I. HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES

The Vegetables are arranged in Groups According to their Characteristics

a)   Salads Arugula, Chicory, Corn Salad, Dandelion, Endive, Land Cress, Lettuce, Mesclun Mix, Miners Lettuce, Mizuna, Mustard, Plantago, Purslane, Radish, Rocket, Shungiku.
b)   Tubers – Kumara (sweet potato), Oca, Potatoes, Ulluco
c)    Seeds & Pods – Beans (Broad, Climbing French, Dwarf, Runner), Okra, Peas, Peanuts, Sweet Corn (Maize).
d)   Greens – Amaranth, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Komatsuna, Leaf Beet, Mibuna, Pak Choi, Silver Beet, Spinach, Tatsoi.
e)   Roots – Beetroot, Carrots, Celeriac, Daikon, Jicama, Kohlrabi, Parsnips, Root Parsley, Salsify, Scorzonera, Swedes (Rutabaga), Turnips.
f)    Bulbs – Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Shallots.
g)   Shoots – Celery, Florence Fennel.
h)  Fruits – Cucumber, Eggplant, Kiwano, Melon, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomatoes, Zucchini.
i)    Perennial Vegetables – Artichokes (Chinese, Globe, Jerusalem), Asparagus, Rhubarb, Sea Kale, Yacon.

It has to be remembered that when following sowing times and other cultivation suggestions, these will vary around the world, so I have given simplified instructions, like “sow in early spring, or plant out in early summer and occasionally give the best months for both northern and southern hemispheres. If you are in doubt there is no substitute for asking and observing the locals when they sow and plant their crops, etc. Older men and women are a fund of knowledge; they are a valuable resource, so use them.

Eco & Organic Fertilisers:

When referring to ‘Eco’ or ‘Organic Fertilisers’ in this chapter, other than garden compost, I recommend you use what is available in your country.

Here in New Zealand I use an eco fertiliser – EF Natures Organic Fertiliser from ‘Environmental Fertilisers’ – http://environmentalfertilisers.co.nz/. I personally prefer EF products, because they are minerally balanced according to Biological (Eco) farming and gardening principles and are often full of beneficial soil micro-organisms, which most other organic fertilisers do not contain. If you can find similar products in your part of the world I highly recommend them.

In the UK there are the companies like ‘Eco Worm’ http://ecoworm.co.uk/ and ‘Symbio’ http://www.bioorganicgarden.co.uk/

In Australia there are companies like Eco Growth http://www.ecogrowth.com.au/ and Batphone http://www.batphone.com.au/

In the United States there are companies like ‘AEA – Advancing Eco Agriculture’ https://www.advancingecoag.com/ and ‘ILA – International Ag Labs http://aglabs.com/ and there are probably a lot more as well as similar companies in many different countries.

Google eco fertilisers and you should find such companies in your country. These fertilisers are referred to in the text as ‘Eco Fertiliser

There are also more traditional organic fertilisers such as Blood & Bone, as well as Blood, Fish & Bone, which can be found in many countries. Other general organic fertilisers are Fish Meal, Sheep Pellets, Dried Chicken Manure, Alfalfa meal etc. These are what is referred to in the text when using the term ‘Organic Fertiliser’, which doesn’t include those specialised organic fertilisers, such as rock phosphate, rock potash, bone meal, dried blood, hoof and horn, seaweed meal etc., which are referred to where necessary. ‘Organic Fertiliser’ means in this work a general fertiliser with a range of nutrients. Most Eco and Organic fertilisers are used at 1 to 2 handfuls per square metre (square yard), but this may vary with different makes, so read the instructions on the packet.

Recipes:

I have also included yummy recipes for most of the vegetables to inspire you, not only to regenerate your soil and produce nutrient dense food, but also to use attractive recipes to make the best of the healthy vegetables you have grown.

a) SALADS

ARUGULA (Diplotaxis tenuifolia)

ARUGULAArugula (Wall Rocket) is a wild salad plant, a perennial form of Rocket native to Europe and Western Asia with the same taste as Rocket – peppery with a hint of mild garlic. It is smaller than Rocket with smaller leaves. In warmer areas, with mild winters, it can be grown as a perennial, but in colder areas it will probably die off in the winter unless it is in a protected corner of the garden. This is a good plant for growing in a forest garden, or a herb garden.

Soil & Feeding:

Arugula is not too fussy, but if you want you can lightly fork in 1 handful of one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

In catalogues it is usually just called Arugula, or fancy names like ‘Wild Italian Rustic’.

Sowing:

Arugula seed lasts 3 years.

For early sowings, sow in boxes and plant out when the seedlings are 4-5cm (1½-2in)  high at 10cm (4in) between the plants and 20cm (8in) between the rows. Successive sowings can be outside where they are to grow in drills 1½cm (½in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart, thinning to 10cm (4in) apart.

Growing:

Keep weeded, regularly watered and mulched down with 2cm (¾in) of grass clippings to conserve moisture and deter annual weeds.

Harvesting:

These are ‘cut and come again’ plants, picking leaves on a regular basis.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

As Arugula is a brassica, cabbage white butterfly caterpillars can attack it, but it is less likely if there are other bigger more tasty cousins around.

 

CHICORY (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory is like a slightly bitter crisp lettuce, to which it is closely related. It can be used on its own or in a mixed salad.

Soil & Feeding:

Chicory needs a rich, water retentive soil, so add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

We grow two types of Chicory – the Radicchio type and forced Witloof for winter use.

Palla Rossa Early:

Chicory_1

This is a Radicchio type, well rapped with crisp ribs, especially for summer. Can be eaten as salad or cooked.

Witloof:

Chicory_2

This is grown for forcing the blanched white firm heads during winter.

 

 

Sowing:

Chicory seed lasts 4 years.

For early sowings sow in boxes – especially for Witloof – so as to give it a long seasons growth. For Radicchio types sow outside anytime from late spring with successive sowing throughout summer into early autumn.

Growing:

Keep weeded and regularly watered.

Harvesting:

Pick Radicchio as and when needed. Leave Witloof until autumn, then cut the tops off and dig up the roots and push them into 25cm (10in) peat or leaf mould in a box and then cover the tops with another 25cm (10in) peat or leaf mould. Make sure the peat is packed down. Put the box in a warm place. Cover, or put in a dark cupboard. After 4-5 weeks the chicons will have grown to 15-20cm (6-8in) long. Remove them one at a time over several weeks, cutting them off from the roots as and when needed. The blanched leaves can be pulled off the head to be used in salad or dipped in salt and eaten with bread and butter as my father used to.

By using both Radicchio and Witloof, you can have chicory most of the year.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Chicory is usually trouble free, although they may occasionally have aphids.

Recipes:

As I said I like my chicory raw, but here is a yummy cooked version of Witloof.

Caramelised Chicory

Ingredients:

  • 2 Witloof chicory
  • 100ml (3.5floz) of organic tamari sauce
  • 400ml (13.5floz) of orange juice
  • 50g (1¾oz) of butter
  • Caster sugar
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation:

  1. Remove any damaged outer leaves of the Witloof chicory and cut in half lengthways
  2. Heat a small amount of butter in a hot frying pan. Sprinkle the chicory with a little caster sugar over the cut surface and caramelise in the hot frying pan, cut-side down, until golden brown
  3. Add the soy sauce, orange juice and butter. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5-6 minutes until tender and evenly coated – using a tablespoon, coat the chicory with the cooking liquid regularly during cooking.
  4. Remove the chicory from the pan and serve immediately.

 

CORN SALAD (Valerianella locusta)

Corn Salad

Corn Salad (Lambs Lettuce) has a characteristic nutty flavour, dark green colour, and soft texture. You can grow Corn Salad all the year round, but it is particularly useful as a winter salad crop, because it’s hardy and will stay fresh until spring in all but the hardest of winters. It’s fast growing and ready to eat in a few weeks.

Soil & Feeding:

One bucket of garden compost per square metre (square yard), lightly dug in will be enough for a good crop.

Varieties:

Verte de Cambrai: Fast growing, good taste.

Dutch Large Seeded: This variety has a slightly larger leaf than Verte de Cambrai and has a more upright habit, which makes it easier to harvest.

Sowing:

Corn Salad seed lasts 5 years.

The seeds are 2-3mm (3/32-1/8in) in size, but believe it or not they must be sprinkled onto the surface of the soil or seed compost and lightly pressed in, because they need light to germinate – so do not cover with compost! You can cover with clear plastic, polythene, or glass to keep the moisture in and let in the light.

Growing:

Thin to 15cm apart and keep weeded.

Harvesting:

Harvest when plants have produced at least four pairs of leaves. If you pick the leaves carefully, or cut the leaves off just above the crown it will re-grow and give you another crop.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

None that we have encountered over the years.

Recipes:

Corn salad with apple and walnuts

Ingredients:

Serves: 2

  • 100g (3½oz) corn salad leaves
  • 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • ½ Tart apple, washed, cored and thinly sliced (don’t peel)

For the dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 heaped teaspoon honey (or less to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry the leaves.
  2. Mix lemon juice with the sugar until the sugar has all dissolved. Stir in walnut oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Put corn salad, apples and walnuts into a bowl, add the dressing and mix well.

Corn salad with honey dressing

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g (7 ounces) lambs lettuce
  • 1 large (or 2 small) ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup of toasted slivered almonds

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
  • 2 tsp. good quality honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

For the dressing:

  1. Mix all ingredients and stir or shake well

For the salad:

  1. Lightly toast the slivered almonds in a dry frying pan
  2. Wash and dry the corn salad before putting it in a bowl.
  3. Top with slivered almonds and scatter on the pear slices
  4. Add the dressing and toss to coat
  5. Serve immediately

 

CRESS BROAD LEAF (Lepidium sativum)

Cress

Cress is quick growing and has a peppery taste. It is usually grown as baby leaf in boxes to cut for salads or chopped as a garnish onto soup.

Soil & Feeding:

I would grow them in trays filled with good seed compost – see: section – ‘Propagation Techniques Seed Compost

Sowing:

Cress seed lasts 5 years.

Sprinkle the seed onto the compost and then shake enough compost through an old kitchen sieve (the one used exclusively for gardening!) to just cover the seeds and water the tray from the bottom by placing in a sink or bigger container with a little water in until the surface of the compost is damp. Each day use a small mist spray to keep the compost moist until the cress has grown.

Harvesting:

Just cut what you need when 3-4cm (1-1½in) high.       

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They grow too fast to get any diseases, except possible damping off, but if you have added Trichoderma granules to your seed mix and have not overwatered the seedlings, there should be no problem.

CRESS see: LAND CRESS

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion

For many this is just a weed, but the mild bitter leaves are a great addition to a mixed salad. Dandelion leaves contain Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese. The French have cultivated varieties of dandelion, which they blanch, like chicory, by keeping the tops in the dark under a pot to produce pale more succulent and less bitter leaves. Personally I pick the ordinary green leaves from a cultivated patch in my herb garden to add to the salad bowl.

Soil & Feeding:

You can feed the soil as for growing chicory and plant some dandelion roots, but you may also have plenty of dandelions growing in and around your garden, or in the neighbourhood, which you can harvest on a regular basis. Dandelions are or course obvious contenders for forest garden planting.

Sowing:

To create a cultivated patch, the best way is to dig up some dandelion roots and plant them in prepared soil, rather than grow from seed, just because it’s quicker.

Harvesting:                                     

Do not over pick the leaves as this will exhaust the plant; better to have several plants and pick leaves from different plants in succession, allowing the plants to recover.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

None that I know of.

Recipes:

The leaves, the flowers and the roots can be used in this little versatile plant.

Dandelion Leaf Salad

I often use dandelion leaves in my salad mixes with lettuce, rocket, Mizuna, mustard greens, chicory etc., but here are some more inventive ways to make your salad. Dandelion greens are best eaten raw before they produce a yellow flower. Try these ingredients in any combination with dandelion leaves:

Ingredients:

  • Finely chopped red onion
  • Fresh basil
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Goat cheese
  • Pears
  • Lightly roasted walnuts
  • Chopped apples
  • Hardboiled eggs

I always dress my salads with this salad dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 heaped teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Thoroughly mix the lemon juice, honey, mustard and salt together until honey and salt are dissolved
  2. Add oil and briskly whisk

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Ingredients:

  • Washed dandelion greens (as many as you want to eat)
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh lemon

Preparation:

  1. Heat a good glug of olive oil, and a bit of the minced garlic, in a frying pan.
  2. Once the garlic has become flavourful, add your dandelion greens. Cook them on medium-high until they’re nicely wilted, just like you’d cook spinach. This will take 3-5 minutes. It’s important not to overcook the greens because you’ll lose nutrients the longer they stay on the stove.
  3. Once they’re done, sprinkle just a bit of sea salt on the greens, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, and you’re good to go! They’re wonderful to eat plain like this, and they’re also delicious on pasta.
  4. You can also add Parmesan cheese, red pepper, capers, chopped onion, or any other ingredients that you fancy.

Battered Dandelion Flowers

Fried dandelion flowers taste similar to morel mushrooms, so they say. They’re very tasty!

Ingredients:

  • Dandelion blossoms with green base and stems removed (leave enough of the base on to hold the flower together)
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation:

  1. Soak the dandelion flowers in a bowl of cool salt water to remove any bugs or debris. After they’ve soaked for around ½ hour, take them out of the water and gently blot the excess moisture away.
  2. Heat enough oil to fry the dandelions you have.
  3. While the oil is heating, make a batter using the milk, salt, egg and flour:

a)   125g (4½oz) flour
b)   1 egg
c)    250ml (8½floz) milk
d)   A pinch of salt

  1. Dip each flower into the batter, and toss it into the oil once it’s popping hot. Fry until they’re lightly browned.
  2. Use a paper towel to gently blot away excess oil, and serve immediately.

Dandelion Root Coffee

If have a large patch of dandelions, or know where there are a lot to dig up, then making dandelion, caffeine free, coffee is well worth it. I have it every morning with my breakfast. Roasting dandelion root is really easy. It’s best to dig up the root in the spring, which is when the roots have the most nutrients.

1. Once you’ve dug up a fair-sized pile of dandelion roots, wash them in the sink or in a bucket of water. They’ll be full of dirt, so you’ll likely have to scrub them a few times to get all the dirt off.

Dandelion_2While you’re washing, preheat your oven to 1200C (2480F).
Once the roots are clean, chop them into small chunks, the size of coffee beans. Then put them in a bowl of water and scrub them one more time.
Place the roots on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to dry. Leave the oven door open slightly to let moisture escape. You’ll want to stir them frequently to make sure they’re drying evenly and they don’t burn. The drying process will take at least two hours. As the roots dry they’ll shrink and turn to a pretty brown colour. Make sure they don’t burn!
Once the roots are roasted, let them cool completely. Then store them in a sealed glass mason jar.

Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion Coffee

To make the coffee, grind the root pieces in a coffee grinder, then use 1 teaspoon of coffee for every cup of water. You can infuse them in your coffee plunger pot, or put them in a tea infuser and add boiling water. In my opinion, adding hot milk takes away the slight bitterness and makes for a truly wonderful cup of dandelion coffee! 

 

ENDIVE (Cichorium endivia)

Endive

I have to confess I have only grown Endive a few times in my gardening career, but as I like a varied salad mix I will grow it more regularly, particularly for winter salads as it is hardier than lettuce and should grow through mild winters and frosts. Like Chicory it has a mild bitter taste, which is common for this family, which includes lettuce, dandelion, chicory etc.

Soil & Feeding:

Endive needs a rich, water retentive soil, so add one bucket of compost and two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Pancalieri Fine Cut: Finely cut lacy crisp leaves, with a mild nutty flavour

Tres Fine: Finely cut lacy crisp leaves with a creamy heart. Slow to bolt. Easy to grow

White Curled: Upright growth. Tolerant of both hot and cold conditions

For winter cropping – Batavian Broad Leaved and Escarole are best

Sowing:

Endive seed lasts 5 years.

Endive generally prefers cool or cold weather, so is an ideal salad for spring and late autumn. Endive doesn’t like transplanting, so wait till middle of spring to sow outside in rows 30cm (1ft) apart if you are going to cover with cloches, or 23cm (9in) apart, thinning to 23cm (9in) each way for deep-beds.

For winter types, sow as above in late summer.

Growing:

Keep weeded and watered. For winter varieties in colder areas, cover with cloches in late autumn. You can also blanch them by covering with large flowerpots (as long as the plants are dry) plugging the hole in the flowerpot, with clay or a small stone.

Harvesting:

You can pick the whole plant, or pick-and-come again.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Endive is generally trouble free.

Recipes:

Obviously endive is a great addition to a mixed salad, adding a bitter note, but it can also be braised:

Braised Endive

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup ghee or butter
  • 12 endive leaves
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons rapadura (or brown sugar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat ghee or butter in a wide lidded pan. Add endive leaves and turn to coat on all sides
  2. Add stock, lemon juice, and rapadura (or brown sugar) and season with salt and pepper
  3. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until endive leaves are tender – about 5-10 minutes
  4. Transfer the endive with a slotted spoon to plate
  5. Turn the heat up to high and boil down sauce, stirring frequently until reduced to about ¼ of a cup, then pour over endive leaves

LAMBS LETTUCE see: CORN SALAD

LAND CRESS (Barbarea verna)

Land Cress

This is native of southwest Europe. The advantage of land cress is that it tastes almost as good as watercress, but is much easier to grow, and it does not need lots of water, but it does like watering frequently. It is very slow to bolt. It is also hardy enough to grow through our winters here in Nelson, NZ, so unless you have very hard winters, you can try growing it. Otherwise grow it during spring, summer and autumn.

Soil & Feeding:

Although land cress is not water cress it still likes a good moisture holding soil, so mix in 1 bucket of compost + one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

As far as I know land cress is land cress, but also with names like Upland Cress and American Land Cress (because it is grown in Florida)

Sowing:

Land Cress seed lasts 5 years.

You can sow seeds in boxes for the first sowings of the year in late winter, early spring. Then I like to sow in an outside seed bed, in late spring, at the end of a vegetable bed, sown thinly in rows 4cm (1½in) apart, then transplant to their final location 10-15cm (4-6in) apart each way so they fill the bed. Don’t forget to sow in late summer to grow through the winter for winter salads in warmer areas.

Growing:

Keep weed free and water often.

Harvesting:

Pick the leaves regularly in succession and they will grow again. In the summer they will eventually go to seed, so re-seed with fresh ones.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

I have never had any problems, probably because land cress is closer to their wilder cousins than a lot of over bred vegetables.

Recipes:

Any recipe that uses watercress can use Land Cress instead.

 

LETTUCE (Lactuca sativa)

Lettuce_1

There are so many varieties of lettuce that you will find some you are bound to like. Some prefer the soft ‘butter head’ types that form a soft head. Some people prefer the crisp headed ‘Iceberg’ types. Then there are the pointed crisp ‘Cos’ types. And finally a whole range of frilly red and green lettuces that you can pick several times, including the ‘Oak leaf’ types. We like to grow a range, just for the variety                                                                                      and hell of it!

Soil & Feeding:

Lettuces are not heavy feeders, so as long as the soil is rich in organic matter that is water retentive but well drained, that will satisfy them. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, or just short of organic matter, then add one bucket of garden compost per square metre (square yard) mixed into the top 5-6 cm (2-2½in).

Varieties:

Butter Head Types:

Lettuce_2

Mrs Simpson: A soft winter lettuce, with light green frilly leaves.

Summer Queen: A good bolt-resistant lettuce with soft round hearts.

Buttercrunch: A crisper, slow to bolt, version of a ‘butterhead’ with a crunchy texture that is not bitter.

Cos Types:

Lettuce_3

Paris White: This is the one to grow if you like large crisp Cos types.

Tin Tin: This splendid ‘little gem’ type lettuce is high yielding with sweet tasting, crunchy leaves. Fast maturing from spring through to autumn, with good disease resistance. Slow to bolt.

Little Gem: My father’s favourite and ours. A small soft crisp hearting Cos type, ideal for two people. You can pack these in 15cm (6in) apart each way.

Iceberg Types:

Lettuce_4

Great Lakes: Another one we grow. It has large hearted, compact, crisp, frilly leaves. A slow to bolt summer variety.

Vivian: Has crisp, tightly bunched upright hearts, with good bolt resistance; good for summer growing.

 

Frilly Cut-&-Come-Again Types

Lettuce_5

Lollo Bionda: A bright yellow green frilly lettuce, slow to bolt and ideal to pick and come again.

Lolita: An intense burgundy-red frilly lettuce, slow to bolt and ideal to pick and come again.

 

Oak Leaf Types:

Lettuce_6

Royal Oak Leaf: A green oak leaf with good heat tolerance, slow to bolt, ‘pick and come again’ type for summer growing.

Danyelle: A deep wine-red oakleaf lettuce – also great for baby leaves.

Biscia Rosa: An Italian bronze-red oak leaf.

 

Sowing:

Lettuce seed lasts 4 years.

For early sowings, sow in seed compost in seed boxes, from late winter to early spring and then plant out at 20cm (8in) each way when the seedlings are 5cm (2in) high, or in rows 30cm apart and 20cm (8in) between plants. Mid spring to late summer sow in an outside seed bed in rows 5cm (2in) apart and transplant when 5cm (2in) high. For winter crops in warmer areas, sow in late summer. If you have cold winters, sow in a glasshouse, or Polytunnel in late autumn for a winter crop.

Growing:

For softer lettuces, water regularly but best watered around the roots, not on top, to stop rotting. For ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Cos’ types you can water into the heart.

Harvesting:

Pick some leaves off the ‘pick-&-come-again’ frilly and oak leaf types. With the rest cut the whole plant.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Sparrows: Young seedlings can be eaten by sparrows, especially in the spring, they certainly do here, so you might have to cover with metal or plastic mesh until they are larger.

Slugs: can be a problem, especially when the plants are small. Use small saucers or other shallow containers with a 50/50 mix of beer and water, placed every 60cm (2ft) apart buried up to the rim. The slugs love beer and will crawl in and die happily at night. If it is wet weather you will need to prop a plate up over the saucer. Change the contents regularly.

Stem Rot: Some types of lettuce can get fungus and rot off. This can be largely avoided by careful watering around the plants, not on top of them. If you have continuing problems with this, then water the soil, before planting out seedlings with Trichoderma viride predatory fungi that likes eating nasty fungi, see Chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’ – The New Generation of Biological Products.

Recipes:

Of course I don’t need to say that lettuce is great mixed with other salad ingredients, but here is a way of using the leaves to rap up food in:

Lettuce Raps

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce:

  • ¼ cup organic tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free white miso
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 large portabella mushroom cap, stem and gills removed, diced small
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 1x 200g (7oz) can of water chestnuts, drained and diced small
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts

Wraps + Garnish

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce, leaves removed, washed, and thoroughly dried
  • Cooked sushi rice (optional)
  • 3 large carrots cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves or cilantro sprouts
  • 2-3 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Preparation:

Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce

  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S-blade or a high-powered blender.
  2. Process until all of the ingredients are combined, but the sauce still has visible chunks of peanut in it.
  3. Set aside.

Filling

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushroom to the pan; stir to combine and spread the filling out in an even layer so the veggies sauté instead of steam.
  3. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring once or twice and spreading the filling back out evenly each time.
  4. Add the minced ginger and hoisin sauce; stir to combine and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the water chestnuts, green onions, and raw walnuts to the pan and cook until the green onions begin to wilt, about 1 minute.
  5. Remove from the heat.
  6. Layer lettuce leaves with sushi rice (if using), a heaped spoon full of filling, topped with carrot ribbons, coriander leaves, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

 

MESCLUN MIX

Mesclun

Mesclun Mix is a mixture of salad greens sown together. There are many varieties and mixtures. They are cut regularly with scissors for a great mixed salad. You can make your own mixes up, or buy a ready-made mixture.

 

Soil & Feeding:

I like to feed the soil with one or two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, but only if the soil has had a heavy feeding crop previously.

Varieties:

Here are some standard type mixes you can buy already made up, or you can use them to adapted or make up your own mixes:

Standard Mix: Corn Salad, Cress, Red Beet, Red Cabbage, Broccoli, 3 different Lettuces, Rocket and Spinach.

Mild Mix: Mizuna, Tatsoi, Corn Salad, Chard, Red Orach, Kale Squire, Cress, Lettuce, Spinach, Red Kale and Chervil.

Mesclun Oriental: Komatsuna, Mustard, Kale, Mizuna, Mibuna, Tatsoi, Pak choi, Red Cabbage and Green Broccoli.

Kale Mix: Pink Stem, Cavolo Nero, Squire, Red Monarch and Red Russian.

Lettuce Mix: 12 varieties of red and green Lettuces.

Sowing:

Prepare a plot that is reasonably weed free and lightly sprinkle the seed mix onto the surface then using your fingers mix the seed into the top 1cm (⅜in), pat down and gently water with the rose on your watering can. In warmer areas sow it in late summer for a winter crop. For cold winters sow in late summer in a glasshouse or Polytunnel.

Harvesting:

Just cut the amount of leaves you need when they are about 8-10cm (3-4in) high and allow them to grow again for a second or third crop.

Recipes:

Mesclun Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

  • 2 heaped cups of 2½cm (1in) cubes sourdough bread
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 12 lightly packed cups mesclun greens
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 115g goat cheese, chilled

Preparation:

  1. Heat oven to 180°C (3560F).
  2. Toss bread cubes with 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Let cool.
  4. Roughly chop garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Using the side of a knife, scrape garlic into a paste; transfer to a bowl. Add vinegar and mustard and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in remaining oil while whisking constantly to form a smooth vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Combine croutons, mesclun, cranberries, pecans, and thyme in a bowl. Add some of the dressing; toss well to combine. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)
  6. Crumble goat cheese over salad and divide between plates.

 

MINER’S LETTUCE (Claytonia perfoliata)

Miners Lettuce

This is a dainty looking hardy annual, with succulent heart shaped leaves wrapped around white flower stems. There is not much flavour to it, except its fresh taste, but it is very easy to grow for an addition to a salad mix, or cooked like spinach.

Soil & Feeding:

Unnecessary, as it is a good strong grower.

 

 

Sowing:

Miner’s Lettuce seed lasts 4-5 years.

Because Miners Lettuce sets seed prolifically and can easily become a weed in your garden I suggest you grow it in a spare corner away from your main vegetables. This is a great crop to grow in a forest or wild garden.

Prepare a plot that is reasonably weed free and lightly sprinkle the seed onto the surface then using your fingers mix the seed into the top 1 cm, pat down and gently water with the rose on your watering can.

Growing:

If you don’t want it to set seed then you will need to cut the leaves and flowers regularly for your salads.

Harvesting:

Cut and come again regularly and keep cutting the flower heads off, otherwise you will have seedlings everywhere you don’t want them.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Never seen any, they tend to be horribly prolific.

 

MIZUNA (Brassica japonica)

Mizuna

Mizuna is a Japanese green with a cabbage/mustard taste with a mild hot kick aftertaste. We grow this every year as part of our salad mix. It is certainly hardy enough to grow through the winter in most places.

Soil & Feeding:

If your soil is rich there is no need to feed this crop, otherwise mix in one bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) into the top 4cm (1½in).

Varieties:

Green: This is the usual variety, which produces numerous stalks of dark green deeply indented feathery leaves.

Red Coral: A favourite with us. The purple leaves are more finely serrated than the green variety.

Sowing:

Mizuna seed lasts 3-4 years.

You can sprinkle it thinly on a clean patch of soil and mix the seed in with your fingers, then pat down and water. I usually sow in shallow drills 5cm (2in) apart in a seedbed with Rocket, Mustard Streaks and Lettuce at the same time and plant out in a mixed bed at 15cm (6in) apart each way. It can also be sown in late summer for a winter crop.

Growing:

Water regularly and keep weed free.

Harvesting:

Cut and come again until the plants become determined to flower and go to seed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Never had any, although I do spray, along with all my brassicas, with Bacillus thuringiensis every 10 days as part of my control of cabbage white caterpillars.

 

MUSTARD (Brassica juncea)

Mustard

Apart from ordinary mustard grown for green manure and commercially for mustard seeds, there are varieties bred for eating green in a salad mix.

Soil & Feeding:

If your soil is rich there is no need to feed this crop, otherwise mix in one bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) into the top 4cm (1½in).

Varieties:

Mustard Streaks: This is the variety we use most. It is a heavily serrated golden mustard to cut and re-cut, with a flavour exactly like condiment mustard but not so hot. Similar to Mizuna in growth with a stronger stem and more upright habit, which makes it easy to cut.

Purple Leaf: NZ Heritage. A large, loose leafed purple leaved mustard. Suitable for eating raw in salads when young and great cooked when leaves are larger in boil ups or stews. Grows fast, self-seeds easily.

Giant Red: This is a Japanese mustard with large maroon coloured crinkly leaves. It is winter hardy and slow to bolt. It can be pickled like sauerkraut (see: Cabbage Recipes)

Sowing:

Mustard seed lasts 4 years.

You can sprinkle it thinly on a clean patch of soil and mix the seed in with your fingers, then pat down and water. I usually sow in shallow drills 5cm (2in) apart in a seedbed with Rocket, Mizuna and Lettuce at the same time and plant out in a mixed bed at 15cm (6in) apart each way.

Harvesting:

Cut and come again until the plants become determined to flower and go to seed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Never had any, although I do spray, along with all my brassicas, with BT Bacillus thuringiensis every 10 days during the growing season as part of my control of cabbage white caterpillars.

 

PLANTAGO STAR OF THE EARTH (Plantago coronopus)

PlantagoThis is a form of plantain; the common version is a wild plant and weed. However, this variety is edible. Like its wild cousin, it is very hardy and a very useful winter salad plant, along with Arugula, Miner’s Lettuce and Corn Salad. Its rosette of leaves has a mild taste with a crunchy texture, re-growing after being cut. Successive sowings will extend the harvest season.

Soil & Feeding:

This is not a hungry plant but it will always benefit from the addition of garden compost at one bucket per square metre (yard), mixed into the top 5cm (2in) of soil.

Varieties:

As far as I know there is only this one variety.

Sowing:

Sow a few seeds in each station, 10cm (4in) apart each way diagonally apart in a clean garden bed. When the seeds have germinated, reduce the seedlings to one per station.

Growing:

Keep weeded and regularly watered. When large enough you could mulch around the plants carefully with lawn clippings after watering to retain moisture and keep down annual weeds.

Harvesting:

If you have several plants you can cut a few each time in succession, and several times after that.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

None that I know of, if its wild cousin is anything to go by.

Recipes:

Great mixed with other winter salad crops.

 

PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea sativa)

Purslane

Purslane is succulent summer salad plant with a crisp mild taste. It is not hardy, so it can only be grown in the summer months.

Soil & Feeding:

Purslane has little requirements; so only if the soil is not very fertile, mix in one bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard). 

Varieties:

Red & Gold: This is a decorative version of red and gold leaves and orange stems.

Sowing:

Purslane seed is said to last up to 30-40 years.

Sow outside after the last frosts in rows 15cm (6in) apart, sowing the seed 1cm (in) apart, thinning to 10cm (4in).

Growing:

Keep weeded and water regularly.

Harvesting:

Cut 5cm (2in) up from the base and new leaves and stems will grow again all summer.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

None that I know of, possibly slugs.

Recipes:

Purslane and Parsley Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 227g (½ pound) cherry tomatoes (preferably assorted heirloom varieties), halved or quartered if large
  • 6 cups packed tender purslane sprigs and leaves, from a ½kg (1 pound) bunch
  • 4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 2 large bunches)

Preparation:

  1. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, shallot, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes, purslane, and parsley, gently tossing to coat.

 

RADISH (Raphanus sativas)

Radish

Summer, is not summer without radish, however, you can grow them all the year round, unless you live in a place with very cold winters. They are the fastest growing vegetables to grow, with 20-30 days from sowing to harvest.

 

Soil & Feeding:

As long as you have good soil, there is no need to add anything, but you can add compost at 1 bucket per square metre (yard) if you think it is needed.

Varieties:

For Daikon radish, see DAIKON. There are so many radish varieties – all different colours and shapes, and some people like to try unusual and different varieties, but what’s wrong with round red ones? Having said that I have included one long one.

Cherry Bell: I think this is the best because it will last up to 4 weeks from one sowing, staying crisp and tasty longer than any other variety, and needless to say it is round and red!

French Breakfast: This traditional French variety is cylindrical with a white tip (see photo). It has a delicate crunch and gentle fire loved by connoisseurs of good food. However, it does not hold and should be pulled immediately it is ready, and regularly sowed at 10-14 day intervals.

Sowing:

Radish seed lasts 4 years.

Sow outside in drills 1-1½cm (-½in) deep in pairs spaced at 5cm (2in) apart in rows 15cm (6in) apart from spring onwards and thin out to one seedling per station. Radish is also useful to thinly sow along with slow germinators like carrots and parsnips that can take up to 10-14 days to germinate. The radishes are used as markers in the row, and a way of getting a quick crop before the carrot or parsnip seedlings get going.

Growing:

Apart from regular watering, that’s about it.

Recipes:

Radish Salad

Feeds 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large bunches of radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lettuce, washed, dried and shredded

For the Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Put the radish slices, onion rings and tomatoes in a bowl and combine with the mint
  2. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper
  3. Pour over the salad ingredients and toss well
  4. Place on a bed of shredded lettuce and chill thoroughly before serving

 

ROCKET (Eruca sativa)

Rocket

Rocket is a great salad crop, which like Land Cress will grow through medium to mild winters. We grow it all the year round, but in the summer it will mature quickly and try to run to seed, so regular sowings are necessary at this time of year. It has a tangy flavour with a mild hint of garlic.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Rocket is a brassica so it likes a good feed. If it follows peas and beans in a rotation and you have left the pea and bean roots in along with their Nitrogen nodules, then sow or plant rocket next to the roots, otherwise mix 1 bucket of compost and 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, into each square metre (yard).

Varieties:

In catalogues it is usually just called Rocket, but there is one cultivar that I know of:

Runway: is a quick growing variety with deeply notched leaves that is slow to bolt to seed.

Sowing:

Rocket seed lasts 3 years.

For early sowings, sow in boxes and plant out when the seedlings are 4-5cm (1½-2in) high at 10cm (4in) between the plants and 20cm (8in) between the rows. Successive sowings can be outside, where they are to grow, in drills 1½cm (½in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart, thinning to 10cm (4in) apart.

Growing:

Keep weeded, regularly watered and mulched down with 2cm (¾in) of grass clippings to conserve moisture and deter annual weeds.

Harvesting:

These are ‘cut and come again’ plants, picking off the larger leaves on a regular basis. Eventually the plants will run to flower, so regular sowings will ensure a regular supply.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Cabbage White Butterfly: As Rocket is a brassica; it can be attacked by cabbage white butterfly caterpillars. We spray all members of the brassica family, including Rocket, with BT biological control at 10-day intervals throughout the summer season.

Recipes:

Pear, Parmesan & Rocket Salad

Ingredients:

  • 50g (1½oz) [½ bunch] rocket, trimmed
  • ½ small green oakleaf lettuce, washed, dried
  • 50g (1½oz) piece Parmesan, shaved
  • 40g (1/3 cup) walnut pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 ripe pear (like Packham’s Triumph or Williams-Bon-Chretien)

For the Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. To make the dressing, place the olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  2. Place the rocket, lettuce, Parmesan, walnuts and chives in a large bowl.
  3. Peel, quarter and core the pear. Slice each quarter into four. Add to the salad with the dressing and toss well. Serve immediately.

 

SHUNGIKU (Chrysanthemum coronarium)

Shungiku

Edible Garland Chrysanthemum, also called Shungiku in Japan and Chop Suey Greens, is an annual leafy plant. This vegetable grows very well in mild or slightly cold climates, but will quickly go to premature flowering in warm summer conditions. Young leaves and stems are used for flavouring the soup and stir-fry.

