Spice up your edible garden

By Sarah O'Neil

Growing your food can elevate your meals from the ordinary to the amazing and the great thing is now is the perfect time to get started
Gardening expert Sarah O'Neil in her vegetable garden. Picture / Ted Baghurst
Gardening expert Sarah O'Neil in her vegetable garden. Picture / Ted Baghurst

Did you know carrots weren't originally just orange? There was a rainbow of colours from white, yellow, brilliant red and deep purple to be found alongside the now-familiar orange carrot we know today.

Legend has it, back in the days when William of Orange ruled over Great Britain, he declared only orange carrots should be grown and we are still obeying his orders today.

However, while other carrots faded from popularity, they didn't disappear completely, and for the keen home gardener the seeds are readily available.

Carrots aren't the only vegetable where the available varieties have been reduced to only a few recognisable ones.

Stepping into the world of the gardener opens up a mind-blowing array of vegetables you never thought possible.

Take the humble tomato for instance. It is common to find a range of around half a dozen varieties, yet if you were to explore the varieties available as seeds to the home gardener, you will find that number closer to 100, making it very difficult to decide what to grow.

It isn't until you taste a home-grown tomato, fresh from the plant and still warm from the sun, that you will discover just how incredible the humble tomato can be. Some are quite sharp and acidic, and lift a salad as the key ingredient, while others are quite mellow and not too acidic at all.

And those are just the flavours -- they also come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colours. Some are more 'meaty' and have less seeds so they are perfect for cooking, and the tiny cherry ones are perfect for snacking on. Some grow so big that one slice will fill a burger bun. Once you grow your own and find favourites that are suited to your personal tastes you will never look back.

Peppers and chillies are another great example for the keen gardener.

Instead of the bland bell pepper and the burning hot cayenne, there are many options to suit the heat you can handle, and the search is always on to see who can find and grow the hottest. As a home grower though, you will notice the heat isn't the be all and end all of the chilli. In the lower heat range, you will discover that flavour is more the focus and can vary greatly, often with just the hint of a tang. Many of them are large enough to stuff with your favourite ingredients and are a wonderful addition to your summer table.

Even something as completely ordinary as a cabbage can come in many forms. You can grow a large one to feed an army over the course of a week or grow smaller ones to suit a smaller family. There are almost a dozen different kinds of cabbage to be found if you look around.

There is also a range of unusual crops to grow, such as tomatillo growing inside their lantern shaped husks, the nutty tasting asparagus pea, ruby red silverbeet, sweet and tasty pepinos and mild-flavoured chokos.

Growing your food can elevate your meals from the ordinary to the amazing and the great thing is now is the perfect time to get started.

Growing from a seed can seem a little daunting, but with care and attention, they will germinate into tiny green seedlings.

Continue to nurture and water them in the warmth of a sunny windowsill and you will soon find yourself with strong seedlings ready to be planted out in the garden.

Then you will enjoy the pleasures of tasting vegetables fresh, delicious and which have been picked just moments earlier.

Sarah O'Neil is an author, blogger and passionate gardener writing about the trials and tribulations of growing food for her family. Her books The Good Life and Play in the Garden are available at all good bookstores. www.sarahthegardener.co.nz

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 26 Oct 2016 09:56:15 Processing Time: 1292ms