Before you ask, let me guess what you are going to say. "What sort of peanut works best for up north or for low solar input areas?" Well, the usual answer is Valencia. Schronces Deep Black Peanut does equally well for a Quebec grower friend of mine as well. I have also received some northern strain Valencia from US based Fruition Seeds this year to test.
So how well do they do for me? They are okay. Better probably when I pre-start a few weeks early though this year I direct sowed.
So far, my favourite part of growing peanuts is watching their yellow pea flowers (pea+nut, get it) develop pegs that they drill into the ground and then pulling the whole plant up later in the season to collect the corky pods.
This year, I may try my hand at crossing the two varieties I have.
The first year we moved to our farm, I picked up two varieties of citron. They were named red citron and green citron. I sowed them willy nilly in my sun trap garden and out jumped lovely lush watermelon vines. One variety had huge fruit with mottled skin, the other had smaller fruit with striped skin.
I harvested them and stored with the squash. They sat on the shelf. Citron are grown for their thick rind which is used in preserves or desserts. I read some recipes. They sat on the shelf. I gave some away. They sat on the shelf. The next spring, they had changed to a mellow yellow but no, I had not yet used any. Finally the following winter (yes), I cut up one and made lemon preserves which were amazing. Why hadn't I done this earlier? I loved these things! Only I had given away all my giant ones. I sowed the seeds of my little ones and got some more citrons. Again, the preserves were great. But I missed the giant one. A seed search showed me that I had shut that door of opportunity - no one seemed to carry it. So if you are out there with a handful of giant citron seeds that need a new home, I have reformed. I want to grow them and eat them and sow them. Thank you.
When researching edibles that would do well in low water conditions, I bumped into Prickly Pear Cacti of the genus Opuntia. Turns out there are even natives that grow nearby. Most of them seem to have small or dry fruit though my understanding is that you should be able to eat the pads of all of them. This would be tricky with my fragilis as it is quite small and a challenge in learning how to process the rest. They are cool to grow regardless.
I don't know why I got so excited about growing chickpeas. It could be because I have a thing for edible plants in general. All I know is that I ordered a Winnifred's Garbanzo from Salt Spring Seed one year and grew it out. I liked the pinnate foliage, the little pea-like flowers and the plumb pods. It was a pain to thresh but not as hard as some of the grains.
Over the years, and through the kindness of seed traders, I have collected a bunch of varieties including Carol Deppe's popping chickpea - one of the best growing ones in my gardens so far.
They come in a fascinating variety of textures, colours and sizes to keep even a bean collector interested. I have been growing them and saving them together in modern landrace style with the exception of the popbean which I mostly grow in isolation. Increasing my seed stock was going well until the drought of 2012 where I had a poor crop and lost a lot. I hope to bring up my numbers again next year.
Sometimes you plant out humdrum seed like the stalwart but common Lincoln and you get a surprise. In this case, I got a variegated pea. I had planted these on my window sill to get pea sprouts so wasn’t prepared when something unusual appeared. The plant eeked along in the weak window sun until a single pod developed and set seed.
Now I wasn’t expecting this trait to passed down. Afterall, I had read that it was likely a chimera – two genetic lines (one without chlorophyll) intermingling and expressing in the plant – but the second generation had a percentage that was also variegated.
What happened next was I failed to properly label my seeds. When I teach seed saving, there are two points, I try to drive home (well three – all saving is selection) and they are 1) most seed needs to be dry for storage and 2) label. In fact, make notes. Put those notes right on the seed package. So how could I fail to label? I’m embarrassed to say that it was not the first time nor the last. Perhaps I thought I’d remember that those wrinkled green peas were the special ones. So the next year, when I thought I sowed them out, I saw only green and figured it was gone.
Low and behold, I discovered a jar of unlabelled packs of pea seeds two years later (um yes a whole jar full of different packages of different peas with no labels...). I sowed them. About a month later, a friend and I were walking through the garden when she leans down and says, “look at that.”
And there it was, appearing from seed in the third generation. The variegated pea had returned. It’s not something I’m likely to be able to offer as it takes a while to increase but it sure is fun to grow.
I heard that cinnamon vine, Dioscorea batatas, produced edible aerial tubers that could be plucked off and eaten yam-like. I figured great. No digging. There was even an attractive variegated version so I planted it near a trellis and waited.
Took awhile but it sprouted, grew weakly and disappeared. The following year when I hadn't seen it by the end of May, I figured it wasn't hardy here so I mulched over where it was and grew vining tomatoes. Later in the year, I saw a strange yellow tendril struggle to the light. My yam! I apologized and gave it a few weeks of sun before winter returned. The following year I waited and waited and sometime in June, it made it's appearance. This year, it grew quite well, expressing a nice irregular variation. No aerial tubers though.
We'll see what 2015 brings (or not).
Whether you call it litchi tomato or vila-vila, its not a tomato but it is related. The prickly perennial (grown here as annual) produces red fruit that taste a bit like a seedy cross between cherry and a tomato.
They are also mildly frost tolerant. That's right, a solanum that doesn't melt at the first touch of ice. A problem if you live somewhere with mild winters but just fine here. It also repels potato eelworm/nemotode in the soil. The large white to bluish flowers bloom all season offering a late nectar source for the bumbles.
There has been some selection but a lot more work could be done. Imagine a world of vila-vila diversity: ones with huge fruit, one orange with stripes, different flavours and even those that enhance their ornamental flowers. As it is, I belong to a group that is hoping to find a spineless mutant. See Friends of Vila-vila (Solanum sisymbriifolium) on Facebook to join. Though I have to say, a little part of me would be sad to loose the spines.
In 2014 when I was seeding some alpine strawberries, one plant looked strange. At first, I was afraid it had some sort of virus which was mottling the leaves only the pattern seemed very regular. Some leaves were half white and half yellow. I planted it in isolation from my other strawberries and watched it grow… big, healthy and variegated.
It has been suggested that maybe it is a chimera. I hope it survives the winter!
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.