sow in spring, achoccha, amaranth, vegetable amaranth, calaloo, hin choy, Chinese spinach, artichoke, globe artichoke, asparagus pea, arugula, rocket, roquette, rocket lettuce, Italian wild arugula, perennial rocket, beans, dwarf beans, green beans, French beans, bush beans, snap beans, wax beans, filet beans, haricots verts, climbing beans, pole beans, yard long bean, asparagus bean, beetroot, beets, broccoli, calabrese, sprouting broccoli, broccoli raab, romanesco, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, cape gooseberry, husk cherry, ground cherry, physalis, cardoon, carrot, cassava cauliflower,celeriac, celery, leaf celery, soup celery, par-cel, Chinese celery, chivesceltuce, asparagus lettuce, Chinese stem lettuce, chicory, radicchio, witloof, Belgian endive, endives, Chinese broccoli, Chinese kale, Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, chayote, choko, vegetable pear, Chinese leaveswong bok, Chinese leek, collards, coriander, Chinese parsley, Chinese yam,  Cow pea,crowder, black eye bean,black eye pea, cress, cucumber, African horned cucumber, kiwano™, dill, eggplant, aubergine, endive, scarole, escarole, finocchio, Florence fennel, anise, epazote, garlic, rocambole garlic,gourd, Italian edible gourd, cucuzzi, New Guinea bean, bottle gourd, jerusalem artichoke, jicama, yam bean, Mexican water chestnut, kohlrabi, komatsuna,leek, lemon grass, lettuce, malabar spinach, marjoram, pot marjorammelons, oregano, greek oregano, Oriental melons, mesclun, misome, mustard salad, New Zealand spinach, okra, pea, snap pea, snow pea potato, pumpkin, rosemary, sweet pepper, capsicum, chillie, chillies, chile, chilli pepper, hot pepper, rock melon, seakale, crambe, silverbeet, calabaza squashsquash, summer squash, Tahitian squash spaghetti squash, sweet potato, yam kumera, taro, thyme, tomato  watermelon, watercress, water spinach zuchinni

Grow Vegetables & Culinary Herbs in Spring

  [summer]  [autumn]  [winter]


ACHOCCHA Cyclanthera pedata -Korila, Caygua. A tendrilled, climbing gourd with handsome maple-like leaves, whose pale green, hollow small-cucumber sized fruit are eaten raw or steamed. They are vaguely cucumber/asparagusy, and slightly bitter. This plant needs a long season to produce, and the fruit are ready in autumn and early winter. Sow the seeds in spring, in pots, or in the ground. A long wait for an odd fruit, but, the vine is handsome (until it starts to look scrappy in winter, anyway), and it has 'annoy your friends with the mysteriousness of it' value. Present, but rare, in some Western countries; the seeds are very rarely available.

AMARANTH, VEGETABLE Amaranthus gangeticus (syn.A.tricolor) - Calaloo, Hin Choy, Chinese Spinach. This quite pretty leafy green needs a long warm growing season. It really only suited to the warm temperate zone and above. If it is grown in shorter season or cooler climates it tends to be tough and not of very good quality. Tenderest leaves come from growing the plant quickly in a sunny position a warm, not overly fertile soil (oversized leaves can be tough). The advantage is that it thrives in heat where spinach, for example doesn't. Even so, for maximum palatability, it cannot be stressed through drought. Sow the tiny seeds shallowly when the soil is warm and moist. Pinch the tip out to force the plant to branch and make more new and tender growth. Pick the leaves individually.There green and red leafed forms, and the red leafed forms in particular are quite decorative, looking almost like the house plant 'coleus' (Coleus blumei).Dwarf forms, about 60cm/2 feet high, are best for the small garden. There is quite a bit of variation in flavor amongst varieties, so it pays to try a few different cultivars to see which you prefer.

Amaranthus in the tropics JJJ A nice page on growing amaranthus in a typically dry and wet seasonal tropical area - in this case Sierra Leone. A page published at the West African Vegetable site.

ARTICHOKE, GLOBE Cynara scolymus. The globe-shaped flower buds are ready to harvest in spring.The fleshy base of the petals and the meaty centre cone (heart) are the edible parts. Buds are cut when 6cm to 10cm in diameter and the petals still tight..The plants are vigorous, growing to about 1metre high and wide, and have attractive grey green foliage. The plants will produce the first year from seed. The plants are heat tolerant, but if they are cut back after the spring crop, and then watered and fed and mulched, they may produce a smaller second late crop. Sow the seed in spring or early summer, preferably in pots for later planting out. Seedlings are somewhat variable in bud size, shape, and presence or degree of spininess. Superior plants can be propogated by transplanting suckers when they appear. Green Globe Improved is the standard mainstream cultivar, with fewer and smaller spines on the petals. Purple de Jesi-The small to medium sized spineless flower buds red/purple tinged petals. Purple de Jesi was developed to produce the small artichokes that are eaten raw when the heads are very young and tender; although they are equally good steamed.

Globe artichokeJJJJ A very extensive sheet on globe artichoke culture, written for commercial growers in NW Oregon by Oregon State University College of Agricultural Science, but mentally scaled down, it provides detailed information for the home gardener.

ARTICHOKE, JERUSALEM Helianthus tuberosus Jerusalem artichokes produce knobbly tuberous rhizomes that are a bit of a nuisance to peel. The advantage is that they are very productive, untroubled by pests or diseases, adaptable (although they prefer a moist soil), and winter hardy (as a dormant underground rhizome). Why aren't they an item of everyday commerce? The taste. They store their carbohydrates in the form of the sugar 'inulin', rather than starch as in potatoes. Many people find they have a slight 'formic acid' (ant) taste to them. Those who like them-well, like them. The most common variety produces stems about 2M/6 feet approx high, and never flowers. There are improved varieties with larger and smoother rhizomes, and which also produce attractive yellow miniature-sunflower-like flowers.'Dwarf Sunray' is one such. It also has shorter stems. Worth trying to see if you like them, but once you grow them you will find them very difficult to get rid of-the rhizomes proliferate in the soil, and small ones are easily missed.

ASPARAGUS PEA  Tetragonolobus purpurea. A fast growing plant that looks a bit like clover, with unusual brick red flowers. Soon after flowering, small, winged pods formed. These are steamed and served with a knob of butter, when they taste somewaht like asparagus.Sow seeds about 10 mm deep. They form a low mat about 50cm wide. Harvest the pods while they are still tender, at approximately 3cm long

ARUGULA Eruca sativa -Rocket, Rocquette, Rocket lettuce. This is a very undemanding plant. It grows rapidly in most any soil, privided there is adequate moisture. It is at it's best in the cool of spring. Harvest leaves, or the entire plant, until the flower stem start to shoot from the centre. After this time, the leaves are too coarse, and too hot to be useful. It's oily 'peanutbuttery' taste is becoming increasingly appreciated. You can let the plant flower (very attractive to bees) and seed for a never ending supply of 'volunteer' plants.

Arugula JJJ A sheet on arugula/roquette culture, written for commercial growers in NW Oregon, USA, by Oregon State University College of Agricultural Science, but mentally scaled down, it provides detailed information for the home gardener.

ARUGULA-ITALIAN WILD Eruca sylvatica -Perennial Rocket. A perrenial species of roquette or rocket lettuce or arugula with a more pungent flavour .It has very finely cut dark green leaves . The small yellow flowers are spicy and edible and so are useful for for garnishes

BASIL Ocimum basilicum a totally indispensable herb for the urban food gardener. If you want a lot of plants for drying the leaves, sow the seed in place as soon as the soil is warm. Plants are the best bet for normal fresh picking, as you get assured basil earlier. This is a warm weather annual, so treat it as you would beans or sweetcorn. Once established in a moderately fertile soil, they are easy care. There are many varieties of basil, and flavor-wise, they are not too different. EXCEPT for varieties bred to have a particular flavor-anise basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil etc. These last taste of what their name suggest, and don't have the clovey 'basil' flavor. There are several different foliage forms, from the huge leaves of lettuce basil to the tiny leaves of bush basil.For ordinary garden use, the mainstream varieties is 'Genovese'. Larger leafed forms are not as easy to dry down, if you intend drying your own leaves for winter. There are also very decorative purple leaved mainstream varieties, such as 'Dark Opal'. The small basil varieties form compact little mounds, and are ideal for edging, very small garden, and for windowsill pots of basil. The best known varieties are 'Greek' and 'Spicy Globe'. You will not get vast quantities of foliage from these, unlike mainstream varieties, but you will get a much longer 'flavor snipping' season if you bring them inside as the weather cools. Grow a plant of each, but sow/buy the windowsill basil later in the season.

BEANS, DWARF Phaseolus vulgaris -Green Bean, French Bean, Bush Bean, 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 varieties 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" beans) or purple. Most dry beans, such as the haricots used in cans of baked beans, the common red kidney beans, and the pinto beans favored for Mexican cooking-are all Phaseolus vulgaris as well. Whether dwarf or climbing, dry 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 every second day. If the beans are allowed to gro 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 genuinly warm-or buy punnet plants late in spring. Gemination 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 practise, most of us are not that well organised, so fertilise 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 -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 prodigously productive yellow bean, tender but with slightly lumpy pods-of no significance to the taste and eating quality.

BEAN, YARD LONG Vigna unguiculata var sesquipedalis -Asparagus Bean, Blackeye Pea, Crowder. Popular in Asia for it's very long, stringless immature pods (up to 90cm). They are of African origin, and therefore require a lot of heat and a long growing season.Sow the seed when the soil is warm, and grow them up a trellis or poles. There are also dwarf growing forms. Pick the pods when they are fairly immature-about 40cm or so long. This plant is really only suitable for the warmest areas. From seed to harvest is about 2½ months.

BEETROOTBeta vulgaris var. crassa. 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 beetroot from Spring onward. 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.