I like this as a salad plant, because it lends a scented taste to salads, which is the same as chrysanthemums smell. It can also be used in stir-fry dishes.

Soil & Feeding:

1 bucket of compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard), mixed in to the top 10cm.

Varieties:

There seems to be two varieties – Large Leaf and Small Leaf. The large leaf variety seems to have a slightly stronger taste, but the smaller leaf variety is more popular and faster growing – from sowing to harvesting – 30 days. They can grow to 90cm high.

Sowing:

Shungiku seed lasts 3 years.

Sow seeds in early spring and autumn in a prepared bed in drills 30cm (1ft) apart and no more than ½cm (3/16in) deep, thinning the seedlings to 5cm (2in) apart. Repeat sowings every 2-3 weeks for a constant supply – little and often.

Growing:

Keep weeded, mulch with grass clippings and water moderately.

Harvesting:

Harvest when 10-12cm (4-4½) high.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

I don’t know of any. They grow so fast there is probably little time to have problems, apart from slugs, in which case use beer traps – see: ‘Pests & Diseases’ TRAPS – Slugs

Recipes:

Shungiku Salad with Sesame Soy Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 225g (8oz) firm tofu, halved diagonally
  • 2 slices thin, smoked ham (optional)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups loosely packed young Shungiku leaves, torn
  • 8 slices cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons organic tamari sauce
  • 1 teaspoons rapadura (or brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoons Oriental sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Preparation:

  1. Prepare Sesame Tamari Dressing: In a screw-top jar with tight-fitting lid, combine 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, rice-wine vinegar, tamari sauce, rapadura (sugar), Oriental sesame oil, and garlic, until well mixed.
  2. Prepare Shungiku Salad: Heat large skillet until hot over high heat. Add sesame seeds and stir-fry until lightly browned. Remove to bowl.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and tofu triangles. Brown tofu well on all sides — about 10 minutes. Drain tofu on paper towels and set aside. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Add ham and brown lightly; remove to plate. Fold ham in half; roll into cone shape and set aside.
  5. Add egg to skillet and cook until set like a thin pancake, turning once. Remove to cutting board and set aside.
  6. Add mushrooms to skillet and sauté until wilted — about 1 minute. Transfer to plate.
  7. Roll up egg pancake and cut into 1cm-wide strips.
  8. To serve, divide Shungiku leaves between 2 serving plates. Top with mushrooms, cucumber slices, egg strips, tofu triangles, and ham cones. Sprinkle salad with sesame seeds and serve with Sesame Tamari Dressing.

 

SPRING ONIONS

Spring Onions_2

Spring onions are a great favourite as an addition to many salads. They have a milder flavour than main crop onions. (Also, look at perennial Welsh onions, in the ‘Perennial Vegetable’ section). Both, spring onions and Welsh onions are useful in spring/early summer, when you might have run out of stored main crop onions and need onions in a recipe.

Soil & Feeding:

Like all onions, spring onions are heavy feeders, but they are not in the ground long, so lightly dig in 1-2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

White Lisbon: is an old favourite and ever popular spring onion. It is hardy and reliable with long white stems and bright green tops. It is quick and easy to grow, cropping in 60 days. Although, traditionally the most popular Spring Onion for successional sowings from September to March, it can also be sown in autumn and over wintered for early spring harvests. They are also perfect for container growing.

Tokyo Long White: Japanese spring onions tend to be larger than White Lisbon types, with good crisp upright white stems.

Sowing:

Onion seed lasts 1-2 years

Sow little and often in the garden, fortnightly from mid spring onwards, this will give a good supply through the summer. Sow thinly in rows 6cm (2½in) apart. No need to thin. In a deep bed, scatter the seed in a wide drill.

Growing:

Water when regularly, when dry.

Harvesting:

Pull a few at a time, when they are about 15cm (6in) or more high.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Most onion pests and diseases occur to main crop onions that are in the ground a long time. Spring onions, with a short growing period 60 days or so, hardly ever have problems.

Recipe:

They are great for so many recipes, but this one took my fancy.

Spring Onion & Chilli Prawns

Ingredients:

  • 20g (¾oz) butter
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 4 king prawns, cooked and peeled, tails left on
  • 1 small handful coriander leaves, or Italian parsley
  • The juice of ½ lime

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the spring onion, garlic and chilli and cook for one minute.
  2. Add prawns and heat through.
  3. Transfer the prawns, spring onion, garlic and chilli onto a serving dish, scatter over the coriander leaves and drizzle with the lime juice.

 

b) TUBERS

 

KUMARA – see SWEET POTATO

OCA (Oxalis tuberosa)

Oca

Oca is sometimes called the New Zealand yam, but the true yam is much larger and comes from the genus Discorea grown in Asia and the Pacific Islands, whereas the Oca is a form of Oxalis, originally from Peru and Bolivia in the Andes.

True yams can grow up 1½ metres (5ft) in length, whilst Ocas are small wrinkled sausage shaped creamy tubers with a pink flush, usually no more than 5cm-6cm (2-2½in) long, with clover shaped leaves, but much larger. They are an easy crop to grow and a nice addition to the mixed winter roasted root vegetables.

Here’s a good blog about Oca growing to look at: http://oca-testbed.blogspot.co.nz/

Soil & Feeding:

Like potatoes, they love rich ground, so mix in two buckets of well rotted garden compost per square metre + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Ocas come in a whole range of colours and you can get a ‘rainbow’ mix from some sources, but I bought some pink ones from the supermarket and planted them.

Planting:

Oca is frost tender and prefers light soils, but any well-drained soil will do. Plant the tubers after the last frosts 75mm (3in) deep, 45cm (17½in) apart in rows 60cm (2ft) apart

Growing:

Earth up the plants as they grow, as you would potatoes, leaving 20cm of the tops showing.

Harvesting:

Lift the crop as late as possible, when the tops are quite dead. The tubers need as long a growing season as possible and only really put on weight towards the end of the growing season. If you harvest too early you will not have much of a crop.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Ocas are largely pest and disease free, but some have found in wetter areas and in wet seasons, slugs can attack the plants and they can also get a rust fungus on the leaves. Here in Nelson though, I have not had any problems. (See: chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’ – Beer Traps for slugs and Trichoderma virid spray for fungus).

Recipes:

Oca has a slightly tangy flavour, and similar to potatoes, is crunchy when raw and starchier when boiled or baked. You can use ocas just like an ordinary potato in virtually any recipe; it can be mashed, boiled, roasted, or fried. Personally we prefer them roasted.

Warm Oca Salad

Feeds 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 400-500g (14-17½oz) oca
  • 60ml (2floz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g (1¾oz) anchovy fillets, drained if in oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • A small bunch of flat leaved parsley, leaves picked and stalks reserved
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Cut the oca so that they are in approximately equal sized pieces – this is so they cook evenly.
  2. Chop the parsley stems finely and put to one side. Chop the parsley leaves finely and keep separate from the stems.
  3. Boil or steam the oca for about 10 minutes until there’s just give in the middle when you test them with a sharp knife. Strain the oca and leave to drain and air dry in a colander or sieve while you prepare the dressing in the pan you used to cook them.
  4. Make sure the pan is dry using a paper towel. Add the olive oil and heat over a low-medium heat. You need the oil to warm the anchovies and garlic, but not brown them. Add the anchovies, garlic and parsley stems and cook gently stirring frequently until the anchovies have melted.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and add the oca and chopped parsley leaves to the pan. Stir the oca gently in the flavoured oil to coat thoroughly.
  6. Check seasoning and season to taste.

 

POTATO (Solanum tuberosum)

Potato

Potatoes are definitely one of the most important vegetables. It’s at the beginning of every good garden rotation, clearing and manuring the ground, and preparing the soil for all the following crops. Even if you haven’t enough ground to grow all your needs, grow some early ones, which are probably the best tasting and come when potatoes are the most expensive in the shops.

Chitting Your Seed Potatoes:

For those that live in sub-tropical areas you can plant potatoes all year round. For those with cold winters and springs, to get a good start and to miss late frosts, your seed potatoes need grow some stocky sprouts before being planted. To do this examine your newly arrived potatoes, you will notice that all the ‘eyes’ (buds) are gathered at one end – known as the ‘rose’ end.

Place your potatoes touching each other in a seed tray or shallow box ‘rose’ end up (the end with signs of small buds); placing the tray near a window where the seed potatoes will get some light. This will keep the growing buds short and stubby, instead of the long white frail things that you find in the potato bin at the end of winter.

Soil, Feeding & Planting:

Here’s your chance to really make great strides in creating a healthy, vibrant, living soil full of organic matter. This was how we transformed our first garden at our farm:

  1. Clear the plot of weeds or previous crop, especially perennial weed roots, like couch and bindweed.
  2. If you have enough well rotted manure or compost spread one bucket every square meter + seaweed meal at the recommended rate (optional)
  3. When the last frosts have come and gone, mark out the rows with sticks at each end – earlies need 45cm (1½ft) between the rows – Main crops need 67cm (2ft) between the rows.
  4. Dig out a trench, one fork depth, placing the evacuated soil into a wheelbarrow.
  5. Line the bottom of the trench with 7cm (2¾in) of well-rotted manure or compost.
  6. Spread about 3cm (1in) soil on top of the compost and place out your sprouted potatoes “rose” end upwards on the soil – 30cm (1ft) apart for earlies – 37cm (15in) apart for main crop.
  7. Fill in from the next trench and repeat the process all down the bed, filling the last trench in with the soil in the wheelbarrow from the first trench.
  8. The rows will be marked by the raised rows.

Alternately, spread two buckets of compost or well-rotted manure per square metre (yard) and fork in. Then use a garden trowel to make 15cm (6in) deep holes and drop the potato, ‘rose end’ upwards, down the hole and fill in with soil from the next hole – at the same spacing as above.

If you want some of your main crop potatoes for baking, then break off all the buds except two, this will result in bigger potatoes. If some of your seed potatoes are very big you can slice them in half down from the ‘rose’ end, or 3 pieces, as long as there are at least two buds on each bit.

Varieties:

You may have one type of early potato you like and one type of main crop. For the main crop there are basically two main types – Waxy and Floury. We like both for different jobs in the kitchen. There are so many heritage and more modern varieties, that it would be impossible to list the hundreds that exist. So, here are the ones we love and recommend, along with their qualities and uses:

Earlies

Jersey Bennes – Matures in approximately 80-90 days. They are oval shaped, with white skin and white flesh. A waxy potato, good for boiling, salads, casseroles, and soups.

Rocket – Matures in approximately 60-70 days. They are oval with white skin and flesh. Great boiling and roasting potato.

Maincrop

Desiree (Waxy) – Matures in approximately 90-100 days. They are round with pink skin and cream flesh. Good for all general cooking – a good all rounder.

Agria (Floury) – Matures in Approximately 90-100 days. They are long fat ovals, with a cream skin and yellow flesh. Floury potato, suitable for boiling, mashing, baking, wedges, and great for chips. High yielder.

Pink Fir Apple – Heritage. This late main-crop variety produces long, knobbly, pink skinned tubers with butter yellow, waxy flesh, and a distinctive nutty flavour.

Urenika – NZ Heritage. A long potato with dark purple skin that retains its colour when cooked. Waxy when small, floury when large. Great boiled or steamed. Produces big crops but needs a long growing season.

Kowiniwini – NZ Heritage. A round, light purple potato with indented white eyes and a waxy firm flesh. Great keeper.

Growing:

As the plants grow draw the soil up from between the rows around the plants, this is known as ‘earthing up’. If a lot of weeds sprout, another earthing up on a dry or sunny day should kill them.

Frost Warning: If there is a warning of frost when the shoots are still short, especially with early potatoes, they can be covered with soil to protect them. They will then grow through. If they are too big to cover with soil, then spreading loose straw over them, several layers of newspapers held down with canes, or cover with frost fleece. This will protect them temporarily against late frosts, taking the protection off in the daytime, but remembering to put it back in the evening.

When the plants start to get higher than 30cm it is time to place canes or stakes at the corners and tying 3 or 4 rows of strong garden string round, so as to stop the plants falling over in the wind.

Spraying every two weeks with liquid seaweed, and/or compost tea will help to keep the plants healthy – see How to Make Liquid Manures in the section, ‘How to Build Fertility

Harvesting:

For early potatoes, just fossick around under the plant and harvest the ones that are ready to enjoy fresh. Later you can dig up the tubers as described below. They won’t keep as long as the main crop, so enjoy them before the main crop harvest.

For the main crop you can wait until the haulms have died down, unless you have a late attack of potato blight, in which case cut the haulms off and put them out with the rubbish, not in the compost, to make sure they will not infect next years crop. If the haulms have been infected, leave the tubers in for 2-3 weeks before harvesting to kill the spores and harden the skins so they store better.

When harvesting thrust the fork in from the side of the ridges and lever the tubers out. Don’t dig along the ridges, because you will more likely spear the potatoes and they won’t keep!

Storing:

Spread the tubers out on sacks to dry in the sun, then sort through them and put any damaged, or any with a sign of rot to one side, to either eat within a few days, or throw away. Then store in hessian bags, or other woven bags in a cool frost free shed or store. Paper or polythene bags will cause condensation and rotting. About a month after storing away, sort them over to remove any that are rotting, as this will spread to others. Remember, potatoes are the most important bulk crop you will grow.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Tomato/Potato Psyllid

As potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, egg plants, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases, the most important at the moment here in New Zealand is the tomato/potato psyllid native to North America which was first found in New Zealand in 2006, and is still spreading throughout the country. In Australia it is present in Western Australia the tomato potato psyllid apart from the Perth quarantine zone. However, many other countries (like the UK) do not have this pest.

Nymphs and possibly adults inject bacteria into the plants when they feed. This bacteria causes discolouration of leaves and the plant becomes stunted and the leaf edges turn up and become yellow or purple. The plants internodes shorten, new growth is retarded and crops are severely reduced and the resultant potatoes end up small and watery with ‘zebra’ stripes, becoming inedible.

In potatoes, however not all host plants show ‘toxic’ plant reaction symptoms and interestingly if the psyllids are removed early, the plant may start to grow normally again as soon as the bacteria ceases to be injected by the psyllid mites.

Control

Interestingly the psyllid seems to favour the tomatoes, leaving the potatoes, peppers and egg plants less likely to be affected – this said – I seriously suggest using a very effective way to control psyllid without using sprays is to use Neem granules:

Neem Granules:

Neem granules are usually used to control soil and root pests, but have also been used by sprinkling a small handful in each planting hole when planting the potatoes, or sprinkling the granules along the row when using the trench method of planting. For more details, see: www.gardenews.co.nz and click on The Potato and Tomato Psyllid section.

In the soil the Microbes break down the granules releasing the Neem properties that are still in the granules over time. These properties are taken up by the roots and translocate through the plant. Thus if a chewing or sucking insect feeds on the plant they receive a small dose of the Neem affecting their ability to eat again. Thus they die of starvation.

I was worried at first that the Neem might interfere with the beneficial soil micro-organisms, but it seems they actually increase, and conversely, the beneficial effects of the Neem are increased where there are strong soil micro-organism populations.

Neem oil comes from the Neem tree fruits and kernels. These are crushed for the oil, and the resultant cake is broken down into granules. The granules contain the active ingredient Azadirachtin. Azadirachtin is known to affect over 200 species of insect when they eat it, and by acting mainly as growth disruptor, whilst showing very low toxicity to mammals. According to my research, it seems that Azadirachtin has no effect on earthworms and a limited effect on mycorrhizae fungi.

Azadirachtin also has a high nutrient value, as well as increasing the availability of the soil’s natural nutrients by stimulating soil micro-organisms, providing more nitrates for the plants and helping to break down organic matter into valuable humus.

Potato Blight

This is caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, which killed a million people from starvation in Ireland and many more in Scotland and Northern Europe in the 1840’s. Many of the more modern varieties are more resistant. My grandfather worked in conjunction with the UK’s Rothamsted Experimental Station in the first-world-war period on developing resistant strains.

As there is no cure, the traditional organic preventative spray is Bordeaux Mixture, made from copper sulphate and lime, sprayed on every fortnight in dull warm wet weather that favours the spread of the fungus. Personally I stay away from copper sprays, as they interfere and can even kill soil life, especially mycorrhizae fungi, if used regularly. A safe alternative that is worth trying is Trichoderma viride powder made into a spray. Trichoderma is a fungus that eats other funguses. It might be worth spraying with Trichoderma every two weeks as a preventative measure if you have problems with potato blight.

Fortunately I have found over 40 years of growing potatoes organically, even when we grew 6 tonnes a year on our farm in the UK; most years in the English climate we got away with it until late in the growing season. As soon as the leaves were starting to blacken, we chopped the tops off and waited at least 2 and preferably 3 weeks before harvesting in order to allow the spoors to die off, so they would not infect the tubers.

If you leave the tops on too long the blight will grow down the stems and rot the tubers, so catch it early. Cut the affected tops off and dispose of them in your waste bin. Don’t try to compost them in case the blight is carried over to next years crop.

Creating a healthy vibrant soil (see: section – How to Build Soil Fertility) and spraying regularly with seaweed and compost tea will help to control the disease, at least until the last minute.

Recipes:

Potatoes for me are like eggs – you can cook them so many different ways and get so many different tastes, in other words they are extremely versatile – what could be more different than mashed and roast potatoes?

 

SWEET POTATO kumara (Ipomoea batatas)

Kumara

Kumara (sweet potato) is very popular here in New Zealand, because the Maori’s were growing it when the Europeans arrived. Sweet potatoes originated in the Americas and were discovered by Polynesian traders who spread its use across the Pacific. The origin and domestication of the sweet potato is thought to be either Central America or South America. In Central America, sweet potatoes were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago, although in South America, Peruvian sweet potato remnants have been found, dating as far back as 8,000 BC.

Soil & Feeding:

Kumara is best grown in a warm climate that has a long hot summer. In cool areas you will need to protect young plants from frost in the spring, or try growing in a glasshouse or Polytunnel. Do not add manure or rich compost, as this will encourage top growth at the expense of roots. However, wood ash and seaweed can be added for extra potassium and trace elements. Ground charcoal can also be added to darken and warm the soil, and will also encourage a good growth of beneficial soil micro-organisms (see: TERRA PRETA in the section – ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’). Don’t be tempted to fertilise while plants are growing, because this will encourage leaf growth as opposed to tuber growth. However, regular sprays of liquid seaweed will help to keep the plants healthy.

Varieties:

If you can’t obtain the varieties below, you can buy some sweet potatoes from the vegetable section of your supermarket and sprout them as described. In many countries you can buy the sprouted shoots in the spring to plant out.

  • Hawaiian Blue – Pale coloured skin with streaky bluey-purple flesh. When cooked the flesh looks very blue and is firm, with a good flavour.
  • Mahina (NZ Heritage) – Healthy vigorous plants with excellent crops of good sized white tubers.
  • Candy (NZ Heritage) – A stunning kumara with candy pink skin and pink and yellow flesh. Sweet, good flavoured flesh, which retains its pinky colour when cooked. Very nice roasted or boiled and looks amazing mashed with onion, garlic and cheese as a pink stuffing for baked squash.
  • Honey Red (NZ Heritage) – Beige coloured skin with a faint orangey-red blush in places. Flesh is pale with light orangey-red colouring throughout. When cooked the flesh is firm and orange, with good flavour.
  • Hutihuti (NZ Heritage) – An ancient kumara that is a super long white skinned and fleshed variety, prolific cropper with a good flavour. This has been a widely grown and loved kumara all over Maoridom.
  • Maikio Gold (NZ Heritage) – Early commercial variety. Developed from the commercial lines of golden kumara of 20 years ago. Produces quite distinctly different shapes on each plant, bearing both the long thin and the short round fat types. The weight of the crop on this variety seems to vary a lot. They are very sweet to taste.
  • Maikio Red (NZ Heritage) – This was originally from commercial stock and especially selected for keeping and disease resistant qualities. It is a good productive main crop kumara.
  • Paraparapara (NZ Heritage) – A very old variety. This is reputed to be the old medicinal kumara that was used to feed the elderly, the babies and the invalids. It has pink skin, and is a large, fat kumara. It is reputed, to be more easily digested than others and has a bland flavour.
  • Paukena / Pumpkin (NZ Heritage) – An old one from the East Coast, orange coloured and very sweet to taste. A reliably good cropper.
  • Reka Rawa (NZ Heritage) – A reliably large, old, cream skinned and cream fleshed variety. Also the best cropper! This is the ultimate kumara, it tastes very much like roast chestnuts. From an ancient Far-North collection.
  • Romanawa (NZ Heritage) – Another very old kumara remembered perhaps better than all other old cultivars by elders all around this land. It has gold skin and yellow flesh but with orange rings within the flesh when cut in half. It is very sweet and of a medium texture, not too dry or soft.
  • Taputini (NZ Heritage) – An ancient cultivar that does not run. It produces large numbers of long, cream skinned and fleshed kumara, with dark green deeply lobed leaves similar to Hutihuti, but in a more compact form. This one was traditionally grown in cooler areas than other varieties because it could easily be grown in woven kete, and moved around with the sun in front of rocks.

Sprouting the Shoots:

You can buy young plants, but if you want to try growing your own, then here’s the way.

In late winter, early spring start by sprouting Kumara shoots. Use a deep polystyrene or plastic box with drainage holes and a clear plastic or glass lid. Line the bottom with 10cm of grass clippings, or horse manure that is just starting to rot to provide some heat. Cover that with a layer of straw and top it off with a few centimetres of sand. Push a couple of kumara tubers into the sand layer, then water and cover. Keep the seedbed well watered.

As the grass clippings or manure heats up, the kumara will sprout vigorously. Lift the lid to allow for air circulation to prevent mildew and fungal problems.  The sprouts can be cut off the tuber when they’re about 5cm (2in) high and the roots are showing, these can be easily separated from the loose sand. From a single tuber, it’s possible to get a dozen new plants. This will take approximately 4-8 weeks. If they are ready too early, you can pot the rooted shoots in a deep box containing potting compost. Keep in a glasshouse, cold frame or conservatory, until it is time to plant out. In warmer areas kumara can be planted out from early to late spring. In cooler areas you should wait until general risk of frosts has passed before planting – usually sometime around late October in the southern hemisphere and late April in the northern hemisphere.

Growing:

The kumara bed should be made with free draining, coarse river sand which prevents the sweet potatoes from rotting in the spring rain, and only has a small amount of nutrients, so it doesn’t support lots of weed growth.

Kumara are grown in a free draining loose soil, with a hard pan about a foot under the surface. If you don’t have a clay pan under the soil bury something like corrugated iron a foot under the soil to act as a hard pan. This is one vegetable where deep and thorough digging is therefore to be discouraged. If your soil is too heavy, the skins will be covered in a patchy brown virus, so adding sharp sand to the top layer of soil will help.

You can either grow kumara on puke (round mounds), or the modern way in mounded rows, the same as potato growing.

I prefer growing kumara on puke, but you can grow them in rows. To make a puke, mound up soil and sand, into a shallow mound about 50-60cm (1½-2ft) in diameter and 30cm (1ft) high.

Kumara Mounds

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kumara growing on Puke (mounds)

Plant out plants as soon as the threats of frost has finished in the spring. If you are growing in mounded rows, the tupu (young rooted plants) are planted in the standard commercial spacing of rows 75cm (2½ft) apart, and the plants about 30cm (1ft) apart within the row.

Plant 10cm deep; bend the roots of the cuttings under, into a J shape when planting so the roots face up to the top again under the ridge of soil – this will prevent the vines from spreading too far. As the vines grow, the stems will try to put down new roots where they touch the soil, you want to avoid this, so lift the foliage regularly to stop secondary rooting, some people curl them around in a circle. This is to encourage tuber growth and not leaf growth. If space is limited you can take out the tips later on to prevent the vines smothering other crops. The tips are good steamed or in (like spinach).

Usually there is enough rain to provide the moisture required, but if there is a dry spell water regularly to keep the sand moist, otherwise the kumara won’t grow properly.

Kumara can be grown in containers. Pots need to be at least 30cm (1ft) deep and will require plenty of water through the summer to ensure good-sized tubers. Sweet potato is usually trouble-free in the home garden but don’t plant it in the same spot for at least four years.

Harvesting & Curing:

Wait until the weather is cooling, early autumn at the earliest – sweet potatoes don’t start swelling up until then.

Harvest from the end of March (Southern hemisphere) or September (Northern hemisphere). After that the drop in daylight hours and temperature means that tubers don’t really increase in size, and there is a risk of the weather becoming too wet which makes them harder to dry and can reduce their storage capacity.

Use a sickle, or shears, to cut the tops off the plants following the shape of the ridges and make sure that the main stalks remain visible so you know where to dig. You can add the tops to the compost heap, or on a large area you can trample the tops down into the furrows, where they are left to break down into the soil.

Harvest once leaves start to die down or turn yellow in the autumn. However, make sure they’re out of the soil before it gets cold, or they will start to rot.

Dig them up carefully without breaking them, as they will rot in store if broken. Cure them thoroughly. They can be laid out in the sun if it’s hot enough; otherwise put them in the hottest place you can organise. You can make an insulated ‘micro-house’ inside your glasshouse, keeping them at 30-350C (86-950F) for about a week. This heals any cuts and breaks in the skins, so they don’t get infected.

Storing:

The best ones should be selected for growing next years shoots – not the biggest, but ones with good colour and form for that variety, and with no skin blemishes. These are best stored in wooden boxes with dry hay around them to protect them from rubbing against each other and being bruised.

The rest for eating are then graded within each variety into large, small and damaged. The damaged ones should be eaten as soon as possible. The eating kumara are put into hessian sacks and stored stacked up. Store them in a warm, dry place where the temperature doesn’t drop – commercially they are stored in heated ‘warm stores’ for the winter. Ideas at home include using a cardboard box in a warm room or glasshouse, with newspaper separating the layers of kumara.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Rotate your kumara, by moving to a new site each year and not growing kumara on the same area for three or four years, is the best way to stop the build up of pests and diseases. Black beetle, crickets, nematode and white fly caterpillars are the usual kumara pests, which can be dealt with using organic and biological sprays, (see: chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’.

There are some fungus diseases of kumara, but again judicious crop rotation and the suggested growing conditions already described should keep these in check.

Recipes:

Kumara Bravas

Feeds 7-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (2 pound) large kumara
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • 500g (1 pound) tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained

Preparation:

  1. Peel the kumara and cube, rinse and pat dry. Cook in hot oil until golden, drain on paper towels. Keep the oil.
  2. Chop tomatoes.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and cook onion for 5 minutes on a low heat. Add paprika and chilli and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, sugar and cup water. Cook until tomatoes are starting to soften but still whole – about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly and remove the bay leaf.
  5. Reheat the oil. Re-cook the kumara cubes ensuring they are extra crispy and drain on a kitchen towel – then place on a platter, and top with onion, tomato mix.
  6. Garnish with parsley and scatter over the capers. Serve.

Kumara Glazed with Orange & Butter

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 500g (1 pound) kumara
  • A little extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Rapadura (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A pinch of nutmeg

Preparation:

  1. Set oven at 180oC (3560F).
  2. Place peeled sliced kumara in a baking dish and brush with a little olive oil.
  3. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. In a saucepan dissolve the rapadura with the butter. Cook until the mixture caramelises, then take off the heat and add orange and lemon juices and a pinch of nutmeg.
  5. Pour over kumara and baste the kumara with the sauce every 10 minutes or so until they are cooked – approximately 30 minutes.

 

ULLUCO ‘Earth Gems’ (Ullucus tuberosum)

Ulluku

Ulluco is a common South American plant grown for it’s brightly coloured, yellow and crimson shiny tubers. The Ulluco is one of the most widely grown and economically important root crops in the Andean region of South America, second only to the potato. The tubers have a crisp earthy taste somewhat like boiled peanut and the leaves are also edible, similar to spinach when cooked. They remain firm even after long cooking times that would cause potatoes to disintegrate.  The tubers form late in the season, like Oca. They are known to contain high levels of protein, calcium, and carotene.

Soil & Feeding:

Ulluco thrives even in relatively poor soils. Light soils are better for harvesting. Moderately acidic soils are ideal, but Ulluco doesn’t seem to be too particular.  It is better to add garden compost than anything stronger. Incorporate 2 buckets of compost per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

I have only seen them sold as Ulluco. There are a few named varieties, but I wouldn’t bother chasing them up.

Planting:

Plant Ulluco tubers in the spring after risk of frost has passed. It is not recommended to cut your larger seed tubers before planting, as they will rot. Plant the tubers 5cm deep at 45cm (18in) apart in rows 60cm (2ft) apart.

To give you a good start you can start the tubers in 10cm (4in) pots in a greenhouse, transplanting them outside after the last frosts when they are 5cm (2in) tall.

Growing:

It is important to keep the soil weed free, because the little plants are slow growing to start and can get easily swamped. Mound up the Ulluco a bit at a time as they grow, drawing the soil up from between the rows to form long mounds, being careful not to smother the young plants and to break the fragile stems. Ulluco remain smallish plants into midsummer before spreading to cover a much larger area. Ulluco tends to grow prostrate rather than erect and will eventually cover the area just like Oca.

Harvesting:

As with Oca, wait until the tops have died down, or killed by frosts before harvesting, because they put on weight at the end of the season. Tubers store very well in cool conditions as long as the air is not too dry, which may cause them to dehydrate. The tubers will become green when exposed to light, but this does not alter the flavour and they do not become toxic as potatoes do. Store them in boxes in damp peat in a frost-free shed or store.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Slugs: love these plants in a wet season, especially when they are still small plants, however in a good summer there should be little problem – (see: Beer Traps (for slugs) in the section – ‘Pests & Diseases’).

Recipes:

In South America Ulluco with its high mucilage levels are often used to thicken stews. Ulluco tubers with high mucilage content are gummy when raw, but after cooking this characteristic is usually reduced or lost. The mucilage can easily be removed by soaking the tubers in water or parboiling before use. Ulluco tubers are usually cooked whole and take about the same time as potatoes to cook. The major appeal of the Ulluco is its crisp texture, which like the jicama remains, even when cooked. Because of its high water content, the Ulluco is not suitable for frying or baking but it can be cooked in many other ways like the potato.

 

c) SEEDS & PODS

BEANS

There are so many types of beans you could spend the rest of your life trying different varieties. There are dwarf growing ones, taller ones and ones that need to climb up some kind of structure. There are ones like soybeans Glycine max and broad beans Vicia faba, that have their own family or genus, but most of the popular beans are of the genus Phaseolus. These originated in countries like Peru and were unknown in the rest of the world until Europeans discovered the Americas. Until then Asians and Europeans had a much more limited selection of varieties to choose from.

The two main species of Phaseolus are Phaseolus vulgaris – comprising both dwarf and climbing varieties, many of which can be grown for both the green pods for summer eating and the dried seeds for winter eating. These include Borlotti, French, Gila Indian, Haricot, Kidney, Pinto Quarry, Snap beans and many, many more.

The above are distinct from Phaseolus coccineus, which is the Runner bean, or Scarlet runner, which usually is a vigorous climber with a unique taste that is distinct from its cousin Phaseolus vulgaris.

The dried bean seeds are great sources of proteins and calories. Dried beans average out at around 7.9g (¼oz) protein and 126 calories per 100g (3½oz), with variations of course. Soybeans on the other hand have around 35.22g (1¼oz) protein and 471 calories per 100 grams (3½oz).

Experiment with growing a range and see what suits you and the climatic and soil conditions that are unique to where you live. Below are just some of them you could try.

BROAD BEAN [Faba Bean] (Vicia faba)

Broad Bean

Before the wide variety of beans from Peru were introduced to the rest of the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to enhance our diets, broad beans and lentils were the mainstay of European peasantry for hundreds of years. 

They were eaten fresh and dried for use to soak and cook up on the short cold winter days and to make soup. The field (tick bean) version was and still is, used dried and ground to use as a protein food for farm animals. We grew tick beans on our farm for just this purpose.

A lot of people are put off broad beans, largely because the old varieties were tougher skinned, but more importantly because gardeners often leave the pods too long before picking and the beans get too big and tough. Keep picking the pods when the beans are still small, don’t over cook them and you might be pleasantly surprised. Even the tenderest peas can become tough if left in the pod too long.

Soil & Feeding:

Because broad beans, like other legumes, produce their own Nitrogen in their root nodules, they will be quite happy following potatoes, or sweet corn in the rotation, which will have been heavily fed with compost, or composted manure, much of which will still be there in the soil; otherwise fork in one bucket of well rotted compost per square metre (yard). If you have grown an early crop of green manure on the plot, dig in before sowing the seeds – they will like making their own compost out of the green manure with the help of their Nitrogen rich root nodules.

Broad beans are potash-greedy and it is useful, to apply seaweed meal mixed into the soil, at the specified rate, before sowing the seeds. They also like liquid comfrey manure for the same reason, or mulching the bean plant with comfrey leaves (see Liquid Manures in the chapter ‘Building Fertility’. Also, spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing season will help feed the plants and help their resistance to pests and diseases. Another advantage of feeding your plants with seaweed is that it contains all the trace elements known to humans, which the plants need, and benefit from, but when you eat the plants – you too will receive healthy trace elements as well!

Varieties:

Aquadulce Claudia: A tall variety with light green seeds, enjoyed worldwide, the light green beans are succulent, tasty and suitable for freezing – pick young.

Red Seeded (NZ Heritage): Very good tasting small red beans inside green pods.

Scottish (NZ Heritage): It is a very good cropper, tasty, and stays green when cooked.

Giant Windsor: An old variety, very tasty – pick young.

Dutch White Seeded: One of the modern varieties. The plants only grow 120cm (4ft) high. Superb quality and early maturing.

Sowing:

Broad Bean seed lasts 2 years.

For an early crop, sow in late autumn/early winter, mid May is best in the southern hemisphere, November in the northern hemisphere, any earlier and the beans flower too early when the bees are not around to pollinate them. You can also sow in early to mid spring onwards as your main crop, or as a second crop following the autumn sown ones. Take out a shallow trench 5cm (2in) deep and just over 30cm (1ft) wide with a spade or draw hoe (preferably running North/South) and sow the seeds, 10cm (4in) apart along one side of the shallow trench. Then sow a second line of seeds on the other side facing the gaps. These pairs of staggered rows support each other. Leave a gap of 1 metre (3ft) between the first double row and the next. This will allow sunlight and pollinating bees to get to the growing beans, as well as giving you room to pick them.

Growing:

When the young shoots are 5cm (2in) high, heap up the soil around the stems in 5cm (2in) high ridges, to help stabilise them against wind. The beans will produce more shoots from the base of their stems. You will need to support them against windy weather, by hammering in stakes at the corners of each double row and stretching garden string around the middle and top of the posts to stop them flopping over.

The beans will also benefit from watering and/or spraying with liquid seaweed at least twice during the growing season. Pinch out the growing points with about 20cm (8in) of stem when the plants are a metre tall, this will help to stop black fly attacking the young juicy tops and will also encourage the plants to concentrate on filling the lower pods.

Harvesting:

Pick young, but leave some on to turn black and dry to keep for sowing next year and for cooking up in the winter. Cut down the stems for excellent compost material, but leave in the roots and plant out your winter cabbages and Brussels sprouts etc., up against the old stems so they can enjoy the Nitrogen from the beans root nodules left in the soil – an old gardener’s trick.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Chocolate Spot: This is undoubtedly a disease of generally unhealthy plants with low resistance. All the years growing field versions and garden versions of broad beans organically, I have had little or no problems with black spot. In years where there was a late attack of black spot, it did little damage. I can only put it down to healthy organically grown plants.

