TEN Vegetables we should
ALL be growing - but probably aren't!
Tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage are pretty common
in the average vegetable plot. These crops are like
old friends, dependable and well-worth the effort.
But every once in a while, it's nice to step outside
of our comfort zone. And what better way to do it
than to try growing a delicious new vegetable in
The veggies on this list will diversify your diet
as well as extend your growing season. Most are
annual, but some are perennial -- and you'll want
them in your garden year after year. I'm sure some
of you are already growing at least a couple of
these, but I hope you find something here that
piques your interest.
Here's the first - because it is one of my
favourites and I think EVERYONE should grow it -
because of it's delicious taste versatility and ease
"pronounced "coal-rabii" not "Cool Rabbi"!!
(Apologies to any Jews that may read our newsletter
- blame it on my son Teifion who pointed it out to
under-appreciated vegetable is extremely versatile.
It's a brassica (a member of the cabbage family) -
but looks a bit like a turnip, although what looks
like a root is in fact a swollen lower stem of the
plant and not the actual root - as with a turnip.
Hence the name comes from the German Kohl
("cabbage") plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss
German variant) ("turnip"), because the swollen stem
resembles the latter.
a fantastic veg - one of the big favourites with us
as a family. In fact I'm reminded each season not to
forget to sow it!
It can be eaten raw or cooked in
stews and soups, or as a side dish all its own. It
can also be eaten fresh from the allotment plot or
stored indoors just as you would store potatoes, in
a cool, dry place, though they do shrivel a bit in
Sow seeds directly in the soil after
spring frost. Give them a spot in full sun with
rich, well drained soil. It's a good idea to sow a
row every week or so, so that you have fresh
kohlrabi until midsummer or so, when the heat makes
them less productive.
Turnips are wonderful in soup and broths, mashed
like potatoes, or roasted either alone or with other
root vegetables. They have a mild flavour that goes
well with other vegetables. As a bonus, you can also
harvest the greens, which are very nutritious, to
eat either raw or cooked.
Sow turnip seed directly in the garden in early
spring or late summer. They need full sun and light
soil, preferably amended with compost. They also
grow well in containers.
Okay, you might already be growing beetroot,
but so many people were served disgusting
beetroots as children that they develop a lifelong
aversion to them. Garden fresh beetroots are sweet,
tender, and versatile. They can be sliced into a
salad, turned into soups, or roasted (a favourite
with many - although I admit to never having tried
them in the oven!) Like turnips, you can also eat the delicious
greens raw or cooked.
Beetroots will grow well in full sun to part shade in soil
that is loose and well drained. Sow them all season
long, doing several sowings throughout the spring
and summer. beetroots are wonderful in containers. Look
for 'Boltardy', 'Bull's Blood,' Detroit Globe or 'Chiogga'
beetroots - all are absolutely delicious.
an heirloom variety. It's a striking Italian strain
guaranteed to provoke comment when used to add both
visual appeal and flavour to that (all home-grown)
salad. The ball-shaped roots are light red in colour
instead of the usual dark red beetroot. However,
it's when they are sliced that they reveal their
surprise the flesh consists of highly ornamental,
contrasting dark pink and white alternating rings -
it looks amazing!
My all time favourite
way of preparing beetroot is to boil, peel and slice
them. Keep the water they were boiled in (as it is
rich in the vegetable's colour, juice and flavour).
When it's cool add vinegar and sugar (experiment so
that you get it the way you like it - some prefer it
sharp, others sweet - there is no "correct" level).
You will not need all the original fluid so gauge
how much to throw away. Now reintroduce the sliced
beetroot and put the whole lot in the fridge -
absolutely delicious. If you want to keep it longer
then place it in an airtight pickling jar. The
vinegar & sugar will ensure that it keeps for a few
is one of the easiest vegetables to grow as sowing
and looking after the plants is really
straightforward. Another reason why we should grow
swedes is because they are ready for
when no other crop
always associate this vegetable with our allotment
plot, rather it conjures up images of a farm field
and fodder for animals. How wrong we can be! Swedes are
perfect for the plot. They are related to turnips, and, in fact, look
oversized, yellowish turnips. They are great in
soups and stews, roasted, or cooked and mashed like
potatoes. Unlike turnips, however, swedes are sown in
late spring to harvest in autumn and even into winter.
You can store them in damp sand if you have to
harvest them before the ground freezes .
Give them full sun, light soil that has been
enriched with plenty of compost and manure from a
previous crop, and keep
them well-watered throughout the summer.
apparently got the name "swede" because it was
growers in Sweden that first developed this yellow/
orange fleshed "turnip". In fact Scousers - like my
wife - call swede turnip hence
she calls "carrot & swede" mash - "carrot & turnip".
