DWARF Phaseolus vulgaris-Green Bean, French Bean, Bush
Snap bean, Wax bean, Filet bean, Haricots Verts Dwarf beans are simply
a compact form derived from the climbing ("pole" in USA) bean. They may
sometimes be called French Beans, but originate in South America. New
have been developed which may be described as "tall dwarfs". These tend
to carry the flowers, and therefore the pods, above the foliage. Dwarf
beans are usually green, but may be yellow (often then known as "wax"
or purple. Most dry beans, such as the haricots used in cans of baked
the common red kidney beans, and the pinto beans favored for Mexican
are all Phaseolus vulgaris as well. Whether dwarf or climbing,
beans differ from the fresh green bean only in maturing their pods more
or less at once, and having thinner, more papery pods.
FILET BEAN-a class of dwarf bean whose pods are long and thin when they are immature. The pods are picked at this thin 'shoestring' or 'matchstick' stage, and are regarded as a gourmet item. The most expensive grade is "extra fine"-beans no more than 6.5mm in diameter. This is achieved by picking them every second day. If the beans are allowed to grow to normal green bean size, they are stringy. Taste wise, they are not really different from any other green bean, and they are a fiddle to pick. Grow these for visual impact, or to upstage someone. Otherwise, grow standard green beans. About two months from seed to harvest.
GROWING DWARF BEANS-Any garden soil that is well drained and not acid (pH6 or above is best) will be OK. Sow the seed when the soil is warm (at least 13ºC)-remember, these are basically subtropical climbers. In colder areas, sow in pots for later transplanting when the soil is genuinely warm-or buy punnet plants late in spring. Germination can be poor if the seed is old, if it has been roughly handled, or if it has been presoaked before sowing but carelessly handled (the structure of the seed becomes very fragile after soaking). But the most frequent cause of poor germination is cool soil. Damaged seed may germinate but produce only two cotyledon leaves, due to damaged growing point. Space the seed about 50mm to 75mm apart. In theory, a general garden fertiliser is dug in a few weeks before sowing. In practice, most of us are not that well organised, so fertiliser can be spread and mixed in about 50mm under where the seed is to be sown. The idea is to avoid having the seed in contact with the fertiliser, but have it available fairly soon after germination. Particularly on light soils, it is a good idea to put a light band (about 150mm wide) of fertiliser down either side of the row a few weeks after germination. keep it off the tender stems, though. Picked regularly, the plants will produce for about 6 weeks. It takes 2 to 3 months from sowing to picking, depending on variety, season, soil, and care. Varieties- a bean is a bean is a bean, true. But I believe that the variety 'Jacko' is the best flavored dwarf bean, followed very closely by 'Purple Knight'. Purple knight is not as straight as Jacko, but otherwise there is not much between them flavorwise (the purple color changes to green when they are cooked). The 'tall dwarfs', such as 'Top Crop' and Top Treasure are very good, easy pick beans, but the harvest tends to be concentrated (they were developed for "once-over" mechanical harvesting) Of the yellow 'wax' beans, my favorite, on grounds of flavor and productivity, is 'Cherokee Sun'.
BEAN, CLIMBING Phaseolus vulgaris -Pole Bean, This is the original green bean, from which dwarf green beans are derived. The advantage of climbing beans is that they take up less space, as they can be grown up wire netting, trellises, single stakes, tripods of stakes, or twine stretched between a top and bottom wire. In addition, they are easy to pick, enormously productive, and have a longer productive season than bush beans. Sow 2 or 3 seeds at the base of each pole, thinning to 2 plants to the pole.It is important to pick climbers regularly. Once seed pods start to mature the plants start to become unproductive. Climbers are about a week later than bush beans to produce their first pick.(about 2 months and one week from sowing) Varieties-again, a bean is a bean, but 'Blue Lake' is excellent eating, highly productive, and not quite as tall as some of the others. 'Mangere Pole' is useful as a late bean as it is somewhat rust resistant. 'Kentucky Wonder' produces over a long season, and 'Goldstar' is a prodigiously productive yellow bean, tender but with slightly lumpy pods-of no significance to the taste and eating quality.
BEETROOT Beta vulgaris var. crassa-Beets. For sweet, tender, non-fibrous beets, "grow them quickly and steadily". This translates to a fertile, preferably well drained, open soil, good fertility, and enough lime in the soil to keep the pH over 6. If in doubt on the lime status, throw a few handfuls around and lightly fork it in a couple of weeks before you plan to sow the seed. Sow until late Summer.(In the warmest areas, it can be sown year round). Beet seedlings are slow to get going, so the row needs to be kept fairly well free of fast growing weeds. Keep the rows short, and sow seed every 2 weeks or so, or you will end up with the yet to be used part of the crop becoming unusable due to size and coarseness. Sow about 30mm between seeds for baby beets, and 100mm apart (put in 2 seeds to ensure a plant at each space) for normal size beets. Cool temperatures produce the best flesh color, and dryness followed by rain will cause either 'zoning'-clear rings, or splitting of the root. These effects can be minimised by watering and mulching. Beetroot takes about 2 months from sowing to maturity. Varieties- The sweetest, best tasting varieties are 'Albinia Verecunda' (usually called 'Albina Vereduna') and 'Golden Beet'. Neither 'bleed' or stain, unlike the red beets. 'Golden' has an inherently lower germination rate, so it should be sown more thickly than most. But most beetroots are good, especially if they are pulled when still small. The variety 'Cylindra' was developed to give uniform, even sized slices for pickling. It is also a particularly dark red beet.
