Jamie Oliver

forum: Gardening / Growing

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#1 Mon 23 Jan 12 10:50pm

under2manyjeeps

Member
Member since Sun 22 Jan 12

Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

I am looking for some unique herbs or vegetables to grow this summer or specific varieties  What are your favorite ones that can't be easily bought in the market or produce stand? 

Even though I don't have much room I grow Shishito (not hot, but extremely tasty) & Ghost (very hot) peppers.  Among the other regular herbs and vegetables I grow about 8 varieties of tomatoes; unfortunately here in the Virginia, US the humid summers make heirlooms difficult. But nothing tastes like summer more than a garden fresh BLT sandwich! 

What is your "to die for" plant?

:thumbsup:

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#2 Mon 23 Jan 12 10:55pm

jutta73

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Occupation Cook, cleaner, nanny, personal assistant, shopper - all without pay!
From Melbourne, Australia
Member since Mon 20 Apr 09

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

Not sure what is easy to get in the US but how about thai basil for great south eastern currries. I don't have any unusual herbs in my garden, I did find a greek oregano plant instead of the normal one and think it is great.

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#3 Mon 23 Jan 12 11:53pm

JoyYamDaisy

Forum super champ
From Melbourne Australia
Member since Sun 12 Apr 09

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

Welcome Under2manyjeeps,
I like to grow things like chives, mint, parsley, rocket etc that are best picked fresh in small quantities, so outside the door makes a lot more sense than getting them up the street.
The more unusual things I grow are curry leaves: a tree, but I keep it cut down to a small bush size.
A cambodian herb I have not found anywhere else, but that has lovely juicy sorrel tasting leaves. This was given to me by someone who also didn't know its name.
Bergamot herb is a favourite for herbal teas.
O and I now have lemon grass, but I haven't used any of it yet.
smile

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#4 Tue 24 Jan 12 5:43am

MySoupBowl

Member
Occupation Cat Herder
From U.S. Pacific Northwest
Member since Fri 20 Jan 12

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

If you're looking for a unique vegetable, try Cucuzza squash.  It's an italian squash and not easily found in stores.  I had it often as a child cooked with ground beef and put over rice.  You just need a place for the vine to climb.

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#5 Tue 24 Jan 12 2:26pm

minerva

Forum champ
Occupation Walking the Old Ways
From Living in the Wild Woods
Member since Wed 16 Jan 08

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

I would suggest going online & looking at the seed merchant's catalogues.........I could tell you all the lovely herbs I grow (not to mention the different veg) but I live in England & our climatic conditions aren't the same as yours, so would have limited worth.

My other suggestion is to go to whatever place you have locally that sells unusual &/or expensive varieties of herbs/veg & grow those. The cheaper crops often aren't worth the time & trouble to grow, but the expensive ones are!!!!

Good luck to you, tell us how you get on.

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#6 Tue 24 Jan 12 3:33pm

MsPablo

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Occupation Just being me
Member since Fri 28 Mar 08

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

I'm in the D.C. area, all too familiar with our hot, humid summers.

Herbs hold up well, mint and oregano will take over - plant them in large pots, the bigger the pot, the better because small pots heat up too quickly and need more watering.  Rocket bolts at the first hint of heat and humidity and has many unpleasant qualities at that stage.

Winter and summer squashes do very well, the small tomatoes - cherry, grape, pear, etc. are prolific and easy and the plants are great for a small space.

Friends have had success growing carrots, radishes (a quick crop) and beets and there are many interesting gourmet types with pretty colors.  I believe the radishes will do best in cooler weather, but they are very quick from seed to fruit.

You might try some sweet potatoes, blue potatoes, a special variety of garlic and shallots.  I have no experience growing them and can't really offer any advice, but have had them right out of the garden and they really are nicer than what you can buy normally.

Vine bugs are an issue with the squashes.  I may have been lucky, but a bush variety of zucchini squash that I grew wasn't bothered by them at all, was prolific and easy.  Pick when they're very small or they get huge overnight and tough.  Eggplant will also need protection from insects in our area.  You might try them anyway, many people have success - you can get floating row cover or little tents that let in light and air and keep bugs/animals out.

Have a look at Burpee's or Johnny's Seeds for hybrid slicing tomatoes - disease resistance is a good attribute for our area.  Beefsteak has been popular for as long as I can remember. 'Indeterminate' tomato plants are big and sprawling and need large, sturdy cages.

I chose disease-resistant determinate types from Johnny's that produce all at once - can't remember the variety, but they were quite nice, not quite as tasty as Brandywine or Beefsteak, but you can't beat getting 10 - 12 perfect large tomatoes evenly spaced on a small plant with minimal staking needed and no problems with disease or insects.

Tomatoes are a good choice because they are always better than store-bought, even the fancy disease resistant hybrids, although the grape/cherry types are quite good in the shops.  Herbs are a nice choice because it saves you money and you can grow types that may not be available in the shops.

The small leaved basils are pretty sturdy and bugs don't seem to go for them as much as the larger-leaved sweet or Genovese types.  Purple-leaved basils are very attractive in the garden and pretty and peppery in salads, usually not as prolific as the green types.  When buying basil seeds, it's worth getting ones that are tested for fusilium wilt which affects a percentage of seeds.

Globe basil, French thyme - make good weed-proof borders.  The heirloom French thyme I grew recommended re-seeding yearly for best production and that was the case, but not hard to do.  The plants left from the prior year were really spent by the next season.  Rosemary should be fine where you are, but can be killed by the cold out where we are.

A friend grows sweet peas in the cool weather, but I think that is a lot of work in our climate and risky because we can get hot weather too quickly.  I haven't tried growing legumes or green beans, the latter will get tough and stringy as soon as it gets hot, so again, they have to be done in the cooler weather which is tricky and picked frequently.

You can add some small marigolds to control nematodes.  Lemon balm is excellent to keep the bad bugs away, but it gets rather large and in some gardens, spreads itself around too much.

Last edited by MsPablo (Tue 24 Jan 12 4:52pm)

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#7 Tue 24 Jan 12 3:47pm

MsPablo

Forum super champ
Occupation Just being me
Member since Fri 28 Mar 08

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

Strategies for coping with the heat and humidity:

Test your soil (free kits from the agricultural extension service are available)
Amend according to the test results
Add plenty of organic matter, it's better for lightening up clay than sand, but at times I have used sand just to help me get started as it cuts through the clay a bit better.  Sharpen your spade, it really helps.
Mound up your soil for best drainage and never walk on it or compress it.

For plants that can take close spacing, plant closer than recommended - herbs, lettuces, etc. because this will help the plants cover the ground completely which keeps the ground much cooler.  Remember, close-spacing is fine for many things that are going to be regularly harvested.  You will thin by harvesting regularly.  This works even better than mulches, but mulches such as a red mulch are good around plants that resent being crowded such as tomatoes.

Water from soaker hoses at the same time very early in the morning.  A watering timer is great for this purpose.  Water deeply as the plants roots will go deep where it's cooler.

Some things are fine picked any time, but you will find it necessary to pick delicate things like herbs and squash blossoms in the evening when it's cool or in the very early morning.  It heats up around here at 9 am to the point where it's impossible to be out there, so that's kind of a no-brainer.

Last edited by MsPablo (Tue 24 Jan 12 4:49pm)

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#8 Tue 24 Jan 12 4:39pm

minerva

Forum champ
Occupation Walking the Old Ways
From Living in the Wild Woods
Member since Wed 16 Jan 08

Re: Best Gourmet Herbs or Vegetables?

Good advice.

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