The debate has gone on for years in our house!
Across the pond in America they're called rutabagas
- "carrot & rutabaga" mash - now that IS a mouthful!
is a member of the cabbage family, so treat it like
a brassica, i.e. lime the soil to "sweeten" it by
increasing the pH level - as you would with all
brassicas. Also remember that it can also be
attacked by brassica pests, like club root and
cabbage root fly.
Seakale is one of those vegetables that provides a variety of harvests
from just one plant. The main crop seakale is grown
for its spring shoots, which are blanched by
placing a terracotta pot over the tops of them (see
photo on right), then
harvested and used in the same way you would use
asparagus. Later in the season, the flower buds
can be harvested and eaten like broccoli. And the
kale-like leaves can also be harvested throughout
the season. Of course, like asparagus, the plant
doesn't really start producing until the third year,
but it is well worth the wait considering everything
you get from seakale.
To grow seakale, give it a spot with full sun,
rich, well-drained soil, and plenty of room to grow.
Feed it with seaweed fertilizer or fish emulsion
early in the season, and keep the area around the
plant clear of weeds.
6. Jerusalem Artichoke
Jerusalem artichoke is a plant originally native to
Peru. It was first brought to Europe from Canada
where it was a staple food eaten by the indigenous
population. Unlike corn and quinoa, staples in the
Southern Americas, Jerusalem artichokes are suited
to the Canadian climate due to their ability to grow
in extremes of temperature (so they're fine to grow
in Aberaeron!). Considering its botanical origins
then it is curious that not only is this vegetable
not from Jerusalem but it also is no relation to the
vegetables name is attributed to a man called Samuel
Champlain, the founder of Quebec, who after tasting
the plant wrote in his travel journal it was a root
‘with the taste of artichokes’. Many think that
Samuel Champlain is alone in this comparison.
Personally I find the taste of the two vegetables to
be like chalk & cheese!
second part of the name stems from its botanical
links with the sunflower. Like the sunflower the
flower of the artichoke is a girasol, meaning
it will turn to face the sun as it moves across from
east to west throughout the day. It is often
thought that the corruption to Jerusalem from
girasol could have come from the neighbours of the
botanist John Goodyer. Describing the new plant to
them as a "girasol artichoke" it wouldn’t have taken
long before the name was changed to something more
memorable or perhaps more understandable to the
English ear. In Welsh they are sometimes called "tatw
tragwyddol" translated that means everlasting potato
- an apt description because once established in a
bed it is almost impossible to stop them
reappearing, as you only need to leave the smallest
of tubers in the ground to guarantee a crop again
the following year!
artichokes are a very useful food for both diabetics
and slimmers alike. This is down to how the plant
stores its energy for the next years growth. The
artichokes store their energy in the form of inulin
a carbohydrate made up from two fructose units.
This means the body can deal with the energy from it
much more effectively than glucose and the
carbohydrate low is avoided and along with it the
feeling of hunger soon after the meal. It is
therefore suitable for those on the GI diet.
Artichokes are also high in potassium a mineral
important for nerve and muscle function.
artichokes are particularly useful in maintaining
good gut bacteria. This in turn can help those
suffering with yeast infections as the inulin they
contain is a pro-biotic – this ‘feeds’ bacteria,
which can alter the gut pH to a more alkali state in
which the Candida cannot survive.
Best of all
- they taste wonderful! Try them as "crisps". Use
around 3 –4 Artichokes per person. Half a teaspoon
each of Chilli, Coriander and Cumin powder mixed
together to form a spice mix (the tip of a teaspoon
of chilli does for me - I'm not a lover of over-hot
food). You'll also need some rapeseed oil for
artichokes thoroughly – it may help to soak them in
some water for a few minutes first.
artichokes into small crisp sized pieces using
either a very sharp knife or the side of a cheese
grater. Heat the oil. As the oil is heating wet the
artichoke pieces and coat them in the spice mix.
Drop into the hot oil and turn when one side is
cooked. Serve with Guacamole or a yoghurt dip -
heavenly! Sorry - I got a bit carried away then with
7. Malabar Spinach
If you like spinach, but hate the fact that it's so hard to grow in
summer due to its quickness to bolt, you need to
grow malabar spinach. It needs to be started indoors
from seed because it despises cold weather, but it's
worth it if you love spinach and want an alternative
for when the temperatures soar. Just when regular
spinach is bolting, malabar spinach starts to grow
Tip: give malabar spinach full sun, warm weather, and
moist soil. Allowing the soil to dry out result in
bitter-tasting spinach leaves.
