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Plants

For a summary of planting times for the following plants, Click Here.

AIBIKA
ALOE VERA
AMARANTH
ARROWHEAD
ARROWROOT

BITTER MELON
BRAZILIAN SPINACH

CASSAVA
CEYLON SALAD SPINACH
CHINESE WATER CHESTNUT
CHILACYOTE
CHOP SUEY GREENS
COCOYAM
COMFREY
CROTALARIA

GALANGAL

HORSERADISH TREE

JACKFRUIT
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE

KANG KONG

LEBANESE CRESS
LEMONGRASS

MALU KHIA
MADAGASCAR BEAN

NEW GUINEA BEAN

PAW PAW
PEPINO
PIGEON PEA
PIT PIT

QUEENSLAND GREENS

SWEET POTATO

TAHITIAN SPINACH
TARO
TURMERIC

WINGED BEAN

YACON
YAM
YAM BEAN

 

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Aibika (aka Queensland Greens; Slipper Cabbage; Hibiscus Spinach)Aibika (Web)

Abelmoschus manihot (formerly known as Hibiscus manihot)

Origin: tropical Asia

Plant: Sept – Feb

Harvest: Jan – May

Propagation: By cuttings taken in Spring & Summer

A perennial that can grow to 2+ metres, aibika benefits from pruning at the beginning of each growing season to make the plant bush out.  It is a hardy plant and prefers a sunny aspect with rich, moist, well- drained soil and protection from frosts.

The two main types grown on the Sunshine Coast have either finger-like leaves or a tri-lobe form. Aibikas are heavy feeders, so, to ensure constant leaf production, regular fertilising during the growing season is essential.   Propagation is by cuttings taken in Spring and Summer or by seed saved from the yellow hibiscus-type flower. Grasshoppers are very fond of aibika, so a good deterrent is to interplant aibika with perennial bush basil.

Aibika is very attractive planted in groups or as a hedge in the garden, where it provides a cool microclimate under its large leaves. Consider growing a ground cover of peanuts under (for nitrogen fixing), with a tomato or bean growing up the aibika’s trunk and you have a productive nitrogen-fixing guild with food on the way.

Aibika is very nutritious, with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron and can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.

Tropical greens – pick young leaves and add in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, or use the leaves sparingly in a salad as they contain mucilage and can make your finished dish quite slimy if too many are added.  Older leaves will definitely need to be cooked to remove the mucilage. Large leaves can be used as wraps and to make dolmades.  The flowers are also edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked.

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Aloe Vera (aka Medicine Plant, Burn Plant, Living First-Aid Plant)

Aloe Vera (Web)Aloe vera barbadensis

Origin: North Africa

Plant: Spring and Summer,

Harvest:  all year round for medicinal use

Propagate: whenever pups or suckers need thinning out at base of plant.

The thick, succulent leaves can grow from 30-80cm long and 2-10cm wide at the base.

This perennial plant grows to approximately 60cm.  It has narrow, upwardly curving succulent leaves which are a green to grey-green colour with small spikes along their edges (leaf margins). Aloe vera can be planted in full sun in the garden or grown as a pot or hanging basket specimen. Aloe vera love the heat and hate cold, wet and frosts.   Flowers are bright yellow at maturity – (A. perryi’s flowers are an orange/apricot shade).

Aloe vera is a succulent which has many medicinal uses, as well as being used in skin care products. The soothing aloe gel contained in the leaves is ideal for taking the sting out of sunburn, stopping the itch from mosquito bites and for moisturising the skin.

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Amaranth (aka duck potato, swan potato, katniss)

Amaranth (Web)Amaranthus species

Origin: central Latin America and the Himalayas

Plant: Sept – Jan

Harvest: as required

Amaranth is a seed – not a grain – that self-seeds readily. It is an upright, moderately tall, broad leafed, annual plant. There are a number of different species of amaranth and a huge number of varieties within those species.