BELL PEPPER-See 'PEPPER, SWEET'
Brassica oleracea Cymosa group (syn. var. italica)-Calabrese,
Sprouting Broccoli Calabrese type-this is the big heads of broccoli as
found in the supermarkets. Buy punnets of seedlings, and make sure they
are well fed and well watered after planting out. Modern hybrids are
growing, and if they are subjected to prolonged stress of drying, they
may form tiny heads prematurely, and the plants come to nothing. Some
are adapted to spring and autumn planting only, but the best known
'Shogun', can be planted year round. 'Shogun' also makes useful small
from the sideshoots that develop once the main head is cut. Not all
do this. Provide a fertile soil and don't let the soil become dry.
plenty of lime-pH 6.5 to 7.5 is the 'ideal' range. Plants growing in
and Summer can end up with quite heavy green caterpillar infestation.
can be prevented by using light plastic netting to keep the butterflies
out. The broccoli is ready to cut about 2½ months from
in the summer and a bit over 3 months in winter. Sprouting type- this
perhaps the oldest, and least known form of broccoli. This type forms
of small heads from sideshoots all over a rather bushy plant. There are
purple sprouting varieties, and white. The white varieties look like
very small cauliflowers.. Sprouting broccoli is sown in summer for
production in milder areas, but should be left for spring sowing in
areas. The advantage of sprouting broccoli is that, while it is not
the white forms produce cauliflower like curds more easily than growing
cauliflower itself, and the multiple small heads means that the serving
sizes are right, with no waste. Broccoli Raab type- A further variation
on this theme is 'broccoli raab', where loose green sprouting heads
like loose broccoli than cauliflower) are harvested and eaten with
leaves. It has a bit of a mustardy taste to it, but it is otherwise
to Calabrese broccoli in taste. Broccoli-raab is fast maturing small
being ready in only about a 1½ months. It can be sown anytime in
warmer areas, and late summer in most other areas. Sow the seeds about
50mm apart, and thin the plants to about 150mm apart. It stands some
frost. As with all broccoli, fertile soils and never being water
is the key. The cultivar 'Hon Tsai Tai' has purple sprouting heads.
type-this type of broccoli is also quite cauliflower looking. The head
is made up of tightly packed yellowish-green conical florets arranged
an ascending spiral. A summer sowing gives an autumn harvest. Allow
30-45cm between plants. Culture is the same as Calabrese types.
BURDOCK Arctium lappa The roots are long-very long- and need a deep soil. They are fairly tasteless as they get older, and also become rather woody. They are best dug young. Plant them in summer, and harvest them in autumn. Sow them in place about 3 months before the first autumn frosts.
CABBAGE Brassica oleracea var. capitata There are, for practical purposes, three main types of cabbage-drumhead, the standard supermarket cabbage; red cabbage; and the cone shaped spring cabbage. There are specific varieties for spring, summer, and winter harvest. They take from 2½ to 3 months from transplanting. Set out plants in early summer for autumn harvest. Winter harvest types are sown in summer or transplants put out in mid-late summer. Small cultivars, such as 'leprechaun', or specialty types, such as the red cabbages, are probably the most useful for the urban garden. Cabbages tolerate heavier soils well, so long as there is enough humus and fertiliser, as they are heavy feeders. They need lime, so the pH should be above 6. Allow 30cm between plants for small varieties and 45cm for larger varieties. Spring and summer harvested cabbages will often form little 'mini' cabbages on the stump after the head is cut, so don't be in too much of a hurry to tidy up the row. Cutting a 10mm deep cross into the cut surface of the stump is supposed to help promote this phenomenon.
CAPE GOOSEBERRY Physalis edulis-Husk Cherry, Ground Cherry, Physalis This is a short lived perennial plant that is usually treated as an annual. The marble sized murky yellow fruit are enclosed in a papery husk. They are slightly sweet, have moderately high acid, and a slightly soapy overtone. You either like them or loath them. Seed can be sown as late as early summer only in the mildest areas. Plants form a sprawling bush about a metre wide.. Harvest the fruit when the papery husk changes to golden brown and the fruit are substantially yellow, in late autumn/early winter.
CARDOON Cynara cardunculus Cardoon plants look very similar to globe artichoke plants-a dramatic clump of large grey leaves. As the plant matures, it elongates and runs to flower-which resembles a very large purple Scottish thistle flower. At which point the plant may be 2 metres high. The edible bit is the fleshy leaf base. It is made edible by driving a stake alongside the plant when it is about knee high, gathering up the leaves, and wrapping them fairly tightly in flexible cardboard, or in black polythene so as to exclude the light from the bottom 50-60cm of the leaves. Black polythene has to then be covered over with newspaper, to prevent the heat building up and cooking the leaves. This is usually done in the autumn, and takes from 2-4 weeks. Very little is written about what it actually tastes like beyond the "can be used in..." faint recommendation. One variety, 'white ivory', is said to be "self blanching". The plants take up about a square metre of garden space. Sow or plant out anytime in summer, but keep them watered. Being a perennial, it could be usefully grown in the ornamental border and eaten only occasionally.
