Collecting Mustard Seeds

I was making curry for my birthday on Saturday (hello 22!) when I realised, to my horror I had forgotten to buy more mustard seeds from Sainsbury’s and we were all out ūüė¶ But heh, never mind. Then mum got really excited and vanished off to the garden to pick some lettuce and returned with a bowl of mustard seeds she had harvested from the vegetable patch, aka the weeds I am always trying to get rid of.

Now, the two irritating weeds that flourish in my garden despite my best efforts (apart from nettles that just pop up everywhere from the manure we use, that I am at war with constantly after one stung me on the face last week and made me feel like a fool!), the most common to find are a) goosegrass, and b) mustard.

This year it has been even harder to keep the weeds under control after being absent for only a couple of months and it is harder to pull up the mustard when it starts flowering and your mum wants to keep it because the bees like it…

But we tried frying the mustard seeds in the curry, and I tried a fried one on its own, and it was really good! So I’ve started putting the unwanted weeds to good use and I am harvesting mustard seeds to store. I felt like a bit of an idiot for buying them for so long when they have been flourishing in my garden for years!

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It is really easy to harvest them. When the seed pods have formed and are dried out so that they are brown and crispy, like paper bags, get a pair of scissors and snip off the pods (or stems with the pods on, the pods are very delicate and will break easily and spill the seeds everywhere) into a container. Open each pod and empty the little mustard seeds into a container for storing, it is that simple!

We bought brown coloured mustard seeds from the shops, but our homegrown ones are black which are the variety my mum has tried to buy for so long to make curries. Apparently, they come from one of three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (Brassica junga), or white mustard (Brassica hirta/Sinapis alba).

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Grinding and mixing the seeds with water and vinegar creates the yellow condiment of prepared mustard.

An archaic name for the seed is¬†eye of newt. Often misunderstood for an actual eye of a newt¬†this name has been popularly associated with witchcraft¬†ever since it was mentioned as an ingredient to a witch’s brew in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

These mustard seeds are known in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi as sarson. They are also planted to grow saag (greens) which are stir-fried and eaten as a vegetable preparation, called sarson ka saag in Urdu and Hindi. Sarson ka tel (mustard oil) is used for body massage during extreme winters, as it is assumed to keep the body warm.

Mustard seeds generally take eight to ten days to germinate. They can handle a cold atmosphere and relatively moist soil. Mature mustard plants grow into shrubs.

Mustard grows well in temperate regions. Major producers of mustard seeds include India, Pakistan, Canada, Nepal, Hungary, Great Britain and the United States. Brown and black mustard seeds return higher yields than their yellow counterparts.

In Pakistan, rapeseed-mustard is the second most important source of oil, after cotton. It is cultivated over an area of 307,000 hectares with annual production of 233,000 tonnes and contributes about 17% to the domestic production of edible oil. Mustard seeds are a rich source of oil and protein. The seed has oil as high as 46-48%, and whole seed meal has 43.6% protein.

Use mustard seeds in these Indian curries:

Courgettes РRed Lentil Dahl

Okra РCurried Okra

Curried Potatoes and Bread maker Naan Bread

Cucumbers РPaneer Curry

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April sowing list

You can still sow most of the vegetables I have mentioned in previous months (e.g. radishes, spinach, lettuce,¬†courgettes, spring onions…) but here are some new ones that you have to wait until April for:

Runner-Beans –¬†Firestorm, St George, Borlotti, Cobra, Wisley Magic, Desiree, Moonlight

French Beans – Monte Cristo, Cobra, Maxi, Dulcina, Speedy, Delinel

Squashes –¬†Butternut squash (try Hawk), Honey Bear, Sunburst

Soya Beans – Elenor

Crystal Apple Cucumbers 

Cucamelons 

Sweetcorn¬†– Swift (These could have been started indoors last month, I still have yet to sow mine…)

Cabbages

Parsnips –¬†Gladiator

Asparagus 

Potatoes 

Jerusalem Artichokes 

Globe Artichokes 

Look at my other previous monthly posts for more ideas of what seeds to sow! 