BITTER GOURD Momordica charantia -Karella, Bitter Cucumber, Balsam Pear. This is a vigorous 3-4 Metre annual vine from Tropical Asia. The fruit are like a rather pointed cucumber, usually small, and covered in smooth tubercles and warts.The fruit are very bitter, medicinal really, and picked when small. In warm temperate zones, they should be started indoors and planted out when the weather is warm.Obviously, they need a trellis to climb on, but they also need a fertile soil, and copious water in summer. The flowers are yellow and scented in the morning. The gourds are usually slit, the seeds removed (they have purgative properties!) rubbed with salt, and rinsed to remove most of the bitterness. The younger the less bitter, but the longer to cook. The older, the more bitter, the more tender and quick cooking the flesh. They are stuffed, used in curries, or in stir fries. Overmature fruit are yellow or orange, and split open to drop the seeds.

BROCCOLI 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 fast growing, and if they are subjected to prolonged stress of drying, they may form tiny heads prematurely, and the plants come to nothing. Some cultivars are adapted to spring planting only, but the best known variety, 'Shogun', can be planted year round. 'Shogun' also makes useful small heads from the sideshoots that develop once the main head is cut. Not all cultivars do this. Provide a fertile soil and don't let the soil become dry. Provide plenty of lime-pH 6.5 to 7.5 is the 'ideal' range. Plants growing in Spring, especially late spring, can end up with quite heavy green caterpillar infestation. This can be prevented by using light plastic netting to keep the butterflies out. The broccoli is ready to cut about 3 months from spring transplant.
Broccoli, Sprouting type- this is perhaps the oldest, and least known form of broccoli. This type forms lots of small heads from sideshoots all over a rather bushy plant. There are purple sprouting varieties, and white. The white varieties look like multiple very small cauliflowers. Spring is the time people in cooler areas should sow sprouting broccoli. It is grown through the summer and carried over winter, for an early spring production the year following sowing. The advantage of sprouting broccoli is that, while it is not cauliflower, 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. The disadvantage is the long time it sits around in the garden before it does anything.
Broccoli, Raab type- A further variation on this theme is 'broccoli raab', where loose green sprouting heads (more like loose broccoli than cauliflower) are harvested and eaten with surrounding leaves. It has a bit of a mustardy taste to it, but it is otherwise similar to Calabrese broccoli in taste. Broccoli-raab is fast maturing small plant, being ready in only about a 1½ months. It can be sown virtually year round in warmer areas, and from spring through to late summer in most other areas. Sow the seeds about 50mm apart, and thin the plants to about 150mm apart. It stands some light frost. As with all broccoli, fertile soils and never being water stressed is the key. The cultivar 'Hon Tsai Tai' has purple sprouting heads.
Broccoli, Romanesco type-this type of broccoli is also quite cauliflower looking. The head is made up of tightly packed yellowish-green conical florets arranged in an ascending spiral. Sow the seed in late autumn and early winter for spring harvest and in summer for autumn harvest. In mild areas, a sowing can be made in autumn for winter harvest. Allow around 30-45cm between plants. Culture is the same as Calabrese types.

BURDOCK Arctium lappa -Gobo. Burdock is a big plant for the home garden-it can grow up to 2metres/6' 6" in good soils. The root is very long- up to 80cm/2' 7"in deep, loose soils. It takes quite a bit of digging to get it out of the ground without breaking. It isn't a good idea to try to grow it in shallow, clayey soils- the roots end up short and forked. For best results, the ground should be deeply dug to be sure the roots will both be able to penetrate deep, and be easier to dig up. Sow the seed about 2cm/1" ish deep and about 20cm/8 inches between plants. The seedlings are particularly well loved by slugs and snails, so it is a good idea to snail bait at the time of sowing.Burdock is basically a cultivated weed, and only needs average fertility. It must be sown in spring, as plants sown in Autumn tend to bolt.Once established, the large rhubarb-like leaves quickly shade out any competing weeds.Early varieties are ready in about 4 months from sowing, and late varieties take about 6½ month.Most cultivars for vegetable rather than herb (the roots are popularly considered to have tonic properties) production are Japanese varieties.


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. For summer harvest, sow in the early part of spring; or set out plants in late spring. 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. Sow the seeds in spring. 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, usually in late summer/autumn.


CARDOONCynara 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 in spring. Being a perennial, it could be usefully grown in the ornamental border and eaten only occasionally.

Cardoon JJJJ An extensive sheet on cardoon culture and varieties, written for commercial growers in NW Oregon by Oregon State University College of Agricultural Science, but mentally scaled down, it provides detailed information for the home gardener.

CARROTDaucus 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.

CASSAVA Manihot esculenta Manioc. A tropical shrub, usually grown from cuttings, that produces a long starchy tuber eaten boiled or roasted, or the starch extracted and made into 'bread' (the source of 'tapioca'). The leaves are cooked as a vegetable. Suited only to tropical, subtropica, and warm temperate areas (under shelter). Make sure you grow only the cyanogenic glucoside free type. Overall, good fun, hardy, but unless you are culturally inclined to appreciate it, suitable only for the tropics.

CassavaJJJJ Very good one page fact sheet on all you need to know about growing cassava. A page put up by the West African Vegetable site.

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. While they do best maturing in cool weather, sowing or putting in transplants in spring for summer or autumn use is successful as long as the plants are well looked after. Varieties- 'Snowbaby' is a miniature cauli that can be crammed in at about 30cm apart instead of the more usual 45cm. Sow snowbaby from mid spring for a summer harvest. 'Chartreuse' is lime green, sow in early spring; violet Sicilian is purple but cooks green, sow in spring; 'Orange bouquet' stays goldy orange when cooked, sow in spring.

CELERIACApium graveolens var. rapaceum. Botanically, this is celery. But in this variety the lowest part of the stem is swollen into a storage organ. Sow the plants in early spring, and keep them well watered and mulched until they are ready in summer autumn. Like celery, the plants must be grown in a fertile, moisture retentive soil, and be well watered at all times. It is important to have enough lime in the soil. Transplant from seedlings grown in a pot, or put in seed at 150mm apart and thin to 30cm frost. The seed is slow to germinate.  Plant out or thin out to approx 25cm apart. Remove any side shoots as they appear, and from summer onward remove the lower leaves to expose the 'root' (actually a corm).

CELERY, PAR-CEL Apium graveolens var. secalinum. Leaf celery, soup celery Essentially identical to chinese celery, but with finely cut, parsley looking leaves. Sow in spring, in fertile soil. Sow direct outdoors when the soil is warm, or in cell trays or pots. If the young plants experience more than 10 days of continuous low (below 13°C) temperatures they will tend to 'bolt' to flower. Keep the plants moist at all times.

CELERYApium graveolens var. dulce. Celery is difficult to grow. It needs a rich, moist, but well drained soil. It must not lack fertiliser and moisture right through it's growng seaon. If it experiences a period of cold below 13°C for more than 10days, it will bolt. Dryness can cause bolting, as can planting out seedlings that have been stressed for a while. If you are not using young plants from the garden centre, sow seed in spring a few millimetres deep, and keep the soil moist. Germination can take from 3 to 6 weeks, and is often erratic. The soil should have adequate lime, above pH 6.6. Celery is subject to a leaf spotting disease, and needs either luck or rugged fungicides if you live in the more humid areas. Celery takes about 3 months to mature from transplants. Best leave it to the experts.

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 late spring, 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 spring. 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.

CHAYOTESechium edule -Choko, Vegetable Pear. This is a very vigorous perennial vine from Central America. It fruits in the autumn of it's first year from a spring planting.Plant a whole fruit on it's side, just under the soil.Being subtropical, it needs freedom from frost in it's growing season, warm conditions, and a fairly well drained soil.Fertile soils will cause dense, rampaging, choking growth, so don't bother with fertiliser. Chayote start dropping their pear shaped fruit soon after the last of the courgettes are harvested, so are a useful follow on.

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. 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 left until autumn and then cut down and blanched as for witloof chicory (see 'chicory' on the summer pages). Sow anytime in spring. Chicory takes around 3 months to maturity. Varieties- 'Palla Rossa' Special-a solid burgundy ball head, adapted to spring planting; 'Puntarella' a 'Catalonga', or 'Italian Dandelion' type with dandelion like leaves-milder areas only.

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 anytime in spring . 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 broad stalks. The leaves are thin, crisp, and with a mustardy taste. The heading varieties grow best in cooler temperatures. They are usually sown in late summer and autumn rather than spring. There are varieties that can be sown in Spring, but they may bolt if the young plants are frosted or exposed to a long period of cold nights. 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 autumn without bolting.(ready in just over 2 months).

Photo and brief description JJ

CHINESE YAM  Dioscorea batata Cinnamon Vine. This white fleshed tuber will grow from temperate to subtropical areas, and can be used in the same way a potato. It grows as a vigorous, deep rooted perennial vine, from 3-6 M/10-20 feet, with insignificant cinnamon scented flowers.The tubers reach about 1kg/2lbs the first season, but will continue to get longer and heavier without loss of quality if they are leaft for a further season. By the end of the second season they can be 60cm/2 feet long. Small bulblets appear in the leaf axils, and these can be stored over winter and planted in spring. The tuber is harvestable after 5 months good growth.

CHIVESAllium schoenoprasum Chives have a very very mild taste, they are easy to grow, relatively pest and disease free, take up very little space, are universally either liked or are so innocuous they are endured, and they have genuinely attractive little purple flowering heads. Sow seed in spring, or put in plants from the nursery, keep the soil moist, make sure they get good sun, and forget them. They die down over winter, and provide plentiful tender,delicate grass like stems for snipping from spring on. The plants natural inclination is to flower as the season progresses, and you can forstall this by cutting off the flower buds as they appear. If you can be bothered. Chives clump up nicely, and you can lift and divide the clump in autumn or winter to make nore plants.

