Interesting New Plants in the Garden

Recently we’ve acquired some interesting new plant material from a generous friend and fellow gardening enthusiast, who has a fantastic collection of edible plants. I hope I’ll be writing more about these plants (and providing pictures) as they grow and we are able to use them.

In our vegetable garden this year, I’ve allotted space for yacon, Jerusalem artichoke, and yam (diascorea batatas). We are pleased to be diversifying our range of root vegetables.

Jerusalem artichoke

I’d been on the lookout for soapwort for a while, and now we have some. I’ve planted it in the herb garden, and am looking forward to experimenting with using it for washing once it gets big enough.

Orangeberry: This perennial berry looks delicious. Apparently it’s also drought-tolerant, and doesn’t mind hard soil. According to the information I’ve found, we may have to wait at least a year or so before we get any fruit.

Stevia: I’m lucky I didn’t kill this plant by leaving it in a cold spot after it was given to us. Somehow it survived. I’m planning to keep it in a pot under the eaves, so that it will be protected from cold conditions in the winter.

Chayote squash (choko): I’d been looking everywhere for a smooth-skinned variety of this squash, and was very happy to be given one. The little plant is already taking off, and we are planning to plant it out soon, near a fence so that it will have a structure to climb on.

15 Responses to “Interesting New Plants in the Garden”

  1. Maryann says:

    Jerusalem Artichoke takes me back 50 years to my uncle’s organic garden. His garden was the inspiration of my life, and the reason why we are here on our farm. I can still remember the crispy crunch of fresh-dug ‘chokes, the wonder of his compost pile, and the freebies that vined from it.

    I hadn’t thought of growing our own Stevia. Lucky that someone gifted you some.

    This morning we moved our chickens to the dwarf apple orchard that abuts the vegetable garden. We set out our broccoli and cabbage. A hen managed to get over the fence and ate 4 broccoli seedlings while we ate supper. The roosters got aggressive and were crowing and rushing the fence while we chased around the garden trying to catch the hen.

  2. Be careful where you plant the jerusalem artichoke — it spreads!

    I posted about a soup I made recently from jerusalem artichokes I grew last year, here: It tasted very much like potato soup. Next time I think I’ll try to make it a bit spicier, but otherwise it was good!

    Thanks for the ideas — I think I’ll look for stevia too.

    I enjoy your blog!

    Sue in the Western Great Basin

  3. Frank says:

    I was in New Zealand four years ago, and I searched in vain for someone growing yacon (I have grown it since 2001), hoping that this would be another variety than mine. So, no luck finding this, no jicama, no oca (New Zealand yam),no… very few ‘back-yard’ vegetable gardens (I’m always searching for things to take home to Belgium). Lots of fruit trees, oranges, avocado, guava,… but where are the vegetables??? Only koanga gardens had a small selection, but no yacon for instance…Oh, nice blog you have, and a very nice place to be, keep on doing the good work,

  4. Dan T. says:

    I’ll second Sue’s advice about being careful about jerusalem artichokes – I grow them on my allotment in the UK, and once you have a patch established, it is very difficult to root them all out and switch to a different crop! Maybe if you have pigs at some point in the future, they could help you with the last of the ground clearance 😉

    Also, although JAs are a great staple calorie provider, watch out for the “amusing” side effects. Our neighbour on the allotment calls them “fartichokes” and my wife refuses to eat them “unless there is no other option”! Aparently, if you eat them often enough, the gaseous effects die down as your gut adapts to digesting them.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Nicole says:

    To my surprise, my stevia is coming up from the roots this spring. However, seed production is so generous and easy to collect, you needn’t worry about your stevia production after the first year. I have gifted many folks with seeds from last fall and I still have a big bag of them.

    (Anyone in the US that wants some, drop me a line at my blog and I will put some seeds in the mail for you. I don’t think I can legally mail them overseas, though.)

  6. Rebecca says:

    Hi All,

    Thanks, Sue and Dan, for the warnings about the jerusalem artichokes. I’d heard before that they are hard to get rid of once they become established, so tried to plant them strategically. Hope I don’t end wishing I hadn’t put them in! We like jerusalem artichokes and haven’t ever noticed any gas problems from them. Still, I hope they don’t take over our whole yard. We certainly don’t fancy them as our staple diet! Hmm. . . Maybe we’ll be able to use them as a fuel crop! I’ve heard they are one of the best sources of ethanol.

    @Sue: Thanks for the artichoke soup recipe. It sounds delicious and I’m keen to try it, though I think I agree with you that peeling all the artichokes is too much work.

    @Maryann: Funny. . . I’m just now thinking about putting in some broccoli and cabbage too. They generally do well as fall/winter crops here.

    @Frank: I know what you mean. I’ve had difficulty finding some of those cool backyard vegetable plants around here. It was a wonderful day when my kind friend told me she had some yacon and yams to share. She said she nearly didn’t offer me the yacon because she thought everyone had it already! Maybe I just didn’t ask the right people. . .

    Thanks for all the ideas and encouragement.

  7. David says:

    Interesting to read the comment from Frank of Belgium. I have been growing yacon now for 4 years, and I shall soon have more of the propagating rhizomes to distribute. I could post some to Frank as long as Belgium allows their import. I am about to harvest the current year’s crop. The variety I grow here in Wellington has pale brown edible tubers, and purplish red propagating tubers.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your kind offer to Frank. I hope he reads this comment thread. I’ll see if I can notify him via email as well.

  9. Gerry says:

    I would like to get yacon propagating rhizomes as well. I have been looking for them for a while now. Maybe you can pass my email address on to David in Wellington.

    I have also been looking for chinese artichokes. Any idea where I can get these?

  10. David says:

    Thanks Rebecca, I have contacted Gerry.

    I have written a guide to growing and using yacon, and can send this along with the rhizomes if needed. Main thing is to allow plenty of space (1 sq metre per plant) and keep them well fed and watered. I am in the middle of my yacon harvest, so I do have rhizomes available.

    I have a query regarding the Italian bean, called “Butter Bean” in Europe, but not the same as the small yellow-pod butter bean we grew up with. Individual beans are larger, not as big as a mature broad bean but bigger than the usual green or yellow beans. They are available canned and imported here, but I am sure they would grow well in NZ. I haven’t found anyone who can provide seeds as yet. Does anyone have any info on these?

    best regards,

  11. Andy says:

    Could you put me in contact with David please. I would like to try some yacon too. Thankyou

  12. Don Laurence says:

    I too would like some Yacon rhyzomes and the “how to” booklet to purchase from David. Please pass forward my E address to David. My Thanks Sincerely Don

  13. Rebecca says:

    Hi Don,
    Sorry about the delay. I’ve just sent your details to David.

  14. Margaret Holdsworth says:

    I am interested in purchasing some yacon rhizomes [having tasted some I purchased at the French Market in Parnell, Auckland]. Please advise how I am able to contact growers.
    Thank you.

  15. Janine Vale says:

    Just wondering what time of year you plant Yacon ?????