Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weird vegetables in my sub-tropical garden

I've had some questions about the weird vegetables in my sub-tropical food garden, so here are some details for you.  I tend to try to find vegetables that grow well in the sub-tropics.  Perennial plants are ideal, but there are also a few unusual annuals that I grow.  I have received most of these as cuttings or seeds from friends and neighbours.  I find the best way to find out what will grow here is to talk to the locals, particularly our permaculture group, and take all opportunities to try unusual varieties because you might find something useful.


eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
Rosella
Rosella (Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa))
Rosella (as it is known in Australia) is a hibiscus.  It grows as a bush, about 1-2 m tall and 1 m wide.  The flowers are very pretty, and when they are finished the calyx grows and can be harvested before it starts to dry out.  I peel the calyx and dry it to make rosella tea, or rosella ale.  Some people make jam or jelly as well.  Other parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves, seeds and and roots.  I don't personally use these parts, but I would eat the leaves if I got really hungry!  Rosella bushes grow as annuals in my garden as they don't survive frost.  I plant them as early as possible in spring so that they can grow large enough to get a harvest before the next winter.



eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
Warrigal greens
Warrigal greens (New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
Warrigal greens are native to native to Australia, Argentina, Chile, Japan, and New Zealand (I have never seen it in the wild though).  This plant is a low growing, spreading perennial in my garden.  It dies back in winter when we get frost, but it grows back as soon as we get some summer rain.  It grows very quickly.  Fortunately the chickens also like it.  The leaves can be eaten like spinach, and due to the oxalate content, they should not be eaten raw.  I usually either steam or sautee the leaves with other vegetables.

eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
the sweet potato corner

Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
I planted a sprouting sweet potato that was given to me and its now spread throughout the garden.  Luckily the leave die back in winter, otherwise it might take over.  In my garden its a perennial, as it regrows from tubers following summer rain, as long as I leave some tubers when I harvest.  I usually dig them up towards the end of autumn after the leaves have started to die off, while I can still see where the plant was growing.  The young leaves are also edible (but we don't usually eat them).  Sweet potato should not be eaten raw either, I use it like potato, baked, boiled, mashed etc, but it does burn more easily due to the sugar content.  Sweet potato is known as kumara in New Zealand, but I haven't seen the yellow variety here in Australia that I would usually think of as a typical kumara.  I am growing an orange one, and one with a pink skin with white flesh.

eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
the chickens helping themselves to sweet potato and warrigal greens

See also Tromboncino and Choko.


Do you grow weird veges in a weird climate?  Any tips to share?  How do you find out what to grow and where to get plants or seeds from?

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4 comments:

  1. I think you have just ignited an interest in me for rosellas! I will be having some gaps in my garden soon, as a couple of things I planted (and one I didn't) need pulling out, I am thinking the space would be perfect for one...thank you!

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  2. i tried brazilian spinach this year for the 1st time, as most of the silverbeets were inedible or all died from the exhaustive heat we had here. i found it tastes just silverbeet when steamed, not so fussed on it raw though. am considering a few of the other greens, mainly for chook fodder though. i have quite a few sweet potatoes sprouting on my table, the popular orange flesh, which i also have out in the garden, (which i never seem to get any tubers on) white flesh with pink/purple skin & the purple flesh with white skin. not sure where to plant them yet. you can make cakes with them, have only made a chocolate brownie type so far. gave up wheat & am always looking for something easy to bake.
    great post
    thanx for sharing

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  3. I have rosellas planted as well, I planted them the first time and this time they are self seeded. The bushes are looking good and I hope they fruit well. I live in the tropics and we've found getting things to grow interesting. Everything is pretty much grown over the cooler months. At the moment sugarsnap peas, snow peas, beans, cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, radish and garlic are going well. Lettuce not so well but I think grasshoppers are eating it. Herbs and strawberries do alright too. We only have a small garden so a pretty limited in what and how much we can grow. I just experiment, if it grows it grows if it doesn't ah well try again or give up.

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  4. Very cool! I don't think we have any of these here...well, except the sweet potatoes!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. We'd love for you to link up again this week!

    ~Lisa

    ReplyDelete

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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