Cheap, nutritious, organic…

What if you could grow your own organic food for very little money and almost no effort?

What if it didn’t need any soil, any sun or any gardening experience?

What if it could grow in any climate at any time of the year producing no waste?

What if this crop was ready to eat in 3-4 days, multiplied more than 400% in volume in a week and was high in nutritive value?



It might sound like a dream but it’s real and accessible to everyone.

Welcome to the wonderful world of SPROUTS!



If you’ve already tried and didn’t have much success or if you’re new to it, here’s an easy guide to grow your own fresh and nutritious sprouts!

  1. Choose the seeds

The majority of seeds that come from an edible plant can be sprouted for consumption but some can be quite tricky and require particular attention and techniques. Start with seeds easy to sprout: alfalfa, fenugreek, lentils, mung beans or adzuki beans.


  1. Select the seeds

Check the seeds and take away the one that are broken or not completely formed, as they won’t sprout and potentially cause the whole lot to go moldy


  1. Soak the seeds

Every seed has a different soaking time but to keep it simple you can soak them overnight and that will work with most seeds. You can soak them directly in your sprouting jar covered with a muslin cloth kept in place by a rubber band. In the morning pour the water out and let them drain on a slight angle.


  1. Care for the seeds

Rinse the seeds at least 2-3 times a day and in very hot days make sure they don’t dry out. You can rinse them directly in the jar and pour the water out through the muslin cloth


  1. Enjoy

The sprouts are ready to be eaten when the tiny roots are a couple of centimetres long but you can sprout them all the way to the development of the first leaves.


  1. Store the seeds

If you’ve sprouted more seeds than what you can eat (and it often happen as a little handful will get you going a long way!) you can store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for a few days. But fresh is best.




Don’t underestimate how much the seeds will increase in volume: use a large jar for a little handful of seeds. If they are too crowded it’s more likely that mold will develop.

Rinse the seeds often and if the water doesn’t come out clear, rinse again. This also will prevent mold from forming.

Get into a routine and start a new batch every couple of days so that you never run out.



Sprouts are best enjoyed raw, carrying a high bio-energetic value (pure life force) that generates healing and general well-being.

They are delicious with everything and add flavor and texture to any meal: have them for breakfast with yogurt and muesli, for lunch in a sandwiches or for dinner accompanying stir-fries and soups. And of course try them in combination with Wagtail salad mix: absolutely unforgettable!



Purslane: “weed” or “superfood”?



Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also known as pigweed (not to be confused with pigface, Carpobrotus rossii) is an annual plant that grows like a ground cover. The stems and leaves are succulent-like and produce a clear juice when squeezed. It is very easy to find in Adelaide and in fact it is naturalized almost everywhere in the world.



What is a weed?

When we asked one of the most knowledgeable herbalist of Australia what was her definition of weed she answered “A weed is a plant whose use has been forgotten or yet to be discovered”. This made us reflect on how many incredibly useful plants grow around us whose value we don’ t recognize until it is revealed to us. Purslane is definitely one of these plants. Highly revered in Mediterranean and Eastern cuisine (Italian insalata di misticanza, French bonne famme soup, Lebanese fattoush just to mention a few dishes) it is almost unknown to the Australian palate.

So let’s discover some of the qualities of this incredible plant that in this season is popping up everywhere without requiring any gardening effort and in fact grows extremely well under any condition (sun or shade, rich or poor soil, watered or not).

What is a superfood?

At Wagtail farm we believe that “superfood” is a very clever marketing invention to make people believe that some very expensive food from the other side of the planet has miraculous properties that you really cannot do without. In our opinion any food grown in a rich soil, in a way that is natural and respectful to the planet, and consumed fresh and locally is a superfood. If it is wild harvested, even better. Veggies from your garden, fruit from your neighbor’s tree, herbs and berries collected in the bush, “weeds” harvested from safe collecting areas: these are the real superfoods, connecting you to the land you stand on and nourishing your body with the local nutrients tailored to the climate and conditions you live in!

Is purslane a superfood? Absolutely! And it won’t cost you a single penny!


Medicinal benefits

  1. The Latin name portulaca derives from the terms ‘potare’, to carry and ‘lac’, milk and in fact the plant is know and used by nursing mothers for its ability to increase milk production. A good memory trick to remember this is to think about the shape of the leaves, which can resemble a woman’s breast;
  2. It has a high content of vitamin C;
  3. The most rewarded characteristic of this plant is its high content in omega-3, one of the essential fatty acids that our bodies need to function properly. In specific, purslane contain a good amount of alpha-linolenic acid which helps to lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and metabolism and protect against bladder, breast, lung and prostate cancer and melanomas;
  4. It’s rich in iron and magnesium and therefore helps to nourish the spinal cord, the nerves and the brain fibers promoting memory, concentration and muscle function.


