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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton


Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Books By
Alan J Hartley



More Success With the Unusual.

This year I had just about given up hope of getting any fruits from my Quince tree. Previous years I had covered the blossom up religiously every Spring with Horticultural Fleece to protect it from the late frosts and this year I didn’t bother. I didn’t even examine the flowers that did appear to see if anything was happening. In fact I forgot all about it until I was retying some of the trees after a particularly bad spell of wind. Inspecting the strings on the big Quince tree trained against a wall, I suddenly realised that there were several large fruits on the ground all round me. Not only had the tree fruited for the first time, but the fruit had developed to the point of being discarded by the tree. Most had a little damage, although the slug damage was nothing worse than on “Windfall,” Apples and was nothing a sharp knife couldn’t cut out and you do need a sharp knife when cutting the Quince fruits because they are as hard as bullets. The Quince tree that fruited was of course the one at home, as the little one on my allotment plot is far too young yet. Indeed, it seems that I may have to wait quite a few years for that sapling to fruit going by the age of the big one. It is my intention to train the branches out so that it doesn’t get very tall and to restrict it’s size it has been planted in a special root training pot that has been plunged into the ground.

After peeling and coring the fruits that I rescued, I decided to quarter them and store them in the freezer for use later. Quickly “Blanching,” them in boiling water I found that they rapidly softened and I over cooked some. Mom was just getting up for breakfast so I cooked them a little more still and we tried a dishful as stewed fruit. Mom was quite impressed by their taste that was very much “Peach,” like, but with a strong and pleasant after taste. Apparently the other recommended use for them is to add a chopped “Quarter,” to Apple pies and crumbles to liven them up. 

My “Inca Dahlias” or Yacon put on quite a bit of top growth throughout the season, but just as they were about to flower the tops were taken by the first, early frosts. It seems that this was good because if they are allowed to flower it drains some of the goodness out of the tubers, which are after all the reason for growing them, not the flowers. When I dug the roots up it was obvious that they are related to the Jerusalem Artichoke as well as the Dahlia, because of the way that the swollen roots, (Tubers) grow. Like Dahlias, they don’t shoot from these tubers, which are just a food store, but the plants have a central growing point almost like a Rhubarb Crown, whereas, Dahlias, actually shoot from the base of the old stem. The central “Crown,” can be cut away from the harvest of tubers, for replanting. From the 3 original plants I had a good bucketful of large tubers that were very reminiscent of “Sweet Potatoes,” in appearance, although nothing like the same texture when you cut into them. 2 of the 3 plants that I grew from the original “Crowns,” I divided and managed to cut out 17 pieces with “Eyes,” on them. With more skill and practice I might have had many more. The third plant I gave to an interested friend for him to experiment with. I will have to keep the potted “Eyes,” in dryish compost in a cold, but frost-free greenhouse over the coming winter before planting them out in late spring, much the same as for Dahlias. 

Supposedly the Yacon tubers, that are also called “Ground Apples,” because of their crisp, moist texture, are in fact poisonous raw, but are O.K. cooked the same as many of the Yams are. I am sure the stories of their toxic qualities are nothing to worry about as we have all eaten the “poisonous,” Rhubarb, or green Tomato Chutney as well. Just a point of interest that most people don’t know is - green Tomatoes killed hundreds when they were first brought over to the UK centuries ago, because they were so poisonous and people didn’t understand that they had to turn red before you could eat them.

When we cooked our first Yacon tuber we peeled it and roasted it, but we could have just as easily fried it. The texture was to me reminiscent of Celery and was sweet, but fairly bland, although they are supposed to be quite nutritious, and they were for centuries, said to be the staple food of the Inca peoples. However, as a lot of other potato alternatives are fairly bland anyway, I don’t think that is really a problem. I will grow them again as they certainly cropped well in our climate and are something different, although I don’t know how well they will store. I am trying to store the tubers in the same way as I do Beetroot, in crates of dry soil.

Another little grown vegetable that I am trying again this year is “Forcing Chicory.” The plants were started off in my allotment in the spring before being dug up as the first frosts of autumn approached. The “Crowns,” or “Thongs,” had developed well throughout the summer months with lots of top growth that was all carefully cut off when I lifted them. After removing them from my allotment I re-planted them in my cold greenhouse at home in a special darkened bed made from concrete blocks and filled with old compost. The space underneath my staging was ideal for the bed because they needed all light excluding from the plants to stop them from being bitter. Previous years I had grown them in large plant pots with covers over them, but the new purpose built bed proved to be much more space efficient. It will be 6-8 weeks before I can actually cut any “Chicons,” so I will have to be patient. They are very labour intensive plants to grow in some respects, but they give a green vegetable in the middle of winter when there is not much else to harvest and Chicons are very expensive in the shops at about 75p each.


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