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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 Dave Riley on June 10, 2015 at 21:37

I tried not to mention chives. I grow them but don't like them so I don't use them.

Comment by Dave Riley on June 10, 2015 at 16:50

That's  a major reason why I kitchen garden. Like cooking, it's a great way to explore cuisine. Another string to the recipe bow.

The great food adventure happens all over and has done for thousands of years.It starts in the dirt and finishes in the tummy ...and all that in reverse. What came first the chicken (dish) or the egg?

The other aspect I reckon is that the food we grow may not suit our climate and environment. Certainly it may not suit my backyard.

Then it can be the case that some other person -- such as a commercial grower -- can do it better than you -- so why stress out growing that one plant? The more stuff I grow the less reason I have to go to the markets and I love market shopping.

So there's an art that everyone needs to personalise I reckon.

Grow what? Why?

There's the exotic interest and foodist hobby and the true kitchen gardening essentials -- for me, herbs and Allium. The stuff that I use every day. The stuff I can't get easily. The stuff I can't afford. The stuff i read about and want to try and pursue by hunting down seedling or seeds.

In the post I  forgot to mention my Roma -- Italian pole -- bean experiments which are pending....or my Samphire frustrations.

But don't you find that each season there's a challenge to master one or another plant? I'm getting there with the peppers. I love the long Italian style and the Cubano. I'm still way behind with the Allium family and if I could only grow decent root veg -- I mean big tasty root veg -- I'll be a happy camper.

Some you know you just have to wait on soil changes. Others just happen. For me that's eggplant, lettuces/salad greens, cherry tomatoes, kale, choko, citrus,katuk...all easy peasy. Other plants can be very  cantankerous.

I harvested my Tumeric today and they were OK. Not great. Very young and surely tasty and enough to last for months...but I would have preferred them bigger. But my big fear are the Sweet Potatoes....

I also suffer from the competitive tragedy that at the school garden project we're harvesting a plenty very quickly because the soil has been paid for and  bought in. It grows stuff better than the stuff I've harvested at home after over 6 years of so much hard work. But then en route I've learnt so much and there's always  tomorrow. My dirt and I have grown together.

We're 'long term companions'. I'm familiar with its many ways. We may fight but at the end of the day we are co-dependent.

Comment by Florence on June 10, 2015 at 16:45

In terms of Allium, have you tried garlic chives?  That's the easiest to grow, cut and come again allium I have tried.  They even survived my neglect over the last few years, and produce a good crop every time it rains.  They grow non-stop if you keep them fed and watered.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on June 10, 2015 at 13:41

You're much more of a culinary adventurer than I am Dave!

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