Saturday, 19 December 2015

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Australia

After moving twice in a year, plus the birth of my youngest son, I was not selling many vegetables or seeds for a while but have gotten back into it.  All of the perennial vegetables for sale that I currently have are listed on my For Sale page.  I am adding some new perennial vegetables and herbs there.

I have had a few people ask me where to buy seeds or they have asked my opinion of different companies so I thought I would write a post about some of them.  Some of these companies have bought seeds from me in the past, some I have bought seeds from, others I have heard about from other people.  I have probably forgotten to include some, if I remember them I will try to add them later.

Please note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies and that the views expressed are based on my personal experiences.  I am in no way liable if they do not live up to expectations.  This is based on past experiences and they may or may not treat you better or worse than they have done to me in the past.

Inspirations seeds
Range:  Extensive range of rare heirloom beans and other vegetables
Based:  Tasmania
Prices:  Reasonably high, but they are well worth it.  Postage is free which helps to lower the overall price
Seed numbers:  Good
Service:  Excellent, possibly the best service I have ever had.

Useful seeds
Range:  Limited (for now, but increasing) but what he does have are rather rare and/or amazing
Based:  VIC Australia
Prices:  Reasonably high, but you can not buy many of these varieties anywhere else and the quality is excellent so the high prices are more than justified
Seed numbers:  Good
Service: no idea as I have never bought from him but I know him and he is a good guy.  He has given me seeds in the past and they were of very high quality.  I assume he would provide excellent service as he loves what he does

The Seed Collection
Range: good, nothing particularly rare
Based:  VIC Australia
Prices:  Low to very low prices, but you get what you pay for
Seed Numbers:  Great
Service:  Good.  Germination rates can be rather variable, seed quality is sometimes very low and many seeds are crossed and do not grow to type.

The Dwarf Tomato Project  
Range: small range of newly bred, various colours, dwarf tomatoes
Based: Australia
Prices: Low prices, they are simply trying to recover costs instead of make a profit.  They have given their seeds to some seed companies who sell them for almost triple the price of the Dwarf Tomato Project
Seed Numbers: Good
Service: Excellent, Patrina bred many of these varieties and wants them to be more popular.  She is willing to answer questions and offer advice.

Range:  Good, some rare things
Based:  VIC Australia
Prices:  Variable, some things are too expensive for what they are
Seed Numbers:  Good
Service:  Good

Range:  Great
Based:  QLD Australia
Prices:  Good
Seed Number:  Good
Service:  Good

Range:  Great, they sell seeds, plants and other garden products
Based:  QLD Australia
Prices:  Good but postage is high
Seed Number:  Good
Service:  Great

Phoenix Seeds
Range:  Great, some very interesting and rare varieties
Based:  Tasmania
Prices:  Good but postage is high
Seed Number:  Varies
Service:  Variable, sometimes good sometimes unresponsive

Diggers club
Range:  Great, they claim to be interested in saving rare varieties but they often rename things to make them more marketable.  They also make erroneous claims of exclusivity to appear better than they are.  Descriptions of varieties are often fanciful and embellished
Based:  VIC Australia
Prices:  High to extremely high, postage cost is unreasonable for smaller orders
Seed Number:  Often extremely low, but it does vary
Service:  Really Dreadful.  I try not to buy from them.  They have sold me out of date seeds as well as bulbs covered in mould and then tried to blame me when they failed to sprout!  They have also sent the wrong seeds and getting replacements or refund from them was a nightmare.  They have sent me seeds that were not isolated as they were hopelessly crossed.  Hopefully this changes as they are one of the best known heirloom seed sellers in Australia

Range:  Only sell chilli and capsicums, they have a great range of these.  Some they have bred themselves
Based:  America - only some species are allowable imports into Australia so please check AQIS BICON database prior to ordering
Prices:  Great with free postage to Australia!
Seed Number:  Good, extra seeds in each pack
Service:  Great, they even include extra seed packets in each order

