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Designed by David Frary

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Vegetable trials in 2008.

Trials of unusual vegetables in 2008.

New for this year.

This page is an archive of my growing activities during 2008 and where appropriate the results with different crops will be transferred to their own specific page.

During 2008 I tried a number of unusual vegetables, some old English crops and other newer plants from accross the globe.

  • Burdock
  • Scorzonera
  • Mangel worzel
  • Seakale
  • Quinoa
  • Quillquina
  • Casabanana or Melocoton
  • Yakon

Additionally, I will be looking to grow the following crops better than the previous year.

  • Oca
  • Ullucus
  • Sweet potato
  • Dhudi
  • Okra
  • Aubergine

2008 was a poor year for the allotment gardener with bad weather most of the year. Heavy frosts into mid March were quickly followed by a mini heatwave in April but was short-lived. The summer was cool and wet for the most part and finished with early frosts in October, heavy rains in November and more frosts at the end of December. For this reason alone it pays to grow as many different crops as possible as no matter what the weather is, something will flourish.

Old English Crops.

Burdock, scorzonera, mangel and seakale are all names familiar to me since childhood but I confess to never having eaten any of them, and I don't think I've even seen a seakale plant. This has to change. If the taste is not to my liking that is OK. There is no point growing food that is not liked but these crops have to be grown and eaten to find out.

Seakale will take several years to establish even if the soil is to its liking while the others should mature in one season.

New World Crops.

Quinoa and Quillquina are both grain crops and if nothing else, I should be able to pass them off as flowers as I believe them to be attractive in their own right. The Casabanana may not even be sown this year as the plant is a large vine extending to 20 metres length and requires a hot summer. It is a cucurbit type plant similar to the dhudi but a much larger plant. That just leaves the yacon. These are large plants with large leaves producing tubers below ground similar to dahlias

Failures this year.

A few crops listed at the top of the page failed completely in 2008 but will remain on the trial list for next year.


Once again the slugs wiped out these plants before they had any chance to develop in 2008. Will try again next year.


Lack of space prevented these from being grown in 2008. Maybe next year.


A combination of prolonged cold weather and slugs have caused this one to fail.

Early successes.


Ocra plants in July.
Ocra plant with 2 pods.

My early sowing of ocra failed miserably but a later sowing in April had good germination and onward growth. These plants detest chills and it is a waste of effort growing early in unheated conditions. Once growing well, seedlings transplant easily without any fuss or setback and grow quickly when temperatures rise.

Ocra plant with 4 pods.

Most of my plants were grown to maturity in the polytunnel using 2lt pots. A few were planted outside and are just starting to produce a few small pods in August. When grown in these relatively small pots the plants require feeding well and copious watering but seem to crop well at the expense of lush foliage. Next year I will try some in 3lt and 4lt pots to see if pot size makes any difference.

Ladies fingers.


Aubergine July.

These got off to a slow start due to the exceptionally cold spring but progressed nicely later. Plants grew without trouble but will do much better in larger pots.


Yacon has now been given its own page.

Yacon tubers.


Oca has its own page.

Tray of mature tubers at harvest.


Ullucus has its own page.

Tray of mature tubers at harvest.

Sweet potato.

Sweet potato has its own page.

Sweet potatoes.
Jump up to Right column.

The Plants.

Salsify & Scorzonera.

Salsify plants.

These plants were grown under cover and transplanted to their growing positions when 2-3 inches high. By and large they appear resistant to slugs even though their position is possibly the worst on the plot for these pests. These are root crops and do not mature until well into the winter but do not require any special care or protection from the weather.

Mangel Worzel.

Mangel worzels.

As of the end of July there had been no complete losses of plants although some roots had been badly damaged by the slugs. Roots swelled fast and I was soon be tempted to lift and cook one. Foliage is soft and crunchy and could be used as a salad green with or instead of lettuce.

Mangold growing nicely.

Tried a small root in the microwave cooked in the manner of a jacket potato and it tasted similar to a hot beetroot. Second method of cooking. Root topped, tailed and peeled, diced and boiled for about 30-40 miins. Drained and mashed with seasoning and a knob of margarine. Surprisingly good to eat and very sweet.

The larger roots in the image below weighed in at about 1 kilo each but I deliberately harvested them early in case the roots got too tough. Even at this size, which is small for a worzel, the yield is about 4 or 5 times greater than maincrop potatoes. The roots that were lifted and stored kept until December when some began to have rot. By this time there were only a few left and were peeled, diced and boiled with potatoes and oca to produce a delicious winter soup.

Harvested Mangel worzels.


Young Seakale plants.

After several failed attempts to germinate plants sown direct I raised a few seedlings in the polytunnel and transplanted to deep seed boxes. In late summer they were transplanted individually to polystyrene greengrocers boxes to grow on.


Young Quinoa plant.

A small number of Quinoa plants were tested this year. Seeds were grown in the polytunnel and potted on to largish pots and kept under cover until weather improved. In hindsight this may not have been necessary as I believe these are hardy plants. Once in their final positions the plants have grown vigorously and remained relatively free from the ravishes of slugs.

Mature Quinoa plant.

Apart from a couple at one end of the row, they all remained erect without staking and if grown in a large block they should support each other.

Ripening Quinoa plants. Mature Quinoa seedhead.

Harvesting the quinoa was somewhat fiddly and time consuming with the small batch but would be much easier when scaled up and better tools used. I doubt that I will be growing this large scale but once again a bit of versatility on both the allotment and in the kitchen does no harm.

Seedheads drying in polytunnel. Cleaned grain.



Dhudi climbing up frame. July. Female Dhudi flower.

This year was not a good one for this plant and it took almost forever to get some fruit to set. The cool wet season must have kept the polinating insects away but I did finally get a few for the kitchen.

Dhudi fruit failing to set. At last. A Dhudi.