December 04, 2015

The LISTING, description & celebration of some culinary & EXOTIC plants recently discovered while RESIDENT in Terra Australis Icognita during anno Domini 2015 [complete with a hall of fame section for past comestibles] according to A GARDENER who is a local yokel.

Methinks that as the end of the year approaches I owed it to my reading public to share a few tips and tricks as to the plant life I have partaken with much gardenary and culinary pleasure over the past  12 months of toil with sandy soil.

Ah. Toil with soil is so right. I have lived in, on , off and with the dirt as one would a third arm. Useful at times to scratch one's nose but demanding of effort and jealous for attention.
It is of the earth that I speak.
As the great barb of whatsit so well said, "The earth has music for those who listen." And this year past I have been heading its call.
I am Adam to its Eden. An apple to its Eve. A serpent to its grass.
It has consumed my urine and I its yield.
Amen to all that.

Herein I make up the list :

  • TOMATILLO: Much easier to grow than many varieties of its cousin, tomatoes, the husked and green tomatillo is both productive and undemanding. A great little performer in the sub tropics , the one drawback with this plant is that few know how to deploy it in the kitchen.I use it as a tomato substitute  in both hot and cold/raw dishes. You aren't gonna get the sweet bang! of a tom from a tomatillo, but you may find the reason why the ancient Maya and the Aztecs, considered the tomatillo more important than the tomato.
  • HUAZONTLE: This weedy plant is so easy to grow that i wonder why it hasn't occupied the backyard garden beds like a rash. I don't eat the leaves so much as the seed heads -- but only when green,when they form like flattened broccoli.i use them in many dishes. Chew. Tasty. Without overbearing flavour. If the plants moves on and the seed heads harden, you could use them as you would Quinoa...or you can strip the heads and sprinkle the seeds about for more plants top come on.
  • CAIGUAA fun plant that's easy to grow. The cucumber like fruits are tempting poppers to consume while out and about gardening. An extremely productive vine  with a vigorous growth habit such that you'll find it hard to keep up with the harvest. Caigua has a limited culinary range I've found especially as the fruits enlarge -- but their nutritional attributes make them a great addition to the domestic menu.
  • YAMS: 'I yam what I yam', says I. There are so many starchy tubers called yams that it is hard to separate them one from t'other.I'm growing the Dioscorea alata (an Asian yam) and Dioscorea rotundata (African yam). As garden plants,watching them climb upwards is  akin to reliving Jack's beanstalk adventure. Both are quite starchy --as you expect -- and the tubers are huge. The D.alata however has a mushiness that really takes to soup makings especially if you are into food of the technicolor persuasion as alata is keenly purple.
  • JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES: I prefer to call these sunchokes or fartichokes (for gaseous reasons) . While I've had to replant a new crop each season, sunchokes seem to come on keenly and when ready to harvest will happily sit in the dirt until you are ready to eat them. I love the nutty flavour although you need to mix them with other veg rather than pig out on a plate full of, what will prove to be, fart makers. One work around -- recently discovered -- is to eat sunchokes with the Mexican herb Epazote. I grow the herb but haven't as yet deployed it as a fart suppressant.
  • OKINAWAN SPINACH : There are any number of 'spinaches' you can grow for greening up your innards. In truth there is a wide flavour range to be had among them. I grow several of these -- Brazilian, New Zealand, Surinan Spinach...-- but for my tastebuds I'm liking the Okinawan persuasion. Easy to grow and divide, the purply leaves are almost herb like it the little extra zing they can bring to a dish. Of the pretend spinach greens it is to this one I turn more frequently when outback fossicking for my din dins.
  • 'PERENNIAL CAPSICUM' : I call capsicums 'peppers' or 'sweet peppers' because that's what they really are. They're just not 'chilli' peppers. That said, they have to be my absolute favorite vegetable. I'll use any excuse to eat them. So I eat a lot of them each year...and each year I've been trying to grow my own supply. This year I finally got a handle on the perennial capsicum -- perennial pepper. While our relationship is still a bit touch and go, these beauties feed me in the way that other varieties do not. They keep on giving. I am -- not to put too strong a word to it -- an absolute pepper nut and snob. While I will continue to chase after my preference for Cubanos and Italian Fryers -- at least I know that this plant will always be there to come home to.
