Jeff Cope

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since May 24, 2012
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Recent posts by Jeff Cope

Well, tea makes pretty good tea... In fact, the tea plant is Camellia sinensis. Other plants related to blueberries would be good in acid soil and tolerate some shade--salal, huckleberry, wintergreen are all good. Cranberries, lingonberries...

Blueberries have shallow roots, and don’t like to share root space. The more compost you use the less soil pH matters, and the less likely many plants are to compete.

Acid-loving or will tolerate very acidic soil: blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, Alpine strawberry, parsley, potato, sweet potato, carrot, brassicas, corn, cucumber, dill, endive, escarole, garlic, parsley, sweet peppers, hot peppers, winter squash, turnip and rutabaga, peanut, cucumber,

Moderate to mildly acidic or will tolerate acid: cilantro, Japanese bunching onion, peas, beans, radishes, carrots, celery, pumpkins, and tomatoes, rhubarb, eggplant, onions, corn, radicchio, sorrel, basil, dill, lettuces, maybe dandelion, horseradish (digging for deep roots may hurt blueberries), borage,

Currants, apples, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, Cape gooseberries/goldenberries? chestnut, hops, (somewhat invasive roots), groundnut (Apios americana is shallow and harvesting probably won’t  cause trouble with blues.
Madrone and manzanita might compete
3 years ago
Try a living bridge--willows or some other fast-growing, wet soil-tolerant tree. Plant 2 or 4 on each side, angled toward the opposite side of the stream and tie them to bend them over as they grow. Pleach them together when they're horizontal enough, to form the footbridge and if you want, handrails. The bridge can be arched up in the middle for strength, and the branches can be used to form a frame for the path, the balustrade, and even the frame of a roof. You'll want something temporary as described by others while the bridge grows.
4 years ago

Though there's no problem with allelopathy, Chestnuts, unlike Walnuts, create very dense shade. You'd need some shade-loving plants to have a chance of growing anything. Mushrooms, Mayapple, Dutchman's breeches, small ephemerals, forest flowers that bloom in spring before the trees leaf out--Sanguinaria, Jack in the pulpit, etc. Some are medicinals; some edible. You could try ramps; I'm not sure whether they would work or not under chestnuts.
7 years ago
Your list sounds great. Have fun with it.
One caution: Japanese pepper, Xanthoxylem spp., can carry citrus canker. I’ve been debating for a long time about trying it, trying to find some certified or guaranteed disease-free trees or seeds, so far no luck. Not even sure there is such a thing but still hoping.
There is both a curry leaf tree Murraya koenigii and a curry plant, Helichrysum italicum.

Some additions to consider: (some are borderline or technically perennial vegies or nut or fruit trees but can be used as culinary herbs)
perennial peppers (Rocoto (hot!), Aji dulce (mild) and some other peppers growable as perennials, like cayenne, Thai chiles, etc.
African blue basil, a perennial; not the best tasting or textured basil by a long shot but maybe some perennial/annual crosses would be good and durable.
licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
licorice flag (Acorus gramineus)
epazote, used in Mexican bean dishes, etc.
Galangal or white ginger, used in Thai soups—the kha in Tom Kha. (I’m working on a completely homegrown Tom Kha/Tom Yum cross, with coconut-like Quito palm, tofu, baby corn, mushrooms, keiffer lime leaves, lemon grass (I’ve also used rhubarb as a lemongrass substitute) etc. You can get rhizomes in Asian grocery stores.
Vietnamese coriander
tea (Camellia sinensis) Burmese tea leaf paste for salad (Hmm-mm!) or tea leaf ice cream, especially Earl Grey tea!
coffee (used as flavoring for drinks, ice cream, baked goods, etc.)
lavender (candies, sweets, etc., and I keep thinking there are savory applications just waiting to break into the gourmet world. Lavender crème brulee? Slightly lavendered mint, epazote and chipotle white beans with roasted peeled Aji dulce peppers?)
cardamom, turmeric; ginger-like plants that grow well in pots or as annuals. Won’t go to seed but the leaves and rhizomes are good.
wild ginger, western wild ginger
Trees: obviously not herbs but homegrown almonds have the most intense almond scent and flavor and could be used as a flavoring for all kinds of foods. The same is true of lemon, lime, limequat and other citrus trees, including keiffer lime and bergamot orange (for Earl Grey tea). Leaves, fruit zest are great garnishes and flavorings. Pine needles and sap can be used to flavor. (Retsina wine, anyone? Retsina beer? mead?... mastic from Pistacia lentiscus, and then the idea of liqueurs opens up the field to all sorts of “herbal” flavorings—wormwood, frankincense?, oak shavings or barrels, Have you thought of culinary colorings?
I think of some bushes as more herb-like on the scale I grow them: currants, goji berries, roses for rose hips, and many tea plants: New Jersey tea (a nitrogen fixer) etc. (I love that you included spice bush)
There are some vegetables etc. that can be used as vegetable rennin to make cheese: nettles, thistles (artichoke family including artis and cardoon), fig bark, mallow, yucca...
For people not us, some climates produce great sugars/flavorings: maple, birch and so on.
7 years ago
So many great ideas. The mention of Seabuckthorn's high protein reminded me of Moringa, too. Hoping to try it in a few years when the seedlings get big enough.
8 years ago

I'm also trying to grow as much feed as possible for a flock of ducks and geese. Some supplemental feeding with purchased grain will always be needed, probably, but I hope to grow as much of my own grain as I can and supply most fresh stuff with perennials and pasture. Some of the ones I'm growing to experiment with are linden, mulberry, Fragrant Spring Tree (Toona sinensis), beech, artichoke and cardoon (which they love), and Malabar spinach to balance out all the ones that produce prodigously in the spring or fall in the fall. It's a Mediterranean climate here so pasture is good from November to June and then dries and dies as most of the garden crops and perennial greens come in.

