One of the 12 permaculture principles is Obtain A Yield. The principle urges us to implement solutions that will allow us to harvest something from every design element we build into our plan for the land. The idea is if you are going to put effort (energy) into something, you should receive a benefit (in the form of a store of energy). Another way of looking at it is, everything on your land needs to be producing stuff that’s useful. Either to you or to the other organisms sharing your habitat. This principle needs to be networked into your overall plan for the land, but it also needs to be constantly tinkered with.
One example of how we did this is with the stakes we used when we were mapping out our veggie garden: Instead of using dead wood, we cut living stakes which have now rooted (well, some of them have) and are providing us with a yield (of leaves and other biomass, for mulch) as well as becoming part of our trellis system for beans and gourds to climb on. The way we’re tinkering with the idea is by trying out different species of plants to use as these biomass providers, so we get the maximum yield in the shortest amount of time.
What About The Edible Harvest?
Apart from these initial biomass dividends, we’re also starting to reap some edible fruits of our labor. A group of cherry tomato plants on our back porch have been providing us with a steady supply of the juiciest, most flavorful tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. They go great in rasams, sandwiches and pickles. We’ve also been able to harvest a number of leaves, most of them from plants that we put in a couple of months ago: Purple Joyweed and Bathua (which is either Pigweed or Lamb’s Quarters, depending on who you talk to) as well as Red Amaranth and Nasturtium are the semi-perennials we harvest from regularly, while red lettuce and spinach are cut-and-come-again annuals (although we should have a nice long growing season, I don’t think they’ll survive the winter.)
We’re also regularly harvesting flowers from the Calendula, Marigold and Feverfew plants. We’ve got a bunch of beans from a pair of Yard Long Bean plants as well. Herbs have been providing us with a lot of flavour for our salads, pastas and roasts: fresh thyme, spearmint, coriander, onion chives, lemon balm and oregano are all regular features.
It’s fulfilling on a deep and meaningful level to go into the garden and cut or pick or pluck something fresh to eat. But it’s not just a mental or spiritual fulfillment. Growing your own food rewards your physical senses in equal measure. The flavor of home-grown food is undeniably better than anything you might be able to buy from a market. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough. You haven’t tasted food until you’ve grown it yourself.