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2014 Garden Plans: Bed 4 – A Taste of India

I told you it got crazier, didn’t I? That said, I’m really excited about this garden! I love trying new things, and although they could totally flop, it is what keeps the garden exciting.

Bed 4 (2)One of the best things about planning for this garden is that I really wanted us to use Indian varieties, not just vegetables that are used in Indian cooking. It’s one thing to say, “They eat cucumbers in India, so let’s just plant any old cucumber variety.” It’s something different to plant a variety from India. So, when I started researching before our committee meeting, I was ecstatic to find a seed company selling Indian varieties in the U.S. – Seeds of India! The vast majority of our plants and seeds will come from them.

Before we discuss the specific things we decided to plant, I thought it might be helpful for you to see a list of the vegetables, herbs, and spices that were under consideration:

Indian Vegetables (2)You can see how it might be possible to have an “Indian” garden that didn’t seem very Indian at all, if we weren’t careful. This is by no means a comprehensive list – there are a number of other things that I didn’t include on the list, in some cases because I wasn’t sure what they were or where to find the seeds. Here’s a good guide to Indian vegetables.

So, the things we did choose to plant:

Curry Leaf – this is a tropical plant (can’t handle temps below 55!). It is almost like the bay leaf of Indian cuisine. A lot of traditional curry recipes call for curry leaf, so I’m excited to try growing it as an annual.

Cumin – This plant grows a lot like dill, with the umbels of flowers (pink!) that then produce seeds.

‘Kesar’ Carrot – This carrot is red, high in lycopene, and the Days to Maturity was listed at 120 days. We decided to plant some of the ‘Samurai Red’ carrots (60 days) as well, just in case the ‘Kesar’ variety doesn’t make it through the hot summer. We may plant a second crop of carrots in the fall.

‘Dulhan’ pepper is shaped like a tomato and is supposed to taste like a sweet pepper but with a hint of heat.

‘Jwala’ is a hot pepper that is reputed to be the most popular hot pepper in India. It looks a lot like a cayenne pepper to me, but it’s hard to tell until you can compare side by side.

On the first trellis we will have edible gourds – one snake gourd and one bitter gourd (aka bitter melon).

‘King Cobra’ snake gourd is supposed to have long, white speckled fruit that look like snakes. The gourd is low in calories and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

‘Tagore’ bitter gourd (or bitter melon) is an Indian-type  gourd with a mild bitter flavor and more rounded tubercles, compared to some of the more pointed types.

For the cucumbers, we chose ‘Poona Kheera’ (aka Puneri) and ‘Sambar.’ Poona Kheera is a salad cucumber that is white when young and turns russetty brown as it gets bigger. It is supposed to thrive in hot, arid climates. (Watch us be cool and wet this year!) ‘Sambar’ is listed as a cooking type cucumber for use in curries and stews. It is yellow with brown blotches on the skin.

Underneath the two trellises, we will plant the ‘Sagar’ spinach and ‘Basanti’ mustard greens. I have no idea if they will be different in any way from other spinach and mustard greens, but we’ll find out!

Legumes are a staple of Indian food, and so we wanted to try growing some, even though we don’t have enough space to get a great yield. The ‘Black Kabouli’ chickpeas have black/dark purple seed coats, rather than the typical brown. Black hummus, anyone? Chickpeas typically like slightly cooler summers, so I don’t know how well they will do here. Cowpeas are a traditional Southern vegetable, although the Green cowpeas are an Indian variety. Cowpeas typically do fine here.

All told, this garden could be spectacular and exciting or a source of a lot of stress this summer!


End of the Line

This next Saturday is an important day for us here in south central Kansas. Trying to guess what it is? November 20th is the day when we drop down to 10 hours of sunlight (or less) for then next 3 months. I know, that’s depressing, isn’t it? We won’t be back up to 10 hours of daylight until about February 20th.

What’s important about those two dates is how they affect our fall/winter garden plants. Our fall vegetables’ growth will slow down to a mere crawl (growth has already slowed way down) for the next 3 months. Anything that is still in the garden should meet a couple of criteria.

  1. It is mature or nearly mature size and will maintain quality with some protection for at least part of the winter.
  2. It is very tolerant to cold temperatures and will be ready to take off and grow when there’s more sunlight and warmer temperatures in late February/early March.

With that in mind, I pulled a lot of things out of the garden yesterday.

One of the first things to go was the Bok Choy. For various reasons, it didn’t do real well this fall. First, we didn’t thin it out appropriately, so the plants really didn’t have a chance to get sized up. Second, we didn’t work very hard at keeping the flea beetles in check, so the poor crowded plants were further stressed by continual munching of beetles. Lesson learned there! The bok choy is fairly hardy, but it wasn’t very big, wasn’t good quality, and probably wasn’t going to improve.

I also pulled out most of the remaining root vegetables because there were very few that were actually sized up. No reason to keep them growing when there’s not that many of them.

Of course, there’s still a smattering of spinach and lettuce around the garden, but judicious harvesting will be important, since the plants will be very slow to replace any leaves harvested. The radicchio will keep hanging out so it can grow in the spring, as will the leeks and onions.

We kind of quit keeping track of the Family of 4 Garden. I would estimate that we ended up about $300-$320 worth of produce this year, which is about $40 less than last year. I’m blaming the Swiss Chard. (Too much last year, not enough this year.)

With less happening in the garden, blogging will by much lighter, although I’m hoping to have a couple posts every week. We’ll be checking out the catalogs for new varieties, looking around the neighborhood for some other interesting blogs to read, and updating you about any upcoming classes and events! I hope you stick around for the winter.