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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Wellington Field Allotments Hixon


Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Books By
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 ornamental.
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 Pallustris.

Dioscorea Batatas, 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.

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