Aphids: Use one of the homemade treatments in the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Recipes:

Broad Bean Salad

You can prepare this flavourful broad bean salad in minutes – tomatoes, onion and cucumber tossed with fresh parsley, lemon juice and olive oil.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 500g (1 pound) cooked broad beans
  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ a bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine broad beans, tomatoes, onion and cucumber in a salad bowl
  2. Toss with garlic, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil
  3. Season with cumin, and salt and pepper to taste
    1. Can be served room temperature or cold

Portuguese Broad Beans  

Ready in 45 minutes

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chilli flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 cups hot water
  • A good handful chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 kg (2 pound) frozen baby broad beans

Preparation:

Prep: 15 minutes | to cook: 30 minutes

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Cook onion and garlic until golden brown.
  3. Stir in chillies, tomato purée, hot water, parsley, salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Bring to the boil, add broad beans and reduce heat.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until beans are tender.

Persian Rice with Broad Beans

Ready in 1 hour 15 minutes

This is a delicious dish where rice is slowly simmered with fresh dill, parsley and coriander, along with broad beans and spices. In Iran it is traditionally served with fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups water
  • 200g (7oz) long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped coriander
  • 125g (4½oz) shelled broad beans
  • Ground turmeric to taste
  • Ground cinnamon to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Prep: 20 minutes |Cook: 55 minutes

  1. In a large saucepan bring water to the boil.
  2. Rinse rice; stir into boiling water.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in dill, parsley, coriander, broad beans, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and simmer on lowest heat for 40 to 45 minutes.

Mediterranean Salad with Broad Beans

Ready in 30 minutes

This is a variation of a classic Greek-style salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh broad beans
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded Cos lettuce
  • 250g (9oz) cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 2 medium tomatoes, cored, cut into wedges
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • ½ cup pitted olives, halved
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled

Preparation:

Prep: 25 minutes | to cook: 5 minutes

  1. For broad beans: bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add broad beans and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold running water. When cool, peel off the skin.
  2. Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic, sugar and pepper in a screw-top jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to blend.
  3. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, olives, mint, parsley and cooked beans in a large bowl. Just before serving, drizzle the lemon dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.

For dried broad beans: 

Broad Bean Pâté

Makes about a cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked broad beans
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste/tomato purée
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil for garnish

Preparation:

  1. Soak the dried broad beans in cold water for 12-24 hours, then rinse and drain.
  2. Place in a saucepan with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, then simmer on a low heat until soft, but not mushy (about 40 minutes or longer, depending on the age of the beans etc.)
  3. Do not add salt until the end, as this may extend the cooking period.
  4. You need about ½ cup of dried beans to make 1 cup of cooked ones.
  5. Blend the first five ingredients in a bowl with a hand-held blender into a smooth paste.
  6. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish with a fresh basil leave and serve.

 

DWARF BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris) – Borlotti, French, Haricot, Kidney, Pinto, etc.

DWARF BEANS There are many varieties of lovely dwarf green beans, or yellow or even purple ones, either flat or rounded, that are great eaten fresh, but some you can also save for the seeds from to soak and boil up in the winter. The obvious one is the Haricot (Navy) bean. The easiest to grow is Brown Dutch, if you can get it. The pods are nice as well. The other obvious one is the Kidney bean. Again the pods are great eaten fresh, but if you like Chilli Beans and other ways of cooking kidney beans, leave some pods unpicked, or grow a crop exclusively for dried seed production.

Soil & Feeding:

Like broad beans, these beans do not need heavy feeding, best to grow in pea and beans section of your rotation following potatoes, or sweet corn, which have been well fed with compost. Again, feed with seaweed meal if you have any, the potash will benefit the crop and the wide range of trace elements will benefit both the crop and those that eat the beans.

Varieties:

Slenderette: This is one of our favourite green beans. It is a prolific producer of thin, delicate rounded beans, without strings and very tasty.

Red Kidney: This is a good cropper, produces flattened pods of good flavour. It is also grown for the deep red seeds, used for cooking chilly beans etc. I originally bought ours from an organic shop and have grown and harvested the seeds ever since.

Borlotto Fire Tongue: This productive bean is a favourite in Italy and Italian cooking. They are grown for their young pods, using the fresh seeds from more mature pods and finally the dried speckled red and yellow seeds. The seeds are large for a dwarf been and have a chestnut flavour and buttery texture when cooked.

Sowing:

Bean seeds last 2 years.

Sow in deep boxes of seed compost, or two in each toilet roll, or two in each pot to plant out later. If both seeds germinate, pull out the weaker one. Alternatively sow outside in early to mid spring, 15cm (6in) apart in rows 30cm (1ft) apart, with a few spare at the end of the row in case some don’t germinate and need replacing, or for deep beds plants should be 15cm (6in) apart in staggered rows.

Planting:

Plant out your toilet rolls spaced as above. If it is still chilly outside, place a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, and the stopper off, and a bamboo pushed through to stop it blowing over, over each plant as a temporary cloche; taking them off in the daytime if it is hot and sunny, replacing them at night.

Harvesting:

Pick and eat the pods on a regular basis leaving a proportion to grow big for drying the seeds – some for sowing next year and the rest for soaking and cooking during the winter months. If the late summer, or early autumn is wet, then pull up the plants when the pods have turned yellow and hang the plants up in a dry shed, Polytunnel or glasshouse to dry properly. Then place them on a plastic sheet, or clean concrete floor and tread or stamp on them to thresh the seeds out. You can then sieve the seed to separate out the finer particles, and then sieve them through a garden sieve so the seed drops through and the plant material stays behind. Store in jars or paper bags until you need them.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Aphids: Use one of the homemade treatments in the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Slugs: See: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS and HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Recipes:

Dwarf Beans with Feta, Walnuts and Mint

This simple, tasty salad works with runner beans, too. Serves two to four.

Ingredients:

  • 280g (10oz) dwarf beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • The juice of ½ small lemon
  • A small handful of mint leaves, tough stalks removed, and chopped
  • 1 small handful dill, tough stalks removed, half the fronds chopped, the rest reserved to garnish the dish
  • Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g (5¼oz) feta
  • 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Preparation:

  1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans until just tender, about three to six minutes, then drain and refresh in cold water.
  2. Dress the beans in the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, some of the dill, salt and pepper.
  3. Serve topped with crumbled feta cheese, walnuts and the remaining dill fronds scattered over the top.

Fresh Borlotti Beans with Onion & Garlic

These are good hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves three to four.

Ingredients:

  • 400g (14oz) fresh borlotto beans (shelled weight)
  • 1 bouquet garni, comprising 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, 3 parsley stalks
  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled but bashed to break the skin
  • 6 small, fresh bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • ¼-½ teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • About 12 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed and finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Put the beans in a saucepan with the bouquet garni and enough water to cover by about 5cm (2in).
  2. Bring to a simmer and then cook until tender when pressed with a fork – how long this will take depends on how fresh the beans are. Allow 25-40 minutes.
  3. While the beans are cooking, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onions and leek with the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, chilli flakes and salt and pepper until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. This should take about 25 minutes.
  4. Drain the beans and add them to the onion mix. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sage and parsley, season and give everything a good stir.
  6. Squeeze over the lemon juice and trickle on the olive oil.

 

CLIMBING BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris) – NOT RUNNERS – Blue Lake, Borlotti Stoppa, Buscomb, Dutch, Epicure, Market Wonder, Yellow Pole, Purple Pod.

Beans Climbing

I have been increasingly growing climbing beans and climbing peas, rather than dwarf ones, simply because you get more beans for the same area of ground. This is the permaculture principle of ‘Layers’, in other words growing three-dimensionally like in a forest. If you grow your beans up canes built in a tent shape, the gap underneath is great for growing salad and spinach crops that prefer shade in the summer heat. You can also grow climbing beans up a trellis or wires attached to a sun-facing wall, or up a pergola or other structure.

Most of the climbing bean’s pods can be eaten fresh and the seeds can also be dried and then soaked and cooked for winter meals. Always grow too many to eat green and save the rest for drying and for sowing next year.

Sowing:

Bean seed lasts 2 years.

For early crops sow 2 seeds in seed compost in a cardboard toilet paper tube, or a 6cm pot, removing one seedling if 2 come up. For later crops, sow outside at the spacings below.

Planting out:

Build a ‘tent’ shape with two rows 60cm (2ft) apart, made of tall canes pushed into the soil at 30cm (1ft) apart and tied to a ridge cane. Then tie guy ropes from each end pegged down to secure the structure in high winds. Alternatively, build a wigwam of tall canes tied at the top and at 30cm (1ft) apart.

First, harden off your seedlings by placing the pots or cardboard tubes in a cold frame, opening in the daytime and closing at night. Then plant out the cardboard tubes or transplant the seedlings from pots at the base of the canes at 30cm (1ft) apart.

Later Sowings:

For later crops sow 2 seeds against the base of each cane, thinning to one later.

Soil, Feeding, and Harvesting:

The same as for Broad and Dwarf beans.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See above about growing Dwarf Beans.

 

DRYING BEANS (Phaseolus vulgaris) – Duobokoi, Gila Indian, Pean, Selugia

These are beans that grow the seeds so fast you can’t eat the pods, but if you like to have a good supply of dried beans for the winter months, try these. They are great beans to grow up your maize or tall sweet corn plants. Personally I find the Pean tough and ‘windy’. Selugia on the other hand is more like Borlotti dried beans in taste and texture (sweet and floury) and crops well.

Soil, Feeding & Sowing:

As for beans above.

Harvesting:

Leave all the beans on to dry, thresh, or hull, to use for next years seed and to use for soaking and cooking in the winter. If it is a wet autumn and the pods won’t dry, harvest the pods and dry in a glass-house or plastic-tunnel house, or somewhere dry and warm; then thresh or hull out the seeds and store them in clean jars or paper bags in the kitchen cupboard until needed.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See above about growing Dwarf Beans.

 

SCARLET RUNNERS (Phaseolus coccineus) – The Czar, Scots White, Painted Lady, Scarlet Runner

Runner Beans

The last two are ordinary Runner beans. The first two varieties, however, are Runner beans that have seeds that look and taste like Butter beans (Lima beans Phaseolus lunatus), which is a bean that you can only be grown in the tropics. These white seeded Runner beans, however, are hardy, but with white Butter bean type seeds.

Scots White Runner Beans Drying

This is the only kind of runner bean we have grown for many years now, because it has both lovely green Runner beans as well as a good crop of ‘Butter beans’ to save for the winter. The problem with the pods of green runner beans is that they do not taste good when frozen, or salted in the traditional way – so, grow more than your summer needs for green pods and then save the rest to fully ripen for the white dried bean seeds that can be soaked and cooked up in the winter. Varieties of this unique Runner include: The Czar and Scot’s White.

For Soil, Feeding Sowing & Planting, and Harvesting see: CLIMBING BEANS

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See above about growing Dwarf Beans.

Recipes:

Runner beans with tomatoes

This simple side dish serves four.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 500g (1 pound) runner beans, strings removed and cut diagonally into 3cm pieces
  • 350g (12oz) cherry tomatoes, or quartered regular tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml (17floz) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley, tough stalks removed, and finely chopped

Preparation method:

  1. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onions and bay leaf and fry, stirring from time to time, until the onions are soft – about five minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a further minute, then add the beans and tomatoes, season well, and cook and stir for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock, add the oregano, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the beans are tender and most of the liquid has thickened into a sauce – about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the parsley and season.
  5. Serve hot or warm.

 

OKRA (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Okra

Okra comes from the Mallow family, sometimes known as ‘lady’s fingers’ or ‘gumbo’. This crop is only suitable for warm climates. The yield decreases dramatically when the average temperatures are below 210C (700F). Here in Nelson, central New Zealand in a normal summer we can just about get away with it, but warmer would be better. So, if you have a warm or hot climate, with long summers, give them a try. In colder areas you will have to grow them in a glasshouse or Polytunnel.

The pods are usually eaten whole. The plants can grow up to 2 metres (6½ft) tall if the season is long enough where you are, but usually 1-1½ metres (3-5ft).

Grow in the hottest sunniest position in the garden.

Soil & Feeding:

Add two buckets of garden compost and two handfuls of your favourite Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) mixed into the top 6 cm (2½in).

Varieties:

Clemson Spineless: is the most commonly grown open pollinated variety grown. It has tender tasty medium green pods.

Sowing:

Okra seed lasts 2 years.

Okra does not like transplanting, so it is best to sow outside where it is going to grow, when the weather and soil have warmed up and the last frosts are a memory – in mid spring. Well-drained, fertile soil, are essential. Sow in shallow drills 90cm (3ft) apart, and when the plants are large enough to handle, thin them to 45cm (18in) apart in the rows.

They can also be sown in 8cm (3in) pots, as long as you wait until the roots have grown well before gently knocking out the root and soil and planting carefully in a hole of the same size, so as to minimise disturbance. Plant out in rows 90cm (3ft) apart with 45cm (18in) between the plants.

Growing:

Keep the plants weed free. They need keeping on the dry side to prevent rotting, so if you mulch around them keep the mulch away from the stems – mulch with spray free straw or a 3cm (in) layer of grass clippings. Apply another two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre and water in, about a month after sowing, or water with a liquid organic fertiliser, either home made or bought, see the section: ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures.

Some people suffer an allergic reaction when working with Okra, so avoid handling when the crop is wet, and if you think you might have problems wear gloves.

Harvesting:

Pick every two or three days when the pods are small. They can be stored in a cool place covered with a damp cloth until you have enough for a meal.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Aphids: Okra are susceptible to aphid attack – see ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES for remedies.

Recipes:

Okra Masala

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200-250g (7-9oz) okra
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 2 medium size tomatoes, chopped
  • 1cm (½in) ginger and 2-3 garlic, crushed or made to a paste in a mortar-pestle or ½ or ¾ teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon powdered coriander
  • ¼ or ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder
  • ½ teaspoon dry mango powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons oil for frying the okra
  • 1 tablespoon oil for frying the onion-tomato masala

Preparation:

  1. Rinse the okra well in water.
  2. Dry them on a large plate on their own or wipe with a kitchen towel.
  3. Remove the base and stalk while chopping the okra.
  4. Chop into 2.5-5cm (1 or 2in) pieces.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or pan.
  6. Add the okra and sauté till they are completely cooked. You will have to keep an eye on them and stir in between many times. Taste the okra and if the crunchiness has gone and the okra have become soft, it means they are cooked.
  7. All the oil will be used up so add 1 tablespoon of oil to the same pan.
  8. Add chopped onions and fry till they become translucent.
  9. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for ½ a minute or till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.
  10. Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy. If the tomato mixture becomes too dry add about ¼ or ½ cup water and continue to cook.
  11. All the above cooking is done in a open pan and you don’t need to cover the pan with the lid.
  12. Add all the dry spice powders one by one. Stir well and sauté for a minute.
  13. Add the sautéed okra & salt and mix so that the onion-tomato masala coats the okra well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring in between.
  14. Serve the okra masala hot or warm garnished with some coriander leaves and accompanied with chapatis, rotis or nān bread.

Traditional Gumbo (For vegetarians, see the next recipe)

This is an old Creole recipe from New Orleans. The word gumbo comes from the West African word for okra – ngombo or kingombo.

Ingredients:

  • 25g (4 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 35g (1oz) bacon drippings
  • 25g (1oz) coarsely chopped celery
  • ¼ large onion, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 90g (3oz) Andouille sausage, sliced (smoked French pork sausage)
  • 565ml (19floz) water
  • 1 teaspoon dried beef stock
  • ½ teaspoon rapadura or brown sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
  • ¾ bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ¼ can tomatoes
  • ¼ can tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon gumbo powder
  • 6g (¼oz) butter
  • 110g (4oz) cut okra
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 90g (3oz) lump crabmeat
  • 270g (9½oz) uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preparation:

  1. Make a roux by whisking the flour and ¾ cup bacon drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture.
  2. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown colour. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn.
  3. Remove from heat and continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.
  4. Place the celery, onion, green bell pepper, and garlic into the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are very finely chopped.
  5. Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  7. Bring the water and beef bouillon cubes to a boil in a large soup pot. Stir until the bouillon cubes dissolve, and whisk the roux mixture into the boiling water.
  8. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the rapadura or sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour.
  9. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes
  10. Remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Mix in crabmeat, shrimp, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer until flavours have blended – 45 more minutes.

Vegetarian Gumbo

Serves 6

Ingredients:

First part:

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, or butter
  • Pinch of hing (optional)
  • 1½ cups (175g) finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup (140g) finely chopped green peppers
  • ½ cup (120ml) minced fresh parsley
  • 1½ teaspoons dried thyme (or 3 teaspoons chopped fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh)

Second part:

  • 1 ½ cups (350g) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 ½ cups (600ml) vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons rapadura (or brown sugar)

Third part:

  • 1 tablespoon ghee, or butter
  • Pinch of hing (optional)
  • 2 cups diced tofu (440g)
  • Salt to taste

Fourth part:

  • 1 tablespoon ghee, or butter
  • Pinch of hing (optional
  • 3 cups (400g) okra cut into 1½cm (½in) pieces
  • Salt to taste

Fifth part:

  • Cooked brown Basmati rice

 

Preparation:

1. Melt the ghee (butter) in a soup pot. Add the hing and sauté over low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery, bell peppers, parsley, thyme and oregano. Cover and cook until very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

2. Process the tomatoes and stock in a blender until smooth. Add to the cooking vegetables, Stir in the bay leaves, pepper and rapadura (or brown sugar). Bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. While the broth is simmering, heat the second amount of ghee (or butter) in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the hing and the tofu. Sprinkle with salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Set aside.

4. Heat the third amount of ghee (or butter) in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the hing and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the okra, sprinkle with salt, and sauté stirring frequently, until tender.

5. Stir the okra into the broth. If you like your okra viscous and slimy, cover and simmer for up to an hour. Otherwise, stir in the tofu, and adjust the salt and pepper.

6. To serve, place a mound of rice on each dinner plate and spoon the gumbo over it.

 

PEAS (Pisum sativum)

Peas

What would we do without peas? Peas come in many forms – fresh Green peas, Snow peas, Petits pois, Sugar snap and dried peas. They can be eaten raw in salads, lightly cooked, or dried ones soaked and cooked for mushy peas, pease pudding or winter pea soup or ground into pea flour.

Soil & Feeding:

Peas, like all legumes make their own Nitrogen in their root nodules, with the help of Nitrogen fixing bacteria and therefore require little extra feeding. Indeed, too rich feeding leads to lots of foliage and a smaller crop of peas. The best plot to grow peas in is after a crop like potatoes that were heavily fed with rotted compost that will have lost a lot of its potency, but will still provide an open soil structure with good water retention. They do like a pH of 6.4,                                                                       so add some garden lime if the pH is lower.

Varieties:

Green Peas

Alderman Tall Climbing: This is a traditional tall productive heirloom pea. Each large pod contains 8-10 very large dark green peas. The vines grow to almost 2 metres, so it needs a good structure, or trellis to grow up.

Progress: Another old variety tried and tested variety, developed by the renowned pea breeder Thomas Laxton in the nineteenth century. Pea ‘Progress No 9′ is a prolific and early yielding wrinkle-seeded variety. It is a low-growing variety grows 40-50cm (16-20in) tall.

This fast growing, second early is heavy cropping, producing dark green plump pods that are 8-10cm (3-4in) long with 7 to 9 delicious peas per well-filled pod and is resistant to both Fusarium root rot and wilt. There is no need to stake its short vines, although the peas are easier to harvest when supplied with a small trellis or a fence. Harvest continuously when ripe to encourage greater yields. 58 to 65 days to maturity.

Rondo: This is a late main-crop crop variety. This is a high quality double podded variety with dark green straight, long pods that grow around 10-12cm (4-5in) long. The pods have as many as 8 to 10 peas. The peas have exceptional taste. They mature in approximately 75 days. This wrinkle seeded tall variety grows to a height of 80-90cm (31½-35in) and will benefit from support whilst growing, stake to 1M (39in).

They are resistant to fusarium. Regular watering when in flower will improve and lengthen the crop. Be prepared for a bumper harvest from this high yielding plant.

Sugar Snap Peas

Personally we prefer these to snow and mange tout peas as they are much plumper and fleshier with peas growing inside. The whole pods and peas are eaten.

Sugar Snap Tall: A sweet crisp variety. Vines grow to 180cm (6ft) so will need support.

Petits Pois

Petit Provencal: This is a classic small green sweet and tender French Heirloom pea, edible in just 55 days. It is also tolerant of the cold.

Mange Tout

Carouby: Unlike Snow Peas, which can get stringy and tough if left on the vine too long, these original mange tout stay sweet and tender, even if left too long. They also show good heat tolerance and are resistant to mildew.

Snow Peas

The pods need picking when still small to stop them getting tough. Eat them whole. Snow peas are also great for growing a micro crop of the young plants when they are about 8cm (3in) high.

Goliath: This is a vigorous one metre high crop. The pods are slow to develop stringiness and are sweet and crisp in texture, but pick regularly to keep them tender.

Drying Peas

Blue Peas: These are one of the best and most productive drying peas we have come across. It is a so-called semi-leafless dwarf pea, which was developed for modern mechanical harvesting. They produce small round bluish-green peas. They prop themselves up. They make great mushy-peas, pease pudding and heart warming winter soups. If you have the space, grow this one.

Marrow Fat Peas: This is an ancient variety, growing 1.5 metres (5ft) tall that needs a structure to grow on like runner beans. They can be used as dried peas for soups and stews, or to simmer down into a thick sauce called ‘mushy peas’, as well as for ordinary fresh peas. These peas were developed by the Capuchin Monks in Holland or France in the 16th century, and are known there as Capucijner Peas. They have two tone purple flowers; stunning purple pods brown squarish peas. They are especially good for soup and casserole dishes.

Sowing:

Pea seeds last 2 years.

Everybody wants an early crop, but peas can often rot off particularly if the soil is cold and wet. There are two ways around this. When we lived in the Welsh borders of the UK, where the spring was late and often frosty, cold and wet, we used these methods:

Early Sowing

  1. In late winter or early spring, obtain a 1 metre length, or several lengths, of plastic guttering and line with 2 or 3 layers of newspaper and dampen it with a watering can with the rose on. Three quarters fill the length of the guttering with seed compost and sow the peas at 5cm intervals along one side and another staggered row opposite at 5cm (2in) apart. Then cover with more compost and lightly water.

It also helps to cover the outside strip where the peas were to eventually grow with cloches, or a black strip of plastic held down with stones, to warm the soil.

Keep your gutter or several gutters in a glasshouse or Polytunnel until the peas are about 8cm (3in) tall. Using a board as a guide, make a straight furrow with a draw hoe. Slide the entire contents into the prepared furrow, firm and water well.

  1. Another method is to pre-germinate the peas in damp newspaper in a warm room indoors. Calculate how many you will need – a double row 5cm (2in) apart with the seeds at 5cm (2in) spacings means for every metre of row you will need 40 seeds.

Soak the seeds in a jar of water for over night, then drain and place between several layers of damp newspaper on a tray. Keep the newspaper damp, but not wet in a warm room, until the pea roots have grown about 1 cm (in).

Peas sowing

Again it is helpful to warm up the row where the peas are to grow, see above. Draw a wide flat-bottomed furrow 2cm (¾in) deep with a draw hoe and sow the sprouted seeds 5cm (2in) apart in 2 staggered rows 5cm (2in) apart. Cover with soil and lightly water.

Later Sowings

For the dwarf varieties of peas 45-60cm (18-24in) high we like to sow outside in spacings as above in diagonal rows joined at the points. As above, draw out a flat-bottomed furrow with a draw hoe and sow the seeds as above. This allows for a continuous row of chicken netting in a W shape back and forth across the bed held up by bamboo canes woven through the netting and pressed into the soil for support. The triangular spaces in-between can be planted with a few dwarf beans, or lettuce. Just sow the dry peas, cover with soil and water well and then fix the netting up.

However, since it is common to prune dormant trees about the same time that you plant peas, it is a tradition to use branches, stuck into the ground along your pea row, as support for peas, especially the shorter growing varieties. You can also use other items for support – lattice, netting, twine, or field fencing.

For climbing varieties grow up strings attached to a tent shaped structure of bamboos or other canes, stretching the strings from the top bar down a peg in the soil. Sow the seeds in a line along the bottom of the strings.

Growing:

Peas love regular watering, and if you are growing them in the height of summer it is better to give the plants the shade of taller crops, such as runner beans, or broad beans.

Harvesting:

Just keep picking them regularly before the peas get woody in the pods. For dried peas leave them on as long as possible to dry out on the vine. If late summer or autumn is wet, you can pull up the vines and hang them in a dry shed or glasshouse to dry before shucking the peas and storing them in paper bags somewhere cool and dry for cooking later or for saving seed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew: This is the most common disease of peas, especially on late crops as the weather cools and becomes damper. Mulching helps, and hand watering around the base of the plants whilst avoiding water on the leaves. Also if you see the first signs, spraying once a week with milk and water 50/50 is a very effective preventative that is being increasingly used by commercial organic growers, especially to control mildew on cucumbers and pumpkin leaves. Also spraying with Trichoderma viride (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS) will help to control it, but catch it early, or better still, spray as a preventative, before there are any signs on late crops.

Recipes:

Here are two recipes for both fresh and dried peas, one exotic and the other, traditional country food:

Jewish Egg & Peas

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of shelled peas
  • 60ml (2floz) water
  • 60ml (2floz) extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter)
  • ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg mace and black pepper
  • Sugar and salt to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup of cream

Preparation:

  1. Cook the peas with spices, water, oil and ¼ teaspoon salt in a covered frying pan (or enamelled pan that looks good enough to be served at the table)
  2. When half cooked season with more salt and a little sugar if necessary
  3. With the back of a spoon, make 4 depressions in the peas and slip an egg into each one
  4. Replace the cover of the pan and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the peas are done and the eggs are set, but not hard
  5. Meanwhile break the fifth egg and the cream into a cup and beat up
  6. Pour over the eggs and peas, and put under a hot grill for a moment or two to set
  7. Serve immediately

Pease Pudding

This is traditional English medieval warming winter food and was made from dried peas that had their skins removed and the pea split in two – hence the name. However it is quite possible to use whole dried peas that you have saved yourself. The whole cooked peas can be mashed up with a potato masher, Mouli or a stick blender.

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 225g (8oz) dried peas
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Soak the dried peas for 24 hours, or over night, until swollen
  2. Drain and rinse them and put in a saucepan just covered with cold water
  3. Simmer the peas gently until they are tender, then drain off any excess water and allow to cool
  4. Use a potato masher to mash the peas, or put through a Mouli sieve, or use a stick blender
  5. Fry the chopped onion in the butter for about 10 minutes, until soft, then add to the mashed cooked peas, together with the egg and the sea salt and ground pepper to taste, and mix together
  6. Put the mixture in a greased casserole or bread tin and bake in a moderate oven, 180oC (3560F) for about 30 minutes
  7. Serve slices with chutney, baked potatoes and cabbage, for a winter warmer

SWEET CORN (Zea mays)

CornSoil & Feeding:

Maize is one of the most ravenous of crops to grow, so ideally they should have 2 buckets of well rotted manure or compost + 2 handfuls of your favourite Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard), forked in.

 

Varieties:

I tend to stay away from the modern over-sweet varieties in favour of the traditional ones than can be both eaten fresh and dried for maize grain.

Golden Bantamn: Classic traditional sweet corn for eating fresh with lots of butter and black pepper.

Early Gem: This does not have such a good flavour as Golden Bantamn, but in colder areas with a shorter growing season this is probably the one for you.

Blue Aztec: Any edible vegetable plant with red or purple colouring tends to have much higher levels of anti-oxidants than those that do not. Admittedly, purple-grey polenta made from Blue Aztec maize can be a little off-putting, but the taste is exceptional. It is also good eaten fresh as sweet corn at the milk stage, with the kernel being sweet, tender and very tasty. This corn is believed to have originated in upper New York, possibly grown by the Iroquois nation. The 2m (6½ft) tall stalks produce large ears. When mature, the corn turns blue-black and makes very delicious corn bread. This corn is hardy and grows in a wide range of conditions.

Blue Hopi: This corn was developed by the Hopi Indians to be used as flour corn, and is the corn used to make the blue corn chips available commercially. The cobs grow large (long) and the plants are drought tolerant, and when ground they produce high quality flour. Excellent for posole, tortillas, polenta and porridge.

Sowing:

Corn seeds last 1-2 years.

Later sowings can be done outside, but if you are going to sow early you need to remember corn does not like being transplanted. The way around this is to sow in cardboard tubes or 8cm (3in) peat pots, which can then be transplanted out where they will rot as the plants grow. I sow ours in the early spring in cardboard toilet role centres with some kitchen paper towel stuffed down the bottom and filled with seed compost, with 2 seeds in each one, 2½cm (1in) deep. All the tubes are then propped up in a seed box or tray, watered and placed in a greenhouse, conservatory, or on a windowsill. Thin the seedlings to one when they are up. In warm/hot areas or for later crops they can be sown direct outside.

Planting:

Always plant in blocks, because maize plants are wind pollinated and there is a better chance of good pollination if they are grown in a block, whichever way the wind is blowing at the time. Plant out well after the last frosts in the prepared bed in blocks, with 60cm between the plants each way, staggered, so in each row the plants are planted opposite the space in the previous row.

When sowing later crops outside, sow 2 seeds 2½cm (1in) deep 60cm (2ft) apart each way in blocks, thinning to one seedling.

Growing:

This is one of the crops that benefit from a good Nitrogen rich liquid feed every two weeks during the growing period, and liquid comfrey and/or liquid seaweed every two weeks as the cobs swell – see: Liquid Manures in the section ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’.

Our favourite way of growing sweet corn/maize is the traditional way from Middle America – ‘The Three Sisters’. At the same time as the maize is planted out or sown, so is squash sown or planted at the corners of the bed. These then cover the ground as a growing mulch between the maize plants. When the maize plants are 15-20cm (6-8in) high, climbing beans are sown near each corn plant so they can climb up the plants for support.

Harvesting:

Fresh Sweet Corn: When the tassels at the top of the cobs have turned brown, have a sneak preview by pulling the covering sheath down a bit so you can examine the seeds in the cob. If they look plump and full, bend the cob down to break it off the plant. The important thing is harvesting while the seeds in the cob are full but still young and fresh and haven’t got too starchy.

Dry Corn: For a crop of dry seed to grind into maize meal, you need to leave the cobs on as long as possible into the autumn. The tassels will have turned dark and the seeds in the cob will have become hard to the touch. If the weather remains damp, then harvest the cobs; peel off the outer sheath to expose the seeds and finish drying in a greenhouse, tunnel house or conservatory.

When the seeds are really hard you can shuck them. Unless you have a corn shucker you will have to do it by hand. I was amazed when I first shucked my corn by hand, how easy it was. To do this, you simply grasp a thoroughly dry ear of corn horizontally in front of you (as if it were the handle of a lawn mower) and, while holding it over a container of some kind, twist your hands back and forth in opposite directions. The kernels will be rubbed from the cob and fall into the container — right along with tiny flecks of skin scraped painfully from your palms and fingers. So before you start, wear a pair of tough gardening or leather gloves, this will give you a better grip and save your hands.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Corn is generally trouble free here in New Zealand as well as Europe. Those pests that do exist here are conveniently divided into those that primarily affect the seedling stage, up to six weeks from planting, and those that attack the leaves and fruiting bodies on established plants. In the Americas and Australia there are various diseases and pests of maize and sweet corn, so you will need to do some research and use some of the remedies in the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.

Recipes:

Sweet Corn Pakoras

Ingredients:

  • 125g (4½oz) chick-pea flour
  • 1 tablespoon kalinji (onion) seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 100ml (3½floz) cold water
  • 350g (12oz) shucked sweet corn (see below)
  • Ghee for deep-frying

Preparation:

  1. Over a bowl, use a knife, sliding the blade down the corncob, just under the berries, continuing around the cob until all the berries are cut off – continue until you have 350g (12oz) shucked sweet corn
  2. Sift the chickpea flour into a large bowl and add the spices, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the cold water and whisk until you have a thick batter.
  3. Put the ghee over a medium-high heat. The ghee is hot enough when a drop of batter put into it rises immediately to the surface and sizzles.
  4. Pour enough of the batter into another bowl with the corn in until there is enough to cover the seeds.
  5. With a desert spoon take a spoonful and carefully drop the contents into the batter and add several more.
  6. When golden-brown and crisp, scoop out the pakoras with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper towel to drain.
  7. Fry all the pakoras this way, never putting in more than one layer at a time.
  8. Serve with spiced yogurt, chutney and chapati. 

 

d) GREENS

AMARANTH (Amaranthus tricolor)

Amaranth

There are varieties of amaranth grown for grain, but here we are talking about varieties grown for their leaves. The taste has been likened to spinach with a hint of bitter/sweet horseradish. Amaranth greens have a strong flavour and a texture that makes it ideal for use in stir-fries and sautés. Though younger amaranth greens can be eaten raw in salads, the mature plants need to be cooked, in                                                                            stir-fries, soups, simmered dishes, etc.  

Soil & Feeding:

Amaranth is a good crop to grow after peas and beans in your rotation system. Cut your beans or peas off at ground level and sow the seeds next to the bean or pea stems so the nitrogen in the pea/bean root nodules is released as they rot down to feed the amaranth plants – otherwise feed with one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

Some varieties of amaranth greens are streaked through with shades of red and purple, and others blood red. Slightly astringent when raw, the greens turn soft and mellow as they cook down. The leaves of the red-leafed varieties exude a blood-red juice when cooked. Other varieties, having leaves tinged with light green, are just as flavourful.

Green & Red: A good variety for both stir-fries and salads.

Mekong Red: Good for stir-fries

Sowing:

Amaranth seed lasts 4-6 years.

Edible Amaranth grows best in warm weather. Full sun is recommended but they will grow in shady spots with almost the same vigour. Amaranth seeds are very small and will germinate best at temperature above 180C (640F), so wait until the weather has warmed up in spring or early summer. You can sow amaranth greens directly into your garden beds any time after your frost-free date. They take only 30 days to reach harvest size. For a continuous supply, sow a new patch every month during the summer season.

The best way to sow the very small seeds is the same way I recommend to sow carrot seeds. Make a shallow groove with your finger. Trickle some water into the groove. Sprinkle about 3-6 seeds every 5cm (2in) – in rows around 8cm (3in) apart – and barely cover them up with some sieved garden compost, or sieved leaf-mould to hold moisture, and then water gently with the ‘rose’ sprinkler on your watering can. The damp garden compost or leaf-mould will hold the moisture until they start to grow properly.

Growing:

Prevent the soil from drying out too much until their tops are at least 5cm (2in) tall. After that you can irrigate them the way you would any garden vegetable. They will tolerate some drought but the tenderest greens come from unstressed plants that receive plenty of water.

Harvesting:

This fast-growing vegetable can be harvested 30 days after sowing, by the cut-and-grow-again method. Thin plants during the growth if necessary; the thinnings can be eaten.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Amaranth has very few diseases. In wet climates seedlings may disappear as they emerge due to hungry snails and slugs. Use beer traps to protect them – see section on TRAPS in the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.

 

BEET – see LEAF BEET

BOK CHOY see – PAK CHOI

BROCCOLI (Brassica oleraceae var. italica)

Broccoli

Broccoli – some love it, some hate it, but if you are of the latter persuasion, I have included some cooking recipes that might change your mind! Personally I’m not a huge fan, but I have found ways of cooking and preparing it that I really enjoy. It is however one of the best of the cabbage family for its nutritious qualities.

