommend just breaking into very small pieces. After the liquid has cooled enough, the mushrooms can be squeezed to extract more liquid. Some people with take repeat the process again using the same mushrooms in a second decoction. This ensures all the “goodness” is extracted from the mushrooms.
  • Alcohol Extraction (Tincture): Take a jar of fresh Reishi or a half jar of dried Reishi (the dried mushrooms will expand) and add alcohol to fill the jar to the top. Use 100 proof alcohol – vodka is a good choice as it really has no flavor. Put the top on the jar and let it sit for 6-8 weeks. Then strain the mushrooms and save the alcohol – this is your alcohol extraction, a.k.a. “tincture”. The mushrooms can then be used again in a decoction, as outlined above. This is known as a double extraction. The alcohol and hot water extracts are combined and used (called a double extraction tincture).
  • Elixir – the mushroom is soaked in wine for several months to create an elixir. This elixir can be used straight or mixed into candies, especially chocolates. Note that there are many ways to make an elixir; this is just one method.
  • The extracts are bitter, so add them sparingly in teas or other drinks or liquids (soups, sauces, etc.)
  • Alcohol extracts can last for up to 2 years. Water extracts last significantly less time, but they can be frozen in ice cube trays for easy use in the future.
Young Reishi have a wide, white edge.

Young Reishi have a wide, white edge.     (Much thanks to David Spahr (www.mushroom-collecting.com) for the use of his images. Highly recommend his site for those in Maine, New England, or Eastern Canada!) 

Mature Reishi have none (or almost no) white edge.

Mature Reishi have none (or almost no) white edge.

Some Reishi can have

Mature and young Reishi.

Yield: Variable. Yields on stumps or logs are reported as averaging 1-2 lbs (0.45-0.9 kg) per year

Harvesting: The size of the cap is greatly dependent on the diameter of the log or stump on which it was grown. Mature mushrooms have a thinned cap, and the light-colored margin is not present (and has not been present for a few weeks). This is the perfect time for harvest.

Wild Harvest: NOTE: BE VERY SURE OF THE MUSHROOM YOU HARVEST FROM THE WILD! Fruiting runs from Summer through early Autumn. Make sure to harvest the recent year’s Reishi. Older Reishi don’t contain anywhere near the medicinal quality. Reishi with a white ridge means they are still growing. Remember their location and harvest them a few weeks to months later. Reishi from last year or older will be significantly darker and will be showing signs of rot.

Dried Reishi can be stored for years. Commercially, they are sold whole...

Dried Reishi can be stored for years. Commercially, they are sold whole…

...or sliced.

…or sliced.

Storage: Can be used fresh, but most people dry them. Some people have elaborate drying set ups. Some use an Excaliber dehydrator. Some use solar dehydrators. We can consider exposing the mushrooms to the sun for a bit first which will increase the Vitamin D2 content. Dried Reishi will store well for years.

Cultivation can take place in bags of woodchips...

Cultivation can take place in bags of woodchips…

...bags of sawdust...

…bags of sawdust…

...on small logs in commercial operations...

…on buried logs in commercial operations…

...or on small logs in a backyard!

…or on small logs in a backyard!

CULTIVATING THIS MUSHROOM

Cultivation Substrate: Logs, stumps, bundles of sticks, blocks of sawdust and/or woodchips. Primarily on hardwood, deciduous trees. Grows on maple, oaks, elms, beech, birch, alder, willow, sweetgum, magnolia, locust, and plum, but will likely grow on many other woods as well.

Cultivation Details:

  • Logs are ideally harvested from live, healthy trees in winter when there are a lot of stored carbohydrates. Diameter 3-6 inches (7.5-15 cm) and length 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters), although length is really based on what can be easily handled. Bark is left intact. Inoculation of the logs should take place 2-4 weeks after cutting to allow enough time for the natural anti-fungals to break down but not enough time for other fungi to start colonization.
  • Logs can be inoculated in a traditional manner… placing new logs next to logs/stumps that are currently growing Reishi so that the new logs become infected.
  • Logs can be inoculated with hardwood plugs which are themselves already inoculated with Reishi spawn.
  • Hardwood sticks can be tightly bundled together and treated as a log. I have not seen any specifics for inoculation of the bundles, but I imagine that the bundles could be covered with inoculated sawdust or the larger sticks may take an inoculated plug. Placing the bundles next to currently growing logs should also work.
  • Tightly packed bags of sterilized sawdust or sawdust/woodchip combination are also inoculated and commonly used.
  • Inoculated wood chips are even used in glass jars to grow Reishi.