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 suprising 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 central leaves in summer from a spring sowing. Grow as for cabbage, and allow around 45cms between plants.

CORIANDERCoriandrum sativum -Cilantro, Chinese parsley. Can be grown in the heat of summer, or the cold of winter. In fact it does better in winter, withstanding some frost and be ing less likely to go to seed. In summer, it is necessary to sow fairly freqently, as the plants have a strong determination to go quickly to seed. Thin the plants to about 100mm to 150mm apart. The best plants come when coriander is treated as lettuce and grown in fertile, well drained soil that is kept moist, but coriander is pretty adaptable to soil conditions. This is a kitchen herb you either love or hate; the foliage smells like stink bugs to many, but others cannot live without it. That the same plant produces such wonderful frangrant seeds and such strong flavored foliage is a paradox. It takes about 2 months from sowing seed to harvest. Coriander adapts well to being grown in a pot in the kitchen.


COW PEA Vigna unguiculata subsp.unguiculata (syn. Vigna sinensis) Southern Peas, Black eye Peas, Black eye beans, Crowder, China pea. These are beans, not peas. The 20-30cm/8-12 inch young pods are cooked and eaten just as green beans are. They are reasonably well adapted to most areas, altho' they do best in hottest climates (they originate in the heat of Africa, altho' they are extensively grown in Southern USA and China). Sow them when the soil is well warmed, and treat them as you would any bean. There are both climbing and bush varieties. Early varieties such as 'Black eye' are ready in 2½ months from sowing, main crop varieties take about 3 months. 'Lady' has particularly small seeds and very good flavor, and 'Purple Hull' has quite large seeds, which can be hulled out and cooked as an immature seed ('shell beans'). The subspecies sesquipedalis is particularly long-up to 90cm/3 feet, and is known as the 'yard long bean', or the asparagus bean. It is best adapted to hot areas. There are other obscure Vigna.

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.

CUCUMBERSCucumis 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, until mid summer in warmer areas. A summer planting is more dicey in the cooler parts of the country. Late sowings will be exposed to a lot more powdery mildew spores, so it would be prudent to use mildew resistant varieties at this time of year. Keep the fruit picked to keep the plants producing. This is especially important for pickling cucumbers. Cucumbers (including pickling/gherkin cukes) start producing about 2 months from sowing the seed. American slicing varieties-These are the traditional somewhat plump, relatively blocky cucumbers long grown bymost Western 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 skin".
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. Plant these and the orientals, buy the american slicers from the supermarket.
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.

DILL Anethum graveolens. Fresh dill is essential for some fish receipes and for dill pickles; it is outrageously easy to grow, and will soon become a welcome weed in your garden. It is best before it flowers, unless you want the seeds, which it produces in profusion. Sow shallowly, and keep moist until they germinate. Any soil will do.Some dill (tetraploid) will grow nearly as high as you are, but there is a select very leafy dwarf form, 'fernleaf', which is ideal for small space gardens.

EGGPLANT Solanum melongena -Aubergine The advantage of eggplants is that they form a handsome either small or somewhat sprawling bush (depending on the variety) that is fairly hardy and not prone to disease. The disadvantages are that the seed can be a bit tricky to get going, once established they take a long time to produce their fruit (mid-late summer is about main season), and main crop varieties don't produce a great number of fruit. The best strategy for the urban hominid is to grow the unusual varieties, such as the small egg-like white ones, or the very long cylindrical Asian types. The miniature fruiting types are a fiddle in the kitchen, so don't bother with them, unless you want to surprise and startle your friends. Sow the seed about 2 months before you intend to put the plants in the garden. Eggplants hate the cold, so aim to be putting them out when the weather is reasonably warm-around December. The soil needs to be fertile, and well drained. Adequate Phosphate is particularly important.The first fruit are ready about two months from transplant. European varieties- the eggplant of commerce, these are usually large to medium size, either oval or cylindrical with a bulbous base, usually dark purple, sometimes lavender or striped and washed with lavender over white. 'Black Beauty' is a reliable large type, yielding 4-6 fruit, "Florence Purple' ('Violetta de Firenze') is similar, but with lavender streaked with cream colored skin 'Blacknite' cylindrical with a bulbous end, holds it's fruit off the ground. 'Caspar' is a porcelain white medium sized cylindrical type with a bulbous end that is occasionally available. Asian varieties-usually either long and mostly cylindrical or very long and thin-like a purple frankfurter! They come in white, lavender, streaked white and lavender, and purple shading to black. Picked before they are too mature, they don't need peeling. Obviously, they are not suited to dishes calling for large slices of eggplant arranged in layers, but where this doesn't matter, they are easy to prepare. In addition, some varieties are a little earlier, and the plants usually smaller and more upright. 'Asian bride' is 200mm long, fatly cylindrical, white blushed lavender; 'Long Tom' is about 150mm long, very productive, darkest purple; 'Machiaw' is about 220mm long but only 25mm wide- for the fruits to remain straight, the plant needs staking to keep the fruit from bending when they reach the ground Egg varieties-The size, shape, and colour of an egg, like 'Caspar' they turn yellow when over-mature. This is an old variety from India, and is responsible for the common name of this vegetable.
Eggplant cultureJJJJ at Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences site, a commercial guide, and therefore you need to mentally scale down the instructions, but it has excellent info on diseases and pests (for USA), variety listing with a few words on each , and good cultural notes. Written with the cooler and shorter growing season of Oregon in mind, so quite useful.

Eggplant fact sheet JJJJ from the University of Illinois Extension, USA. A neat, well written summary of everything you need to know to grow eggplants in the home garden. Brief variety notes, and a recipe. Nice.

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. Sowing to harvest is about 2-3 months, depending on the variety. Spring sowings mature in summer, when endive is more likely to bolt. Keeping the plants well watered and mulched will help prevent this. Varieties include 'Tres Fine Maraichere' -bred for small size, lacy foliage, low bitterness without blanching, and heat tolerance, but is subject to bottom rot and therefore needs to be harvested early; '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.

EPAZOTEChenopodium ambrosiodes -Mexican Tea, American Wormseed. A weedy looking annual plant used in Mexico and South America for seasoning black beans, corn, fish, and is used in many tortilla dishes and in some chilli sauces.Its flavor is very strong, 'unusual', almost petroly. The plant grows about a metre/yard high. The dried foliage from one plant will last most people their entire lifetime and still have some left over-unless you are a dedicated Mexican food devotee.It is laughingly easy to grow direct from seed in any soil once the soil and weather have warmed up.

FENNEL-FLORENCEFoeniculum 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. Sow 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. Late spring sown florence fennel tends to want to go to seed as it encounters the stimulus of the long days of summer. 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.UP

GARLIC Allium sativum. [4 page garlic fact sheet] There is little more rewarding than work than harvesting your own garlic. If you have the space and time, you should try it. On free draining soils in a dry and sunny summer climate production is almost assured. Where soils are damp and the weather humid, it can be erratic from year to year, both in quality and in quantity. Ideally, a deep, fertile, very well drained soil is needed,  as there is always a risk of the cloves rotting in a cold wet soil. Provide a free draining soil by amending it with sand, potting mix, well finished compost, leaf mould, or whatever. Consider a raised bed, or large tub culture The better the leaf growth before bulbing starts, the bigger the bulb and the cloves will be. This translates to 'early care pays dividends later'. Add -and incorporate well-a good dressing of a general garden fertiliser at the time of sowing. Your soils pH must be above 6.0. Most soils will benefit from a liming at least a month or so before planting.
Planting in warm temperate areas can be done now but autumn is best. Spring planted bulbs are more likely to run into bulbing problems through lack of winter chill. The bulbs from spring planted garlic are smaller than autumn or winter planted garlic, as garlic in autumn and winter will already have good roots and first leaves by spring time
In  temperate areas spring planting is possible, especially in the higher latitudes, as the longer daylengths promote bulbing, but the shorter season means the bulbs are often smaller. Choose the biggest ' seed' cloves, and sow them upright, root end down from just buried to being 25mm/an inch or so under the soil surface. Once  growth has started, give them regular-say fortnightly-verylight side dressings of urea (or other high nitrogen fertiliser), spread 100mm/6 inches either side of the plants. Liquid manures are also beneficial. Garlic competes poorly with weeds. Keep them as close to meticulously weeded as is possible. If the weather is dry, mulch them to conserve water. If you grow garlic regularly in the same soil you will inevitably end up with a degree of disease in your soil and seed stock. This shouldn't prevent you from growing garlic, be we do need to accept that we have to put extra effort into keeping the plants in best possible condition when they start growing, and accept that is very wet years we may lose the lot. It is probably best to buy clean seed cloves every year, as they will get a good start before becoming infected. Rocombole can usually be relied on to produce something, even when your common garlic is a total loss. Keep your garlic well watered if there is a dry spell in spring, mulch to keep the soil, at least, cool and keep your plants growing strongly. Moisture stress and very high temperatures can cause bulbing problems
There are two main kinds of garlic- 'Common garlic', which is the usual white skinned supermarket type; and 'Rocambole garlic'.
Common garlic Allium sativum-Soft neck Garlic, Italian Garlic, Silverskin Garlic. This is the usual garlic, and has the strongest flavor. The bulbs outer parchment may be white, or streaked purple.There is usually a row of decent sized cloves around the outside, and irritatingly smaller, thinner cloves in the interior (altho' there are varieties with few, but quite large, cloves). Removing the skin from these cloves is not easy. The bulb is wrapped in many layers of parchment, which extend up up to form a pliable parchment 'neck' ideal for braiding. This garlic keeps well for at least 3 or 4 months. Varieties include California Early, California Late, New York White,  and Printanor.
Rocambole garlic Allium satvum var.ophioscorodon -Serpent Garlic, Stiffneck garlic, Hardneck Garlic, 10 clove garlic, Top Setting Garlic, Bavarian Garlic. Similar to common garlic, but with two important differences. First, unlike common garlic, it throws up a flowering stem, called a 'scape'. Second, the bulb has relatively little outer parchment- as a result,  the individual cloves are often exposed, and can be knocked off the bulb by rough handling, and can wither a bit after long storage.On the positive side, they are a dream to remove the skin from-it is trivially easy-there is only one ring of decent sized cloves arranged around the woody central flower stalk and no smalls or thins. It keeps almost as well as common garlic if stored carefully.The tall flowering scape makes a twisting loop as it unfurls it's 'flower' head (which contains tiny little bulbils). Thus it's alternative name, 'serpent garlic'. Clipping the flower stalk off early on significantly improves bulb size. Other garlics, such as 'Roja', are very similar to rocambole garlic, and are sometimes diferentiated from rocambole by being called 'hardnecked garlics'. It is more useful to refer to all flowering garlics as 'rocambole types'. Varieties include Rocambole, German extra hardy, 10 clove, Roja, Continental (a generic term for similar unamed types, rather than a single cultivar) and Porcelain.
Some garlic strains will just not bulb satisfactoriy in your area. Locally sold seed cloves may well be-but certainly not certain to be-the best variety for your climate. (Rocambole garlic is far more forgiving of the vagaries of climatic conditions than common garlic). 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 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.

