Emergency food in lock down

First Corona virus case

I live in Bundaberg, a relatively isolated city so I was not that worried about the Corona virus until we had our first case in a dental clinic. I can think of no better way of spreading the disease than having someone with the virus poking about in your mouth.

How many patients have been infected and are walking around infecting other people and what will happen next? No one has the faintest idea. Even Dr Google can’t tell me the number of new infections in Bundaberg.

Time to prepare for lock down.

So for me there was no option but to get out into my garden so I had a readily available supply of food. That is what this article is about but I am sure I have overreacted and will soon be left with mountains of food I have no idea what to do with so I also want to write about how we can supply food to those in need without leaving our homes.

Emergencies like this need social action.

Time to get serious about food production

I already have an established garden with various forms of Wicking and Gbiota Beds but these are largely for experimentation both in growing methods and plant types. Now I have to get serious.

Our bodies need food for energy, to replace our body parts and to feed our guts. My focus in recent times has been on food to feed our guts, which is now particularly important as our guts form an integral part of our immune system. Right now in emergency mode I don’t have to worry about that as I am well geared up for gut food, neither so I have to worry about energy food.

My body seems to have anticipated the virus coming and created a generous supply of energy food (fat) around my tummy so no worried about energy food but I do have to think about protein.


I used to keep chickens and they are a great source of immediate food turning scraps into eggs but I no longer keep them so I have to think about plant based protein and that means starchy root vegetables.

Fortunately my wife, Xiulan has planted Taro in our Gbiota beds and they have just gone wild however Taro leaves are also edible so I am a bit reluctant to harvest these as Taro is very slow growing so there is no possibility of replacing these with fresh plants, so they will stay in the ground until things get really desperate.

So what should I plant?

Sweet potatoes are the obvious choice as they are full of starch and the leaves are edible, but they do take about 90 days for the bulbs to mature and I hope the virus has gone by then, but maybe not so I have gone ahead and planted them anyway.

There are other root crops which mature much faster, like Turnips which mature in 60 days but the obvious answer is Radish as the roots can be ready within 30 days and again the leaves are edible.

To me edible is a very broad term meaning you can eat them but they are not that tasty, so I get out the blender and make green smoothies with fruit like bananas which with a bit of Turmeric and Coriander is really tasty and healthy.

Timing, baby greens and tipping

No one has any idea how quickly the virus is going to strike. It could be that there are people already walking around with the virus after going to the dentist in which case I may only have a week or so before going into lock down or I may have a bit more time before I am really at threat if I left home.

But to cover myself I need some quick growing plants to provide immediate food.

Sprouts are the obvious answer as they are so quick but they are only using the energy in the seeds without actually creating any more nutrients.

My real favourite is tipping. This is where you grow a plant so it develops a mature root system and what I call mother leaves you don’t harvest so the plant can extract carbon and energy from the air and sun.

You then just pick just the new shoots as they emerge, they are generally tender enough to eat directly, but can be cooked but I usually blend into a smoothie with some fruit.

Tipping has the big advantage that you have the roots and mother leaves working away giving growth much more efficient than sprouts.

Two of my most effective tipping plants are spinach and alfalfa. They just keep on growing and providing food. As I have plenty of spinach I have taken lots of cuttings and planted around my fruit trees.

For some unbeknown reason my Okra have gone mad this year – they just keeping on fruiting. I was going to pull them out but with the virus I am leaving them in until they stop fruiting. The problem with Okra is that one day you have nothing, the next day you have really nice fruit and by the forth day they have all turned into rock hard bullets.

I have also planted lots of vegetables, I find it very difficult to grow vegetables in the heat of summer, but I have planted a variety of Chinese vegetables and even some broccoli which at least has germinated well despite being still hot at the end of summer.

Is Mr Murphy coming

Murphy’s law says that if things can go wrong they will, Mr Murphy lives right next door and I expect what will happen is that with all this planting somethings will just go berserk and I will be stuck with loads of some plants that I can’t possibly eat myself while down the road there is someone confined to their home with nothing to eat.

I am sure with the virus and all the uncertainty my neighbours would welcome me knocking on their doors offering them bucket of Okra or whatever.

This leads me to the idea of the internet food swap.

For what seems an eternity I have been working on my www.pickandeat.shop web site which is really aimed at providing a way of buying food to improve gut health. But this web with a little modification may provide a sort of electronic food swap where people do not have to leave their home.

The basic idea is that anyone can create their own page on the site where anyone who has excess plants can post they have such and such plants available, while other could post they are desperately in need of this or that. (As long as it is not toilet paper).

I use geolocation which means that people can just search their local neighbourhood looking for who has what for sale or wants to buy.

There would be a local coordinator who real job is to organise things, they would get in touch with all their contacts who they think may want to be part of the scheme.

They would then organise transport to make a big circular loop picking up all the food from those who had excess and delivering to all those who wanted to buy. They could just pick up and leave by the door without making any human contact so there would be no risk of infection.

There would be no cash transactions all money transfers would be done by credit card with payments to the local coordinator to cover the cost of transport with a commission for their efforts.

If you are interested in the idea, particularly if you may be willing to become a local coordinator please contact me colinaustin@bigpond.com