‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant
Spice up your food garden with these deliciously different veggie varieties!
Every year we lucky food gardeners are presented with new varieties of old favourites, plants that add some pizzazz to the veggie garden and manage to carry the excitement through to the kitchen. Here are a pick of some of our favourites for this season
RAW is a brand-new vegetable seed range containing over 40 different vegetables. All of them are heirloom, non-GMO varieties that have been selected for container gardens or small-space growing, such as balconies, patios, sunny corners, or just about wherever you can squeeze in a pot.
Marlaen Straathof, who launched the range, says, “These are not the varieties that you have seen before on seed racks; they look different, kinda quirky, the sort of thing you see on cooking channels and Buzzfeed articles.”
Just how different? A quick glance down the list picks up ‘Artichoke Violet De Provence’, ‘Beet Rainbow Blend’, ‘Carrot Parisian’, ‘Eggplant Rosa Bianca’, ‘Pea Blue Shelling’, ‘Radish Watermelon’, and a list of heirloom tomatoes as long as your arm – ‘Black Krim’, ‘Flame Orange’, ‘Rainbow Mix’ and ‘Green Zebra’, to name a few.
RAW is aimed at a new generation of gardeners, says Marlaen. “We are talking to the millennials (or the millennials at heart) who don’t want to grow the same veggies as their mum or grandmother.”
Even the seed packets are different; there is basic info of where to plant and how deep, as well as some not so serious facts – but that’s it.
“With smart phones there is instant access to information, so we’re making sure RAW has a web, facebook, twitter and Instagram presence,” says Marlaen, explaining the scant information on the packets.
“Basically it is a lifestyle range of easy-to-grow veggies, so that when we’re talking about what we are eating, or doing or growing, RAW will be part of the conversation.”
In other words, when braaiing on the stoep or drinking cocktails on the balcony, RAW veggies should be within picking reach (for adding to cocktails, salad and other edible creations). Marlaen adds, “RAW is your urban solution to growing sustainable fresh produce without having to head for the farmlands.”
RAW seed packets are available through garden centres and hardware stores. For more information see:
Patio tomato ‘Napoli’ Zucchini ‘Easy Pick’ Butternut ‘Honeynut’
More veggies for the patio
The Patio range of vegetables has expanded to include a Roma container tomato, a mini-butternut and a golden zucchini.
- Patio tomato ‘Napoli’ is a Roma container tomato that bears fruit within 63 days from transplanting. Plants are compact and bear masses of bright red, pear-shaped fruit 5-6cm in diameter, with a meaty, tangy flavour. Plants grow 45cm high and about 90cm wide, and will need support in a container because of the heavy load of fruit. Water regularly, even daily in very hot weather, and feed once a month with a liquid fertiliser. Excellent disease resistance should result in a good harvest.
- Butternut ‘Honeynut’ is a small-fruited butternut (10-13cm long) that grows on a vine with a limited spread of up to 3m. The fruit has a sweet, nutty taste and deep orange flesh and is a manageable size. Like other patio veg, the yields are higher than traditional varieties. Another bonus is that the leaves are resistant to powdery mildew. Plant in a large pot, in full sun, and train the growth up and along a trellis. Water plants daily and fertilise twice a month to maintain its high production rate.
- There is now a gold Zucchini ‘Easy Pick’ fruit to complement the dark green variety. The leaves don’t have the customary prickles, so it is painless and easy to pick – just a quick twist snaps off the fruit. The upright, spreading plants grow 1.3m high and wide. Plant a single plant in a large, deep container, at least 50cm in diameter. It does best with morning sun and afternoon shade, daily watering and monthly fertilising. Pick when fruit is about 15cm long – the more you pick the better it produces. Yellowish leaves indicate a lack of food; boost with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser.
All the Patio vegetables are available in individual pots from garden centres and selected Builders Warehouse outlets
‘Black Nebula’ carrots
Black carrots, orange eggplant… what next to expect from heirloom veggies?