CARROT Daucus carota Any reasonably good garden soil will grow carrots, but the straightest and smoothest carrots grow in a sandy or peaty loam. Sow from after the last spring frost through to early autumn. Baby carrots can be sowed a little later still. Frost kills the foliage, so they need to be mature before the first frost. Carrot seed is sown about 10mm apart and about 10mm deep. The seedlings are a bit weak, so the soil surface needs to be kept damp so it doesn't form a dry crust impenetrable to a baby carrot. Germination takes from 1 to 3 weeks. The best strategy for the urban gardener is to grow baby carrots. Varieties such as the 'finger' sized (100-150mm long) 'minicor', or the small round 'Paris market' types such as 'Thumbelina' are ideal. Paris market types need soil pushed over their shoulders to prevent greening. The best eating quality carrots after that are the 'Nantes' types. They are fairly cylindrical, about 150mm long, with blunt ends, The baby carrots and the Nantes types will grow well in a large broad pot on a deck (plant upward pointing barbecue skewers at the same time to prevent cats piddling on your carrots. This is obviously not an option if you have toddlers). For main crop carrots, there is about 3 weeks at maturity when they are in peak condition, and after that they may crack, the core gets larger, and they start losing quality. Harvest them when fully coloured.
]CAULIFLOWER Brassica oleracea Botrytis group (syn. var. botrytis ) Cauliflower comes in flavors of white, green, lime-green, orange, pink, and purple. They take from 4 to 5 months from seed. They need the same conditions as cabbage, but ample lime is more critical for cauliflower than it is for most other Brassicas. They do best maturing in cool weather, so the summer sowings generally give the best heads. Sow through summer for winter and spring use (according to variety) Varieties- 'Snowbaby' is a miniature cauli that can be crammed in at about 30cm apart instead of the more usual 45cm. Sow snowbaby in summer for an autumn harvest. 'Chartreuse' is lime green, sow in early late summer; violet Sicilian is purple but cooks green, sow in late summer; 'Orange bouquet' stays goldy orange when cooked, sow in late summer.
CELERY - CHINESE Apium graveolens. Chinese celery is a cut down, slim line form of normal celery, but much stronger tasting, and stringier .Sow it in summer, and grow it fast in a fertile, moisture retaining soil. It adapts well to being grown in a pot on the deck, so long as it is well looked after. Space the plants about 150mm apart. Harvest the entire plant when it is about 15mm in diameter at the base. It can also be blanched, if you can be bothered.
CELTUCE Lactuca sativa var. augustana ( syn. var. asparaqina)-Asparagus lettuce, Chinese stem lettuce This is a lettuce grown for the thick, edible, central flowering stem. Sow in late summer. The swollen stem is harvested at around 30cm long. The thick outer skin peels off fairly easily, and the succulent core is eaten. Allow 50cm between plants, and grow as for lettuce.
CHICORY Cichorium intybus-Radicchio, Witloof, Belgian Endive, Endives Chicory is closely related to endive (Cichorium endivia).But, where endive is a smooth leafed annual, chicory is a (usually) hairy leafed perennial. chicory is grown in two ways- the first way is by sowing them in the summer, growing them fast and strong until late autumn, at which time they are cut down to within 20mm of ground level. Peat or sand is piled about 200mm high over the stump, and the white compact leaf bud that forms is harvested just before it reaches the light. These blanched buds must be kept in the dark, as light causes them to become bitter. They are known as 'witloof', or more correctly, 'chicons'. The French unhelpfully call them 'endive', thus helping us confuse them with the annual leaf vegetable Cichorium endivia. In colder climates the whole plant is bug up, the roots trimmed, and the plant 'forced' in peat in a black polythene bag. The so-called 'sugar loaf' chicory forms a large cabbage like plant, with a head that is somewhat self blanching, and at any rate, only slightly bitter. The varieties from Chioggia, near Venice, are generally fully round headed. Chicory is not always predictable in whether or not it will head properly when grown out of the climatic zone it was developed in. If it doesn't, it should probably be cut down and blanched as for witloof chicory. Sow chicory in late summer if it is to be blanched, other wise it can be sown in late summer. Chicory takes around 3 moths to maturity. Varieties- 'Palla Rossa' Special-a solid burgundy ball head, adapted to late summer planting; Rossa Trevigiana'-a long, slender leafed variety that turns from green in summer to red as the weather cools; 'red Verona '-round head, red leaves, stands winter conditions well; 'Rossa de Verona', red heading variety sown late summer to autumn for autumn/winter harvesting; 'Puntarella' a 'Catalonga', or 'Italian Dandelion' type with dandelion like leaves that that can be sown and have leaves harvested all year round in milder areas, and from late summer sown seed in cooler areas; 'sugarloaf '-This variety forms an upright head a bit like a Chinese cabbage, and the tightly packed internal leaves are self blanched. Sow in mid summer to early autumn for autumn harvest.
