Create a Permaculture Plate

While permaculture may be a buzz word in sustainable-agriculture circles, most of the discussion focuses on garden planning and growing, not taking the concept all the way to the plate.

by John D. Ivanko
PHOTO: John D. Ivanko/

While permaculture may be a buzz word in sustainable-agriculture circles, most of the discussion focuses on garden planning and growing, not taking the concept all the way to the plate. What would the permaculture philosophy look like in recipe form? How would a “plate of permaculture” tickle your taste buds?

For advice, we went to Clare Hintz, a farmer friend in northern Wisconsin, who runs Elsewhere Farm, a diversified farm operation dedicated to permaculture principles.

“Permaculture is really ‘permanent agriculture,’” Hintz explains. “Permaculture uses principles of nature to design and grow just about anything, from communities to a vegetable harvest. The same principles can readily be used to design a dish.”

There are three elements essential to creating a permaculture plate:

1. Embrace Diversity

“The ultimate permaculture plate would use little bits of lots of different things from the farm and gardens, with definitely some fruit and nuts in the mix—dried fruit in the wintertime,” Hintz says. The permaculture plate recipe she shares below, Wilted Chard with Dried Currants and Nuts, uses dried currants, which are high in the vitamin C (especially needed in the wintertime), along with pine nuts or chopped walnuts. If you don’t have those ingredients on hand, feel free to experiment with what you do have.

2. Serve Multiple Functions

“In permaculture, every element is intentional and has more than one job to play,” Hintz says. “For example, a pond provides both water and heat for nearby gardens. ” Her recipe emulates that idea in multiple ways: the currants add both texture and tart flavor, and the greens, nuts and berries, provide a nutritionally balanced meal.

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3. Cluster Close

Permaculture farm design strategically places garden items you use often closer to your kitchen so you have easy access. “I use greens, like chard, in many of my dishes, so I like to keep a patch with the other quick-grab foods right near my house.”

The Wilted Chard with Dried Currants and Nuts recipe is from the cookbook Farm-Fresh and Fast: Easy Recipes and Tips to Make the Most of Fresh Seasonal Produce, produced by the FairShare CSA Coalition. This is the cookbook that sparked our love affair with kale last summer. (For more information or to purchase a cookbook, visit their website.)

Farm-Fresh and Fast offers this chard advice: “Although chard tends to be a lesser-known green, it’s easy to grow and great in many dishes. When shopping for chard, look for bunches that are still crisp.”

Take permaculture principles to the plate when designing your next recipe. Photo courtesy iStock/Thinkstock (

Recipe: Wilted Chard with Dried Currants and Nuts

Recipes provided courtesy of FairShare CSA Coalition; Recipe by Dani Lind, originally published in Edible Madison

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 large bunch chard, stems and leaves separated
  • 2 T. butter or oil
  • 1 T. minced garlic, green garlic or garlic scapes
  • 3 T. white wine
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 T. dried currants
  • 2 T. toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts


Slice chard stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Coarsely chop leaves (while still wet from rinsing) and set aside.

In  large skillet, heat  butter or oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add chard stems and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic, stir a few times. Then add wine, damp chard leaves, salt and pepper. Stir about 2 minutes, or until all  chard leaves are wilted.

Add currants and cook, stirring, for about 2 more minutes, until liquid is evaporated.

Top with nuts and serve immediately.

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