All the things we haven’t paid for

I always think that the less things that you have to buy when growing your food, the better. After all, food growing should be an opportunity to step away from the shackles of a society bound by monetary transactions. So this week I am just going to do a stock take of some of the food plants that we have manged to grow without money exchanging hands: by saving seeds, tubers, bulbs or any other way that plants choose to reproduce.
Looking most promising, is the garlic – these were all grown from cloves from a crop that we grew last year. We have 2 varieties, Early Purple Wight that is an earlier variety and Germidour, a later variety that stores better. One of the advantages of growing your own garlic is that, at this time of year, they produce ‘scapes’ a long green stalk like structure. It is best to cut these off so that more energy is put into bulb production. They are delicious when added to a stir fry at the last minute – like solid spring onions with a fresh garlicky taste. This is something you don’t find in the shops.
Our tomatoes and peppers are all looking healthy. They were all grown from seed saved from some heritage tomatoes and peppers brought home from work in 2018. Germination was so good that we ended up with far too many plants. They were put out on a tray for people to help themselves in the street, and they were gladly taken up. I was glad that we managed to save some pepper seeds of the variety, Doux de Landes. It is well worth growing as it produces copious quantities of long sweet fruits, with a slight hint of hotness.

We are also growing yacon from crowns overwintered last year. This is a South American plant that produces large quantities of oval tubers. They have a sweet nutty taste that is lovely chopped into a salad or left to ripen and eaten on its own. They are very expensive to buy when bought from seed catalogues. We were originally given one plant from Brockwell Community Garden in South London in 2011, and have generated lots more plants ever since.
We are also thinking forwards towards the winter. I have left the brassica salads from last winter to flower so that we can collect seeds for a late summer sowing: rocket, winter red mustard, Green in Snow mustard, mizuna and Golden Frills mustard. Now if you were saving seeds strictly by the book and wanted to preserve varietal purity, you would keep them strictly separated, as brassicas are very promiscuous and don’t care who they mix with. But I am at home, and don’t have to stick to such rules, so I am looking forward to seeing what mixture comes out: it might turn out to be Red Frills, Golden Snow or Miztard. Who knows I might invent a new salad leaf that takes the world by storm?
More about Anton...
Anton is a Knowledge Officer at Garden Organic, where he has worked for 16 years. He is looking forward to writing a series of blogs on how to garden using little resources.

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