GOURD-ITALIAN EDIBLE Lagenaria siceraria Cucuzzi, New Guinea Bean, bottle gourd The light green smooth fruits are about 60cm long, and cylindrical in the variety usually eaten. The flesh is creamy white flesh with a flavour somewhat like cooked green beans. They must be harvested when 15cm to 60cm long, or they become unpleasantly bitter. They are used in a similar way to courgettes. Sow in spring when the ground is warm as for cucumber or pumpkin. The plants are similar in appearance to pumpkins, but with smaller leaves and white flowers. They are very suceptible to powdery mildew, and the foliage is slightly unpleasant smelling, so don't grow them over your deck.

JICAMAPachyrhizus erosus Mexican Water Chestnut, Mexican turnip, Yam bean ( often confused with a related species, P.tuberosa which is grown in Ecuador, China, and the West Indies) This Mexican climbing vine forms a large heart shaped edible root .The white flesh is crisp and resembles water chestnuts, and has similar uses. It takes a long season to make a decent sized root, and consequently the plant is suited only to the warmest areas. While a perennial, it can be treated as an annual, with a spring sowing and autumn harvest after the first frost. However, the tubers are then quite small. Left in the ground for several years, the tubers grow quite large. In the subtropics, sow the seed in spring. Frequent watering is needed when rapid growth begins.

Picture and brief notes

KOHLRABIBrassica oleracea Gongylodes group [syn.var.gongylodes] This somewhat bizzarre 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 both pithy and fibrous if 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 on. Spring is one of the best times of year to grow kohlrabi, as it prefers cool to mild weather. 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.

KOMATSUNABrassica 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 and can be grown almost year round, except in the coldest areas.

LEEK - 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 suprising they are not more well known in the West.

LEEKAllium ampelorasum Leeks take a long time to mature-about 5 months 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 spring for late summer to autumn harvest. (the soil temperature must have warmed to at least 7 degC). 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 waste of space if they are made to endure dry conditions without water. Very fertile loamy soils produce the largest leeks. Gutless, sandy soils produce the smallest leeks.

LEMON GRASS Cymbopogon citratus This perennial, clump forming grass grows about 60cm/2 feet or so high and a bit less wide. It is not a decorative plant, and one plant will keep most people in all the lemon grass they ever need. Lemon grass is important in South East Asian-particularly Vietnamese- cuisine, and to a lesser extent, Mexican.It is easy to propogate from young rooted shoots (tillers) from the base of the clump. It needs sun and good drainage and average fertility. It is really only suited to warm temperate and warmer climatic zones. It can be grown as a pot or tub plant in temperate zones, as long as it is overwintered in a frost free place.

LETTUCESLactuca sativa Lettuce is basically a cool weather crop, doing best in spring like temperatures (16-18ºC) . Indeed, a properly hardened off transplant will survive -5ºC frosts. Lettuce planted in milder areas do well at this time of year, but the coldest areas will still have to be wary of frost. Lettuce seeds germinate best at relatively low soil temperatures between 15'C and 20'C, but will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 5ºC. Cover the seeds lightly, firm the soil surface, and kept the soil moist. Stress from lack of nutrients and/or poorly drained soil are the most common causes of bitterness at this time. Grow them in a moist, well drained, fertile soil. Use peat to lighten the soil, but remember to add some lime, as lettuces don't like acid conditions.If you have sown seed direct in the garden, thin the seedlings to about 25cm apart.Young plants often have to be netted against sparrows at this time of year, and slugs and snails are particularly active in spring. The first lettuce should be 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. Remember to sow or plant more in late spring for summer use.

LOVAGELevisticum officinalis -Maggi Herb. Lovage has a strong, slightly yeasty flavor that seems to go well with all sorts of stewed, casseroled, souped or sauced dishes. In other words, a very useful culinary herb. Lovage is a perennial, and dies back in winter. It can stand heavy soil, and it quite undemanding beyond water. It flowers every summer, so the quite thick, dark green glossy leaves are best in spring. The leaves can be dried, but they take a while. This is quite a tall herb, reaching about 1.5M/5 feet. Plants are best put in now.

MALABAR SPINACH Basella rubra var alba Basella. A fast growing vining plant adapted to warm climates (where it is a perennial) producing glossy succulent leaves The red stemmed form is known as 'Ceylon Spinach' (B.rubra var rubra) that are somewhat mucilagenous when cooked with a delicate flavour. It grows best grown up a trellis. Start the seeds indoors in pots 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting out in late Spring. It takes about 2½ months from sowing to maturity. An interesting climber for a hot weather tolerant 'spinach-substitute' crop. Annoy and amaze your friends!

MARJORAMOriganum majorana Sweet Marjoram, Knotted Marjoram.This is the most delicately flavored Origanum species, being vaguely 'sweet' and spicy, and often used with thyme as a meat flavoring, or with vegetables where the flavoring needs to be subtle, not overpowering. It is a small plant with 'knots' of pink or white flowers on wiry stems in mid summer. It is not winter hardy, and usually grown as an annual in temperate regions.

MARJORAM - POT Origanum onites. This Origanum species has a flavor intermediate between 'Marjoram' and 'Oregano'.It is not as sweet as 'Marjoram', is slightly bitter, but not as hot as 'Oregano'. Pot marjoram is a creeping perennial with off-white flowers late in summer. Like 'Greek oregano', the lanky flower stalks need cutting back after flowering, if they haven't already been harvested for drying. This Origanum grows well as a potted herb on the patio or kitchen window ledge.

MELON - BITTER Momordica charantia Karella, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber, Foo Gwa, Balsam Pear. The fruit are extremely bitter because of the prescence of quinine. The are eaten when young and immature, usually curried, or stuffed chinese style. The fruit grow from 10cm to 25cm, depending on the variety. The fruit turn yellow at maturity, and split open to reveal a scarlet pulp. At this stage they are totally inedible due to the extreme bitterness. The vines are quite attractive, slender, and need to grow up a trellis, being a tendrilled climber. They are gross feeders, and need warm weather and lots of water. Sow in late spring, when the ground is warm, or in pots. The seeds are slow to germinate.

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. Once the waxy cover on the fruit is scrubbed off, it reveals a celadon-green skin. This fruit grows on a single, unbranching stem (sprawling on the ground or up a stake), is a gross feeder, a warm weather lover, and takes a long time to mature from seed-about 5 months. This means 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.. Plants must be grown up a stake or trellis and the fruit allowed to hang, rather than grown sprawling on the ground. They are heavy feeders, and need to be kept well watered. The seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate, and can be grown in pots, or directly in the garden Sow when the soil is warm, about late spring, and 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.

MINERS LETTUCE Montia perfoliata Winter Purslane, Claytonia-small hardy annual, well adapted to cold areas, whose leaves can be eaten raw or steamed, 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 of seed. Best in light shade. Late spring sowing will give a summer harvest. They need to be kept moist, or they will go to flower too quickly.

MINT Mentha species This fact sheet from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture says it all. Highly recommended.
Growing mint JJJJ

MISOMEBrassica campestris narinosa-Yet another hybrid Oriental green for steaming or stir frying. Vigorous, with savoyed deep green leaves. It has the important virtue of being very hot weather resistant when sown in late spring, while being suitable for sowing year round. Very fast maturing (30 days.).

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 mildy 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. They need warm, fertile soils as young plants, or they will tend to bolt. It is better to wait until late spring before sowing or putting in plants. Swatow mustard, Gai Choi-leafy, semi heading plant, green, purple, or red leafed. 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, although in cooler areas they are best sown in late summer or autumn to be sure not to bolt. Southern Giant Curled , Mustard Greens, lettuce mustard- bright green frilled leaves, mild becoming hot to very hot with maturity. Direct sow in spring and autumn 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

NEW ZEALAND SPINACH Tetragonia expansa not a true spinach, but a spreading, succulent leafed annual plant whose tender shoots are a good steamed green. Useful both because it is suitable for pot culture and its ability to stand hot, dry, weather. One or two plants are plenty. A spring sowing gives a well established plant for summer.

OKRA Hibiscus esculentus 'Gumbo', 'Bhindi' .An annual hibiscus species that is most at home in the subtropics and tropics. It needs much the same conditions as sweetcorn, but needs sustained heat to grow well. Plant it out in a fertile soil. Best started inside or in a greenhouse, much the same as tomatoes. Dwarf, relatively short season types are the only ones worth bothering with in warm temperate climates, and mature in around 2 months from sowing. It is most well known in Indian and Southern USA cooking. The immature seed pods are used when they are about 2.5 to 8 cm long. They are quite mucilaginous, and are used in curries and specialty regional cuisines such as the southern US 'gumbo'. Very young pods are very nice lightly steamed. 'Burgundy' highly ornamental medium sized plant with burgundy red pods. It would make an attractive and useful deck plant if put into a fairly large pot.

