With daytime temperatures now hitting the 60s reliably, we are starting to see a lot more growth. Here are updates on a few of the more unusual vegetables that we are growing this year.
|Achocha plant in mid-June|
The achocha is finally starting to grow. It really wants temperatures in the mid-60s to do much growing. This plant has been outside since early April, but has put on most of its growth in the last two weeks. It is just starting to bud, so based on last year’s experience, we should have some ripe achocha pods about the end of July. Last year, we grew the achocha in the hoop house, but I think that was coddling it. It is not tasty or productive enough to warrant limited hoop house space, so it must prove itself outdoors this year or go out of rotation.
|Paul and Becky’s Asturian Tree Cabbage
(A mouthful in more than one way.)
About a third of our cabbage planting this year is Paul and Becky’s Asturian Tree Cabbage. I am really impressed with this plant. It tastes good raw or cooked, it grows large and lush regardless of conditions, and unlike most cabbages, it can be harvested a leaf at time. We’ve harvested two tiers of leaves from this plant already. Because we live in a cabbage-friendly climate, I could see moving almost all of our cabbage planting to leaf cabbage. We’re still waiting for heading cabbage to size up, but we’ve been eating leaf cabbage for a while and could do so year round.
|Mashua plant in mid-June|
Here is a mashua plant growing up the front of our duck enclosure – in a relatively exposed and windy location. Although slugs do eat the leaves, it outpaces them. It is really a very tough plant, so I hope that we can find a tastier way to prepare the tubers.
When a plant grows so effortlessly, you can’t help but hope to find a good use for it. In this case, it appears that our ducks will eat it, which means we could feed them mashua over the winter while reserving more potatoes for human feed. The question will really come down to how well it yields compared to potatoes and how well the ducks do on a diet that contains a lot of mashua. It is a relatively high protein tuber, so it may be better for them than potatoes.
|This is a Lilly White seakale plant.
As far as I can tell, they are no different from wild seakale plants.
Here, at last, is a seakale plant starting to put on some growth. This is one of the slowest plants to get started, in my experience. That is strange, because it doesn’t seem to want heat – it just crawls through the seedling stage. It will now start to put on true leaves at a little faster pace, but it will probably still be two years before we can harvest many spring shoots. (Seakale is harvested like asparagus – usually, just the spring shoots are eaten.)
|Skirret started from tuber transplants this year.|
Our skirret from tuber starts is growing well. The plants that we started from seed are still tiny and I have spread them around the garden to try to find the microclimate that they like best. It may just be another plant that is very slow to get growing. The plants started from tubers are very vigorous though, so one way or another, we’ll have some skirret to eat. This is a relatively exposed spot with poor soil, but they don’t seem to care.
|Yacon limping along with brown and purple leaves.|
This is one of my sad-looking yacon plants. Everything I read says that yacon is easy to grow, but I don’t have very good luck with it. I think maybe it doesn’t like wind. Hopefully they will eventually grow a strong enough root system to overcome that handicap. Between its lackluster growth and difficulty getting tubers to last through the winter, this might be my last attempt at growing yacon. I seem to be destined to be a contrarian – this really is supposed to be one of the easiest Andean root and tuber crops, but it is one of the worst performers for us.
Some of the varieties mentioned in this post are available in our seed shop.