Culinary uses

Purslane can be eaten raw or cooked and is very adaptable to any dish that calls for greens. It is very common to have it in a salad, usually in combination with onion, chives or freshly grounded pepper to counteract the cooling effect of the plant. It is good in sandwiches, stir-fries, omelettes, soups and pickles.


It can be eaten freely, however it does contain a reasonable amount of oxalic acid (about the same amount as spinach); the younger the leaves the lower the content. If this worries you, keep in mind that a high oxalic acid intake is not a problem as long as it is combined with foods rich in calcium (vegetables, greens and dairy) and daily exposure to sunshine for vitamin D synthesis (for further references on oxalic acid see How can I use herbs in my daily life by Isabell Shipard, highly recommended book to have in your collection).

Purslane seeds

Early settles mention Australian Aboriginals collecting purslane seeds and grinding them into a flour that they would then cook into small cakes in hot ashes. Botanist Joseph Maiden wrote in 1889 “One would suppose that so small a seed would scarcely repay the labour of collecting” but “ the natives get in splendid condition on it”.

A patch of about a square meter will produce a heaped tablespoon of oily, highly nutritious seeds, which flavour has been compared to the one of linseed.


Pickled purslane recipe

1 cup of whiteIMG_9037 vinegar

1 TBS of sugar

½ TBS of salt

herbs and spices (bay leaves, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds…)

freshly picked purslane stems and leaves


Rinse the purslane, cut it in small sections and place it in sterilized jars. In the meantime bring the vinegar with all the other ingredients to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the pickling solution over the purslane and fill the jars to the top. Close the jars and let cool down upside-down. Wait at least a month before consuming.

So please, don’t call this amazing plant a weed but enjoy the health benefits of such an incredibly adaptable “superfood”.

Why is Wagtail salad so damn good?

At Wagtail Urban Farm we are really passionate about growing food in a way that respects the planet and provides our community with high quality veggies fully packed with flavour and nutrients.


If you have never tried our salad mix, you’re truly missing out on a unique culinary experience. It sounds a bit over-the-top, doesn’t it? But trust me, a single mouthful will change your whole perspective on salad and you won’t be able to eat a tasteless, hydroponic iceberg lettuce ever again.


But why is Wagtail salad so good?

  1. It’s ultra local: grown in Mitchell Park and sold in Glenelg North, less than 6km from the farm to the market. Unless you grow veggies in your own backyard (and we really encourage you to do so), you’re unlikely to find a salad mix more local than this. Less transportation means fresher veggies and less co2 emissions. It’s good for you and for the planet!Screen shot 2015-12-16 at 4.48.36 PM
  2. It’s a treat for the eyes: the different greens and reds of the lettuces are vibrant, a variety of flowers and petals adds bursts of colour and the culinary herbs create interesting contrasts in the textures making the salad so beautiful that even kids and the skeptical cannot resist it.IMG_6383
  3. It tastes amazing: store-bought salad has lead our society to think of it as something tasteless and boring, to use as a garnish or side dish. Real salad is full of taste and each single variety has its own characteristics. On top of this we add a collection of fragrant, medicinal herbs and edible flowers to make every single mouthful unique.20151119_064307
  4. It’s nutrient rich: the most important principle that we apply at Wagtail is “feed your soil”. Healthy soil = healthy veggies = healthy people. When veggies are grown for the big market they need to pass very strict aesthetic criteria and travel across the planet to be sold; therefore they are grown to look good and last long and little importance is given to their actual nutritional value. Some fruit and veggies are so poor in essential nutrients that it is almost worthless eating them. This explains why at the chemist shop the supplement shelves grow longer and longer. At Wagtail our priority is to grow nutrient-dense food and for this reason we make sure we feed our soil right.20151203_065205
  5. It stays fresh and crunchy for a long time: you can bring home a salad bag, forget it in the fridge and find it a week after just as fresh as the first day. How is it possible? First of all it has not been cold stored and in fact when you buy it is less than 4 hours old (we pick our veggies at the crack of dawn and sell them the same day at the market). But the real secret is, again, the care we have for the soil. By replenishing it with volcanic rock minerals and a complete organic fertiliser tailored to its needs we grow veggies with a solid structure that will stay crunchy and fresh for a long time.20151022_074756 copy
  6. It comes in biodegradable packaging: we really believe in the power of every one of us to reduce waste production and make a difference for the planet. For this reason we pack Wagtail salad mix in cellophane bags that can be put in the compost bin or worm farm.20151203_104339
  7. It’s sold at one of the best markets in town: if the first 6 reasons were not enough, hear this: this amazing salad mix is sold fortnightly at the Organic Cornerstore market at Glenelg North Community centre. This is really one of the best markets when it comes to the atmosphere and the wonderful community of stallholders and customers that make it possible. You can find organic products of all kinds, delicious food and coffee, vegan treats, natural cleaning products and much more. There are professional masseurs, a food and product swap, kids activities and a lovely outdoor area to relax and enjoy a good chat.