Okra in the tropicsJJJ A nice single page on growing Okra in West Africa, giving all common sense instructions on growing, picking, and use. A page at the West African Vegetable site.

ONION Allium cepa The most desirable onions from the Urban Hominids point of view, are the red salad onions, which are sweet and desirable for summer salads. They can be sown in early spring for summer harvest. (The other alternative time to sow onions, autumn sowing, is not a practical proposition for the coldest areas, but autumn sowing can be done in warm temperate areas). Most of the world's onions are grown in a specific latitude, and grown outside these latitudes they do not do well, bulbing poorly or going to seed. Low latitude areas, such as New Zealand, need to grow their own locally adapted varieties.  In the storage, rather than sweet salad class, hard, long storage onions are the only ones to grow. These can be sown either now or, in autumn. Onions don't need much other than a general fertiliser. Too much nitrogenous fertiliser causes excessive top growth at the expense of bulbing. Thin the seedlings to about 75mm apart, about 100mm for the sweet types. Harvest the bulbs when the tops fall over, and dry them off in the sun or a shed for at least a week before removing the tops.
ONION, PICKLING-while 'smalls' of the standard onions of commerce are often readily available, extra special pickles can be made with 'mini' onions such as 'purplette'. These have the additional virtue of the thinnings being able to be used as spring onions. Purplette-Sow in spring, 1.5 cm between seeds. Use them as a spring onion, or harvest them at about golf ball size. The attractive burgundy color fades to murky pink when cooked. Almost skinless-a very useful attribute when preparing lots for pickles!
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; and they are hardy. Mature plants of A.fistulosum ('Welsh' onion) flower in spring, attracting myriads of bumblebees and other pollinating insects. They can be divided now, but are much better left until autumn. Seed grown spring onions can be picked over a fairly long period before they start going to flower. 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 early spring to be ready in early summer. 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

OREGANO-a term used in North America covering all the 'hotter' Origanum species - O.vulgare and O.heracleoticum (and probably O.onites, pot marjoram). To eliminate confusion, all 'hotter' Oreganum species should be referred to by the generic term 'Oregano'. In UK and Australasia 'oregano' is usually called 'oreganum', and occassionally known as 'wild marjoram'.
Oreganum heracleoticum Greek Oregano, Wild Oregano. This is the wild oregano of Greece, and the essential herb for pizza. Known as 'origini' in Greece, it is only summers flowering heads that are dried and used. This species of Oreganum is a creeping perennial, and needs sandy or well drained soil, is hardy, and will stand a little frost. As long as it gets good snow cover, it has survived as far north as Alberta, Canada. It can be grown from spring sown seed, but propogates easily from rooted portions of the creeping stem. The flavor is strong, austerely and hotly aromatic, penetrating and slightly bitter. This is the strongest flavored 'oregano'.
Oreganum vulgare Oregano, Wild Oregano, Wild Marjoram. Also a creeping perennial, but with mauvy pink flowers. It is possibly the most winter hardy Oreganum species, but still needs winter protection in temperate areas. Likes the sun and a free draining soil.
Oreganum onites Pot Marjoram.The least 'hot' of the species that might be called 'oregano'. See 'MARJORAM, POT'.

Notes on commercial production in New Zealand, but applicable to the home garden.
dried 'true' Greek oregano (origini) fact sheet

PAK 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 botanically 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. Pak Choi is very easy to grow. Sow where they are to grow, or from transplants. Usually used in stir frys, some of the new hybrids such as 'mei quing' have a mild flavor more suited to the Western 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 green leaves, upright,-looks like a very dumpy silverbeet-, mild, resists bolting 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 from the last frost in spring (frosted plantlets bolt) onward.
Pak Choi Sum-Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis var. parachinensis -Choy sum, Chinese flowering cabbage. 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.'Tsai Shim'-standard cultivar, sow from late spring.

PARSNIP Pastinacea sativa subsp. sativa Parsnips hang around in the garden from spring, when they are sown, until autumn and winter, when they are harvested, so you have to be prepared to lock up some garden space for quite a long while. It is generally believed that hard frosts in winter improve the sugar content, so they do particularly well in cooler areas. The seed loses its ability to germinate after only one or two years, so always start with fresh seed. Sow directly in rows, about 20mm apart, keep the soil moist, and expect to see some emergence within 3 weeks. Thin the seedlings to 75mm apart. Friable, somewhat sandy soil is best for long rooted varieties, but short (relatively) varieties such as 'Gladiator' are more accomodating.

PEA Pisum sativum-Supermarket frozen peas-especially frozen baby peas-are so nice there is no point in growing your own.'Snap' and 'Snow' peas are a different story-see below. 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. Peas like cooler weather, but mid summer maturing crops are possible, if lighter than early summer crops- so sow right through spring, protecting them from sparrows. Hot areas, like Southern USA, can only grow peas in late winter (Jan/Feb Nth Hem), and then indifferently well. Cold wet soils can cause seed rot, so drainage needs to be good on very heavy soils.
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 neeeding support, this variety bears heavily, over a long period, and is particularly sweet.
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 a windy climate

Snow peas and sugar snap peas in Australia JJJJ An excellent fact sheet on all aspects of growing these two peas, from varieties to soil. Oriented to commercial production, but the home gardener can easily cull out the commercial aspect.

Snow pea photo JJJA very good photo and notes on preparing and eating snow peas at a major vegetable exporters site.

PEPPER, SWEET Capsicum annuum 'Capsicum'-The most familiar sweet pepper is the large bell shaped pepper. The main shapes are 'bell', blocky, squarish; 'tapered bell', a long elongated bell with a blunt end; 'cone', as it's name suggests; 'pimento', bell shaped but flattened into a cheese round shape; 'cherry', basically miniature bells; and 'bulls horn', shaped as it's name suggests, with a more or less acute point on the end. Miniature types are usually the earliest. (Almost) all are green when immature (the green capsicums of commerce), and ripen to red, yellow, orange, purple, or brown, according to the variety. Peppers, sweet or hot, need to be germinated in a warm place about 2 months before you intend planting them out. Peppers germinate very slowly if the soil isn't warm.Sow seed in early spring in pots indoors if you didn't sow in lat e winter. Once germinated, the young plants need full light so they are strong ang stocky. Wait until the weather is settled and the soil has warmed before putting out. Most of us will buy plants from the garden centre. The ideal plant will be a healthy green color, stocky, not leggy, and have flower buds present, but not open. Plants in larger pots will almost certainly have a superior root system, and establish and fruit more reliably. Being basically sub tropical plants, they need to be planted out when the soil and air temperatures are genuinely warm, about tomato planting time. Either that or put a cut out plastic milk container over the top of them Early varieties are ready about 1 month and 3 weeks from planting out and midseason about 2½ months from planting out. If you want to try late season varieties, they will be ready around 3 months from planting out. Use a high phosphorous liquid manure when you plant them. The soil need to be well drained, fertile, and kept watered.
Pepper culture JJJJ Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences site, a commercial guide, and therefore you need to mentally scale down the instructions, but excellent info on diseases and pests, extensive tabular varity listing with a few words on each (including hot peppers),  and brief cultural notes. Written with the cooler and shorter growing season of Oregon in mind, but it is still useful

PEPPER, HOT-or CHILLIE Capsicum annuum, C.frutescens, C.chinense 'Chillies', 'Chile', 'Chilli pepper'. The English call the plant, the fruit, and the food made with hot peppers "chilli". In the USA, the plant and the fruit are caled "chiles", the food featuring the fruit (and meat) "chili", and the ground dried fruits "chilli powder". However, in the area of origin of the chilli, in Mexico and central America-and in southwest USA-the fruit and plants are called "chilli". Afficianados detect different flavors in the various chillies. The rest of us just detect heat. The accepted measure of heat is the 'Scoville unit'-. 250-600 scovilles is pretty mild (for most of us pleasantly hot to just quite hot), 4,000-8,000 units is medium hot (for most of us, equivalent to very hot), 200,000 to 350,000 units are the hottest chillies rate (which for most of us is extremely/painfully hot). Unless you live in a very warm country, you should try for a mid season variety, so that the chillies mature fully. Temperate regions probably need as short a season variety as possible, or grow them in a greenhouse. A tiny chillie on a tiny plant that can be grown in a pot and brought inside, such as 'Thai hot', is ideal for solving the short season AND the restricted space problem
'Anaheim'-top shaped, large, red ripe, very mildly hot, around 300 units. Mid season.
'Ancho'-conical bell, wrinkled, red ripe, medium thin walls, mildly hot, can be dried and powdered when it is said to give a rich and distictive flavor to sauces. Mid season.
'Cayenne'-the standard hot chilli of the East. Long, thin and tapering and twisted or curved.Matures bright red. Mid seaon. 'Firecracker'-C.fructecens;purple, not white, flowers turn into 25mm long glossy purple fruit that change to bright red with full maturity. Very, very hot. Early mid season.
'Hungarian yellow wax'- Bulls horn type pepper, bright yellow, red at maturity, mild to medium at 700 to 3000 scolvilles.. 'Jalapeno'-75mm long vaguely cone/bullet shaped, green turning red at maturity; medium hot, about. They are said to have the best flavor (as distinct from heat) when green.
'Mulato'- a brown version of 'Ancho' used in the same way. Between mild and medium hot.
'Numex 6-4L'-Cone shaped, long (150-180mm) green chilli suitable for stuffing, or for drying. Medium hot. Mid season.

