Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a Hampshire garden. I've been growing veggies since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Some traditional varieties and old favourites as well as new ideas. I share my garden with my allotment assistant Daisy the Labrador. On Twitter as @MatronsVeggies

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Growing Purple Sweet Potatoes

 I just love these!  I first heard about these purple sweet potatoes from a family member who lives in Hawaii.  They knew them as the Okinawa sweet potato (originally from Japan). This purple sweet potato was well known in Hawaii for making purple sweet potato pie - which is a little like our pumpkin pie.  I managed to find some in a Chinese supermarket in London, but I think they are really catching on here in the UK and you can find them in Waitrose as 'Stokes' purple sweet potato but they are seasonal and you can really only find them up till the end of April.
 Now these Japanese Okinawa purple sweet potatoes are being bred as 'Stokes' purple sweet potatoes and grown in the USA alongside their usual crop of sweet potatoes.  When you peel them they are just an amazing colour.  The cooked texture is quite dry with a high fibre content.  As with many other purple veggies they have a higher anthocyanin content.
 I usually steam them in a bag in the microwave so they don't lose too much taste and colour into cooking water. They have a wonderful, sweet flavour and really make a wonderful pumpkin pie, or just as an unusual vegetable to serve with a roast dinner.  You could steam and then fry these slices of purple sweet potato.
 and it keeps its colour even when cooked.  I can most highly recommend trying some of these if you find them.  Some sweet potatoes have different skin colours but have a white or orange flesh, so make sure you find these purple ones. They are well worth the effort to source them.
And finally I have a couple of small purple sweet potatoes that have started to sprout!  I am going to try growing some slips.  These do NOT grow like ordinary potatoes, they are a completely different family of plants.  These sweet potatoes are related to bindweed or the columbine family.  They propagate from vegetative shoots or slips and not by planting a tuber.  I will keep you updated with my progress, but I will keep these shoots growing a bit bigger before planting them. More to follow.


 There have been some lovely, warm days here in my West London garden.  Most of my veggies are now grown in large containers against a South facing wall.  This Romanesco has sent up this first little courgette and flower.  One of my first edibles in this new courtyard garden.
 This other Romanesco courgette is sharing a container with a couple of Joe's Long Chilli up against this brick wall. Things are growing at a rate of knots at the moment, these lovely, long days are making such a difference.
 Some lovely warm, rain earlier this week helped my Aquadulce Claudia broad beans to shoot up about a foot in just a couple of days.
 These Royalty dwarf beans are planted at the edge of the veg planter so they hang down on this South facing planter. Beans and courgettes are good companion plants and frequently do well together.  I have also just planted some Blauhilde climbing French beans against the climbing courgette Black Forest.  They can climb up the trellis together.
 I am really pleased with these potatoes planted in a plastic veg bag.  I have given them a handful of chicken manure every so often when I earthed them up, and lots of leafmould and compost as well as lots of water.  These should be ready in a couple of weeks. One bag of Epicure and one bag of Rocket potatoes.
I am really pleased with my new Williams pear tree.  I bought it in flower, in a container a couple of weeks ago at a Summer show.  Then I read that it really needed another pollinator so I took it for a 'play date' with my Sister's Conference pear tree.  This has worked really well and I have a good fruit set!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Planting Out

 This is the first growing season in my new courtyard allotment garden.  This weeks weather forecast looks like it is going to heat up, so I have started planting out some of my tender veggies.  These are a dwarf bean called 'Royalty'  way back in about 2003 I 'liberated' a couple of dry beans from the compost heap at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.  A beautiful purple bean that I have kept going over the years. I have let them tumble out over the edge of my planter.
 This South facing planter gets sun most of the day so I have planted a couple of climbing courgettes 'Black Forest' up the trellis on the wall.  These have been a brilliant variety for a garden with limited space.  Growing UP is a good use of space.
 I have been hardening off these courgette plants over the past couple of weeks, but there should be enough warmth in the soil now to get going now.
 I need to provide support for my veggies, so I have been setting up vine eyes and wire supports along the brickwork.  I can tie in sticks, trellis or any plant supports here.  A South facing wall should provide lots of heat for tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.
 Some Hurst Greenshaft peas in a large planter supported with a tall wigwam of canes and a few peasticks.
The Epicure and Rocket new potatoes are doing really well in these planting bags.  Every few days I earthed up the shoots with a bit more compost so as to protect the potato from some overnight frosts. My garden here is quite sheltered and the warmth of the brickwork seems to have protected them quite well.