Cucamelon seeds 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!
With the sound of children playing out in the street or nearby field diminishing into a distant memory for most of us we must not allow the growing dangers of our society dampen the experiences of our own children by retreating indoors and succumbing to the attractive lure of the games console. Rather we must grow even more determined to play a vital hand in educating the next generation in basic life skills, healthy eating and good clean fun. The world around us may be rapidly changing but children will always be eager to learn and the earth will always be good clean dirt so why not start with the garden and watch both it and the innocent curiosity of your child flourish. Taking available space into consideration it may be advisable to start with something relatively easy with a prompt cultivation time and long harvest period.
Turnip seeds, if sown in April can be harvested from June through to October. They can be eaten as baby vegetables or left to grow to a more impressive size. Growing vegetable seeds related to a popular book can also help to encourage young interest and the classic story of ‘The Enormous Turnip’ can be a perfect accompaniment to the exciting journey from turnip seed to nutritious dish. Alternatively starting the adventure growing something sweet may be more enticing to little taste buds. Although strawberry trees can take 12 months to produce the ripe fruit we all know and love they can be a very exciting fruit to have growing in our garden and are sure to encourage budding gardeners of any age. Sunflower seeds are often sown in school during spring and children are usually encouraged to take them home as the first buds appear.
Replanting them in the garden will not only compliment what the child has done in school but will allow them to nourish the sunflower seed and watch it grow into a beautiful flower. This simple task can be accomplished in the smallest of gardens and can boost children’s confidence in successfully completing school projects. Tomato seeds can also be grown in a confined space and added to a salad. This works particularly well if guests are joining the family for dinner and your child’s home grown tomatoes take pride of place on the table. This may even spark a culinary interest in older children when other herb seeds can be introduced and grown from home. Common herbs such as basil, parsley and thyme are all relatively simple to grow and will continue to feed a young person’s confidence in cultivating their own ingredients and learning skills they can carry right through to university, with nothing more useful in a communal student kitchen than a home grown chilli plant. Growing pumpkin seeds with a view to not only creating something tasty in the kitchen but something scary for the porch can be just the encouragement your apprehensive child needs to tear themselves away from the TV. The seeds sprout in about one week and are ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow on the inside. However, if scaring the daylights out of younger children is what sparks their interest then maybe growing the pumpkins from seeds can be served with a good dollop of emotion, encouraging those vital skills in empathy to emerge.
As with any vegetables, fruit or flowers grown from seeds all children deserve to be sown into the right environment and nourished with encouragement and praise. Only then can they grow strong enough to become respectful pillars of our society with the vital skills to harvest a better future for us all.
The children’s garden, despite our instinct to protect our children from the hazards of bacteria it is important we do not slip into the cotton wool syndrome and deny them their basic needs to feel at one with mother earth. It is crucial that we allow our pre schoolers to be exposed to natural bacteria that can boost their immune system and reduce allergies at a later stage. Encouraging play in the garden is a perfect environment to do this and taking simple precautions can mean our children can grow healthy, enjoy fresh air and also learn about the cycle of life from a young age. Almost as a primitive self-vaccination, many young children feel compelled to eat soil at some stage but if pesticides and fertilizers have been avoided then the soil poses no danger to the child. If cravings appear out of control then ensure your child’s diet is rich in calcium, zinc and iron. Growing vegetables and fruit from seeds can be a great source of vitamins and lots of fun so why not take your children on their first adventure into the wonderful world of gardening. Start with a small plot in a sunny spot within easy reach for each child. Make it their own special spot to encourage ownership of whatever wonders occur over time, allowing a natural confidence and curiosity to grow with each planted seed. Without it becoming tedious, allot a time each day for them to visit their garden and encourage any watering or weeding to be done by them. Take photos of their outdoor space and always show visitors their special place, promising fresh fruit and vegetables once harvest time comes.
Potatoes can be a safe vegetable seed to start with, followed swiftly by carrots. With cooler temperatures preferred carrot seeds can be slow to germinate, taking a couple of months to mature but once they are kept watered and spaced well to avoid crowding they can make an ideal vegetable to grow. Smaller varieties such as carrot sugarsnax can be more appealing for younger children to eat and slightly easier to grow. With an extensive variety to choose from tomato seeds are also a great option for a childrens garden and with plenty of compost and avoiding watering the leaves tomato seeds will soon make a wonderful addition to any growing patch. Radishes have quick results and with the seeds tolerating being planted close together they are ideal for a small plot. Be sure to plant radishes in cooler temperatures for a milder flavour. For the sweeter tooth, strawberries are always a favourite with the option of making jam with older children a great rainy day activity. Growing any fruit or vegetables from seeds can seem like a long process for a young mind so if you feel interest is slipping a scarecrow can always be designed to maintain an interest in the outdoors and add a personal touch to a vegetable patch. Not forgetting the wonderful world of creepy crawlies opening doors to curious minds. Investing in a cheap microscope can lead to endless hours of fun in a garden and result in the perfect pastime while waiting for the vegetable seeds to sprout.