They eat all the plum and California live oak leaves that fall into the pen and some passiflora (not their favorite). I'd like to find out about the duck edibility (duckability?) of black locust, katuk, alfafa, fuki, udo, and hops.

Over the next year or so I'm planning to add a couple of goats and sheep, a few quail and rabbits, as education/demo projects and for diversity. By then I'd like to develop the pasture more and have some of the mentioned trees going as coppices for goat browsing--with the trunks protected. Some windfall fruit and nuts, and carob will add to the mix for the ruminants.

Any suggestions for other plants who haven't been mentioned that ducks and geese like ?
8 years ago
Matthew, Michael, et al,

I've been looking for wood nettles for a year or so and likewise haven't been able to find any. Are any of you interested in passing some along to another eager permie? I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area on about 3/4 acre hillside and am trying to put together various fodder plants for ducks and geese to get through the 6 month/year dry season when the pasture dries up and the mud crazes. (and for me to eat as well). Don't want to take a chance on feeding stinging nettles to the birds. I'd be happy to pay or trade something for the extra trouble--plants, cuttings or seeds of perrennial vegetables, etc.. Thanks, JC. You can answer here or email me at
8 years ago
I've wondered about trying some sugar production in the Bay Area and looked into it a little. I did some maple sugaring as part of teaching at a nature center when I lived in PA and New England. Sugar production there is high when the weather is clear, in late winter, leading to cold cold nights and warm(er) sunny days. (but still colder than any day in deep winter where you and I live now) The contrast between night and day was the main driver of sugar production. There was a huge difference not only in sap production but sugar content of sap depending on the weather, and since at best you have to boil off about 40 gallons of water from the sap to get a gallon of syrup, trying to produce it in much less ideal climate could be amazingly expensive (fuel) and time consuming for a product that will end up being inferior in taste anyway. The season was over in a few weeks; by the time it was warm enough for anything to be leafing out the sap was useless (bitter/sour). And then there's global warming, which may be warming nights more than days where you are, making it even less ideal for sugar production...

If the amount of lead time it will take to grow maple trees and find out whether you've wasted your time and money and land for nothing isn't daunting, go for it. Write back in 10 or 20 years and let us know. However......

There are lots! of plants used to make syrups and sugars outside the eastern deciduous forest, including berries, apples, other fruits, roses, pines, birches, and rhubarb, in addition to sugar beets and cane. In each case there's a reason they aren't (with the exception of blue- and strawberries, birches---and rhubarb, sorta) a major product of commerce or home production for syrup or grown outside a limited area. As for maples, the website below suggests Douglass maple for SE Alaska; maybe it will work for your area too. If I were in the PNW I'd go for raspberry and blackberry syrup instead.


It's part of a larger question many are researching and experimenting with. John Jeavons' figures on how much land it takes to feed a person are the basis for thinking about what to grow and how much to expect. Carbohydrates are relatively easy (fruits and vegetables, potatoes, grains, beans, shrooms (and all those rapidly popularizing perennial vegetables...see Eric Toensmeier). Proteins are harder but not much harder (small numbers of permacultured livestock if you're into that sort of thing to supplement the perfectly adequate plant proteins and some source of B12). Various estimates of how much land to simply survive are available, but if you want to add even tiny amounts of sugar, and fats or oils to that basic amount the space requirements go way up way fast, in most climates.
and I'm sure there was a thread about the subject on this site a while back with lots of figures and ideas.
8 years ago
Well, with a name like fetid adder's tongue how could anyone resist?

I asked about the pollination because even though we only want them around during paw paw bloom they need to eat something the rest of the year to be here for that season; since none of these plants are native and may not fit into the local ecosystem including such pollination relationships I may have to provide a year-round diet (I'm in zone 8b, with very mild though rainy winters) for the flies or beetles to make it. Just like I'm trying to do with my honeybees--extending the season as far as possible in both directions for them and me.

I did just order a big batch of wild ginger (A. canadense) for the wasabi guild, which is not far away from the paw paws. I can plant some of those right by the paw paws. Strangely, while looking for wild ginger and fantasizing about wild ginger brew I saw may apples in the online catalogs and wanted some, but for no good reason other than Boy Scout camping memories and reading Light in the Forest when I was 10. Looked for excuses (aka uses) but in the end couldn't justify buying any. Oops.

Big love-ee-aye indeed.
8 years ago

That pollination strategy sounds great; I wonder if you know what the pollinators are (Flies?) and/or some plants they pollinate at other times of year, so I can keep them happier longer. Not quite sure where to find that particular information on the plants I'm growing (or might want to) other than such extensive research I just run across it. Lots of sites give the same basic stuff; some give a little more in one direction or another but I haven't seen those bits listed anywhere.

I use Dave's Garden, USDA, PFAF, MO Botanical Garden, and a few others, in addition to whatever a specific search turns up. I live in California so very few of these plants are native or naturalized here and information on them is not easily found in libraries or book stores.
8 years ago