Category Archives: House plants

Red shiso

Perilla frutescens var crispa f. purpurascens (red or purple shiso) is looking good on the window sill in front of my desk! This is an important crop in the Far East both used as a flavouring, a dye plant, as wraps (the seeds, seed oil and seed sprouts are also used). I’d love to use the leaves to colour pickled chinese artichokes (chorogi), as shown on the Backyard Larder blog (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/plants/chinese-artichoke), but the chorogi aren’t ready until November. Maybe I’ll try drying some leaves!
I grow this annual indoors as it’s generally too cold outside here in summer. It’s also difficult to save seeds as it doesn’t start flowering until late autumn and usually dies rather than producing seeds, a dead end for me, but now and again someone offers me seed for trading as in this case!
Perilla is also of course commonly used as an ornamental in warmer areas like Southern England, but I’ve also seen it outside in Gothenburg in Southern Sweden.
Perilla is in the mint family and it’s also easy to make more plants by taking cuttings (like basil).
I most often use shiso in my mixed salads.




Devil’s claw as an edible house plant

Proboscidea louisianica subsp. fragrans (in the Martyniaceae) is currently flowering in the window sill and as its name suggest it has a beautiful fragrance! I’ve tried unsuccessfully growing it outside in the past, so this time I was given seed I’m trying it as an edible house plant. Its English names are variously devil’s claw, unicorn-plant, ram’s horn, aphid trap, goat’s head and elephant tusks. Sadly only one seed germinated and it only rarely self-pollinates (bees do the work, so I’ve been playing the bee using a paint brush…on the off-chance I might get a fruit). The fruits are sometimes compared with okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) or even the climbing cucurbit, achocha (Cyclanthera spp.) from South America. Years ago in 2007, I did get one fruit when I grew it in my old unheated greenhouse:

The unripe seed pods were traditionally cooked as a vegetable and added to soups or pickled and the leaves were also used as a potherb with beans. The immature oil rich seeds were also eaten raw or were roasted or dried and eaten like pine nuts. 

Ripe fruits in the National Botanical Garden of Belgium
Wikimedia commons

Apart from being an important food plant for First Peoples, the dried seed pods were also incorporated into basketry to make patterns, plants were even selected for longer claws and used for sewing and a black dye was also obtained.
However, I’ll probably just enjoy it as a fragrant unusual house plant with a potential for food and hope it will live up to its alternative name, aphid trap!

And finally, one of Tom Hare’s wonderful art installations, Devil’s Claw, in Kew Gardens in 2011:

Tom Hare installation, Kew Gardens 2011










 

Taro harvest

Taro (Colocasia esculenta) ia an important root crop in tropical and subtropical climates, but is also surprisingly hardy so that I can have it out in the garden the whole summer with temperaures close to zero. I’ve grown Taro as an attractive edible house plant for over 15 years and I harvest the edible corms about once a year! 

Yesterday, we cooked and fried in olive oil the largest corm and served with salt and chili:

Some years we also eat the leaves, and my Nepalese friends taught me how to prepare them here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6593
See more taro pictures from Malvik here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5738
It’s sadly less easy to grow it as a house plant these days as greenflies have taken a taste for it :(

Oxalis triangularis, the False Shamrock….an edimental tuberous house plant

I used to grow Oxalis triangularis, also known as the False Shamrock for the leaves and flowers. It’s also a perfect edimental house plant here as it likes cool indoor temperatures and struggles / goes dormant if it gets too warm.

I was given a couple of plants the other day, surplus to the plant sale at the botanical gardens. Repotting the plants yesterday, I noticed that there were quite a number of sizeable tubers and I had a taste for the first time. I was surprised how sweet they tasted!!

Kurrajong: a house tree with edible roots!

Kurrajong is an Australian tree, Brachychiton populneus, which along with other species of the genus make interesting house plants due to their interesting leaves. Kurrajong leaves resemble poplar leaves as the epithet populneus suggests. It’s a common tree of sandy plains in Eastern Australia. The seeds are remarkably nutritious and were popular Aborigine tucker (wild gathered food).  It is unlikely I will ever be able to harvest seed of this tree in the Malvaceae (mallow family), but Rowan White on the Radix Root Crops FB group reminded me that the swollen roots of young trees could also be eaten.  My tree wasn’t exactly young at 9 years (seed propagated along with Brachychiton acerifolius),  when I first decided to have a go in 2012, at the same time as I moved it to a bigger pot…

There were 3 young roots worth trying so I harvested them and baked them in their skins together with potatoes. They seem to need a bit longer than potatoes. The skins peeled easily off after baking and they were crispy with a good mild taste. If you have a ready supply of seed, they can be grown and harvested a bit like carrots when quite young!