Hot chile species JJJJ and descriptions - the definitive page on the internet for hot pepper species - over 30 listed, including a 2 metre ( + 6 foot) tall species. Taxonomy, glossary, reading list. Some photos.

POTATOSolanum tuberosum Potatoes are basically a cool weather crop-very high temperatures inhibit development of the tubers. The foliage can be damaged by late frosts in Spring, but developing tubers won't be affected. The main reason an urban gardener should consider growing her/his own spuds is to get early 'new' potatoes. The other possible reason might be to secure a continuing supply of a favorite variety that is not supplied in the market. This is not so important now that more than just one or two variety of potatoes are being offered in the Supermarkets. Early potatoes don't produce as heavily, but they take up less space, and are less likely to be badly affected by blight. Put in certified 'seed' potatoes from the garden centre in early spring, 300mm apart for early varieties, about 375mm for main crop varieties, and about 100mm deep. The soil needs to be fertile (adequate potash is particularly important), and unlimed. Peat is a useful adjunct. Potato plants should never be allowed to dry out. Wetting and drying causes the larger tubers to have hollow hearts. At about 250mm high, draw the soil up in a mound around the stems. If you don't mound, the potatoes will be exposed to light and become greened. Alternatively, mulch with about 150mm or more of pea straw, peat, hay, or any other non weedy mulch. The tubers will form on the surface of the soil, or just below. Early varieties include 'Epicure', 'Jersey Bennes', and 'Arran Banner'. Small 'new' potatoes can be harvested about 2 months from planting, and the early crop is ready in about 3 months. Main crop potatoes are ready about 5 months from putting in.

The World Geography of the Potato JJ Mainly commercial production information about potatoes for each country is organised by the commercial history and trends in the market, consumption, main commercial varieties, commercial cultural methods, pests and diseases, preparation and consumption. Some useful information for the home grower, but not a lot. Quite interesting otherwise.

Potato varieties in Canada JJJ Fifteen or so USA varieties are described at Farm Gates Seed Potato site, with very good photographs of the tubers, both whole and cut in half.


ROCKMELON-CANTALOUPE-HONEYDEWCucumis melo -Musk Melon, Nutmeg Melon, Winter Melon, Casaba Melon Melons are a paradox. A well grown fruit of a select variety is a connoisseurs delight-intense sweetness, flavors and aromas may include butterscotch, spiciness, amyl acetate (fingernail polish), honey, caramel, and even milkshake! Trouble is, they require warmth, and about 3½ months from transplanting to give a mature fruit. Spring being so variable, they are safer put out late, which means late summer fruiting. There are a few very early varieties, but they are less likely to be as sweet, and a rock melon without intense sugars is a waste of time. Some of the most delightful varieties are the so-called 'winter melons', the 'honeydews', such as 'Tamdew' and the 'Cassaba' melons such as the variety 'crenshaw'. Most of these types need a long season-around 4 months, and also take up quite a bit of space, as they are strongly running. There are dwarf, space saving varieties of melon, such as 'minnesota midget' but seed is not often available in all countries. If you are growing plants from seed yourself, they must be germinated under warm conditions, the young plants kept moist but never wet, and have ample reserves of food in the potting mix once growth starts. Sown in pots or in the ground, there is not much to be gained by sowing much earlier than mid spring. Cooler areas should either leave sowing until late spring and try early varieties, use plastic cloches, or not bother.The roots are easily damaged, so the plantlets have to be handled with care. Melons absolutely require a soil that is light, with plenty of air in it. Whether as a result of adding peat or compost, or whether naturally 'light' due to a sandy or volcanic nature, doesn't matter. But they need adequate lime, with a 'sweeter 'soil of around pH7 or more being best. The plants have to be kept growing well, with good soil fertility, in a race to mature fruit before the inevitable powdery mildew disease damages the plants too extensively. Theoretically, the plants can be sprayed to prevent or minimise the disease, but practically, they have to be sprayed from small, thoroughly, and with fairly determined chemicals. Most of us urban hominids don't have the time and/or the inclination.Ideally, the plants are kept moist when they are first establishing and starting to run, then not watered unless the leaves wilt, except during fruit set. Muskmelon C.melo, Reticulatus Group-this is the familiar netted muskmelon or rockmelon of late summer. They have a strong fragrant smell, have more or less netted skin, and virtually 'self detach' from the vine when they are ripe. The flesh is almost always orange, but in some varieties, such as 'Jenny Lind', is green. These netted muskmelons are called 'rock melons' in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, and 'canteloupes' in USA. Mini' would have to be one of the primo varieties for the small space home gardener. It takes up only about a square metre, and over about a three week period produces six or more tennis ball to softball size fruit that are sweet and aromatic. Harvest them when they are almost fully changed from green to buff, just before they fall off the vine. Available only from seed savers, but worth the hunt.'Charentais' is a small melon with deep orange flesh. There are various variations on this theme and they all have very good flavor and sweetness, but it is a bit difficult to judge exactly when to pick them. They must be picked just before they change color to orange from green. 'Sweet Dawne' is a midseason standard sized muskmelon with good disease resistance. Honeydew and Casaba types C.melo, Inodorus Group-The honeydews are usually round, fairly large, with white or cream skin blushed with yellow and green, quite crisp flesh that is very sweet. The skin is usually smooth, although some, such as 'Passport', have some netting. Both Honeydew and Casaba types have been referred to as 'Winter Melons' because they ripen at the very end of the season, and often have a tough rind that allows them to keep in storage for 6 weeks or so. Unlike the muskmelon, they have no smell. New varieties mature much earlier, making the term 'Winter Melon' rather redundant.Their virtue is not just their sweetness, but the genuine complexity of their flavor. They truly are a fruit for the connoisseur. Pity they take up so much space.'Passport' is a green fleshed, vigorous vined honeydew type, but it has been selected for early maturity, maturing in about 2½ months from planting out, or about 3 months from seed sowing. Like all honeydews, it can be harvested when the skin color starts to change from green to yellow, or left until the skin is fully yellow, when it will sweeter, but the flesh softer. The cultivar 'Honeydew' is really too long season for non-continental warm temperate conditions. In the 'casaba' melon types, 'Crenshaw' is the best known. It too is rather long season, but it is a delightful melon. It has pinky colored flesh, is cylindrical, with smooth but slightly wrinkled skin. It is ripe when canary yellow. Unclassifiable-there are increasing numbers of crosses between the reticulatus and inodorus groups. In time, the present classification may become meaningless. 'Honeyloupe' is the best known, it has a white rind, orange flesh, with a complex flavor, not as sweet as 'honeydew', and with less amyl acetate than most musk melons.

ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis This wonderful resinous blue flowered shrub is synonymous with the Mediterranean and Mediterranean cooking. It prefers a free draining soil and a sunny postion. It can be grown from seed, but is slow that way. Better to buy a plant. There are many varieties. 'Tuscan Blue' is upright and strong and can be clipped into a fragrant hedge, 'Lockwood de Forest' forms a sprawling ground cover and cascades over retaining walls, and the species R.lavandulaceus is extremely prostrate, altho' not as cold hardy as R.officinalis. The smaller forms are well suited to growing in large pots on decks and patios. The more vigorous upright forms need to be chopped back by about two thirds after flowering to maintain dense bushiness.

Health properties of rosemary. An extensively linked report on rosemary's health giving properties, linking to numerous citations. Rosmarinic acid, a remarkable plant phenolic compound, seems one of the major beneficial phytochemical.

SAGESalvia officinalis -Dalmatian Sage.Sage is an erect, grey-green leaved shrub growing about 60cm/2 feet high. The leaves are strongly aromatic, and a little goes a long way. One plant is plenty. As a dried seasoning, it is usually mixed with other herbs, such as thyme.It suceeds well as a component of a mixed herb tub on the deck, but it will need to be trimmed annually. Seedling grown plants have spikes of pale blue, white, or sometimes mauvey pink flowers in summer that are very sought after by bees. There is a form, 'Dalmatian sage', that has no flowers, and whose culinary qualities are said to be superior.Sage can tolerate dry conditions, but it cannot tolerate wet soil. A free draining soil is essential, and the soil must not be acid. Throw some lime around the plant. And full sun is best. In temperate areas, you will need to wrap the plant in a protective mulch

SEAKALECrambe maritima - Crambe. Seakale is a wild perennial plant of the rocky seashores of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts. It is easy to grow in any free draining fairly deep soil, but making it suitable for eating takes a bit of timing and organisation. The bluish purple waxy leafed clump comes to life every spring from a 'stump' sitting dormant at ground level. The idea is to cover the stump as the plant starts into growth, forcing the succulent new leaves to become extended and colorless ('blanched'). You can cut the new shoots twice before you have to then expose the plant to light so it can grow and wax strong ready for next year. Cover the shoots with a drain pipe (with the end covered to exclude light), or make a wood or wire frame and cover it with black plastic. Even a large flowerpot, or an upturned 9litre/2 gallon bucket will do. The clay pipe method is preferred, because the plants are less likely to overheat. First year plants from seed are not really strong enough to be blanched, and blanching is best started from the second year on. You need around about 60cm/2 feet between plants. They benefit from a good mulching in autumn. Seakale produces a head of tiny pure white, alyssum scented flowers in summer, and it is a genuinely worthwhile perennial flower in it's own right. The flower heads should really be removed for maximum seakale production, but most of us either won't remember, or won't want to. Compensate by keeping the plants well fed and well watered in their growing season. In late autumn you can cover your plants with the bucket or whatever in readiness for spring and mulch them at the same time , but if you do, don't forget to include some snail pellets!

SHALLOTS Allium cepa (aggregata group), 'true shallots' and A. fistulosum
The New South Wales Department of Agriculture has put out an excellent easy to read fact sheet on this crop which is both concise and comprehensive. Recommended.
Shallots and ChivesJJJJ A comprensive fact sheet from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture covering true shallots and Japanese/Welsh bunching onions, as well as some brief information on chives. All aspects of culture, from soil to pests, is covered.