CHINESE BROCCOLI Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra -Gai Lohn, Chinese Kale Chinese broccoli is closely allied to the European "sprouting broccoli' that has open heads, (unlike the big cauliflower-like heads of the broccoli we know.) Like the European sprouting broccoli, Chinese broccoli does not form a head, but has a main stem and side stems with tender tips. It is picked just before the flowers open. The flowers are yellow, and the shoots should be picked before the yellow colour appears. Cut the main center stem first, to encourage the side shoots to develop and leave a long stub on the stems you cut, which also helps side shoots to develop. The top l5-20 cm are ready for picking on some of the new fast growing hybrids as little as 7 weeks after sowing. Sow in late summer for autumn use. Transplant or thin to about 20cm between plants. (50 days)
CHINESE CABBAGE Brassica rapa subspecies pekinensis Celery Cabbage, Chinese leaves(UK), Wong Bok, Pe Tsai Botanically a turnip, Chinese Cabbage forms dense cabbage heads that may be very upright and tall or may be round or barrel shaped (wong bok type); or they may be loose, open leafed varieties with.. Cont. on Next 'page' broad stalks.The leaves are thin, crisp, and with a mustardy taste. They can be eaten raw as well as cooked. The heading varieties grow best in cooler temperatures. They are usually sown in late summer and autumn, and grow quickly without bolting at this time. Sow the seed thinly in the row, and thin the plants to 30cm apart for the tall types, and 45cms apart for the barrel shaped and round headed types. They are easy to grow if kept well watered and given a balanced fertiliser. They are ready in about 1½ months from planting out, or just over 2 months from sowing seed. 'Santo' is a fast growing (ready in about 2 months from sowing) loose leaf variety that can be grown at almost any time of year, 'two seasons hybrid' is the first heading chinese cabbage that can be sown in spring as well as late summer without bolting.
CHIVES- CHINESE Allium tuberosum (syn. A.odorum, A.schoenoprasum var. tuberosum)-Chinese Chives, Fragrant Flowered Garlic, Garlic Chives, Gow Choy lt certainly has only the mildest of garlic taste-and none when cooked too long-, it is mild flavored and has the taste of a combination of leeks, maybe chives, and garlic. It is a hardy perennial, withstanding hard frosts. Sow it where you intend the clump or line to be, or sow it in a pot (it is slow to germinate-keep the soil moist, but not wet) and transplant it to it's permanent position. It is one of few alliums that can be grown in a pot in the kitchen. Chinese chives form bulbs (edible, similar to shallots, but small) that can be divided up and replanted. It does best, like most plants, in a fertile, moist soil, but is pretty hardy. Being a perennial, you get a season of harvest of the strap like leaves in the spring and summer until flowering in Autumn (although the flower buds are edible). In China, the plants are often blanched by excluding light. Blanched or not, they are used in quantity in dishes such as dumplings with soy based dipping sauce, or in egg foo yong. Their hardiness and mild flavor makes them extremely versatile, and it is surprising they are not more well known in the West.
COLLARDS Brassica oleracea var. acephala 'acephala'-without a head. And that is basically what collards are-a headless, or leafy, form of cabbage. Collards are a variety of Kale-a stout stemmed, often curled, savoyed or crisped leaf forebear of the cabbage. Its claim to fame is it's winter hardiness, adaptability to poor conditions and very high vitamin and mineral content. Like many things that are 'good for you', it has a fairly strong taste. For maximum palatability, harvest young leaves or young plants in autumn from a mid summer sowing. Grow as for cabbage, and allow around 45cms between plants.
CRESS Lepidium sativum -Pepper Grass The mature plant is about 40cms high, with deeply cut leaves. However, it is far too coarse and hot if left to this stage. It is usually sown thickly in a seed tray or wide pot, and harvested with a pair of scissors about 10-14 days after sowing. It is a good deal easier to buy "spicy combo" sprouts from the supermarket.
