Archive for the ‘seeds’ Category

Growing Beetroot seed varieties

April 4, 2017

Grow your own beetroot from seeds, beetroot pretty much divides the nation into those who can scarcely go
a day without it and those who would only eat it if it was the last thing in
the fridge. There are strains in Nicky’s Nursery’s range that might make us one
nation again – who could resist white beetroot which doesn’t bleed when cut;
all the gorgeousness without the mess! If you fancy growing some beetroot seed,
try this one – its name is Albina Ice.

Beetroot Albina Ice

Apart from the colour, the other thing that puts people of beetroot
sometimes is that the ones in the shops are so old and woody that they don’t
present very well, even if they are cooked for ages. Even if blitzed down into
soup, these old beetroot have very stringy fibres and they also develop a very
earthy taste which few people find very pleasant to eat. If you sow beetroot
seeds in batches, you can always have tiny little baby vegetables to make your
favourite dishes with and there is nothing nicer than a salad made with freshly
pulled salad leaves, radishes fresh from the ground and some really small,
tender beetroot. A simple vinaigrette binds them all together and it is
delicious.

If you want to have some fun with beetroot seeds, why not mix some
varieties which may take guests by surprise. Along with the white Albina Ice,
there is the amber coloured Burpees Golden and the striped Chioggia, which look
not unlike a red onion when sliced, with concentric rings of red and white.
Arranged on a plate and drizzled with dressing, they look amazing and would
convert the most dedicated beetroot-phobe. And if you still aren’t converted to
loving this fabulous root, you can even cook the leaves like spinach or use
young ones in a salad.

Beetroot Burpees Golden

When it comes to sowing beetroot seeds, it pays to soak them in water
for a while before planting because it just softens the seed that little bit
and makes germination more reliable. If you sow in batches, you will have
beetroot all year long and if you like pickles, then this, with onion, has to
be the vegetable for you. You can go the whole hog and make a beetroot
pickle which goes well with any cold meat or cheese or you can keep it simple
and just pickle cooked beetroot in vinegar. The great thing about pickled
beetroot is that it is ready almost at once, so there is none of the waiting
that you have to go through with onions, cucumbers and the like.

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Goji Berries – Wolfberry seeds a Superfood

April 4, 2017

Goji Berries – Chinese Wolfberry

Goji berries – Goji Berry superfood seeds – also called wolfberry have become very fashionable in
recent years after being named as a vital part of various celebrities’
‘miracle’ diets. Although this excitement has largely died down, they are  still considered by many a ‘superfood’ as
they contain a large proportion of elements which may prove to be useful in
helping with a variety of conditions such as macular degeneration of the retina
and also various auto immune diseases and cardiovascular problems. What is
definitely true is that they taste good and they are relatively easy to grow,
although as they are woody perennials you might find you have to wait a year or
so until you get a decent crop.

When you get your Goji berry seeds – Nicky’s Nursery has them in stock
– you will need to start them off inside in the autumn and bring them on until
you are able to plant them out in the spring when the ground has warmed up.
Goji berries are related to the potato and tomato but unlike them they form
woody stems and can grow up to 3 metres tall. You need to take this into
account when you plant them and also choose somewhere reasonably sheltered,
because a plant this size isn’t something you will want to be moving around too
much. The berries are carried in groups and grow to around a centimetre long.
In the UK you can expect them to ripen any time from the end of July but they
can take much longer, depending on the weather and whereabouts in the country they
are being grown.

Most Goji berries that you buy in the shops are dried, but this is to
help make them last longer, rather than because you have to eat them this way.
It is certainly a good way to preserve them – although they can be frozen – and
if you have a home desiccator it is easy. If you don’t, you can just lay them
out in a single layer on baking trays in an oven on the very lowest setting for
at least an hour, checking after forty minutes. Check on your oven’s
instructions; some have a special setting for drying foods. You can then use
them stirred into rice salads – they go really well with left over turkey and
pine nuts in a balsamic dressing – or into sweet rice dishes. Basically, you
can use them as you would dried cranberries, and you will (perhaps) be doing
yourself some good when you eat them as well.

Oriental Veg or Asian Veg

March 21, 2017

Pak Choi Bonsai

Grow your own Oriental Vegetables from seeds, if you like oriental food, you probably
cook it at home sometimes, but it is hard to get the same tangy flavours and
fresh bite of the vegetables that you get in a restaurant. Using packs of stir
fry vegetables from the supermarket are not going to get you any nearer to your
favourite flavours either. Not only are they seriously overpriced when you
consider that they are usually just a pre-chopped mixture of cabbage, onion,
mushroom and red peppers but they are also bland and often rather wilted and
stale. If you make up your own mixture you can get nearer to restaurant quality
but for real taste, crunch and variety, it is so much better to grow your own,
as well as being so much more fun.