Every year Living Seeds, suppliers of heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables, adds to their range, and their new releases never disappoint. This is their mouth-watering line up for this summer:
‘Black Nebula’ carrots are actually a deep purple all the way through, not with the typical orange core of most purple carrots. The taste is like a regular carrot and it is very high anthocyanins, a flavonoid that is a powerful anti-oxidant. The carrot holds its colour with cooking and can also be used as a natural food or clothing dye. It grows like a normal carrot.
‘Tendersweet’ carrots are so named for being the sweetest carrots on the market. They are core-less, which makes them tender but with a crisp crunch, good for eating raw and in salads.
‘Bush Hog’ cucumber is a short, compact plant that produces generous amounts of thick, medium-sized, non-bitter cucumbers. It is a good variety to choose for large containers or for small veggie gardens.
‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant, also known as Ethiopian eggplant or scarlet eggplant, is one of the ‘new discoveries’ in the heirloom seed community. It is both eye-catching and known for its excellent rich flavour. The round fruit (which could be confused with a tomato) is best picked and cooked when it starts to show colour, and not at the brilliant orange stage. The small plants yield well, being ready for harvest within 80 days.
‘Rosa Bianca’ eggplant is a popular eggplant with chefs and gourmet cooks because it has such a delicate flavour, with no bitterness, and with a creamy texture. The large, round fruit is a rosy-lavender colour with white shading. The plants grow up to 90cm and fruit is ready for harvest within 70-85 days. The fruit is ideal for slicing, baking and roasting.
Tahitian butternut can grow to almost 1m in length. The long neck ensures plenty of harvestable flesh with only a small seed cavity at the base. Plants are vigorous and need plenty of space to grow. They are resistant to squash vine borers. The fruit store well because of the hard outer shell and the longer they are stored the sweeter the flesh becomes.
Tomato ‘Chocolate Stripes’ is a huge, brownish-purple tomato with bold olive-green stripes. The fruit has a sweet, earthy flavour. It is an indeterminate vine variety that produces well into autumn. The firm fleshy fruit is good for sandwiches and salads.
Banting is still big, and Stark Ayres has come up with a Low Carb Mix in a seed packet. It consists of tomato ‘Rodade’, zucchini ‘Green Tiger’, Swiss chard ‘Fordhook Giant’, cauliflower ‘Wallaby’ and broccoli ‘Star 2204’. They are a mix of new as well as tried-and-tested varieties.
The Swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower varieties can be sown throughout the year and grown on in sun or semi-shade, and the tomato and zucchini varieties are strictly spring and summer sowing for growing in full sun.
Other new releases that meet the demands of a low-carb diet are eggplant ‘Pale Moon’, chilli pepper ‘Tracer’ and mini salad tomato, ‘San Maurice’.
- Eggplant ‘Pale Moon’ produces egg-shaped white fruit, which may look unusual to us, but this is actually how eggplant got its name – the fruit of the first varieties looked like eggs. Fruit takes 80-90 days to harvest.
- Chilli pepper ‘Tracer’ is a cayenne type that matures early, about 75-80 days to harvest after transplanting. Plants are strong, upright growers and very productive. There is no need to stake them. The pungent glossy dark green fruit turns red when fully mature.
- Tomato ‘San Maurice’ is an indeterminate mini San Marzano type with cylindrical shaped fruit that is very sweet, making it good for salads or roasting. It matures early, within 80 days of transplanting. It is a vigorous grower and the fruit has a good shelf life.
The odd veggie out is Sweetcorn ‘Assegai’, and it is for those with a sweet tooth, as it is a super-sweet. It is a very vigorous, large and prolific plant growing up to 1.85m, and its leaves are disease resistant, especially to rust. The deep golden yellow cobs are cylindrical and uniform.
Seed packets are available from supermarkets and garden centres