CUCUMBER Cucumis sativus Cucumbers do best in a warm, well limed and free draining soil. Drainage is one of the most important factors, all other things being equal. The other factor for success is an even water supply. Water stress can cause poor set, small fruit, and dryness and/or bitterness. but any garden soil will do as long as it is not too acid or poorly drained. Overwatering on a clay soil can be as damaging as underwatering. Put out plants, or sow seed, in late spring through to mid summer. Seed can be sown in early spring as long as it is sown indoors for later transplanting. Late sowings will be exposed to a lot more powdery mildew spores, so it would be prudent to use mildew resistant varieties at that time of year. Keep the fruit picked to keep the plants producing. This is especially important for pickling cucumbers. If the late spring is cool and windy, protect the young plants from the wind with a plastic milk bottle or fizzy drink bottle cloche. Cucumbers (including pickling/gherkin cukes) start producing about 2 mhs from sowing the seed. American slicing varieties-These are the traditional somewhat plump, relatively blocky cucumbers long grown by New Zealand gardeners. The American breeders have incorporated very good resistance to powdery mildew into these varieties. In addition, there have been quite a few space-saving bush types developed. The American slicing types don't approach the telegraph or the mid east types for eating quality, but their reliability, disease resistance, and productivity are unmatched. 'Sweet slice' is probably an American slicer crossed with an Oriental type. It is like a rather long American type (up to 30cm), and it has the multiple disease resistance of the American type, but the small seeds, tender skin, and sweetness of the Oriental type. 'Bush crop' is a runnerless bush type; 'fanfare' is a semi dwarf (about 80cm spread). There have been, and ill be, numerous others. All are reliable, the thing to look for is disease resistance, or anything that suggests crossing with Oriental types, such as being described as "burpless", or "sweet", or "non-bitter" or "no need to peel the slin". Middle East varieties-'Beth Alpha' varieties. These are generally spineless, smooth, thin and tender skinned, and glossy. Like the American slicers, they are relatively short and blocky; unlike them, they can be eaten skin and all. 'Lebanese', 'Damascus' and 'Beth Alpha' are varieties. Oriental Varieties- These varieties are usually thin, long (to 60cms; more in some varieties),and with smaller seeds than the standard American slices (giving them a more digestible so called "burpless" quality). They tend to curl when grown on the ground, and may have ridges or be smooth. They are free of bitterness, productive, and have a very pleasant slightly sweetish taste. Possibly the most well known is 'Suyo' syn. 'Soo Yoh' and variations, which is ribbed, highly productive, and curved. 'Painted serpent' syn. 'Armenian striped', also ridges, often curled right round like a coiled snake Greenhouse varieties- 'Telegraph' cucumbers 'European' cucumbers. Greenhouse cucumbers are virtually the only ones marketed in Europe. Probably derived in part from the Oriental type, they are intended to be grown vertically. They are usually seedless, as the plants don't usually develop male flowers, bitter free, and with tender edible skin. If they are accidentally pollinated, the base of the fruit swells up and becomes bulbous. These are demanding plants to grow. They need tying up, de-lateraling, and on some of the older varieties that produce some male flowers, they need emasculating. Until quite recently they had no mildew resistance and required spraying. Now you know why they cost so much at the supermarket! 'English telegraph' is a famous old variety, 30-40cm long, it can be grown outdoors, but the male flowers must be removed, pollinating insects kept away from it, and it has little disease resistance. 'Mildana' is an all female type, and pollinating insects must also be kept off it, is powdery mildew resistant, doesn't need de-lateraling, and is extremely productive. African horned cucumber Cucumis metuliferus - Kiwano™This cucumber is highly decorative, with its stunning green flesh, mottled orange skin and bizarre stout spine capped protuberances. While it has sometimes been referred to as a melon, it has none of the qualities of a melon. And as a cucumber, it is a poor choice. It's greatest asset is it's extraordinary keeping ability, so it can sit in your fruit bowl for many months to puzzle, annoy, and amaze your friends. White varieties- There are only a few cultivars in this category. 'Port Albert' is a white slicer. The best known variety is 'crystal apple'/'apple'/'lemon', which is a more or less round white cucumber, known for it's prodigious production.
ENDIVE Cichorium endivia-Scarole, Escarole Endive and Chicory (which see) are both very similar, except that endive is mainly a loose leaf salad green, whereas chicory has heading varieties similar to a cabbage or iceberg lettuce. The leaves are finely cut in most varieties, and some look almost identical to dandelion leaves. There is a broad-leaved form, which is sometimes known as 'Escarole', or 'Batavian endive'. Endive-like chicory-is a rather to very bitter green, and the basal leaves of the rosette are often tied up over itself to blanch the plant and remove the bitterness. Growing them close together-around 200mm spacing- encourages self blanching. Endive is grown as for lettuce. Sown year round, but summer plantings will mature in the cool weather, and as long as the plants aren't stressed, have less bitterness than when grown at other times. Varieties with very fine foliage are subject to bottom rot, and need to be harvested early. Varieties include 'Tres Fine Maraichere' -bred for small size, lacy foliage, low bitterness without blanching, and heat tolerance; 'Pink Stem"-large, pink stems, stands heat; St.Laurent-large, with a self blanching heart; 'Toujours blanche'-loose, open rosette, very pale leaves, best when young, well suited to 'cut and come again 'harvesting.
FENNEL-FLORENCE Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum-Finocchio, Anise Florence fennel forms a thick, succulent above ground white, anise flavored bulb the first year, and goes to seed the second. It is usually sown in Spring, but sowings are possible through to late summer in mild areas. Sow the seed about 30mm apart, and thin the seedlings to about 150mm apart, if you harvest them when relatively small; or thin to 300mm if you want larger bulbs. They can be successfully transplanted from cell trays or cell punnets, but resent root disturbance. It forms the most tender, sweet bulbs when it is well grown-kept evenly moist, in a fertile soil, never stressed. Bulbs can be harvested from about 50mm onward. Bulbs left in the ground keep getting bigger, but they slowly start forming side shoots and become coarser, and eventually bolt to flower. It takes about 4 months from seed to harvest. KALE-Brassica oleracea var. acephala Collards, Colewort, Borecole This non-heading brassica is very similar to the wild ancestral cabbage. There are many leaf forms, according to the variety-curled, frilled, laciniated, savoyed, or just plain. One form is known as 'collards' in the Southern States of America. Most tend to be strongly flavored, and their chief attraction is their great cold hardiness, disease resistance, wide adaptability to soil types, and nutritional value. Smaller varieties can be sown in late summer for winter harvest in mild winter areas, and sow in summer for winter or spring harvest in harder winter areas (sow about 3 months before the first autumn frosts are expected). Pick the leaves when they are young and tender, no more than 100mm long-from the center of the plant. Tender young side shoots are also suitable. 'Red Russian' is said to be the most tender and mild variety.