Amaranth comes in all sizes, shapes and colours. The leaves can be round or lance shaped, 5cm to more than 15cm long, light green, dark green, reddish or variegated. Seeds may be white, yellow, pink or black. This is an attractive garden show-piece and its colourful tassels come in burgundy, red, yellow, gold and purple.

Amaranth is related to the common weed, pigweed, and is rich in lysine, calcium, iron and carotene. Harvest leaf amaranth as required and definitely before it flowers (the buds are edible though). Pick young leaves for salads and stir fries. Older leaves need to be cooked first to remove the oxalic acid.   Amaranth leaves can be used in exactly the same way as spinach. Young stems can also be used as well. The grains can be ground in a mill to make amaranth flour and then mixed with water to a dough-like consistency – the dough is then flattened and toasted to make a flatbread or pita bread.

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Arrowhead

Arrowhead (Web)Sagittaria sagittifolia  syn. Sagittaria sinensis

Origin: South, Central and North America

Plant: Early Spring

Harvest: When leaves turn yellow and die back.

Arrowhead is a water plant, tubers are planted approx. 4-5 cm deep and spaced about 10 cm apart in soil in either a pond or tub, then covered with water 10-30 cm deep. Arrowhead is an easy to grow plant with no special growing requirements other than maintaining a cover of shallow water over the soil.  It is very hardy plant, grows to 30 cm high and likes full sun.

The arrowhead-tuber flesh is cream coloured and can be eaten boiled, baked or fried, however, it should not be eaten raw. Simply boil tubers until tender, slice thinly and serve tossed in butter or sesame oil; alternatively, the cooked and cold tubers can be grated or sliced into a salad. The young shoots can also be eaten.

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Arrowroot

Arrowroot (Web)Canna edulis

Origin: Hot, humid Queensland

Plant: Any time

Harvest: 12-18 months for edible rhizomes.

Suggested Recipes: Root Vegetable Curry, Vegetable Pikelets

Use as a ‘chop n drop’ mulch, or leave to form a weed barrier with pigeon pea, lemon grass and comfrey. Good bulk food to grow for livestock.  Arrowroot can be

Arrowroot Rhizome with 'Eyes'

Arrowroot Rhizome with ‘Eyes’

planted to provide a windbreak or shade for more delicate vegies.  They will grow almost anywhere, in any type of soil and with minimal water requirements.  Propagation is simply planting a piece of the rhizome that has an ‘eye’. This eye will become your new plant. Keep arrowroot for eating separate from that grown for ‘chop n drop’ as it needs to be grown over a longer period – at least twelve months old – to develop the tubers; it is best harvested when still young and before the fibre develops. The tubers can be cooked (add lemon juice to cooking water to prevent oxidisation) and grated then added to stews/casseroles as a thickener; tubers can be roasted or sliced thinly and cooked as chips (use a bit of garlic in the oil as well). The starch can be extracted and used to make arrowroot biscuits.

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Bitter Melon (aka balsam pear or bitter gourd)???????????????????????????????

Momordica charantia

Origin: Hot, humid China and India

Plant: Sept – Dec

Harvest: Jan – April

Young fruit are harvested 8 – 10 days after the flowers open. Each fruit will be 100-150mm long, knobbly, light green with white flesh inside, 10 – 12 fruit per vine. Picked fruit stays firm and fresh for about 4 or 5 days in a plastic bag in the fridge. Scrape out seeds, they are bitter. Note: older, riper fruit is extremely bitter and toxic to man and animals.

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Brazilian Spinach

(aka South American crinkle salad, poor man’s spinach)brazilian spinach

Althernanthera triandra sp.

Origin: Highlands, wet, cool South America

Plant: Sept – March

Harvest: any time through the growing season

Suggested Recipes: Brazilian Spinach with Macadamia Nut Pesto, Spinach, Fetta & Ricotta Pie

Brazilian Spinach can be planted as a solid border or left to ramble on its many branches to cover an area up to a metre wide.  Cuttings can be taken during the wet season and either planted out or placed in a jar with water to encourage root growth prior to planting.  Tiny white flowers will form at the end of the season (winter), and the succulent leaves will turn a bit papery and bitter; however, they can still be eaten cooked at this stage.