 

March – sowing and growing

There are too many plants that can be started off indoors/outdoors in March to name! But here are a few to get you started…

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Carrots –¬†Carrots¬†– sown one trench outside under fleece

Spinach –¬†Salad ‚Äď Spinach¬†– planted out ‘Turaco’ spinach sown last autumn in a cold frame with fleece and started off indoors ‘Barbados’ and ‘Emelia’, onto ‘Samish’ soon…

Lettuce-¬†Salad ‚Äď Lettuce¬†– planted out lettuce sown last winter in the cold frame with the spinach and sown some seeds indoors

Radishes –¬†Salad ‚Äď Radish¬†– sown outdoors under fleece between other crops

Celery –¬†Celery¬†– batch sown indoors

Celeriac –¬†Celeriac¬†– ”

Courgettes –¬†Courgettes¬†– sown indoors

Squashes – have yet to plant ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Sunburst’

Quinoa –¬†Quinoa¬†– batch sown indoors

Chickpeas – Sown indoors, first time trying them this year!

Broad beans –¬†Broad Beans¬†– ready to plant out under fleece

Peas – started off indoors but can be sown directly now – post hopefully coming soon…

Okra –¬†Okra¬†– couple damped off so planted some more indoors

Rocket –¬†Salad ‚Äď Rocket¬†– sown indoors, not doing so well…

Watercress – sown indoors

Herbs – sown the parsley and coriander so far

Fenugreek – damped off, need to sow some more indoors

Cucumbers –¬†Cucumbers¬†– sown indoors, doing best at moment, please stay that way!

Tomatoes – germinated very well indoors

Potatoes – time to think about planting them outdoors under a lot of earth and some cover

Turnips – just sown some

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – just sown some (as well as some more¬†Calabrese Broccoli) indoors AND just harvested first batch of last year’s crop the other night to have with some of the last dug up potatoes from last season with baked beans, cheese and frozen homegrown runner beans – yum!

Leeks –¬†Leeks¬†– indoors

Spring Onions – indoors

Beetroot – indoors, on my list

Cabbages –¬†Cabbages¬†– ‘Red Rodeo’, ‘Advantage’, ‘Caserta’ – sown indoors

Brussels Sprouts and Brukale –¬†Brussels Sprouts¬†– quickly sow before it gets too late

Kale –¬†The last of the Kale

Sweet Corn – on my list but I know from experience that I can still get away with sowing it in May, indoors

Rhubarb –¬†Rhubarb¬†– time to feed and start forcing

Fruit Trees/Bushes – time to feed!

There are bound to be plenty more veggies to sow/plant out as we plough on through the first month of spring. Temperatures are finally warming up but hang onto some fleece – the fruit trees might be lured into a false spring, deadly for blossom and fruit production… Make sure¬†anything you sow outside/ plant out is wrapped up under cover, nice and snuggly. It will be a shock to the system if they are exposed to Britain’s ‘spring time’ too early!

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FLOWERS TO SOW INDOORS:

French Marigolds

Cosmos

Viola

Lavender

Geraniums

Calendulas

Lupins

Sweet Peas – they are ready to plant out under cover

There are BILLIONS more…¬†

 

Celeriac

Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum), also called turnip-rooted celery or knob celery, is from the same family as Рyou guessed it Рcelery. It is cultivated for its edible roots and shoots. It is sometimes called celery root too.

Celeriac is derived from wild celery, which has a small, edible root and has been used in Europe since ancient times.¬†While what the early Greeks called¬†selinon¬†is mentioned in Homer’s¬†Odyssey¬†in 800 B.C., celeriac did not become an important vegetable until the Middle Ages. It was first recorded as a food plant in France in 1623, and was commonly cultivated in most of Europe by the end of the 17th century.¬†Celeriac was originally grown in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Today, the vegetable is still popularly grown. It hasn’t taken off in America as much but give it time, it took a while for the Brits to adjust to the ‘ugly duckling’ of the veggie world…

Today celeriac is uncommon outside of Europe or W. Asia, and is not widely used in Britain. It is popular in France (where it is used in the classic dish céleri rémoulade Рmatchsticks of celery in a flavoured mayonnaise) and Italy.

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‘Prinz’ is recommended. I tried ‘Monarch’ last year and have sown the same this season.