Spawn Available:

  • Hardwood Plugs – dowels inoculated with mushroom spawn that are hammered in holes (typically 5/16 inch diameter, about an inch deep, and about 2 inches apart) drilled in logs, branches, or stumps.
  • Grain or Sawdust Spawn – these are sometimes available for purchase.
  • In Vitro Culture – pure mycelium in petri dishes… used by more advanced growers.

Incubation of Logs:

  • Inoculated logs can be treated as Shiitake logs. Stack logs close together for the first two months. This helps conserve moisture. If the logs become too dry, then constant watering or soaking for 48 hrs is needed. Allow for good air circulation between the logs. Providing shade (50-75% depending on local conditions) will help keep the moisture balance correct.
  • Short logs can also be put into a garden pot which is then filled with sand or gravel to keep the log upright. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the log itself is covered with the sand/gravel. The entire log, sand/gravel, and pot can be watered if needed. The sand/gravel helps stabilize temperatures and moisture.
  • Logs can also be laid down horizontally and entirely buried (shallow) in sawdust or sand or soil. The mushroom (fruiting body) will grow up through the covering material, and the covering material will stabilize temperature and moisture.
A log with Reishi inoculated hardwood plugs.

A log with Reishi inoculated hardwood plugs.

FRUITING CONDITIONS FOR THIS MUSHROOM

Fruiting Temperature: Typically needs warmer weather (60-95 F/15.5-35 C), and so fruiting often occurs in Summer to early Autumn.

Induction of Fruiting: Typically needs sustained moisture for a few days before fruiting begins. Bark can be dry but the wood underneath should be moist. This can occur with seasonal rains or with watering by us.

Life Span:

  • Time to Begin Fruiting: 6 months to 2 years. A 6-month old inoculated log can be induced to fruit with watering.
  • Years to Maximum Fruiting: 1-2 years
  • Years of Useful Life: Varies on the density of the wood (oak is very dense), the thickness of the log, and the conditions in which the mushroom substrate is kept, but 4-5 years of annual harvesting is common.
Stalks grow longer in high carbon dioxide environments.

Stalks grow longer in high carbon dioxide environments (like in a fallen tree’s cavity or a plastic bag)…

wild

… and then the cap fans out when the mushroom is exposed to “normal” air.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR THIS MUSHROOM

Concerns:

  • Some people may develop dry mouth, nose, or throat when consuming this mushroom. This is not common.
  • Some people may develop nosebleeds or blood in the stool after consuming this mushroom. This is not common.
  • People with low blood pressure may consider avoiding this mushroom, and people on high blood pressure medications need to be careful that their blood pressure doesn’t get too low.
  • People with low platelets (thrombocytopenia) or other blood clotting disorders or on “blood thinners” (typically because they had a blood clot or previous heart attack or stroke) should consult their healthcare provider before taking this medication as Reishi can interfere with normal clotting.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://mushroomsworld.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/linhzhi-ganoderma-lucidum_mushroomsworld.jpg
  • http://www.ganodermalucidumbenefits.org/img/BENEFITS%20OF%20GANODERMA%20LUCIDUM.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Jreishi2.jpg
  • http://marnieclark.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Health-Benefits-of-Ganoderma-Lucidum-Medicinal-Mushrooms.jpg
  • http://www.micosalud.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Reishi-Hifas-005.jpg
  • http://pctrs.network.hu/clubpicture/1/2/2/7/_/ganoderma_lucidum_farm_1227895_2417.JPG
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4zZ7rrpBX5M/UVqI1E-RF1I/AAAAAAAAAHQ/KKN4VxmSgAk/s1600/Que+es+Ganoderma+Lucidum.jpg
  • http://ganodermax.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Ganoderma.jpg
  • http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2011/mestelle_zach/ganoderma%20tsugae.JPG
  • http://mushroom-collecting.com/Reishi%20nettles%20and%20other%20090%20copy.jpg
  • http://www.ecoyardfarming.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/reishilogs1.jpg
  • http://files.shroomery.org/files/042903-22/42499-reishi-cultivation.jpg
  • http://files.shroomery.org/files/06-34/652309394-Four_polypores_on_same_log.jpg
  • http://www.ecoyardfarming.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/logdowels.jpg
  • http://mushroom-collecting.com/Reishi%20nettles%20and%20other%20089%20copy.jpg
  • http://druidgarden.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/reishi.jpg
  • http://www.supernutrients.co.uk/wordpress2/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/REISHI.jpg
  • http://thewellnessdoer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/l.jpg
  • http://www.buzzle.com/img/articleImages/556809-22107-43.jpg
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-w4ECMMSkYhU/T0rZreTlxcI/AAAAAAAAA8Y/stvy2KkMDU4/s1600/Reishi+and+tea.JPG