Range:  Varies from time to time.  Beware: many seeds listed don't exist
Based:  All over the world
Prices:  Varies a lot
Seed Number:  Varies a lot
Service:  Varies.  Beware that many seeds sold on Ebay are for things that do not even exist (such as multi coloured blue roses and black strawberries) and they are stealing from you.  You will get seeds, but by the time you grow them and work out what has happened it will be too late to get back your money.  I have also bought some great seeds from excellent sellers through Ebay.  Please do your research prior to ordering anything from Ebay to ensure what you are buying actually exists.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Yacon Pineapple slaw

I love yacon, it is sweet and crunchy.  I mostly eat yacon raw, I just peel it, slice it thinly and eat it.  We have tried eating it a few other ways and most were good.  It tends to take on the taste of whatever it is in with so is reasonably versatile.  I have even used some of our yacon roots and water kefir grains to make yacon water kefir which was nice enough even though I prefer regular water kefir.

I normally leave the yacon in the soil until I want to eat it, if I happen to leave it for too long the plant simply gets larger and stronger and returns a larger crop next time.  Recently we have moved from our property into a rented house in town, as such I dug up a small number of yacon plants to grow as well as a heap of the tubers to eat.  Being so hot and dry out here the tubers do not last overly long.  I wanted to find a few new ways to eat yacon as I can not stand the thought of wasting it.  I looked on the internet and stumbled across yacon pineapple slaw.
Yacon growing in a pot - it belongs in the soil
I found a nice sounding recipe, then changed it a fair bit, and made it with a group of school children.  It was delicious and super easy to make.  I am putting the modified recipe here partly to share it and partly so that I have it saved somewhere so I can make it again.

Yacon tubers, 1 large tuber or a few small ones
1 can of pineapple (or a real pineapple peeled and cut into small pieces)
The juice of 1 lime or a lemon (lemons are the poor cousin of the lime, but they are cheaper)
1 chilli (this can be left out)

1) Juice the lime (or its poor cousin the lemon)
2) Peel the yacon tuber
3) Grate the peeled yacon
4) Add lime juice to the grated yacon.  Mix together.  You have to do this as soon as possible otherwise the yacon will turn black
5) Cut pineapple into tiny pieces, add pineapple and any juice to the yacon
6) Remove the seeds from the chilli.  Cut up the chilli into tiny pieces
7) Mix it all together and serve

It really doesn't get any easier than this, and it tastes great.  It would be easy enough to add other things to this too as long as they are cut up tiny.  I think something crunchy and relatively tasteless such as shredded cabbage would bulk this out nicely.

Some of the more tropical and fruity tasting chillies could also work well in this as they would add taste but would still be crunchy.  There are a heap of tropical tasting chilli varieties, some have no heat while others are super hot, but few are available unless you import the seeds and grow them yourself.  One great place I have found for chilli seeds is pepper lover, they seem to love what they do and tend to include extra seed packets with orders.  Only some species can be posted to Australia so please do check the AQIS BICON database first.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Overwintering vegetable plants

We have some perennial vegetables which I decided to overwinter.  We moved in Spring so I have not had time to make a post about them until now.  We had the coldest winter since we have lived here and lost a lot of frost tender plants that I normally can overwinter with no effort.  I took a few pictures of some of the survivors.  Most of these plants are far larger now.

Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica)

This is a heat loving tropical perennial leaf vegetable which is often grown as an annual in cooler climates.  It grows well from seed, but I wanted to see if overwintered plants were larger than seed grown and it appears that they are.  It has many common names and is related to sweet potatoes.  I am not overly fond of leaf vegetables, but I like kang kong.  Unlike many other leaf vegetables it never goes bitter, it can be eaten raw or cooked.  I have only eaten it raw and it tastes nice, apparently cooked it tastes a lot like spinach.

I grew it in too small a pot so it did not reach anywhere near its potential last summer.  I tried to grow it in a fish talk as a floating water plant but there was not enough sunlight and it appears to prefer at least some soil for its roots.  It tried to flower but then winter came and the cold cut it down to a stump.  I do not want to save and plant seed each year if there is an easier way and this plant grows easily from cuttings.  I am glad that this can be overwintered as it is simple and the plants are larger than seed grown.