  • Fresh Broccoli is a storehouse of many phyto-nutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zea-xanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signalling at molecular receptor levels help protect from prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
  • Fresh broccoli is exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C. Provides 89.2mg (0.003146437oz) or about 150% of RDA per 100g (3½oz). Vitamin-C is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and immune modulator, helps fight against flu causing viruses.
  • Further, it contains very good amounts of another anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-A. 100g (3½oz) fresh head provides 623 IU or 21% of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zea-xanthin, vitamin A helps maintain integrity of skin and mucus membranes. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyesight and helps prevent from macular degeneration of the retina in the elderly population.
  • This flower vegetable is rich source of vitamin-K; and B-complex group of vitamins like niacin (vit.B-3), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), pyridoxine (vit.B-6), and riboflavin. The flower heads also have some amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.

OK have I convinced you yet? Look, the most important thing is to enjoy your food, so try some of the recipes and see what you think.

In this climate we can grow broccoli all the year round and even in climates with colder winters there are winter varieties, such as Early Purple Sprouting, that will stand a reasonably cold winter – check with the locals and your local seed catalogues.

Varieties:

Di Cicco: This is a variety that has a large head in the middle to begin with, and when this is cut the side shoots (florets) keep up production as long as you keep picking them when they are ready. This is our favourite.

Early Purple Sprouting: is an old variety that has small florets evenly around the whole plant that keep producing over a long time.

Soil & Feeding:

Ideally, broccoli (like other brassicas) should follow peas and beans in your rotation system, having left the roots of the peas and beans in with their Nitrogen rich root nodules on to rot down and release the Nitrogen to feed the young broccoli plants which you have cleverly planted tucked up next to the bean/pea roots – an old gardener’s trick!

DON’T dig the soil, because broccoli prefers a firm soil and therefore it’s unnecessary. Feed with Eco or Organic Fertiliser, at the rate 2 handfuls per square metre (yard). This is also the time to apply garden lime, if your soil has a lower pH than 6.4, follow the instructions on the packet. If the pH is fine, apply gypsum (pH neutral) at 4 handfuls per square metre. This will provide readily available Calcium and Sulphur, both of which will benefit broccoli without changing the pH.

Rake into the top 2cm (¾in) with your fingers or a small hand fork. If your garden is new and the soil needs improving, fork in some well rotted horse poo as well as the powdered fertiliser into the top 10cm (4in) and then tread the soil down afterwards to make it firm.

Sowing:

Broccoli seed lasts 3-4 years.

Sow early crops in boxes of seed compost (see seed sowing section above) in late winter, early spring. The later sowings from October (southern hemisphere), or April (northern hemisphere) onwards can be done outside in a small seed bed made at the end of your main bed, by sieving the top few centimetres through the usual 9mm (in) garden sieve, spreading the course material onto the main bed – no boxes and special seed compost necessary and the seedlings will be much stockier and healthy. You only need a small area [½ square metre (5 square feet)] for most purposes.

Planting out:

Plant out when 7-10cm (2¾-4in) high, 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or if you are block planting 45cm (18in) between them on the triangular planting. This may seem far apart, but they grow quite big and need the space. You can plant out a quick crop of lettuce in between.

The usual rule for planting any plant is to plant at the same depth they were growing, but brassicas really enjoy being planted up to their necks (where the side branches are); this causes them to grow new roots up the stem and they will be firmer in the soil. This is particularly important for taller plants like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. If you have a light soil you can also earth them up as they grow. Water the planting hole and water well after planting.

If there is very dry hot weather when you are planting out, place some worm compost, or well-rotted sticky garden compost around the roots to both feed and retain moisture for the seedlings to stop them wilting in the sun. Also a light mulch of straw, or grass clippings over the watered soil around the seedlings will help to maintain moisture.

Harvesting:

Keep picking or cutting the florets when they are still firm, but not starting to open into flowers. There is always the temptation to leave them too long in the hope they will get bigger. Knowing when to pick comes with experience.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See first the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants.

  • Club root: is a soil-borne fungus disease of brassicas, which thickens the root and stunts the growth of the plants. It is worse on badly drained soil and where acid conditions exist and where brassicas are grown too regularly in the same area – so make sure your soil is well drained, plus use gypsum on heavy clay soils to open up the clay making it freer draining and more airy, make sure your soil’s pH is around 6.4 and rotate your crops allowing a minimum of 3 years between growing broccoli (or any brassica) on the same area. Once you have this disease there is no cure and it will remain in the soil for more than seven years. So, avoid at all costs by correcting the nutrient balance in your soil and increase the humus content of the soil to around 6 per cent so as to create a thriving healthy soil life and deeply resistant plants. If the worst comes to worse, find new unaffected ground in which to grow the brassica family.
  • Cabbage White Caterpillars: Try keeping them at bay by increasing plant resistance (see: the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’). You can also attract predatory insects, like predatory wasps that inject their eggs into the caterpillars so their babies eat them, by growing flowers that attract them. We have noticed this happening to great effect at Waimarama Community Gardens in the past. If you have not had the chance to create super-high resistance in your plants yet and they start to become a problem spray with BT Bacillus thuringiensis every ten days. This is marketed as ‘Dipel’ and ‘Thuricide’, amongst others. The caterpillars ingest the bacteria when they eat the sprayed plant, which is a natural disease of caterpillars. The caterpillars take a few days to die, but they stop eating almost immediately. As long as you only spray the plants you want to protect there will be no problem and it is only harmful to the caterpillars and is harmless to other species including us. It is certified for use on organic farms.
  • Aphids: Again if the soil and plant is healthy there should be little or no problem with them on organic farms and gardens, because of the build up of natural predators like ladybirds and hover-flies. If they do cause a problem spray with garlic, ginger and chilli spray and liquid soap as described in the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.
  • Cabbage Root Fly: Luckily we don’t have cabbage root fly here in New Zealand, but in the UK, Europe and the northern parts of the United States and Canada, they are a problem. The cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) attacks cabbages cauliflower, kale, with Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The fly lays its eggs next to the base of the stem and when the grubs hatch they burrow down into the root and start eating, causing the plant to eventually wilt. The only truly successful way of controlling this pest organically from laying their eggs next to the base of the stem of the plant is to provide a barrier. See the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘ – BARRIERS, for details.

Recipes:

Chinese Broccoli & Ginger

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium stalks Chinese broccoli (about 12 ounces)
  • ¼ cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
  • 1½ teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon ginger juice
  • ½ teaspoon cornflour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 slices ginger cut into fine strips

Preparation:

  1. Cut the broccoli stalks in half lengthwise if more than 1½ cm in diameter.
  2. Cut the stalks and leaves into 5cm (2in) long pieces, keeping the stalk ends separate from the leaves.
  3. In a small bowl combine the broth, rice wine, ginger juice, corn-starch, salt, and sugar.
  4. Heat a 35cm (14in) flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact.
  5. Swirl in the oil, add the ginger, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the ginger is fragrant.
  6. Add only the broccoli stalks and stir-fry 1 to 1½ minutes until the stalks are bright green.
  7. Add the leaves and stir-fry 1 minute until the leaves are just limp. Stir the broth mixture and swirl it into the wok.
  8. Stir-fry 1 minute or until the sauce has thickened slightly and lightly coats the vegetables.

Broccoli & Lentil Bake

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 125g (4½oz) continental lentils
  • 370g (13oz) broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas
  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Small pinch cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 4 tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
  • ½ teaspoon organic tamari
  • Juice of 1 small lemon

For Cheese Sauce:

  • Liquid from cooking broccoli made up to 425 ml with milk
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ heaped tablespoon flour
  • 45g (1½oz) butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 125g (4½oz) grated cheddar cheese

Preparation:

  1. Soak lentils overnight and cook in plenty of water until soft (about 1½ hours). Drain through fine sieve
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 1900C (3740F)
  3. Chop the broccoli roughly and steam for a few minutes until barely tender
  4. Melt butter in a pan and add chopped tomatoes and ground coriander. Simmer until liquid is reduced
  5. Stir in the broccoli, lentils and rest of the ingredients
  6. Spoon into casserole dish
  7. Make white sauce – make a roux with butter and flour, cook for a few minutes and gradually add milk stirring continually (use a whisk, it’s easier)
  8. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper
  9. Pour the sauce over the casserole and sprinkle with grated cheese
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until heated through

Broccoli Salad

This salad is easy, attractive and a wonderful combination of flavours. For best results, make a day ahead and let chill overnight. Marinating over night will soften the broccoli. If you want to you can lightly steam the broccoli for a few minutes, then cool in cold running water, but try uncooked and marinated first.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head broccoli, or good bunch of florets, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup pitted black olives
  • 100g (3½oz) feta cheese, crumbled
  • Italian salad dressing, to taste

To make Italian salad dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cherry tomatoes, olives and feta
  2. Serve with a good coating of the dressing

 

BRUSSELS SPROUTS (Brassica oleraceae gemmifera)

Brussels Sprouts

This is another veg that some love to hate, usually because they have only had it over cooked – they are best cooked quickly, for only 3 minutes, in very little water so they are steamed and still a bit crunchy. The best way to my mind is to serve them 50/50 with roasted peeled sweet chestnuts, yum – anyway, more of that in the recipe section.

In warmer areas, like North Island New Zealand, they do not grow well. They grow fast and the sprouts bolt and don’t form tight buttons. Brussels Sprouts do best in harder conditions with regular frosts as they are forming their buttons; this makes them firmer and sweeter.

One of the things one has to learn when growing crops, in fact all plants, is that some will not do well in your climate or soil, having found the ones that grow well in your area, stick to those. Hey, there are so many to choose from and enjoy!

Varieties:

Fillbasket: will do – an old reliable variety renowned for its large sprouts and long harvesting season. There are many flashy F1 hybrids that produce all their buttons at once. That’s great if you are growing a field full for cutting whole plants and harvesting the buttons in a factory, but small growers need a succession of buttons over time. I personally don’t like F1 hybrids and I don’t understand how organic seed companies sell F1 hybrids! There are also red varieties – yes OK if you must.

Soil & Feeding:

The same as for broccoli. They need very firm soil, so if you have to dig a new plot fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre (yard), plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard),plus lime if necessary to get the pH to 6.4, otherwise 4 handfuls of gypsum per square metre, supplying Calcium and Sulphur, but not raising the pH.

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, just add the lime or gypsum, plus 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre (square yard) and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres.

Sowing:

Brussels Sprout seeds last 3-4 years.

Sow mid to end of October in the southern hemisphere, April/May in the northern hemisphere – yes they really need that amount of time (6-7 months) to grow well into decent sized plants before the cold of autumn and winter stops their growth. You can sow them in boxes, but as the soil has warmed up by then, better to sow outside in a small seedbed at the end of one of your vegetable beds. Sieve the topsoil to produce a nice fine bed for sowing your seeds.

Planting Out:

Remember to plant the seedlings next to the roots of the beans or peas you have left in for the Nitrogen in the root nodules to feed the Sprouts. Plant out when about 10cm high from seed boxes, or from your outside seed bed, 60cm (2ft) apart each way – they take up a lot of room. As for Broccoli, plant your Brussels Sprouts seedlings deeper than they were before – up to their necks, i.e. up to the bottom leaves so that they will form more roots up the stems and be firmer in the ground. Press the soil well down around the plants. Loose ground will cause the buttons to bolt later on rather than forming tight buttons. There is also time to plant out catch crops between the plants, like lettuce, other salad crops or spinach, which will be ready well before the Sprouts get big.

Staking:

Hammer in a good stake next to each Sprout plant to tie them to as they grow tall – 2cm (¾in) square wooden ones 1.2 metres (4ft) long are the ones I use, but whatever you use they need to be strong. When the plants are loaded with buttons and standing tall they easily get blown down in autumn or winter storms, and rocking in the wind will loosen the roots and cause the buttons to blow.

Maintenance:

As the buttons form, pull off the bottom leaves as they yellow, where they grow under the buttons. Keep pulling the yellowing leaves off higher and higher up the plants. This will encourage the buttons to grow better.

Harvesting:

Pick the buttons from the bottom of the stem and work upwards as they grow; this is the order that sprouts grow. Just snap the buttons off at the base with your thumb.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

Recipes:

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 225g (8oz) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Preparation:

  1. Remove any ragged or old-looking outer leaves on the Brussels sprouts and discard. Parboil the Brussels sprouts (or steam them) for 3 minutes or until just tender. They should be almost cooked all the way through (cut one in half to test). Strain the hot water and place the sprouts in a bowl of ice water, this will keep their colour bright green. Cut the sprouts into halves.
  2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons more of butter and the Brussels sprouts halves.
  3. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for several more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste while the Brussels sprouts are cooking. Do not overcook! Overcooked Brussels sprouts are bitter and squishy and are the main reason why some people don’t like them.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and half of the toasted almonds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving dish and garnish with the rest of the toasted almonds.

Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chestnuts

Definitely our favourite!

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 225g (8oz) Brussels sprouts
  • Same number of whole chestnuts as Brussels sprouts
  • Cooking oil
  • Knob of butter

Preparation:

  1. With a sharp knife, make deep crosscuts on the flat side on the shell
  2. Coat the chestnuts with cooking oil and spread out on a baking sheet
  3. Roast in a 190oC (374oF) oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the shells can be removed easily
  4. As soon as the chestnuts are cool enough to handle, peel off the shells and brown inner skins
  5. Remove any ragged or old-looking outer leaves on the Brussels sprouts and discard
  6. Bring 1cm salted water to boil in a pan
  7. When boiling, tip in the Brussels sprouts to steam for 3 minutes
  8. Remove and toss with the chestnuts in the butter and serve

Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 227g (½ pound) sliced mushrooms
  • A good knob of butter
  • 5 tablespoons butter ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. Cook Brussels sprouts in a pot of lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes; strain through a colander, removing as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook and stir mushrooms until lightly browned.
  3. Toss Brussels sprouts with mushrooms, and sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

 

CABBAGE (Brassica oleraceae capitata)

Cabbage

You can grow cabbages all the year round unless you live in parts of the world with extremely cold winters. Many people don’t bother to grow cabbages in the summer, as there are so many other lovely things to eat. However cabbage is definitely high on my list of favourites, so I try to have some available all the year round.

 

The first varieties are the pointed spring cabbages, followed by tight, white round summer cabbages beloved by those who use them in salads and for making coleslaw, followed by late autumn/winter hardy Savoy cabbages (my favourite), Red cabbage and Collards.

Soil & Feeding:

Cabbages are hungry feeders i.e. they like a good amount of available Nitrogen for leaf growth and plenty of Calcium along with all the other nutrients. Cabbages like a soil pH of 6.5 so if the pH is lower, add the recommended amount of ground limestone (garden lime) per square metre (yard) and mix in to the top few centimetres. If you already have a pH of 6.5 as we have, but still want to give some extra Calcium, then the best way is to add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre. Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the cabbage family will benefit from, but not increase the pH.

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the cabbages out next to the old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans.

If you are starting from scratch add 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard)and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres (inches). The soil does not need to be so firm for cabbages, as it does for Brussels sprouts and Broccoli.

Varieties:

Spring Cabbage:

Conehead Cabbage

  • Conehead: best grown through the cooler spring and early summer. Dense heads of 1-2 kg (2-4 pounds) with sweet tender green leaves. Great for coleslaw and cooked dishes.
  • Winningstad: – also known as Glory of Enkhuizen – another conehead variety. First listed in America in 1856, A stunning looking, tall pointy pale green cabbage with thick firm leaves, mild flavour, good to eat and extremely ornamental. Excellent keepers, great sauerkraut cabbage.

Summer Cabbage (also good for early winter):

  • Copenhagen Market: dense round solid head. This is one we used to grow commercially on our organic farm. Excellent for coleslaw or fine shredding and is delicious and tender when cooked. Needs to be kept well watered to stop it running to seed.

Winter Cabbage:

Savoy

  • Savoy Chieftain: are huge with beautiful round crinkly green leaves. They are at their best when frost sits on the leaves. Great for cooking, coleslaw and sauerkraut. They keep well over winter if grown well with hard, tight hearts.
  • Vertis Savoy: have very crinkly leaves with flat round heads of up to 2-3kg (4-6½ pounds) in size; one year ours grew to 20cm (8in) across.
  • Cabbage red
  • Red Express: forms sweet solid compact 1-2kg (2-4 pound) heads, of a reddish/purple colour. Great cooked with grated apple and/or red onions.
  • Collards or Loose-leafed Cabbage: these cabbages need to be sown in mid to late summer. They are used as leaf cabbages and are picked throughout the winter and spring (until October, when they head up to seed). This cabbage is known around the world as being one of the most nutritious of brassicas –probably because it is an open leaf variety so all leaves are in the sun. Traditional recipes used these leaves for making wonderful cabbage rolls, stuffed with minced meat, rice or lentils and then baking.

Sowing & Planting:

Cabbage seed lasts 3-4 years.

  • Sow spring cabbages in late winter/early spring in boxes. Plant out 45cm (18in) apart when around 6-7cm (2-3in) high.
  • Sow summer cabbage mid to late spring in boxes or outside in a seedbed made of sieved top soil. Plant out when 6-7cm (2-3in) high 45-50cm (18-20in) apart.
  • Sow winter cabbage in late November SH or late May NH outside in a prepared seedbed. I like the long growing season to get good size cabbages to last the winter. Plant out when 6-7cm (2-3in) high 50cm (20in) apart.

When planting out cabbages (and other brassicas) plant up to the first leaf stems – this will encourage more roots to grow from the stem for a healthier plant.

Growing:

I feed mine every two weeks through the main growing season with liquid manure made from worm juice, or liquid horse poo (see: the section LIQUID MANURES in chapter 2, ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’).

Mulch down with spray-free straw, or lawn clippings, to hold moisture and control weeds, or you could try sowing red clover between the plants as a living mulch, but it will need cutting regularly with garden sheers and the leaves left to rot down. I have done this regularly and had good results. Another method is to sow broad beans at about 4-5cm (1½-2in) apart each way between the Cabbages, or other brassicas, cutting them down when they are 10-15cm (4-6in) high leaving them as mulch. They will keep growing and you can keep cutting them to supply nitrogen to the Cabbages, or other brassicas.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

Recipes:

Cooked cabbage is delicious if cooked properly, the secret is to finely shred the cabbage and cook until just tender – no more!

Steamed Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cabbage
  • Several pats of butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • Remove the outer layers and the core and finely shred the cabbage with a sharp knife
  • Place in sieve and rinse with filtered water
  • Do not shake off the water – water adhering to the cabbage will be sufficient to cook it
  • Place in a heavy pan and top with a little salt, plenty of pepper and several pats of butter
  • Turn on the heat and lower when cabbage starts to steam
  • Cook about 5 minutes, covered, until the cabbage is just wilted

Stir-Fry Cabbage (for 4)

Ingredients:

  • ½ kg (1 pound) white cabbage
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 green onions (spring onions)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil, for stir-frying
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine, dry sherry, or white wine
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce, optional
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed in 4 teaspoons water

Preparation:

  1. Rinse the cabbage and pat dry. Remove the leaves and cut diagonally into 2½cm (1in) pieces. Finely chop the garlic. Rinse the green onion and cut into 2½cm (1in) lengths.
  2. Heat the wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant, and then add the cabbage.
  3. Stir-fry the cabbage for 1 minute.
  4. Throw in the rice or white wine or dry sherry and stir in the salt and immediately put on the lid to steam.
  5. Add the water. Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer the cabbage for 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat back to medium-high. Stir in the sugar and green onion. Stir in the soy sauce if desired.
  7. Push the cabbage to the sides of the wok. Give the cornflour and water mixture a quick stir and add it in the middle, stirring quickly to thicken. Cook briefly to mix everything together.
  8. Serve hot.

These next two recipes are taken from Sally Fallon’s indispensable book ‘Nourishing Traditions’, which has transformed my preserving, preparation and cooking of food. I highly recommend this great book, see:

http://www.newtrendspublishing.com/SallyFallon

Sweet Red Cabbage

Red cabbage takes longer to cook than green cabbage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 apples, peeled cored and cut into segments
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preparation:

  1. Rinse cabbage with filtered water and place in a heavy pan
  2. In a small pan, mix bay leaf, cloves, salt, honey and cinnamon with the water and bring to a boil
  3. Pour over the cabbage and cook for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the apple and cook for another 10 minutes
  5. Remove the cabbage with a slotted spoon to a heated serving dish and toss with the butter and vinegar

Red Cabbage With Orange

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red cabbage
  • 1 small onion (preferably red), peeled and chopped
  • Grated rind of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, strained
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons whey or raw wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Preparation:

  1. Shred cabbage into a large bowl
  2. In a small bowl combine onion, orange rind, orange juice, garlic, salt, honey and whey or vinegar.
  3. Pour over cabbage and toss well and marinate overnight
  4. Melt butter in a large saucepan or frying pan
  5. Add cabbage mixture and bring to a simmer
  6. Reduce heat, cover and cook gently for about ½ hour
  7. Uncover until cabbage is tender and liquid has evaporated

 

CAULIFLOWER Brassica oleracea botrytis

Cauliflower

Here in central New Zealand we can grow true cauliflowers all the year round. However in colder Britain we grew winter cauliflowers (white heading broccoli) for the colder months. Although true cauliflowers are the most difficult of the brassicas to grow well, they are well worth the trouble.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Feed as for cabbage, but make sure the soil is highly fertile. They are particularly sensitive to a lack of trace elements, especially Boron. Watering with liquid seaweed several times during their growth will ensure they get all the trace elements they need.

Varieties:

All The Year Round: is probably the most useful, except in areas which have harder winters. Produces medium sized compact white curds.

Snowball: is faster growing, with white small to medium sized curds.

Hardy winter cauliflowers:

In countries with cold winters you will not be able to grow proper cauliflowers through the winter – however do not despair, one can grow so called ‘winter cauliflowers’, which are in fact a form of white headed broccoli and none the worse for that. Here is a succession ready from late winter to late spring, early summer.

Galleon: is a good variety for harvesting in the spring.

Snow’s Winter White: has pure white heads ready mid- to late winter, when there is a scarcity of vegetables in the garden.

St George: is a hardy old favourite, which are ready for cutting in early spring.

April: sown during mid-spring; harvested following spring; hard, white, solid heads; keeps for long periods.

Late Queen: was bred to be sown in late spring to be harvested in late spring early summer. Rarely affected by frost and produces splendid white heads.

Sowing:

Cauliflower seed lasts 3-4 years.

For the early ones we sow in boxes in late winter and early spring, and from mid to late spring outside in a seedbed. The problem with sowing in late spring, is the cauliflowers are ready in the height of summer when there are plenty of other things to eat, and they are also likely to bolt and run into flower, so the next period of sowing begins in mid to late summer for cropping in late summer through until autumn for winter and early spring cropping. It all depends on how much you like cauliflower. Personally we grow ours for autumn, winter and spring, the rest of the year we can enjoy other vegetables.

The later sowing should be sown in an outside seedbed at the end of a veg bed with the top 2 or 3cm sieved through a garden sieve.

For colder winters, you will need to sow your white heading broccoli (winter cauliflower) in spring or early summer because they need around six months growth for them to be ready in the spring of the following year!

Planting Out:

Plant out 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or if you are block planting, 45cm (18in) between them on the triangular planting. For winter heading broccoli (winter cauliflower) plant out at 75cm (2½ft) apart as they are bigger plants.

The young Cauliflower seedlings should be transplanted when no taller than 5cm (2in), watering before and after transplanting to avoid a disruption in their growth. When transplanting, check each seedling to make sure they have a central growing point, ones that don’t will only produce leaves and no curds.

Growing:

Apart from having fertile soil, the most important thing with growing cauliflowers is to keep them growing steadily. If they are left to long in their seed trays or seed beds causing excessive root damage on transplanting, if they are planted to close and are competing with each other for resources, if they have to compete with weeds, if they suffer from lack of water at any stage even for a day in dry weather, or if they don’t have a good supply of nutrients to draw on, they will start to produce curds prematurely resulting in small curds or even bolting and running up to flower. As long as they are happy and well fed and watered, they will hold off producing curds and will grow large enough to produce a decent sized curd.

As the curds are forming, bend some of the larger leaves over the curds to keep them cool and moist and protect them from direct sunlight, which will darken them and make them grey.

Harvesting:

Cut off the curd and some of the smaller leaves around it, which can be trimmed back, but many people like to cook some of the smaller leaves with the curds – it’s up to you. You can use the larger leaves for making soup, or add them to smoothies.

If too many cauliflowers are ready together, you can dig up some plants, leaving the stem and roots on, trim the leaves and hang upside-down in a cool shed or store room – spray regularly to keep them fresh until needed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See Broccoli for pests and diseases of brassicas.

As already said, cauliflowers can suffer from a lack of trace elements. A shortage of molybdenum may result in a strange condition known as ‘whiptail’, where the leaves are thin and deformed. Boron deficiency causes small, bitter curds and makes the stems and leaves turn brown. Magnesium deficiency may turn the leaves yellow, reddish or purple. Prevent, by watering with liquid seaweed, which contains the vast majority of known trace elements and also enjoy the benefits of them when you eat your cauliflowers.

Recipes:

Apart from the usual cauliflower and cheese sauce, there are other variations and ways of cooking cauliflower. The most important thing is – don’t over cook them. They cook quickly; they need to be firm and just tender, not soft and squishy – about 10 minutes – keep checking by sticking in a small kitchen knife to test.

One of my favourite recipes is an Indian one:

Turmeric Cauliflower & Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized cauliflower
  • ½ kg (1 pound) potatoes with skins on, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 dried chillies crushed, or fresh chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons powdered turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 firm ripe tomatoes, washed and sliced

Method:

  1. Trim the cauliflower and cut into flowerets about 4cm long by about 2.5cm (1in) thick. Rinse them in a colander and let drain
  2. Heat the ghee or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the mustard seeds and chillies and fry for 30-45 seconds, or until the mustard seeds have stopped popping
  3. Add the rest of the powdered spices, fry a few seconds longer, then immediately add the cubed potatoes
  4. Turn the potatoes for 2 or 3 minutes, letting them brown in spots. Now stir in the cauliflower and stir-fry for another 2 or 3 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and put on the lid to steam
  6. Cook over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still firm
  7. Serve with slices of tomato and twists of lemon or lime

 

 

KALE (Brassica oleraceae, acephala)

Kale

There is kale, and then there is kale. There are the traditional curly somewhat bitter types at one end, and Red Russian kale at the other end that is sweet and almost cabbage tasting. The great thing about kale is it is extremely hardy and is great to sow in mid summer for a productive vitamin packed winter green, right through to spring.

Soil & Feeding:

Kale is a hungry feeder i.e. they like a good amount of available Nitrogen for leaf growth and plenty of Calcium along with all the other nutrients. Kale likes a soil pH of 6.5 so if the pH is lower, add the recommended amount of ground limestone (garden lime) per square metre (yard) and mix in to the top few centimetres (inches). If you have a pH of 6.5 as we have, but still want to give some extra Calcium, then the best way is to add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre (yard). Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the brassicas will benefit from, without affecting the pH.

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the kale out next to old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans.

If you are starting from scratch add 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre(square yard) and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres (inches).

Varieties:

Squire: Heavy yielding type of curled deep bluish-green leaves.

Red Russian Kale: This kale is succulent, tender and sweet with blue-green leaves with deep red veins.

Asparagus: The leaves have a more delicate flavour than cabbage or other kales and can be eaten through the winter.

Cavolo Nero: Old rustic Italian variety in the form of a palm tree. This is a more bitter type with a tough central vein. By stripping the leaves off the central stems and cooking the way my mother used to, they are very tasty (see below for recipe).

Sowing:

Kale seeds last 4 years.

For winter production, sow from late spring to mid summer in an outside seedbed in shallow drills 15cm (6in) apart. When the seedlings are around 8cm (3in) high, transplant them out 45cm (18in) apart up to their bottom leaves and water well in.

Growing:

I feed mine every two weeks through the main growing season with liquid manure made from worm juice, liquid horse poo, or liquid fish manure (see the section on ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures).

As brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of red clover as a living mulch will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop, but it will need cutting regularly with garden sheers and the leaves left to rot down.

Harvesting:

Kale is ideal for cutting, or picking and coming again. Just pick enough leaves and let it grow more.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

The most common are the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, which can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spay with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects the caterpillars only when they take a bite out of your plants, marketed under such names as ‘Dipel’ and ‘Thuricide’. It is also harmless to animals and humans. However be careful not to spray on other crops or flowering plants, because it could kill friendly butterflies.

Recipes:

I am going to start with a simple way to cook kale that my mother taught me. This takes kale to another level:

Creamed Kale:

Serve this with the other ingredients of a main meal, e.g. meat and boiled potatoes, rice and beans, omelette and baked potatoes etc.

Ingredients:

  • Enough kale leaves for the number of people – remember it shrinks a bit in cooking
  • 1 cm cream in the bottom of the pan
  • Salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste

Preparation:

  1. Strip the kale leaves from the stems
  2. Coarsely chop the leaves
  3. Pour 1cm (in) cream into your pan and heat over medium heat to a simmer
  4. Add the chopped kale and stir to cover the kale with cream
  5. Add ground pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste
  6. Simmer kale gently until tender

 

KOMATSUNA (Brassica rapa var. perviridis)

Komatsuna

This is a fast growing brassica grown for its leaves that have a flavour between Mustard and Cabbage, with a hint of Spinach, but also pungent. In the summer it will mature in 30 days from sowing.

Soil & Feeding:

As Komatsuna is fast growing, mix in two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

 

Varieties:

There is the usual green leafed variety and a red leafed variety.

Sowing:

Komatsuna seeds last 4 years.

As it is so fast growing, sow outside where it is to grow in rows 12cm (4¾in) apart thinning the plants to 5cm (2in) apart in the rows, or for deep beds sprinkle the seed thinly over the growing area and thin the seedlings to 5cm (2in) apart each way.

Growing:

If you have good soil and/or have applied some organic fertilisers then all you have to do is keep the weeds down. However, as brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of red clover will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop.

Harvesting:

Cut the plants at the base, or you could try picking a few leaves from some of them, allowing them to grow some more.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

As Komatsuna is very fast growing it will probably miss the usual pests and diseases of brassicas, however just in case, see Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

The most common pest is the caterpillar of cabbage white butterflies, which can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spray with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects the caterpillars only when they take a bite out of you plants.

Recipes:

Komatsuna Greens in Ginger Almond Miso Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch Komatsuna Greens, stems and leaves separated
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • ½ kg (1 pound) firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons organic tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup cooked red quinoa (or rice or other grain)

Preparation:

  1. Dry fry the tofu. It is best to divide the tofu into 2 batches to do this. After it is crisped the way you prefer it, set it aside on a plate to add to the stir-fry later.
  2. Chop the komatsuna stems into 1¼cm (½in) pieces.  Julienne the leaves.
  3. Heat up a wok (without oil) and add the almonds.  Stir-fry quickly until fragrant and toasted, about 45 seconds. Remove.
  4. Then in the wok, heat up 1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6-7 minutes or until the onion turns clear and soft.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the komatsuna stems and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. While the komatsuna is cooking, combine the tamari sauce, miso, and vinegar until smooth and set it aside.
  6. When the greens are tender, add the tofu and then drizzle with miso sauce and sprinkle with almonds.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

LEAF BEET (Beta vulgaris, var cicla) includes RAINBOW & RUBY BEET, SILVER BEET (Swiss Chard) & PERPETUAL SPINACH (Spinach Beet)

Leaf Beet

All leaf beets are hardy and stand for a long time, so they can be grown throughout the year, however eventually they will run to seed. They are ideal for autumn, winter and spring cropping, but can be grown through the summer.

Soil & Feeding:

All the leaf beets love a good feed, so mix in to the top 10cm (4in), 2 buckets of compost or well rotted horse poo + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Rainbow: is a complete mixture of coloured stems – yellow, gold, pink, and crimson and some are striped – orange and white, white and green etc.

Ruby (Cardinal): has bright red stems and purple leaves – very tasty.

Argentata: This Silver Beet is an old Italian Heirloom, long selected for its good flavour, with crisp white midribs and crinkly leaves.

Ford Hook Giant: This Silver Beet is an old favourite, similar to Argentata but with darker leaves.

Perpetual Spinach: This is our favourite, which we have grown for over 40 years. It doesn’t have the thick white midribs and the thick crinkly leaves of Silver beet. It tastes more like real spinach, but still has all the advantages of silver beet. It is hardy and is easy to grow and crops well all the year round.

Sowing:

Leaf Beet seed lasts 4 years.

For early crops, sow in late winter/very early spring, in seed compost in a seed box in 1½cm (½in) deep drills 4cm (1½in) apart, thinning to 3cm (1in) apart and plant out when the plants are 5cm (2in) high at 30cm (1ft) apart, with rows 35cm (14in) apart.

From mid-spring, sow outside in drills 35cm (14in) apart and 2 or 3 seeds every 30cm (1ft), thinning later to 1 seedling in each station. For winter crops sow in late summer.

Growing:

Just keep weed-free and mulch down with spray-free straw or 3-4cm (1½in) of grass clippings, and water regularly.

Harvesting:

Keep picking the leaves as you need them and more will grow. If the plants are trying to go to flower, cutting out the flower spikes will allow you extra time to harvest the leaves, but this is ultimately a loosing battle.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Over 40 years of growing leaf beets, we have never really had any problems, apart from the occasional slugs and snails – see: TRAPS in the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.

Recipes:

Gluten-Free Silverbeet Quiche

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Gluten-Free Flour (I make my own, but you can buy GF flour):

  • 6 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups potato flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • ½ cup LSA

For the Gluten-Free Pastry:

  • 225g (8oz) gluten free flour
  • 125g (4½oz) salted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 heaped teaspoons guar gum (or xanthan gum)
  • Maybe a little cold water

For egg mix:

  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup pure cream
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & freshly grated black pepper and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg to taste

For filling:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch Silverbeet or perpetual spinach, trimmed and shredded
  • 100g fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled

For egg mix:

  • 5 eggs
  • ¾ cup thickened cream
  • ½ cup grated tasty cheese
  • Pinch ground nutmeg

Preparation:

  1. Mix the ingredients for the flour, unless you have some in store, or use some bought GF flour
  2. Preheat oven to 200°C, or 180°C fan-forced (392 or 3560F).
  3. Place the flour and guar gum in a mixing bowl and mix together. Then chop up the butter into little bits into the flour and gently rub the butter into the flour until it becomes small crumbs. Alternatively, place the flour, guar gum and chopped up butter into a food processor and process until the same result is achieved
  4. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add to the flour mix, and mix thoroughly The great advantage of making GF pastry is you don’t have to be so careful not to overwork the dough.
  5. If the pastry is not sticking together properly, add a little cold water and continue
  6. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to about ½cm (3/16in) thick and roll round the roller to lift it over a 4cm (1½in) deep, 24cm (9in) flan tin, to line it. If it falls apart you can place the pieces into the flan dish pressing the pieces together.
  7. Clean the sides off with a knife, or crimp the edges together with your fingers for a rustic look
  8. Prick base with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm. Place tin on hot baking tray in oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced (356 or 3200F).
  9. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chopped Silverbeet or perpetual spinach. Cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until Silverbeet has wilted. Remove from heat. Cool. Arrange mixture in pastry case.
  10. Make egg mix. Stir in nutmeg. Pour over Silverbeet mixture. Top with ricotta. Bake at 200°C or 180°C fan-forced 200°C, or 180°C fan-forced (392 or 3560F) for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and just set. Serve.

