Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

Posted on 1st December 2013

Grow | Turnip & Kohlrabi


kohlrabi growing

harvesting home grown turnip

From farm fodder to fast becoming the hippest ingredient in town, these humble vegetables deserve recognition. Turnips, kohlrabi and swede are very cold hardy, and store well over winter, which is the reason that they have been used as cattle feed for so long, and also to sustain people in regions such as Scotland and northern Europe, where winters are harsh. Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea) looks like an above ground turnip, with the swollen stem being the part eaten, and has the added bonus of also being able to cope with hot dry summers, making it one of the hardiest veg around.

Turnips and Swedes are both botanically known as Brassica rapa. The Swedish turnip, or Swede, is the ‘Rutabaga’ cultivar and has yellow flesh with a purple top, whereas turnips normally have white flesh, but can be flat, round or long in shape depending on the type. The white mini type is a fast grower, being able to be harvested in 7 weeks, as is the lovely
lilac variety ‘de Nancy’. The trick is to grow them quickly to ensure a milder sweet root and good texture. All are best grown in open, fertile soil, planted in late summer and autumn and harvested in late autumn and early winter. In very cold areas, seed can be sown within cold frames in late winter and then the foliage is a valuable ‘green’ that can be used like young cabbages.

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Posted on 23rd September 2013

Grow | Onions


 home-grown onions


Onions (Allium cepa) have a long history and have been grown for so many years in so many countries it hard to tell where they are native, though its thought to be Asia.  Ancient Egyptians used them as a symbol of eternity, with each scale leaf or onion ring repeating itself inside the bulb, it’s not difficult to see why.  Onions have many cultivars, and are a staple in cooking.  Red skinned varieties (sometimes called Spanish onions though they don’t originate there) don’t tend to store as well as brown and white onions, though have a sweeter, less sulphuric flavour that makes them popular in salads.
Onions are grown from seed and take about 20 weeks to ripen. Seeds need to be sown into a sunny position in friable soil with a neutral pH soil anytime from autumn to winter. Early varieties don’t tend to store as well and are usually eaten soon after harvest or pickled.  Generally speaking, later varieties are thicker skinned and store better.  These are harvested in summer and their dried leaves can be plaited together and hung in a well ventilated place to keep.


Shallots are very much like onions, and botanically are in fact A.cepa var. aggregatum, which is making reference to the fact that they grow in groups of cluster, with about 6 smaller bulbs at the base of each plant.  They used to be called A. ascalonicum, which is probably why there other common name is eschallot, and is named after the town from which the Crusaders brought back to Europe this prized bulb.  Subtler in flavour, there are red and yellow skinned varieties, both of which grow easily and
store well.  You plant shallots in a similar position, but are normally planted as bulbs, which can be kept from the previous season crop and planted out in winter, or bought in packets at bulb time from mail order companies.  A few weeks before harvest, you carefully need to scrape away the soil around shallots so that the skins harden prior to harvest.  You do this once the leaves start to whither.  Store in net bags in a cool dry place.

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Posted on 14th September 2012

grow | parsnips


growing parsnips at home

Whilst parsnips today may be confused by some as “white carrots” there was a time not so long ago in the middle ages when carrots would never have featured on a good British feasting table, such was the high ranking status of the now humble parsnip. Making a comeback to the table, however, the parsnips sweetness and versatility is finally being recognised again.

To grow them, the best way is to plant out seeds.  Dig over you garden bed a few weeks earlier with well rotted manure or blood and bone, then soak
some of the small, flaky seeds overnight in water to aid in their germination.  Run a string line or use a stake flat on the ground to make
your straight line, and sow your seeds about 15-20cm apart – you can always thin out small parsnips every second plant as they successfully
germinate and grow. Apart from regular water, full sun and free draining soil, the thing you next need to have in spades is patience, as 14-16 weeks is not unusual for a decent sized root to develop.  To harvest, simply put your garden fork own beside the plant and gently lever to loosen the soil, then pull.
Storage for more than a few weeks is best by simply leaving your parsnips in the ground, bearing in mind that frosts only make the roots sweeter.

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Posted on 13th August 2012

harvest | celeriac


home grown celeriac from the vegetable garden


Store whole, unpeeled celeriac in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks after harvesting. Once cut or peeled, celeriac will begin to discolour, so needs to be dropped into water that has been acidulated with lemon juice or vinegar.

What to do with glut

  • To freeze

celeriac puree

Cook 1kg peeled and chopped celeriac in 2 cups of chicken stock, covered, for about 30 mins, until tender. Drain. Blend celeriac, in batches, until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Heat in a saucepan on low with ½ cup cream, stirring, until warm.