GARLIC Allium sativum The plants are ready to harvest when the foliage has died off. If it is very wet near harvest time, consider lifting them a bit earlier and drying them under cover. When the bulbs are dry, you can trim off the roots, scuff off the outer discolored parchment, and braid your garlic for storage. If you leave them on the soil surface to cure in the sun, allow about 2 weeks. In very high temperatures, they may re-green, so you would need to bring them into shade in a heat wave If you intend to keep your own clove seed, select the biggest and best bulb. Leave the cloves on the bulb, and at planting time select only the best cloves to use as seed cloves. Store your seed bulbs in as cool and dry a place as possible. Label them clearly "Seed stock-NOT for eating!!!"
KOHLRABI Brassica oleracea Gongylodes group (syn. var. gongylodes) This somewhat bizarre looking plant in the cabbage family forms a bulbous, apple sized and shaped, smooth, swollen stem just above the soil level. It is best eaten when not much larger than 50mm in diameter because it can get pithy and fibrous it gets larger than a tennis ball (with the exception of some specialist varieties such as 'gigante'). It has a pleasant nutty flavour when it is used raw, and a mild, vaguely sweet vaguely turnipy cabbagy taste when cooked. Sow from early spring through to early summer, and sow again in autumn for a winter crop. Allow about 100mm between plants, more if you are growing a large variety. Kohlrabi is relatively fast growing, maturing in about a month and a half if it is harvested small. The plants are quite small and low growing for a brassica, and this plus their speed of maturity make them well adapted to the small space garden. They need to be grown without check for best results, so a rich and moist soil is the ideal.
KOMATSUNA Brassica rapa-Mustard Spinach. Similar in appearance to the leafy form of mustard (B.juncea), komatsuna is actually a leafy form of turnip. The tender glossy leaves have a distinctive flavour somewhere between leaf mustard and cabbage. It is very fast and easy to grow (taking only a month in the heat of summer)and can be grown almost year round
LEEK Allium ampelorasum Leeks take a long time to mature-about 5 moths from seed sowing, or about 4 months from punnets. Some newer varieties, such as 'King Richard', are much earlier, taking only about 3½ months from seed. Sow direct in early summer for autumn harvest. It is particularly important to keep the newly sown seed moist at this time. The plants need to be thinned to about 150mm apart., unless you want to grow them closer together for young and tender mini-leeks. Or, transplant from punnets at the same spacings. Throw away any weak plants, as they never make a decent sized leek. Make a dibble hole to drop the young plants into, and use a hose to gently wash soil into the hole. Bury them so only about 50mm is above the soil surface. This forces the leek to produce a longer, whiter, stem. Seed sown leeks need to have soil mounded up against the stem several times over their growing season in order to produce the same effect. Leeks can withstand hard frosts, but they will be a total waste of space if they are made to endure the dry conditions of summer without water. Very fertile loamy soils produce the largest leeks. Gutless, sandy soils produce the smallest lek.
LETTUCE Lactuca sativa Lettuce is basically a cool weather crop, doing best in spring like temperatures of 16-18ºC , and with a strong urge to flower and seed in hot weather. The trick is to select the right variety for summer planting, and to keep the plants growing well. Summer is the most difficult season to grow lettuces in, heading lettuces being subject to rots, tipburn, and bolting, and leaf lettuce being subject to bolting. But summer is also the season when they are in most demand. If you want to grow lettuce from seed in summer, rather than buy plants, you will need to put the seed tray somewhere relatively cool, as the soil for germinating lettuce seed should be kept below 24ºC. Lettuce seeds germinate best at relatively low soil temperatures between 15'C and 20'C. Cover the seeds lightly, firm the soil surface, and kept the soil moist. Stress from dry soil and lack of nutrients are the most common causes of bitterness. Grow them in a moist, well drained, fertile soil. If you have sown seed direct in the garden, thin te seedlings to about 25cm apart. Protection from sparrows may be important. Lightweight bird netting is best. Planting out in the shade of a taller crop, or in a partly shaded position, can be useful in preventing bolting. Lettuce at this time of year are usable about 1 month and 3 weeks from sowing the seed. Transplanted from a punnet they are ready in about 1 month and 2 weeks.
MELON, CHINESE WINTER Benincasa hispada-Tonq/Doan Gwa, Cham Gwa, white gourd, wax gourd First, 'winter' melon because it will store after harvesting right through the winter-it is not grown in the winter! The fruit are large-up to 14kgs-and either fatly cylindrical or squarish pumpkin shaped. It tastes sweetish, and somewhat courgette like. It is very widely used in China and Japan, steamed, stir fried, pickled-the uses are similar to courgette. The fruit are mature when they are completely covered in a white waxy coating. Clip them from the plant with a bit of stem. Once the waxy cover on the fruit is scrubbed off, it reveals a celadon-green skin. It won't be mature until late summer or early autumn, but given it's storage ability, is perhaps best treated as a autumn/winter courgette substitute. It needs lots of water in the growing season. The flower buds can be eaten, as can the immature. fruit.
