Monday, 29 August 2011

Growing Exotics

Bengali Chilli
Last month, my Master Gardener training was on growing exotics and I was completely seduced to trying to grow all sort of new and unusual vegetables.  The training consisted of a morning training session followed by an afternoon walking around Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses and seeing the sheer variety of exotic crops being grown there.  It really lifted the lid on a whole new world of growing possibilities.
Hungarian Hot Wax

Following the training, I was bursting with enthusiasm to grow all sorts of things but I'm rather limited in space and don't have access to a green house.  No matter, there are still a lot of things you can grow outside and on windowsills.  The main new additions are my ever increasing collection of chillies.  I was already growing Real Seeds Nigel's Outdoor Chilli, Cherry Bomb, Hungarian Hot Wax and a Bulgarian Carrot.  After the training I added a Bengali Chilli and a Cashmere Chilli to my collection kindly given to me from the Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses.  If you have experience of growing these, please tell me how they grow and taste as this is a new project for me.
Bulgarian Carrot
I have now got to the stage where I need at least one chilli plant growing at any one time.  As and when I lose one, I will germinate another.

Apart from increasing a passion for growing chillies, I also got hold of some Halloon seeds and some Fenugreek.  I sowed these seeds this morning and am intending to grow them on sunny windowsills throughout the winter to brighten up meals with their flavoursome leaves.  Watch this space to see how I get on!

Garden Organic's inspiration for the exotic flavour of my latest training was inspired by their sowing new seeds project which is currently running in the Midlands.  The project has uncovered many varieties of exotic crops that are adapted to the British climate through allotmenteers and home growers cultivating and saving seeds over several generations. Here's some information on the project

The Chelsea Physic Garden is also growing exotic crops with their spice garden.  Some of the plants they are growing are turmeric, ginger, black pepper, mustard and chillies to name but a few of the variety of plants currently growing in the exhibition bed Chelsea Physic Garden Spice Garden

Are you growing any exotic or unusual edibles? 


  1. I grow something unusual (and often exotic) every year. This year I have chayote, which are just starting to form fruit :) And then there's the oca, which is just coming up from volunteers left from last year!

  2. We've found turmeric to be worth growing not in terms of volume but for a really unusual fragrant taste that's completely unlike the dried herb - even if we only get a couple of dishes in a year it's fun to try. We've had a go at a few exotics and both yacon and oca from Real Seeds have been successful in yield terms (in flavour, we prefer the oca) so I would tend to give anything they supply a chance or two. Some other exotics and unusual edibles we're re-evaluating...I think we're coming to a stage where we want to balance useful tasty yields against experimenting...although we probably always knew we would pushing our luck with custard apples on a ground floor flat window looking out on to the bins...

    Having said that...Halloom? I've never heard of it and can't find it on Google...can you tell more about it? There's always next year after all...

  3. Hi Emma

    How will you cook the chayote when they are big enough? I am definitely intrigued by oca, sounds really tastey :)

  4. Hi Bugs

    I too am someone who really enjoys the variety on offer from Real Seeds :)

    Turmeric sounds fun. I've heard it looks good enough to have as an ornamental houseplant while you wait for the roots?

    Halloom was some seed I picked up at my recent Master Gardener training. They were displayed on a plate and at the end of the presentation we had the opportunity to take some seeds. All I know about it is that it was from the Sowing New Seeds Garden Organic project. I seem to remember it being a leafy salad type edible. It will be really interesting to see what I am growing!

  5. I hadn't really thought that far ahead, Claire, but apparently chayote can be treated much like a courgette.

  6. Hi Bugs

    Apologies, I spelt it wrong, it should be spelt "Halloon".

  7. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for the update - Wikipedia turns up this: "Garden cress ...seeds are known as 'Halloon'[7] in India...commonly used in the system of ayurveda to prevent postnatal complications." But it may easily not be the same thing at all, I look forward to seeing what comes of the mystery plant!

    The turmeric is an attractive looking plant, definitely - I'll try to dig up or take a photo, it's starting to look a little straggly in the greenhouse this late in the year and I am afraid of not doing it justice. It's similar in habit to ginger, but the leaves are broad, rounded and slightly ribbed. Allegedly it may bloom, with scented flowers (I think I read that in the Organic Way) but we haven't managed it.

    I believe autumn is the right time to track down fresh roots in the grocers and there are a couple of different varieties available - if you're in South London I think you have a good chance of coming across them? I am restraining myself from looking for some!

  8. Bugs, You know I think you may have found it. I saw the same picture in the exotics presentation of seedlings growing through a keyboard (as is on the wikipedia article). It would certainly explain why they germinated so quickly!

    Maybe I should have tasted what a seed tastes like before eagerly sowing them, but then I wouldn't have the mystery and suspense of finding out what I have! Thanks for finding the link. Very much appreciated.

    I would love to see a picture of the turmeric if you have one.