Brazilian spinach is a prolific source of greens in the garden; it can be used in salads with other greens; it can be used as a spinach substitute – try it in combination with Tahitian spinach and arrowroot leaves to make a spinach and feta pie; the leaves can also be substituted for basil when making pesto.

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Cassava (aka manioc, manihot, tapioca and yucca)

Manihot esculentaCassava Close

Origin: Beach climate – dryish with intermittent rains

Plant: Sept – March

Harvest: Any time after approx. 12 months.

Propagation: by stem cuttings 20-30cm long, with all leaves removed.

Suggested Recipes: Cassava Cake, Spiced Cassava Cake, Root Vegetable Curry

Ready when the base is thick and there is plenty of resistance when the plant is wiggled. Individual tubers can be harvested and the rest of the plant can continue to grow. Process tubers within 48 hours as they will become toxic after that (Cassava can be frozen raw or cooked until required). Always cook all parts of the cassava, never eat any part raw. Older cassava can be fermented. Cassava can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Tree will grow 2-3m; it is a perennial with a bush foliage canopy.  Large, lush, deeply lobed leaves, similar in shape to paw paw.  Tubers can grow 15-100cm long and weigh in excess of 5-6kg.

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Ceylon Salad Spinach (aka Malabar Spinach)

Ceylon Spinach (Web)

Basella alba

Basella Rubra, Basella alba

Origin: Highland climate – wet, cool

Plant: Sept – Jan

Harvest: Nov – May

Succulent greens can be picked and used sparingly in salads (rich in mucilage) or cooked quickly to avoid bitter flavour.  Both green and red varieties taste alike.

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Chinese Water ChestnutChinese Water Chestnut (Web)

Eleocharis dulcis

Origin: hot, humid tropics of China and Australasia

Plant: Sept – Nov

Harvest: July – Aug

Wait till sedge tops die down completely as the corms need to have the time to change to their final dark brown colour. Peel and slice to add to Asian stir-fries.

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Chilacyote (aka Alacyote, Zambo, Malabar gourd, Fig-leaved gourd)

Cucurbita ficifolia

Origin: Highlands – wet, cool South America

Plant: March – Sept

Harvest: July – Dec

Pick young squash before the seeds form, slice or grate into stir-fries or salads. Mature squash keep well and can be baked whole or halved. The seed can be eaten raw or roasted (high in oleic acid). Chilacyote are high in pectin for jam making. Flowers, stems and tips are also edible.

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Chop Suey Greens (aka edible chrysanthemum; chrysanthemum greens)

Chrysanthemum coramarium

Origin: China and Asian countries

Plant: Sow seeds in Spring, Summer and Autumn

Harvest: after 30 days

A hardy annual that grows to 1m and prefers mild to slightly colder climates. Young leaves eaten raw or cooked give a distinctive Chinese flavour. Use the petals in salad, or as a refreshing tea. Add the leaves at the last minute, to avoid overcooking.

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Cocoyam

Cocoyam (Web)Xanthosoma saggitifolium

Origin: Hot, humid tropics

Plant: Any time except winter

Harvest: After 18 months to 2 years of growing. Harvest when the young plants (pups) have no more than 3 leaves – they should still be opaque, not starchy. Boil first, then slice and shallow fry in hot oil.

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Comfrey  (aka Knitbone, Woundwort)

Comfrey (Web)Symphytum officinale

Origin: Asia and Europe

Plant: Anytime

Harvest: When leaves are of reasonable length – the more you harvest, the more the leaves grow.

Comfrey can be used as a fertiliser or mineral supplement, cut and placed direct on garden beds.  A compost tea can be made using comfrey leaves – collect a bucketful, cover with water and leave to break down for a few weeks (don’t leave bucket near work areas as this mix pongs).  When ready to use, strain and dilute 1:10 with water.

Comfrey also works well as a weed-barrier – plant in rows with pigeon pea, arrowroot and lemongrass.

