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The Garden in June: many surprizes

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My garden appeared dull and stressed. Not much rain. Above average 'Autumn' temps. What's a plant to do?

But on closer inspection there are many surprizes. It may not look keenly verdant but hither and yon some delights are consolidating.

  • Achocha: aka Bolivian cucumber -- these crunchy morsels are carried aloft by a keen climbing plant of which I have 3. I think this plant is a great discovery. The small cucumber-like fruits are easy to grow and the skyward bent suits my preference for climbers. You may have to fossick a bit to find the Aladdin's slipper shaped morsels among the leaves but the crunch is worth it.
  • Jicama: aka Yam Bean. Yesiree my Jicamas have taken! And I loves the bulbous tuber these crispy apple like creatures put out. Versaite in the kitchen. Great in salsa. Keeps well. Another crunch for the gob.
  • Choko: aka Chayote.I may be suffering from a Choko glut but let's say, that outback I can always get a meal. They're big now and have enough weight in them to cause a few of my jute lines to break. I thought this was going to be a problem, but like ripe fruits falling from a tree, when my lines break it's a signal that harvest is ready. Even though I've used a light gauge, the twine system for climbers has performed wonderfully so far. I need more bamboo poles than I have in order to support the lines running all over, but I'm delighted with my aerial garden.
  • Allium: aka garlic, leek and onion. Since I have decided to embrace a noble quest, this year is the year dedicated to the Allium family  at maison d'ave and I'm determined to master the business of growing onions, leeks, chives, and scallions. If I'm gonna be allowed an obsession that's it. I won't share with you my multitudinous frustrations with onions  but without going into detail, I'm beginning to learn the Allium trade through an apprenticeship in my own dirt. There are so many bulbs and stalks out there in the big wide world of soil that I want to try them all.  Growing (and surviving) I have a range of perennial onions -- Rakkyo, Potato and Tree -- and three types of garlic as well as my regular supply of spring onion seedlings. I've yet to master the DIY transition from seed sowing of Allium at home...but it is still early days in this quest.
  • Dill: Finally by dint of experiment I can grow dill (touch wood). Coriander I mastered long ago and can grow in my finger nail.
  • Huauzontle: aka Aztec Spinach. Thus far all I can say is that I can grow this exotic...but the complication is that mine looks like Quinoa ( a close relative) rather than the green spinach head it was reputed to produce.I guess I need to do more homework...and try to do green next time by at least checking my seed library with greater diligence.
  • Arrowroot: aka Queensland Arrowroot. This was a surprize. I grew arrowroot in the poor soil sections of my garden and it prospered. So I divided it and planted it out in a few extra places. Now I have a harvest coming on. The plant did much better than the Cassava I had in. Soon I hope to get my hands on some West Indian Arrowroot which is probably much more versatile in the kitchen.
  • Okinawan Spinach: I grow several 'spinaches'  and I admit to not liking some. But loving most.  My loves are: New Zealand S, Egyptian S, Brazilian S, Betel Leaf....but I am not so keen on their glutinous cousins like Abika. In my soil are the still culinarily untested Mushroom Plant and Surinam Spinach. Okinawan Spinach is something else again -- I delight in its texture and unique taste although I haven't explored it much in the kitchen. So I'm looking forward to a bigger harvest. While I hesitate with the Abika, the size of the leaf makes it a great substitute for grape vine leaves when I next make dolmades.  The Betel Leaf I'm saving up to wrap ground meat in as the Vietnamese do. But I'll do it kofta style....
  • Serpent Gourd: Grown from seed(quite a feat) and still an unknown. While I wait, I've planted out more New Guinea  Bean -- aka cucuzzi . These climbers do much better in my garden than Zuchini.
  • Oca:aka New Zealand Yam. I did plant out some Oca I lovingly collected  but not all of it has taken. I guess the good news is that some of what I planted has grown....but next time I'm planning on seriously investing in this tuber. This year it's novel horticulture; and an experiment. But if I do as well with Oca as I've done with Jeruslaem artichokes/Sunchokes I'm gonna be thrilled.
  • Miscellany: Among all this, I planted out some spuds and am waiting for the bulk of these to come up. I also secured a supply line of Purple Sweet Potato (Hawaiian Gold) which I'm keen to focus on as a home grown veg. I have a few other sweet potato varieties planted but the purple is my culinary passion. Tomatoes coming up all over, many self sown. I'm drowning in chillies and have a supply line available of banana (sweet) peppers --although I've learnt to harvest these early as they keenly rot on the stem. The  'Nopoles' Prickly Pear has taken -- mine is a variety not classed as a weed and (talking of weediness) the Horney Melons are growing (what have I done!?). Poor harvest of Tumeric...but then the soil wasn't so good in that spot. I have two varieties of pumpkins in -- Butternut and Kabocha -- and while I'm getting a small number of butternuts the plants suffer like my zuchinis and cucumbers and never do well. Root veg struggle terribly, even radishes -- so I  persevere and angst over them. I gotta da radishes, carrots, turnips and beetroot planted all about and it's all 'touch wood!' as far as I'm concerned.

Unfortunately a bush turkey visits my garden every day and the avian beast and I are at war...

