A vegetable voyage of discovery

Nowadays dried, frozen or canned peas are so good that it might seem hardly worthwhile to grow your own. But freshly picked peas from your own garden taste far better – raw or cooked.

Peas like cool conditions rather than the heat of summer. Plant them in early spring and again in late summer.

Peas are legumes. Bacteria form nodules on their roots and these extract nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plants.

Nothing beats peas fresh from the garden. Plant in early spring and again in late summer.

Nothing beats peas fresh from the garden. Plant in early spring and again in late summer.

They like an alkaline soil and a good supply of phosphorus. These needs can be met by digging in a mixture of dolomite and superphosphate before planting.

Peas don’t usually need extra fertiliser when they are growing.

Vegetable Discoveries

Although the seeds are readily available, chinese cabbage is largely overlooked by the home gardener, yet it marvellous in salads or cooked. Grow it like lettuce. 

Celeriac is another overlooked vegetable. Grow it like parsnips and cook its root. It tastes like celery.

Other little-grown vegetables include jerusalem artichokes, which grow as easily as potatoes. They are ready to harvest when the leaves on the tall stems have dried off. You can dig them all through winter and they will give your palate a welcome change.

The white-fleshed tubers are delicious and they are low in carbohydrate.They are no relation to globe artichokes, which are large, thistle-like perennials grown for their miniature flower heads.

The parts eaten are the bases of the inner petals or flower scales, and the base of the flower itself. They should be eaten when the flower is half-grown, before they become tough and stringy. Seeds can be sown in spring.

Every garden should have some swede turnips. Swedes, also known as rutabagas, are one of the most delicious of vegetables, and since they will stay happily in the ground all through winter before running to seed, are ideal for winter soups and stews.

Kohl rabi is one of the cabbage family and needs the same application of lime before planting. The soil should have plenty of compost or manure dug into it.

OVERLOOKED: Eggplants are just one of many varieties of vegetables with which gardeners are unfamiliar. Time to be adventurous.

OVERLOOKED: Eggplants are just one of many varieties of vegetables with which gardeners are unfamiliar. Time to be adventurous.

The edible part of kohl rabi is the globe-shaped bulb which forms above the ground. It has a turnip-like flavour but is sweeter and milder. The bulbs should be harvested when they are small and tender - about golf ball size. They have a high nutrition value.

The egg plant is closely related to the potato and tomato. It is also known as egg fruit and aubergine.

It can be baked whole and stuffed, sliced, fried, grilled or eaten in curries and many other dishes.

Oka is a small tuber, delicious fried. It is planted like a potato. They are almost orange-coloured.

Salsify isn’t widely grown here, but the seeds are available in garden centres.

It has grass-like leaves and white fleshed taproots which when cooked have a flavour like oysters. You grow them in the same way as carrots, sowing from now until early autumn.

Perfect Poppies

Iceland poppies (papaver nudicaule) can be one of the delights of the winter garden.

Their blooms can be pink, white, red, yellow or orange.

These poppies, although so delicate in their beauty, are really gross feeders, and should have lots of manure or compost dug in before planting.

Seeds can be sown throughout summer and winter, but because the seed is very small, the seed bed should be finely prepared,and the seed just covered with fine sand.

When the young plants are transplanted, care should be taken not to damage the taproot.

The growing plants should be given a top dressing of either rotted animal manure or complete fertiliser. Watering with liquid fertiliser should serve the purpose.

This is particularly needed just before flowering, when the first buds appear.

Iceland poppies have a delicate but vivid beauty and they love their compost.

Iceland poppies have a delicate but vivid beauty and they love their compost.

Oka is grown widely in South America and this unusual vegetable is delicious fried.

Oka is grown widely in South America and this unusual vegetable is delicious fried.

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