You can also use this recipe for ordinary spinach:

Spinach Stuffed Chick-pea Flour Pancakes

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

For the pancakes:

  • 225g (8oz) chickpea flour
  • 55g (2oz) white flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon hing (asafetida)
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 275ml (9floz) cold water
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • Butter

For the sauce:

  • 2 cups puréed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon organic tamari sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rapadura (or brown sugar)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the filling:

  • 500g (1 pound) spinach beet leaves, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

For the pancakes:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the chickpea flour, white flour, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, salt and pepper. Slowly add the cold water, stirring as you do, until you have a thickish pancake batter. If the batter seems too thick, remember the juice from the tomatoes will thin it.
  2. Stir in the grated ginger and the chopped tomatoes. Set aside.
  3. Place a 20-25cm (8-10in) frying pan over a medium heat
  4. When hot, run a block of butter quickly round the pan to coat
  5. For those that have never made pancakes without eggs, don’t worry, the chickpea flour sticks together well.
  6. Pour in enough batter each time to make a 20cm (8in) round pancake, about 3-4mm (in) thick. It is more important that the pancakes are uniformly thick, rather than perfectly round.
  7. Cook slowly on both sides. When the pancake is cooked on the underside and set on top, rub the block of butter on the pancake before tuning it to finish cooking. Both sides should become golden brown (about 4-5 minutes)
  8. Rub the butter round the pan each time and finish the pancakes in this way.

For the sauce:

1. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tamari, rapadura and pepper together in a pan and heat up.

For the filling:

2. Wash the chopped spinach beet in a colander and place the beet in a large pan with a lid, with the crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a medium heat with the lid on. There should be enough water to steam the spinach beet, if not add a little more.

To Serve:

3. Lay each pancake out on a board and place enough of the filling at one end and role up.

4. Place all the filled pancakes in an earthenware oven dish and pour over the sauce and serve, or keep warm in a warm oven until ready to serve.

 

MIBUNA (Brassica rapa)

Mibuna

This is a very fast growing vigorous high yielding Japanese green, closely related to Mizuna but with a stronger flavour.

Soil & Feeding:

Unless you are sowing them on a plot that had a heavy feeder before, or ground that needs reviving, you won’t need to feed. If you do, then sprinkle one or two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) and mix into the top 2cm (¾in) of soil.

Varieties:

Green Spray: is as good as any.

Sowing:

Mibuna seed lasts 3-4 years.

Prepare a plot that is reasonably weed free and lightly sprinkle the seed mix onto the surface then using your fingers mix the seed into the top 1cm (in), pat down and gently water with the rose on your watering can.

Harvesting:

This is a cut-and-come again crop so you can cut them when small, or wait till they are taller to cut. They will then grow again for a second or third crop.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They grow too fast for any problems, unless you have a major slug and/or snail problem, in which case use small saucers or other shallow containers with a 50/50 mix of beer and water every 60 cm (2ft) apart, buried up to the rim. The slugs love beer and will crawl in and die happily at night. If it is wet weather you will need to prop a plate up over the saucer and change the contents regularly – see: section – ‘PESTS & DISEASESTRAPS.

 

PAK CHOI [bok choy] (Brassica chinensis)

Pak Choi

Pak Choi is similar to Chinese cabbage but the leaves are smoother and the stalks are longer and thicker. Pak Choi is fast growing and will easily run to seed in hot weather, so it is best grown in the spring or autumn. From sowing to harvesting 45-80 days.

Soil & Feeding:

Like most brassicas, Pak Choi is a heavy feeder, so unless they have been planted after peas or beans and even if they have, add two bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser into the top 5cm (2in).

Varieties:

A lot of Pak Choi varieties are F1 hybrids, which I tend to avoid, but there are open pollinated traditional varieties:

White Stem: This open pollinated variety should not be sown too early in cooler areas to avoid bolting.

Sowing:

Pak Choi seed lasts 4 years.

Transplanting can encourage them to run to seed. Sow in garden in shallow drills where they are to grow, starting in mid spring, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows thinning the seedlings to 30cm (1ft) apart, or 20cm (8in) apart for smaller more compact ones. In deep beds, thin to 30cm (1ft) each way. They are best sown at soil temperatures between 21°C and 30°C (70-86°F), in other words late summer, early autumn.

Growing:

You can grow Pak Choi in full sun, but they will do well in partial shade, as well as they have plenty of water.

Harvesting:

Cut when young for salads, or wait until they have formed a heart – 45-80 days, then cut at the base.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See: Broccoli

Recipes:

Sesame Pak Choi

Ingredients:

  • 9 Pak Choi
  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1 mild green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Cut a thick slice from the Pak Choi root to separate the leaves. Rinse and drain.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoons sesame oil, the garlic, chilli, fish sauce (if using) and Pak Choi. Toss until coated and clamp a pan lid over them. Reduce the heat and cook for 3-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, just until the leaves have wilted (the stalks should be tender-crisp).
  3. Add the rest of the sesame oil and salt. Toss the leaves and serve immediately.

This is a great vegetable dish served with stir fried prawns and cooked rice

 

SPINACH (Spinacia oleraceae)

Spinach

Real spinach has a much better flavour than leaf beets like perpetual spinach, but is more difficult to grow in hot weather, as it is likely to run to seed and is more tender – so in areas with colder winters it won’t survive. However, in warmer areas, growing in the early spring, and late summer for a winter crop is well worth the effort. If you have colder winters use perpetual spinach (spinach beet) instead [see above].

Soil & Feeding:

Partial shade and a rich, moisture-retentive soil are best, so mix in 1 or 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard). It also likes a pH of 6.5, so check if you think it is lower and add some garden lime if necessary.

Varieties:

Winter Giant: This is the one we grow all the year round here in mild Nelson, but it is hardier than others. It is heavy yielding with large leaves, which are tender with a rich spinach flavour.

Bloomdale: This is old variety, similar to Winter Giant, but with rounder, thicker crinkly leaves, which are very tasty. It is also winter hardy in milder winters.

Sowing:

Spinach seeds last 2 years.

If you live where the summers are hot and/or long, don’t try growing through the summer. Late summer/autumn and spring production is best, because of the likelihood of them running to seed, but you can start successive sowings in late summer outside, and again in late winter/early spring in boxes.

Outside, sow in shallow drills, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows and thinning the seedlings to 15cm apart, or sow two seeds 20cm (8in) apart each way, thinning to one plant.

For late winter early spring sowings, sow in a glasshouse, tunnel house or cold frame. Sow pairs of seed in polystyrene cells, six packs or small pots, thinning later to one seedling. Then plant out in rows 30cm apart with 15cm (6in) between the plants, or in a deep bed plant out 15cm (6in) apart each way.

Growing:

There is little to do except weed and water as necessary.

Harvesting:

Start picking the outer leaves 6-10 weeks after sowing and keep regularly picking as long as they haven’t run to seed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Generally spinach grows too fast and doesn’t last long enough for anything too serious, although aphids and sometimes downy mildew can be a problem. See chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Recipes:

Feeds 6

Spinach & Feta Cheese Lasagne

Ingredients:

  • 450g (1 pound) cooked and drained spinach
  • Generous pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) natural yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 175g (6oz) Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 225g (8oz) green or whole wheat lasagne (not pre-cooked variety)

For the sauce:

  • 150ml (5floz) natural yogurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 firm tomatoes, sliced

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 190oC (374oF)
  2. In a large bowl mix the cooked spinach with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste
  3. Stir in the yogurt, garlic, egg yolk and crumbled Feta cheese
  4. Layer the lasagne and spinach mix in a lightly greased ovenproof dish, starting with the spinach and finishing with the lasagne

For the sauce:

  1. Mix the yogurt with the egg and half the grated Parmesan cheese
  2. Spoon over the lasagne
  3. Top with sliced tomato and the remaining Parmesan cheese
  4. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden on top
  5. Serve piping hot

 

SPINACH BEET see: BEET SPINACH

 

TATSOI Spinach Mustard (Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa)

Tatsoi

The plant has dark green spoon-shaped leaves that form a thick rosette. It has a soft creamy texture and has a subtle yet distinctive flavour with more of a tangy mustard flavour than Pak Choi. It can be grown to harvestable size in 45-50 days, and can withstand temperatures down to –10°C (14°F). Tatsoi can be harvested even from under the snow!

Soil & Feeding:

If your soil is rich, you should not need to feed the plants. However, Tatsoi does like a good level of organic matter, so if your soil is low in organic matter add 2 buckets of well-rotted manure or compost mixed into each square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Although there are varieties of Tatsoi, you will probably only find seed labelled simply Tatsoi. However, there are named varieties:

  • Black Summer: Sow in the autumn and harvest through the winter. Has very dark leaves.
  • Joi Choi: A medium-sized plant with good bolt resistance.
  • Win-Win: Extra large, dense heads. Slow to bolt.

Sowing:

Tatsoi seeds last 4 years.

Tatsoi sown in late summer, early autumn usually does better than seed sown in the spring. They are very hardy and therefore ideally suited as a winter crop, but can be sown in the spring. For a winter crop sow outside in late summer in a prepared bed. Sow seed ½cm (3/16in) deep, spaced 2½cm (1in) apart. Thin and eat the plants when they are 5cm (2in) tall. If you are growing full-sized plants, thin to 15-20cm (6-8in) apart with 25cm (10in) between the rows.

For early crops sow seed indoors about 4-5 weeks before your last frost. Begin sowing outdoors after your last frost. Don’t rush it; young plants will bolt if they experience too much cold weather. Seeds are quick to germinate, usually within 4-8 days. You can succession plant every couple of weeks, for a longer harvest period. Stop planting when the weather turns hot.

Growing:

As with most leafy vegetables, Tatsoi needs regular watering in warm weather or it will bolt to seed.

Harvesting:

When the plants are a good size start picking leaves from them, they will grow some more.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Tatsoi is generally disease free, but insects love its tender leaves.

Cabbage White Butterfly: Tatsoi is a brassica so cabbage white butterfly caterpillars can be a problem, so keep an eye out for the yellow eggs under the leaves or young grubs and squash them, otherwise if it is a major problem spray with the biological spray BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) every 10 days.

Slugs: The ground hugging leaves are extremely attractive to slugs, in which case use beer traps.

White flies: and aphids are less of a problem.

For more information see the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.

Recipes:

Tatsoi is often found in salad mixes and can be cooked in any dish you would use Pak Choi for – stir-fries, soups, and side dishes.

e) ROOTS

BEETROOT (Beta vulgaris)

Beetroot

Beetroot are great pickled, grated raw, or just boiled and skinned and sliced when cold. You can have Borscht soup personally, but some people rave about it. Eat the young early sown ones in summer, or keep them in store (see below) for the winter months.

 

Varieties:

Beetroots can come in different shapes and colours.

Bulls Blood: If you want a traditional dark red round beetroot this is as good as any.

Chioggia: is originally from Italy has rings of red and white when cut open and is very sweet.

Cylindra: is long and cylindrical with most of the root growing above ground, which is said to make this beet exceptionally sweet.

Soil & Feeding:

Beetroot likes a deep rich soil and you can fork in one bucket of garden compost per square metre, but I have never done this because I grow them in the last year of the six course rotation I use, which has had plenty of compost and green manures over the previous six years, including a green manure of lupins or tic-beans growing in the previous winter and so they seem to always grow well.

Sowing:

Beetroot seeds last 4 years

Sow them outside in spring for summer eating and late spring, early summer for your winter supplies.

Draw out furrows 2cm (¾in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart, placing 2 seeds every 10-15cm (4-6in), pulling out the weakest if two come up.

Harvesting:

Pull up the beetroot by the stem and leaves. Rub off the soil from the root and twist off the stems and leaves whilst holding the neck with the other hand, so as to leave about 2cm (¾in) of stems. Do not cut the stems. This will ensure minimum loss of juices if you want to boil or pickle them. Personally I prefer to grate them raw with carrots for use in a salad. Don’t throw the leaves away, as they make great tasty spinach cooked, or use the leaves in salads.

Storing:

In colder places, with hard winters, harvest in the autumn and check that each beetroot is clean, dry and has no damage. The best storage medium is dry baled peat, or better still, vermiculite, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir, which are more ecologically sound.

Spread a 5cm layer of peat, or alternative on the bottom of a wooden box. Set out the beets in rows not touching each other. Fill in the gaps with more peat, then add another 5cm layer and repeat as before until the entire crop is cosy in its winter box. Store the box indoors somewhere cool and dry where it will not get frosted. Use as and when needed throughout the winter, getting rid of any that are showing signs of rotting.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The beet family is amazingly free of pests and diseases, however they can get mildew on the leaves if the soil and plants are not healthy enough. If they have signs of mildew, spray with a solution of Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate), or spray with Trichoderma viride – for details see section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES + THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS.

 

CARROT (Daucus carota var sativa)

Carrots

What would we do without carrots? They are definitely one of our ‘staple’ foods. We grow both orange and red carrots, the orange ones because we have always grown them, but we have found in the last two years that the red ones (with orange flesh) are one of the best for sweetness and taste.

If you have heavy soil it is probably best to grow short stumpy varieties, but if you have lose loam or sandy deep topsoil you can grow the more traditional longer ones.

Soil & Feeding:

Carrots need little feeding. The best place to grow them is a plot, which was composted or manured the previous year, because fresh manure will encourage the carrots to fork. I have also found that growing them in a plot that has had green manure recently dug in will also make them fork.

Well rotted compost or leaf mould dug in is excellent, especially if you added wood ashes, seaweed or comfrey to the compost when you were making it, because carrots enjoy a little extra potassium, which these additives are rich in. The tradition was to rake in a good scattering of wood ashes when preparing a carrot bed, but wood ash is almost like chemical fertiliser made of an assorted batch of potassium carbonate molecules of which only a few are usable. By putting wood ash through a compost heap the potassium and calcium and other nutrients are converted into more useful and available bio-chemicals attached to humus particles which are released as and when the plants need them. However, if there is no alternative, use wood ash from untreated wood, along with several spays of liquid seaweed during the growing season (see: LIQUID MANURES in the section – ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’).

Varieties:

Berlicum: is a good all round variety, very sweet, medium-long stumpy variety, which is good young and mature. It is resistant to Alternaria blight and splitting. This variety we use as our main crop as it does very well and produces heavy crops.

Purple Dragon:

Carrot purple

This is another we grow that comes from a very ancient line, going back several thousand years. They are medium length and have the traditional broad shoulders and a fine taper. The colours range from dark violet to reddish purple, with a sweet orange centre – great for grating and eating raw.

 

 

For those with a heavy clay soil, or shallow topsoil that has not yet been improved by the methods I describe, there are two varieties that might suit you in the mean time.

Mini Sweet: is a cylindrical variety that is suitable on heavier soils where growing long varieties is problematic. It is only 10 cm long and very sweet.

Paris Market: is a 19th century French heirloom variety, which completely spherical, and especially good for growing on very heavy clay soils. These round carrots are 2.5-4 cm (1-1½in) in diameter.

Sowing:

Carrot seeds last 3 years

Carrots do not like being transplanted, so sow out in a bed that has been prepared by raking any trash and larger stones off and raking it flat.

I am now going to tell you the best way to sow carrots that my father taught me, which he learnt from his father who was a professional horticulturist – thank you granddad.

Carrot seed is very fine. It needs a warm soil to germinate and needs to be kept moist until it has properly started to grow. If the small seeds start to germinate and then dry out, they will easily desiccate and die. It is essential therefore, to make sure you wait in the spring until the soil where you live has warmed up. Be patient. Test it with your hand – does it feel comfortable? If so you can proceed as follows:

Take out 1cm (⅜in) deep drills with a stick, or better still, your finger or the side of your hand, with the rows 20cm (8in) apart; then gently dribble some water from a watering can, without the rose on, down the drills, this will wash a little of the soil into the drill which should end up about 5mm (3/16in) deep and damp. Then take some of the seeds between your thumb and first finger and move your hand steadily down each drill whilst rubbing your thumb and finger together, this will allow the fine seeds to drop reasonably spaced apart. Aim for 3cm (1in) between seeds. It will be inevitable that it will not be that accurate. An easier way is to mix the seed with 8 times the amount of either dry sand, or better still, bone meal flour, sprinkling this mix down the rows.

Now cover the seeds lightly, about 4mm (⅛in) with sieved garden compost, leaf mould, or peat. Then water gently, but thoroughly, with the rose on the watering can, to finish. Unless it is raining, water each day to ensure the seeds stay moist until the little seedlings are definitely showing.

In milder areas you can sow carrots several times in the year, including a late sowing in early autumn for the seedlings to overwinter and provide an early crop in late spring.

Growing:

Carrots take around 2½ to 3½ months to grow to full size. When they about 3 or 4 cm high, carefully weed between the rows with a Japanese Niwashi small hand hoe or old knife, and then carefully place 2cm (¾in) grass clippings in the rows as a mulch, always remembering to make sure the soil is moist first before applying the mulch. This will help to control weeds and keep in moisture and may also help to reduce carrot fly damage (see Possible Pests & Diseases, below). Water and add more grass clippings as the carrots grow. Wait until the leaves are about 10-15cm (4-6in) high before thinning them out and eating the baby carrots raw – yum.

Harvesting:

You can pull some when they are young, but remember to leave the majority in until autumn for winter use. In warmer parts of the world with milder winters, you may be able to leave them in all winter, unless slugs are a problem. Here in Nelson this is usually possible. If you live somewhere where the winters are cold and the ground regularly freezes in winter, you will need to dig them up and store them.

Harvest on a dry day. You can try pulling the carrots out, but if this is difficult to do without breaking them, then you will need to dig them out. Be careful! Work a garden fork or spade strait down between the rows as deep as you can and leaver out the carrots without breaking or damaging them. The ones that get damaged need to be eaten within a few weeks, or blanched and frozen.

Storing:

Cut the foliage off 2½ cm (1in) from the roots and leave the carrots on the soil to dry in the sun for the soil to flake off without washing. Store the undamaged ones in boxes. Add 3cm (1in) peat, peat substitute or leaf mould to the bottom of your box and place a layer of carrots on the peat not touching each other. This is to ensure that if one rots it will not rot its neighbour. Then add another 3cm (1in) of peat and continue the layers finishing with a final layer of peat. Store in a frost proof, but cool building or room. We have kept carrots like this through hard winters before with this method when we lived in the UK.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Carrot Fly: The most obvious pest is the carrot root fly grub that makes the carrots unstorable, because the grubs will continue to eat away your carrot in store and allow rot to enter. Crop rotation will ensure that there is less likelihood of the flies emerging from the soil where they are growing, but that won’t stop them from coming from next door or even from kilometres away for that matter.

The traditional answer is to sow onions next to the carrots so that the foliage scent baffles the pest, but this is effective only for the distant flies. Incredible as it may seem, these greenish-black flies, less than ½cm (3/16in) long, will travel up to 12 kilometres in quest of carrots, and though the onion scent will mask the foliage, it is not effective at point blank range of a kilometre (½ mile); or if there are pupae in the soil of the garden next door! The creatures only have to use their eyes. Grass-clippings spread between the rows and renewed after every mowing, provide a cheap and constant scent barrage.

However, if these precautions have all failed and you still have a serious problem with carrot fly, then the only method that has been shown to work effectively, for those who do not wish to use poisons, is the barrier method. It has been found that when searching for carrots the carrot flies will cruise low to the ground. Using this knowledge, someone came up with the idea of erecting a barrier around the carrot bed – and it worked! The barrier has to be 60cm (2ft) high to be effective and it can be made of fine cloth, clear plastic, corrugated tin sheet etc., as long as there are no holes for the little flies to climb through. Also you need to make sure the barrier is touching the ground all round. You will need to bang in stakes or bamboos every metre or so to fix the barrier to, so it is secure enough to withstand winds. The barrier also helps to create a warmer semi shaded area for the carrots, which benefits them.

Recipes:

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking carrots:

Brazed Carrots & Ginger

This recipe is not to use on its own, but as a veg dish to accompany meat and rice or other dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large carrots thinly diced
  • 4cm (1½in) long fresh ginger root julienned
  • 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • A large knob of butter

Preparation:

  1. Wash and peel the carrots and thinly slice
  2. Peel and cut ginger into very thin slices, then cut the slices into fine strips (julienne)
  3. Add the butter to a pan and heat on medium until melted
  4. Throw in the carrot slices and julienned ginger root and braze for 4 minutes
  5. Turn the heat down and add the honey and cook until carrots and ginger are tender

Golden Slice (serves 4)

This is Rose Elliot’s ever-popular recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 185g (6½oz) cheddar cheese
  • 185g (6½oz) grated carrots
  • 155g (5½oz) rolled oats
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary stripped and chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 60g (2oz) butter
  • White sauce

Preparation:

  1. Grate the cheese and carrots
  2. Mix together with oats, the chopped rosemary, and season with salt and pepper
  3. Melt the butter in a pan and pour into the oats and mix in
  4. Press the ingredients into a 20cm buttered flan dish
  5. Bake ½ hour at 1900C (3740F)
  6. It should be slightly crisp and lightly browned
  7. Serve with a white sauce

Spiced Carrot Croquettes (Garjar vada)

Ingredients:

  • 4 or 5 medium carrots, washed and scraped
  • 100g (3½oz) chick-pea flour
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh coconut
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander or parsley leaves
  • 2 fresh chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Ghee or vegetable oil for deep frying

Preparation:

  1. Grate 250g (9oz) carrots on the fine holes of a metal grater
  2. Put the grated carrots and all the other ingredients in a large bowl
  3. Mix with just enough water to make a paste thick enough to hold together when deep-fried
  4. Heat ghee or vegetable oil in a karhai, wok, or saucepan over medium heat
  5. Take a tablespoon of battered mixture and push the lump into the hot ghee or oil
  6. Do this until you have 8 to 10 patties cooking at the same time
  7. Adjust the heat, turning the patties often until they are nicely brown on all sides – 4 or 5 minutes
  8. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper kitchen towel on a plate
  9. Serve patties hot, with raita or plain yogurt

Carrot & Cashew Nut Roast

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
  • 450g (1 pound) carrots, cooked & mashed
  • 225g (8oz) cashew nuts, ground
  • 100g (3½oz) whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon light tahini
  • 1½ teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vegemite or soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 65ml (2floz) stock from carrots, or water
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Fry the onion & garlic in the oil until soft
  2. Mix together with all the other ingredients and season to taste
  3. Place the mixture in a greased 900g (2 pound) loaf tin
  4. Cover with foil & bake at 1800C (3560F) for 1 hour
  5. Remove foil & bake for a further 10 minutes
  6. Leave to stand in baking tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out
  7. Serve hot with roast potatoes & green vegetables, or cold with a mixed green salad

 

CELERIAC (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum)

Celeriac

This is a great winter vegetable. It is a form of celery, which grows a large bulbous root, swollen stem base, which grows just above the ground and is the bit that is eaten. It does however grow a bit like an octopus with lots of smaller roots growing off the main bulb, but they are not difficult to cut off when harvesting and anyway the modern varieties are more round and less octopus like than the older varieties.

Soil & Feeding:

Celeriac prefers a water retentive soil rich in organic matter, so dig in 2 buckets of well-rotted compost or manure per square metre (yard). It likes a pH of 6.5, which is what you should be aiming for, for all your soil.

Varieties:

Sedano di Verona: This is one modern variety we have done very well with and has produced some heavy round stems each year.

Sowing:

Celeriac seeds last 3 years

Sow the very fine celeriac seeds in seed compost in seed boxes around late winter, early spring – (see: the section ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ – GROWING FROM SEED Seed Compost – for homemade seed compost recipes).

Because the seeds are so fine, extra care is necessary when sowing. All small seeds have little food and water supplies, so they need to be kept warm and damp until they have germinated and are at least 2cm (¾in) high. Celeriac seeds can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

Celeriac and celery seeds need light to germinate, so sow them on the surface of the seed compost and don’t cover them, just gently press them level with the surface with a board or hand. You can sprinkle some fine vermiculite over the seeds in a single layer to maintain moisture, but still allow light through. They need a temperature of around 180C (640F) to germinate.

Pick up a few of the fine seeds between your thumb and forefinger, then as you move your fingers up the rows, 2cm (¾in) apart. Wriggle your finger against your thumb allowing the seeds to drop bit by bit. Try to aim for the seeds to land about 1cm (⅜in) apart – but don’t be too fussy if they are not that even. If you are using weed-free seed compost, you can carefully sprinkle the seeds over the surface, aiming at 1cm (⅜in) apart.

Water the seed box from below by placing in a tray of water ½ the depth of the box. If you water from above you could dislodge the seeds. Cover the box or pot with clear plastic, polythene or glass to retain moisture until the seeds have germinated. Keep the seed box in a warm place, glasshouse, cold frame, inside in a window etc. You might need to take the plastic or glass off every few days to spray lightly with water from a hand held spray bottle with the nozzle set on fine. The little bright green leaves will eventually appear.

Growing:

For Biodynamic practice – plant out in a ‘Descending Moon’ when in an earth sign (Capricorn or Taurus).

Plant out in mid-spring 30cm (1ft) apart in rows 35cm (14in) apart, or plant in blocks 30cm (1ft) apart. As soon as you can handle them (I use a pair of tweezers to pick out the unwanted ones) thin them out to 1½-2cm (½-¾in) apart – then let them grow on until about 5cm (2in) high. Place a handful of worm compost (or well rotted garden compost) in a little hole you have scooped out where they are to be planted and plant the little plants directly into the compost and water in. This will both feed them and retain moisture while they get established.

Mulch with grass-clippings or other fine mulch when they are about 7cm (3in) high after you have weeded and watered them first. Two or three times through the growing season, water with diluted liquid manure and they will also enjoy some liquid seaweed.

Harvesting:

Here in Nelson we are able to leave them in the ground most of the winter to harvest as and when we need them. Mulching around the roots with dry straw also helps to protect them against mild frost damage and rot, especially if the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing, but if your winters are hard then you will need to harvest and store them.

Storing:

Harvest between mid to late autumn in colder areas and store in boxes of moist peat, vermiculite, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir. Cut off the stems and clean the soil off the roots before storing.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

We get both celery fly and celery leaf spot on both our celery and celeriac, although the celeriac is less affected. Celery fly grubs tunnel up the stems, which can make celery inedible, but is not so important to the eating qualities of celeriac. However it is best to control it by pulling off affected stems and burning or placing in the refuse bin, this will prevent a second-generation attack in mid spring. We have also had a little leaf spot, which can also be controlled by removing the effected leaves that have brown spots.

Celery Fly: For celery fly, remove the leaves and stems affected regularly and spray every 2 weeks with Neem oil.

Celery Leaf Spot: Remove the leaves and stems affected regularly. Leaf spot is a bacterial disease and so I have been using a strong garlic spray, by mashing up cloves of garlic, pouring boiling water over, letting it cool, then sieving and adding a few drops of Eco liquid washing soap, then spraying once a week. You can also try the Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray in the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOMEMADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Celeriac can also get slug or frost damage to the roots, which can cause rot to start on the outside of the root. Keep an eye open and harvest immediately. Cut off the effected parts and use as soon as possible.

Recipes:

Celeriac can be roasted with other root vegetables, made into wonderful winter soup, grated for salad and grated and pickled using lacto-acid fermentation (same as sauerkraut).

Celeriac & Mung Dahl Soup

Feeds 4 or 5

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 450g (1 pound) celeriac chopped into cubes
  • 200g (7oz) mung dhal
  • 1½ litres (50floz) filtered water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Celery salt and freshly milled black pepper

Method:

  1. On medium heat add ghee and olive oil in pan
  2. Coarsely chop onion and fry in ghee and olive oil until transparent
  3. Add chopped celeriac, mung dhal, water, bay leaves and bring to boil, then simmer until the dhal has disintegrated, about ½ hour.
  4. Take out bay leaves and liquidise with a stick blender or liquidiser and add celery
    1. Salt and pepper to taste

Fermented Celeriac & Carrot

I have been making sauerkraut and other fermented pickles for a while now. One of my favourites is this one. This recipe comes from ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon – as far as I am concerned a ‘must have’ book on traditional ways of preserving and increasing the digestibility and nutrition of food, as well as challenging many of the dietary myths that abound today. ‘Nourishing Traditions’ is published by New Trends Publishing, Inc – ISBN 0-96708973-5. www.newtrendspublishing.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups grated celeriac, tightly packed
  • 1 cup grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available use a additional 1 tablespoon salt)

Method:

  1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices.
  2. Place in a 1 litre wide mouth mason jar and press down the contents firmly with the pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the grated celeriac and carrots
  3. The top of the mixture should be at least 3cm (1in) below the rim of the jar
  4. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage or the fridge
  5. Use from a week onwards as a condiment

 

DAIKON (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus)

Daikon

There are many varieties of oriental winter white radish, but Daikon usually refers to the large long white Japanese radish. Also known as white radish, mooli or Oriental radish, daikon radishes can grow well over 30cm (1ft) long. They have a crispy texture, mild flavour and are delicious cooked or eaten raw. I have also had great results from pickling them the same way as sauerkraut with whey and salt (see below).

Soil & Feeding:

Plant daikon radishes in loose, easily draining soil that has been enriched with mature compost. Daikon radishes should not need much feeding if planted in fertile soil. If the soil is poor, incorporate 1-2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (square yard). They will also benefit from a spray of compost tea a couple of times throughout the growing season. Avoid fertilisers that are high in nitrogen, because this produces lush leaves but poor roots.

Varieties:

Tokinashi: is very slow to bolt, with a pure white root 25-30cm (10-12in) long and 5cm (2in) in diameter, tapering to a sharp tip. The roots are tender, crisp and rather pungent.

Sowing:

Diakon seeds last 5 years.

Unlike most varieties of radish, which grow very quickly, Daikon radishes take 60-70 days to fully mature. They also prefer cool temperatures. For this reason, they are best if sown in late summer, about 2 months before the first frosts, so they can mature during the cooling weather of autumn. They can also be sown in the spring, particularly in more mild climates, once the soil has started to warm up. Daikon radishes can also be grown over winter in warmer climates.

Sow daikon radish seeds about 1cm (⅜in) deep and 5cm (2in) apart in a freshly prepared garden bed, thinning seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart once they are 5cm (2in) tall. Space rows about 60cm (2ft) apart, or for deep beds space plants 20cm (8in) apart on diagonal planting.

Growing:

Water your daikon radishes regularly during dry weather. Try to keep the soil moist. Give them a good long soak as soon as the top of the soil dries out, but avoid overwatering; the soil should never be soggy, because if roots are left to sit in too much water they are prone to rot. Hand weed carefully and regularly.

Harvesting:

Daikon radishes should be harvested before the first hard frost of autumn or after about 60-70 days. Try to loosen the soil around each radish without damaging the vegetables, because they break very easily. Pull them out of the ground by their cluster of leaves.

Storing:

In this part of the world (central New Zealand) the Daikon can be left in over winter and harvested as and when necessary. If you live where winters are harder the Daikon needs carefully harvesting, the leaves trimmed off and the roots stored in peat, or preferably homemade leaf mould or untreated sawdust in boxes, making sure the Daikon roots don’t touch each other. The boxes should be stored in a cool, dry, frost-free room or shed.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests:

As a member of the crucifer family, radishes are attacked by the same pests that attack cabbages and cauliflowers – see Broccoli.

Diseases:

Because of the short growing period, Daikon has few diseases.

Black Rot: This is the most common disease caused by a soil-borne fungus. Dark irregular patches develop on the radish root and eventually give the entire root a black colour. Long-rooted cultivars can be severely attacked. The disease is controlled by good soil drainage and good soil structure and crop rotations where Daikon or other brassicas are not growing more often than every 3-4 years. If the disease persists, sprinkle Trichoderma viride powder or granules onto the soil and water in, where you are going to sow the seeds.

Recipes:

Pickled Daikon Radish

Makes 1 litre

This is my favourite way of using Daikon – however grated fresh in salad is also good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1½ kg (2-3 pounds) daikon radish, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional tablespoon of salt). Whey can be extracted from thick full cream organic yogurt by hanging it in a muslin cloth, tied and hung for 12 hours over a bowl to collect the whey. The waste product, the thickened yogurt, can then be used as ‘cheese’, or for making smoothies.

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and pound with wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices
  1. Place radish mixture in a litre-sized masonry jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the radish mixture. The top of the radish mixture should be at least 2½ cm (1in) below the top of the jar
  2. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage
  3. You can use at 3 days old, but it the flavour increases the longer you keep it. Traditional sauerkraut was kept 6 months before eating

Watercress, Bell Pepper, and Daikon Radish Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1½ tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 bunches of watercress, coarse stems discarded, rinsed well and spun dry (about 12 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into julienne strips
  • 230g (½ pound) daikon radish, peeled and cut into julienne strips

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste
  2. Add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified.
  3. Add the watercress, the bell peppers, and the daikon and toss the salad well.

 

JICAMA (Pachyrhizus erosus)

Jicama root

Jicama root

Jicama, or Mexican Water Chestnut, is a leguminous Mexican vine, which can reach a height of 4-5 metres (13-16ft), given suitable support. It has purple flowers and a large heart shaped root (the edible bit), which varies from 15-30cm (6-12in) across and 10-15cm (4-6in) deep. The smooth light brown skin holds a crisp firm flesh that tastes rather like water chestnuts.

Jicama vine

Jicama vine

 

Jicama is frost tender and requires 9 months without frost for a good harvest of large tubers. However, it is worth growing in cooler areas that have at least five months without frost, as it will still produce tubers, but they will be smaller.

 

Soil & Feeding:

As a legume, Jicama does not need high Nitrogen feeds, but it will benefit from 1 or 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard). The addition of bone meal at 6 handfuls per square metre, or 2 handfuls per plant will supply both the Phosphorus and Calcium that the plants enjoy.

Sowing:

Jicama seed lasts 3-4 years.

Warm, temperate areas with at least five months without frost can start seed 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. Bottom heat is recommended, as the seeds require warm temperatures to germinate – so the pots will need to be kept in a warm place. Jicama is unsuitable for colder areas with a short growing season unless cultured in a greenhouse. Tropical areas can sow seed anytime of the year. Subtropical areas should sow seed once the soil has warmed in the spring.

Growing:

Remember that the plant is a prolific climber that can reach 4-5 metres (13-16ft), so they are best grown against the sunny wall of a house with some way of fixing the growth to either a trellis or wires. It is possible to let them clamber a round on the ground, but the yield will be less. Plant them out after the last frosts 15cm (6in) apart.

Frequent watering is required when rapid growth begins.

Seeds can be saved if the plant is not harvested for tubers until the seeds are dry, but the seeds contain natural rotenone, which is poisonous, so don’t eat them!

Harvesting:

Harvest when the foliage has died down.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

The foliage and seeds contain rotenone, a natural pesticide. For this reason, Jicama suffers from few pests.

Recipes:

Jicama Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large jicama, about 570g (20oz)
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Coriander lime dressing:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flax seed oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano (or ½ teaspoon chopped fresh)
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon honey

Preparation:

  1. Peel and grate jicama
  2. Mix immediately with dressing and chill well
  3. Add pomegranate seeds and serve

 

KOHLRABI (Brassica oleracea gongylodes)

Kohlrabi

This brassica has a round swollen stem base. The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Except for the ‘Gigante’ cultivar, spring-grown kohlrabi, much over 6cm (2in) in size, tend to be woody, with the exception of the Gigante cultivar, which can achieve great size while remaining of good eating quality. The plant matures in 55-60 days after sowing. Approximate weight is 150g (5oz) and has good standing ability for up to 30 days after maturity. The leafy greens can also be eaten. In this part of the world, it can be left outside over winter to pick when needed.

Soil & Feeding:

Kohlrabi likes a rich soil. If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the seedlings out next to the old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans. If you are starting from scratch add two buckets of garden compost + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard). If the soil pH is less than 6.5 add the recommended amount of garden lime to correct it to 6.5. If it is ideal add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre (square yard). Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the brassicas will benefit from.

Varieties:

Early Purple Vienna: This is an heirloom variety, which is tasty and not tough if not allowed to grow bigger than 6cm (2in) in diameter. It will mature in 55-60 days – so sow 2 months before late autumn.

