Posts Tagged ‘amaranth’

Easy to Grow Edible Seeds and Grains

October 23rd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A smaller sunflower head with bright yellow petals, resting on a larger dried up sunflower head that's had its seeds harvested. The black seeds are in a small pile infront of the two heads.

When we think about edible gardens, the first things that spring to mind are fruits and vegetables, and then perhaps herbs. But what about seeds and grains – where do they fit in, and are they even worth growing? The answer is a resounding yes!

Seeds and grains have plenty to contribute, so read on or watch the video for our pick of the crop.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins are big news in the autumn vegetable garden. Give them rich soil and plenty of room and they will reward you with two harvests for the effort of one – full-flavoured flesh and snackable seeds.

Here’s our guide to roasting them:

  • Cut the pumpkin open, then scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Pull off any bits of stringy flesh and rinse them clean in water.
  • Now, spread them out onto a baking sheet or pan, drizzle over olive oil then sprinkle on a few ingredients to add flavour. Salt is a great starting point. We also love adding some chilli pepper flakes and fennel seeds before mixing it all together to combine.A close up of some roasted pumpkin seeds laid out on a tray
  • Roast them in the oven at 350ºF/180ºC or Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes.
  • Once the seeds are golden, take them out of the oven and leave them to cool down completely before storing in an airtight container – if you can resist eating them there and then that is!

Sunflower Seeds

Give sunflowers a sunny spot in the garden sheltered from strong winds and they’ll be standing tall and proud by summer. The seeds are ready to harvest once the petals have withered and the seeds can clearly be seen. Rub the seed head back and forth to dislodge the seeds.

You can roast sunflower seeds as they are – no need for oil – in as little as five minutes, but we reckon salted sunflower seeds taste best:

  • Pour two pints, or a litre, of water into a pan along with two tablespoons of salt and a cup of seeds.
  • Bring the water to the boil then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Drain the seeds, spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for up to 15 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes is up, check the seeds every few minutes because they can go from perfect to burnt very quickly. Let them cool before storing.
  • Enjoy your salted sunflower seeds, but spit out the tough shells!

Amaranth and Quinoa

Amaranth and quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) are two protein-rich grains that make a delicious alternative to rice or pasta. They aren’t difficult to grow and they make colourful additions to the garden. Plant them into nutrient-rich, well-drained soil that gets plenty of sun, then once they’re established they’ll quickly take off!

The grains are ready when they are easy to shake free. You’ll need to winnow the chaff from the grains, first by sieving and then carefully blowing away what remains or by catching a breeze. Allow the grains to dry thoroughly for at least a week before storing. Quinoa needs rinsing in water before cooking to ensure it’s not bitter.

Three dried poppy seed heads on their stems clustered together and foregrounded on a blurry autumn field backgroundPoppy Seeds

Poppy seeds – delicious in cakes and bread – come from the opium or breadseed poppy, Papaver somniferum. In most areas it’s perfectly legal to grow this type of poppy for its pretty flowers and tasty seeds, but check local laws before planting!

This sun-lover is ready to harvest once the seed pods are dry and seeds spill out of the top when turned upside down. Cut them off and bring them indoors to a warm room to finish drying, then pull the pods apart to free the seeds for storing.

Seeds for Spices

Many leafy herbs will also produce seeds for the spice cabinet. Fennel is an easy-to-grow perennial herb that comes back year after year. Sunshine and a free-draining soil should see plants thrive, throwing up clouds of pretty yellow flowers each summer. Simply wait for the seeds that follow, gather them up and dry for storage.

Like fennel, caraway is a member of the carrot family. It prefers cooler, temperate climates and, as a biennial, only lives for two years. Keep plants well-watered in the first year to encourage strong plants producing plenty of seeds in their second.

Grow your own coriander seeds too by allowing it to flower and set seed, which it readily does if sown in the first half of the year as days continue to lengthen.

Then there are nigella seeds, also known as black onion seeds, though bearing no relation. The seeds come from the hardy annual nigella, or love-in-a-mist. Sow the seeds in autumn into well-drained soil that’s been raked to a fine tilth, or wait until spring if your winters are very cold. Harvest the seed heads when they are crisp-dry.

Here’s just a few ideas to get you started, and don’t forget many of these plants are also a big attraction for wildlife – if you don’t mind sharing! Tell us if you’ve grown any of these seeds or grains before, or perhaps you have others to recommend? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

10 Unusual Vegetables for Adventurous Gardeners

May 14th, 2019 | News | 1 Comment

The almost-impossibly vibrant watermelon radish is a stunning winter radish

Growing our own food gives us the opportunity to taste produce as fresh and healthy as it’s possible to get. It also means zero food miles and, if we choose, the chance to grow food with fewer artificial fertilisers and pesticides. But the really exciting reason to grow more of your own is the chance to try something different. There are many quirky crops out there just waiting to be discovered. So if you fancy trying something new, read on or watch the video for our top 10 unusual vegetables to shake things up in the garden.

1. Cardoon

Let’s start with a real monster of a vegetable! Closely related to globe artichoke and with similarly striking thistle-like blooms, cardoons are in fact grown for their incredible architectural stems. Looking a lot like super-sized celery, the earthy stems are delicious served up in a gratin. Cardoon needs lots of space, sunshine and a free-draining soil.