  • PIGEON PEAS : I may be getting a bit ahead of myself but this year is the year of the Pigeon Pea at maison d'ave. Them peas are my manna. I buy em and eat them, and some I don't eat I plant out...all over the place...and wait. I wait for the time when I can harvest my own fresh PPs and merge more deeply into the tasty delights of Caribbean cuisine. I'm not there yet but this is my glorious quest. A free ticket to Trinidad wouldn't go amiss either. As well as as being a food source PPs tick so many gardening boxes, that, as my Indian spice merchant insists, every home should have one.
So there you have the roll of honour for 2015: all new and novel. All very exotic and kitchen test approved. But let us not live just in the moment. There are other heroes of the dirt that stand out from a year or two gone by. These past comestibles deserve a nod.
  • KATUK : While this plant may close up shop over the cold Winter months, it has to be 'ole reliable. It's so easy to chop off a few branches and add them to whatever's cooking.  it grows in the shade. Is so easy to strike from cuttings. Offers a taste range varying with leaf age.the trick is to grow many Katuks. We're talking hedges or copses. I found I never had enough so more -- much more -- is best.
  • WARRIGAL GREENS : Of the irony oxalic acidy greens, this is my fav.I have heaps of the stuff under foot now.I don't eat that much of it on a day to day basis but when it comes to spinach and rice this is my standard ingredient.I've tried m,y other greens but keep coming back to the Warrigals.
  • PIGFACE : I don't  often eat pigface. I'd like to but  haven't got around to mastering the culinaries. However I use it as a ground cover extraordinaire and now deploy it as a mulch and soil additive with hydroscopic properties. I'm growing it cheek to jowl with a lot of other plants. I use any excuse to add it to a patch. Pigface has more attributes than people realize. For instance it has similar skin repair properties to aloe vera and  in vitro offers antioxidant, antiplatelet, and anti-inflammatory activity. Mine -- the local variety -- is slow to flower  and  fruit; but the southern species does fruit and are sweet and tasty but are surly in my garden.
  • CHOKO : I have chokoes hither and upwards yon. These vines are my  garden's infrastructure. I've been growing them for years and each year find more ways to harvest and eat them. They are the zucchini you have when you don't have zucchinis. The cucumber you have when you don't have cucumbers. And the  veg you roast when the spuds are missing. versatile and almost always ready for harvest most days of the year.
  • MULBERRY: I love mulberries. Always have. I grow more trees than it is decent to own up to. This year thus far I may have eaten hardly any before the what-evers got to them; but a garden without a mulberry tree isn't a garden.At least 2 crops -- TWO CROPS -- per year of eat-in-hand fruits.I'm growing a mulberry hedgerow around the chook pen as an ongoing 'edible wall' project. I have a white one in the mix too. So I'm expectant.
  • SPRING ONIONS : I haven't bought ' an onion' in maybe 2 years because I live off spring onions. Currently I'm 80-90 percentile self sufficient in these delights. I prefer the flavour. The ease of preparation. And the fact that i can grow them. I have  some  related onions growing -- like the walking onion -- but it;'s too early to rule on these others. For now a generic 'spring onion' is my standard fare.I use 'em in everything. And I use all the spring onion from bulb to stem top.No waste. And outback: always -- more or less -- ready for harvest.
So there you have it. By no means a complete list but if you were a local yokel such as I, dependent on the kind of neighborhood within which I dwell, these thoughts I have written down here are my way of generating summation for the 12 months just past. None of this is intended as the final word on the botanical species covered as I expect that many others will come after me and share their own horticultural insights and do so in a ways more efficacious than I.. For my part, I am little more than a labourer at the earth  whose  effort is but my chosen means of making peace with its offerings. I celebrate the dirt and its bounty and herein share my observances in order to enrich our collective ingenuity and perseverance in the year of our lord 2015.

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