MELON, FUZZY Benincasa hispada-Tsee Gwa , Mao Gwa , Jointed Gourd Related to, but smaller than, the Winter Melon. They can be short and rounded, or cylindrical and long. They are about 15cm to 25cm long and 3 to 5cm in diameter at maturity, but smaller fruits 100cm to 150cm long are used. They can be used in a similar way to courgettes, but the fruit is covered in fairly stiff white fuzzy hairs which must be rubbed off with a paper towel, and then the green skin peeled off , before slicing them. It has sweet white flesh. They are heavy feeders, and need to be kept well watered and fed throughout the season. Expect the first fruit about 3 months from sowing, in late summer.
MESCLUN-A blend of various fast growing seeds that are sown in a fertile patch of garden and harvested as immature young and succulent leaves around 4 to 6 weeks after sowing. Almost any green can be used- chicory, endive, mizuna ,tatsoi, corn salad, silverbeet, lettuce, kale, cress, Spinach, Chervil, etc. The accent is on fast growth in a fairly crowded bed, so the soil need to be fertile, free draining, and kept moist. The advantage is that if life gets busy and the plants aren't harvested young, they will still be harvestable at a more mature stage, it's just that some types won't be so tender, or have more pepper or bitterness in them. Spring and summer are the best times to sow, but by selecting the species, autumn and winter (except in very cold areas) are also suitable.
MIBUNA Brassica rapa x B.?-Mibuna Greens, Mibu Greens - From the Mibu region of Kyoto, Japan. Vigorous clump forming Japanese green with narrow, smooth leaves, related to Mizuna, but with a stronger flavour. It can be harvested at the seedling, semi mature or mature stage, leaf picked at any time. Allow about 20cm between plants, some can be left to mature, ultimately needing 50cm between plants. Sow late in summer for autumn/winter picking.
LETTUCE Montia perfoliata-Winter Purslane, Claytonia-small
annual, well adapted to cold areas, whose leaves can be eaten raw or
until the plant starts to flower in late spring. They only need 10-15cm
between plants, but they are extremely easy to grow from a scattering
seed. Best in light shade when summer sown. Sow the seeds in late
keeping them well watered, for a winter harvest.
MINT Mentha species This fact sheet from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture says it all. Highly recommended.
Growing mint JJJJ
MISOME Brassica campestris narinosa-Yet another hybrid Oriental green for steaming/stir frying. Vigorous, with savoyed deep green leaves. It has the important virtue of being very hot weather resistant, while being suitable for sowing year round. Very fast maturing (30 days.)
MIZUNA Brassica rapa ssp. nipposinica var.laciniata-Japanese Greens, Chinese Lettuce A rewardingly vigorous, fairly compact plant (25cm between plants)with numerous stalks of dissected, feathery leaves. It isn't in the least bit pungent, when young and can be used in salads at this stage. When older, it is only very mildly mustardy, and is a very acceptable steamed green. The leaves don't get tough even if the plant stands for a long time in the garden. The plant can be first picked about 3 weeks from sowing, and can continue to be partly harvested of its leaves over a fairly long time. It is cold resistant, and therefore a useful winter green. Therefore sow now, and early Autumn. Excellent for container gardening-compact, cut and come again, vigorous, pickable from around three weeks. Tokyo Belle Fl broad shiny leaves, crisp, somewhat midway lettuce/mustard flavor.
MUSTARD SALAD-WHITE Brassica alba-this is grown as a 'scissor crop'-young seedlings are snipped off at ground level about 8 days after sowing for use in salads and sandwiches. Sow the seed thickly in a pot or in a tray and keep the potting mix moist. The easy, year round crop. Mind you, it's easier to buy sprouts from the supermarket-but they're not as green.
MUSTARD GREENS Brassica juncea-Grown in Europe for mustard seeds for making mustard, but developed in the East as a green leafy, sometimes heading, vegetable. Hot and peppery to mildly hot, young plants and leaves can be used in salads, older leaves are steamed or stir fried. There are many varieties and forms-includes semi heading types, savoyed leafed types, thickened and elongated stem types, varieties with lobed or finely cut leaves, and even tuberous rooted types. Swatow mustard, Gai Choi-leafy, semi heading plant, green, purple, or red leafed. Sow in late summer for winter harvest. Horned -semi-heading, bright green indented and frilled leaves with a tubercular horn in the leaf midrib! Sow from mid summer on for mid autumn maturity. Young plants for salad can be grown virtually year round Chinese green, Chinese Red, Chinese Purple -Large savoyed leaf winter hardy, slow bolting types, in cooler areas now and autumn is the season to sow to be sure the plants won't bolt Savannah-has broad shiny leaves, mild flavor, it matures very quickly (25 days from sowing in warm conditions) and stands the hot weather better without becoming too hot tasting, so is ideal for early summer sowing.