Noriko: This is one of the large light green ones, but the bulbs are tender if they are not allowed to get too big. Allow 25cm (10in) between plants, instead of the usual 10cm (4in) + an extra two weeks to mature, 70-75 days.

Sowing:

You can sow them mid-spring if you want them in summer, but I think their real value is for autumn production. In either case sow the seed in shallow drills and transplant 23cm (9in) apart, or 25cm (10in) for Noriko, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or 23-25cm (9-10in) diagonally between them if planting in deep beds. If the weather is hot and dry when you plant the seedlings in their growing area, a good way to help them is to place a good handful of worm compost in the planting hole, around the roots. I have found that the sticky rich nature of the worm compost holds moisture well, so they are less likely to flag, as well as giving the young plants a good feed.

Growing:

As brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of red clover will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop.

Harvesting:

It is possible to lift and store them for a short while in damp peat, or better still homemade leaf mould, or coconut coir somewhere cool and frost free, otherwise leave them in through the winter in warmer areas, or if your winters are harsh eat them before the colder weather comes.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

Cabbage White Butterflies: The most common are the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, which can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spay with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects only the caterpillars, and only when they take a bite out of your plants.

Recipes:

Of course kohlrabi can be peeled and thinly sliced or grated and added to salad mix. It can also be traditionally pickled like sauerkraut – see pickled daikon recipe for method.

Kohlrabi O-Gratin

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 knob butter, plus a little more for greasing the dish
  • 2 medium onions (about 600g), halved and finely sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 500g (1 pound) kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 3mm thick rounds
  • 250g (9oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 3mm rounds
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped
  • 200ml (6¾floz) cream
  • 200ml (6¾floz) water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 1 big handful baby spinach, or chopped spinach beet leaves
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

For the topping:

  • 30g (1oz) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 30g (1oz) ground cashews
  • 25g (¾oz) butter, melted
  • 45g (1½oz) cheddar or hard goat’s cheese, grated

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 1900C (3740F). Place a medium-sized frying pan over a medium heat. Add the oil and butter, wait until it foams, then add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 12 minutes, until soft and starting to take on a little colour.
  2. Throw in the kohlrabi, potatoes and thyme, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing the mixture occasionally, for another five minutes.
  3. Pour over the cream and stock, simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half, stir in the spinach and parsley, then place in a lightly buttered gratin dish, about 30cm x 20cm x 7cm (12 x 18 x 2¾in) size, levelling it out with a spatula as you go. Place the gratin dish on a baking tray.
  4. Blitz together the breadcrumbs, ground cashew nuts, butter and cheese in a blender, and sprinkle over the top of the filling. Bake the gratin in a hot oven for about 35-40 minutes, until all golden and bubbling.

Kohlrabi Carpaccio

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium (or 2 small) kohlrabi
  • 4-6 anchovy fillets cut into thin strips
  • 50g (1¾oz) hard goat’s cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Peel the kohlrabi, slice it into thin slivers with a vegetable peeler and divide these between four plates (or even one larger platter).
  2. Scatter the strips of anchovy fillet on top of the kohlrabi, and then shave the goat’s cheese over, again using a vegetable peeler.
  3. Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, squeeze over a spritz of lemon juice and trickle on a little olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve at once.

 

PARSNIP (Pastinaca sativa)

Newly harvested Parsnips

Newly harvested Parsnips

Parsnips are another staple winter root crop, along with carrots, turnips, swedes, celeriac etc.

Soil & Feeding:

Parsnips are tolerant of fairly poor conditions, but will do best when one bucket of garden compost is incorporated into the top 6cm (2½in) of soil for better drainage and water retention. As it is best to aim at a pH of 6.4 this is ideal for parsnips (and most crops), so add garden lime if the pH is lower, following the instructions on the packet.

Varieties:

Avon Resister: As the name implies, this parsnip is resistant to canker. It is easy to grow and tastes good.

Guernsey: A pre 1826 French Heirloom cultivated in Europe for over 500 years.

Hollow Crown: Developed in England in the 1820’s. Known for its white flesh and mild flavour.

Sowing:

The seeds germinate very slowly, or not at all, if the soil temperature is below 120C (530F), so there is little point in sowing too early. Also, if you sow too early you are likely to get over large parsnips. Sow two or three seeds at 15cm (6in) intervals in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart in mid to late spring. As you can for Carrots, you can sow a few radishes in the same row to show you where the rows are and to eat long before the parsnips get too big. For deep beds sow two or three seeds in blocks 15cm (6in) apart each way, reducing to one when the seedlings are still small.

If you have very stony ground then you can make holes with a crowbar at 15cm (6in) intervals about 45cm (18in) deep and 8cm (3in) in diameter at the top. Fill these with good soil or organic matter, and then sow two or three seeds in each hole, later thinning to one.

Growing:

Keep the crop weed free and water on a regular basis to stop the roots from cracking.

Harvesting:

The chances are you will not be able to pull them up without breaking them – so push down a garden fork vertically by the side of the root and loosen them before lifting. Lift the roots after the first frost, as the frost will improve the flavour making them sweeter. The tops will have died off by then. In warmer areas, such as here in mid New Zealand, they can be left in and dug when needed. In colder areas, dig them up, rub off the soil, twist off the tops and loosely pack in boxes, between layers of moist peat, or better still homemade leaf mould or vermiculite. Store in a cool, frost-free shed, or cellar.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Good healthy friable soil conditions with good drainage will help to keep the roots healthy.

Canker: You may get carrot root fly grubs, but the most common problem is canker. This fungus disease causes reddish brown marks on the shoulder of the root and these will often spread further into the root, causing it to rot. There is no cure, but having healthy soil conditions producing fast growth and using resistant varieties such as ‘Avon Resister’, will help.

Recipes:

Roasted Parsnips with Grain Mustard & Maple Syrup

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 parsnips, peeled and cut into long wedges
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Heat oven to 200oC (392oF)
  2. Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil. Tip in the roots, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Drain well, then dry on paper towel
  4. Whisk together the syrup, mustard and oil with some seasoning, then gently toss with the parsnip wedges and ideally leave to marinate for an hour.
  5. Coat a baking pan with olive oil
  6. Lay out the marinated wedges in the baking pan, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes

Parsnip & Walnut Fritters

Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) parsnips
  • 125g (4½oz) shelled walnuts
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g (2½oz) melted butter
  • 2 heaped teaspoons flour
  • 145ml (5floz) milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Clean the parsnips, then cut into four lengthwise. You can then cut off most of the fibrous cores which will be fairly obvious
  2. Boil the parsnip wedges until tender
  3. Put them through a mouli-légumes, discarding any tough bits, or liquidize in a food processor, then pass through a sieve
  4. Mix to a smooth paste with the eggs, flour, butter and milk + salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the walnuts
  5. Heat a deep pan of oil to between 175oC-190oC (347-374oF)
  6. Slip in spoonfuls of the mixture, making sure you include a piece of walnut with each spoonful
  7. Remove with a slotted spoon when they are deep golden brown
  8. Serve as a course on their own with vegetables, or with baked fish

 

ROOT PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum)

Root Parsley

This is a parsley that has leaves like Italian flat leaved parsley, but which is grown for the root which looks like a slim parsnip, but with a nutty parsley taste. If you like your winter roots then this is one you should definitely try, especially if you don’t particularly like the taste of parsnips.

Soil & Feeding:

Root parsley is tolerant of fairly poor conditions, but will do best when one bucket of garden compost is incorporated into the top 6cm (2½in) of soil, for better water retention and better drainage. As it is best to aim at a pH of 6.4 this is ideal for parsnips, so add garden lime if the pH is lower, following the instructions on the packet.

Varieties:

I know two names for Root Parsley – ‘Hamburg’ or ‘Bartowich Long’. They may be the same or different. In either case they will do the job.

Sowing:

As with parsnips, the seeds germinate very slowly, if at all if the soil temperature is below 120C (53½0F), so there is little point in sowing too early. Sow two or three seeds at 15 cm intervals in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart, and as you can for Carrots you can sow a few radishes in the same row to show you where the rows are and to eat long before the root parsley gets too big. For deep beds sow two or three seeds in blocks 15cm (6in) apart each way.

If you have very stony ground then you can make holes with a crowbar at 15cm intervals about 45cm (18in) deep and 8cm (3in) in diameter at the top. Fill these with good soil or organic matter, then sow two or three seeds in each hole and later thin to one.

Growing:

Keep the crop weed free and water on a regular basis to stop the roots from cracking.

Harvesting:

The chances are you will not be able to pull them up without breaking them; so push down a garden fork vertically by the side of the Parsley Root and loosen them before lifting. Lift the roots after the first frost, as the frost will improve the flavour making them sweeter. The tops will have died off by then. In warmer areas with mild winters, the roots can be left in and dug when needed. In colder areas, dig them up, rub off the soil and loosely pack in boxes, between layers of moist peat or vermiculite. Store in a cool, frost-free shed, or cellar.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Good healthy friable soil conditions with good drainage will help to keep the roots healthy. You may get carrot root fly grubs, but the most common problem is canker. This disease causes reddish brown marks on the shoulder of the root and these will often spread further into the root, causing it to rot. There is no cure, but having healthy soil conditions and producing fast growth helps.

Recipes:

You can substitute Root Parsley for any recipe using either parsnips or celeriac. Added to other roots and roasted is the way I prefer them.

For a great way to roast Root Parsley see: Roasted Parsnips with Grain Mustard & Maple Syrup

 

SALSIFY (Tragopogon porrifolius) & SCORZONERA (Scorzonera hispanica)

Scorzonera (black salsify)

Scorzonera (black salsify)

We first came across Salsify and Scorzonera in the UK when we were farming and thought we would give them a try to add to the list of winter root crops we were growing. They both have strap like leaves, which can be used for salad. They are both bi-annuals that form edible roots in the first season and flowers the following spring. Salsify has beautiful daisy-like purple flowers and Scorzonera has yellow flowers.

The seeds are large and easy to save if you leave some roots in to flower the next year. Scorzonera has a particularly deep root. Salsify has a white root and Scorzonera a black root with white flesh. Both have a flavour that is very similar to Jerusalem artichokes. Both have edible flowers. Some say Scorzonera has a better taste than Salsify, but try both.

It is said that if you mix their seed with carrot seed they keep carrot fly away from carrots – hmm I have heard all these tricks before, but read about how to truly keep off carrot fly, see CARROTS! Cook with skins on, then after cooking you can slip the skins off.

Soil & Feeding:

As with carrots, the soil should be loose and deep. If you have had preceding crops that had plenty of compost or well rotted manure, this should be enough for them, but if not then you can add compost, but it needs to be very well rotted, otherwise the roots will fork, just like carrots. Never use fresh manure for this reason.

Varieties:

Most catalogues just sell them as Salsify and Scorzonera, but there are a few cultivars:

Salsify: White French and Mammoth Sandwich Island

Scorzonera: Russian Giant

Sowing:

As with carrots they don’t like being transplanted, so sow them direct, outside in 2cm (¾in) deep drills 30cm (1ft) apart, thinning the seedlings to 15cm (18in) apart.

Growing:

Keep the beds weed free and when the plants are about 5cm high, mulch with 2cm of lawn clippings.

Harvesting:

In late autumn on a dry day, carefully dig up the roots, cut the leaves off just above the crown and let them dry on the soil for a few hours. Then gently rub off any excess soil and place in a box with moist peat, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir, in layers with the roots not touching, storing in a frost-free shed, unless you live in an area with mild winters.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Salsify and Scorzonera are both generally trouble free.

Recipes:

Cook with skins on, then after cooking you can slip the skins off.

Salsify Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 300g (10½oz) salsify
  • 45g (1½oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small red chilli, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Peel and coarsely grate the salsify.
  2. Warm 20g (¾oz) of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the salsify until softened.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chilli, coriander, egg and flour.
  4. Season generously, then form into six fritters.
  5. Warm the remaining butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side.

Scozonera & Leak au Gratin

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 10 Scorzonera roots
  • 10 small leaks

For the sauce

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For the topping

  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup finally chopped raw cashew nuts
  • A good knob of butter

Preparation:

  1. Place a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Scrub the Scorzonera roots under the tap (do not peel) and cut to fit an earthenware oven dish
  3. Add the Scorzonera roots to the pan of boiling water, about 15-20 minutes depending upon the thickness.
  4. Wash and clean the leeks then add them to the pan. They take a little less time to cook than the Scorzonera
  5. Once the Scorzonera and leeks are tender drain them and lay them out lengthways in the oven dish
  6. In the mean time melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then add flour and stir for a 2-3 minutes, then slowly pour in the milk stirring all the time, continuing to stir for 3-5 minutes until thickened, then stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.
  7. Pour evenly over the Scorzonera and leaks
  8. Process the cashews and parmesan cheese in a processor until crumbly but not too fine, then add a good knob of butter and pulse until like breadcrumbs
  9. Sprinkle the topping over the Scorzonera, leaks and sauce and place under a grill until golden brown

 

SWEDE Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica)

Swede

The name Swede comes from Swedish turnip, however it is not a true turnip, it is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It is often considered to have originated in Scandinavia or Russia as a wild cross in the middle ages.

If you’re not a great fan of turnips, then give Swede a try, they are definitely much more tasty and great mashed 50/50 with potatoes as the Scots like them – ‘tatties and neap’s’. They are also good in stews, or just mashed on their own with lots of butter, pepper and salt and some good pinches of ground nutmeg.

They are very hardy; in fact they only start to taste best when they have been through a few frosts.

Soil & Feeding:

They like a well-drained soil with a minimum pH of 6.5 to help combat club root, which they are prone to, so add lime if needed at the recommended rate. Like all root crops they don’t like overfeeding, but they do like a free draining soil with a high organic matter, so they will need 2 bucketfuls of compost per square metre (square yard). As a brassica, they should be grown in the brassica bed, not the root bed, along with turnips.

A lack of trace elements results in a tasteless bitter harvest, so adding seaweed meal or watering and spraying regularly with liquid seaweed during the growing season will not only help to counteract mildew but produce great tasting Swedes.

Varieties:

Champion Purple Top: This is an Heirloom variety with a pleasing rich flavour.

Lawes American Purple Top: This is another Heirloom similar to the above.

Marian: has a good flavour and has been bred for its resistance to club root and mildew.

Sowing:

Sow outside in late spring or early summer. Sow seeds in shallow drills 45cm (18in) apart, thinning the seedlings to 30cm (1ft) in the rows.

Growing:

Keep free of weeds and water as necessary. When the plants are 5-6cm (2-2½in) high you can mulch with 3-4cm (1-1½in) of grass clippings.

Harvesting:

Apart from areas, which have very hard winters, leave them in and harvest throughout the winter as needed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew is the main problem we have encountered. Prevent it by spraying regularly through the growing season with seaweed spray. Also milk watered down 50/50 with water has had good results as a preventative, or spraying with Trichoderma viride bio-fungicide (see: the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES  - THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS.

Recipes:

One of the best ways to cook Swedes is to peel them and chop them into chunks and boil them until tender. In another pan boil the same amount of potatoes peeled and cut into chunks. The Potatoes will cook faster than the Swede. When both are soft, drain both and add together in one pan with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, plus a good dollop of butter and a good couple of pinches of ground nutmeg. Mash together well, and serve as part of a main meal.

Swedes are also good chopped up in stews or soups with other vegetables, beans, meats etc.

 

TURNIP (Brassica rapa var. rapa)

TurnipThese are one of the easiest of root crops to grow. They can be grown from spring to autumn with the final crop pulled and stored for the winter.

Soil & Feeding:

The earliest varieties need well-manured soil for fast growth, so 1 bucket of compost and 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser should be incorporated into each square metre (square yard). The main crop should be grown in the brassica bed with the other brassicas.

Varieties:

Milan Red Top: This is a quick growing variety for spring and summer growing. They have a red top and white bottom. Best eaten when 5-7cm (2-3in) across.

Golden Ball: This is an old Heirloom variety first recorded in France as early as 1854. This is a good main crop variety, which is quite hardy, with yellow flesh and excellent flavour. The tops can also be eaten as greens.

Sowing:

You can start early turnips in a seed box or tray in a greenhouse or on a windowsill and then plant out when it is a bit warmer in the spring. Sow outside in spring when it is starting to warm up in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart, thinning the seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart in the rows.

Growing:

Keep the rows well weeded by hoeing or hand pulling, and water as necessary, mulching between the rows with 2-3cm (¾-1in) grass clippings to help retain moisture and to prevent the roots becoming tough and stringy.

Harvesting:

You can start to pull the first roots when they are about golf-ball size. In mid autumn in colder areas, you can lift the main crop, twisting the tops off and store in a box of moist peat in a cool, frost-free shed or store.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

As with other brassicas they can get clubroot and they can get dry rot, both of which are largely avoided if you stick to strict rotations, always growing them in the brassica bed with other members of the cabbage family, and never grow brassicas in the same plot more often than three years in-between.

Recipes:

For mash, peel the turnips and chop them into chunks and boil them until tender. When soft, drain and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, plus a good dollop of butter and a good couple of pinches of ground nutmeg. Mash well, and serve as part of a main meal. Turnips are also good chopped up in stews or soups with other vegetables, beans, meats etc. However if you want a posh way to cook them, here it is:

Baked Turnips with Onions & Sour Cream

Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 375g (13oz) turnips
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 375g (13oz) onions
  • 2 cups chicken stock

For Garnish:

  • Chopped parsley

Preparation:

  1. Peel and slice the onions and turnips into rounds, no more than 6mm (2in) thick.
  2. Layer into a heavily greased baking dish, seasoning each layer.
  3. Pour over boiling stock then cover and place in the oven for 40 minutes at 200oC (392oF).
  4. Drain stock and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes or until the turnips are tender.
  5. Just before serving spread the sour cream over the top and place under the grill for 5 minutes.
  6. Garnish with chopped parsley.

 

f) BULBS

GARLIC (Allium sativum)

Garlic

When I was young, garlic was considered to something only garlic smelling French people ate, now it is common place, and dare I say it, the majority use it to cook with and enjoy. Many studies have found garlic supplementation reduced accumulation of cholesterol on the vascular walls of animals and in humans. Garlic was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene during World War I and World War II, and I often use it on cuts.

We also use it in some of our homemade insecticide sprays, see: the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC PREVENTATIVE SPRAYS + HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Soil & Feeding:

Like all of the onion family, garlic needs a very good feed, so, apply 2 buckets of well-rotted garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser (+ if you have got some, 1 handful of seaweed meal) into every square metre (yard) and mix into the top 6cm (2in) of soil.

Varieties:

You could buy some organically grown local garlic and plant out the separate bulbs, but there are special varieties with particular traits that might be useful. Don’t buy garlic from a supermarket because they will probably be sprayed to stop them sprouting.

Serpent Early Red:  It is suggested that this variety is planted in early spring, and harvested in mid summer, well before other main crop garlics. They have browny/red skin when harvested, with small bulbils on top, if the flower head is not removed. Remove the flowering stems if you want large garlic bulbs.

Rocombole Early Red: This is the same as Early White except the bulbs have red skins. They are flat and very early maturing. They taste great.

Rocombole Early White: A beautifully strong flavoured garlic with good sized pearly white cloves and pearly white skin. Outstanding because it’s ready to harvest in early summer – must be planted in the autumn to be ready this early.

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum): These are huge and have a milder garlic taste. Although commonly called garlic this is actually a type of leek, so it is no use medically. It tastes great though as a roasted vegetable.

Planting:

Garlic are very winter hardy, so it was traditional to plants the cloves on the shortest day of the year, but I consider this to be too late. I prefer to plant mine in late autumn, early winter, a month before mid-winter.

Take a healthy bunch and prize off the individual cloves with your fingers. Plant each larger clove, pointy bit up and 3cm (1in) deep 15cm (6in) apart with the tip just below the surface, with 20cm (8in) between the rows, or stagger them 15cm (6in) each way.

Growing:

Keep weeded, and when the plants are at least 10cm high, mulch with a couple of centimetres of grass clippings. Water regularly in dry periods and feed them at least two times during the growing season with liquid animal manure or worm juice – (see: the section – ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – LIQUID MANURES, + Eco & Biological Fertilisers liquid Humates and Fulvic Acid as a booster).

Harvesting:

Allow the tops to die down – bending the stems over when they start wilting, as well as loosening the roots with a small hand fork will help the garlic to ripen. It is important that the stems have wilted and dried before storing. Lift them carefully and rub the soil off the roots, then dry in the sun or in a glasshouse. Then string them as described in ONIONS, and hang them up somewhere dry, cool and frost free for the winter.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

We have found over 40 years that garlic is generally trouble free, although they can get rust fungus on the leaves especially in a damp summer.

Rust: Cut off the leaves as soon as you see the rust start to appear. Throw the infected leaves in the trash (not the compost bin!), wash your hands and disinfect your shears with methylated spirits to prevent the fungus from spreading. You could also try spraying every two weeks with Trichoderma viride powder in water. Or spray with sulphur powder mixed with water according to the instructions on the box.

Recipes:

Garlic cloves skinned and roasted with vegetables is a winter favourite in our family.

Aioli – Garlic Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 garlic cloves, skinned  & mashed
  • A generous pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¾ cup grape-seed or sunflower oil + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

You can use a food processor if you like, but I prefer to make it the old way sitting down with a towel over my knees and a bowl held between my legs, whisking with a balloon whisk, whilst drizzling the oil from a bottle with corked spout.

  1. Place egg yolks, mashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper, mustard and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, or food processor and whisk well – about 30 seconds
  2. Slowly drizzle in the oil, using the attachment that allows you to add liquids drop by drop if using a food processor, while whisking all the time. Be sure to do it drop by drop to stop it curdling – take your time, no rush
  3. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary

 

LEEK (Allium ampeloprasum)

Leek

For many gardeners, leeks are an indispensable winter vegetable as they are very hardy. Leeks are members of the onion family, which like rich soil and heavy feeding. Be careful not to start them too early and plant them too far apart, otherwise they will grow too big and tough. As my UK organic gardening guru, Lawrence D. Hills, said about growing leeks “Leeks as big as bolsters and nearly as tasteless have graced flower shows for the past century, but I prefer mine the size of a candle”.

Soil & Feeding:

As I just said, leeks are heavy feeders, so if you are starting from scratch, add two buckets of garden compost + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard). If, like me, you plant your seedling leeks out after the early potato crop that was fed heavily with garden compost, you can just add two handfuls or Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre.

Varieties:

Della Riviera: If you want slender, tasty and tender leeks, rather than big bulky ones, this is the one for you.

Lyon Leek: This is another slender, tasty variety, with a mild flavour. It is an old heirloom variety that originates from the Lyon area of Staffordshire in England.

Mussleburgh: Developed in the 1400’s in Scotland as a commercial variety. It is a productive stocky hardy leek that has stood the test of time.

Winter Giant: As the name implies it can grow large if that is what you want, but you can grow them closer together at 15cm (6in) apart for smaller ones.

Carentan Giant: Another old European variety. I have grown these and found them a bit large for myself, but if that’s what you want, go ahead, or grow them closer together for smaller tenderer plants.

Sowing:

Sow outside in shallow drills in a seedbed at the beginning of December (southern hemisphere) or the beginning of June (northern hemisphere) to plant out the following month.

Planting:

I always plant them the traditional way. When the seedling leeks are around 15-20cm high, make holes with a dibber 15-20cm (6-8in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart, or 15cm (6in) apart for larger varieties, in rows 30cm (1ft) apart. Then drop your young leek plant (around 15cm (6in) long) down the hole and fill the hole with water from a sprouted can, to wash down some soil to settle and cover the roots. The plant will then grow to fill the hole and be partly blanched by the surrounding soil. If your leeks have grown tall, then cut back the leaves before planting.

If you haven’t got a dibber, you can make one – see: chapter 7, ‘TOOLS OF THE TRADE’ for how to make one. This is a very useful tool to add to your garden shed.

Growing:

Keep weed free, especially in the early phase when the plants are still small. Feed at least three times during the growing season with a liquid feed of any of these: animal manure, worm juice, liquid fish manure, liquid Blood and Bone or dried blood watered in – see: the section – ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures.

If you want longer white stems, you can earth the leeks up around the stems up to the bottom leaves, but no higher, unless you want lots of soil inside the leaves, which is a pain in the kitchen.

Harvesting:

You will need a garden fork to loosen the roots so you can lift the plants as and when you need them through the winter as they have tenacious roots and you can break the leeks if you just try to pull them. Cut the roots off and the green leaves back for the compost before taking them to the kitchen, or use the tops of the leaves for soup or vegetable stock.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Rust Fungus: In my experience leeks are trouble free, but they can get rust fungus – pull off the worst effected leaves and spray with Trichoderma viride liquid, or powder mixed thoroughly in water, or use it as a preventative spray through the latter part of the growing season (see: section ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘  - The New Generation of Biological Products)

Recipes:

I am not a great fan of soups, but warming yourself up with a bowl of Vichyssoise on a cold winter’s evening is wonderful.

Vichyssoise

Ingredients:

  • 2 fat leeks
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 60g (2oz) butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 potatoes [about 250-375 grams (9-13oz)]
  • ½ Lt (1 pint) water
  • 250ml (8½floz) milk
  • 500ml (17floz) cream
  • Chopped chives

Preparation:

  1. Use the white part of the leek only – about 250–370g (9-13oz). Chop and put with the chopped onion and butter into a heavy pan
  2. Cover then stew very gently for about 5 minutes, but do not let the vegetables brown
  3. Add water and cleaned, peeled and diced potatoes, and sat
  4. Simmer until potatoes are well cooked
  5. Liquidise the whole contents
  6. Heat the milk and half the cream in a separate pan and add to soup, then bring back to the boil, stirring to prevent it catching.
  7. Strain the soup or liquidise again
  8. Stir in the rest of the cream, correct the seasoning, and chill thoroughly
  9. To serve, sprinkle each bowl of soup with the chopped chives

Butter Bean & Leek Pie

Ingredients:

  • 125g (4½oz) butter beans (or the white butter bean type seeds of Scots White runner beans that you have saved).
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter
  • 225g (8oz) carrots, scraped and diced small
  • 450g (16oz) leeks, cleaned and cut into 1cm slices
  • 125g (4½oz) mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 225g (8oz) fresh tomatoes skinned, or canned
  • 118ml (4floz) stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For pie crust:

  • 225g (8oz) puff pastry, or wholemeal shortcrust pastry
  • A little beaten egg to glaze

Preparation:

  1. Soak butter beans over night, then drain, rinse them and cook them until they are tender, then drain well
  2. Preheat the oven to 220oC (428oF)
  3. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, then put in the carrots, cover and cook very gently without browning for 10 minutes
  4. Add the leeks and mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, then stir so it get mixed with the butter
  6. Mix in the tomatoes and stock and cook gently, stirring for 2-3 minutes until thickened
  7. Add the cooked butter beans and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  8. Turn the mixture into a 1 litre (2 pint) pie dish to cool
  9. Roll out the pastry on a floured board and cover the top of the pie, and crimp the edges
  10. Brush the pastry with beaten egg
  11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 190oC (374oF) for a further 15 minutes

 

ONION (Allium cepa)

Onions

 

Onions are one of the garden staples for any lover of food, and because they store well you can eat them all the year round.

Soil & Feeding:

Of all vegetables, the onion family is one of the heaviest feeders, and therefore needs to be treated well and fed well to get a successful crop. We usually have a good crop of onions, but for some reason in 2012-13 we neglected to give them the care they needed and we had a poor crop. This was the spur to make sure the 2013-14 crop was going to be a success, and it was, with 7-11cm (2¾-4in) diameter healthy onions! So, here’s my recipe for success:

  1. Onions prefer firm ground, so don’t dig and loosen the soil.
  2. Clear weeds from the last crop.
  3. Incorporate 1 or 2 buckets of well-rotted garden compost per square metre (yard) into the top 5cm (2in).
  4. If your soil pH is less than 6.4 then add garden lime at the recommended rate. If the pH is already 6.4, then add 2 handfuls of gypsum per square metre for both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which onions like, but without increasing the pH.
  5. Incorporate 2 handfuls Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard) into the top 2cm (¾in).
  6. When you plant out the onion seedlings, water them with liquid Blood and Bone or a homemade liquid fertiliser, plus liquid Humate and Fulvic acid (see: the section – ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Eco, Biological & Organic Fertilisers.
  7. Regular watering, until drying off.
  8. Water two or three times in the growing season with a liquid fertiliser of horse, or cow or sheep manure, or worm juice, or liquid fish manure (see: the section - ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures).

Varieties:

Pukekohe: This onion is a NZ Heritage variety and the best brown skinned white fleshed, sweet onion we have come across in 40 years of growing them. The area of Pukekohe in the North Island of New Zealand is the main onion growing area of the country, and sure enough the main traditional variety from that area was named Pukekohe. These large spherical onions are huge if grown well and are the best keepers we have come across along with Stuttgarter storing to the following spring.

Stuttgarter Long Keeper: A tasty old favourite that has medium-large, slightly flattish yellow onions with a good, pungent flavour. This variety is among the best keepers and produces well. It will store well into the spring and is the variety we grew as our main crop in the UK.

Californian Red: This is our other main crop variety, because we like both white and red onions. These flatter onions usually outgrow most white ones. Like most red onions they do not last as long in store as most white onions, starting to grow in late winter or early spring, so we try to eat then before then and enjoy the white onions left to finish the season.

White Welsh: This onion has been grown around the world, especially in Asian countries, like China and Japan forever, and is the ‘spring’ type onion used in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Hard working Welsh people found this an easy and time saving way of growing onions on their small garden plots or allotments, hence the name. This is a perennial onion that you can grow in your herb bed and use like ‘spring’ onions, because they don’t bulb up. They gradually grow outwards producing more stems over time. Having 2 or 3 plants in your herb garden should supply your family with all the green salad onions you need.

For those that prefer traditional annual Salad Onions (also known as spring onions or scallions), here are two good varieties:

White Lisbon: is a standard variety, which bulks up fairly quickly. It is relatively low maintenance, not only suited to overwintering producing early crops, but good for successional spring/summer cropping too. Sow at 3 weekly intervals.

Ishikura: is a Tokyo long white type that doesn’t bulb up but has long 45cm white stems and is very mild.

Sowing:

For main crops, sow in seed compost inside in trays in late winter, planting out in spring into your prepared beds. Plant out or sow in shallow drills 20cm (8in) apart, thinning the seedling to 15cm (6in) apart if you want decent sized ones or 10cm (4in) apart if you want smaller ones.

Alternatively in areas with winters that are not harsh, many sow an early crop outside in a seedbed in the autumn, in shallow drills, then plant out into their permanent growing positions in spring, spacing as above.

For Salad onions you can sow in shallow drills 15cm (6in) apart, thinning seedlings to 4-5cm (1½-2in), otherwise scatter seeds in spare patches throughout your garden.

Growing:

Main Crop: Regular watering, until drying off. Water two or three times in the growing season with a liquid fertiliser of horse, cow or sheep manure, or worm juice, or liquid fish manure. It is very important to keep as weed free as possible as the weeds enjoy the well-fed soil as much as the onions. This is especially important when the plants are young, because they can easily get swamped with weeds.

Harvesting:

When the tops start to wither, bend over the stems and if they have finished bulking up, you can loosen the roots a little with a hand fork; this will encourage the onions to dry off, especially the stems, so they will store better. Some onions will have thick necks or have started to run up to flower and the stems may brake when you bend them over. These will not keep, so use them early and don’t try to store them for long.

When the stems have shrivelled and gone brown, lift the crop in dry weather, rubbing the soil off the roots and leave in the sun to dry off, or lay out in a glass, or tunnel house, or a conservatory for a few days.

Storing:

If you don’t have a big crop, you can trim most of the withered stems and roots off and stack them in old laddered tights and hang them in a dry frost proof shed as long as you are female, or you have a female partner who is happy to keep her old laddered tights until the onion harvest. The ladders are useful for ventilation, because onions need to keep dry in store.

You can leave the stems on, but trim the roots for stringing the onions. You can plat them, but this is difficult, so what we have always done is this:

Start with a metre of fine strong string, tie the ends together and loop it over a nail or hook. Secure one large onion at the bottom by making a loop with the bottom of the double string and feeding the stem through and tightening (follow the illustration). Then feed the stem of the second onion through the two strings and twist the dried stem round the double string and back through again, pressing it down. Feed the next onion through the opposite way and loop it round the opposite way and through again. Keep doing this, alternating the direction each time, until the string is finished. 4½ kg is enough for one string. Hang them up from the rafters in the roof, if it is easy to get in there. Otherwise, hang them from a hook in a beam, or off a pipe, or as we do from our slatted wooden shelving in our storeroom.

Easy way to string onions

Easy way to string onions

Onions strung

Onions strung

 

 

                 

 

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

First see the section –  ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants.

White Rot: To be quite honest, we have had little disease and pests when growing onions. Occasionally we have had white fungal rot at the base of the roots on a few onions, but never to any great extent. As long as you have a friable open well-drained soil they should do well. If you have heavy clay, you need to work over the whole bed plunging a garden fork into the soil and loosening the soil without inverting it. Also add at least two bucket of well-rotted garden compost per square metre. If you have problems, water the soil with Trichoderma viride bio-fungicide powder mixed with water before sowing or planting out, so the Trichoderma predatory fungus is already there to fight the white rot fungus (see the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘ – The New Generation of Biological Products.

Rust: Cut off the leaves as soon as you see the rust start to appear. Throw the infected leaves in the trash (not the compost bin!), wash your hands and disinfect your shears with methylated spirits to prevent the fungus from spreading. You could also try spraying every two weeks with Trichoderma viride powder in water, as soon as you see the first signs of rust.

Recipes:

Onions are so versatile that the list of possible recipes would be endless, so I have only included recipes where the onions are the stars.

French Onion Soup (This has been adapted from Sally Fallon’s book ‘Nourishing Traditions’ – highly recommended)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 red onions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 litres beef stock
  • ½ cup cognac
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  • Sea salt or fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Slice the onions very thinly
  2. Melt butter in a large stainless steel pot
  3. Add the onions and cook on the lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours, or until the onions are very soft and slightly caramelized
  4. Raise the heat a bit and cook a few minutes longer, stirring constantly. The onions should turn brown but not burn
  5. Add wine, cognac and stock
  6. Bring to a rapid boil and skim off any foam that may have risen to the top
  7. Add the arrow root mixture and season to taste
  8. Serve with croutons and a plate of raw cheeses, or place a slice of French bread on the top of each serving bowl grated with Gruyere cheese melted under the grill

Stuffed Onions

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or oil from the tomatoes) plus extra for drizzling
  • 200g (7oz) block of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 50g (1¾oz) white or brown breadcrumbs
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 pieces of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped
  • A large pinch of chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 50g (2oz) walnut pieces, chopped
  • 1 medium egg, beaten

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 1900C (3740F), or fan 1700C (3380F). Peel the onions leaving them whole, removing the first layer of onion as you peel. Cut them in half across the middle and remove several layers from the centre of each using a teaspoon. Fill any holes with a small slice of onion taken from the centre layers. Arrange onion halves, cut side up in a small ovenproof dish. Pour a splash of water into the dish and brush the onions with some of the oil. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes until they are tender.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop the inner layers. Heat the remaining oil in a medium sized saucepan and fry the chopped onion, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown, leave to cool.
  3. Mix the cooled chopped onions in a bowl with half the feta, the breadcrumbs, chilli, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped thyme and parsley, walnuts, beaten egg and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well until everything’s combined.
  4. Increase the oven to 2000C (3920F), or fan 1800C (3560F). Divide the feta stuffing between the onions, then scatter over the remaining cheese and sprinkle over a few thyme sprigs. Drizzle over a little oil from the tomato jar and cook for 25 minutes until the stuffing is bubbling and the feta is golden brown.

