Bringing the (unusual) harvest home

What a strange year it has been in the vegetable garden. I’ve been harvesting crops fairly steadily all summer, but not what I expected. I had to change things around to adapt to  challenging conditions. The vegetables have had to contend with that long cool spring, then the invasion of giant slugs, followed by a dry, thirsty summer and finally, as things are winding down, a new onslaught of devastation by deer.

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Notice that there are no runner beans or leaves left below ~2.5 foot and it is the same on each wigwam!

Nevertheless, I have managed to grow some new crops and cultivars, as well as enjoying some old favourites. So I thought that it would be worth a post to review some of this year’s experiments.

Early on I managed a modest pea and bean crop and while not brilliant in terms of quantity I have to say that it was worth growing the broad bean ‘Crimson flowered’ for the display of flowers alone. They were beautiful and popular with bumblebees. The plants produced short pods over a lengthy period until they eventually succumbed to rust.

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In the sell-off at the end of last year’s season I managed to pick up a couple of packets of seeds from the Eden Project for a snip. I found the unopened packet of lentils a couple of weeks ago, but I did sow the chickpeas (Chickpea ‘Principe’ – Cicer arietinum).

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Chickpea ‘Principe’

And they grew … like common vetch, with fetching feathery, silvery leaves and white flowers. Then the furry little bladders containing the seeds (~2 per pod) puffed up:

Maybe I’ve got enough for a tagine, but I’ll definitely have to grow more plants next year.

Chickpea ‘Principe’

Chickpea ‘Principe’ still in its pods

With the failure of leafy vegetables in the garden (due to the slug problem) I’ve been looking for alternatives. Then I remembered growing New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) when we live on La Palma and thought that, with its unusual texture, it would be worth a go here. NZ spinach is not related to ordinary spinach, but is a fleshy, crisp, spreading plant (a bit like purslane). The leaves are small, triangular, slightly hairy and numerous. The great thing is that the more you pick it the more it branches and comes back.

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It is a good thing that it likes being cut back, because this turns out to be another thing the deer likes. Luckily the slugs left 50% of the plants, so we are doing fine with it. The leaves can be used raw in salad or cooked like spinach. You can purchase seeds from Chiltern Seeds.

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New Zealand spinach pruned by deer!

Another thing I was determined to try this year was a crop of soya beans. All of the family love Edamame and I seem to be buying this bean at the supermarket all the time, so I thought it would be good to see how easy it is to grow. D.T Brown sells a cultivar called ‘Elena’ that claims to be ‘the best GM-free soya bean for the British climate’, hence I am giving that a go.

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And so far they have been trouble and pest free, but I haven’t had a chance to try any yet because the crop isn’t quite ready. Apparently, when the leaves start to drop, sometime in September, the pods will be ready for harvest. I can’t wait for this one!

My tomato crop was hit by blight before we went away in early August, so I stripped all the leaves off the outdoor plants completely and enjoyed our holiday. You can imagine how happy I was to see the fruit on the bare stalks turning red (and yellow and orange) on our return, with no further sign of the disease. I’ve ended up with a bumper crop of ‘Sungold’, but I really like the look and taste of this yellow plum tomato that a friend supplied. She said that it is an heirloom variety, but can’t say more. If anyone recognises it I’d love to be able to get seed next year. I have tried to save some, but it is my first time doing this so I don’t know how successful I will be!

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Unknown yellow, plum heirloom tomato

A final new crop for this year is pansy. Yes, pansy  is an edible flower and I am following the example set by Robbie of Palm Rae Urban Potager (who loves Historic pansies) and encourages us all to enjoy some pretty salads from our productive plots.

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My plants are a little nibbled, but are so productive that I can afford to pick only the best for salads. I bought the seeds from Chiltern Seeds, but Robbie (in the US) recommends Baker Creek.

Have you grown anything new this year?

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Food, The home garden, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Bringing the (unusual) harvest home

  1. Beautiful photos! Deer got us again too, cukes are totally devastated. The only plants they have left alone are basil and marigolds. I planted some purple hull beans a few weeks ago, hoping we could get a late crop but it’s been so dry I don’t know if we’ll actually get any beans. Enjoy the soy beans, they are delicious homegrown!

    • Early autumn can be quite kind, so fingers crossed for your purple beans. Think that I will be able to pick the soya within the week, ‘cos I am sure that the leaves are beginning to turn. 🙂

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Despite the obstacles, your results are impressive!

  3. lyart says:

    Ha, same here with the slug invasion. The buggers have eaten most of my vegetables this year.

  4. pbmgarden says:

    Had never seen chickpea plants before. Pretty pansies.

    • That is largely the reason for my experiment. Now I can’t imagine growing enough to get several good meals, however they do seem to be trouble free (which is worth a lot in my garden).

  5. Great post. Have not thought of growing chick peas but why not? Unfortunately, I have too many snails here and do not want to kill them so I have stuck to growing flowers here ! I would love a polytunnel…

    • The chickpeas have been fun to try and see how they grow, but I think that I prefer growing pods that contain lots of beans, not just one or two. I must look up how they grow them commercially.

  6. Just fascinating to see what chickpeas look like on the plant. Thanks!

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