Sow celeriac like celery: indoors in March, in modules in a warm place, keeping it moist before hardening off and planting out. Link to celery planting conditions: Celery

Plant them out 40cm apart. I plant my celery and celeriac in the same trench, just because they are both of the same family and both like the same conditions. For the permacultural enthusiast, try sowing leeks between them. They are a good companion plant that is meant to attract beneficial insects and deter the nasties.

Celeriac takes a lot longer to reach maturity in comparison to celery. Harvesting won’t begin until September or winter but they are frost hardy and can be left in the ground without protection until March. However, I urge you to earth them up and to not leave them too long – mine rotted in the wet winter weather we had this year and I didn’t get a chance to harvest many. After harvesting, store with the leaves removed to increase its life-span.

Typically, celeriac is harvested when its hypocotyl is 10‚Äď14¬†cm in diameter.¬†However, a growing trend (specifically in Peruvian¬†and South American cuisine) is to use the immature vegetable, valued for its intensity of flavour and tenderness overall. It is edible raw or cooked, and tastes similar to the stalks (the upper part of the stem) of common celery cultivars. Celeriac may be roasted, stewed, blanched, or mashed. Sliced celeriac occurs as an ingredient in soups, casseroles, stews¬†and other savory¬†dishes. The leaves and stems of the vegetable are quite flavoursome, and aesthetically delicate and vibrant, which has led to their use as a¬†garnish. Never underestimate the wonders of celeriac or celery in stocks – along with carrot and onion they really make a wonderful tasting, hearty stock to use in risottos or soups (see:¬†Egg Drop Soup with Vegetable Stock).

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Celeriac contains no cholesterol or fat and provides an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Celeriac has the ability to absorb flavours without losing itself and works well with many partners. Mark Diacono recommends eating it with cream or layering it with potato to create a new dauphinoise recipe. Peel the celeriac, cutting off the knobbly parts and blanch in the water for a minute and then wash with cold water, if you are eating it raw. Cut it up in matchsticks and mix it with Greek yoghurt and slices of apple. Or carrot and beetroot for a colourful root vegetable salad. Try adding it to mashed potato, mashed potato and garlic, or mashed swede and carrot. It was delicious cut into tiny pieces and boiled/steamed alongside veggie/normal sausages, boiled potatoes and other boiled vegetables with cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly and gravy. Alternatively, boil it, add some butter and finely chopped herbs, like parsley or dill for a side dish.

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Celery

Celery (Apium graveolens), a marshland plant in the family Apiaceae.¬†First attested in English in 1664, the word “celery” derives from the¬†French¬†c√©leri, in turn from¬†Italian¬†seleri, the plural of¬†selero, which comes from¬†Late Latin¬†selinon,¬†the¬†latinisation¬†of the¬†Greek¬†ŌÉő≠őĽőĻőĹőŅőĹ (selinon), “celery”.

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Celery has a long, fibrous stalk tapering into leaves. Depending on the location and cultivar, either the vegetable’s¬†stalks or leaves¬†are eaten and used in cooking.¬†Celery seed is also used as a spice, its extracts are used in medicines.

Most experts believe that celery originated in the Mediterranean basin. Other areas that lay claim to nativity for celery include Sweden, the British Isles, Egypt, Algeria, India, China, and New Zealand. Though today it is mainly thought of as a vegetable meant for consumption, celery was originally used for medicinal purposes, as a flavoring herb, and sometimes fed to horses. It has medicinal properties because of the oils and seeds it contains. In ancient times it was used to treat many ailments, including colds, flu, digestion, water retention, and more.

Celery leaves¬†were part of the garlands found in the tomb of pharaoh¬†Tutankhamen¬†(died 1323¬†BC), and celery¬†mericarps¬†dated to the seventh century BC were recovered in the¬†Heraion of Samos. Archeological digs found celery dating to the 9th century BC, at¬†Kastanas. However, the literary evidence for¬†celery’s use in ancient Greece¬†is more telling:¬†in¬†Homer’s¬†Illiad,¬†horses¬†graze on wild celery that grows in the marshes of¬†Troy, and in¬†Odyssey, there is a mention of the meadows of violet and wild celery surrounding the cave of¬†Calypso.¬†A¬†chthonian¬†symbol among the ancient Greeks, celery was said to have sprouted from the blood of¬†Kadmilos.¬†The spicy odour and dark leaf colour encouraged this association with the cult of death. In classical Greece, celery leaves were used as garlands for the dead.

