Here’s an update on my 2019 efforts to grow slightly more unusual things on the plot, with a few photographs of the results.

First of all, edamame beans (soybeans). These originate from southeast Asia. The pods are hairy and can be cooked whole then shelled for the tender green bean inside. They usually need a long, hot summer so this summer wasn’t perhaps as good as last year would have been, but they did well enough, probably thanks to the very hot phase in July.

I started them off in pots under cover in May and planted them out in early June. According to RHS online advice, they aren’t fully ripe till late September, but I was harvesting them by August. They can grow up to 4ft high: mine didn’t get to more than about 3ft, but at least they are self-supporting. I only had a couple of short rows, but there were large numbers of pods on each plant, so they are quite prolific. I think they are worth growing again.

Now to the salsify. I got the seeds from Kings (they only sell one variety – ‘Sandwich Island’). According to the RHS they are also known as ‘vegetable oyster’ on account of their delicate tasting tap root. Kings describe them as being like a thin parsnip in appearance. They are certainly like a parsnip in that they have a long growing season. I sowed them direct into the ground in early April and have just started harvesting them now (mid-October). They didn’t need much attention at all (bonus). As for taste, however, some of my readers may shrink with horror when I say I think they taste like a cross between parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. They take quite some cooking too, definitely longer than parsnips. I’m not convinced I will grow these again, but I plan to try scorzonera in 2020 – long roots with dark brown to black skins. Again, Kings sell only one variety, ‘Long Black Maxima’, so I’ll try that. The catalogue says the growing method is identical to salsify, but the taste is superior. Here’s hoping.

As for pumpkins, I said I was going to grow the ugly looking warty-skinned ‘Goosebumps’. I ended up growing a very standard smooth orange pumpkin but, my first ever attempt at pumpkins having proved straightforward and successful, I will go for ‘Goosebumps’ in 2020, if only for the novelty factor.

I don’t always grow cucumbers, but I have decided I’d better have a go in 2020 as it is the Year of the Cucumber (who’d have thought it). I intend to go for Salad Bush for a change: 8” fruits, suitable for containers, so I will grow them at home and keep an eye on them there.

Happy growing in 2020!

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The Vinery Road Permanent Allotment Society
92 Coleridge Road
Cambridge
CB1 3PJ

The Vinery Road Permanent Allotment Society manages two well-run, community-spirited allotment sites in South Cambridge, UK.
They are situated in the Romsey Town area and offer good growing conditions and excellent facilities.