Gardening in Cirencester: Edible Ornamentals by Geoff Carr

Edible Ornamental Plants
by Geoff Carr
If you want to try a different approach to growing veg and don’t want to settle for plain old greens you can give your veg garden some colour and style. The following list of edible ornamental plants will look and taste great.

Red Russian Kale
Brassica oleracea ‘Red Russian’
This relative of cabbages, broccoli, swede, cauliflower and sprouts has velvety, greyish-green, 2- to 3-foot-tall leaves with purple stems. They look a lot like huge, ruffled oak leaves, darkening to purple after a frost as well as turning sweeter in flavour. Direct-sow four to five weeks before the last frost and continue to sow seeds every couple of weeks to produce a continuous harvest. You also can sow them in summer and harvest in autumn.
There are lots of tempting Red Russian Kale recipes to be found on-line, just type ‘Red Russian Kale’ into a search engine.

Cherokee Chocolate Tomato
Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Cherokee Chocolate’
These red-and-brown tomatoes, named for their chocolate colour, grow up to 4 inches wide and weigh in anywhere from 10 ounces to a pound. Their firm, juicy, tart-sweet flesh is great for slicing. Start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date; plant transplants outdoors after the last frost.

Papaya Pear Squash
Cucurbita pepo ‘Papaya Pear’
This plant produces pear-shaped, yellow squash on semi-bushy plants throughout the growing season. Pick the squash when they measure 3 inches long and wide to encourage plants to set more squash. Direct-sow after the last frost.

Ornamental Strawberry
Fragaria x ananassa ‘Pink Panda’
This sprawling ground cover bears bright-pink flowers and an occasional crop of edible berries. Evergreen to semi-evergreen plants grow 5 inches high and spread to 24 inches wide. Sold in small pots rather than as seeds, they can be planted in sunny to partly shady sites. Plants can be trained to trail from window boxes and hanging baskets. The flowers retain their strawberry fragrance as well as a milder strawberry flavour. Float petals in drinks, add to salads or add to desserts for decoration.

*  ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard
Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla var. flavescens ‘Bright Lights’
This exciting RHS AGM Swiss Chard, produces a rainbow of coloured stems that are crowned with large leaves of green or bronze. The flavour is deliciously mild and packed with nutritional content. Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ can be harvested from mid-summer to late autumn, and if soils are not excessively wet, overwinter, it will re-emerge to give an unbelievably early spring crop! Guaranteed lo brighten the vegetable patch, or why not grow this colourful Swiss chard in ornamental borders or in a patio container?

Gretel Eggplant
Solanum melongena ‘Gretel’
This plant produces clusters of white eggplants on 3-foot-high plants. Harvest the mild-flavoured fruits when they’re 3 to 4 inches long. Start seeds indoors eight to nine weeks before planting outdoors. Eggplants are susceptible to cold, so don’t plant outdoors until the soil is warm and there’s no more danger of frost. Indeed, eggplants benefit from being cosseted with warmth all through their lives including watering seedlings with luke-warm water.

Purple Ruffles Basil
Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’
Sporting frilly, flavourful purple leaves, this herb grows about 18 inches high and wide and is a good choice for containers, to edge vegetable gardens or to mix in a sunny perennial or annual ­border. Start seeds early indoors; basil is very cold-tender, so wait until after the last frost to put plants (or direct-sow seed) in the garden. The colourful leaves are full of flavour, strongly aromatic when crushed and are especially fine for herb vinegars, for garnishing or for throwing onto the bbq.

Freckles Lettuce
Lactuca sativa ‘Freckles’
This lettuce features bright-green leaves splashed with crimson speckles. Crisp, buttery-flavoured leaves grow 6 to 12 inches high but can be harvested as baby leaves, too. A cool-weather veggie, its seeds and transplants can be placed in gardens as soon as soil is workable in early spring. Start seeds indoors four weeks before transplanting outside. Sow seeds every two weeks through summer for successive harvests. High in anti-oxidants, folic acid and vitamin C.

Scarlet Runner Bean
Phaseolus coccineus
Lovely scarlet flowers on plants that can grow very tall given enough sun and watering; they attract both bees and butterflies. Plants bear 6- to 12-inch pods that hold scarlet-black beans. You can eat the tender young pods straight from the plant or cook them. Direct-sow into garden after frost.

Chilli Peppers
Compact ornamental chilli’s, growing 6 to 20 inches high and 6 to 18 inches wide, are ideal for small gardens, hanging baskets and containers. Unlike peppers, which hang beneath foliage, ornamental chilli plants produce upright clusters of fruit that face the sky. Sow seeds in fertile, well-draining soil and full-sun location about 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart. As fruits ripen, a single plant may sport three or four different colours from yellow to orange, red, purple or brown. Pick often; the more you harvest, the more fruit the plants will produce.

For a FREE, no obligation meetings call Geoff Carr now on 07719 896039. Visit www.GeoffreyCarr.co.uk 

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