Delicious and unusual vegetables to grow...
As most of us are in the middle of winter – and quite probably thinking about presents and parties and celebrations of one kind or another, I would like to add to your list of delicious and unusual vegetables to grow, and hope that when you have a spare half hour you may give them some thought – for next spring isn’t that far away.
I’m picking plants that are out of the ordinary, but that are not difficult to grow. Some plants, such as cabbages, although delicious, do need a certain expertise (and quite a lot of time).
Artichoke (Cynara Cardunculus) basically a big, glamorous thistle. You beg from a friend, or buy, suckers – four or five young leaves with a scrap of root, cut from the main plant in spring. Place your plantlets at about 24” or more apart (they will make wonderful fountains of silver, green leaves). In summer, cut the very young heads, boil for 10 minutes or so then add to salads or eat as vegetables. If you leave the heads to grow just to the point where the flower is beginning to show – you can boil these for about twenty minutes then nibble the base of each leaf as you pull it from the head and enjoy the heart which lies under the petals of the thistle flower (which can be removed with a sharp knife). To those who love them, they are very delicious.
Aubergines (Egg Plants), (Solanum Melongena Ovigerum) many people enjoy these purple or white fruits of the tomato family, but few realise how easy they are to grow. Choosing a variety for your local conditions, you can grow these from seed, in flower pots or grow bags, in the greenhouse or, (if you can grow tomatoes out of doors) a warm sunny garden and, like tomatoes, they will (if fed and watered well), provide you with a crop that tastes much nicer than anything you could buy from the supermarket.
Beetroot (Beta Vulgaris) many people, I think regard beetroot with they same distaste they have for Brussels sprouts – or broccoli. But small beetroot, pulled fresh from the garden, topped and boiled for ten or twelve minutes then cooled, sliced and added to salads are the sweetest most delightful taste you can imagine. They have tiny seeds and when you sow them you must thin them out (pull four of five little plantlets out) if you wish to have beetroot, but these little green thinnings can be added to salads and taste good.
Substitute them for potatoes when frying a batch of ‘crisps’ (potato chips) – and they taste very sweet – and are a beautiful purple color.
Lastly, the humble onion (allium cepa) in it’s several varieties. I’m always surprised that people who grow nothing else, will grow tomatoes – it seems almost the badge of the dedicated gardener. Onions, however, are basic to almost all types of cooking and are surprisingly easily grown. Grow onions from seed, or, if they are available in your part of the world, and you want to gain confidence, buy ‘sets’ – baby onions to be re-planted and grown to maturity. There are many interesting varieties – shallots, tree onions (perennials which grow new small onions around the main bulb), Welsh, or salad onions from which you chop fine green stems into salads.
I am now going to turn from gardener into cook for a week or so to enjoy the company of my nearest and dearest, I wish you all a good holiday – and hope to get you gardening in the spring.
Send us your queries and thoughts.