Posts Tagged Summer

Tetragon

Also known as New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides, from the Tetragoniaceae family formerly classified with Aizoaceae (ice plant). Tetragon is a half-hardy perennial originating in temperate, subtropical and coastal regions of the Southern Hemisphere. It is a quick-growing leafy vegetable with succulent like leaves and a low spreading habit, often over several feet, which can be left to spread or can apparently be trained to grow over trellising though I have not tried that myself. I prefer to grow it as an edible ground cover crop and I think it is a good choice for forest and perennial gardeners. A useful edible in warm climates as it can stand heat and dry conditions without bolting.

Half-Hardy self-seeding annual leafy edible plant

History An heirloom leafy vegetable that was a popular among the Maori people of New Zealand and first brought to Europe by Joseph Banks in 1771 on his return aboard the Endeavour with Captain Cook.

Site & Soil  Prefers a sunny site sheltered from frost with well-drained, sandy soil rich in organic matter and a PH range of 6.8-7. It is a resilient crop tolerant of very poor soils, high temperatures and maritime exposures but not of frost. Add well-rotted compost to the top 15cm of the soil before sowing.

Propagation Sow 1-2cm deep in fine soil and keep moist until seedlings emerge.

1.        Sow directly in mid-late spring after the last frost.

2.        Sow undercover and set out when 5cm high when all danger of frost has past.

Germination can be slow; soaking the seeds for 24hrs before sowing will help break down the hard outer coating of the seed. Germinates 7-21 days. Crops in 50-70 days

Timing Sow  (March-April) May   Harvest  July-Oct

Care Tetragon needs very little care. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth. Hoe to keep weeds down during seedling stage after that the foliage will act as a ground cover and suppress weeds. Water in very dry weather.

Pests & Diseases Tetragon is relatively pest free; slugs and snails don’t even seem to bother it.

Harvest Regular picking promotes new growth and plants can be cut down near to ground level and still re-grow.

Spread  120cm

Storage Will store for several days wrapped in paper in a salad drawer.

Botany and Seed Saving Seeds are very easy to collect. Flowers are produced at leaf axis along the growing stem leaving green buds with small spikes once these buds start to turn brown they are ready to harvest. Finish drying the seeds and store in a paper bags in cool temperatures. Be careful to harvest all the seeds before they drop, unless you want to start a self-seeding bed, as Tetragon is very good at propagating itself. Seed Life 50% germination for 5 years.

Use The tips and young leaves are used in place of spinach or other leafy greens. A particularly useful crop in hot dry areas or in summer when few other delicate greens will grow. In France Tetragon is used to make a quiche like tart with the boiled greens mashed up with egg, nutmeg and Crème fraîche and baked in a pastry shell. It is also steamed or boiled and drizzled with olive oil.

Nutrition Tetragon is high in Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.

Varieties I have so far not come across any named varieties

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Chayotes

Sechium edule. Cucurbitaceae Chayote, also called Vegetable Pear, Merliton, Choko or Chow Chow 

I love trying new vegetables and this is one I started growing in 2008 which turned out to be one of the best edibles I’ve grown. Chayote is not something I had grown or even tasted before 2008 but a local cheese maker, Hermine, who runs an organic goat farm nearby, gave me two chayotes.  The idea was that I could eat one to see what it tasted like and plant the other, but as they both started to sprout I planted both and just hoped that they would taste good at harvest time. The vegetables turned out to surprisingly good, crisp and delicious, almost better than a courgette or a cucumber in some ways; the flesh is denser and crisper, with a light subtle taste and smooth texture that makes them very versatile in the kitchen. The leaves were also delicious and as the climber produced tons of leafy growth it is a good source of leafy veg too.

Origin Its origins are Mesoamerican although how far back it goes is a mystery because, unlike many other vegetables, there have been no remains; fibres, seed or skin found to date its cultivation or use. It was however recorded by the early Spanish invaders as a food consumed by the Aztecs.

Propagation Chayote are propogated from the whole fruits. Keep some fruits back each season and plant as many as required. In spring plant the chayotes on their sides with the thin end facing slightly upwards nearer the surface, cover with soil, water in then add a layer of mulch to protect from any late frosts and retain moisture.