This carrot relative is considered to be a winter vegetable because it
doesn't reach the height of its flavour until it's
been touched by a few frosts. In fact, you can leave
parsnips in the ground all winter, harvesting them
until the ground freezes, and then resuming
harvesting once the soil thaws in spring.
Start parsnips by direct sowing seed in your
garden in an area that gets full sun and has
well-drained soil that has been loosened to a depth
of at least eight to ten inches. Keep the parsnips
well watered throughout the growing season, and
harvest after frost.
9. Scorzonera (or black
is a root crop from which the entire plant, from the
leaves and flower buds down to the roots, is edible.
You can harvest the roots after a few frosts,
because, much like parsnips, they taste best after
being hit with frost. Sow seed for scorzonera directly in the garden in
an area that gets full sun and has light, well
drained soil. Scorzonera can pretty much be left to
its own devices after it has germinated. It requires
very little care other than weeding and the
occasional watering during dry conditions.
Salsify and scorzonera are
almost invariably linked together in books and seed
catalogues although they are actually quite
distinct. There is, perhaps, some justification for
this in as much as they are the only two commonly
listed vegetables in the daisy family, the
Asteraceae, that are grown for their roots.
They can also be easily
confused when growing as they both have upright,
undivided leaves - but those of scorzonera are
relatively broad, those of salsify narrow.
The flowers and roots, too,
are different. Scorzonera has yellow flowers, while
those of salsify
are purple. And below ground scorzonera is black
skinned (although white inside) with long, more or
less parallel sided roots, salsify, however, has
pale skinned roots shaped like a very small parsnip.
easy to grow, although it needs a long growing
season. However, it is completely hardy and should
be sown as soon as the ground is sufficiently warm
and dry in March, to be harvested from October
onwards (like parsnips it benefits from being
frosted). The roots can be left in the ground until
needed. Sow the long, thin seeds in drills 'A-inch
(1 cm) deep spacing the rows 8 in (20cm) apart. Thin
the young plants to around 4 in (10 cm). On cold, heavy soils the ground should be
warmed and dried by covering it with cloches some
three weeks before sowing. A deep soil is essential,
preferably deeply worked and stone free -although
scorzonera does not fork as easily as salsify.
The plant is generally
untroubled by pests of disease - a good crop for
organic growers! However, early sowings may run to
seed in hot dry summers. So, while a March sowing
will usually give best results, growers in hot dry
areas might be well advised to delay sowing until
April. If a really hot, dry summer is predicted a
May sowing will normally produce an acceptable crop.
There is little choice of
cultivars, 'Black Russian' is the only one commonly
available. although some seed merchants have been
pushing . The plant does not seem to have attracted
the attention of plant breeders - a pity as trouble
free vegetables are always needed.
Scorzonera is a wild plant
of dry fields and woodland edge habitats across
southern Europe, from Portugal into Russia and even
Siberia. It appears to have been introduced to
Britain in the late 16th century.
In the kitchen the roots
are best scrubbed and cooked in their skins. The
skins can easily be removed under a cold tap after
cooking. If, however, the roots run up to seed do
not despair. The young flower buds can be steamed or
lightly boiled and served like asparagus. Or, as was
recommended by the famous French chef Boulestin,
they can be used in omelettes. But do remember to
use young flower buds if you are tempted! The leaves
can also be used, blanched in early spring (earth
them up as the young shoots develop). Steam them and
serve them as a snack on buttered toast.
Finally, in mediaeval
Britain, young, tender roots were candied -
presumably using the same process as you would for
Celeriac is a hard, round vegetable that is a relative of celery. It is
generally used as a flavouring, most often as a
substitute for celery, but it is also delicious as
the star of the show, grated raw into a salad or
sautéed as a side dish.
What I love about celeriac is that you get all of
the flavour of celery without all of the work. Celery
has to be blanched (the stems have to be buried
throughout the season to develop nice, light
stalks and keep a delicate flavour) and is rather
prone to pests. But celeriac, which also has a
rather long growing season, is fairly pest and
disease-free. Grow celeriac in full sun to light
shade in soil that has been enriched with manure or
compost (or both!) The only trick with celeriac is
that it needs to be started indoors under lights in
late winter in most climates to have a long enough
season to mature. On the upside, however, it can
usually be left in the ground all winter and dug up
as needed, especially if you give it a mulch of
leaves or grass clippings.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to a few
less-common vegetables that you can grow on your
allotment. However whilst not all of them are
strangers to many of us, I'm sure there aren't many
of us who have grown all of them on a
Are you growing any of these (or another uncommon
vegetable that I haven't mentioned)? Tell us about it!