Celery’s late arrival in the English kitchen is an end-product of the long tradition of seed selection needed to reduce the sap’s bitterness and increase its sugars. By 1699, John Evelyn¬†could recommend it in his¬†Acetaria. A Discourse of Sallets.¬†Celery makes a minor appearance in colonial American gardens; its culinary limitations are reflected in the observation by the author of¬†A Treatise on Gardening, by a Citizen of Virginia¬†that it is “one of the species of¬†parsley”.¬†In fact the name for parsley actually means rock-celery.¬†After the mid-19th century, continued selections for refined crisp texture and taste brought celery to American kitchens, where it was served in celery vases to be salted and eaten raw.

In Europe it was not until the 1600s in France that celery was first noted as an edible plant meant for consumption. Soon the Italians began using celery the way we use it in modern times. They set out to find a way to give it a more desirable flavor because celery was thought to be quite bitter and strong. A technique was developed to remedy this stronger taste in the form of blanching. This led to two different types of celery developing. There is self-blanching or yellow celery (a recent hybrid) and green or Pascal celery. In America most people prefer the green variety. In Europe self-blanching varieties are more popular.

In the past, celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring; it was perceived as a cleansing tonic, welcomed to counter the salt-sickness of a winter diet without greens based on salted meats. By the 19th century, the season for celery had been extended, to last from the beginning of September to late in April.

In the 1850s celery seed was brought to Kalamazoo, Michigan from Scotland by George Taylor. He began growing it at a nearby farm. At a fancy ball at the Burdick House he offered it free of charge to be on the serving table. It got considerable interest. Dutch immigrants in the area caught on to the idea, and Kalamazoo became the “Celery Capital” of the nation.¬†However, this was not to last. Celery production died out after a blight hit the area in the 1930s. Now the biggest producer of celery in the nation is California.

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To grow your own celery: start seeds off indoors in small modules in early spring, March is a good time. Give them a lot of heat and keep moist for germination. Mine are in the warmest, sunniest room in the house – they get put on the windowsill during daylight hours before being ‘snuggled’, put back on the floor in the heated room for the chilly nights. I will then be moving my celery to a colder room to begin the process of hardening them off (i.e. making them tougher and able to withstand the British weather) once they are looking strong with some proper leaves developed. Plant outside, 25cm apart, in May or June, after the frosts if you can. Celery likes a moisture retentive, well-drained soil in a sunny location. I prepare the bed for them by digging a trench, filling it with well-rotted manure and compost before covering it with soil and a good thick layer of mulch – it will help to hold onto the water and suppress the weeds. I often prepare this in early spring/winter, giving the worms time to do their work below before planting the little babies out. Once I have planned them out, I like to place plastic bottles with their bottoms cut off over each individual plant before covering them with horticultural fleece, making sure they are slug protected, very important! The bottles protect the celery from cold, wind and being squashed; the fleece protects them from strong sunlight, cold, and again wind which is no friend to the plastic bottles. Keep the celery well watered and slug protected and weed free as much as possible. Once they look big and strong enough to stand the world on their own and the frosts have vanished, remove their protection and let them fend for themselves.

Self-blanching varieties avoid the need to be earthed up like the older varieties of celery. Recommended are ‘Golden Self Blanching’, ‘Daybreak’ and ‘Green Utah’.¬†I have tried growing before now ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Green Sleeves’. Very tasty although you will have to de-string them if you are feeling fussy about chewy textures!

Try to harvest before the frosts, when the sticks are recognisably big, from around August. However, we have managed to leave our celery (when we had pretty much a whole fields worth a couple of years ago thanks to my over-generous sowings and surprisingly successful germinations and survivals) under fleece throughout the winter. They did go to seed the following spring but it meant that a steady harvest for us/pigs saw us through the winter- although I think I put a lot of my family off celery… similar to the runner-bean situation that occurs yearly…

Problems with celery: slugs and snails are your ultimate competition. Starting them off indoors not only increases the likelihood of germination but it also helps to protect them from these pests. Celery fly maggots can strike in April, planting them out in May avoids this. The problem I had last year was celery blight. It looks like rust, similar looking to potato blight. The outer stems get these nasty brown patterns that eventually droop and become inedible. It also prevents the plant from ever developing to a proper size, so my harvest was very poor last year. There is nothing you can do but to snap off the outer stems infected to slow down the spread of the disease and to harvest them as small treats instead of large, supermarket-style vegetables.