ONION, SPRING Allium fistulosum (perennial), Allium cepa (annual) 'bunching onions (USA), 'Scallions'( a name also used for shallots). One of the most easily grown and valuable plants for the home gardener! Spring onions are well suited to growing in pots on the deck; the thinnings are useful; they are hardy; fully grown plants of A. fistulosum ('Welsh' onion) can be divided (in autumn-in spring they are too busy flowering), producing winter side shoots. As the plants get older and mature, they get hotter and more pungent. Sow frequently for a continuing supply of the mildest and sweetest spring onions. Sow in summer for autumn and winter use. Ideally, sow into potting mix for best germination, as onion seed needs good drainage, and even moisture to do well. Germination is fairly slow, 2-3 weeks, and adequate water for a week or so after germination is important. They don't compete well with weeds. White stem types-A.fistulosum 'White Welsh', 'White Bunching', 'Supreme Long White', 'Straight Leaf'-little or no swelling of the base into bulbs A.cepa 'White Lisbon' cold resistant, some bulbing. Red stem types-A.fistulosum 'Matador Red', 'Red Bunching', 'Red Streak'. Slightly later maturing (2 months, 1½ weeks vs 2 months for most others) with reddish stems
CHOI Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis var. chinensis-Bok
Choi. Like the thin and crisp leafed B.rapa subsp. pekinensis,
(Chinese 'cabbage'), this subspecies of Brassica rapa is also
a turnip. Unlike Chinese cabbage, it has thick, glossy leaves and does
not form a true head. Pak Choi is a small, fast growing rosette shaped,
often upright (similar to celery) crisp stemmed annual, with cup shaped
tender leaves. There are various summer adapted types with slightly
plant shapes. The summer sowing has to be a late summer sowing, as they
tend to bolt in heat. Pak Choi is very easy to grow. Sow where they are
to grow, or from transplants. Usually used in stir frys, some of the
hybrids such as 'mei quing' have a mild flavor more suited to the
palate, and are good as a steamed vegetable. 'Mei Quing' F1-very small,
very light green, early, compact, mild; 'Joi'F1-white stem, very dark
leaves, upright,-looks like a very dumpy silverbeet-, mild, resists
in summer, excellent cold resistance, 'Taisai' white stem, upright.
Tat soi Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis (syn. subspecies narinosa) var. rosularis/atrovirens-Rosette Pak Choi. Tat soi, as one of it's alternative names suggests, forms a fairly prostrate, thick, rosette of dark green spoon shaped leaves. It is particularly valued because mature plants can withstand frost and snow. Sow until mid summer in colder areas, and right through the summer in mild areas.
Pak Choi Sum Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis var. parachinensis-Choy sum. Grown for the young flowering shoots, which are harvested with 3 or 4 leaves just as the yellow flowers are beginning to open. Expect the first pick around 2 months from sowing. 'Autumn Poem'F1-sow in late summer for an autumn crop; 'Tsai Shim'-standard cultivar, sow from right through the summer.
PEA Pisum sativum-Supermarket frozen peas-especially frozen baby peas-are so nice there is no point in growing your own. If you want to grow peas, the dwarf self supporting variety 'Novella' would have to be the choice. No stakes are needed when they are grown in a broad row, and they flower and pod up right at the top, for easy picking, and they are easy to shell. Peas need adequate lime in the soil, and plenty of both phosphate and potash. While peas prefer cool weather, a summer sowing can be made in warm temperate and the milder parts of the temperate zone about mid summer, aiming for an Autumn crop. The soil has to be kept moist and well mulched, and in the hottest areas, a summer sowing may not do well ( a euphism for 'no point trying'!).
PEA, SNAP Pisum sativum-'Mangetout'. These peas have a thick, edible pod, so there is no shelling, you eat the pod, pea, and all. With snow peas, the pea of choice for the urban hominid. They are rarely available in the supermarket. They are called 'snap' because they are crisp and 'snap' when broken in half. 'Sugar Ann/Dwarf Sugarsnap/Whippersnapper'- a dwarf snap pea maturing in about 2 months from sowing. 'Sugarsnap'- climbing vining pea, and therefore needing support, this variety bears heavily, over a long period, and is particularly sweet. Culture and caveats-see above.
PEA, SNOW Pisum sativum-'Mangetout'. Same as snap peas, but at the edible stage the pea isn't developed inside the pod. The pods are consequently flat. 'Chinese' by far the best snow pea variety currently available. Unlike others, it is genuinely sweet. A climbing type, so it will need support. 'Oregon Giant/Snow Flake'-It is productive, and somewhat resistant to disease. A 'tall dwarf' at 70cm, and can be grown without support, but is better with it in windy climates. Culture and caveats-see 'Pea'.
Beta vulgaris-Swiss Chard, Rhubarb Chard, Rainbow Chard,
Beet. Sow or transplant in Spring, early Summer, or Autumn. They will
in almost any soil, and as long as they don't dry out and are well fed
they will produce prodigious volumes of leaves. The plants will usually
last virtually a whole year before they start to go to seed. So easy to
grow, it should be a criminal offense for an urban hominid family not
have a plant in the garden at all times. There are red stemmed
('Rhubarb Chard'), and varieties with red stems and purplish leaves.
now a New Zealand plant breeder has developed a strain of silverbeet
Lights') which produces plants with midribs of many varied colors and
from yellow to crimson, including pastel shades and stripes. Food never
looked so good! About 2 months from seed to first harvest.