  • To preserve

celeriac recipe

celeriac remoulade

1 small celeriac
1/3 cup whole egg mayonnaise
2 gherkins, finely chopped
2 tbsp baby capers
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Lemon juice, to taste

1.  Fill a bowl with cold water and add juice of 1 lemon. Peel celeriac and cut into a fine julienne, placing into the acidulated water as you go.

2.  Mix together mayonnaise, gherkin, capers, parsley and mustard. Drain celeriac and add to mayonnaise mixture. Season with a little lemon juice and stir to combine. Serve with smoked salmon or trout, grilled chicken or roast beef.

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Posted on 19th December 2011

grow | rocket




rocket flower

For many people the dream of having salad greens ready to pick is an everyday reality, and one of the easiest of all to grow is rocket, known botanically as Eruca sativa but also known commonly as Arugula and Italian Cress, as it is naturally from the Mediterranean.

This fast growing, nutty flavoured leaf has a little peppery overtone, making it a delicious addition to your salad.  To grow rocket, you can either so seeds direct into place or buy ready sprouted seedlings, but be careful not to over cover them; 2mm of earth is enough. Seed successive batches every 2 weeks so you have continual supply and feed regularly liquid fertiliser so they grow vigorously and are not bitter. They need at least 4 hours sun to develop full flavour, and will tolerate full sun.  In the heat of summer they are prone to bolting, or going to seed quickly themselves, but they readily self seed, ensuring that new rocket plants will quickly fill up any holes. If you don’t want this to happen, cut them back hard and they will reshoot with a fresh batch of edible leaves.

There is also another similar tasting plant called wild rocket, or Duplotaxis tenufolia, which has more deeply indented leaves and a more complex flavour.  Growing conditions and treatments are the same.

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Posted on 18th October 2011

grow | parsley


Parsley in the herb garden
Flat-leafed parsely in the home garden

Parsley actually has quite a few forms, from common curled parsley that most people recognize as the garnish from butchers windows of prawn cocktails in the ‘70s right through to the lesser known types like French Parsley, which is also known as Chervil.  All are actually related to the carrot and parsnip, which is no surprise to those of you who know of Hamburg parsley, the cultivar that develops a carrot like white root with a delicate parsley flavour.  All parsleys can actually have both the seed, root, stalk and leaf eaten, so long as they are washed properly.

In vogue today is Continental or Flat leafed parsley, which is also known as Italian parsley.  It features in recipes like tabouleh and has a stronger flavour and leaf less prone to wilting. Coriander, or Chinese parsley, is also very popular, probably because of the increase in Asian food, and it lends an almost citrus-like freshness to foods.

The trick with growing all types is to sow seed directly into position.  None of this family really likes transplanting, and the stress of doing so can trigger plants to prematurely “bolt” or go to seed. To encourage healthy, vigorous growth, plant in full sun in well drained soil, and feed every 3 weeks with a liquid feed like seaweed solution or fish emulsion.

Actually, one of the easiest ways to always have a supply of parsley is actually to let plants mature a seed naturally, that way they will pop up when the climatic situation is perfect.  Also, the flowering heads of this whole family are great at attracting beneficial insects to the garden, which in turn will help keep your plant attacking insects in check.

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Posted on 14th December 2010

grow | beans


growing beans on a trellis

Got a fence?  2 metres of beans growing along it could feed your family all summer, and the kids will love going outside with a basket to cut their own greens for dinner, or just nibble on raw beans as they past.  If you can’t find a fence, no probs, you can grow dwarf beans in the garden in rows.

Both runner types and dwarf types can also be grown in tubs too, though obviously the taller varieties will need a tall tripod about 1.8m is ideal, and they are actually very pretty too, with some purple (‘Purple King’ and ‘Purple Queen’), or yellow (‘Bountiful Butter’) podded varieties available. These are all frost tender, and should only be sown after all chance of late cold snaps are gone.

If you live in a colder climate, then Perennial beans, known as runners, can also be grown. These are cut back each autumn then reshoot in spring from their crown.  The two best known ones are ‘Scarlet Runner’, which has beautiful red blooms, and ‘Borlotti’ which has speckled red beds.  These are both the sorts of beans that need slow cooking to be edible, like kidney beans ‘Canellini’.

Whatever you settle on, beans like an enriched soil with lots of added compost to thrive.  They also love regular watering, hate the wind and dislike being overfed, as they will actually make their own nitrogen fertiliser with their specialised roots.  They produce more and more beans the more you pick, so harvest them continually every 4 days of so to keep the plants productive, and be careful not to damage the bush, which is quite easily done, when you harvest by always using a knife of scissors, to reap your bounty.  Sow seeds now, and you’ll be munching away in 10 weeks time.

baby bean

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