This spring the tree died (at 15 years old) with no sign of life in the above ground parts, but when disposing of the plant I noticed that the young roots looked healthy, so I harvested them and repotted the remainder of the root to see if it might resprout and after several weeks in the window sill it now has fresh leaves, so not dead after all!

I didn’t get round to eat the young roots…they were left inside for a month and looked withered and inedible, but cutting in to one it looked good inside and indeed it was tasty and almost free from fibre….so we ate it in a stir-fry dish last night!

Harvest (almost) complete

The last 2-3 days I’ve been working hard to harvest and bring in less hardy plants from the garden as it was forecast to be maximum -6C tomorrow, 21st November, the first seriously heavy all day frost! Here’s a tour in pictures of my storage rooms…there are 4 full size rooms in the cellar with concrete floor. In winter, the temperature is typically 2-5C, perfect for storing plants!
..and yes my good intentions to reduce the amount of plants I look after has failed miserably..

211117:  Added pictures of other rooms in the house used to overwinter plants 

Tarua

Many years ago,  I visited a Polynesian market in New Zealand and bought some tubers that were called Tarua in the South Pacific Islands…similar but different (and larger) to the more common Taro (Colocasia esculenta). For a plant that supposedly originated from tropical lowland Malaysia, Taro is a surprisingly cold hardy plant making a nice edimental house plant that can be outside in the summer even in my cool climate! I took a Tarua tuber home and grew it as a house plant for some years. It is probably Xanthosoma sagittifolium, also known as Elephant Ears, and closely related to Taro and similarly quite hardy! See the pictures below.

For other posts about Taro, see the links below:
Taro:  An Excellent Edimental House Plant
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5738

The Lotus effect on Taro leaves: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5732

25 Edible Tubers of 16 species: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3365

A Nepalese Feast in Malvik (including the preparation of taro leaves Nepalese style!)   http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6593

Horseradish Tree

Horseradish tree (Moringa oleifera) is one of 13 species in the genus Moringa from Africa.  The genus name is derived from the Tamil word for drumstick, one of the alternative names in English, referring to the long immature pods which are used as a vegetable (I first came across it as an Indian vegetable on a market in Fiji in the early 90s where it was called horseradish tree). However, it has multiple uses also including leaves (as a protein rich vegetable), for its flowers, immature seeds, roasted or fried mature seeds (an oil is also extracted), roots (tastes like horseradish) and also seed sprouts! Different cultivars have been developed for different uses. There are other species which are also used, including Moringa stenopetala and M. ovalifolia.

Although it’s a tree that can grow to 12m tall, it can also be grown as a cut-and-come-again house plant, which is the way I’ve grown it (for the leaves) in my old office in Trondheim (see the album of pictures below)! In fact, it is also grown commercially as an annual.

Jicama-ahipa à la Henry quinoa

One of the culinary highlights of the year is the annual Jicama (hee-ka-ma) meal….if you’ve never eaten yam beans or Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus), you haven’t lived!
I grow this subtropical vegetable in my office, which only gets sunlight for maximum 1 hour a day which isn’t optimal conditions (they are usually grown in open fields), but being a climber originates in forests, so it tolerates shade. I grew it’s brother on-climbing Ahipa (Pachyrhizus ahipa) beside it, but that species didn’t produce much (perhaps it’s more sensitive to light?). I also didn’t think the taste was as good.  Both species died down at the end of the year and I harvested the tubers in early January!
Jicama tubers are best eaten raw and are crispy and a little sweet. Being one of the lost crops of the Incas, much more popular in the Americas than in Europe, I served them sliced with a cooked quinoa mix – mixed home grown Quinoa and black-grained Henry quinoa from Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus), flavoured with chilis and lemony sanshō seeds (Zanthoxylum piperitum or Japanese pepper).
NB! Both species, Ahipa and Jicama are normally started from seed which I haven’t succeeded in growing myself!
Day Two: I didn’t eat it all yesterday, I needed a bit more, so I cooked up a third species quinoa, Fat Hen quinoa (Meldestokk quinoa), from the seed of one plant of Fat Hen or Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album). It was added to yesterday’s to give a Three species quinoa and jicama salad (two pictures added)