2. Shiso PerillaShiso perilla is more commonly associated with Japanese cuisine, where it’s used in tempuras and sushi

This leafy exotic is more commonly associated with Japanese cuisine, where it’s used in tempuras and sushi. The taste conjures up a curious mix of herbs, from mint to basil, as well as spices such as cinnamon. Red-leaved shiso perilla is a stunner, but it’s the green form that wins on flavour.

3. Oca

Oca is a member of the wood sorrel family, and certainly has its distinctive leaf shape. The leaves can be eaten in moderation but the real treat lies beneath the ground. Oca tubers are rich in vitamin C and may be eaten raw, or cooked in exactly the same ways as potato. Oca is planted in spring with the tubers forming in early autumn.

4. Celeriac

It tastes like a nutty version of celery but is more often mashed like potato – meet celeriac. This hardy, versatile winter root may also be grated raw, boiled or braised, or cut it into cubes and drop it into stews or soups. With young plants going in from spring, this is the perfect follow-on crop for ground recently vacated by other winter staples.

Malabar spinach is an Asian vine with pretty red stems and delicious, fleshy leaves5. Malabar Spinach

This culinary climber is Malabar spinach, an Asian vine with pretty red stems and delicious, fleshy leaves that are perfect in salads or stir-fried. A perennial, grown as an annual in regions prone to frost, Malabar spinach loves rich, fertile soil and grows best in full sun.

6. Kohlrabi

Next up – kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is an almost alien-looking vegetable that’s used in similar ways to turnip. The ‘bulbs’ are in fact swollen stems and taste like tender broccoli. They grow best from the second half of summer and should be harvested before they reach tennis ball size. We love them sliced then baked into healthy fries.

7. Seakale

Let’s take a look at another member of the brassica family – seakale. This quirky perennial needs a permanent bed like rhubarb or asparagus. Seakale is forced into growth in winter and early spring using special forcing pots to give one of the earliest harvests of the season. The tender, pale stems that follow are a real delicacy and cooked just like asparagus. This maritime native prefers free-draining soils.

8. AmaranthAmaranth is also known as ‘love-lies-bleeding'

Move over quinoa, there’s a new grain on the block! Also known as ‘love-lies-bleeding’ – you can see why in the picture – amaranth seeds are full of hugely healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Amaranth grows well in most soils and prefers a warm, sunny spot. Look out for the variety ‘Red Callaloo’ too, grown for its versatile and nutritious leaves.

9. Winter Radish

Round, red radishes are a summer staple, but did you know there’s a whole other side to the humble radish? Just as easy to grow as their summer cousins, winter radishes include the mild-flavored daikon often used in Asian cuisines, the tender-if-formidable-looking ‘Black Spanish’ radish, and the almost-impossibly vibrant watermelon radish. What a stunner!

10. Salsify & Scorzonera

Two very similar vegetables take up our final slot. Salsify and scorzonera both enjoy light, well-drained soil and a sunny, open position. They don’t look like much above ground, but that’s no problem because it’s the super-hardy roots we’re after, which have a delicate, sweet flavour reminiscent of oysters! Lift them as needed from autumn onwards to enjoy boiled or grated raw.

Be adventurous and try a few of these tasty eccentrics – they’ll certainly bring something new to the dinner table. If you’ve grown any of them before please share your experiences by commenting below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Sun survivor

August 10th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtains'Visiting the Mr F trial ground this week, it was clear that some plants had suffered badly in the heat while some had enjoyed it.

One that clearly loved the hot weather was Amaranthus ‘Velvet Curtains’, the RHS AGM winning hardy annual sown direct into the light and sandy soil of the trials field.

This dramatic relative of the familiar love-lies-bleeding is attractive from when the first richly coloured, reddish purple shoots emerge soon after sowing. The handsome foliage becomes more striking as it develops and I’ve seen it looking very dramatic emerging through a carpet of white alyssum. The white gypsophila that was also doing well in the heat would also make a taller and longer lasting partner.

Now, in August, the bold upright plumes of ‘Velvet Curtains’ are at their peak. I’ve grown them interplanted amongst orange dahlias and cannas to bring a softer look to the more structured dahlia and canna plants. If that’s the plan, raise the seedlings individually in pots from seed sown in a cold greenhouse, be sure not to let the plants dry out or suffer any shocks as this may spark them into flower prematurely.

‘Velvet Curtains’ is also splendid for drying, especially as the colour fades hardly at all. Cut the stems when the flowers are at their peak – about now! Strip off the lower leaves, tie the stems in bunches of half a dozen then hang them upside down in a cool and dry and well ventilated place. Drying in cool conditions (which is at last possible as everything cools down) helps preserve the richness of the colour.

Leave the plumes on the plants into the autumn and they will shed their seeds. This can be double-edged as you may end up with far more self sown seedlings than you need. The best compromise is to cut some for drying, cut back most of the rest to prevent self sowing and just leave a stem or two to shed seed. And if seedlings come up in inconvenient places next spring – well, you can always move them.