 

SHALLOTS (Allium cepa var. aggregatum)

Shalots

Shallots are a relative of the onion and like garlic they increase by multiplying, so one grows them by planting the offsets. It is possible however to get seeds and then save some of the shallot bulbs to grow the following year, but most people buy the offsets, which you can buy in winter at garden departments.

For lovers of good food it is definitely worth planting a crop of shallots to compliment your garlic and onion crops. They have a unique flavour, which is neither garlic, nor onion. When cooked they have a sweeter, milder flavour than onions, but raw they are stronger.

Soil & Feeding:

Same as onions and garlic, they need a rich soil full of available nutrients in full sun. So dig in 2 buckets of well-rotted manure or compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

Shallot bulbs for planting are available from garden centres as well as mail order companies.

Red Sun: French-type with golden-red skin and reddish interior rings.

Holland Red: Short, plump, flat bulbs with reddish skin and white flesh tinged with purple. Stores well.

French Red: Single bulbs multiply into 10 to 15 reddish-purple shallots in just one season. They are easy to peal.

Mirage: Large, French, half-long style shallots with reddish-copper skin and white flesh. Very firm and can keep through to spring.

Planting:

Traditionally the bulbs were planted on the shortest day along with garlic, but I have found both do well planted in one month earlier, in other words mid May here in the southern hemisphere and mid November in the northern hemisphere. If you have very cold winters plant in early spring. Draw a hoe along the rows to make a 3-4cm (1-1½in) deep grove. Remove any dead foliage when planting out 15cm (6in) apart in rows 25cm (10in) apart, making sure the tips of the bulbs are just below the surface. If you push them in, it will compact the soil and they will push themselves out as the roots grow.

Growing:

Weed and water as required. In early summer it is a good idea to draw the soil away from the bulbs to assist ripening.

Harvesting:

When the foliage has died down in summer, lift them, clean the bulbs and store in nets in a frost-free shed or store.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Shallots are generally trouble free, but see ONIONS.

 

g) SHOOTS

CELERY (Apium graveolens var. dulce)

Celery

The old varieties all had to be blanched – that is the stems were tied round with corrugated cardboard and earthed up so the stems were white and tender. There are modern varieties that are so-called self-blanching, but even with these varieties it is worth wrapping with corrugated cardboard for better results, but it’s not necessary if you can’t be bothered.

Soil & Feeding:

As with celeriac, celery needs well-rotted garden compost at 2 buckets per square metre (square yard) incorporated into the top 10cm (4in) of soil; this will provide plenty of rich organic matter and water retention. However, celery also needs growing fast with a good supply of readily available Nitrogen. This can be applied as the celery grows with regular weekly feeds of liquid manure – liquid worm juice from your worm farm, liquid animal manure (horse, cow, sheep), watered down to week tea colour – see: the section – ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – LIQUID MANURES.

Varieties:

  • Elne: Has a vigorous habit, full of flavour and early to mature. It is easy to blanch with straw, corrugated cardboard etc., to get white stalks.
  • Tall Utah Improved: Crisp and crunchy, compact habit with good bolt resistance. Again, best results if you blanch the stems with corrugated cardboard, etc.
  • Loretta: Good quality, vigorous, upright-growing, self-blanching celery, producing deliciously flavoured, smooth, succulent, white sticks.
  • Golden Self-Blanching: Compact dwarf type, pale golden leaves, fine flavoured, thick stringless stems, disease resistant.
  • Nutty: This is available from Koanga Institute http://www.koanga.org.nz/. It is from an early commercial line that was abandoned because it didn’t suit modern agribusiness systems. We grew it last year. It is excellent for harvesting one stalk at a time all winter and spring. The stalks are crunchy, juicy and have a nutty taste… and it is easy to grow.

Sowing:

Celery seeds need light to germinate, so – sow as for celeriac, on the surface and keep damp by covering the seed box or pot with glass or clear plastic, and keep in the light and warmth. Sow late winter/early spring in a seed box or pot, and again in mid summer for an autumn crop. Where the winters are milder you can grow them through the winter, sowing in late summer.

Growing:

See ‘Feeding’. If you want to grow celery the old way as my grandfather did, then you need to:

  1. Dig trenches a half to one spade deep, and one spade width, heaping up the soil either side, with 45cm (18in) between the rows. Spread 6cm (2½in) of well-rotted compost, or manure, in the bottom of the trench, and cover with 2.5cm (1in) of soil. Plant out the seedlings 30cm (1ft) apart.
  2. In mid summer, remove any suckers from near the base and wrap the stalks with corrugated cardboard, brown paper or several layers of newspaper. This prevents soil getting between the stalks.
  3. Then fill the trench with soil from the sides, up to the bottom of the leaves. As the celery grows, pile up soil twice more at three-week intervals, sloping the soil on the sides to drain off rain and prevent rotting.

Harvesting:

I usually use an old kitchen knife or machete (panga), cutting round and under the swollen stem at the base, cutting off the roots and leaving them in the ground to rot. I then trim off the majority of the leaves, unless you want them for salad, soup or as a dressing like chopped parsley. If you are not using all the stems straight away – keep fresh by placing the plant in a jar with some water, either in the fridge or on a windowsill.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Celery Fly: For celery fly, remove the leaves and stems affected regularly and spray every 2 weeks with Neem oil.

Celery Leaf Spot (Bacterial blight and brown stem): Remove the leaves and stems affected regularly. Leaf spot is a bacterial disease and so I have been using a strong garlic spray once a week. The easy way is to crush several cloves in a mortar and pestle and pour boiling water over them. Add a few drops of eco liquid soap and dilute with some cold water and pass the liquid through a kitchen sieve and then drench the plants with this spray. Another way is to crush the garlic and soak in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and leave overnight. The next day add a teaspoon of eco soap and add some warm water to the mix, passing the liquid as before through a sieve and dilute with some cold water. You can also try the Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray in the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Various fungus blights: To avoid fungus diseases, spray every 2 weeks with Trichoderma viride liquid, or powder thoroughly mixed into water.

Recipes:

I think most of us have used chopped celery in soups, stews, salads and many different recipes. We tend to use it to add flavour, in the same way we use onions, and often together.

Celery Snack

These are great snacks I have discovered recently – yum.

Ingredients:

  • Celery sticks, trimmed and washed
  • Almond nut butter, or peanut butter
  • Grated coconut
  • Fine sprinkle salt

Method:

  1. Fill celery sticks with nut or peanut butter
  2. Finely sprinkle with salt
  3. Sprinkle with grated coconut

Celery, Apple & Nut Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cored and chopped apples
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • Mayonnaise, preferably home made
  • Finely shredded raw cabbage
  • French dressing, made with 1 part lemon juice, 3 parts olive oil + honey, salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Mix together the apples, celery, nuts and raisins with the mayonnaise
  2. Serve on a bed of shredded cabbage tossed in the French dressing

 

FLORENCE FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum)

Florence FennelMany people love Florence fennel. However, it is not easy to grow well, but it is worth persevering for its unique aniseed flavour. It needs to be grown fast and furious to keep it tender and sweet, rather than tough. The swollen stems can be eaten either raw or cooked.

Soil & Feeding:

Rich moisture retentive soil in full sun is required, with a good pH of 6.4 or even higher. 1 or 2 buckets of well-rotted garden compost should be incorporated in the top few centimetres along plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square                                                      metre (square yard).

Varieties:

Romanesco: is a good open pollinated old variety. I personally stay away from F1 hybrids.

Sowing:

Florence fennel does not like transplanting as it encourages it to bolt. Sow from mid spring to late summer, little and often, so they don’t all come at once. Sow in shallow drills outside 45cm (18in) apart, thinning the seedlings to 20cm (8in) apart.

Growing:

Ensure that the plants do not dry out as they will run to seed and/or get tough. Also weekly feeding with a mild liquid fertiliser made from horse or sheep poo, worm juice or liquid fish manure, will keep them growing.

When the bases begin to swell to form bulbs about the size of golf balls, earth up around them to keep them sweet and tender.

Harvesting:

Cut the heads off two or three weeks after earthing up. This will keep them from running to seed and getting tough. You can then harvest them when you need them, but don’t leave them too long.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Slugs: Slugs can attack Fennel. Use beer traps in shallow saucers buried up to the brim with beer + water 50/50 – see the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Traps.

Recipes:

Stuffed Fennel with Ricotta

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Step One:

  • 6 large fennel bulbs

Step Two:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons rapadua (or brown sugar)

Step Four:

  • 1½ cups ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fennel tops
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC (356oF). Coat a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) baking dish with olive oil. Trim the stalks off the fennel bulbs. Cut in half lengthwise along the broader side of the bulb, so that you have 2 wide fennel halves. Reserve the tops for the filling
  2. Heat the olive oil in a wide pan. Add the fennel seeds and sauté over low heat for a minute. Add the vegetable stock, lemon juice and rapadua (or sugar). Bring to the boil. Add fennel bulbs, cut side down, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the bulbs are tender. Transfer the bulbs to the baking dish cut side up.
  3. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and reduce down to about 1/3cup.
  4. While the liquid is boiling down, mix the ricotta, cream cheese and fennel tops together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly on the fennel bulbs.
  5. Toss together the ground walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil + a sprinkling of salt. Sprinkle over ricotta mixture on each bulb. Bake until crumbs are lightly browned – about 20 minutes.

 

h) FRUITS

AUBERGINE, (see: EGGPLANT)

COURGETTE, (see: ZUCCHINI)

CUCUMBER  (Cucumis sativus)

Cucumber

I’m a bit traditional when it comes to cucumbers. We grow the long smooth green type, most often seen in green grocers and supermarkets and sometimes the shorter traditional ridge cucumber type that will happily run around outside, and gherkins, but don’t let me stop you from trying to grow ‘Apple’ cucumbers and Indian cucumber ‘Poona Kheera’. We always grow long green ones + some gherkins which I pickle the traditional way with whey and salt, rather than vinegar.

Soil & Feeding:

As cucumbers are members of the pumpkin/squash family they like a good dose of well-rotted compost – 2 buckets per square metre (square yard), and regular liquid feeds of comfrey juice and/or liquid seaweed every 2 weeks during the growing season.

A traditional way to prepare the soil before planting cucumbers out, was to dig a square hole about 15 or even 20cm (6-8in) deep, about the same size as a cake tin (25 x 25cm) (10 x 10in), half filled with pressed down well rotted garden compost, plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, then back fill with top soil. But if you are concerned about disturbing valuable mycorrhizal fungi in the topsoil, you can gently mix the compost and fertiliser into the top few centimetres of soil.

When the second true leaves have grown on your seedling cucumber, plant them out above the filled hole – they will love the compost you have supplied when the roots find it. The compost will not only supply nutrients, but will also retain water in dry weather.

Varieties:

  • Tendergreen: is great for a traditional long, smooth skinned variety.
  • Marketmore: This is a good outdoor ridge cucumber for cooler areas, traditionally grown on ridges – hence the name. They are stumpy slightly warty cucumbers with a good taste. They are disease resistant and productive.
  • Long White: These types are sweet and never bitter and are also good croppers, especially if they are allowed to climb up a structure.
  • Apple: Similar to Long White types, but rounder and thinner-skinned. Many of our friends prefer the white and apple types of cucumber.
  • Poona Kheera: A heirloom Indian cucumber with a golden brown skin and sweet, but never bitter taste. An excellent keeper lasting for weeks in the fridge without losing quality.
  • Gherkins: I like pickled gherkins, so I grow 2 or 3 plants for traditional whey and salt pickles with dill and mustard seeds, as well as some pickled in spiced vinegar. You can pick them small for sweet pickle, or around 5 to 6cm (2-2½in) for spiced pickling.

Sowing:

To get a good start we sow them in pots, after first sprouting them in-between sheets of moist newspaper or kitchen towel in a warm room or cupboard. Cucumber seeds often rot off if sown in seed compost, and sprouting them first in damp newspaper or paper towelling in a warm place indoors, will produce a higher percentage of germination. As soon as the little roots are 2 or 3mm (1/16-1/8in) long, carefully plant them into seed compost and do not over water.

For late crops, sow 2 seeds outside where they are to grow, having first prepared the soil, as above.

Growing:

For those in colder areas, you will have to grow your cucumbers in a glasshouse, tunnel house or conservatory, climbing up a structure, wires or strings. For those in warmer areas, as here in Nelson, grow them outside up a wigwam of canes, or up chicken wire netting, or plastic netting tied to stakes. For growing up stakes you will need to tie them in as they grow. Ridge cucumbers are hardier and we grew them outside in the UK, planting them outside under cloches to begin with in mid spring.

Prune back side growths to two leaves after the young fruit formation.

Mulch around the plants with untreated straw, old hay or grass clippings after watering or rain to keep down the weeds and retain moisture.

Harvesting:

Like courgette/zucchini if you turn your back for a couple of days your cucumbers or gherkins will have become monsters; so check them every day and cut them or pick them when they are the right size. Regular picking ensures more to pick.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Grey Powdery Mildew: is the most common disease of cucumbers, usually becoming a nuisance middle to late summer. Prevention is better than cure, so spray once a week with a milk and water spray 50/50, or Trichoderma spray. This is usually effective. If it does get the better hand, spray with dilute urine at one part urine to three parts water + a few drops of eco washing up liquid to help it stick. The urea in the urine is a very effective fungicide, but too strong if undiluted.

Recipes:

Cold Summer Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Cucumbers, peeled, diced, and divided
  • 4 Green Onions, sliced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 4 teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 teaspoons Salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt and vegetable broth; set aside.
  2. In a food processor, purée 1 peeled, diced English cucumber, 2 sliced green onions, chopped fresh dill, and chopped fresh parsley.
  3. Add the cucumber mixture, fresh lemon juice, and salt to the yogurt mixture; whisk to combine.
  4. Stir in 1 more peeled, diced English cucumber and 2 more sliced green onions; refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Garnish each serving with chopped dill and croutons.

Fermented Pickled Gherkins

Ingredients:

  • 15 – 20 gherkins (or 4-5 pickling cucumbers cut into 7mm (¼in) thick slices)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (made by draining organic thick Greek style yogurt overnight tied up in butter muslin with a bowl beneath) – if whey not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt.
  • 1 cup filtered water

Preparation:

  1. Wash gherkins well and place upright in a 1 litre (2 pint) jar in layers (or fill jar with cucumber slices)
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over gherkins, adding more water if necessary to cover the gherkins (or cucumber slices)
  3. The top of the liquid should be at least 3cm (1in) below the top of the jar
  4. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days (2 days for cucumber slices) before transferring to cold storage

 

EGGPLANT [AUBERGINE] (Solanum melongena)

Egg Plant

We live in a mild climate with a reasonably long growing season in one of the sunniest part of New Zealand, however we still find growing good Eggplants exacting, but with feeding well and cosseting from seed to fruit you should be successful in producing good eggplants. For those that live in cooler climates, with shorter summers – grow them in a glasshouse or Polytunnel.

Soil & Feeding:

Two or three weeks before planting out the seedlings, incorporate 2 buckets, of well rotted compost or manure plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), or dig holes 30cm (1ft) square and 20cm (8in) deep and 60cm (2ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost, plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser topped up with top soil. Then pre-warm the soil where they are going to be planted by covering with a square of black plastic or crushed charcoal and topped with a cloche – a 5 litre (1 gallon) juice bottle, with the bottom cut off will do).

Varieties:

Florence Round: A heritage variety. This is one of the easiest eggplants to grow because it produces well in cooler climates. It is a prolific producer of large round, deep purple fruits with a white rim around the sepals. Great flavour.

Kinglong: This is a long thin purple and white skinned eggplant specifically for cropping in marginal climates. Good flavour and are cooked like other eggplants.

Black Beauty: Large teardrop shaped fruit borne in abundance on bushy plants.

Sowing:

They need a long growing season so start early indoors or glasshouse in late winter/early spring. The little seedlings need potting up into rich soil in a 5cm (2in) diameter pot as soon as the seedlings have a pair of true leaves. The pots need keeping warm in the glasshouse or cold frame until after the last frosts.

Growing:

Plant out when the last frosts are well gone, at 45cm (18in) apart in staggered rows in their pre-prepared plots (see above).

The plants should branch naturally, but it is best to pinch out the main stem when the plants are about 23cm (9in) high to encourage branching. Restrict the number of fruit to 5 to decent sized fruit.

Water weekly with liquid animal manure mixed 50/50 with some liquid comfrey or liquid seaweed – diluted to tea colour – once a week from mid summer onwards.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Tomato/Potato Psyllid: As eggplants are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases. See TOMATOES for remedies.

Blight: Tomatoes can get blight, same as potatoes, but if you grow them in a glasshouse or Polytunnel you are less likely to get blight.

See: TOMATOES for more about these problems and how to control them.

Recipes:

I like my eggplants sliced into 1cm slices lengthwise, brushed with olive oil and cooked on a hot griddle pan until they have black stripes on both sides. The inevitable recipe is Ratatouille when all the ingredients are available at the same time of year. Curried Eggplant is also good.

Ratatouille

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise and thinly slice
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme)
  • About ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Peel and cut up eggplant into 1½cm (½in) cubes, place in a bowl and toss with a generous spoonful of fine sea salt and let stand for 1 hour
  2. Rinse cubes in colander and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Sauté eggplant cubes in batches in several tablespoons olive oil
  4. Remove with slotted spoon to a oiled Pyrex, or enamelled casserole dish
  5. Sauté zucchini, pepper, onions and tomatoes separately, adding more olive oil if necessary – removing each to the casserole dish
  6. Add mashed garlic and thyme to dish
  7. Mix well and bake uncovered, at 1770C (3500F) for at least 1 hour until most of liquid has evaporated

Eggplant Curry

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • About ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. To peel tomatoes, dip in boiling water with a slotted spoon for 5 seconds
  2. Peel and cut up eggplant into 1½cm (½in) cubes, place in a bowl and toss with a generous spoonful of fine sea salt and let stand for 1 hour
  3. Rinse eggplant cubes in colander and pat dry with paper towels
  4. Sauté eggplant cubes in batches in several tablespoons olive oil
  5. Remove with slotted spoon to a oiled Pyrex, or enamelled casserole dish
  6. Sauté onions and spices in olive oil until tender
  7. Add remaining ingredients to onions except chopped coriander leaves
  8. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring until well mixed
  9. Add to casserole and mix well
  10. Bake uncovered, at 1770C (3500F) about 1 hour
  11. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves

 

KIWANO HORNED MELON (Cucumis metuliferus)

KiwanoThis fruit is native to the Kalahari Desert, Africa. It is also called the African Horned Cucumber or Jelly Melon. It is a refreshing fruit with tastes of banana, cucumber and melon. However the fruit’s skin has spines and the stems and leaves covered in fine spiky hairs, it is best to wear gloves when handling this plant, but don’t let that put you off.

 

Soil & Feeding:

As with all members of the squash and cucumber family, they like a humus rich soil. So add two buckets of well rotted garden compost per square metre (yard), or one bucket per plant, plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) mixed into the top eight centimetres (3in).

Sowing:

Kiwano are tender plants, so if you will need to sow them in pots in seed compost in the warm 20-250C (68-770F) and don’t plant them out until well after the first frosts. Or, wait until past the last frosts and sow outside when the soil has warmed up.

Growing:

Mulch around with untreated straw, or grass clippings when the plants are big enough. Liquid feed every two weeks with comfrey or seaweed liquid.

Harvesting:

Keep picking the fruit when ripe.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

First see the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants.

Mildew: The most common disease of this whole family is mildew on the leaves. A good preventative measure is to spray the leaves with a 50/50 solution of milk and water, or Trichoderma viride every 2 weeks as soon as the plants are starting to produce fruit.

Recipes:

Choose a Kiwano that is fully ripened. It’ll have an orange rind with orange spikes. Squeeze it slightly to make sure it has some give and isn’t rock hard and green.

Like a pomegranate, the seeds are perfectly edible, but are somewhat bland. What you’re after is the sweet green flesh around the seed. You can take one at a time into your mouth and separate the seed before spitting it out, or take a whole mouthful and chew it up.

 

MELON (Cucumis melo)

Melon

Most of the sweet melons we eat are varieties of Cucumis melo, but watermelons are different, they are Citrullus lunatus, but they require the same growing conditions.

Soil & Feeding:

Melons need a well-manured soil, so dig in well rotted garden compost or well rotted horse or cow manure at two buckets per square metre (yard), plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, or use the compost hole method as described in CUCUMBERS. For those living in countries with cooler summers, grow them in a glasshouse, Polytunnel or cold frame.

Varieties:

Rock Melons

Rock melons are probably the easiest to grow and one of the best tasting, because they are generally smaller and faster growing melons for temperate or warm temperate conditions. In a difficult season they still do well. The flesh is super sweet and a deep rich orange with a full flavour, and being disease resistant they are heavy croppers. They are round with a yellow heavily netted rough skin.

Amish: An old American heritage melon that is super sweet.

Charantais: This superb heirloom French melon is considered by many to be the most divine and flavourful melons in the world. Almost round melons, which turn from green skinned to yellow when ripe with a net over the skin. The flesh is very sweet, juicy and aromatic with many melons weighing over a kilo (2 pounds).

Jenny Lind: Another great heritage variety. An outstanding green fleshed rock melon, super productive and disease resistant, very sweet and full of flavour. It has smaller melons than Charantais and Amish. It has good mildew resistance.

Watermelons

Watermelons need a longer growing season than ordinary melons. So if you live in a country, or areas with a temperate climate, you will need a fast maturing water melon.

Black Tail Mountain: is supposed to one of the best open pollinated short season watermelons around. It is a dark skinned red-fleshed melon. The flesh is sweet and juicy as it should be.

Sowing:

Sow inside at 180C (640F), in mid spring; putting two seeds in seed compost in an 8 cm flowerpot and thinning to one seedling if two come up. Plant out when the last frost has come and gone, under some kind of cloche to slowly accustom the seedling to outside conditions and temperatures. Giving them too much of a sudden shock will set them back severely.

I make my cloches from 5-litre (1 gallon) clear plastic juice or spring water bottles, with the bottoms cut off and the cap removed. These are great for small seedlings planted out in the spring. However, if it is a warm sunny day they will need taking off in the day and placed back in the late afternoon.

Growing:

As with all members of the cucumber family it is important to water regularly. When the plants have made three leaves, pinch out the growing point. It will then make side shoots, which should also be pinch out after three leaves. When the fruits form, pinch the growth to two leaves beyond the young fruit.

Harvesting:

Cut the fruits as soon as they feel soft when you press the ends. They also often smell sweet and perfumed when ripe.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew: As with all the cucumber family, they often suffer from mildew on the leaves as the plant matures. A good preventative measure is to spray the leaves with a 50/50 solution of milk and water, or Trichoderma viride liquid, or powder thoroughly mixed in water once a week as soon as the plants are starting to produce fruit (see the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘ – The New Generation of Biological Products.

Recipes:

Serves 2

Melon Feast

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium sized Cantaloupe or Rock melon
  • ½ cup crystalized ginger, chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup of mixed nuts, chopped
  • The seeds of 2 cardamom seeds, crushed, or ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • A drizzle of liquid honey, or maple syrup
  • 2 squeezes of lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. Cut the melon in half lengthwise
  2. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the centre
  3. Chop the crystalized ginger and place in a bowl
  4. Add pine nuts and the zest of the lemon
  5. Heat a dry frying pan and roast the chopped nuts, stirring continuously until lightly brown, then tip into the bowl
  6. Split the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, take out the seeds and discard the pods, then grind the seeds, or use ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom, and add to the bowl
  7. Mix the contents of the bowl together, then fill both halves of the melon
  8. Drizzle some liquid honey or maple syrup on each filling
  9. Squeeze lemon juice onto each filling

 

PEPPERS (Capsicum annuum)

PEPPERS

Sweet peppers and hot chilli peppers are not difficult to grow, as long as you start them early enough and feed them well. Chilli peppers are very prolific, so you will not need many plants. Here in Nelson we grow them outside, but for those in colder climates, grow the peppers either in a glasshouse or Polytunnel, or start and finish them under cloches. Outside they need plenty of sunshine and a sheltered position.

Soil & Feeding:

Like tomatoes they love rich soil. So, mix in two buckets of garden compost plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard), or alternatively dig a hole, 20cm (8in) square and 15cm (6in) deep – 45cm (18in) apart, half filled with compost pressed down and topped up with topsoil plus 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser. If you do this long before you plant out the seedlings, mark the spots with a stick. It is good to do this 2 or 3 weeks before planting out after the last frosts, covering the position with a cloche to warm up the soil.

Varieties:

Sweet Peppers

Chocolate: For us this has been a very good reliable cropper of medium sized red-brown fruit. Don’t let the colour put you off, it tastes as sweet as an ordinary red pepper.

Pepper 'Chocolate'

Pepper ‘Chocolate’

                                                              Marconi Red: This is a traditional long very sweet red pepper from Italy, which can grow up to 30cm (12in) long.

Tollis Sweet Red: This sweet red Italian heirloom is an all round favourites for fresh eating. It is a medium sized, tapered pepper always producing a huge crop over a long period, which taste really sweet and full of flavour. It is one of the easiest                                                                                           to grow for home gardeners.

Californian Wonder: This heirloom has been the standard bell pepper for many decades, this 1928 introduction is still the largest open-pollinated, heirloom bell you can grow. A perfect stuffing pepper-blocky 10 x 9cm (4 x 3½in), thick-walled pepper, but tender and full of flavour.

Hot Peppers

Cayenne: This one can grow up to a metre (square yard). Often the peppers are curled and twisted, growing to 12cm (4¾in) long and tapering to a point, changing from dark green to bright red at maturity.  Cayenne is renowned for its heat.

Habanero Red: If you want one of the hottest chillis on record – this is the one It is rounded and red.

Tai Hot: Numerous medium to hot tiny fruits. Highly tolerant of heat and drought conditions.

Sowing:

Peppers need a long growing season to do well. Sow in seed compost in pots or boxes in a glasshouse or conservatory at the end of August in the southern hemisphere, or middle of April in the northern hemisphere. When they are 3cm (1in) high, pot them up in a good rich potting compost to grow on for planting out after the last frosts.

Growing:

Plant out in staggered rows 45cm (18in) apart, during late spring. Pinch out the growing point when the plants are 15cm (6in) high and tie them to a cane. Water regularly and feed with a liquid seaweed, comfrey or animal-manure fertiliser every week, see: chapter 2, ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’ – Liquid Manures.

Harvesting:

For sweat peppers, you can pick them when they are large and green, or leave them on to turn red.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

First see the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants. As a prevention, spray with liquid seaweed regularly throughout the growing season to help protect the plants from fungus diseases and pests.

Pests

Tomato/Potato Psyllid: As Peppers are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases – see: TOMATOES for details.

Recipes:

Bottled Roasted Red Bell Peppers

This recipe was adapted from Eugenia Bone’s great canning book ‘Well-Preserved’.

Makes 3 x ½ litre (3 x 1 pint) jars

Ingredients:

  • 2 kilograms firm, fresh, clean red bell peppers
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • ¼ cup slivered white onion
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 x ½ litre canning jars

Method:

  1. Take the rubber seals, or lids into a pan of boiling water, and boil for 3 minutes to sterilise.
  2. Place the jars in an oven set on 1000C (2120F) until needed.
  3. You need to blacken the skins as quickly as possible, so that the flesh of the peppers is hardly cooked and still firm, so that you can easily rub off the blackened skin.
  4. If you have a gas range you can place the peppers directly on the burners range so that the flames lick the peppers. Work carefully so that as soon as one section of a pepper is blackened, you turn it to work on a fresh side. Do not overcook! Alternatively, use a cook’s gas torch, or a gas torch that is used to burn off old paint.
  5. When the peppers are blackened all over, place in a bowl and cover. (The steam from the hot peppers will help dislodge the skins.) Once the peppers have cooled enough to handle, work with them one by one over a plate, gently peel off the blackened skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the seedpods, stems and all seeds. They will then have that lovely barbequed flavour.
  6. Heat lemon juice, white vinegar, olive oil, garlic, white onion, smoked paprika, thyme, black pepper and salt, in a saucepan and boil for 3 or 4 minutes – (Unlike tomatoes, which have their own acidity to help preserve them, peppers do not, this is why we use lemon juice and vinegar).
  7. Distribute the peppers evenly among the jars and place some of the garlic in each jar.
  8. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the peppers to cover. Leave 1½cm (½in) head space on the jars. Wipe the rims with a clean, dampened paper towel. Place on lids and rings – do not tighten rings tight!
  9. Place filled jars back in the oven for 15 minutes.
  10. Hold each jar with oven gloves and tighten the lids.
  11. Let cool completely.
  12. You can store them for a year.

Stuffed Peppers

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-sized red peppers

For the stuffing:

  • 12g (½oz) red kidney beans
  • 75g (2½oz)long grain brown rice, washed
  • 275ml (9floz) water
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Wash and soak the kidney beans over night
  2. Drain and rinse them and put them in a heavy-based saucepan with water and simmer for 15 minutes
  3. Add the brown rice, bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down and leave to simmer gently, with lid on, for 45 minutes, until the beans and rice are cooked and the water has been absorbed
  4. Set the oven to 190oC (374oF)
  5. Slice off the stalks with the top of the peppers, saving for later, and remove the seeds
  6. Put them in a large saucepan of boiling water and simmer for gently for 2-3 minutes
  7. Drain them and pat them dry with kitchen paper
  8. Place peppers in a greased shallow casserole and leave aside while making filling
  9. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes, then add tomatoes, cooked rice and beans, chilli powder and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  10. Spoon the filling into the peppers
  11. Replace the sliced off tops as “lids” and bake in oven for about 35-40 minutes, until peppers are completely tender
  12. Serve with a tasty tomato sauce and some vegetables

Sweet Chilli Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 500g (17½oz) long fresh red chillies, stems trimmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups caster sugar

Preparation:

  1. Take 100g of the chillies, cut in half length-ways, leaving the seeds in, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Halve, deseed and coarsely chop the remaining 400g (14oz) of chillies and place in the food processor. Add garlic and 250ml (8½floz) white vinegar. Process until finely chopped.
  2. Place the chilli mixture, remaining vinegar and caster sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  4. While cooking, sterilise the bottles in the oven set at 1500C (3020F) for 15 minutes and place the caps in boiling water for at least 3 minutes.
  5. Pour the sauce into sterilised airtight bottles and seal.

 

PUMPKIN (Cucurbita pepo)

Pumpkin

I regard pumpkins and squash as one of the essential winter staple foods.

Personally, we prefer pumpkins referred to as Squash (see Squash), which usually have a firmer and tastier flesh than most pumpkins, but some pumpkins have a firm flesh like squash as well – for example Queensland Blue which is very popular in Australia and here in New Zealand and Boer Pumpkins from South Africa, which are similar to the Queensland Blue. Pumpkins are usually much bigger than squash and that is why they are the ones that compete in giant pumpkin competitions.

Soil & Feeding:

Pumpkins need serious feeding and a rich water retentive soil. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Apply 2 buckets of well rotted compost or manure plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard) and gently mix into the top 10cm (4in) of soil over the whole plot
  2. Dig square holes 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 15cm or even 20cm (6 or 8in) deep and 90cm (3ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost mixed with + 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, pressed down, then filled up with top soil for both plant foods and moisture holding. This is particularly good if you have limited supplies of well-rotted compost.

Varieties:

Queensland BlueQueensland Blue: Expect 2 or 3 fruit, 4 to 8kg (9 to 17½ pound) fruit per vine. The combination of thick skin and thick dense semi sweet flesh guaranties excellent storage times.

 

 

Boer PumpkinBoer Pumpkin: This pumpkin has very similar eating and keeping qualities as Queensland Blue, but maybe not quite the cropping weight, but with a slightly better taste. This is the variety we have grown for several years along with a couple of squash varieties.

 

Austrian Hulless (Oil Seed Pumpkin): This pumpkin is grown for the pumpkin seeds only, and the oil for pumpkin seed oil. The seeds are unique, in that they don’t have shells! It is very difficult to de-husk pumpkin seeds, but with this variety they are ready to eat, after cleaning and drying. The remaining flesh is quite stringy, and commercially the flesh is fed to pigs, but you can make soup from them as long as you sieve the cooked flesh to get out the stringy bits.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BxXUdRKSAU on how to grow and harvest hulless pumpkins.

Sowing:

For later crops, you can sow two seeds edgeways 4cm (1½in) deep, in each station outside, thinning to one seedling; but we prefer to sow two seeds in 6cm (2½in) diameter pots in our glasshouse at the beginning of September southern hemisphere or mid April in the northern hemisphere; thinning the seedling to one and growing them on inside until they are about 8cm (3in) high.

Plant out in late spring, and place over the top, a 3 litre (6 pint) square clear plastic juice or spring water bottle with the bottom cut off and the screw-top discarded.

Platic cloches

Push a bamboo cane down through the top into the soil to secure it against wind. Alternatively, bend two number 8 wires into a ‘u’ shape 18cm (7in) high placed across each other over the plants and pull a polythene-bag over, secured with a large rubber band near the bottom. This will protect the young plants from the sudden shock of outside temperatures and possible late frosts.

Growing:

If you would like several smaller pumpkins, rather than 1 or 2 large ones, after each shoot has produced one plain-stemmed male flower and a following female one, which will have a round miniature pumpkin behind it, cut the stem back after the female flower.

Water regularly, especially during dry periods and particularly when the fruit are growing. As soon as they start producing fruit, feed fortnightly with comfrey liquid, and/or seaweed liquid.

Harvesting:

Pumpkins are ripe when the skins have become hard and dry and there is a hollow sound when you tap them. Never break off the stalk when harvesting, as this will let in decay. Cut the stem cleanly 5cm (2in) up from the fruit.

To ensure proper ripening, we place the harvested pumpkins on the tin roof of our garden shed to ripen in the sun and allow the stems to dry out properly, to help seal the stem against fungus rot and ensure maximum storage throughout the winter. In the autumn, well before the first frosts, take in your ripened pumpkins and store them in a cool, dry, frost-free shed, outhouse or store, on shelves or slats.

Check them regularly throughout the winter for signs of rot, especially around the base and the stem. If there are signs of rot, eat them straight away, cutting out any rotten parts.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

The most obvious is grey mildew on the leaves from mid summer onwards. Regular spraying with a seaweed spray and/or milk 50/50 with water, once a week, will help to prevent it happening and the seaweed will also feed the plant and provide all the trace elements it needs.

Recipes:

My favourite way to cook pumpkin is to roast oiled and de-seeded wedges in the oven until caramelised – yum.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

About 7 years ago I diagnosed with celiac disease, so I had to learn how to make gluten free flour and pastry. For those who are not celiac or gluten intolerant, substitute the GF flour with organic unbleached white flour

Ingredients:

For the Gluten Free Flour (I make my own, but you can buy GF flour):

  • 3 cups brown rice flour
  • 3 cups sorghum flour
  • 2 cups potato flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • ½ cup LSA

For the Gluten Free Pastry:

  • 225g (8oz) gluten free flour (as above)
  • 125g (4½oz) salted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 heaped teaspoons guar gum (or xanthan gum)
  • Maybe a little cold water

For the Filling:

  • 425g (15oz) pumpkin flesh cooked and mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup rapadura (or ½ cup brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Preparation:

For the GF Pastry:

  1. Mix the ingredients for the flour, unless you have a store, or have bought GF flour
  2. Place the flour and guar gum in a mixing bowl and mix together. Then chop up the butter into little bits into the flour and gently rub the butter into the flour until it becomes small crumbs. Alternatively, place the flour, guar gum and butter into a food processor and process until the same result is achieved
  3. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add to the flour mix and mix thoroughly The great advantage of making GF pastry is you don’t have to be so careful not to overwork the dough.
  4. If the pastry is not sticking together properly, add a little cold water and continue
  5. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to about ½cm (3/16in) thick and roll round the roller to lift it over a 20cm (8in) flan dish to line it. If it falls apart you can place the pieces into the flan dish pressing the pieces together.
  6. Clean the sides off with a knife, or crimp the edges together with your fingers for a rustic look

For the Filling:

  1. Cream together the eggs and the Rapadura (sugar) in a mixing bowl, gradually blending in the other ingredients
  2. Pour into the flan dish and bake at 175oC (347oF) for 35-45 minutes
  3. Serve with whipped cream

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 1kg pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 40ml (1¼floz) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large brown onion, halved, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 large fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional),
  • Extra oil, to serve

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C (428°F). Combine the pumpkin, rosemary and half the oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, coriander and chilli, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until onion softens. Add the pumpkin mixture and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Remove from heat.
  3. Place half the pumpkin mixture in the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a clean saucepan. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Ladle soup into serving bowls, and drizzle with extra oil to serve.