Shallots in the tropics JJJ A page on shallot growing in areas with rainy and dry seasons. At the West African Vegetable site.

SILVERBEET Beta vulgaris -Swiss Chard, Rhubarb Chard, Rainbow Chard, Seakale Beet. Sow or transplant in Spring, early Summer, or Autumn. They will grow 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. Some varieties will 'bolt' to flower prematurely if the newly transplanted seedlings are exposed to spring frosts. So easy to grow, it should be a criminal offense for an urban hominid family not to have a plant in the garden at all times. There are red stemmed varieties ('Rhubarb Chard'), and varieties with red stems and purplish leaves. And now a New Zealand plant breeder has developed a strain of silverbeet ('Bright Lights') which produces plants with midribs of many varied colors and shades, from yellow to crimson, including pastel shades and stripes. Food never looked so good! About 2 months from seed to first harvest.

SQUASH, SPAGHETTI Curcurbita pepo Strictly speaking, this is a kind of marrow (C.pepo), and therefore a 'summer squash'. It's just that it is not ready until autumn, as the fruit is eaten when fully mature, rather than at the immature stage (zuchinni). It stores so well for winter use that it could also be classified as a 'winter squash'. The oblong, small winter squash sized fruit are baked, and when the cooked flesh is teased out with a fork it comes out in strands like spaghetti. The flavour is fairly bland, and needs lashings of salt and pepper and butter or a monosaturated oil. Grow as described in 'Summer Squash'.

SQUASH, SUMMER Curcurbita pepo -Courgette, Zuchinni, Marrow. Notoriously easy to grow, courgette seed is planted when the soil has warmed up in the spring, as they are originally from tropical America. Seeds are put in about 50mm/2 inches deep. For bush plants, allow about 1 metre/yard(ish) between plants. 'Running' or 'vining' types need more space-about 1½ metres/5 feet apart and at least a metre/yard(ish) on either side of the row to rampage in. Bush plants are by far the best option, unless a favorite variety doesn't come in a bush version. The immature fruit of these plants include the 'Courgette' (French name), also known as 'Zuchinni' (Italian name), and, when well overmature 'Marrow' (English name). Courgettes are more or less long and cylindrical, sometimes a bit bulbous at one end. Fruit that are very bulbous at one end, and often with a curved  neck, are known as 'Crookneck squash'. This polymorphic vegetable also has a flattened, flying saucer shaped type, known either as 'Patty Pan Squash' or 'Scallopini' (these need to be harvested very small- about 100mm/4 inches or less in diameter). There are also completely round forms, known variously as 'tennis ball squash' or 'Rondo' squash. There is an oblong, ribbed form eaten, like the British marrow, at a rather mature stage. This is the 'KumiKumi'. All taste pretty much the same. All summer squash produce an embarrasement of fruit. Any that become overmature should be removed so that the plant keeps producing. Like all curcubits, the plants become affected by powdery mildew, but it doesn't stop them producing until the season is well advanced. The best bet for the small space urban gardener is to grow a favorite type, perhaps one of the golden squash, or grow to harvest ultra small and with the flower still attached. These forms are less likely to be available in the markets.

SQUASH, WINTER Curcurbita maxima and C.moschata -Pumpkin. In America and Canada, the 'pumpkin' is a large, near round, orange, evenly ribbed fruit with a hard rind and bland flesh. It's only uses are for animal feed or for hollowing out and carving into 'jack 'o lanterns' for halloween. It is so lacking in sugar it can't be eaten, except as 'pumpkin pie', where lashings of sugar are included in the recipe.
The Pumpkin Patch JJJJan exhaustive links page on everything, and I mean everything to do with Giant pumpkins!

In Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, the 'pumpkin' is a sweet, flavorsome fruit baked and eaten as a vegetable with roasted and baked meats. The explaination? What is 'pumpkin' to an Australian, Kiwi, or Brit, is 'winter squash' to an American or Canadian. The cattle food/halloween pumpkin is vitually unknown in these countries. As is the term 'winter squash'. However, for the purposes of these pages, we will go with the North American terminology. The quintessence of quality in winter squash is 'dry' (i.e. not moist and sloppy when cooked) flesh, free of fibres, rich flavor, and sweet or very sweet. For preference, the rind should not be so hard that it is impossible to cut without very great effort and risk from slipping knives. The closest to perfection are the Japanese developements of the so called 'buttercup' winter squash. These have a smooth, buttery, almost pasty flesh texture, and are wonderfully sweet and flavorsome. Unfortunately, the rind is relatively thin, and they don't store very long.There are other very high quality, excellent storing winter squash, but their rinds are often very difficult to cut. Other, easier to deal to excellent storers have mediocre or poor flesh/sweetness characteristics. The culture of the largely inedible 'pumpkin' and the various kinds of highly edible 'winter squash' is identical, as botanically they are the same plant.They are best grown from seed, and in a rich and fertile ground. Sow only when the weather is warm and settled. Allow at least a metre/yard(ish) between plants, and at least 2 metres/ a bit more than 2 yards on either side of the row. They may need watering when getting established, but can be left after that so long as you don't run into drought conditions. Collect the fruit at the end of the season when powdery mildew has conveniantly removed all the foliage for you. Regrettably, there is a serious lack of vining winter squash for the urban gardener. The vining/running types are serious rampagers, and not suitable for small gardens.Best flavored vining winter squash include any butternut(C.moschata ) variety, any buttercup variety (particularly Japanese derived cultivars), and 'Green Hokkaido'. The best bush varieties are 'bush buttercup' and 'bush butternut'. 'Bush butternut' is a different species, C.moschata. The Calabza/Tahitian squash is an extra long, very fine fleshed high quality butternut grown in tropical area. It is a rampaging vine, but it has been recently bred as a short vine type. It is highly recommended.
Winter squash-fairly good quality to very good quality squash include 'buttercup' types-small to medium, deep green with aluminium stripes; 'Triamble' grey, furrowed skin, distinctly three lobed; the various 'Hubbard' squash, variously green, yellow, orange, or red, warted,oval, often pointed at both ends; 'Queensland Blue' mid green, slatey bluey, furrowed; 'Waltham' butternut buff, smooth, almost cylindrical; 'Ponca' butternut is similar to, but smaller than Waltham, particularly small seed cavity.
Acorn winter squash- C.pepo these are really a kind of mature marrow, as are 'kumikumi', 'spaghetti squash', 'sweet dumpling', and 'delicata'. They should not be compared to other winter squash, as they are another species, with different flesh characteristics (cf.SPAGHETTI SQUASH) with little or no sweetness, different flesh texture/mouth feel, and with less and different flavor. Some, such as 'Sweet dumpling' are very attractive in appearance, and lend themselves to flashy individually stuffed and baked fruit, if you enjoy that sort of dish. But, in our view, they are not as well accepted as a stand alone boiled or roasted or baked vegetable as the other winter squash.

SWEET CORN Zea mays Sweet corn. These days, Sweetcorn effectively comes in two predominant types- 'normal', and 'supersweet'. As time goes by, the 'normal' type will probably disappear. In 'normal' sweetcorn the sugars change to starch rapidly after picking- with a consequent drop-off of sweetness. 'Supersweet' types are sweeter anyway (about twice as sweet), and they can retain the sweetness for days. The down side of these varieties is that pollen from a 'normal' variety will cause the 'supersweet' to have tough, starchy, kernels. And the reverse is also true. However, 'supersweets' are now so predominant that this effect is pretty rare. Just hope your neighbour doesn't try growing popcorn, or Indian maize...'Supersweet' sweetcorn seed is smaller and very shriveled- it must absorb twice the amount of water that 'normal' corn needs to germinate. Some varieties, such as 'Honey 'n Pearl', have erratic and unreliable germination if the soil temperature is below 18°C/65°F. Corn is a warm weather crop anyway, and all types should be planted into a genuinely warm soil, usually late spring. Work in a general purpose fertiliser about a week or so prior to planting, as corn has a high fertility requirement. Plenty of available phosphates in the soil is particularly important. A light side dressing with a nitrogen rich fertiliser once the plants are well away is useful, particularly on sandy soils. If the weather is dry, your sweetcorn plants will need a good deep soaking at least once a week. Mulching once the soil is warm is very useful in conserving soil moisture.
Baby corn -'Baby Asian'-Grow as for ordinary sweet corn, but harvest the ears within 5 days of the silks appearing. The tiny, immature ears are eaten whole.
Dry corn-'Field corn', 'Maize', 'hominy corn', 'flour corn', 'dent corn', 'flint corn', Indian corn' The kernels of 'dent' corn varieties shrink slightly on top as they dry(forming a distinctive 'dent' inthe seed), have more soft starch and less hard starch than flint corn; it is mainly used for cornmeal, although it can be ground for flour. 'Flint' corn varieties are comprised mainly of hard starch, don't shrink on top as they dry, are regarded as less digestible, and are also mainly used for cornmeal or animal feed. 'Flint' corn varieties are the fastest to mature of the dry corns, usually taking around 3 months. Some 'Indian' corns are flint corns, others are 'flour corns'. 'Flour' corn is made up almost entirely of soft starch, and is easy to grind into flour. It is the main corn of certain North American native tribes. Grow in the same way as sweetcorn, but plant early so that there is enough time for the ears to ripen fully. In humid areas in a wet season, the grain may spoil on the cob. Watch out for mice if the ears are left standing unharvested into the autumn. varieties-'Blue Hopi' a tall growing corn with long ears and gray-blue kernels. Probably a flour corn, for making tortillas. While it is claimed that the young ears can be eaten as sweetcorn, you would have to be desperate. 'Black corn'-strictly blue-gray, this cultivar has small ears on a small plant, and can be eaten as a sweetcorn. Probably a flour corn. Been around for many years, but only occasionally available from seed savers and the like. 'Wampum Indian corn'- a highly decorative miniature flint corn with multi colored ears in combinations of red, pink, black, yellow, orange, brown, purple and cream on small (1.3M) plants 'Rainbow' Indian corn-medium sized ears on a 2M plant, otherwise similar to 'Wampum'.
Popcorn-Contains no soft starches, the kernels have to be fully mature, very hard, or they won't pop properly. Grow as for sweetcorn. The only cultivar available is 'Strawberry', a mahogany red kerneled popcorn. It doesn't form as light and fluffy a product as commercial popcorn, but is still perfectly acceptable.
WARNING:New Zealand and Australia- Australasia is free of many very serious viral, fungal, and bacterial corn diseases. These diseases could come in on corn seed casually bought in from overseas. Don't buy corn seed from overseas! Check with your local MAF/DPI/USDAAPHIS office about the many vegetable seeds that are allowed in, so long as they are declared and checked by the quarantine people at the border.