 

Permaculture Plants: Turkish Rocket

Common Name: Turkish Rocket, Hill Mustard, Turkish Warty Cabbage, Warty Cabbage
Scientific Name: Bunias orientalis
Family: Brassicaceae (the Crucifers or Mustard family)

Turkish Rocket is a perennial member of the Brassica family.

Turkish Rocket is a perennial member of the Brassica family.

Description:
Turkish Rocket is a perennial broccoli-like plant with a stronger, cabbage flavor and a tenacious grip to life. It is very easy to grow, and once established, it usually will not quit. Because of this, it is dubbed in invasive weed in some parts of the world. It has tasty edible leaves and edible flowering stems (like broccoli, which it is related). It is drought-tolerant with a deep taproot that mines moisture and minerals, attracts beneficial insects, and can be used as an animal fodder. This is a great, herbaceous addition to our Permaculture projects.

Turkish Rocket

Turkish Rocket Bunias orientalis

History:
I can find very little on the history of this plant. This plant originated in Southern Russia and the Caucasus region which stretches south into northeastern Turkey. It is reported to have spread through Europe by Russian troops chasing after Napolean’s retreating army (it was used to feed the Russian horses). It has also beed reported to have been spread when the Russian empress sent grain seed to Sweden during a famine, but the grain contained many Turkish Rocket seeds. It is now naturalized across Europe and in some parts of North America.

The "hairs" on the leaf and stems can just barely be seen in this photo.

The “hairs” on the leaf and stems can just barely be seen in this photo.

Trivia:

  • Turkish Rocket is in the Brassica family which includes Mustards, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Turnip, Radishes, etc.
  • Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis) is not the same as Salad Rocket (Eruca sativa). I have found a few websites that are selling “Turkish Rocket” but show Salad Rocket. Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables, also reports that they are often mistaken for each other, but the seeds are quite different.
  • Turkish Rocket seeds are large and bumpy and about the size of a peppercorn. Salad Rocket seeds are small and smooth.
The flowering buds and stems can be eaten like broccoli.

The flowering buds and stems can be eaten like broccoli.

The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

They are delicious when finely chopped and sprinkled on lamacun (aka Turkish Pizza).

They are delicious when finely chopped and sprinkled on lahmacun (LAH-ma-june), a.k.a. Turkish Pizza. My wife and kids loved this when we lived in Turkey. Shown here with parsley as well.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Leaves – Raw or cooked. Can be used like Kale or Collard Greens. Young leaves are best for eating raw. Leaves can be “hairy”, and some people say they are “indigestable”, but I have not experienced that. When raw, they have a pungent, mustardy-broccoli flavor. They can be finely chopped and added to salads to add a bit of “bite” to the salad. Many people prefer them cooked – they are quite good and a bit more mild. Larger leaves are almost always cooked. I don’t mind them either way, but I also like strongly flavored vegetables.
  • Edible Stems – Raw or cooked. Mainly the very young and thin stems. Can be cooked along with the leaves or trimmed and cooked on their own.
  • Edible Shoots – Used when young. Raw or cooked, but usually cooked.
  • Edible Flowers and Flowering Stems – Used like broccoli (I’ve seen it dubbed “Rockoli”), but with smaller florets… closer to a broccolini or broccoli raab (rapini). Although with more
Turkish Rocket has a deep taproot (just a small one shown here) that enables it to mine deep minerals and withstand dry times.