Glorious Garlic!



Japanese Red Garlic packs a tasty punch

The seasons roll on and each one brings its own moods. I personally love Autumn for its cooler evenings, epic sunsets, the promise of rain and the planting of Garlic! I can’t think of a more versatile vegetable and I can honestly say that I put Garlic in almost everything I cook. One of my favourite snacks is to toast some bread and then rub a whole clove into the piece of toast before drizzling over some Olive Oil. Instant Garlic Bread!


Silvia preparing last Summers harvest for this Autumns planting

I’m forever amazed at the huge amount of varieties available to gardeners. From the wild growing Three Cornered Garlic (Allium triquetrum) with its very mild flavour and tiny bulbs, to the hotter Asiatic varieties and the giant European ones. Sometimes I wish I could grow them all. This year we’re planting Japanese Red, Purple Monaro and the mystery variety I’ve been carrying around with me for the last  five years now which I’ve still yet to positively identify. This is the reason that its important to label everything! It’s a lovely and mild, nutty Garlic that thrives on neglect . (We have it planted around the perimeter of Wagtail and it grows without any soil amending or irrigation!)


Our mystery Garlic, lined up and ready for planting

Last year we experimented with the planting times at Wagtail, using two test cases side by side in the same bed. We planted one lot of the Garlic in April and harvested them as the leaves started to brown off in October and the other we planted using the old lore of “Plant on the Winter Solstice and harvest on the Summer Solstice.” We found the earlier plantings grew larger and had much better shape, kept better and there was no discernible taste difference. The solstice guide is easy to remember and probably works a treat elsewhere but it doesn’t ring true for our little urban farm. This year we’re planting earlier to see how our Garlic reacts. This is a key point in any gardening. Every Garden is different. Different soils, different micro-climate, differing amounts of Sunlight hours, the list goes on. Experimentation is key in growing your own veggies, everyone has their own experiences and are usually happy to give you some instruction but the most valuable advice you can garner is from your own Garden. Hopefully our latest experiment pays off!20150316_104206

Garlic’s medicinal qualities are well known, almost instinctual I think. As soon as I feel like I’m coming down with a cold or flu, the first thing I reach for is a clove of Garlic. Garlic is a natural antibiotic, it has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, it helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, it can help ease the pain of toothache and it makes food taste amazing! Well, not the imported Garlic that’s been irradiated and denatured that most people buy from the so-called “super” markets. That tasteless stuff’s the reason why there’s so many small scale organic Garlic growers popping up all over the place. Nothing like a poor product to make people proactive! Hmm, I might just plant out two beds this year…

Happy Plantings!!!


A 10 cent irrigation repair…


I had to add this! The batteries on the irrigation controller went flat (dry patches and struggling seedlings in the garden were a dead giveaway) and we didn’t have any spare double “A” batteries to replace them. Chuck in some triple “A’s” and use a couple of 5c coins to finish the circuit and voila! MacGyver eat your heart out!


The only thing constant, is change…

unnamed (7)

The Willie Wagtail. A stunningly agile bird with a fearless demeanor and an insatiable appetite for insects!

The farms namesake, the Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) is known in the local Kaurna tongue as ‘Tjin Tjin’, ‘the gossip’ or ‘the messenger’. I like to think that our little farm heralds a message to the people that pass it by on the sidewalk. Where did your food come from and how will it get there when we run out of fossil fuels?

unnamed (8)

Here’s some food!


Energy descent. Such a tricky subject to think about. On one hand, running out of ridiculously cheap and easy fuel would turn our current system on its head, throwing us into an unforeseeable and quite possibly very hungry future.  Alternatively, solar or some other green energy could take the place of fossil fuels and then we might keep tracking on a similar path as we are now. The future is a tricky thing to predict and so having safety nets in place is always a good idea. I bet the Easter Islanders wish they had a ‘plan B’!

This is why I have so much adoration for Nat Wiseman. Not only is he planning for the worst case scenario, he’s setting an example of how this local type of Agriculture in South Australia can help negate the pressures of energy descent and provide a livelihood for the environmentally aware and proactive amongst us. I’ve no doubt that The Village greens of Willunga Creek ( will be a motivator to many and an inspiration to future generations.


unnamed (3)

I could never get my salad mix to look as good as his, even when I took twice as long as he did to prepare it.

I just wish I’d payed more attention to all his hints and tricks while he was at Wagtail.

unnamed (5)

Endive, Tatsoi, Mizuna, baby Spinach, Lettuce, Rocket… What a mix!