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Celery is among a small group of foods (headed by peanuts) that appear to provoke the most severe allergic reactions; for people with celery allergy, exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content.

Celery is a rich source of phenolic phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Celery is an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum. It is a very good source of folate, potassium, dietary fiber, manganese and pantothenic acid. Celery is also a good source of vitamin B2, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin A. Celery supposedly: helps lower blood cholesterol, lowers inflammation, lowers blood pressure, prevents ulcers, sustains liver health, boosts digestion and reduces bloating, prevents urinary tract infections and may help in preventing cancer. Altogether, a very good veggie!

I mostly eat my celery raw – homegrown it can be stringy but once prepared by being sliced in sticks it is deliciously sweet and juicy. Serve with any other salad, Waldorf Salad is popular in the US (celery, apple and walnuts, I think?). My mum used to have raw celery sticks dipped in salt. Use for dips like humous. I think it is yummy dipped in baked potatoes that have been mashed with salted butter. It is also delicious stir fried after being sliced into small pieces – a whole new taste, it is one of my favourite veggies to stir fry, along with broccoli stalks and sweetcorn, I don’t know why, they are just yummy too! Celery can also be boiled, steamed or roasted along with some carrots and parsnips to accompany your roast dinner. It is fundamental in my dad’s homemade Christmas stuffing alone with pear or apple. Very good in stocks, especially the leaves. It can easily be added to stews and casseroles too, perhaps even curries. Someone I know once said that veggie bolognese was nothing without celery – I am not sure I agree, I prefer grated carrots in mine but why not give it a go?!

Fun fact:¬†The perennial BBC television series Doctor Who featured the Fifth Doctor (played by Peter Davison, from 1981‚Äď84), who wore a sprig of celery as a corsage.

Sweet Potatoes

It will never work… but I bought two Sweet Potatoes to ‘chit’… then we used one for supper because we decided a) it won’t work, they are too difficult to chit and then keep alive in England and b) if it DID work, we didn’t want that many! They were giant…¬†

Sweet Potatoes are famously difficult to grow in England because of our bad weather in comparison to South America or Africa where they thrive. We should really stick to our normal potatoes, which is fine by me because I think they go with more meals, but it is fun to try out these new vegetables. Despite its name and look, sweet potatoes are nothing like potatoes. They taste different, are from a different family etc. They are a completely different vegetable hence why we decided we might as well give it a go and try growing one despite the odds being pretty much stacked against us! If you buy your sweet potatoes to grow properly online (which is probably better than me getting one from the market, this process has a very poor succession report) then they will arrive often as plug-plants to make things easier. Read on to find out some interesting history, nutrition and how to grow facts about sweet potatoes, as well as a yummy recipe at the bottom…¬†

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Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the morning glory family Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy,¬†sweet-tasting, tuberous root are a root vegetable. They are also known as yams (although the soft, orange sweet potato is often called a¬†“yam”¬†in parts of North America, the sweet potato is botanically very distinct from a genuine yam¬†(Dioscorea), which is native to Africa and Asia and belongs to the monocot family Dioscoreaceae),¬†or kumara. Sweet potatoes are only distantly related to potatoes, they aren’t from the same ‘family’¬†but that family is part of the same taxonomic order as sweet potatoes, the Solanales.¬†Although the sweet potato is not closely related botanically to the common potato,¬†they have a shared etymology. The first Europeans to taste sweet potatoes were members of Christopher Columbus’¬†expedition in 1492. Later explorers found many cultivars under an assortment of local names, but the name which stayed was the indigenous Taino¬†name of¬†batata. The Spanish combined this with the Quechua¬†word for potato,¬†papa, to create the word¬†patata¬†for the common potato. The first record of the name “sweet potato” is found in the Oxford English Dictionary,¬†1775.

