Field Allotments Hixon
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
Alan J Hartley
More Unusual Flowers & Vegetables.
For some years now I have been
growing unusual, Vegetables and Fruit, of one kind or another, but it
was only a year, or two ago that I was given a little clump of Arum
Pictum bulbs. The lady who gave them to me didn’t know what they were
called, but said that she often saw them on her walks across the
countryside. I duly planted them in my garden and promptly forgot about
them as, like other bulbs, they have a period of dormancy and all of
their top growth dies off. However, unlike most garden bulbs they die
off in mid summer and burst into life later in the year and over winter.
Their quite exotic and spectacular flowers and seed heads, develop
first, before the leaves, in the Autumn, putting on quite a show with
their spears of bright red berries on a green stem. They should not be
eaten though, because like many red Berries, they are poisonous to
Humans. Fallen berries will readily grow around the parent plant giving
the opportunity to spread plants around the garden. The flowers can be
either yellow, or a dark purple and are typical of Arum Lilies. They
come from the Balearic Islands and look very like the House Plant
Caladium, with their variegated, arrow shaped leaves. These provide a
bit of welcome foliage during the winter months and are quite
Arum Pictum is commonly called the “Italian Arum Lily,” “Large Cuckoo
Pint” and “Lords and Ladies.” It may be related to Zantedeschia
Aethiopica, commonly known as the Calla Lily, or Arum Lily that seems to
have several other names including, “Brosimum Aethiopica and Calla
Apios Americanum, or the Cinnamon Vine, is another flowering plant that
puts on quite a show, but in this case as a Climber. Mine, has been
happily growing on my Allotment for a few years now and has pretty White
Flowers that are highly scented, but there other colours available.
Originally, I grew a little row of them with the intention of harvesting
their large Tubers which they develop. They grow straight down, are
edible and are like a Yam. However, the Tubers take several years to
develop to any size here in the UK as it is not really warm enough, so I
don’t bother harvesting them and treat the Plants as Perennial,
Herbaceous, Ornamental, Vines. They are said to be invasive in warmer
climates, because they will spread by the small, peanut sized, seeds,
which are not actually seeds, but some sort of Bulbul. This will not
happen here in the UK though, because it is too cold for them to
establish, although the deep growing, underground Tubers, will readily
come again and shoot each year. In the past, I have managed to propagate
some of the Bulbils in the warmth of my Green House.
The Sausage Vine, or Chocolate Vine – Akebia Quinata is yet another
interesting climber that I treat as an Ornamental, but that too was
originally meant to yield a crop. This time of a rather odd looking,
Sausage shaped Fruit. The Vine is almost evergreen producing unusual
mauve flowers in early Spring, supposedly followed by an edible fruit.
My plant seems to flower well, but as yet I have had no fruit. After
planting my original vine I read that 2 plants are needed for fruit, so
when my Brother said he was digging his up, I jumped at the chance to
acquire it. It was in a sorry state when I planted it, but it seems to
have taken as I moved it at the right time during the Winter months. We
will have to wait and see if I now get some Fruit in future years.
Some years ago I did actually grow a variety of Soya Beans that were not
very productive, so I didn’t bother with them again, but with my
Christmas Presents, a friend of mine sent me a packet of Edamame Beans
that are a type of Soya Bean. Consequently, I feel obliged to give them
another try. Who knows, a newer variety should be more suited to our
climate and grow better. One difference with these Beans, is that they
are picked while still immature and they are not dried as with other
Soya Beans. Apparently, they should be cooked in their Shells with a
little salt and then shelled. As with all Beans including Haricot and
Kidney, they are poisonous if not cooked properly and although they are
cooked in the shell, which is not poisonous, the shells can’t be eaten
because they are too tough. In Japan they are often served up a s a
snack food and eaten directly from the Shells, or they are shelled and
served cold in Salads.
Another new variety of vegetable that I am going to try is the Dwarf
Jerusalem Artichoke. I grew the original variety for a number of years
before I became aware of the less knobbly and quicker maturing, Fuseau
type. However, it is only this last Winter that I came across the Dwarf
Sunray Tubers that are said to grow to less than 3ft in height, whereas
Fuseau grows to some 7, or 8 feet as can be seen from the photograph.
This new, Red Tuber comes from the Netherlands and sounds much more
civilised, although I have known people grow the taller varieties as
Wind Breaks! (Used for Breaking Wind! Yes they do cause flatulence as
well! They are commonly called FARTICHOKES!) I believe they still
produce the smallish, yellow, Sunflower like flowers, when they are
ready to harvest which I suppose you could cut if you wanted.
The Friend who gave me the Beans also gave me a packet of Climbing
Spinach, or Malabar. As with other Spinach varieties it is said to have
excellent mineral levels and unusually, for a plant, it also has high
protein levels. However, Malabar Spinach isn't a true spinach, but its
leaves do look like those of the Spinach and cook in the same way.
Malabar Spinach is known by several different names in the warmer
regions where it is commonly grown and can be called “Ceylon Spinach,”
“Indian Spinach,” or to give it its Latin Name “Basella Alba,” and if it
is the red variety, “Basella Rubra.”
When grown in warmer Climates, Climbing Spinach behaves like a perennial
and can become a nuisance as it will readily seed down from the Berries
that it will produce, however, in cooler Climates, it is only grown as
an Annual not surviving the winters and even then it needs to be grown
in a warm and sunny, but damp, spot. Incidentally, if the plant doesn’t
get enough moisture it will Flower and subsequently produce Berries
which will result in the Leaves becoming more bitter.
The Vine can be grown simply as an ornamental plant, or its Leaves and
Shoots can be harvested as both are edible, and used either raw in
Salads, or cooked as traditional Spinach. If cooked, they can be
prepared in a variety of ways such as Steaming, Boiling and Stir Frying.
The Leaves have a slightly peppery flavour and this peppery-ness makes
them a welcome addition to Stews, Soups and Curries.
Many of these unusual Plants are simply plants that are being introduced
from warmer Climates and with Global Warming I suppose there could be a
lot more newcomers to our shores, but I thought it was interesting to
hear that one of our leading TV Gardeners has decided not to grow so
many so called “Exotics,” because of the difficulties in keeping them
over Winter. He specifically mentioned Citrus, Bananas and Cannas, that
all need quite a bit of shelter from severe cold, and with increased
heating costs, I wonder if he is right in his thoughts and if he is, I
wonder which of these exotic and unusual plants we will be growing in
years to come and which will just disappear back into obscurity.