Turkish Rocket has a deep taproot (just a small one shown here) that enables it to mine deep minerals and withstand dry times.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect nectar plant – especially bees and parasatoid wasps
  • Butterfly nectar plant
  • Ornamental Plant – not a common ornamental, but it is still sold as one in some places
  • Drought Tolerant Plant – once established
  • Dynamic Accumulator – although I can find no good information to support this, it is likely considering its taproot. If it is like other Brassicas, then it would accumulate Phosphorus and Sulfur.
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land (this is why it is considered an invasive plant!)
  • Groundcover Plant – this plant can be used as a groundcover, but probably would do best in a mixed species groundcover planting. Eric Toensmeier pairs it with astragalus.
  • Animal Fodder Plant – one of its original uses. Cattle, sheep, swine, and poultry all can/have used this plant for food.
  • Maritime Plant – like most species in the Brassica family, Turkish Rocket can withstand maritime conditions.

Yield: Variable
Harvesting: Leaves can be harvested at anytime and are often promoted as being the first and last greens in the garden. Young and tender leaves are available in the Spring. This is a true cut-and-come-again plant. If you keep removing the larger, older leaves, then the plant will continue to produce young, tender leaves through most of the year in most growing environments. Flowering stems and flowers are available in late Spring to early Summer.
Storage: Use within a few days fresh, similar to broccoli, kale, or collard greens.

The classic rosette of Turkish Rocket.

The classic rosette of Turkish Rocket.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 7 is most commonly listed, but this is probably not entirely accurate. It is established as an “invasive” plant in southern Wisconsin and in New England which is Zone 4 in many places. The southern extent of its native habitat is Zone 7, but it grows well in the Pacific Northwest (Zone 8 at least). Dave’s Garden has it listed to Zone 11. I feel confident to place it in Zones 4-8, but it probably has a wider range.
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available.
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant (usually perennial, but can be biennial)
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: As far as I can tell, there are no named varieties.

Pollination: Self-fertile. Pollinated by bees, flies, or self.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer.

Life Span: Turkish Rocket can live to at least 12 years; however, it reseeds easily, so an individual’s life span is not that relevant.

Abundant flowers are a hallmark of Turkish Rocket.

Abundant flowers are a hallmark of Turkish Rocket.

These flowers are classic for the Brassica family.

These flowers are classic for the Brassica family.

...and these flowers are magnents to bees, parasitic wasps, and other beneficial insects!

…and these flowers are magnents to bees, parasitic wasps, and other beneficial insects!

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 1-5 feet (30-150 cm) tall (usually not taller than 40 inches/1 meter) and 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) wide
Roots: Fibrous with one or more taproots at least 1 inch/2.5 cm thick that can dive to at least 6.5 feet/2 meters deep
Growth Rate: Fast

Identification aid for Turkish Rocket.

Identification aid for Turkish Rocket.

Turkish Rocket seed pods.

Turkish Rocket seed pods.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: prefers moist soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions once established
pH: prefers neutral soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions

Special Considerations for Growing:
Reseeds easily.

Propagation:
Typically from seed. High germination rates. Can be propagated via division; Spring division is recommended. Eric Toensmeier reports that if the roots are broken, new plants pop up. This supports the documentation that this plant can be easily propagated via root cuttings (one report states it can regrow from a 0.4 inch/1 cm segment!).

Maintenance:
Minimal.