Site and Soil As with other cucurbits Chayote will grow best in rich soil. Plant the whole fruit in stations prepared with good rich planting mix. I use a mixture of manure, woodash, leaf mould and garden compost.

Care Keep moist and provide a climbing frame for the plants to grow on.  Pinch out and tie up plants as they grow.

Harvest Fruit are ready to harvest 4 -6 months after planting.

Use Most parts of the chayote are edible; the starchy tuberous parts of the roots are used like potatoes, the shoots as a pot herb, the young leaves as spinach or as a medicinal tea, the fruit as a vegetable and the nutty stones inside the fruit are prized by cooks. When young the fruit can be eaten whole but as they get bigger it is best to remove the skins as these can get a bit tough. They are equally delicious raw or cooked and go well with nutty, hot, salty, spicy or sour flavours. I particularly like to cook them with coconut, lentils, peanuts, tomatoes, chilli and citrus. Lovely grated raw, sliced in salads, stir-fried, lightly boiled, baked, candied, pickled, pureed, mashed or added to soups, curries and stews. I’ve still have lots of experimenting to do with this vegetable in the kitchen but so far it really is a winner.

Pests & Diseases keep an eye on them as with any cucurbits undercover, they will be prone to red spider mite and powdery mildew. I also had a problem with mealy bug in the polytunnel which affected the chayote plants very badly.

Lunar Planting
I have found that cucurbits sown one or two days before a full moon have a higher germination rate and crop more vigorously. I planted the second of the two chayotes on the 19th March two days before a full moon. The first I planted a couple of weeks earlier.

Sources and links for more information
wikipedia gives a good breakdown of the many names for this plant around the world.
R. Lira Saade (National Herbarium of Mexico, Mexico City) writes about Chayote as a neglected crop describing its botany, history, culture and uses in her article New Crop Chayote
Chayote is posted as a Plant of the week on Killer Plants

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Aubergine, Szechuan

Solanum Melongena. Aubergine var. Szechuan

A Chinese aubergine, collected by Joy Larkom in Chengdu, Szechuan province, in 1994. This variety is now kept by the Heritage Seed Library, which is where I got my original seeds from.

I first grew this variety of aubergine in 2008 and I was immediately impressed with it. After only one season this little beauty was already a favourite and one of the best tasting aubergines I’ve grown. Despite the cold wet season of 2008, the plants grew well and cropped over a long period from late July right through until the first frost in November. The aubergine fruits are smallish, about 15-18cm long, and slender to a tapering round point. The fruits are pale as they come out of the stalk and mature to a lovely dark purple while retaining a pale almost white to lime green flashing at the stalk end. The flesh is white, smooth, is slow to turn seedy and has a perfect texture. The prize is really in the taste, a gastronomic delight of almost sweet flesh with a lovely aubergine flavour that does not get bitter.

My Growing Log
2008 S Feb 13 in heat good germination from 9 seeds. Raised & planted 6 plants out May 2nd. Harvest from July 26 to Mid November. Isolated and harvested seed.
2009 S Feb 18 in heat from seed saved the previous year. Good germination. Pricked out 4 plants April 20. Planted 1 plant as a bench mark against which to measure the other 5 varieties I grew that year. Cropped really well right up until December and produced the best aubergines of the season see Aubergine Harvest 2009.

Note this variety log is part of a series on my favourite varieties; the pick of the crop and the ones that I will continue to grow and save seeds of. I like to keep good records for the varieties I maintain seeds for. See my other variety files

original post 6/2/2009 updated

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Litchi Tomato

I grew Morelle De Balbis (Solanum Sisymbriifolium) or Litchi Tomato, for the first time in 2008. All I knew about it is was that it is grown in Jersey as food for the gorillas in Durrell zoo.

I bought a single plant from a farmers market at Coustellet in the Luberon, from organic growers, Rachel and Frederic Smets and their “jardin de nos grands-meres…” who specialise in ancient or forgotten varieties which they grow on their farm near Bonnieux . Their stall was packed with exotic looking plants for the potager many of which I did know but one, the Morelle De Balbis, stood out as I had no idea what it was so I had to buy one to plant to see what it would become.

It turned out what I bought was Solanum Sisymbriifolium or Litchi Tomato. Litchi Tomato is a fairly rare Solanum producing lovely white flowers followed by 4-5cm red fruits enclosed in a prickly husk. The husk splits open when the fruit is ripe.

