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Designed by David Frary

Logo photographed by and copyright Rogan Macdonald

Vegetable trials in 2009.

Be daring. Try something different.

New for the year.

2009 was an eventfull year with its share of successes and failures. Several new plants were grown for the first time, while I continue to push most of the new plants from past seasons. There was not so many photos taken due to my camera becoming faulty during the summer but with the help of others, most of the events were captured.

During the year these oddities were grown, or attempted with mixed results.

Additionally, these plants were grown again to improve yields.

The plants

Casabanana.

After last years slug feast with this plant I was in two minds not to bother but one plant decided to germinate and grow away so the decision was taken to plant it in the only available space. This is in one of the bags of maturing compost. With the warmer and drier conditions this year more in keeping with the plants natural habitat it is off to a good start.

Casabanana growing on compost heap.

This season the plant escaped the destruction from slugs and with the warm summer followed by the exceptioally warm autumn two fruit were produced.

Two large fruit produced.

Once the fruit started to form though, it began to look less and less like the textbook pictures and descriptions and started to look like another year of failure.

The cat says no.

Finally I had to call in an expert for a second opinion, and pussy cat agreed with me that the big round fruit were definately not casabanana and were probably a round dhudi.


Aubergine.

Aubergine plants July. Aubergine flower and young fruit July.

The aubergine plants in the polytunnel produced well but once again they were no good outside and I have decided that for the time being, they are not worth attempting outside.


Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum)

This is another South American tuber producing plant. It is a climber and quite pretty so may in future be relocated to a flowerbed.

Mashua, tropaeolum tuberosum flowering in mid summer.

Mashua plants are grown from tubers, and as usual with anything new these were started off in pots in the polytunnel and only planted outside after they had grown to a decent size and frosty nights had been forgotten. I do not know yet how hardy the tubers are but the foliage will not tolerate frost at all.

Mashua, tropaeolum tuberosum flowering in mid summer.

The mashua proved to be trouble free in growth apart from needing a bit more support than I provided, with the plants eventually collapsing onto the ground. No pest or disease were noted apart from one plant having a bit of fasciation on some of the stems and tubers. This may have been a freak occurance or genetic within the tuber.

Mashua, tropaeolum tuberosum flowering in mid summer. Mashua ready for harvest.

As for production, each plant produced a generous number of tubers of various sizes from a relatively small space and these will remain on my grow list as if nothing else, the tubers keep better into the new year than potatoes.

Mashua tubers at harvest time.

Amaranthus

Grain Amaranthus beginning to flower.

Amaranthus is better known as callaloo in the West Indies, where it is mostly used as a green vegetable. There are many different varieties, some of them ornamental, but the variety I'm growing this year is supposed to produce large quantities of edible seed. The seed is the crop here.

While they did in fact produce good quantities of grain, the seed was small and a bit fiddly in the kitchen for my liking but it is all nutricious and stores well in a few jars.


Roselle (Hibiscus sabdrifa)

More of a herb than a food plant, Roselle is a tender perennial that can fruit in the first year and therefore be grown as an annual. The part of the plant used is the fleshy seed capsules that are boiled and made into a drink or jams and preserves.

My first sowing got off to a really good start then a mouse found the large seeds absolutely delicious and delayed an early start while more seeds were sown but things are now nicely under control.

Young Roselle plants.

Although the plants grew well and those in the polytunnel managed to flower briefly, there was hardly any seed pods produced. Maybe I'll try again next year once more.

Garbanzo Chick peas

In the colder than normal spring, my Garbanzo chick peas failed to germinate but an Indian friend gave me some white seeded 'chana' chick peas which germinated rapidly.

Chickpea plants just starting to flower.

This plant is fine as a novelty but requires either large fields with mechanised harvesting or small marginal fields with large numbers of family labourers to pick and shell the small pods. Not a suitable crop for intensive growing on an allotment.

Chickpea pods starting to form.

Sorghum

Otherwise known as broom corn, this is widely grown in the USA to produce syrup or molasses. Natives of other countries often use the sap of Sorgham to ferment into beer so it seems reasonable to attempt to grow it on the prospect that if you cannot eat it, then drink it. Works for me.