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 13, 2015 at 6:01

As an enthusiast for the TV series Pie in the Sky I learned a valuable lesson. Garlic burns rapidly. Fry the Onions (I suppose the standard ones) first then add the Garlic.

Sometimes caramelised Onions enhance the flavour of the dish, sometimes not.

Comment by Dave Riley on June 13, 2015 at 1:59

I use the whole thing...when it comes to spring onions and leeks.No waste.Except the wee roots at the bottom end. You can buy fresh garlic stems nowadays too.

The trick is to sweat fry them and maybe chop them finely. The tops of the leek stems take longer cooking , esp if the plant is old, but they break down nonetheless.And you may not use the outer layer of the leek if it is too stiff or dry.

Also you may need to cook the bulb end of spring onions longer than the leaves/stems sometimes as the bulb end has more layers.I also find that it can be preferable to add these alliums after initial frying -- say with other meats or vegetables -- rather than alone and first as is the presumed culinary habit.

This is what the Turks do.These plants are 'wetter' than standard onions so you need to  cook them more slowly rather than fry them brutally. The end result is a softer, sweeter taste with a few succulent pleasantries.

The Italians , for instance, don't cook onions and garlic together and traditionally prefer to cook standard onions for a long time alone in the pan.Indians do the same with 'onions'.  I reckon if you aren't prepared to do that, why bother at all with 'onions'? I suspect the generic 'onion' listed in so many Asian recipes, and so quickly fried,  are just as likely to be originally any number of its cousins. And in Malaysian cuisine the rempah spice mix is an art in combining and cooking -- but it relies on shallots and other alliums rather than 'onions' per se.I guess it's all about thinking -- eating and cooking -- outside the box as we have been so poorly served by the supermarket 'onions'.

Just look at all that crap garlic we've had to put up with for years!

Similarly why must onion be always combined with garlic? The classic Thai rice dish -- Basil fried rice -- relies on just garlic and basil --  and the extraordinarily inventive West Lake Soup relies on Spring Onions to take off.

Going back to the Turkish way...you'd probably dry fry the meat slowly first until the fats melt, then you add the alliums and a little oil for flavouring. It's a different mindset. A different attack.

The other Middle Eastern trick --say with minced meat dishes like koftas or kebabs -- is to grate the onions. Now that's a very good reason to use onions rather than other alliums: onions are grate-able!

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 12, 2015 at 23:34

Exercise your well-known caution Andy ;-) Who needs a recipe for Garlic leaves? Use when you would use Garlic!

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on June 12, 2015 at 21:19

Dave - Jeez - more varieties than we'll ever see.  Did you notice that while everyone says, you can eat the leaves, there's very few sites that actually provide leaf recipes. 

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on June 12, 2015 at 21:13

I've been relying on this Elaine: (from http://www.growthis.com/how-to-grow-garlic-from-cloves/ )

"You can trim a few shoots off for cooking while they’re growing, but don’t cut too many or it will stunt the growth of the garlic bulb."

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 12, 2015 at 19:50

The greens are really nice however … if you want bulbs, don't snip the greens.

Comment by Dave Riley on June 12, 2015 at 10:27

While on the topic of Allium, I've shared this site before but it warrants drooling over:

Japanese Vegetables 6: Leeks

 and then this page which explore the veges overall -- but make sure you scroll down to read the discussion on sweet potatoes...

Which leads into this creative exploration worth checking out (some great ways with 'em):

Japanese Sweet Potato Recipes.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on June 11, 2015 at 18:29

I suspect that once my shallot crop comes on, I'll probably do the same.  I've already started eating the greens off the Glen Large garlics.  

Comment by Dave Riley on June 11, 2015 at 9:58

I'll use chives in an egg scramble or omelet but I find them a tad distracting in other dishes. Maybe if real desperate I'd use them in a soup like West Lake Soup or as a decoration atop pumpkin soup.. But when I have spring onion stems I'm happy as a pig in a onion patch...Why wander?

My reticence is partly explained to the fact that chives are traditional   to French and Swedish cuisine and I don't cook much of that. I may have prepared the Swedish classic last night (& I did --because it's a fav here!)--Janssons frestelse (Jansson's temptation) -- but I used leeks.

I find chives tend to repeat within me...maybe it's genetic? I even suspect I get a little nauseous.

But since I seem perverse maybe I should review my practices...and push the envelope.But I Googled ''cooking with chives" and nothing excited me.

I had a clump of chives growing in the one spot for 4 years. Then I divided it up and planted bits along a few border edges. But I guess I've only harvested from stems once this year.

I know they are the same fam as the spring onions/scallions but I'm not convinced that they aren't black sheep.

However, looking at the literature I don't know what I've got growing. A true chive is Allium schoenoprasum and the Asian variety is Allium tuberosum....but I suspect I have Asian garlic chives planted...so maybe I should hunt down the schoenoprasum and try to make amends.

As I've written elsewhere, I haven't bought or used a normal onion in maybe  two years. That's a true white or brown onion. Before that I'd relied on the Spanish style red onions anyway. For cooking I use   spring onions and leeks and garlic. But many times I use the spring onion stems like the Chinese use chives.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on June 10, 2015 at 22:37

You don't like to eat chives?  Even though you grow them?  Oh... you sick puppie.  (Yeah, fair call, I'm the same with paw paw - shhhh.)

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