Hooray, Spring is nearly here! Which for us in Southeast Queensland and our friends just south of the border, means it practically is spring. Which basically means it's practically summer...
Yes, our subtropical climate here is kind to veggies (and no, I'm not still talking about our friends south of the border). Vegetables in our climate aren't super fussy about seasons, with most of the veggies on the list below being prime for planting up until at least February or March.
However, I've chosen four of the more temperamental veggies to talk about in more detail underneath. You will want to plant these ones around this time of year if you want to achieve veggie perfection!
|Cabbage (loose headed)||Malabar Greens||Sunflower|
The best way to describe spring onions, is as baby onions that are harvested before the bulb has a chance to swell. However, if you do let spring onions grow, they won't actually turn into onions. I know – it's all very confusing. To make matters worse, some people call them shallots. It's enough to make a grown man cry. The actual difference is, true shallots are grown for their bulbs only, so the bulb is allowed to swell into something almost resembling an onion. The confusion is all the fault of the dirty NSW shallot marketers, who decided to start selling shallots (the enlarged bulb section) with the tubular leafy "spring onion" section still attached, and still call them shallots. We really need to come to an agreement on spring onion/shallot terminology if our states are ever gong to live in harmony. Maybe that's what the winner of the next State of Origin can decide.
•Sow spring onion seeds into trays, and plant when they become seedlings.
•Plant spring onions with carrots, as they make excellent companions (obviously they don't let terminology issues come between them).
•Harvest after they reach around 15-20cm high. Or let them grow into shallots, but don't try arguing the difference with a New South Welshman...
Quinoa seeds are often described as rice-like, and can even be cooked the same way as rice. The main challenge in growing Quinoa is learning how to pronounce it. If you head down to Bunnings and ask for some "Quin-oh-a" seeds, you're going to see some confused people in red polo shirts. Or worse still, "Quin-own-ah", (like Winona)... but I won't be making that mistake again. The correct way to pronounce Quinoa, is "Ki-nwa". Or I find it easier to remember "Keen-wah" – just think of an enthusiastic ninja. Of course, none of this is news to our vegetarian, vegan, and celiac friends, who utilise this protein and fibre rich pseudocereal in a bunch of different ways, like as a cereal, in smoothies & salads, or as an additional ingredient in meat substitutes, just to name a few.
•Apart from its pronunciation, the biggest hassle with Quinoa is removing a bitter waxy substance called "saponin" from the seeds. There are many schools of thought on the best way to do this, as it can be quite laboursome. The best method I've found is to chuck the seeds in a stocking or pillow case, and into your washing machine on a cold wash cycle. Don't put your undies in the same wash though. No one likes bitter undies.
•Harvest when the leaves have fallen off and the seeds are dry and hard.
Sure, we all know what a potato is, what you may not know is that you can grow them on purpose in your garden, not just by accident in your pantry! Potatoes are a great vegetable for conspiracy theorists too, being the biggest selling vegetable by weight in Australia, one of the easiest to grow, an excellent staple, yet are the hardest vegetable to obtain seeds for! Never fear though, you can get seed potatoes online (click the image on the right or do your own google search), or you can grow them from store bought potatoes. If you're serious about you're taters though, you will want to order some seed potatoes, as store bought potatoes may have been sprayed with growth retardant, or carry diseases such as potato scab, that will spread into your soil and stay for years, infecting all future crops.
•Cut your potatoes into pieces that each contain one or two eyes, (this step in itself can become quite the fun puzzle game), each eye will produce a plant of its own. Put these pieces in the pantry for a day or two, until the sliced edges have dried out. Then you're ready to plant!
•Half filled raised garden beds are a great starting point for growing potatoes, that way you can add more soil as the potatoes grow, producing some humungous taters! Don't forget to have your extra soil on hand!
•Plant each seed potato piece about 12 inches apart in all directions, three inches deep to begin with.
•Harvest after 12-16 weeks. Wait until the green growth withers, and you'll get a full crop that will please any self-respecting Irish person.
No, I am not just making this vegetable's name up, thank you very much! Mangle-Wurzel, apart from triggering some bad childhood memories of a Neighbours character, is a root vegetable, similar to beetroot. The leaves can also be used in a similar way to spinach. Mangle-Wurzel is basically a superfood for livestock, but isn't to be sneezed at for human consumption either. (Or you can sneeze on it if you wish, I'm not telling you what to do. Maybe wash it afterwards though). Mangle-Wurzel is super tasty when it is young, and can be cooked the same way as boiling potatoes, then mashed or diced to be eaten as-is or chucked into a curry. Come to think of it, I have never tried making Mangle-Wurzel chips! That would be worth it just for the name! Someone please try this and let me know how they turn out...
•Best to grow from seeds straight in your garden, as mangle-wurzel seedlings don't transplant well. (For this reason they are very rarely available to purchase as seedlings). You can thin the weaker seedlings out once they have grown.
•Pick the leaves as you need them, and harvest the roots after 15-18 weeks. Keep in mind that the younger the roots, the more flavoursome they will be.