Once the warmer weather came along it started to grow fast again.  I wish I knew about this plant years ago as it is great.  It dislikes the cold weather and dies back badly even without frosts but survives and grows very fast once the days are warm.
Kangkong resprouting in late winter, it dislikes the cold air even when protected from frosts
The same plant in Spring after being cut back a few times
Chilli - Trinidad Scorpion Butch T
Most varieties of chilli available to home gardeners can be overwintered easily enough.  Super hot chilli are a lot more finicky than regular chilli and capsicums from what I have heard.  Being the first time I have grown the super hot chilli I decided to try and overwinter it rather than start from seed again.  Strangely it went very well and was very easy.  I tried to keep it out of the frost at night and put it in the sun during the day when I remembered.  I accidentally let it get a bit of frost a few times and forgot to put in in the sun more often than I remembered and all three survived nicely.
Trinidad Scorpion Butch T in tiny pot
Super hot chilli in late winter - not many leaves
Strangely healthy chilli in winter
The same plants after the weather got warmer
Trinidad Scorpion Butch T
Indeterminate tomatoes
Most indeterminate tomatoes are simple to overwinter if the frost can be kept off them.  This year was colder than most and I lost most of the tomatoes I had planned to overwinter as I did not look after them all that well.  I grew one seedling far too late  in the season last year so decided to try and overwinter it.  Mid winter, with no heat, just moving it inside at night to avoid frosts the plant started to flower.  The flowers all fell off as it was too cold for pollination to occur but the plant was mature.  This meant that it is easy to plant them out when the weather warms and have them set fruit almost right away.
Tomato plant mid winter
Micro Tom tomatoes
Micro tom is a great little tomato variety that needs more people to grow it and save its seed.  I grew one on the kitchen window over winter to see how it would go.  Apparently they grow just fine over winter if kept inside and this one started to flower when the nights were still frosty outside.  They have such a short lifespan that this particular plant flowered, set fruit and died before Spring came.  What a great plant, while it may not be the tastiest tomato variety it was a lot better than any cherry tomato I could buy from the supermarket at that time if year.  They are not terribly productive but being so small means that it can grow in a tiny pot and not need much space to provide a crop.  Being able to bring them indoors at night means that it is possible to get them to set fruit in Winter, I never would have thought that getting fruit in Winter was possible for a tomato that is not parthenocarpic.

I also planted some Micro Tom seeds mid winter to see if they would germinate in the cold and they did.  Being such tiny plants the kids adore them.  They are even more happy to eat the tomatoes and they tend to carry the tiny plants around talking to them and treating them like pets rather than plants.  The more I grow Micro Tom the more I discover about them that shows me how good they are.
Micro Tom tomato flowering in mid winter
Vietnamese Coriander (Persicaria odorata)
This perennial herb has many, many common names.  It smells a lot like coriander and is far simpler to grow.  It does not bolt to seed like real coriander and does not even flower often outside of the tropics.  It appears to love water and I grow it as a bog plant or an emergent water plant.  It does not like frost, mine got frosted a few times but they all came back in the warmer weather.  Over winter they look terrible, as soon as the warmer weather returned they sprang back to life.  Cuttings strike very easily in water so once it warmed up I cut one plant into many pieces, the original plant grew back and each cutting grew roots within a few days.
Vietnamese coriander leaves turn a bit red in cool weather
Water Celery (Oenanthe javanica)
This is another emergent water vegetable, it is grown for leaves and stems that taste of celery or parsley.  Like many of the vegetables I grow this is a perennial vegetable that rarely flowers or sets seed.  I have the variegated form of this vegetable, while it is prettier than the regular green one it is also not as aggressive in its growth.  I would like to track down the regular green version one day and see just how strong it will grow.  I would prefer a productive vegetable to a pretty vegetable.

My plant grew with no winter protection, the top of the water was covered in ice many times.  It certainly did not love being covered in ice and died back somewhat, the smaller plants that were grown with protection from frost looked a lot healthier at the end of winter.  As soon as the heat returned it was very fast to recover.

Water Celery surviving winter with no protection.
Where to get perennial Vegetables
I have been selling perennial vegetable plants and some seeds for years.  Unfortunately we recently moved to town and do not have any land so will not be selling anything for a while.  We do plan on moving again very soon, when we have settled I hope to sell perennial vegetables and vegetable seeds again, they will be listed on my For Sale page when the time comes.