Comfrey can be chopped up in steamed vegetable dishes or added to soups and fritters or rissoles.  A leaf can also be dipped in batter, deep-fried then drained on paper towels.  A few raw leaves can be added to green smoothies.

Young inner leaves can be rubbed over a cut to stem bleeding.

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Crotolaria   (Rattlepod)

Crotolaria (Web)Crotolaria grahamiana

Origin: India

Plant: Sow seeds in Spring

Harvest: Non-edible.

Propagation: by seed.

As crotolaria is a legume, i.e. it fixes nitrogen in the soil, use as a ‘chop n drop’ and place prunings around base of trees.   It is also useful as a sacrificial plant near citrus, as caterpillars love crotolaria and will leave citrus alone.  Grows to approx. 1m x 1m and has yellow pea flowers.

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Galangal (aka petit galanga, colic root, catarrh root and lesser galangal)

Galangal (Web)Alpinia officinarum

Origin: China and South East Asia

Plant: Nov – Feb

Harvest: Any time after 2 years (or 1 year if grown in optimum conditions).

With a spade, dig into the galangal clump from the outside and break off whatever root mass you can. Look for the curled, pink-coloured rhizomes; these range in length from 4cm – 7.5cm and about 2cm thick.  Use fresh within a week.

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Horseradish Tree (aka Drumstick Tree)???????????????????????????????

Moringa oleifera

Origin: India

Plant: Spring

Harvest: Any time except winter.

Propagate: Drumstick tree is propagated by 50cm long cuttings planted in spring.

The leaves are the most nutritious part of the tree, being high in calcium and protein  and leaves can be picked for salads and stir-fries or sprinkled over pumpkin soup just before serving (can take pumpkin soup to another level).  They have a mild mustard taste, while the roots of the tree can be substituted for horseradish where required. The seeds can be fried or roasted and the young pods can be added to soups and stews. Flowers can be eaten also (make a batter using besan flour, dip the flower in the batter and drop in hot oil until lightly browned). Pods freeze well. High-quality oil is extracted from the seed and the seed powder left over from this process has been trialled for purifying water. The sap is used for a blue dye. Keep tree well-pruned by cutting back annually to 1 – 2 metres; this will encourage new leaves and also keep leaves and pods within easy reach.  Plant trees as a living fence.

As the drumstick tree is a sun and heat-loving plant, it does not tolerate frosts but is particularly suitable for dry regions.

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Jackfruit

Jackfruit (Web)Artocarpus integrifolia

Origin: Hot, humid tropics

Plant: Sept – Mar

Harvest: Mar – Nov

Immature fruit is used for its seed and can be made into a delicious curry. Ripe fruit is eaten raw and tastes like banana with a vanilla flavour and a pineapple texture. Remove outer shell of mature seed and boil. Always remove gummy latex centre.

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Jerusalem Artichoke (aka sunchokes)

Helianthus tuberose

Origin: dry tropics of North America

Plant: Sept – Dec

Harvest: May, when the plants have totally died down.

Can be left in the ground or harvested and stored in moist sawdust in styrene boxes with lids. Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten raw, grated into salads or roasted along with other vegetables; takes no time to cook and should not be overdone. Safe food for diabetics (it contains inulin). Prebiotic – stimulates the lower bowel to produce the bacteria bifidus. Keep a small portion of the best tubers for replanting.

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Kang Kong (aka water spinach or swamp cabbage)

Kang Kong (Web)Ipomoea aquatica

Origin: hot, humid tropics SE Asia

Plant: Sept – Jan

Harvest: Oct – May

Kang kong is one of the tropical greens. Cut leaves off the trailing vines and use the vine tips in stir-fries. Harvest often before plant reaches 20cm high to stimulate extra lush new growth; feed well with organic fertiliser. Grow in ponds or very damp ground. Kang kong will re-appear each year. Use in quiches and stir-fries.

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Lebanese Cress

Lebanese Cress (Web)Aethionema cordifolum

Origin: Wet, cool highlands

Plant: Sept – Jan

Harvest: Oct – March

Tropical green. Add to salads. Perennial cress grows in a damp, shady position.

