Weird vegetables in my sub-tropical garden

Apr 15 2015 0 Comments Tags: climate, garden, vegetables

I've had some questions about the weird vegetables in my sub-tropical food garden, so here are some details for you.  I tend to try to find vegetables that grow well in the sub-tropics.  Perennial plants are ideal, but there are also a few unusual annuals that I grow.  I have received most of these as cuttings or seeds from friends and neighbours.  I find the best way to find out what will grow here is to talk to the locals, particularly our permaculture group, and take all opportunities to try unusual varieties because you might find something useful.


eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
Rosella
Rosella (Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa))
Rosella (as it is known in Australia) is a hibiscus.  It grows as a bush, about 1-2 m tall and 1 m wide.  The flowers are very pretty, and when they are finished the calyx grows and can be harvested before it starts to dry out.  I peel the calyx and dry it to make rosella tea, or rosella ale.  Some people make jam or jelly as well.  Other parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves, seeds and and roots.  I don't personally use these parts, but I would eat the leaves if I got really hungry!  Rosella bushes grow as annuals in my garden as they don't survive frost.  I plant them as early as possible in spring so that they can grow large enough to get a harvest before the next winter.



eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
Warrigal greens
Warrigal greens (New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
Warrigal greens are native to native to Australia, Argentina, Chile, Japan, and New Zealand (I have never seen it in the wild though).  This plant is a low growing, spreading perennial in my garden.  It dies back in winter when we get frost, but it grows back as soon as we get some summer rain.  It grows very quickly.  Fortunately the chickens also like it.  The leaves can be eaten like spinach, and due to the oxalate content, they should not be eaten raw.  I usually either steam or sautee the leaves with other vegetables.

eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
the sweet potato corner

Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
I planted a sprouting sweet potato that was given to me and its now spread throughout the garden.  Luckily the leave die back in winter, otherwise it might take over.  In my garden its a perennial, as it regrows from tubers following summer rain, as long as I leave some tubers when I harvest.  I usually dig them up towards the end of autumn after the leaves have started to die off, while I can still see where the plant was growing.  The young leaves are also edible (but we don't usually eat them).  Sweet potato should not be eaten raw either, I use it like potato, baked, boiled, mashed etc, but it does burn more easily due to the sugar content.  Sweet potato is known as kumara in New Zealand, but I haven't seen the yellow variety here in Australia that I would usually think of as a typical kumara.  I am growing an orange one, and one with a pink skin with white flesh.

eight acres: growing unusual vegetables in the sub-tropics
the chickens helping themselves to sweet potato and warrigal greens

See also Tromboncino and Choko.


Do you grow weird veges in a weird climate?  Any tips to share?  How do you find out what to grow and where to get plants or seeds from?

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