Concerns:
Turkish Rocket is considered an invasive plant in some locations.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/Bunias_orientalis_—_Flora_Batava_—_Volume_v18.jpg
  • http://flora.nhm-wien.ac.at/Bilder-A-F/Bunias-orientalis-2.jpg
  • http://newfs.s3.amazonaws.com/taxon-images-1000s1000/Brassicaceae/bunias-orientalis-le-mrenz.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Bunias_orientalis_champs-devaugerme-chateau-thierry_02_13052007_3.jpg
  • http://www.commanster.eu/commanster/Plants/Flowers/SpFlowers/Bunias.orientalis.jpg
  • http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/images/13046.jpg
  • http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/images/3654.jpg
  • http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/images/9158.jpg
  • http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/images/3660.jpg
  • http://85.214.60.79/korina.info/sites/default/files/Bunias%20orientalis%20Schötchen%20Katrin%20Schneider%2012.06.2012%20IMG_3397a%20x.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/58/Bunias_orientalis_removal.jpg/1280px-Bunias_orientalis_removal.jpg
  • http://www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at/Bilder/Lumix_9/P1800139.JPG
  • http://newfs.s3.amazonaws.com/taxon-images-1000s1000/Brassicaceae/bunias-orientalis-le-mrenz-b.jpg
  • http://www.wittistanbul.com/magazine/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/turkish-cuisine-lahmacun.jpg
  • http://www.nofamass.org/sites/default/files/scaudio/2012-08-11-078%20-%20Broccolitas%20the%2010%20Year%20Wonder.pdf

 

Permaculture in the Bible?

Here are an interesting couple of verses I came across in the Bible the other day. I obviously can’t say that this is Permaculture, but there are some interesting things we can glean from it…

When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the LORD your God.
– Leviticus 19:23-25

These verses highlight a few things…

When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten.
In modern horticulture, debudding (removing flower buds) or complete thinning of fruit is recommended for young trees during the first 2-3 growing seasons. This allows all the tree’s energy is put into growth, not fruit production. By the third or fourth growing season, the tree is well established and is forming a canopy, and fruit production will be much higher. Now this verse says nothing about removing the buds or fruit, just not to eat it the fruit. I don’t want to force this verse to say something it is not, but could this may be an ancient practice that developed into debudding or thinning?

In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.
The offerings of the Old Testament were used to atone for wrong-doing, as part of a celebration, or to express gratitude (i.e. the praise offering). The praise offering, also known as a thanksgiving offering, a peace offering, and a fellowship offering, was to be given out of a grateful heart. All the other offerings were placed on the altar (over a fire) and either completely burned up (the rising smoke representing giving it to God in heaven), or part of it was burned and part was it was given as food for the priests or the priests families (Jewish priests could marry). However, the praise offering, because there was no wrong-doing involved, was split between God (burned up), the priests and their family, AND the person giving the offering. There are very specific details for how this sharing was to be done for animal offerings, but I can’t find any specifics for fruit offerings. Maybe a Biblical scholar or historian has more information. Regardless, this is a great example of the Third Ethic: Return of the Surplus. The offerings were a way to provide for the spiritual leaders in the community while also building/maintaining the community as a whole. There are many other spiritual principles at work here, but that is another conversation.

But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased.
I don’t see any hidden Permaculture meaning other than this is an example of a design element producing a yield, the harvest. That always gives me a sense of accomplishment, wonder, and gratefulness. I hope I never lose that feeling.

 

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Photo References:
  • http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Olive%20Tree/Olive%20Tree%20Live.jpg

 

Who is in charge of Permaculture?

People often wonder who is in charge of the Permaculture movement. In the past few months, I have read a number of comments, emails, and threads on boards where people are discussing, or asking about, who is really in charge of this whole thing. I believe that there are a lot of people who think Permaculture is run by a central person, organization, or entity. That is just not the case.

There are some prominent organizations in the Permaculture world, but there is not a central organization. Permaculture is not a franchise. These organization are trying to organize and lead, but they have no authority over anyone. I support almost all of these organizations, because their goals falls in line with the Prime Directive and Ethics of Permaculture. Unfortunately, some of these organizations don’t always get along, and some struggles for power have developed. I was disheartened to read an email from a reader in another country. He explained how there were two “leading Permaculture organizations” in his country, and they have been fighting and waging a war of words against each other. I think this is an example of people who have lost sight of what Permaculture is all about. Fortunately, this is a pretty rare occurence.