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Lemongrass  (aka Melissa Grass, Sweet Rush)

Lemongrass (Web)Cymbopogon citratus

Origin: India and Sri Lanka

Plant: Spring, summer and autumn

Harvest:  The more it is cut for use, the thicker it will grow.

Propagation: is by division of the bulbous base with roots.

 

Lemongrass is a perennial clumping grass to 100cm.  It is enjoyed as an herbal tea and the base stem is used in Asian cooking.

Set out plants in rows as part of a weed-barrier.  Use leaves as a’chop n drop’ mulch.  Plants have a thick matting root system so can be used for erosion control.

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Malu Khia (aka mulu khiyya, Egyptian spinach or salad mallow)

Malu Khia (Web)Corchorus olitorius

Origin: Dry, tropical India

Plant: Nov – Dec only

Harvest: Feb – May

Propagate: will self-seed.

Tropical green. Annual bush.  Leaves are nutrient rich in potassium and protein but have a light mucilage taste. Young leaves can be used in salads, cook older leaves like spinach. Dried leaves are a very nutritious food for livestock.

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Madagascar Bean (aka seven year bean)

Madagascar Bean (Web)Phaseolus lunatus syn. P.limensis

Origin: Tropical and sub-Tropical regions

Plant: in Spring

Harvest: When pods have dried on vine

This bean is a vigorous climbing tropical lima bean, which will give many years of production after the initial first year.  It is a perennial vine well suited to the wet humid conditions of the Sunshine Coast and it will keep producing large fat beans for most of the year.  Madagascar beans need a trellis for support.

The beans (not the pods) can be eaten fresh, while still white before any colour shows; or dried – they dry well on the vine to a beautiful speckled red and white bean that can be stored for winter soups and casseroles or turned into bean patties and also used to make tempeh – dried beans need to be soaked overnight before cooking.  If weevils get in to the dried beans, put them in the freezer for a while and this will kill off the weevils.

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New Guinea Bean (aka bottle gourd, cuccuzi or cucuzza)

New Guinea bean (Web)Lagenaria siceraria

Origin: Dry tropics

Plant: Sept – Dec

Harvest: Dec – May

Good substitute for zucchini. Pick fruit when no larger than 30cm-45cm, peel, then slice diagonally (remove seeds). Shallow fry the slices in hot oil and serve with freshly milled black pepper for a treat. Mature gourds can grow to many kilos, but will only be useful for seed saving or decoration.

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Paw Paw (aka papaya)

Pawpaw (Web)Carica papaya

Origin: Highlands – wet, cool

Plant: Sept – March

Harvest: Any time except Jan – April.

Paw paw take approx. 18 months from planting the seed to fruit production, so a nutrient rich soil is necessary for fast growth. Plant several seeds then select the strongest female plant to grow on. Only one male tree is necessary to pollinate the female trees, however, if you grow the red paw paw, you will not need to grow a male tree as the red is an hermaphrodite, meaning it has both male and female flowers to enable propagation.

Fruit is ripe when there is no green on the fruit. Eating ripe and green paw paw is most beneficial as an aid to digestion. Green paw paw can be grated for salads, used as a cooked vegetable in stews and is also nice stuffed and baked in an oven.

Medicinal Value: the dried seed of the ripe paw paw can be put through a food processor and ground to a powder. Sprinkled onto our food (and for livestock) it can be used to expel worms from the intestinal tract.

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Pepino (aka melon pear, melon shrub, pear melon)

Pepino (Web)Solanum muricatum ait.

Origin: wet and cool highlands of Colombia, Peru and Chile

Plant: Sept – March

Harvest: Oct – March

Propagate: by stem cuttings.

The pepino is a small bush closely related to the tomato. This shrub grows in a sprawling habit and makes an excellent ground cover plant. It tends to fruit better when grown over a trellis. The foliage is susceptible to damage by light to moderate frosts, however will quickly recover with warmer weather.