Once children experience the journey of growing fruit and vegetables from seeds their culinary skills can then be encouraged, leading to essential skills being learned from an early age and taste buds tempted. As we slowly realize that filling our freezers full of ‘kid’s meals’ can only lead to poor health there is no better time to start growing our own while not only providing a better quality to our children’s lives but allowing them to teach us the benefits of what we can do with the earth’s rich soil.
As we become increasingly aware of both our health and our wallets alike growing sprouting seeds can be the answer to drastically improving our eating habits while shaving a considerable amount of money off our grocery shopping. Growing these super foods in our homes and gardens can provide us with our daily dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without ever stepping foot into a health shop to spend yet more money on supplements. From a wide range of salad and watercress sprouting seeds to yummy adzuki bean seeds we are spoilt for choice and as our confidence grows so too will our salad bowl. Although it may be preferable to use a dedicated sprouter to grow them, sprouting seeds will happily cultivate in a glass jar covered with muslin. Before planting soak the seeds overnight in tepid water. Pour them into your sprouter or jar the following day and cover it. It is important to rinse the seeds twice a day to avoid them soaking in stale water. The seeds should sprout within 1-2 days and once they reach about 1cm long they are ready to be eaten.
Mustard Salad White Mustard sprouts
Sow fresh seeds every couple of weeks and use them in salads, stir-fry’s or any other imaginative dish or sandwich you fancy. Broccoli sprouting seeds can be planted in the garden with harvesting times varying from as early as February right through to broccoli redhead being ready in late April. Not only the perfect companion to most dishes anytime of the year broccoli sprouting seeds are rich in sulforaphane which works as a powerful cancer preventative by stimulating the natural resources in our body. Alternatively, beetroot sprouting seeds will not only add colour to a salad but can boost stamina and have been suggested to play a role in reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks due to their high nitrate content. Beetroot sprouting seeds also contain potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, B6 and C and folic acid, making them an ideal food for any woman in the early stages of pregnancy. If salads are not your thing brown lentil sprouting seeds are great in curries, stews, and soups or even as a tasty finger food with some organic bread.
Also highly nutritious and easy to grow brown lentil sprouting seeds can play a role in more filling dishes and yet perfectly balance slimming and healthy eating. With the sun finally making an appearance it is crucial we emerge from hibernation with a spring in our step and eating a healthy diet rich in nutritious properties is the key to looking trim this summer. Most sprouting seeds have a milder flavour than their more mature siblings and eating them while slimming can in fact speed up weight loss. With all the saved pennies from growing sprouting seeds at home being put towards that fabulous summer outfit we can enjoy a better way of living and a brighter future for our wellbeing, our children’s health and our planet.
English sage is the perfect addition to any herb garden or window box and epitomises English herbs at their best. Its strong flavour will compliment any stew or casserole and is the main ingredient for home made stuffing. To sow from seed simply create a flat surface of compost in each 9cm pot and sow four to five seeds on top. Cover with vermiculite and water generously. Sow English sage seeds from April to June and allow them to germinate at room temperature. Avoid replanting until bushy plants form in the pots. The grey green and slightly hairy leaves are both distinctive to the eye and pungent when touched. English sage not only aids digestion but also has antibiotic properties making it a useful medicinal herb to have at home. When added it not only provides flavour to food but allows a heavy dish to be digested with ease. Once dried it can be stored and used at a later date, a perfect compliment to that well deserved Christmas day turkey.
English Sage Salvia officinalis
Extracts from the leaves can be used as a mouthwash to ease the inflammation of tonsils with sage tea working wonders for bleeding gums or throat pain. The same sage tea however was also once recommended for ridding people of unwanted sexual desires, which is quite possibly why it is advised to only use sage tea for two weeks at any one time. Other uses include cleansing an area of any negativity and protecting oneself from negative energy. Commonly used in witchcraft this mystical earth herb is said to help build courage and strength, proving vital in grounding oneself. Emotions aside English sage herb seeds can grow into both soothing medicinal herbs and flavour rich culinary ingredients so will continue to bring a touch of magic to herb gardens for years to come.