Chinese Cabbage Wa Wa SAi

Nicky’s Nursery has one of the largest
selections of oriental vegetable seeds available anywhere and whilst you will
recognise some, others might need a little research before you try cooking with
them. Happily for the adventurous cook, not only does the website give a
description and usually a picture, there are also hints on how to cook the
various oriental vegetables on offer. Scorzonera is not known to many people,
for example, but it may be more familiar as black salsify. It is a root
vegetable which can be used as a coffee substitute but in a stir fry it gives a
nice solid crunch as well as a hard-to place earthy flavour.

Scorzonera

Some of the oriental vegetables you can
easily grow at home can be used in various ways, depending how they are sown.
For example, if you want to use them as salad leaves, or young to wilt into a
cooked dish, you should sow the seeds of komatsuna torasan (a spinach-like
leaf) thickly and harvest as soon as they are large enough. For a more
substantial vegetable, they should be sown more thinly (or thinned out) and
left to mature, when their leaves are quite strongly flavoured and can stand
alone as a vegetable, lightly stir fried with some sesame oil and the dressing
of your choice – they go particularly well with teriyaki.

Komatsuna Torasan

Komatsuna Torasan

Radishes of various kinds are a staple
oriental vegetable and you can use the root or the leaves in many dishes. Some
of the roots can be really hot and so it is always a good idea to use sparingly
at first – you can always use more next time! Rat tail radish is a fun vegetable
to grow – the pods grow above ground and can be used in a variety of dishes and
can be used raw or cooked. The plants look very unusual with their pods which
terminate in a thin tail (hence their name) and could be placed in a border if
you don’t have much room – they will certainly get a lot of attention. If you
are growing for looks as well as taste, a bed of various mustards would look
great and because they grow so fast you can keep them going all season with
careful staggered sowing. Flaming Frills is a really flamboyant mustard with
purple serrated leaves and whether you pick it really young as a salad leaf or
leave it to get a bit bigger to stir fry it (it just needs wilting for a few
seconds) it has a mild mustard flavour which enhances any dish but goes
particularly well with chicken.

Radish Rat Tails

There are loads of reasons for growing
your own oriental vegetables – the fun of seeing what they look like before
they arrived chopped up on your plate; trying new flavours and having fresh
food at your fingertips are all important, but the main one has to be cost. A
packet of seeds of an oriental vegetable mix will have up to 400 seeds in it
and will cost less than a bag of stir fry vegetables from the supermarket. It
just has to make sense to grow your own!

Siamese Dragon Mixture

Grow your own Tomatoes from Seed

March 12, 2017

Tomatoes picked straight from the plant and eaten within minutes are one
of the most amazing pleasures of growing your own – nothing comes even close to
the smell, texture and taste of a fresh tomato. When you grow your own
tomatoes from seed, there are lots of things to consider and if you are new to it, it is
well worth looking in to all the different kinds available but be warned –
there are hundreds to choose from.

Baby Tomatoes Goldrush Currant

The first consideration is how much room you have. If you have a
spacious greenhouse which you won’t want for any other growing for the whole
season, then really you can have practically any variety. For tomatoes
throughout the season, choose different varieties so that you don’t end up with
an enormous glut all at once. Also, it is a good idea to choose a few different
sizes – beefsteak tomatoes for Mediterranean salads and sandwiches (try Black
Brandywine
, a heritage dark variety which looks spectacular and tastes
wonderful); plum tomatoes for cooking; cherry style tomatoes which are ideal
for children’s snacks and finally the classic round tomatoes for salads and
general use – although it is great fun to vary it with a few unusual ones
available from Nicky’s Nursery such as egg yolk, a yellow variety the size and
colour of, yes, you’ve guessed it, an egg yolk! The packet sizes from Nicky’s
Nursery are very sensible, with 10-30 seeds depending on variety, so you won’t
be boring the neighbours with trays of unwanted tomato plants.

Tomato Black Cherry

Sweet & Juicy Tomato Black Cherry

The other thing to check before buying is whether your tomato plants
need a greenhouse or will grow outdoors. If you are new to growing tomatoes
from seed you may have come across the terms ‘determinate’ and ‘indeterminate’
and wondered what it means. It is very simple really and you will need to
consider how you will be using the fruits before you choose which you grow.
Determinate tomato plants grow not very high, usually around four feet and are
often also called ‘bush’ tomatoes. They grow and set fruit until the truss
(group of tomatoes) on the top of the plant sets, then all the fruit ripens at
once – usually over around two weeks – and then the plant dies. Indeterminate
tomatoes keep on growing and can reach quite high if you don’t pinch out the
terminal buds. The fruit sets and ripens as the plant grows and so you will keep
on getting fruit for a whole season. Most of the more unusual or heritage
strains are indeterminate and if you only intend to grow a few plants, they are
the best to choose. You can lengthen the season with determinate strains by
sowing the tomato seeds in batches, but you won’t be able to lengthen the season by
much.