Pepino Fruit

Pepino Fruit

To determine if pepino are fully ripe, press with the fingers into the flesh and you will find a bit of “give”.  Colour should also be a pale yellow to gold with purple flecks. Eat only when

fully ripe for a taste between a cantaloupe and a melon. Great garden snack

and for fruit salads and sweet curries. Once fruit have started to grow, cover with a white paper bag for insect protection.

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Pigeon Pea   (Toor Dhal, Congo Pea)

Pigeon Pea (Web)Cajanus cajun 

Origin: India

Plant: Spring and Summer

Harvest: From 3 and up to 8 months from planting

Propagate: Propagation is by seed

Pigeon pea is a legume shrub that improves soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. When they are pruned, (and also when the plant dies) the root nodules release nitrogen that can be used by other plants. The open canopy shelters young, delicate plants, but lets enough light through for other plants to grow underneath. Pigeon pea has a very deep tap root that is able to break through hard pans and improve the soil structure. It also brings nutrients from the subsoil to the surface. It is used extensively as a cover crop, green manure, inter crop etc. The plant is a short lived perennial shrub. It grows two to four metres and lives for about five years. The flowers are yellow or yellow and red.

When propagating pigeon pea seed, if you want to take advantage of the plant’s ability to fix nitrogen then you may have to inoculate the seeds. Pigeon Pea is not very specific. For inoculation you can use any Rhizobium of the cowpea group such as that used for Dolichos lablab seeds.

Pigeon Pea is a staple food crop that provides good source of protein. You can use the green peas like fresh peas and the dried peas like any other dried peas, beans or lentils. (In India they are actually one of the most popular pulses. Dhal is made from pigeon pea.) The peas can also be sprouted to make them even more nutritious, and they can be ground into flour.

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Pit Pit (aka New Guinea asparagus)

Pitpit (Web)Setaria palmaefolia (short) and  Saccharus edule (tall)

Origin: hot, humid tropics of New Guinea

Plant: Sept – Nov only, in a shady, boggy site

Harvest: Dec – March.

Propagate: from cuttings

Short pit pit takes about 4 – 5 months from planting to harvesting the swollen edible stalks.  It needs to be cut back to the ground when the weather cools down, to prevent the stalks becoming leggy, fibrous and inedible.  The cuttings can be used as a ‘chop n drop’ or as cuttings to make new plants.  When cooking, approx 12cm portion of stem is boiled for about 20-30 minutes, then peeled and eaten as a snack or added to salads or stir-frys; (raw pit pit can cause bellyache).  Nice with a white or coconut cream sauce and browned under the grill. The tall pit pit is more useful as a windbreak or for interplanting.

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Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato (Web)Ipomea batatas

Origin: wet, cool highlands of South America

Plant: Sept – March

Harvest: approx. 5 months after planting. Use a digging stick when harvesting. The wood won’t damage the tubers. Leave on the ground for a week to sweeten up in the sun. They can be left in the ground until needed or stored in baskets in a well-ventilated cool, dry, dark area for up to 6 months.

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Tahitian Spinach

Tahitian Spinach (Web)Xanthosoma brasillience

Origin: hot, humid tropics

Plant: Sept – Feb

Harvest: Nov – May

The tahitian spinach leaf is better than taro and cocoyam as a “tropical green” as it has the least amount of irritating crystals and does not need a long cooking time – ten minutes is adequate.

Serving the leaves with coconut milk or cream will help the body to use the Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin. Harvest the young leaves and cook in stews, casseroles and leaf wraps. This plant does not have an edible corm.

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Taro (aka talo, dalo and dago)

Taro (Web)Colocasia esculenta

Origin: hot, humid tropics of the Indo-Malayan region

Plant: Sept – Oct only

Harvest: July – August when the leaves begin to look tatty and about 3 leaves left. The corm is harvested 8-10 months after planting. Starchy corms are a good source of calcium and iron.  Wash the taro after harvesting and allow to dry.  Harvested taro corms can be stored in a dry airy place for 2 – 3 weeks at most. After this time they will rot.  Roast or cook whole to preserve nutrients. Poi is a lactic ferment made from boiled taro corms. The leaves can be picked 2-4 weeks after planting and take about 6 weeks to mature. They can be boiled, pulverised in a blender then added to soups, casseroles and stir-fries. They are traditionally used as food wraps and cooked in a mumu or cooking pit. Young leaves will take 5-10 minutes to cook while older ones 15-20 minutes before the oxalate crystals have been rendered neutral. Can be frozen.