Originally used as a stewing herb to keep mice off grain water mint has a distinctive peppermint aroma and is hugely versatile within both culinary and medicinal application. The seeds will grow best if planted in a heavy clay soil in a sunny spot and watered regularly. Once transplanted outside water mint herbs can grow either in damp soil or water up to 15cm deep, providing a nice addition to a small pond or water feature. You may want to manage their growth by planting the seeds within a large container just under water level. They flower from July to October but must be harvested just as the plant begins to bloom. The leaves can then be used raw or cooked or even dried for later use. Water mint can compliment a salad or home cooked curry. A herb tea can be made and taken to aid digestion, treat headaches and fevers or even cooled and used as a mouth wash to ease sore throats, ulcers or bad breath. To add a chic twist to any party add water mint leaves to a large jug of Pimms or even whisk up a sexy Mojito to impress the most cultured of guests.
Water Mint Mentha aquatica
Or how about easing into the morning after with a mint herb bath, to wash away any remnants of alcohol and allow the natural remedies of your new friend to replenish both your mind and body. With water mint offering such a variety of uses, allow yourself to be impressed one more time before you race off to buy a bag of water mint seeds. The dried leaves previously stored can now be used to make herb pillows, cushions, scented drawer pillows or even freshly scented clothes hanger covers. Perfect for any gift and a talking point among all your friends, triggering memories of some great party you threw last year and by the way, when’s the next one?
Posted in Herbs, seeds
Tagged water mint
Okahijiki salsola komarovii
Land Seaweed Okahijiki
With resources low many Japanese throughout the ages have been forced to survive on whatever they could find from their most accessible source of food, the sea with possibly the most abundant bounty being Seaweed. Rich in vitamins, minerals, potassium and calcium this food contributes to, along with fish high in omega 3 and soy, the Japanese diet being one of the healthiest in the world. Despite being exposed to high levels of pollution and continuing to indulge in both smoking and drinking the Japanese still manage to outlive the rest of us with the average Japanese woman living to the ripe age of eighty-five. There are also less cases of cancer in Japan than most countries. So with this in mind and the fact that Britain is stealthily catching up with America in the obesity sprint, perhaps we should turn our attentions to more natural food sources and drink in the medicinal properties of herbs across the globe.
Despite its native origins Okahijiki or Saltwort Land Seaweed can be grown under glass in almost any climate and replanted outdoors once the soil has reached approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds can tolerate being planted very close together and with regular water, occasional fertilization and plenty of sun these versatile herbs will cultivate successfully and bloom from July to October. The leaves should be harvested quickly to avoid prickly tips appearing. With their crunchy texture the leaves will compliment any salad and the juice can be used as a diuretic. Saltwort Land Seaweed can also be a healthy side dish or a popular companion to Sushi. The microelements along with the nutritional value of this culinary herb make it undeniably an excellent source of vitality and wellbeing so why not add a little lift to your diet and a few years to your life.
Anyone with children may be familiar with the small brown pot containing a sunflower seed found either at the bottom of a bag or presented at the school gates during the month of May each year. Unfortunately however, there are probably a mere handful of these potentially magnificent blooms that actually make it past the window sill and into the garden to flourish to their true splendour. Growing sunflower seeds is in fact considerably manageable and very satisfying when done correctly. For this reason it is a perfect seed to sow with children and involving them in the nurturing of this pretty flower can entice a curiosity and a love of gardening at its best.
Sunflowers form large seedlings so sowing one seed per pot is advisable. Fill each pot almost to the top with good multipurpose compost and poke the seed into the middle. Sprinkle with compost and water well. Cover each pot with a transparent cover to keep the seedlings warm. Cutting the bottom off a small plastic bottle and placing it over the pot can work well. Considering their North American origin, avoid planting sunflower seeds outside until the summer months. If growing in a climate fortunate enough to enjoy an early summer then plant sunflower seeds directly into soil. Once cultivated these sunflowers will undoubtedly be higher than if sowed into a pot. Sunflowers make a central tap root that grows straight down into the soil and for that reason the ones sowed into soil without the roots being disturbed will grow higher.
If cut sunflowers are desired it is best to cut them once the petals begin to push out from the middle of the flower with the less stressful cutting time being early morning or in the evening. This will ensure the longest vase life and can avoid pollination to occur. Many ornamental sunflowers are bred pollen free and the longer they are left in the garden the more likely bees will transfer pollen onto the flowers. For this reason they are particularly popular with sufferers of hay fever or house proud owners of sharp white linen tablecloths. Once cut place the sunflowers in a bucket of lukewarm water and keep them away from direct sunlight. Cut each sunflower far down the stem to allow for any trimming when arranging.
