This year, as always we tried a few new plants with varying success. As part of our education we like to sow seeds of exotic species to see if they grow in our garden. So what did we try this year?
Well it is quite a long list.
We tried chia seeds from the health food store, because we like to use them in our food we thought we should try growing them ourselves. We sowed them in seeds trays in April and they came up “like cress”. We thinned them, grew them on and planted them out when looking good and healthy. They grew really vigorously in the garden but failed to form flower heads until the end of October so we won’t be getting any seeds this year. But it is enough to know that they do flower eventually to encourage us to try again next year, maybe growing in more sheltered places and starting earlier.
We had a spicy dish in spring and used some very old tamarind paste which had some seeds in it so in they went and grew the most beautiful little plants which close up at night. We know that they are not going to be hardy and that they grow really large in nature so we will see how they cope here without great expectations.
We also had some guests who told us about growing avocado trees from seed and they even left a stone behind which has sprouted. We loved picking fresh avocados once when we went to New Zealand and so it is a bit of a dream. Again, we wonder how hardy they might be, but let’s see.
This year we finally got some lemon grass seeds to germinate. The trick was to sow them on already moist compost and cover with a cut off plastic bottle to make a kind of cloche for the pot which kept the atmosphere moist. They are great to cook with although the stems are smaller than shop bought ones. Then we found out that many people just take a shop bought stem and stick it into soil and it strikes really easily!
We did try hemp from the kitchen cupboard as well, which germinated really easily. Then we found out that we would need a licence to grow it in Britain and the licence costs is well over £500 per year! So they all went in the compost heap.
This year we made our final attempt to grow lentils, for which we chose Puy lentils on the assumption that they may be grown in France, which has a climate not dissimilar to our own. They grew lush and produced a lot of seed pods which the mice devoured before they ripened. So that’s the end of lentils in our garden!
Other exotics we have been trying for a while are:
Goji berries. These have flowered now for the last two years but the sparrows like to peck the flowers off which means no berries yet!
Fejoa trees. A native of New Zealand these produce sour fruits and do produce a yield even in Britain. Our trees are quite young yet but this year they flowered for the first time! No fruits yet.
Quinoa and amaranth. We have been growing these for 4 years now and rely on them for some of our proteins. Very easy to grow (see an earlier blog post) and a good yield.
Oca. Also know as New Zealand Yam, this is a tricky one for us as they produce such small tubers and often not a big yield. They would be perfect late season starches if only we could get enough.
Next year we want to exploit our south facing sheltered spot next to the house by planting apricots and tomarillos (another New Zealand fruit)