I HAVE THREE personas: designer-educator, sustainment theorist and forest farmer. The farmer came first. My grandfather was a market gardener who taught me to grow vegetables before I went to school. More than half a century later, I’m still doing it. The garden at our farm on the ranges of southern Queensland supplies the kitchen all year round and produces commercial quantities of sweet potatoes, chillies and wild hibiscus.
The wild hibiscus is a thread connecting much of what I have to say here. It comes from Africa, where it is known as karkade. It is a deep-rooted plant able to survive with little rain. In countries such as Sudan, it’s a staple: the deep magenta calyx, the bit that looks deceptively like a flower, is dried to make a soft drink and tea high in vitamin C; the leaves are used as a salad base; the seeds are ground for flour; the stems are dried and used as kindling. It is sustainability realised.
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