Not only is he a whiz with salad, he has soil health, crop rotations, planting schedules,  crop care, harvesting practices and marketing skills all stored in his attic-like mind. Nat constantly surprises me with how generously he shares his knowledge and how rare it is that a gardening problem stumps him. Working with him at wagtail have been some of the most inspirational times I’ve had on my own local food journey.


Thanks Nat, you’re a gem!


unnamed (4)

Nat, Costa and Alistair from ‘Ripe Near Me”


From the intricacies of soil mineral deficiency’s to sharing a Q&A with Costa about the role of urban farming, he’s unflappable. I’m heartened to know we have the likes of him ‘talking the talk and walking the walk’ in sleepy ol’ Adelaide.



Wagtail wishes him all the best as he spreads his wings and takes on a much larger project at the Aldinga Eco village with Claudia, Lucy, Ellie and the rest of the Village Greens crew. Good luck! The road is going to be bumpy but the rewards are bountiful!

unnamed (6)

Nat is seen here as he realises how much more space there is now to lose hand tools.


unnamed (9)

Brindi always seems to have veggies on her mind!

Luckily, a new set of helping hands have arrived at the little urban farm, Just as Nat has left. Brindi Johnstone arrived in September full of new ideas, directions and an unquenchable eagerness to be involved. Emma Peters has been an eager volunteer as well and our very own Bee man, Rohan, has been helping out for some time now, but has become more involved with the market side of things lately. These guys keep ‘Waggie’ ticking over and the good food flowing into the homes of our satisfied customers. More on the new crew later…

We have a new direction since the departure of Nat. We’re not so focused on proving that urban farming can be a viable income as we all agree that Nat has made this apparent. The new crew all believe that the world needs more urban farms and we think we can help make this happen in our little city, but we’ll go more into that at a later date. For now, we plan on refining our farm, increasing the diversity of food coming from it, the amount of different products we can generate on site and getting more people talking about where their food comes from.

unnamed (10)

Damo, Rohan, Emma and Brindi planting lettuce seedlings after a lovely harvest of Heirloom Tomatoes

unnamed (2)

Myself and Xavier explore the advantages of arriving at the farm earlier than the rest of the crew…

Happy gardening!




Changes in the hood

Wagtail Urban Farm has been in a period of transition lately. I’ve decided to try and make a living growing vegetables next year, and Wagtail has played a big part in convincing me this is the right thing to do, both for myself and for the planet. But Wagtail was always an experiment in micro-scale urban farming, and what we’ve found after the first 18 months is that it is too small an area to fully support everyone who works there financially, let alone just one person!

While we kept meticulous records of our finances, the experiment was more than just about money – it was about proving such a venture could produce serious quantities of nutritious, organically grown food for our local community on an area the size of an average backyard. It has definitely achieved this goal, and I believe it has set a precedent for urban farming in Adelaide for its productivity. This kind of farming will increasingly be needed in an era of energy descent. But to provide a sustainable livelihood here and now, I needed to expand.

So for the last few months, I’ve been working on a new project.


Village Greens is going to be a half-acre of diversified organic vegetables (10 times the size of Wagtail!), set within the fertile farmland at the Aldinga Arts Eco-Village on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is a project developed by myself, Claud Peoples, Lucy Chan and Ellie Firns, who live at the eco-village, and who met with us at the last Permaculture Design Course tour of Wagtail. We’ve been busy setting up a business, drawing irrigation plans, and digging trenches ready to start growing early next year.


Today we launched our crowd-funding campaign, so please have a look and support us if you can! Our aim is to develop a viable model of human-scale farming, using the same techniques we’ve employed at Wagtail, but at a scale that provides us with a living wage. It follows in the tradition of Eliot Coleman, and more recently growers like Jean-Martin Fortier, who have pioneered techniques in profitable, intensive market gardening.

Wagtail will continue as Adelaide’s best-known urban farm, under the steady leadership of Steven Hoepfner. The Wagtail crew has big plans, and i’ll let Steven introduce them shortly.

Leaving Wagtail has not been an easy choice for me, given the knowledge, skills and friendships I’ve developed over the time I’ve been there, and the amazing support we’ve had from our local community and from the people who buy our vegetables.

But there will always be a strong connection between Wagtail and our new venture, and new small-scale farms can only be a good thing for Adelaide!





Wagtail @ Transition Film Festival

Growing Cities Web

Come along and hear me and Costa Georgiadis discuss urban agriculture at this year’s Transition Film Festival! We’ll be holding a Q & A session after the film “Growing Cities” which explores urban farming in America, on Sunday 9th Nov, from 4pm at the Mercury Cinema. For more details check it out here.

Hope to see you there…

TFF promo