There are also a number of primary “leaders” in the Permaculture world. But again, they are not making decisions that hold any authority over anyone else. Almost all of these leaders are doing their best to research, teach, and implement Permaculture as much as possible. I am so very thankful for their efforts.

I should add that Bill Mollison requested that anyone who uses the word Permaculture to market themselves should take a 72-hour course based on his lesson plan. The course could be taught by anyone who completed a similar course themselves. Bill Mollison did not want royalites or payment in any form for this. There is no binding law to this. It is what I call an ethical copyright. By and large, this has been followed everywhere around the world.

Now, to me, asking who is in charge of Permaculture is like asking who is in charge of Physics. Permaculture is a science. Granted it is different than many other sciences, because it is an ethical science. However, being a field of study, it is not going to have a person or organization “in charge”. I would say that Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein were all leaders in the field of Physics, but they were not in charge. Their words carried a lot of weight. Their opinions mattered (no pun intended) a lot. They had a lot of influence in the world. But they were not in charge and could not dictate to anyone.

The same is true in Permaculture. We have some foundational leaders (Mollison and Holmgren). We have some amazing teachers and practitioners (Lawton, Hemenway, Wheaton, Doherty, and more). We have many others who are doing their own thing, and we or they call it Permaculture (Holzer, Salatin, Savory, and more). But none of these people are able to tell anyone else what to do. Well, they can, but it doesn’t have to be done. It may be a good idea to listen to them, but they hold no power of anyone else.

Just like in Physics or Biology or Mathematics or Music or any other field of study, anyone and everyone has the ability to be a leader. Anyone can make a new discovery that can sweep the world. Anyone can study it and practice it. Anyone can create an organization of like-minded people to promote that field of study. It is open to anyone. Permaculture is no different.

So, who is in charge of Permaculture? No one and everyone!

Whos_in_Charge03

 

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Photo References:

 

The Farmstead Meatsmith

I want to share some amazing videos created by Brandon Sheard, the Farmstead Meatsmith. Brandon is a butcher and charcutier (a specialist in meat preservation and preparation). I was very disappointed to hear that they did not reach their Kickstarter goal; they were trying to raise funds for a mobile slaughter truck and butcher shop. While they were “unsuccessful”, I have to say that the publicity from this campaign was still very good. Unfortunately, I found out about Brandon after his Kickstarter had already ended. I wish them all the best, and I expect amazing things from him and his team.

Please check out their website and upcoming slaughter and butchery classes.

I highly recommend these videos for anyone who is interested in, as Brandon would say, the Agrarian Renaissance. These are how-to videos on butchering pigs.

 

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Permaculture Plants: Buckwheat

Common Name: Common Buckwheat, Tartary Buckwheat, Perennial Buckwheat
Scientific Name: Fagopyrum species
Family: Polygonaceae (the Knotweed or Smartweed or Buckwheat family)

Common Species (there are 15 or 16 species):

  • Common Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)
  • Perennial Buckwheat (Fagopyrum dibotrys)
  • Tartary Buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum)
Common Buckwheat is a rather tall, fast-growing annual.

Common Buckwheat is a rather tall, fast-growing annual.

Description:
Buckwheat, while not a grain or even related to wheat, does produced edible seeds that make a gluten-free, and quite tasty, flour. It is well known as a cover crop that builds organic matter, but it also suppresses weeds, mines phosphorus and calcium from deep in the soil, prevents erosion, and attracts many beneficial insects especially bees; Buckwheat flowers yield a highly sought-after honey!

There is a Perennial Buckwheat, but it does not seem to be highly productive outside its natural range in the high altitudes of the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, although there seems to be some people working with this plant… it will be interesting to see how things develop. Most Buckwheat species are annual and can be a useful addition to Permaculture designs and forest gardens, especially in the developmental stages.

Common Buckwheat Fagopyrum eir

Common Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum

History:
Buckwheat likely originates from East or Southeast Asia. Common Buckwheat is the domesticated plant that originates from the wild Buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum spp. ancestrale. The wild form of Tartary Buckwheat is Fagopyrum taraticum spp. potanini. Sometime around 6,000 BC, Common Buckwheat was first cultivated, and it spread west. Common Buckwheat is the most common species grown in the world, but Tartary Buckwheat is commonly cultivated in the Himalayas.

