WAY back in 2021 you might remember this column dealt with how the astronauts were going to live on their way to distant galaxies in the future.
How food was one of the things that was being trialed on every space mission.
In the early days, frozen or dried packaged food was first used and then experiments with various types of foods, actually grown in the spacecraft itself, as it flew on different missions to outer space.
The reason being that to sustain those on the spacecraft for long periods at a time, a way would have to be found to feed those on board for the journey, both to and from their missions.
For a small country, Australia seems to be pulling above its weight in all endeavors of space exploration.
The Royal Botanical Gardens have enlisted two Melbourne schools, to identify, grow and test native bush foods as part of the international ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ program.
Working with NASA, the students will grow food in a specially designed chamber that replicates the system on the International Space Station. (ISS) Native foods by reputation grow in impoverished soils with little water, the hope is that they would grow in these special chambers to help feed those on board.
In the United States, students under the program have already identified such food as dragon lettuce and extra dwarf pak choi which are now part of the astronaut’s diet at the Kennedy Space Centre and ISS.
The Victorian students will look at bush foods such as microseris walteri or murnong (pictured), an indigenous staple food that is eight times more nutritious than a potato.
Google explains that the microseris walteri is a perennial herb with yellow flowers and an edible tuberous root, also known as a yam daisy.
It inhabits dry open forests and is found in most states in Australia except Queensland.
The yellow flower can be prepared with warm butter, included in salads, mixed with other vegetables or turned into a paste for desserts.
The tubers can be eaten both raw and cooked, are crisp and flavourful and easy to digest. It was an important staple food for the indigenous people of Southeastern Australia.
This yam was cultivated by the Wurundjeri Aboriginal people and was the main staple food till about the mid-1840’s, when the introduction of sheep rendered the hillside yam virtually extinct.
Faced with starvation the Aboriginal people of the area were forced to kill the sheep to survive, increasing the conflict with European colonists.
Should you wish to grow this yam and for best results in the home garden, use a rich loamy soil and water well during Summer.
The tubers start forming in mid-summer and when the flowers blossom in autumn, the tuber roots are ready for harvest.
We often don’t go beyond planting what we are familiar with, Yam fries might be an interesting taste to try.