Get the low down on what’s growing on at my trial ground this month. From musk melons and Asian pears to Chilean guavas and golden huckleberries, autumnal eating could be so much more exciting than spuds & swedes.
MY HARVEST ON 9th OCTOBER
The leaves might be falling, but October is still a hugely productive season in the fruit & vegetable garden. Here are a quick couple of snaps of the harvests from my tiny 5x5m suburban front garden, all grown outdoors in a soggy Croydon summer.
MY HARVEST ON 23rd OCTOBER
With the first frosts forecast I dashed out to gather all my fruit crops before they got clobbered. Notice that while the tomatoes (widely thought of as an easy-to-grow common veg crop) weren’t able to fully mature outdoors, the more exotic stuff ripened up absolutely fine.
TOMATILLOS (Physalis philadelphica)
Deliciously tart Mexican tomato-relatives that taste like a cross between a zesty lime and a beefsteak tomato. These guys are truly spectacular in salsas, dips or spreads & absolutely essential to the culinary arsenal of any ‘South of the Border’ food fanatic.
Fantastically easy-to-grow, and with a single fruit costing up to £2 in fancy ethnic delis, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular with us Brits. Fancy giving them a go? The seeds are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.
CHILEAN GUAVAS (Myrtus ugni aka. Ugni mollinae)
Reputedly Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, Chilean guavas are infinitely easier to grow than a boring old blueberry yet far more delicious. Once cultivated commercially all over the South West, their flavour somehow combines the fragrance of exotic pink guavas with the fruitiness of ripe red strawbs, ending in a curious candy floss like sugariness. Pure heaven for the incorrigibly sweet-toothed.
MUSK MELON ‘EMIR’ (Cucumis melo ‘Emir’)
Thought growing melons outdoors in the UK was an impossibility? Well think again! A new generation of early-ripening, ‘personal sized’ melons like the variety ‘Emir’ have been specifically bred for the UK climate, which will fruit outdoors quite happily given a warm, sunny site.
Chose a grafted plant & give ’em the shelter of a cloche while establishing (OK, I know this is slightly cheating) and outdoor melons a real possibility throughout pretty much the whole of the UK – not just the balmy south.
Fancy giving them a go? The seeds are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.
INCA BERRIES (Physalis peruviana)
The impossibly exotic shiny, golden berries each come wrapped in their own papery ‘chinese lantern’. Combining the flavours of pineapple, kiwi & peaches, hailing from Peru and originally domesticated by the Inca, you might think they were impossible to grow in the UK without a Eden Project style biodome.
Yet incredibly these plants were once widely cultivated outdoors in Victorian Britain (they actually fruit quite poorly in the warmth of a greenhouse). Mrs Beeton even had a jam recipe for them, calling them by their Victorian name ‘Tipparees’. Look out for a post on my 21st century take on this in a few weeks.
The best thing about this food-mile free exotic fruit? Kept in their papery calyxes (cases) and popped in the fridge they have a shelf life of up to 3 months, making them the only homegrown berry you can eat fresh on your Christmas dinner table.
Add to that their ridiculous resistance to drought, pests and even light frosts, not to mention their sky high vitamin content & this has to be one of the most foolproof crops that can be grown in the UK.
Wanna get hold of the seed? They are part of my new Suttons Seeds range available to buy right here.
GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRIES (Solanum villosum)
These guys were new to my trials this year & boy did they prove their merit. Combining a rich apricot-like flavour and mega-productive habit, so far just three plants have thrown up over a kilo of berries. A relatively new introduction from Africa these plants are closely-related to our native common weed the black nightshade and have proved (for me at least) to be equally indestructible.
My only complaint about them is that the berries have a habit of bursting when removed from their little clusters, which can make them a little fiddley to prepare. It is also important to only harvest them when they have turned bright orange and are on the soft side, as half-ripened yellow fruit have only a bland, tomato-like flavour until they reach their full golden ripeness. In fact, I had initially dismissed them as flavourless and boring when I first picked them in July, until tasting them again several weeks later to discover that they had miraculously gone from watery to apricot cordial in a fortnight or two.
Wanna get your hands on some? I got mine from Plant World Seeds, who have a great range of weird & wonderful edibles. Definitely a site worth checking out for the experimental foodie grower.
PUTTING THEM ALL TOGETHER….
FOOD-MILE FREE FRUIT SALAD
A rinse, slice and sprinkle of homemade lemongrass cordial later & here was what I was scoffing: all the flavour of a pool-side cocktail, grown outdoors in sunny Croydon.
Never let it be said that I’m anti-conventional veg. I’m no exotic crop Nazi & love growing traditional stuff like heritage tomatoes, sweetcorn, beetroot & fancy coloured carrots alongside more exotic fodder. If it’s easy-to-grow and more exciting to eat than its supermarket cousin, I’ll give just about anything a go.
For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Tomatillos, Musk Melons, Chilean Guavas & Inca Berries Cucamelons check out my new book Homegrown Revolution!