Trivia:

  • Buckwheat is not actually related to wheat at all, but to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb!
  • Buckwheat is not even a grain, because it is not in the grass family.
  • Buckwheat has no gluten.
  • People use Buckwheat as a grain, so it is known as a pseudocereal (like amaranth, chia, quinoa, etc.)
  • The common name “Buckwheat” comes from an older name “Beech Wheat”. This is due to the triangular seeds which resemble the seeds from the Beech Tree. The Middle Dutch word for “Beech” is boec, and the modern Dutch word is beuk.
  • The scientific name Fagopyrum comes from the Greek… fagus = Beech, and pyrum (pyros) = wheat.
  • Buckwheat is the highest cultivated plant growing at an average of 14,800 feet (4,500 meters) in the Tibetan plateau (mostly Tartary Buckwheat)
  • Tartary Buckwheat is more bitter than Common Buckwheat, but may contain more phytonutrients.
  • Common Buckwheat was a significant crop before nitrogen fertilizers (Buckwheat does not go to seed well with high levels of nitrogen). In 1918, over a million acres (4,000 square km) were harvested in the United States!
  • Buckwheat Noodles are called soba in Japan, naengmyeon in Korea, and pizzoccheri in Italy.
  • Buckwheat is considered allelopathic – this means it suppresses growth of other plants, which makes it a great “weed” control/suppressing plant.

    The seeds of Buckwheat, while not a cereal grain, can still be used like a cereal grain.

    The seeds of Buckwheat, while not a cereal grain, can still be used like a cereal grain.

...and Buckwheat Pancakes are delicious!

…and Buckwheat Pancakes are delicious!

here’s a recipe for Spiced Buckwheat Pancakes!

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Seeds – sprouted seeds can be eaten raw. The seed can be cooked and used as a cereal grain (i.e. dried and ground into a powder). Used in breads, pancakes, noodles, etc. Can be mixed with true cereal grains for making yeast breads. Can be used as a thickening agent in soups and sauces. Note that Perennial Buckwheat may not produce nearly as many seeds as the annual species.
  • Edible Leaves – used like spinach – can be eaten raw or cooked, but is usually significantly more bitter when raw
  • Cover Crop / Green Manure – used as a fast-growing cover crop that breaks down (rots) quickly providing lots of organic matter to the soil as well as soil coverage/protection and fertilization/composting in place. Sow at 60-135 lbs/acre (65-150 kg/ha) when using across large areas.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant – Buckwheat Honey is distinctively dark and is a highly sought after honey. These flowers are known for attracting predatory wasps, hoverflies (Syrphid flies), and more.
  • Dynamic Accumulator – phosphorus and calcium
  • Weed Suppressing Plant – the vigorous, fast-growing Buckwheat smothers unwanted “weeds”.
  • Erosion Control Plant – the deep, fibrous roots hold the soil and prevent erosion
  • Wildlife Shelter – especially small birds and mammals
  • Alcohol – gluten-free beers and whisky have been made using Buckwheat
  • Buckwheat Hulls – used in pillows and as upholstery filler

Yield: Variable.
Harvesting: Annual Buckwheats produce edible leaves by 6-8 weeks and ripened seed at 10-14 weeks. The seeds do not all ripen at the same time, so harvesting is a bit time consuming. It is easiest to harvest when about three-quarters of the seeds become dark brown (ripe). If you wait longer, then many of the seeds with shatter (fall off). Cut the stems gently and move them to a tarp or sheet. Then hit the stems with a broom or carpet beater. Most of the unripe seeds will stay on the branches, and the ripe ones fall on the tarp. Winnow the seeds (blow the chaf away… leaves, bugs, older hulls, etc.) by pouring the seeds back and forth between buckets in a breeze or in front of a fan.
Storage: Use leaves fresh within a few days. Seeds can be dried and stored for years if kept in an airtight, minimal oxygen container – like with oxygen absorbers. Otherwise, the seeds, which have fats, can go rancid. Buckwheat flour should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or other cool/cold place, and it can store for a few months.