How you arrange your sunflowers is entirely up to you. Their striking qualities and colours make them the perfect centre piece or bouquet with little or no foliage required. It is best to remove any leaves as they steal water which the flower needs to stay fresh. Anchoring heavier sunflowers with marbles at the bottom of a vase can help them stay in place, while adding a nice touch to the arrangement. Sunflowers speak for themselves and you can always rely on a mixture of hybrid sunflowers to brighten the darkest of rooms. With ‘boho-chic’ trends flourishing, sunflowers can bring an air of natural beauty to a wedding gown or hair piece and are becoming increasingly popular accessories within the world of fashion.
Not only is Aloe Vera a visually appealing house plant it can be used for a whole host of ailments and skin conditions. From sunburn to eczema the soothing gel from this succulent plant can prove most beneficial as a medicinal herb. As one of the more straight forward plants to grow Aloe Vera is a great first step for anyone venturing down the herbalist path.
To prepare for cultivation simply sow each seed approximately one square inch apart in a seed tray holding equal amounts of moist peat and horticultural sand. Sprinkle each seed with a light covering of grit and add water from the bottom to avoid disturbing the seeds. Using a transparent cover leave the tray in a warm, light spot and water only if the soil becomes completely dry. Remove the cover immediately after seedlings begin to show and keep them in the light area. They may be transplanted once large enough to handle and watered sparingly in the winter and soaked during the summer but always being left to become completely dry beforehand. If required the soothing gel can be scraped out by slicing open a leaf. It can then be applied to sooth skin or even condition hair. Growing Aloe Vera from seeds at home will not only mean this herbal remedy is readily available but will also reassure no pesticides have been used on the plant.
Taken internally, Aloe Vera juice can aid digestion while playing a vital role in promoting the growth of healthy cells in cancer patients. It is a rare opportunity to have such a powerful antidote available on our kitchen window sill and as we continue to fill our bathroom cabinets with potions and lotions perhaps we should reassess our needs and consult the humble seed of the Aloe Vera plant.
If the thoughts of beating your limbs with the common nettle to relieve rheumatic pain sends shivers down your spine then you are not alone. However, this was common practice among our ancestors as well as using these hardy herbs for food, fibre and other medicines. Although techniques for pain relief may have progressed, research into using Urtica Dioica or the common nettle to cure arthritis is still underway with its other uses growing more popular in gardens across the country.
Growing nettles from seed is relatively easy beginning indoors at room temperature and barely covering the seeds with a nitrogen rich soil. Using a plastic, transparent cover store the tray in a warm, dark place. The seedlings can be transplanted into the garden about a week after germination although keeping them in a large container may be advisable as they tend to spread in abundance. They should be watered regularly and will flourish if a rich fertilizer is used. Nettles can be picked using hard leather gloves once the blooms form.
Drying or cooking nettles will neutralize the sting, leaving them ready to eat or added to tea. If making nettle tea use only the tips of the nettles and add a cup of boiling water to a handful of nettle tips. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy. Nettle tincture can also be made and taken as a healthier alcoholic alternative to more sugar based tipples. The medicinal properties of nettles can be used to combat anaemia, skin and hair problems, arthritis or sporadically used as a detoxifying tonic. Quite possibly the herb to be most cautious of when growing from seed, the common nettle is also under rated and can offer a wealth of goodness once consumed correctly. If however you are unfortunate to get on the wrong side of a nettle then simply treat it with a paste of baking soda and water.
Herb Basil Blue Spice
With purse strings tight and the opportunity to dine out becoming a rare treat for most why not add a bit of zing to some home cooked food by growing basil in your kitchen or garden. Whether you prefer sweet Blue Spice basil or the more familiar Basil Bush, traditionally used in Italian cuisine these versatile herbs can be the home grown answer to tantalize any taste buds and warm up the dullest of weekends. A perfect companion to any Bolognese basil can also be added to freshen up a home made cocktail on a summer’s day. Not only do such herbs taste better fresh they can also have a soothing effect on the stomach, aiding digestion.
In order to enjoy the herb’s full potential, plant basil in March and use it at its best between May and September. Use small pots containing equal amounts of perlite, vermiculite and peat. Dampen the soil and drop two to three seeds into each pot. Sprinkle with soil and using a transparent cover, leave the tray in a warm, sunny spot. Once the seedlings emerge remove the cover and water lightly every day. Basil can be transferred into the garden but it is best to wait until the summer months and to choose a spot well exposed to plenty of sunlight. Be mindful to remove any flowers which may appear from too much sun. The blooms cause a hormone change in the herb and significantly reduce the flavour of the leaves. Once the stalk reaches a reasonable height the herb is ready to be pruned. Carefully remove the top two leaves, avoiding any damage to smaller leaves below. With cultivation a success and fresh herbs at your finger tips the only thing left to do is indulge your culinary skills.