About Bellingen Seedsavers

We are a group of like-minded growers of edible and useful heritage plant varieties in the Bellingen area of northeast New South Wales, Australia.

Our climate varies from frost-free coastal areas to inland river valleys and highlands with frosts. Bellingen has an average annual rainfall of 1507ml.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Food Shortages? Try Chaya Tree Spinach

With projected food shortages now is the time to plant Chaya Tree Spinach and other edible perennials.

Chaya Spinach Tree
3m high Chaya Spinach Tree

Chaya Tree Spinach (Cnidiscolus chayamansa) is a fantastic and abundant food. Chaya leaves do need some cooking preparation as do Cassava leaves and Warrigal Greens. Wikipedia states up to 5 raw leaves a day can be eaten but other sources are more cautious. Although blending and drying also seems to remove the toxic hydrocyanic acid substances, boiling for 20 minutes is recommended. The leaves survive the boiling still looking green and attractive. The broth that is left can also be consumed as the toxic substances have been destroyed by the heat.

Cooking in aluminum cookware can result in a toxic broth, causing diarrhea.[13]

You are left with tasty green leaves to use as a spinach or chard substitute or to be used in a salad and smoothies.

"Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron; and is also a rich source of antioxidants.[10]" Wikipedia

The plant does burn off a little from cold but seems to survive well in a microclimate in our warm temperate-subtropical climate. There are reports that Chaya will regrow from the root after Florida's frosts. In colder climates try growing in a greenhouse.

Leafless stem cuttings are best left to dry and callus before potting up. Keep the cutting reasonably dry to avoid rotting. 

Chaya Spinach Tree leaves for cooking
Chaya Spinach Tree Leaves

The Chaya Spinach Tree (a large bush) fits well into a vegetable patch. It takes up a small ground footprint and provides some shade to other vegetables). We can reach the leaves from our deck or cut a branch that will later become a cutting.

A useful green vegetable for the subtropics
Cooked Chaya leaves,along with Carrot and Starfruit in a quick pickle before refridgeration

Credit: https://www.bioversityinternational.org

Chaya can be used as a chard substitute in many recipes but here is a link to some Chaya recipes: Cooking subtropical vegetables 

Related: Other Food Forest recipes

Friday 3 April 2020

What to do during self isolation

Some people are looking for ideas for things that they and their families, housemates etc can do during the current self isolation period. We are only to leave the house for necessities, which leaves some people spending a lot more time at home than they normally would. Here is a list of ideas that may give you or someone you live with something to think about:
  1. Get into your garden, that is the obvious place to start.
  2. Go to our blog and browse through the mountain of compiled material  
  3. Submit material for us to include on our blog to news@bellingenseedsavers.com
  4. Ask or answer some questions, or just read what others are saying on the Bellingen Seed Saver Chatter Facebook page (you'll need a Facebook login).
  5. Visit a museum online, for example do a virtual tour of the Australian Museum.
  6. Start some online study. See for example the good universities guide or open learning universities.
  7. Listen to some podcasts.
  8. Do something crafty - knitting, pottery, sewing, build a trellis, build a greenhouse.
  9. Keep fit - do some stretching, stay mobile.
  10. Cook something that you haven't made for ages or something from our blog.
  11. Phone a friend or relative. Some people are really lonely.
  12. Write a letter.
  13. Do some jigsaws.
  14. Start writing that book you have had stuck inside you for years.
  15. Camp out in your backyard.
  16. Unleash your inner artist. Draw, paint or do some colouring.
  17. Learn some music. If you don't have an instrument at home, you can always learn to play the spoons. You don't even need a tuning fork for them.
  18. Start a nature journal.
  19. Document your gardening.
  20. Do some star gazing.
  21. Do some cloud watching.
  22. When the next storm comes, watch it roll in!
  23. Get on with your todo list.
  24. Practise mindfulness and meditation.
  25. Learn to juggle.
  26. Practise some origami.
  27. Do some puzzles - Sudoku, crosswords etc.
  28. Organise your photo collection
  29. Clean out your email inbox.
  30. Go through your list of things that you have put in the too hard basket until you have more time.
  31. Go through your belongings and see if you can make a box of things you no longer need to give to a charity (when they reopen).
  32. Play some board or card games. If you are alone, you can play for free online here or here.
  33. Start tracing your family tree.
  34. Do some photography in your home and garden.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are heaps of things we can do at home. You don't need hectares of space. One man has spent hours of his life studying one square meter.

Autumn plant fair 2020


We had had nine days with rain leading up to the plant fair and the day before the plant fair things fined up. We were lucky that the weather was very kind to us on the day of the fair. The clouds gathering on the horizon held off until Sunday and Monday when we again received a good drop off rain. Darker clouds were also brewing, with the Covid 19 virus threatening to shutdown ... Well just about everything.
Leela's report:

The autumn Plant Fair was a bit blur for me - a joyful, busy one. Familiar faces and new enthusiastic ones, this is such a positive community to be a part of. People are really valuing the importance of connecting with the earth and being a little more sharing & self reliant. We got super lucky with both the timing & the weather - I'm already looking forward to the next one!
Jeff's report:

This was our busiest Plant Fair in 11 years. Good weather and crowds of keen gardeners made the day a success. 

Almost our entire stock of Autumn – Winter seeds were sold-out. The most popular seeds were: lettuces, snow peas, pak choi, chillies, carrots, rocket, coriander, spinach & chards, bok choi, tomatoes, marigolds, basils, spring onions, nasturtiums, broccoli, wasabi lettuce, fennel, mizuna, radish and all types of beans. We distributed our entire range of plant material, nearly 70% of our stock of seed packets and a bundle of Seed Savers Handbooks.
Our range of herbs, fruits and perennial vegetables were very popular, including: Okinawa & Longevity spinach, Hawaiian sweet potato, cassava, turmeric, sweet pineapple, aloe vera, strawberries, mint, lemon grass and curry leaf.

Special thanks to all the seed and plant material suppliers, seed cleaners, seed packers and the plant fair volunteers: Tara, Jeff H, Jeff A, Gillian, Leela, Tim, Don, Phillipa, Nick, Merren, Chris, Rosemary and David.
As always, an event such as this can-not go ahead without a huge amount of work by volunteers. I'm sure I'll miss some people, but Jeff has done a good job of listing everyone except two of the most important people.

On behalf of the BSS I would like to thank Jeff for all the work he put in behind the scenes managing our seed collection, printing labels and just keeping stuff organised. Second I would like to extend our thanks to Gillian as our plant fair coordinator and generous host for our seed packing day.

If anyone is interested in taking the role of plant fair coordinator for the next plant fair, please send Gillian an email using the address plantfair@bellingenseedsavers.com

piece of history

Evelyn & Marc, the new owners/custodians of David & Irene’s property at Spicketts Creek, presented this gift of colourful zinnias. The zinnia’s, self-sown around the garden, are a lovely memory of the founders of Bellingen Seed Savers.


The future is a little less clear amid the current pandemic, but here are a couple of quotes that I think are pertinent to current times:

“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi 

"With our long TODO lists around the home, we should see this as an opportunity!"


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