The plant is a herbaceous perennial vine. It bears alternate heart-shaped or palmately lobed leaves (sometimes eaten as a green) and medium-sized flowers. The edible tuberous root is long and tapered, with a smooth skin. The colour ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige. Its flesh ranges from beige through white, red, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and purple. Sweet potato cultivars with white or pale yellow flesh are less sweet and moist than those with red, pink or orange flesh.

The origin¬†and domestication of sweet potato is thought to be in either Central America or¬†South America.¬†In¬†Central America,¬†sweet potatoes were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago.¬†In South America, Peruvian sweet potato remnants dating as far back as 8000 BC have been found.¬†The sweet potato was grown in Polynesia¬†before western exploration. Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated¬†in the Cook Islands¬†to 1000 AD, and current thinking is that it was brought to central Polynesia around 700 AD, possibly by Polynesians who had traveled to South America and back, and spread across Polynesia to¬†Hawaii¬†and New Zealand from there.¬†Sweet potatoes are cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperate regions wherever there is sufficient water to support their growth.¬†Due to a major crop failure, sweet potatoes were introduced¬†to¬†China in about 1594. The growing of sweet potatoes was encouraged by the Governor Chin Hs√ľeh-tseng (Jin Xuezeng).¬†Sweet potatoes were introduced as a food crop in Japan, and by 1735 was planted in Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune’s¬†private garden.¬†It was also introduced to¬†Korea¬†in 1764.¬†Sweet potatoes became popular very early in the¬†islands of the Pacific Ocean,¬†spreading from Polynesia to Japan and the Philippines.¬†They are featured in many favorite dishes in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other island nations. Uganda¬†(the second largest grower after China), Rwanda, and some other African countries also grow a large crop which is an important part of their peoples’ diets. The¬†New World, the original home of the sweet potato, grows less than three percent (3%) of the world’s supply. Europe has only a very small sweet potato production, mainly in¬†Portugal.

The plant does not tolerate frost.¬†It grows best at an average¬†temperature¬†of 24¬†¬įC, abundant sunshine and warm nights. Not really suited to the UK. Annual rainfalls of 750‚Äď1,000¬†mm (30‚Äď39¬†in) are considered most suitable, with a minimum of 500¬†mm (20¬†in) in the growing season. The crop is sensitive to drought at the tuber initiation stage 50‚Äď60 days after planting, and it is not tolerant to water-logging, as it may cause tuber rots and reduce growth of storage roots if aeration is poor.

Unlike normal potatoes, sweet potatoes are grown from ‚Äėslips‚Äô. These are the long shoots that have been removed from ‚Äėchitted‚Äô sweet potato tubers. ‚ÄėSlips‚Äô don‚Äôt have roots, although sometimes there are signs of small roots beginning to appear. The roots will grow once the ‚Äėslip‚Äô has been planted. Whilst it is possible to grow your own ‚Äėslips‚Äô from supermarket sweet potatoes, most supermarket varieties are not sufficiently hardy to grow well in the UK so crops are likely to be disappointing.

When they arrive the ‘Slips’ will look withered, but place them in a glass of water overnight and they will quickly recover. The next day you can plant them up individually into small pots of multi-purpose compost. When planting sweet potato slips, it‚Äôs important to cover the whole length of the stem, so that it is covered right up to the base of the leaves.¬†Sweet potato plants are not hardy so you will need to grow them on in warm, frost free conditions for 3 weeks or more until they are established. Warm, humid conditions will quickly encourage the slips to produce roots. They will most likely need to be grown completely inside a greenhouse in the UK climate in large pots filled with good compost and lots of feeding.¬†Sweet potatoes have a vigorous growth habit and long sprawling stems. In the greenhouse it may be useful to train the stems onto strings or trellis to keep them tidier.

Varieties to consider:

‚ÄėGeorgia Jet‚Äô – considered to be particularly reliable.

‘T65’¬†– its red skins contrast nicely with the creamy, white flesh.

‚ÄėBeauregard Improved‚Äô – a best selling variety, producing smaller tubers with a lovely salmon-orange flesh.

‘O Henry’ – richly flavoured,¬†has a slightly different, bushier habit than other varieties and produces it‚Äôs tubers in a cluster which makes for easier harvesting.

