Tuesday, 18 October 2016

What we don't grow any more

Achocha: pretty but ultimately pointless
While I like to try growing some new vegetable varieties every year, including some weird and wonderful stuff, there are some vegetables that don't make the cut and won't join the list of regulars. Usually this is for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The yield is too low to make growing them worthwhile.
  • They don't taste too good.
  • They are too much faff.
  • Other vegetables do it better.
The first thing to fall by the wayside was spinach. It just wasn't worthwhile since the plants only lasted a few weeks before bolting whereas chard and perpetual spinach taste the same but last an entire year.

Bolted rapini
Another plant very prone to bolting was Broccoli raab or rapini. It seemed to flower almost immediately after growing to a decent size. It also didn't taste great. Like a very bitter mustard. Komatsuna, on the other hand, is in the same family group, very hardy, easy to grow, tasty as a salad leaf and cooked and keeps producing for months.


One of our few ladies fingers
Two vegetables that I was very keen on growing were aubergines and okra, but alas the yield is ridiculously small in our cool conditions, even in the greenhouse or conservatory. The largest aubergine we got was cherry tomato-sized and we harvested a dozen okra - not even enough for one curry! The trouble with both of these veg was that they were extremely prone to aphids. Aphids seem to positively target aubergines as their favourite host, with okra a close second and then peppers and chillies.

I gave the aubergines two seasons, trying hardier varieties in the second year, but alas it was not to be (Jim's secretly pleased, I think). With the okra, I didn't need to try again. It was obvious that the yield wouldn't ever be enough for the effort.

Our largest aubergine
The achocha was billed as a cucumber alternative and pretty straightforward to grow. Despite reports of them growing at an incredible rate and taking over the house, our plants were tame and grew more slowly than the cucumbers. The fruit looked like little green hedgehogs and made lovely table ornaments. Unfortunately, the achocha turned out to be not very tasty. There's hardly anything to it but seeds. When they are very young the flesh is refreshing to nibble, but give me a cucumber any day.

Since I always liked shop-bought chicory, it was on the list to try. However, the forcing process to blanch them was too much faff for me though the slugs appreciated having some nice leaves to nibble under the bucket. And unblanched, even though they looked attractive, the chicory leaves were just plain bitter. I also tried drying the roots, but this was also too much faff considering the end result.

Meyer lemon: sadly a fail
With fruit, we've tried to steer clear of too marginal crops. Tempted though I was by kiwis, figs and pomegranates, the yield would not be worth it - even if we had a sheltered space for them. And there's not enough space in the greenhouse or polytunnel for peaches and apricots. But I did try a Meyer lemon inside. This is meant to be the hardiest lemon and it's a very tasty one. What can I say? I overwatered it, but it was probably not warm enough either.

Touch me!
Currently under consideration is grain amaranth. Easy to grow and very pretty, amaranth is a fun plant to touch and look at. You could grow it as an ornamental. Now we are waiting to see if it will ripen before winter and, if so, how easy it is to process (probably even easier than quinoa), what kind of yield it gives and what it tastes like.

Next year's experimental crop will be scorzonera (black salsify).


  1. interesting! The komatsuna sounds great, will definitely think about that one for next year! Tomatillos are also a winner I think, considering how we neglected them, they went leggy but then they still fruited well. Still got to do smthg with the crop though...

    1. Have you got enough tomatillos for a batch of salsa? I just add mine to tomato sauces and stews.


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