AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT


Well completely different for me. We all like to try something different each year and these are two plants I have never tried before. Both of them I saw growing at West Dean Garden near Chichester, which incidentally is highly recommended if you haven't visited.

Firstly Lemon Grass. I sowed the seed in the middle of March in the propagator, potted them on at the end of April, and finally potted into 10 litre pots at the end of May. I kept them in the polytunnel for a couple of weeks until placing the pots outside in the herb patch.

They have grown steadily and certainly look the part. The only problem is, I'm not sure when to harvest them. The leaves taste lemony but are too stringy to put in a salad. The leaves can evidently be used as a tea - but I'm not over keen on herbal teas at the best of times. I've cut a few stalks which I understand can be slightly bruised and added to dishes as required. Unfortunately, they're not very flavoursome yet, so I think I've got to be patient.

The second experiment is Oca. Originally from Chile, Oca is one of the ‘lost crops’ of the Incas, and a staple crop in Bolivia and Peru. It is grown from tubers, much like potatoes, but is not related to them in any way, hence they are free from blight. Oca should produce attractive yellow flowers but I haven't seen any yet. The blurb says Oca is tender (preferably started under cover in the spring), and needs a moderately long growing season to achieve a worthwhile crop. Oca can be cooked like new potatoes (very tasty with a lemony tang), roasted in the oven, or even used raw in salads in much the same way that radish is prepared.

The latin name is Oxalis Tuberosa and an alternative name is New Zealand Yam.

I bought 6 little tubers over winter which arrived in January. When received, I chitted the tubers similar to potatoes and didn't pot them up (into root trainers) until the beginning of April. I finally planted the rooted tubers into 30 litre pots ( three tubers to each container) towards the end of May. I placed the pots outside in the border and there they have stayed with the foliage gradually growing.

Again, I have to be patient. The tubers form and swell as autumn develops, when day length shortens and temperatures fall . Ocas do not form underground tubers until very late in the season. I'm not to worry at all if the foliage gets frosted - it will die off after a heavy frost. Some plants may form some small aerial tubers on the stem. These need to be picked off before a heavy frost. I'm not to harvest the tubers until the last remnants of foliage has become frosted and died off from late November and into December.

The longer I can leave the tubers in the containers the better. They can be stored in slatted trays or a hessian sack in a cool shed or garage. The tubers do not need covering against the light, and will store happily for several months until ?sprouting? commences and some of these can be replanted.

Welll, sounds if I have to be very, very patient. I'll let you know what happens.

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