Sweetcorn Fact Sheet JJJJ A very nice, concise quick overview of growing sweetcorn in the home garden, from the University of Illinois Extension Service, USA. Exceptionally good cover of major sweetcorn varieties, with brief notes on 69 cultivars, care, common diseases, harvesting, and some common questions.

SWEET POTATO Ipomoea batatas 'Yam', Kumera. There are yellow, orange, and white fleshed varieties of sweet potato, with the colored flesh varieties having the highest vitamin A. This is a perennial vine (altho' it is grown as an annual) from South America, and needs a fairly long growing season.It thrives in loose, sandy soil, preferably with a more solid subsoil. It is grown from soft rooted cuttings, usually available in eary spring. Don't set them out until all danger of frost has passed, or you'll lose your plants.Use a general garden fertiliser dug well in before planting. The plants are vigorous and take up quite a bit of space. allow about 60cm/2 feet between plants and about 2metres/yards odd for the plants to sprawl in. They tend to form a dense mat, and root at the nodes, but the foliage can be lifted and 're-draped' to a more contained area. Put the plants in about 75mm/3 inches deep. Water well while they establish. The tubers are ready in autumn or early winter. This plant is really only suitable for a warm temperate climate or warmer.

Sweet potatoJJJJ An extensive sheet on sweet potato culture and varieties, written for commercial growers in NW Oregon by Oregon State University College of Agricultural Science, but mentally scaled down, it provides detailed information for the home gardener.

Sweet potatoes in the tropics  JJJJ A very good page on growing sweet potatoes in the tropics-varieties, culture, curing, uses. Includes some information on growing yams (Diascorea spp.) as well.

Sweet potatoes leaves for vegetables JJJJ A good short page on growing sweet potato in Sierra Leone, with very useful information on how and when to grow them for the edible leaves. At the West African Vegetable site.

TARO Alocasia Can only be grown in subtropical or tropical areas. Some varieties must have wet conditions ('swamp' taro), others can be grown in normal garden situations ('dryland' taro). Taro can be grown in warm temperate areas, but the corm (the starchy bulbous 'root') is no good. The leaves, often used to wrap food for cookiing in the traditional Polynesian way, are, however, OK.

TaroJJ A very brief review of the kinds, and growing conditions needed. Good picture of the corms and leaves used in cooking.

THYME Thymus vulgaris, T.serpyllum, T.citriodorus. Wild thyme, T.serpyllum, is a low, creeping, dark green leafed perennial with a stronger and coarser flavor than garden thyme. The various forms of garden thyme, Thymus vulgaris, are by far the best for cooking purposes.T.citriodorus, lemon thyme, has a genuine lemon flavor, but is not so universally useful in cooking as garden thyme. Best to have both.Thyme prefers a sunny, well drained spot in the garden, or in a pot. It needs to be picked or pruned regularly, as the plants become open and scruffy, with a dead centre if they are left uncultivated for too many years. It is by far easiest to buy plants than grow from seed, although it is easy to grow from seed.Fortunately, garden thyme, the best thyme, is fairly winter hardy.

TOMATO Lycopersicon esculentum, L. pimpinellifolium The tomato is probably the most important home garden vegetable/fruit of the summer season. It doesn't make a great deal of sense to grow 'paste' or even 'plum' tomatoes, given that canned tomatoes and tomato paste is so cheap in the supermarkets. But fresh salad and slicing tomatoes are something else again. There is a lot of variation in the amount of sugar and the amount of acid in a given variety of tomato; and the ratio of sugar to acid also varies. There is nothing better than a sun ripened tomato picked just when you prefer it- just ripe, dead ripe, or very ripe. Disease and tomato 'worm' (caterpillar) are the two major problems with tomatoes. There are a battery of sprays you can use, but a lot of us just try to keep ahead of the disease by giving excellent drainage, excellent nutrition (especially potash and calcium), keeping the soil surface covered (once it has warmed up) so disease organisms don't splash up onto the foliage, or use 'grow bags' of sterile potting mix. There are three forms of tomato-bush, tall bush, and staking. The bush and tall bush types have a concentrated fruit set and therefore shorter harvest period. On the other hand, some are very quick to start producing ripe fruit. The stakers need tying and de-lateralling, or they become a floppy mess that tends to have too many fruit set, and with small sized fruit. Stakers are later to start bearing.  Tomatoes are a hot climate semi vining plant, so plants should not be put out until the weather is warm. In humid, and in short season areas, it is vital to select varieties that are adapted to you climatic conditions (disease resistant in the one case and fast maturing in the other). Older varieties do not necessarily have the disease resistance of some of the hybrid plants. That said, no tomato will survive long in cold, wet, poorly fertilised soil. Some of the easiest care tomatoes are those closest to the wild, such as 'Sweet 100'-they are both vigorous and productive, and undamaged by tomato fruit worms. Some of the old 'heirloom' types set fruit poorly in cool conditions, and may have quite significant variations in flavor according to whether it is a favorable growing season or not. They also include most of the exceptionally flavored tomatoes. Notes on tomato varieties.

Tomato culture- JJJJ a commercial guide, at Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences site, but nevertheless excellent info on diseases, commercial cultivars (especially disease resistant types),  and brief cultural notes. Written with the cooler and shorter growing season of Oregon in mind, but it is still useful

Tomato Fact Sheet JJJJ A very nice, concise quick overview of growing tomatoes in the home garden, from the University of Illinois Extension Service. Covers major varieties, care, common diseases, harvesting, and some common questions

WATERCRESSNasturtium officinale Watercress is common enough in streams and ditches, but if you want fresh watercress, guaranteed free of pollution, you can fairly easily grow it yourself. Sow seed in spring, or put in pieces of rooted stem (root them in a glass). The plants have to be grown in the garden in a fertile soil which is kept very well watered, or in a large pot. Watercress needs neutral soil (about pH 7), so it needs to have been well limed. Because watercress must be kept well watered all the time, it is best to grow it in Spring, when rainfall is most reliable. Once it starts to flower, the harvest is about over. It can be extended a little by cutting back the flower stems as they appear, but they will soon beat you...Save some seed for next year. As to varieties, most wild watercress is good, but there is an European selected variety with larger, rounder leaves and a deeper color.

WATERMELON Citrullus lanatus Watermelon takes 3 months or more to mature fruit from sowing seed. Starting the plants early runs into variable spring weather, which holds them back, so it's best to sow or plant in late spring. Beware of anything which will check the young plants growth once in the ground-lack of water, poor drainage, aphids, ants, poor fertility, cold soil, as this will delay their production, and shift them towards the end of summer when they are perhaps not as much appreciated. The soil must be well drained, with plenty of air in it, either naturally (sandy or volcanic), or from amending with compost, or peat. Plant out about 60 to 90 cms apart. There are heaps of watermelon on the market in the peak of the season in Februaury, so it makes sense to grow something a little different-perhaps a yellow or an orange fleshed variety. The oblong watermelons are generally longer season than the round 'sugar baby' types, so are not as good a bet. 'Sugar Belle' is a vigorous round, red fleshed cultivar. 'Sugar Baby' is the long time standard for round small watermelons, with coarse flesh texture and very high sweetness, 'Yellow Baby' is also round, but has bright yellow flesh. Yellow fleshed varieties may only be available from seed savers at this time. Varieties with almost black rind will develop a bright yellow patch where it sits on the ground when they are ripe; for the rest, when the tendril by the stem dries up (not always infallible), when the rind touching the ground changes from green to white or cream, and when there is a dull 'punk' sound when rapped (not reliable when done in the heat of the day) rather than a sharper 'pink', these all indicate ripeness.

WATER SPINACH Ipomoea aquatica Klang Klang, Kang Kung. A close relative of the sweet potato, water spinach grows best in warm temperate or subtropical to tropical areas. It does best in water, but it can be grown in the vegetable garden in warm soils that are kept very moist. Like the sweet potato, the stemms have a white latex in them, so only the youngest fastest growing tips are harvested for cooking. The less suitable the conditions, the tougher and more latexy the plants will be. Sow seed in spring where the plants are to grow. In warm temperate areas it would probably pay to start the seeds inside and not plant out until the soil is well warm

Picture and brief description. J


More Information

The Home vegetable Garden JJJJ A very good introduction to the planning, siting, and running of a home vegetable garden. USA centric, but it makes many valuable points. It includes a guide to local extension offices for further advice.

Oriental  Vegetable Seeds JJ This is actually a commercial seed seller (Evergreen Seeds), but they have 200 or so Oriental vegetable seeds for sale with very brief descriptions and a nice little picture of each one. A good brief guide to some of the more unfamiliar veg.

Culinary herbsJJJJ Vietnamese mint, basil, rosemary, mint etc etc - this is the culinary herb FAQ derived from the culinary herb list serve (now in recess). Postings are informative and entertaining.

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