PUTTING DOWN ROOTS

How to grow un­usual root crops

South African Garden and Home - - Contents - SOURCE Jane’s De­li­cious A-Z of Vegeta­bles by Jane Grif­fiths (Sun­bird Pub­lish­ers, jonathanba­ll.co.za) janes­de­li­cious­gar­den.com

Win­ter is the per­fect time to grow root crops. Many of these ben­e­fit from cold weather as the chill causes stored car­bo­hy­drates to con­vert to sugar, cre­at­ing sweet, de­li­cious vegeta­bles. Sow them from April on­wards to en­sure a steady win­ter har­vest.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a de­light­fully odd-look­ing veg­etable. Va­ri­eties range from very pale green to pur­ple.

Grow­ing tips: Sow seeds in seed trays and trans­plant when about a month old. They like full sun and welldraine­d, fer­tile soil. Keep weed-free and well-mulched.

Kohlrabi ben­e­fits from an or­ganic slow-re­lease fer­tiliser, such as Tal­borne’s Vita Veg 6:3:4. Add it to the soil be­fore plant­ing. Fo­liar feed with liq­uid fer­tiliser when new leaves start form­ing. Reg­u­lar mois­ture pre­vents the bulb from split­ting.

Pests and diseases: Pro­tect young seedlings from snails and slugs with beer traps, brass bar­ri­ers or or­ganic snail bait. Harvesting and eat­ing: The bulb is ready to har­vest af­ter seven to nine weeks – don’t let it grow too big other­wise it be­comes woody. Har­vest by cut­ting the bulb off at soil level. The leaves are edi­ble, with a mild f lavour and chewy dense tex­ture even when cooked. To re­duce this, ei­ther slice leaves very finely or purée them.

The bulb has two fi­brous outer lay­ers that need to be peeled away. Kohlrabi has hints of both cab­bage and turnip f lavours. It’s ver­sa­tile and can be steamed, stuffed, puréed, stir-fried, made into chips or eaten raw.

Cele­riac

Cele­riac is grown for its de­li­cious fat root. ‘Bianco del Veneto’ is a fi­bre­less heir­loom va­ri­ety.

Grow­ing tips: Its tiny seeds take a long time to ger­mi­nate and are best sown in seed trays. Don’t cover as they need light to ger­mi­nate. Set the seedlings slightly lower in the ground than they were in their seed tray.

Cele­riac is shal­low rooted and needs reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing. To en­cour­age bulb de­vel­op­ment, re­move the outer leaves to ex­pose the crown. Side dress with Tal­borne Or­gan­ics’ Vita Veg 6:3:4 eight weeks af­ter trans­plant­ing.

Pests and diseases: Watch out for slugs and snails. Pro­tect as men­tioned. Harvesting and eat­ing: Cele­riac takes four to five months to reach full maturity. Un­like many root vegeta­bles, it doesn’t store large amounts of car­bo­hy­drates and is there­fore low carb. It can be eaten raw (thinly sliced in sal­ads) or cooked (roasted, puréed or added to soups). Ei­ther way the tough ex­te­rior needs to be cut off first.

Un­usual radishes

In­stead of the reg­u­lar red radishes, try these more un­usual va­ri­eties.

‘Hail­stone’, as its name sug­gests, is pure white and round with a de­li­cious mild, crisp taste.

The round ‘Span­ish Black’ has a much bolder, more pep­pery f lavour than red radishes.

Daikon, a large white ta­per­ing radish pop­u­lar in Ja­panese cook­ing, has a sweet, mild taste and crisp tex­ture.

‘Easter Egg’ is round, rang­ing from pink to pur­ple or white. Grow­ing tips: All radishes grow eas­ily from seed and ben­e­fit from be­ing buried slightly be­low the sur­face – about 1–1,5cm deep. This and reg­u­lar mois­ture en­cour­ages them to pro­duce fat­ter roots. Thin them out so they have space to de­velop to a de­cent size. ‘Easter Egg’ and ‘Hail­stone’ are quick to ger­mi­nate, but daikon and ‘Span­ish Black’ need more space and time to ma­ture.

Pests and diseases: Cut­worms, slugs and snails all en­joy radishes. Pro­tect as pre­vi­ously men­tioned.

Harvesting and eat­ing: ‘Hail­stone’ is ready af­ter only three weeks, quickly fat­ten­ing into round bulbs with an earthy, sweet taste. It’s best eaten raw. Start harvesting ‘Easter Egg’ af­ter a month, but if you leave them longer they stay crisp. Daikon is ready af­ter about 60 days. To pre­vent the tops from break­ing off when pulling them out, gently loosen the soil around the root with a fork, hold­ing the tops as close to the ground as pos­si­ble. Young daikon are best eaten raw and larger ones can be lightly stir-fried or added to soups. The green tops are also edi­ble. ‘Span­ish Black’ takes about 55 days to har­vest. Raw, it adds a hot bite to sal­ads (peel­ing the skin lessens the heat). If they are too pun­gent, cook­ing tames the f lavour.

Un­usual look­ing kohlrabi is de­li­cious, healthy and easy to grow.

Kohlrabi ben­e­fits from reg­u­lar mois­ture.

Although it looks gnarly, cele­riac’s crisp, fat root is de­li­cious.

A rainbow mix of radishes.

Daikon takes longer than nor­mal radishes to reach maturity, but is worth the wait.

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