It is quite an unpleasant plant really. It grows to rather large proportions, I did not know to expect but I thought it would grow something like a tomato but what I got was a monster over 8ft tall that crowded out a good 16ft square of its raised bed.  Not only is it huge but it is covered with the most vicious spines. I tied it up, cut it back but it still managed to get me every time I passed it. I can forgive any plant for horrible growth habbits if it tastes good but I really found the fruit of this plant disappointing.

Fruit
The fruit are almost heart shaped with a little point and have a smooth red skin, which is strong but not tough, and yellow juicy flesh. The taste is not mind blowing, it is neither sour or sweet. Seed sellers say that the fruit are acidic with the taste of a Litchi but I didn’t find the ones from my plant had very much taste at all. Baker Creek reckon they taste ‘like a cherry crossed with a tomato’ – but to me they don’t taste much like either.  They have an insipid flavour. Of course I have tasted only the fruit from a single plant so it is hardly a fair assessment. The fruit can apparently be eaten raw or cooked and are used to make sauces and jams. I did not try cooking them perhaps more flavour could be got by boiling them with sugar.

Harvesting
The fruit are impossible, well nothing is impossible but they are painful to pick until they are ripe. Once ripe the spiky casings pull right back and the red fruit are exposed and can just be plucked without much injury. Clever really.

Cultivation
These plants come from the tropical regions of South America and are not frost hardy. Best grown like tomatoes. Sow in heat in early spring and plant out after the last frost. Matures in over 90 days from transplant so may need a long warm season climate.

Seed Saving
I think the best way is like you would save seeds for an aubergine:  to pulp the fruit with plenty of water, in a large glass, rinsing and draining off all floating debris then collect the seeds that have sank to the bottom of the glass. Spread out on a plate to dry.

Would I grow this again?
Well maybe but I’d have to put it somewhere where it won’t be a danger, not near paths or bed edges so it can grow as it likes without spiking me or anyone else. What is does have going for it though is that it is tough and resilient, it will stand heat and drought which for me is important. My second gardening year here was hit by drought. No rains from September to September meant that I lost a lot of crops and that is one of the reasons why I am so keen to experiment with growing a wide range of food crops and particularly ones that will crop without water

Seed Sources
I’ll have some seeds left to share if anyone wants some seeds or they can be bought from

Le Potager d’un Curieux
Ferme de Saintemarthe, France
Unusual Edible Plants & Herbs, UK
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, USA

Other Sources of Info
Le solanum sisymbrifolium
A la découverte de la morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbriifolium)

Posted collated from 3 posts 30/4/2008, 24/8/2008, 15/10/2008:

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Tomato, Noir de Crimée

Mid season tomato Indeterminate. (70-80 days)

Tomato, Noir de Crimée Sliced

Large fleshy tomatoes maturing to a dark red-brown, with green shoulders. Flavour is wonderful; rich, salty and slightly smoky one of my favourite tomatoes. Fruit are 6-10cm round, thin-skinned and juicy.
Medium yields on compact bushy plants. Good all rounder for cooking, salads or eating straight from the vine.
Origin This heirloom tomato comes from the Crimea by the black Sea. The variety is not mentioned in The Vegetable Garden, nor any other black tomatoes so we can assume it did not arrive in europe before 1880s. Very similar to, if not the same as Black Russian (Thomas Etty), Black Krim (Kokopelli).
Seed Source Vilmorin
Resistance Drought resistant but can be prone to cracking when too much water is applied.

2004   1 plant
Bought plant Planted Out May

2006 6 plants
Sowed Feb 3 Pricked out March 9 Planted Out May 9
Harvested great crop August – Oct and good seed harvest

2007 6 plants
Sowed March 18 Pricked out April 16 Planted Out May 17
Harvested Did not perform as well as previous years due to the weather conditions but still produced a decent crop of around 5kg

2008 2 plants
Sowed March 16 Pricked out April 7 Planted Out May 8
Harvest Outperformed-as bench mark- other black tomatoes: Carbon, Purple Calabash and Black Trieffle for taste, quality and productivity.

2009 2 plants
uprooted by wild pigs so no harvest this year

Note
Variety Files help keep a record of the varieties I grow and continue to grow for seed saving.

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