 

SQUASH (Cucurbita pepo)

Squash_1Obviously, squash are a form of pumpkin, but they have some different characteristics that warrant a separate section. The most obvious difference is that squash tend to be smaller and have much drier, denser, sweeter flesh. This both makes them easier to store over longer periods, but also makes them tastier. Being less watery, the flavour is concentrated.

For Soil & Feeding, Sowing, Growing, Harvesting and Possible Pests and Diseases – see PUMPKINS

Varieties:

ButternutWaltham Butternut (Cucurbita moschata): This has a sweet orange firm flesh. The vigorous vines yield 4-5 fruit each. Can be stored for 3 months or longer.

 

 

ButtercupBurgess Buttercup (Cucurbita pepo):

This is a very productive dark green skinned squash with bright orange dry and sweet flesh that tastes better with keeping. The fruit weighs between 1½-2kg (3-4½ pounds). It keeps right through the winter if looked after properly. This is definitely one of our favourite squash.

Recipes:

Yellow Squash Medley

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 small, or 2 large yellow squash
  • Sea salt
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Nick the end of each tomato with a knife, then plunge them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds. Then take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and when cooled enough, peel the skin off.
  2. Remove the ends from the squash and peal them. Then cut them lengthways into 15mm slices, and then cut the slices into chip shaped strips. Sprinkle with sea salt and let sit for 1 hour.
  3. Rinse the chips well and squeeze dry with a tea towel, or paper towel.
  4. Sauté onion in olive oil until golden.
  5. Add squash and tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes more over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Stir in pine nuts and parsley.

 

TOMATO (Solanum lycopersicum)

Tomatoes

When we first moved to our farm, having been brought up in a city, we were amazed at the wonderful taste of fresh vegetables that we grew, including beautiful sweet and tasty Ailsa Craig tomatoes, compared to the tasteless red things we were used to from the city supermarkets.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Tomatoes need full sun. Like their cousins the potato, they love heavy feeding and a good rich soil. In our six-year rotation system tomatoes follow brassicas, which have a following winter green manure of lupins and oats. Dug in, in the spring, this adds some fresh organic matter to enliven soil life, and provides some extra Nitrogen from the lupins. However, it is essential to also add a good dose of well-rotted manure or compost for a good crop. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Apply two buckets of well rotted compost or manure per square metre (yard) and gently mix into the top 10cm (4in) of soil over the whole plot + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre or yard.
  2. Dig square holes 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 15cm or even 20cm (6 or 8in) deep and 60cm (2ft) apart, half filled with well rotted compost mixed with + 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, pressed down, then filled up with top soil for both plant foods and moisture holding. This is particularly good if you have limited supplies of well-rotted compost.

Varieties:

Tomato varieties are endless, but I would suggest growing the old and Heirloom tried and tested varieties, here are some good examples:

Ailsa Craig: Bred in Scotland by Alan Balch and introduced in 1912 by the seed vendor Alexander and Brown of Perth, Scotland. It is named after the Scottish Island, Ailsa Craig, a distinctive dome-shaped island rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde. This is a well-known old variety that produces medium sized fruit, early in the season with a lot of flavour. Good both in a greenhouse or outdoors – well known in the British Isles and other countries for over 100 years. This is the variety we grew a lot of in Britain in a glasshouse.

Alma: Although this can be eaten fresh, it is one of the best to dry. In Yugoslavia it is known as the Italian tomato and back in Italy it is known as Principe Borghese! It is an egg shaped, egg sized and red, firm drying tomato. It crops over a very long period, and crops heavily, and the fruit can be sliced and dried for winter use or put into oil containing garlic and herbs at the almost dry stage for table use. It is also a really good cooking tomato because it keeps its shape. They are one of the varieties that have high nutrition.

Tommy Toe: Tommy Toe is a fast growing productive tomato, and it is one of the very best tasters. The vines bear long racemes of large cherry tomatoes.

Black from Tula:

Black from TulaThis is an Heirloom variety, which originally came from Tula in the Russian Caucasus. It is a large beef-stake ugly dusky reddish brown tomato with blackish red flesh – but oh boy does it taste good! It produces heavily and continuously on strong plants and has become one of our ‘must have’ tomatoes every year, especially for bottled purée and bottled chopped tomatoes and large fresh slices for sandwiches.

Sowing:

Sow in a greenhouse or windowsill in seed trays or boxes in early spring at 2.5cm (1in) apart and 3mm (in) deep. Transplant them into 9cm (3½in) pots at the seed-leaf stage.

Planting Out:

Plant them out after the last frosts at 60cm (2ft) apart, placing a square 5 litre (1 gallon) plastic juice bottle with the bottom cut off and the screw top open over the young plants, with a cane pushed down through the hole into the soil to stop them blowing over. Alternately, put a small cardboard box over them at night, with the flaps spread out for stones or bricks to hold them down, and take off each morning. Gradually acclimatize the plants by taking off their ‘cloches’ if the weather is warm in the daytime and replacing them in the evening; eventually taking them off altogether, when the nights have warmed up.

Growing:

The plants will need staking, unless they are a bush variety. This can be done by banging in a 2cm (¾in) square stake in next to the plant while it is still young, tying them (not too tight) to the cane as they grow. Alternatively, hammer in 5cm (2in) square, or round stakes at each end of the row, tying a 5cm (2in) round pole across the top between them and tying strong garden string down from the pole to the plants, fixing the string with a tent peg at the bottom. As the tomato plants grow, rap them round the strings to support them. Make sure the structure is very strong, as a row of tomato plants full of fruit gets very heavy.

Pinch out the tops of the plants when they have produced 4 clusters of fruit. Also remove the side-shoots that grow from each leaf joint when they are still small. Bush varieties need no staking or side-shoot removing.

Mulch down around the plants with spray-free straw after first watering well.

Feed with a liquid feed of comfrey, seaweed or animal manure every two weeks from mid-summer to early autumn (see: the section ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures).

Harvesting:

Start picking as soon as the fruits are ripe to get the sweetest flavour and encourage the production of more fruit for the end of the season. In places that have a shorter summer, you can ripen the final tomatoes in the autumn, by removing the leaves and laying the plants down along the rows, covering them with cloches, or plastic tunnel cloches to finish ripening, as we did in the UK. Alternatively, pick off the green fruit to make green tomato chutney, or place them the traditional way in a draw, or the modern way in large ziplock plactic bag(s), with a few ripe tomatoes, or banana brought indoors to finish ripening.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Potato Blight: This is a fungus disease that can eventually kill the plants and rot the tomatoes. Usually if we do get blight it tends to be right at the end of the season, by which time one is coming to the end of the crop. There is less chance of blight if the crop is grown in a greenhouse, or conservatory. Organic organisations recommend preventive spraying with copper sprays, which I don’t like because of the damaging effect on beneficial soil micro-organisms, so I spray with Trichoderma viride (see section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘ - The New Generation of Biological Products).

Potato/Tomato Psyllid: This is a bacteria introduced to the plants by the sucking psylid mite. As tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae family (potatoes, egg plants, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases, the most important at the moment here in New Zealand is the tomato/potato psyllid native to North America which was first found in New Zealand in 2006, and is still spreading throughout the country and is now spreading in Australia. Europe and Asia fortunately does not have this pest.

Nymphs and possibly adults inject a bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum into the plants when they feed. The bacteria causes discolouration of leaves and the plant becomes stunted exhibiting ‘psyllid yellow’ and ‘purple top’. Leaf edges upturn and show yellowing or purpling. The plants internodes shorten, new growth is retarded and crops are severely reduced.

However not all host plants show ‘toxic’ plant reaction symptoms and interestingly if the psyllids are removed early, the plant may start to grow normally again as soon as the bacteria ceases to be injected by the psyllid mites.

Psyllid mites are particularly partial to tomatoes more than potatoes or any other of the family and one of the best ways we have found to properly control them is with Neem Tree granules and/or diatomaceous earth.

Neem Tree Granules:

By adding 1 handful of Neem Tree granules into the planting hole around the root ball, or 100 grams per square metre mixed into the soil, will deter the psyllid bugs. In the soil the Microbes break down the granules releasing the Neem properties that are still in the granules over time. These properties are taken up by the roots and translocate through the plant; thus if a chewing or sucking insect feeds on the plant they receive a small dose of the Neem affecting their ability to eat again. Thus they die of starvation.

Diatomaceous Earth:

What is Diatomaceous Earth? Quite simply Diatomaceous Earth is the fossilized remains of ancient algal shells called Diatoms or Phytoplankton. DE is a fine powder Examined under a microscope and magnified 7000x these tiny diatoms appear as spiny honeycombs or tiny cheese-grater like cylinders.  These microscopic cylinders are extremely hard and sharp.

These tiny particles stick to the insect, abrasively rub through and serrate their epi-cuticle and joints, absorb their bodily fluids and they die of dehydration.  This process is purely mechanical not chemical.  As such there is no build up or chemical residue, the insect cannot build up immunity or become tolerant to it. It cannot effect animals or humans, so there is no plant or livestock with-holding period for human consumption.

The fine powder is placed in one of those plastic drinking bottles with a suction nipple. Open the nipple, shake the contents and squirt the powder onto the stems of the plants. The psyllids prefer to suck the sap from the stems and covering the leaves will interfere with the plants ability to photosynthesize, however check the back of the leaves just in case. This will have to be repeated after rain if it has been washed off. This is an effective control method.

Tomatoes may also be affected by whitefly, leaf mould and red spider mites, which can be controlled with pyrethrum spray in the evening to avoid bees, because by the morning it will have lost its potency; or use a garlic, chilli and ginger homemade spray (see the section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.

Recipes:

Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a particularly good recipe for large Black from Tula tomatoes.

Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 good slice of whole grain bread
  • ½ cup of ground walnuts, or mixed nuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon fine herbs

Preparation:

  1. Set oven at 175oC (347oF)
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half around the equator; remove seeds and place cut side up in a buttered baking dish, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Process bread and walnuts (or mixed nuts) in a food processor to make fine crumbs.
  4. Add butter, cheese and herbs and pulse a few times until well blended.
  5. Spread a spoonful of stuffing into and over each tomato half.
  6. Bake at 175oC (347oF) for about 30 minutes.

Fermented Tomato Ketchup

This is definitely the best ketchup recipe we have ever come across; we make it regularly. This may seem exacting to make, but if like us you are regular makers of fermented foods, and I seriously suggest you give it a try, then you will make whey regularly and other forms of traditional cooking and preserving, like making regular kefir, cooking up stock and fish sauce, processing tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. Have a look at Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which I consider one of the most important books I have ever read as regards preserving, improving the digestibility of grains and nuts, processing and cooking using traditional methods.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups organic tomato paste, or home made by skinning the tomatoes, chopping and whizzing in a food processor, then sieving to get out the seeds
  • ¼ cup whey, made by placing a tub of thick yogurt or home made kefir in a cheese cloth and tying up over night above a bowl to collect the whey
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • ½ cup of home made fish sauce, or bought fish sauce which is often concentrated and might have to be diluted

Preparation:

  1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  2. Place in a litre-sized mason jar or crock.
  3. Make sure the lid or cork is sealed tightly, as lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.
  4. The top of the sauce should be at least 2.5 (1in) below the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
  5. Leave at room temperature for about 2 days, before transferring to a refrigerator.

 

ZUCCHINI – Courgette (Cucurbita pepo)

Zucchini

Soil & Feeding:

As zucchini are members of the pumpkin/squash family they like a good dose of well rotted compost – 2 buckets per square metre (yard), incorporated into the top 10cm (4in), and regular liquid feeds of comfrey juice and/or liquid seaweed every 2 weeks during the growing season.

A traditional way to prepare the soil before planting zucchini out, was to dig square holes about the same size as a cake tin 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in), about 15cm or even 20cm (6 or 8in) deep, 60cm (2ft) between each hole. Half filled them with pressed down well-rotted garden compost, then back fill with top soil.

When the second true leaves have grown on your seedling zucchini, plant them out above the filled hole – they will love the compost you have supplied when the roots find it. The compost will not only supply nutrients, but will also retain water in dry weather.

Varieties:

Cocozelle: This is an old heritage variety with a much better flavour than modern shop varieties. It is a long, green skinned courgette marked with lighter stripes, hugely productive, and a better flavour than shop varieties as well as being very easy to grow. The Male flowers also edible and delicious. It can also be grown on to marrow size and eaten stuffed.

Black Beauty: This was developed in 1957. It is a very neat dark green zucchini, which we have grown for many years.

Sowing:

Seeds last 4 years

To get a good start sow 2 of them in 8cm (3in) pots in the greenhouse in mid spring. When they germinate, thin to one if necessary.

Planting:

Plant out 60cm (2ft) apart each way, covered with plastic cloches made from square 5 litre (1 gallon) juice or spring water plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off and the cap taken off. Push a cane down the cap hole into the soil to stop them blowing over. You will need to take them off during sunny days until the plants are getting too big and they have been acclimatized.

For late crops, sow 2 seeds outside where they are to grow, having first prepared the soil, as above, and thinning to one.

Mulch around the plants with untreated straw, old hay or grass mowing after watering or rain to keep down the weeds and retain moisture.

Harvesting:

If you turn your back for a couple of days your zucchini will have become monsters, unless you want marrows for stuffing; so check them every day and cut them or pick them when they are 10-12cm (4-4¾in) long. Regular picking ensures more to pick.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Grey Powdery Mildew: is the most common disease of zucchinis, usually becoming a nuisance middle to late summer. Prevention is better than cure, so spray once a week with seaweed spray and/or a milk and water spray 50/50. This is usually effective. If it does get the better hand, spray with dilute urine at one part urine to three parts water + a few drops of eco washing up liquid to help it stick. The urea in the urine is a very effective fungicide. Undiluted urine will burn the leaves!

 

i) PERENNIAL VEGETABLES

‘ARTICHOKE’ is a name used for at least three very different plants, although all three have a similar nutty artichoke flavour. All three types of artichokes are perennials and are ideal to plant in flower beds, and forest gardens, or an odd corner of any garden, as long as it is free draining and in full sun. I seriously suggest you grow them as perennial crops in a permanent site.

ARTICHOKE Chinese (Stachys affinis)

Artichoke Chinese

Chinese Artichoke plant

Chinese Artichoke plant

The Chinese artichoke is the same family as mint, with a very similar habit and appearance, growing about ½ metre (20in) high. The part you eat is the white squiggly tubers that look a bit like witchetty grubs, but don’t let that put you off! The flavour of the stem tubers is delicate, with a nutty artichoke-like flavour. With their unusual shape, sweet fresh flavour and crunchy texture they make an exciting addition to stir-fries.

Soil & Feeding:

They prefer well drained, but water retentive soil in a sunny position. They will also need good feeding and the ground weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. Fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or        Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

They are only known as Chinese artichokes.

Planting:

In a forest garden, or odd corner where you can grow them in a clump or clumps, set the tubers 2.5-3.5cm (1-1⅜in) deep, 30cm (1ft) apart, and if you are planting more than one row, space the rows 1.5 metres (5ft) apart.

Growing:

Mulch down with spray-free straw, or a good layer of grass clippings. Keep weeded and regularly watered.

Harvesting:

The tubers discolour if they’ve been out of the soil for any length of time, so they’re best left in over winter and harvested when required and eaten as soon as possible after harvest. In colder areas cover the roots with a thick layer of spray-free straw to protect them from the frost.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Largely problem free.

Recipes:

Chinese artichokes are impossible to peal, but it may be necessary to use a soft brush to gently scrub soil out of the spirals before cooking, and then place coarse salt and the artichokes in a towel; rub between your hands and rinse.

Chinese Artichokes Sautéed in Butter & Garlic

Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) Chinese artichokes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons chervil, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Gently brush the artichokes, carefully removing any dirt. Place coarse salt and the artichokes in a towel; rub between your hands and rinse.
  2. Place a steamer basket over a little water in a pot. Add the artichokes to the basket. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottom pan. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Add butter and the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  4. Garnish with chervil and drizzle with lemon juice.

 

ARTICHOKE Globe (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)

Artichoke Globe

The globe artichoke is a member of a genus of thistle-like perennial plants in the aster family, Asteraceae. They are native to the Mediterranean region, northwest Africa, and the Canary Islands. The name Cynara comes from the Greek kynara, which means “artichoke”. The bit you eat is part of the flowers heads before they open which are one of the most nutritious vegetables we can eat. To quote from Sally Fallon’s excell­­ent book – ‘Nourishing Traditions’: “Like all members of the thistle family, artichokes concentrate iodine when it is in the soil. Research indicates that the artichoke can benefit the intestinal tract and the heart; it has been shown to reduce blood-clotting time and to neutralize certain toxic substances. Studies in Japan and Switzerland show that artichokes can lower blood cholesterol.

Soil & Feeding:

As they come from the Mediterranean, so they want full sun in a well-drained soil. As they are decorative plants they will look good in any flower boarder, and are ideal plants to grow in a forest garden. They can become very large, so allow a one square metre (square yard) for each plant. As this is a gourmet vegetable, usually one plant is enough for one family.

The plot will need to be weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. If the soil is heavy, add some sharp sand to help lighten the soil + fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

Purple de Jesi: Purple globe artichokes have a sweet exquisite flavour.

Green Globe: A good old tried and tested variety.

Sowing:

You can grow them from seed, or you can buy plants, or get a friend to divide some ‘suckers’ for you to plant. If you grow from seed, sow indoors 6 weeks before the last frost in 7.5cm (3in) pots in a temperature of about 18oC (64oF). When the seedlings appear, put them in full sun in a glasshouse, conservatory or well-lit sunny window.

Planting:

Plant out after the last frosts in its permanent position already prepared as above – 1 metre (square yard) apart.

Growing:

Keep weeded. Globe artichokes need plenty of water. After watering mulch with spray-free straw, or a good amount of grass clippings topped up from time to time.

Harvesting:

If picked regularly and not left to seed they will crop over a very long period from early spring to early winter, just cut flower stalks back after harvesting the globes and new shoots will come up from the bottom.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Slugs: can be a problem in wetter areas. Use beer traps – see the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Traps.

Recipes:

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

  • As many artichoke heads as you require

For the Sauce:

  • About ½ cup clarified butter, melted
  • Juice of 1 lemon, strained

Preparation:

To make sauce:

  1. Mix the clarified melted butter and the lemon juice and whisk
  2. Drizzle the sauce onto the

Preparing the artichokes:

  1. Cut the stems off the artichokes and place with the leaves up in a vegetable steamer, or in a large pot containing about 2.5cm (1in) of filtered water
  2. Steam covered, until tender, about ½ hour
  3. Remove with tongs and place artichokes, face down, in a colander to drain
  4. Remove the outermost leaves and serve face up and warm with the lemon and butter sauce

 

ARTICHOKE Jerusalem (Helianthus tuberosus)

Jerusalem Artichoke roots

Jerusalem Artichoke roots

Jerusalem Artichoke flowers

Jerusalem Artichoke flowers

Not many people know that the Jerusalem artichoke is a species of sunflower, and if you let it flower it has small sunflower like flowers. It is native to eastern North America, found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. The plants can grow from 1½-3 metres (5-10ft) high, but it is the tubers that are the edible part.

Jerusalem Artichokes are often grown as annuals, but they will grow indefinitely in one place quite happily. Just fossick around in the soil in the autumn and pick out the tubers you need, leaving the plant and its roots intact for next season. The tops will die off in the winter and can be cut back to re-grow in the spring.

Jerusalem Artichokes also act as a prebiotic, which benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aids digestion.

Soil & Feeding:

Whether you are growing them as annuals or perennials, they will need good feeding and the ground weeded thoroughly, especially getting rid of nasty perennials like couch grass, convolvulus and oxalis bulbils. Fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Varieties:

They are generally just sold as just Jerusalem Artichokes. You can buy them from a super-market, but if you do, choose the least knobbly ones and hopefully this trait will be handed on.

Planting:

Plant as early as possible, to give the plants a long season, planting in late winter, or early spring. Set the tubers 15cm deep (6in), 30cm (1ft) apart, and if you are planting more than one row, make rows 1.5 metres (5ft) apart. Plant in a forest garden, or an odd corner where you can grow them in a clump or clumps.

Growing:

Weed regularly and mulch every year in early spring with garden compost, then mulch on top with spray free straw, or a good layer of grass clippings. In expose areas you might need to support the plants by banging in stakes or waratahs at the corners of the rows and tying strong garden string around to hold them up.

Harvesting:

You can cut down the stems in mid autumn and dig up the roots and tubers leaving some behind for next year. We prefer to leave the clumps in and dig around, taking the majority of the tubers leaving the cut off stems and the roots to grow next season.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They are so vigorous; I’ve never known them suffer from pests or diseases.

Recipes:

Artichokes with Bay Leaves & Garlic

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 600g (1 pound 5oz) of Jerusalem artichokes
  • A few bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A splash white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • A good pinch of hing (Asafoetida)

Preparation:

  1. Peel the artichokes, and then cut them into chunks
  2. Place them in an oiled frying pan and fry on medium heat until golden on both sides
  3. Add a few bay leaves, crushed garlic, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and hing – and place lid on top
  4. After about 20-25 minutes, when the artichokes have softened up, remove lid and take out bay leaves
  5. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes to crisp the artichoke slices up one last time, then serve straight away

 

ASPARAGUS (Asparagus officinalis)

Asparagus

This is definitely a gourmet crop, but to my mind it is a ‘must have’. It certainly takes up a lot of room for what it gives, and it will take three years before it is producing a good harvest, but its unrivalled unique flavour is well worth all the effort, time and space it requires.

Soil & Site:

Asparagus is a perennial crop that will be in the same place for up to 20 years, so choose the site carefully. Good drainage and lots of sunshine are essential. It is best to start work on the bed in the autumn by forking it over several times to remove all (and I do mean ALL) perennial weed roots plus any oxalis bulbils if there are any. Then dig in a good barrowload of manure or compost to every three square metres and leave it rough through the winter. The trick to clearing land like this is to dig out every root and bulbil you can, then leave the ground bare for three or four weeks, and the bits of roots you left will start to shoot, so you can have another go at digging them out – then leave again and do the same several times during the winter.

You will need about 20 plants to serve a family, or 10 plants for a couple planted at 40cm (16in) apart in the rows with 1 metre (yard) between the rows, so you can work out the size of your bed before buying the plants. If you have a light or sandy soil, make your bed on the flat. If you have heavy or clay soil raise the bed up by adding plenty of organic matter and piling the soil up from the edges.

Planting:

In late winter dig out a trench, or trenches 15cm (6in) deep and 20cm (8in) wide where the rows are to be, with the bottom slightly raised in the centre. In late winter, early spring, buy one year old roots (“crowns”) and soak them in water for an hour and then plant them out 40cm (16in) apart, spreading out their roots before covering them with 8cm (3in) of top soil, worked and firmed between the roots with your fingers. Fill in the trench slowly as the plants grow.

Growing:

Do not pick any shoots in the first year, but you can grow radish and lettuce in-between the rows through the summer. Cut the ferny foliage down in late autumn and clean up the weeds, being careful not to fork deeper than 10cm (4in), so as not to injure the shallow roots. This is the time to spread a 5cm (2in) deep layer of manure; chicken manure is ideal to supply the phosphorus that asparagus loves. The following year spread compost and/or seaweed so as not to over-feed the plants. Fish or seaweed fertiliser is always good, because wild asparagus grows in sand dunes by the sea.

Harvesting:

The second year cut a few shoots, but no more! The third year when the shoots are 13-15cm (5-6in) above ground and the tip is still tightly closed – cut below ground down to the tough base. Always leave some shoots and continue cutting for no more than four weeks in the third year, and six weeks in following years, to give them time to grow into ferny foliage and recover their energy before autumn. We stopped cutting them in mid June in the UK, and we stop cutting in mid January here in New Zealand so they can recover for a good crop next year.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Fusarium wilt: Growing in free draining soil and sourcing clean stock is the best way to control this fungus.

Recipes:

We tried this for the first time last season and found it very tasty.

Asparagus & Olive Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 250g (9oz) wholemeal pastry [175g (6oz) wholemeal flour + 88g (3oz) butter + a little cold water]
  • 3 eggs
  • 285ml (9½floz) single cream
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 88g (3oz) green de-stoned olives
  • 1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed in a little butter until soft
  • 38g (1¼oz) Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 25g (1oz) butter

Preparation:

  1. Set oven at 200oC (392oF)
  2. Line a 25cm (10in) flan case with the pastry and blind bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce the oven to 190oC (374oF)
  4. Whisk the eggs with the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. Mix a little of the mixture with the flour until smooth, then add to the cream mixture.
  6. Peel the asparagus spears from about a third down from the tips and chop into 2cm pieces.
  7. Arrange the asparagus pieces, olives and sautéed onion in the pastry shell and pour the cream mixture over the top.
  8. Sprinkle with grated Cheddar and Parmesan cheese.
  9. Dot with the butter and bake at 190oC (374oF) for 25 minutes until the quiche is golden.

 

RHUBARB (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Rhubarb

As a perennial, rhubarb needs its own semi-permanent bed. A rhubarb bed is past its best after 15 years, after this there will be rotten black hollows on the surface roots, which is the time to make a new bed with new plants. We have always grown ours at the end of a vegetable bed, but they can have a corner to themselves, or can be planted in a forest garden. Traditionally they were grown next to the compost heap, so they could get regular helpings.

Soil & Feeding:

As they are going to be in the same place for a long time as well as being regularly cut, they need heavy feeding. Scatter 1kg (2 pound) of bone meal and ½ a barrowload of well-rotted manure or garden compost per square metre and if you keep chickens and have some feathers from the last plucking, dig in a barrow load of those as well, which is a slow release Nitrogen fertiliser.

Varieties:

Hawkes’ Champagne: is the variety we used to grow in the UK for forcing in the spring. It is very tender with a good flavour and the best for jam making. It dies down through the winter.

Glaskin’s Perpetual: I am guessing this is the variety we obtained locally, because we noticed that here in Nelson it does not die back in the winter, unless it’s very frosty – hence the name. It is very disease resistant as well. It might be difficult to get hold of, so you might have to grow it from seed. This is also another tender pink variety, and like Hawkes’ Champagne is tender with a good flavour. Both these varieties should be grown for quality rather than quantity.

Sowing:

It is easier to buy divided roots with a growing tip, or get some off-cuts from friends; but if you are keen to grow them from seed, go ahead. Most seed catalogues have rhubarb seeds. Sow very thinly in 1cm deep furrows and 1 metre between the rows if you’re growing a lot. Thin them to 30cm leaving the best and mulch down with leaves down the rows. Remove every other plant after the first year for re-planting, selling or giving away. They will be ready to pick in their third year.

Growing:

Give them a good feed each year in late winter with manure (chicken manure is good), or compost and Eco or Organic Fertiliser, at 2 handfuls per square metre (square yard). Weed if necessary, and then mulch down with spray-free straw 15cm (6in) deep for the season.

If you can get a 20 or 30cm (8 or 12in) diameter plastic or clay pipe, or a large bucket (nappy buckets are good), cover the crowns in late winter and place a brick on top to stop them blowing over. Forced rhubarb, grown in the dark like this, not only comes early, but tastes the best.

Often they will try to flower, sending up a stem 2 metres (6½ft) high with creamy flower heads, catch them early and cut them off at near ground level to stop them stealing energy from the plants.

Harvesting:

Pull the thickest sticks when they are long enough, but don’t strip the plants. The leaves have oxalic acid in them and are mildly poisonous so don’t eat them or feed to livestock! (See: the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides for a home-grown insecticide spray made from boiled rhubarb leaves).

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They can get virus, and as already said they can get a black rot of the roots after 15 years, but like most people we have found rhubarb to be largely bomb proof.

Recipes:

Rhubarb Fool

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 350g (12oz) rhubarb
  • 55g (2oz) caster sugar
  • 1 orange, juice only
  • Water
  • 150ml (¼ pint) cream, whipped
  • 1 egg white, beaten until peaked

Preparation:

  1. Place the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and enough water to cover the rhubarb in a medium pan. Boil rapidly until rhubarb is soft.
  2. In a bowl, fold the egg white into the whipped cream.
  3. When the rhubarb is soft, fold it in to the egg white and cream mixture. Reserve a little rhubarb for decoration.
  4. Spoon the resulting fool into a tall dessert glass. Top with the reserved rhubarb and serve.

 

SEAKALE (Crambe maritima)

Attributed to: Siim at et.wikipedia  via Wikimedia Commons

Attributed to: Siim at et.wikipedia
via Wikimedia Commons

Sea Kale is a perennial European brassica that grows by the sea.

Soil & Feeding:

Seakale likes a rich soil, so dig in 2 buckets of garden compost, or well rotted horse manure + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), before planting.

 

Sowing:

The seeds need to be fresh and will not keep after the first year. Sow in seed compost in a pot, in early spring. Alternately, grow from root cuttings if you have a friend with a plant.

Planting:

Plant out 30cm (1ft) apart when 5-6cm (2-2¼in) high, although one plant should be enough for one family.

Growing:

Weed, and mulch down with 8cm (3in) spray-free straw.

Harvesting:

Leave the plants to grow for the first two years. In the third year cover the crown with a large black plastic pot in late winter and pick the blanched shoots when about 10-15cm (4-6in) long.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Possible cabbage white butterfly grubs – see CABBAGE for control.

Recipes:

Seakale has edible leaves when young, raw or cooked. Old leaves can get very tough and bitter. They have a kale-like flavour.

The blanched shoots have a crisp texture with a fresh, nutty flavour and a hint of bitterness. Cook like asparagus.

The flowering heads can be eaten raw or cooked like a small broccoli head, and a broccoli-like flavour.

The roots are also edible. Boiled or roasted they are starchy and a little sweet.

 

WELSH ONIONS – Japanese Bunching Onions (Allium fistulosum)

Welsh OnionThese onions are perennial onions, and are the ones traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese cooking, and for some reason have been traditionally grown by the Welsh, instead of spring onions. If you like spring onions, you will like these. They are much more convenient and will even survive mild to cold winters. If they do die back in a hard winter they will reappear in spring. Grow them in your herb bed or forest garden.

Soil & Feeding:

As Welsh onions are permanent, find a sunny spot and prepare the ground well, by digging in 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Sowing:

Sow in 7mm (¼in) deep grooves 3cm (1in) apart in seed compost in seed trays in early spring, thinning seedlings to 2cm (¾in). You can expect the seedlings to appear in a week to ten days.

Planting:

Plant out the seedlings when around 7-8cm (2¾-3in) high 30cm (1ft) apart each way. Plants grown from seed should not be harvested until the January of their first year. Also remove any flower heads as they form. This will give the young plants a chance to establish their root system before harvesting. You can also propagate them by digging up some of the individual onions from an established bunch in spring or autumn and planting them in a new position.

Growing:

Water regularly through dry weather, and keep well weeded. Mulch down with 2cm thick grass clippings, or as in the photograph, the well-watered ground was covered with corrugated cardboard, pierced all over with a fork and covered in bark mulch. A 15cm (6in) diameter hole was cut through the cardboard to provide fertiliser and to plant the onions through.

Harvesting:

I just cut some leaves off when needed, but you can pull up one or two plants, as you would spring onions, allowing enough to survive till next year, by which time the bunch will have grown more little onions.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

I have never had any pests or diseases with Welsh onions. If they get leaf rust, see ONIONS.

Recipes:

Use, as you would spring onions.

 

YACON (Smallanthus sonchifolius)

Yacon roots

Yacon roots

Like its close cousin, Jerusalem artichokes, yacon is a perennial and is best grown in a permanent site or a forest garden.

Like Jerusalem artichoke, Yakon is a close relative of the sunflower. It grows tall like a sunflower with 4cm (1½in) diameter yellow sunflowers in the autumn. It is the tubers that are eaten. Fresh out of the ground the yacon tuber is very much like a baking potato to look at. However the flavour has been described as a sweet cross between early apples, watermelon and very mild celery, with a touch of pear, and the crisp texture is like water chestnuts (sounds like a wine aficionado waxing lyrical about a wine).

Yacon is also refreshingly juicy. “Yacon” means, “water root” in the Inca language and its tubers were historically highly valued as a wild source of thirst-quenching refreshment for travellers. As with Jerusalem artichokes, yacon tubers are rich in an indigestible sugar – inulin – meaning that the syrup they form has all the sweetness of honey or other plant-derived sweeteners like maple syrup, but without the calories. Like Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon also acts as a prebiotic, which benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aids digestion. It is also a natural source of sweetness for diabetics without the calories.

Soil & Feeding:

They are hungry plants so dig in at least 2-3 buckets of either compost and/or rotted manure per square metre (square yard) and add more every winter.

Varieties:

There are varieties, but usually they are just sold as yacon.

Planting:

Usually one buys the tubers to plant about 12cm (4¾in) deep and 30cm (1ft) apart, or if you know someone who has them you can divide the crown including the smaller roots that grow above the main tubers.

Growing:

Yacon is a perennial plant, so once you have planted it, so long as you look after it, you will have it forever. Grow in full sun in a permanent bed.

Yacon is pleasingly easy to grow in most soils where there is reasonable rainfall and moderate heat. The plants do require a long season to grow – forming their tubers in autumn – but anywhere that parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes thrive will suit yacon perfectly well.

Yacon can be slow to get growing in spring but quickly puts on lush, leafy growth through the summer to a height of 2 metres (6½ft), occasionally a little more once established. It flowers some years towards autumn.

Harvesting:

In late autumn, rather than dig up the tubers, just fossick around below the surface picking the large edible tubers, leaving the smaller propagation roots (resembling Jerusalem artichokes), which grow just under the soil surface and are the ‘seeds’ for the following year’s growth. Snap the large tubers from the crowns. They’re crunchy, tasty and refreshing immediately, but a few days left out in the sun will add to their sweetness.

Yacon tubers develop into autumn, and as the frosts approach it’s worth putting a good layer of spray-free straw around the plant to protect the tubers in colder climates. The top growth will die off in frosty weather, re-growing the next spring.

If the tubers are left in I have found that some will rot over winter. So it’s best to store them in a cool, dry shed or garage until you’re ready to eat them. They may well sweeten a little over time, and if you’re lucky they can last many months in storage.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Yacon is very rarely troubled by pests or diseases.

Recipes:

Yacon has a crunchy texture, and a sweet flavour, so it’s rather good simply peeled, sliced and eaten as a snack.

It’s great in fruit salads too, peeled and sliced, though its tendency to brown means that you should sprinkle the slices with a little lemon juice to prevent it discolouring.

Yacon also has a delightful tendency to absorb sauces and dressings, which make it a fantastic vehicle for other flavours. Try it grated with carrots dressed in a mustard vinaigrette with a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or in the traditional South American fruit salad – ‘Salpicón’. Combine peeled, chopped yacon with chunks of pineapple, chopped papaya and mango and dress in freshly squeezed orange juice and a spritz of lemon.

 

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