Sweet potatoes can be used soon after harvesting, but they will store well for several months if the skins are cured properly. Lay them out in the sun for a few hours immediately after harvesting and then move them to a warm, humid place for 10 days Рa greenhouse is ideal. Once the skins have cured they can be stored in cooler conditions provided that they are kept dry. In late summer, approximately 12 to 16 weeks after planting, the foliage and stems start to turn yellow and die back. Now is the time to start harvesting sweet potatoes, although they can be left longer if you prefer larger tubers. If outdoor grown, lift them before the frosts or they will be damaged.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.

Sweet potatoes can replace a normal potato in any recipe, but they do have a slightly sweeter taste so some things might not go with it as much (I can’t quite picture my all-time favourite baked potato and baked beans being quite the same with the sweet potato). I’ve had sweet potato stews that were yummy, curried sweet potato recipes are out there, sweet potato salads, baked and stuffed with humous, tofu, lentils, coronation chicken, ham, bacon, eggs. We’ve seen the sweet potato brownies and muffins and breads (have not tried any of these, I must admit). I like them boiled with greens and cheddar cheese – they go very well with cheese. In fact, the best meal that includes sweet potato that I have had is Cauliflower-Sweet Potato-Cheese. Now that is a good combination. And here is a recipe:

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Cauliflower-Sweet Potato-Broccoli-Cheese

(Serves 6) 

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 large broccoli

For the cheese sauce: 

  • 7g butter
  • 1/2-1tbsp plain flour
  • 300g-400g grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 pint of milk
  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Rinse and cut up the cauliflower into pieces. Peel and cut up the sweet potato into small chunks. Put both in the pan of water and reduce the heat to low. Boil for 5 minutes before rinsing and cutting up the broccoli and adding it. Boil for about another 5 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked.
  2. To make the cheese sauce: Put the butter in a saucepan over a high heat to melt. Add the flour, stirring. Take off the heat and stir until combined. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring. Warm it up over a high flame, stirring. Wait until it bubbles, then turn it down and let it simmer, so it is a thick sauce. Turn of the heat and stir in the cheese a little at a time until dissolved.
  3. Turn the grill onto high or the oven to about 180C.
  4. In a large ovenproof dish, scrape the drained vegetables into the bottom and scrape the cheese sauce over the top. Scatter extra grated cheddar on top, if you would like to have a crispy topping. Place under the grill or in the oven and cook until it is brown on top (it will be a few minutes under the grill, longer in the oven).
  5. Serve hot, with more vegetables like peas or runner beans if you would like.

My other favourite variation is Cauliflower-Potato-Courgette-Broccoli-Cheese. Yum. 

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February Sowings

List of edibles you could start sowing indoors in February:

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Cucumbers: Passandra, Marketmore, Crystal Lemon.  For more information on planting cucumbers, visit my cucumber page: Cucumbers

Calabrese Broccoli – Ironman F1 –¬†Calabrese Broccoli

Cauliflower – All Year Round

Spinach – Emilia and Barbados¬†Salad ‚Äď Spinach

Peppers – Californian Wonder

Aubergine РBlack Beauty Aubergine

Rocket –¬†Salad ‚Äď Rocket

Onions – bulbs (outdoors under cover) and seeds

Shallots – seeds

Brussels Sprouts and Brukale РMaximus and Petite Posy Brussels Sprouts

Lettuce¬†Salad ‚Äď Lettuce

Tomatoes – Shirley, Gardner’s Delight, Sungold, Losetto…

Radishes –¬†Salad ‚Äď Radish

First early potatoes (outdoors under cover)- e.g. Swift, Red Duke of York, Epicure, Rocket The MIGHTY Potato

Garlic (outdoors) Garlic

Herbs indoors

Beetroot – Bolthardy

Spring Onions

Cabbages – Caserta

Oriental greens – e.g. komatsuna, pak choi, mizuna, mitzuna)

Okra

Cape Gooseberries

Rhubarb (forcing time) Rhubarb

Broadbeans РMasterpiece Green Long Pod, Aquadulce Broad Beans

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I’m bound to have missed lots – anyone got any ideas to share??