Other uses. Seeds are edible and the empty stalks can be tied together to make brooms, hence the name broomcorn.

Young sorgham plants just starting to flower.

This year I was too busy to aquire the means to crush the stems to collect the juice and the seed is a bit difficult to separate from the chaff for much experimenting in the kitchen. The stalks with mature seedheads do make attractive decotation though.


Top of page.



The Plants, continued.

Scorzonera & Scorzonera.

Scorzonera plants growing in small pop bottles on a ridge.

Lack of time and space has prevented me growing salsify as planned but I am pressing on with scorzonera. Last year this proved almost impossible to harvest the very deep roots from my heavy clay soil so this year I am experimenting with an idea to grow the plants in plastic bottles pushed into the top of a ridge of soil. Hopfully, this will give harvestable roots at least 30-40cm long without a break.


Mangel Worzel.

Harvested Mangel worzels.

Last year I grew these for the first time and found them a nice addition to the winter vegetabes normally grown. This year I am growing two varieties to see how they compare. Already, at the beginning of July there is a noticable difference in that the variety grown last year, "Yellow Eckendorf" produces roots that are mostly above ground whereas the new variety "Yellow Intermediate" seems to have the whole root below ground. This is an important point to bear in mind as during prolonged wet spells the roots above ground suffer from severe slug damage.

Young mangel worzel 'Yellow Intermediate'.

Mangels have consistantly produced good yields of roots that keep well and do not take up as much space as potatoes. The roots are versatile in the kitchen and remain an under used food resource. Next year I will be trying more varieties as they have a better taste than swede.

Young mangel worzel 'Yellow Eckendorf'.

Seakale.

Overwintered Seakale plants.

This is a perennial plant that takes several years to mature. My seeds were sown in the polytunnel during the spring of 2008 and grown on outside in a deep tray. During August 2008 the small plants were transplanted to individual deep boxes to overwinter. The reason for keeping them portable is simply that I am not yet in a position to commit the space for them long term.

Seakale flowering. Seakale crown.

After 2 full growing seasons I think these plants are now getting close to maturity and in the early spring of 2010 I will attempt to force one of the crowns.

Seakale crown ready for forcing.

Quinoa.

Cleaned grain.

This year there was not sufficient space available to grow any quinoa apart from a few plants just to keep the seed bank fresh.


Yakon.

Yacon tubers.

These were quite successful last year and useful so the quest continues to improve yield.

Yacon plant, June in 30 ltr pot. Mature Yacon plants after a light frost.

Due to the difficulty last year digging the roots out of my heavy clay soil, I am now growing the plants in large containers. While I accept that there may be a slight loss of gross yield this is compensated for with ease of harvest and mobility. Large pots can be moved many times to vacant space without damage to the plant, and can be brought into the polytunnel for a few extra weeks of growth in the autumn.

Yacon plant cut down ready to harvest.

Using 35ltr pots the average yield was 3 kilo.

Yacon tubers.

Oca.

Tray of mature tubers at harvest.

I am getting partial to these so higher production, ease of harvest and efficient use of space is the goal here.


Ullucus.

Tray of mature tubers at harvest. Ullucus plants in July.

These plants are giving me a hard time and after two seasons of growing them I've still only managed to keep my seedstock. Trials will continue to try to find the key to success.


Sweet potato.

Sweet potato plant

 


Eddoe. Colocasia esculenta.

These tubers are on sale in every grocer store nowadays so I just had to try to grow them. The cold spring caused a few problems starting them off but I only lost one so far.

At the end of the year the original crowns were only just starting to make side buds so these really need a lot more heat to be anything more than a pretty plant and that is what I will treat them as, just a nice foliage plant.

Young Eddoe plant.

Pawpaw.

Maybe I'm pushing my luck here as this is a fast growing but frost tender tree but it has been said that they can fruit when very young. We shall see. If nothing else they will make a pretty pot plant.

Young pawpaw plant.

By the end of the year two plants survived but had to be kept at home as house plants for the winter. Next year will be the test to see if they can be brought into flower.