The fragrant flowers are honeybee magnets!

The fragrant flowers are honeybee magnets!

...and Buckwheat Honey is considered a super-healthy delicacy!

…and Buckwheat Honey is considered a super-healthy delicacy!

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Not relevant for annual species. For Perennial Buckwheat, it appears to be hardy to Zone 7 (maybe 6).
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information is available
Chill Requirement: Likely for Perennial Buckwheat, considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Annual/Perennial
Leaf Type: Annual/Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer (Cover Crop)
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available. If you want a seed for eating, make sure you find one that is specifically for seed, and not just for a cover crop. These will taste much better!

Pollination: Not self-fertile. Pollinated by bees and flies.
Flowering: It all depends on when it is planted. Perennial Buckwheat blooms in late Summer to early Autumn (or Winter in warmer climates). Annual Buckwheat will form flowers in 2-10 weeks (yes, as early as just , but hot weather will cause the flowers to fall off without forming seeds (this is called “blasting”).

The leaves of Buckwheat are edible as well.

The leaves of Buckwheat are edible as well.

...but Buckwheat Flour is the most common edible from this plant (picture are soba noodles from Japananese cuisine).

…but Buckwheat Flour is the most common edible from this plant (picture are soba noodles from Japananese cuisine).

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • Common Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum): 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters) tall and 1 foot (0.9 meters) wide
  • Perennial Buckwheat (Fagopyrum dibotrys): 2.5-3.5 feet (0.75-1 meter) tall and 6 feet (2 meters) wide
  • Tartary Buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum): 2.5 feet (0.75 meters) tall

Roots: Dense, fibrous root system close to the surface with a deep taproot (3-4 feet/1 meter deep).
Growth Rate: Fast – Very Fast

Perennial Buckwheat seems to better in cooler and higher altitude climates.

Perennial Buckwheat seems to better in cooler and higher altitude climates.

Buckwheat is mostly grown commercially, but it is easy to grow at a smaller scale.

Buckwheat is mostly grown commercially, but it is easy to grow at a smaller scale.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun or partial shade (especially for Perennial Buckwheat)
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Dry to wet soils, but it needs good drainage.
pH: 4.0-6.0 (but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Buckwheat grows very well in low-fertility soils. In fact, if the soil has too much nitrogen, seed yield will be reduced… so it depends on what you are growing the Buckwheat for: manure or seed (flowers).
  • Buckwheat seeds best in cooler weather, so if you live in a hot climate, then a late season sowing is recommended.
  • If you want a seed harvest, then plant 2-3 months before the first killing frost.
  • If planted in Summer, then there will be little seed production, but it will work great as a cover crop/green manure/weed suppressor.
  • Buckwheat does not seed well in wind – the seeds shatter (drop), and it has a tendancy to lodge (tip over).

Propagation:
Typically from seed. Can be divided at any time during the growing season.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Can be mowed or sythed down before flowering, and many of the plants will have a second growth.

Concerns:
None.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Fagopyrum_esculentum_seed_001.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Illustration_Fagopyrum_esculentum0.jpg
  • http://www.homeopathyandmore.com/med_images/FAGOPYRUM_ESCULENTUM.jpg
  • http://www.plantsystematics.org/users/kcn2/7_30_04/Fagopyrum_upload/Fagopyrum6.jpg
  • http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111028/srep00132/images/srep00132-f2.jpg
  • http://www.an.ias.ethz.ch/research/res_areas/Fagopyrum_chamau_EN.JPG?hires
  • http://www.odingi-coons.nl/images/Plant_boekweit.jpg
  • http://dbiodbs1.univ.trieste.it/quint/carso/foto/TSB58791.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Fagopyrum_esculentum_oesling_luxembourg_20070719.jpg
  • http://gambarubee.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/buckwheat-honey.jpg
  • http://www.justhungry.com/files/images/soba1.jpg

http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Perennial%20Buckwheat.html

https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/information_center/all_about_grains/all_about_grains_buckwheat.htm