Summer tastes are really encapsulated in the taste, tang, feel and smell
of a fresh tomato straight off the bush or vine and growing them from seed
could hardly be simpler, so if you only grow one vegetable plant this year,
make it a tomato.

Cucamelon – Melothria scabra seeds – baby watermelons

March 4, 2017

Cucamelon

Cucamelon seeds Melothria scabra If you have never seen or eaten a cucamelon (and the chances are that
you haven’t) then you are in for a treat. Not only are they really interesting
plants which would look good scrambling up a fence or even over an ugly shed or
garage, but the fruits look like tiny little watermelons which turn out to
taste of cucumber with a hint of lime. You can get cucamelon seeds from Nicky’s
Nursery and you can sow them now to plant outside when it gets warmer – we are
all assuming it will get warmer, sometime soon!

Melothria scabra seeds (to give these delicious fruits their full
Latin name) are reliable to grow and you can put the plants really close
together because they like to twine and twist onto other stems so will help
support themselves this way. The fruits need to be harvested when they are
about the size of a biggish grape and if you plant the cucamelon seeds indoors
now you should be harvesting them by July and they will hopefully (weather
permitting) still be going strong in September.

Cucamelon is also known by lots of other names, many taken from the
appearance of the fruits – mouse melon is perhaps the cutest, the others being
Mexican sour gherkin, Mexican miniature watermelon and Mexican sour cucumber,
so perhaps it will come as no surprise to find that they grow very freely in
Mexico. The plants can be grown a second year from the roots, but they have to
be lifted and stored like dahlias and other tubers, so most people prefer to
grow cucamelon seeds fresh every year. They aren’t hard to get going and the
yield is very high, so it is simple to just buy a new packet of seeds every
year, especially if you don’t have too much gardening experience.

You can eat them just as they come off the vine and if you like to have
drinks and nibbles outside on nice summer evenings it is really fun to pour the
drinks and then point your guests at the vines to pick their own nibbles. You
can also pickle cucamelon fruits just like gherkins or cucumbers. You can
pickle them whole if you want and they look great that way mixed with olives
when they are done, or, for a crisper result, you can cut them in half. The
main thing to remember when you pickle Melothria scabra is that you must
salt them first or they can be soggy – still delicious, though!

Grow Your Own Micro greens: big flavour in a small package

March 3, 2017

As we become increasingly aware of the nutritional value of everything green along with the thrill of eating anything that may resemble one millionth of other foods, micro greens continue to prove popular among the beautiful people of our society. With the trend beginning in sunny California in the mid 90’s and swiftly spreading across continents, micro greens are now high on the list of top chef’s must-haves with famous chefs like Heston Blumenthal using them to add flavour, texture and a fresh new look to their dishes. From basil lemon to basil Thai there is a vast amount of micro greens perfect to garnish any soup with dill and chives complimenting most fish dishes. This however has caused the price of micro greens to become considerably high so why not grow these trendy seedlings at home and enhance your diet at quarter the price.

Although easy to grow at home, at any time of the year and with a very short cultivation period, micro greens should be handled with care. Maintaining a good standard of hygiene from the beginning is vital as the young seedlings are harvested quickly. Thanks to their youth they don’t need a lot of room and can be planted approximately a quarter of an inch apart. They can be planted either in an outdoor flowerbed or a container and will sprout in the garden or on a sunny sill. If using a pot, make sure it is at least two inches deep and filled with a good quality, organic potting mix. Scatter the seeds and cover gently with soil and water. Avoid the soil drying out and remove any outdoor weeds that may bully your new babies. Around ten days after planting, micro greens should be ready for harvesting but be careful not to mistake seed leaves for true leaves, snipping the latter just above soil level. Fresh seeds can then be scattered and covered gently with soil, leaving the old roots as a good source of organic matter for the next generation.

The purity of these miniscule greens means they generally offer a higher vitamin and nutrient concentrate than more mature greens. Alfalfa, also known as ‘father of all foods’ contains antioxidants, proteins, vitamins and minerals with the nano alfalfa leaves traditionally used by Chinese physicians to treat digestive tract disorders. Kale’s popularity as one of the healthiest vegetables can be founded by its cholesterol lowering benefits and nutritional properties being linked to lowering five different types of cancer. Kale can also play a vital part in detoxification when eaten regularly and is a great choice of micro greens to be grown at home. Similarly, rocket has also been suggested as a cancer preventative and with its nutritional properties of vitamins B and K, folic acid, iron, calcium and magnesium, it can be hugely beneficial to pregnant women and the elderly. Its strong flavour, along with any other micro greens to hand will compliment any salad or wrap so enjoy the taste as well as the benefits of your new nano friends.


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