TRULY SUBSISTENT: Michel and Jude Fanton with some of the range of edible crops they grow in their Byron garden.
TRULY SUBSISTENT: Michel and Jude Fanton with some of the range of edible crops they grow in their Byron garden. Digby Hildreth

Fantons open up garden of plenty

WALK into the garden of Michel and Jude Fanton in Old Bangalow Rd and you enter a foodie's paradise - a land of plenty, with herbs, roots, fruits and vegetables growing all around you.

The couple, who established the Seed Savers Network in Australia in 1986, pride themselves on having to buy their food only rarely, yet they eat like royalty, placing a premium on taste and nutrition.

Their garden contains 900 perennial plants - all of them useful, says Michel, if not for food or drink, then for medicinal purposes, or as fuel, fibre, dyes and fertiliser.

"We don't spend much at Woollies," Michel jokes.

They grow every spice needed to create a great curry and have just harvested a month's supply of yams and taro.

Seven types of clumping bamboo, some with delectable shoots, thrive in the garden.

It also contains a wide range of the "superfoods" that have become so trendy in recent years, including goji berries, acai and the vitamin C-rich South American acerola.

The lipstick plant, anneto, serves to colour rice and as a spice, or for a safe kids' face paint, while draceana, the pony tail plant, has a useful leaf for tying things up.

The garden is based on permaculture principles, to enhance ventilation, give shade in summer, light in winter, nutrient cycling and water harvesting, Michel says.

The Fantons are opening their garden to the public in 10 days - on Sunday, October 21, from 8am to 3pm, as a follow-up to the International Seed Freedom fortnight of action.

For a $5 entrance fee, visitors will be given tours of the garden, shown how to grow and make curry powder/paste ingredients, and the finer points of cultivating perennial vegetables, seed collecting, self-seeding plants and root crop staples.

Teas will be served made from plants such as lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemongrass, mint and lemon myrtle.

"We are a teabag free zone," says Jude.

Dogs are welcome, says Michel - "especially if they pee in the gardens to warn wallabies not to come and chew our food".

The couple will be part of the Seed Freedom fortnight in Sydney, including an "in conversation" with Costa Georgiadis in Redfern tomorrow night.

For more information, call 6685 7560 or 0411 296 422, or visit seedsavers.net


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