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Turmeric (aka Indian Saffron, Yellow Ginger)

Turmeric (Web)Curcuma longa l.

Origin: hot, humid tropics of SE Asia and India

Plant: Oct – Dec when the rhizomes begin to sprout.

Harvest: June – Oct. Dig rhizomes up when the entire tops have died down.

They are pale yellow or a bright orange in colour. Leave in ground until needed. Mark where they are before the tops have died down. If harvested, store in sawdust in styrene boxes. Like ginger and galangal, turmeric is a spice and can be added to any cooked vegetable dish. Grate turmeric with some onions and saute in hot oil. Raw, it has a pungent bite and can lift a salad. Used to colour rice and curry dishes and curry powder.  Makes a great ‘turmeric, galangal and chilli paste’.

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Winged Bean (aka four-angled bean)

Winged Bean (Web)Psophocarpus tetragonolobus syn. Goa Bean

Origin: hot, humid tropical Madagascar and Asia

Plant: Sept – Oct – into pots initially

Harvest: April – May. Young 4-angled pods with wavy margins can be picked for eating at any stage. Do not disturb the lilac flowers, as they fall off quite easily. Allow some of the first beans to mature on the vine for seed saving. Tubers contain 20% protein and taste like early season potatoes. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Young pods, flowers, leaves, vine tips and mature seed are all edible. To improve germination, sandpaper seeds or soak in hot water until swollen.

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Yacon (aka yakon, sweet root or Peruvian Ground Apple)Yacon (Web)

Polymnia sonchifolia

Origin: wet, cool highlands of the Incas

Plant: Sept – Oct

Harvest: July – August

Small yellow sunflower-like flowers will appear at maturity. Harvest tubers when all the tops have died down but leave in the ground until at least mid to late winter as the flavour really does improve. Remove tubers carefully as they are brittle. It is a substitute for apple and can be eaten raw. Even with prolonged cooking, yacon stays crisp and it can be used as a substitute for water chestnuts in Asian stir-fries. The main components are fructose and inulin, making it a suitable food for diabetics. It is a good livestock forage crop.

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Yam (red and white, five-fingered yam, greater yam, lesser yam, aerial yam)Yam (Web)

Dioscorea family

Origin: hot, humid tropical Pacific Islands

Plant: mid-Sept to mid-Oct

Harvest: When all foliage has died down. Dig gently around the yam taking care not to damage it (cuts will reduce storage life).

Yams can be stored for several months in a cool ventilated area. Depending on the variety, yams can be baked, eaten with dark green leafy vegetables, fish, meat, peanuts and milk, used in curries, fried in oil, used to make a purple cake as well as purple yam wine, made into a dough, flour and African fufu.

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Yam Bean (Jicama, Mexican Water Chestnut or Chop Suey Bean)Yam Bean (Web)

Pachyrrhizus erosus

Origin: hot, humid tropical Central America

Plant: Sept – Oct

Harvest: July – Aug.

It takes 4-7 months to maturity depending on day-length hours. At the time of maturity, the vines will flower and produce many inedible pods (the flowers are also inedible)

The Inedible Yam Beans

The Inedible Yam Beans

– the mature seed contains the poison, rotenone, used as an insecticide. Jicama’s starchy underground tuber is highly digestible and can be eaten raw or cooked, as there are no toxins associated with the tuber.  Jicama can be eaten raw – sliced into sticks and used as a crudité, dipped into raw chilli powder then dipped in lime juice. It can also be used grated in salads mixed with tropical fruits and a handful of coriander leaves. The tuber can also be lightly cooked after peeling, slicing and dicing – it tends to retain its crispness when cooked and is often used in stir fries as a substitute for water chestnut.

The dried vines are very strong and can be woven into fishing nets.

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