Vegetable Tips

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  • Beetroot is a root vegetable that originated in southern Europe. It was originally grown for its leaves, although now both the leaves and root are eaten. Beetroot is related to sugar beet and is one of the sweetest vegetables available. It is a member of the spinach family and is a favourite food of summer salads and comes in a variety of colours and sizes: Ruby Red and Crosbys Egyptian Flat are dark red with dark green leaves and red stems. Detroit Dark Red and Bulls Blood have dark red and light zones when sliced. Chioggia also has concentric rings of red and white flesh. Albino are white as the name suggests. Burpees Golden Globe are an orange yellow variety. Cylindra is a long cylindrical. Selecting and storing beetroot  Choose beetroot with smooth, firm skin and a deep red colour, if choosing the darker varieties. If the leaves are still attached they should be ridged with pink/red veins. A scaly area at the top of the root indicates a tougher beetroot. Smaller beetroot are much more tender. Before storing trim the leaves 2 inches from the root, remove any dirt and do not wash or cut off the tails as the beetroot will bleed. Store beetroot in a dark, cool environment with high humidity. It can also be stored unwashed in plastic in the refrigerator for a week. The leaves can be stored in a separate plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 days and used instead of other green leafy vegetables. Beetroot can be bottled in an acidic liquid – such as vinegar or lemon juice – which preserves the colour, if the liquid is too alkaline the colour turns a brownish purple. Freshly cooked beetroot can be frozen; once cooked peel and slice or leave whole, store in airtight bags or containers and freeze for up to 10 months. Beetroot is often used pickled in salads and sandwiches but fresh beetroot is just as delicious. For a tasty alternative to some of your favourite meals try these tasty recipes: Roast Beetroot, Feta and Rocket Salad; Roast Beetroot and Walnut Salad; Beetroot Hummus; excellent dip.
  • Grafting Eggplant to control Bacterial Wilt  by Don Gordon – STFC Apr/May 2010 Bacterial wilt is a major disease problem of eggplant in some areas and can make eggplant production uneconomical. One solution to this problem in smaller production areas may be grafting onto a resistant rootstock. Although labour-intensive this procedure can markedly increase the cropping life of the plants. A rootstock that can be used in eggplant grafting is devil’s fig (Solanum torvum), the fruit of which is used in Indonesian and Thai cooking. Although devil’s fig is normally resistant to bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum), it has shown wilt symptoms when planted through plastic mulch, due to the higher soil temperature under the plastic. The best way to propagate the plants is to grow the rootstock in 50 mm or 75 mm tubes and graft when the stock is 3 to 6 mm diameter. Seed can be germinated in normal seedling trays then transplanted to the bigger tubes a few days before grafting.  Cleft grafting is used (Figure 1). Shoot tips from an old crop may be used, but the best tips (scions) are taken from young seedlings grown specifically for the purpose. These scions should be no longer than 70 mm and contain one or two growing points. The length of the two cuts on the scion is no more than 15 mm, providing the rootstock is small. One vertical cut is made in the stock. To achieve equal size between the stock and scion, the rootstock seed is generally planted several weeks before the eggplant seed. Variations in germination times, even from different batches of seed from the same company, can interrupt grafting plans. There is some indication that while eggplant germinates best at 30°C, it still has 50% germination at 25°C whereas devil’s fig will give much less than 50% germination at 25°C. Bottom heat equipment or frying pans are used in cooler weather.

    Figure 1. Grafted eggplant seedling. In small plants up to pencil thickness, medium thickness clear plastic is as effective as most grafting tape. Smaller plants are often grafted using florist tape. Florist tape can have a short life when stored so buy it from a wholesaler in a bulk pack to ensure it is fresh. Do not store it in a hot place, such as the dashboard of a car, or it will melt together into an unusable mess. When stretched, florist tape clings to itself but will fall off as the plant expands. The fact that it does not need tying makes it easier to use. In a protected nursery environment, string or special grafting clips, which work well with whip grafting, can be used. Under good nursery conditions more leaves can be left on the scion, which helps quicker recovery of the scion.

    Do not let the rootstock get too big before grafting. Once greater than pencil thickness, less of the sap flow of the stock is intercepted by the scion. This results in a slow growing scion. Florist tape is unsuitable for use with bigger plants, so normal plastic tape has to be used. If this tape is removed early because potato tuber moth has got under the tape problems arise. Early removal of the tape can cause the union on the stock to ‘pull back’ from the scion (see Figure 2). The cause of this is probably the tendency of the scion to ‘take’ better at the tip or lowest part rather than on the top of the stock in older plants. This weak union can break in a storm, particularly with a heavy crop load. Figure 2. Folding back of the stock from the scion after removing tape too early.  (A problem where older rootstocks are grafted.)

    Do not plant too deep in the field because too many suckers will develop. Many eggplant growers have planted tobacco, eggplant and capsicums in the past. There is a tendency to plant deep because a better root system can result. With devil’s fig, the lateral vegetative buds grow up as suckers, even from 100 mm down. Removal of these can be a major maintenance task when growing the crop. If the scion dies in the field, remove the whole plant and replace it. Any attempt to graft bigger stocks in the field is ‘hit and miss’ at best and they become very thorny. Check young plants regularly for signs of potato tuber moth. If potato tuber moth larvae get under the tape nothing will control them and the grafted piece will wilt and die.

    Disease Bacterial wilt could still be a problem if plastic mulch is used. Overhead irrigation and bare soil can reduce bacterial wilt problems, both with grafted plants and normal seedlings. As bacterial wilt is mainly a summer problem there is more to be gained by grafting a spring planting. If some devil’s fig plants show wilt in a particular situation, normal seedling eggplant would have a much higher crop loss. Trellising As with seedling eggplant, there is a tendency for the plant to lodge or ‘crawl’ along the ground. This could be overcome by trellising the crop, using a trellis as for tomatoes but with fewer wires.

    Grafting It is recommended that whip grafting be tried once the grower is able to master the cleft method. The nursery environment would have to be good, with equal size of stock and scion. With grafting clips, rain and overhead watering is excluded until the tissue has healed. In a week or so the clips can be removed. Grafting is more suitable for smaller growers who want a second crop from the one planting. Growers who aim to pick the first crop only before ploughing in would find grafting of less value. If tuber moth is normally a problem on seedling eggplant, it can be worse on the grafted plant. Most of the points covered in this article would also apply to tomatoes. Anyone interested in trying grafting would be encouraged to try giant devil’s fig (Solanum hispidum – beware the thorns) as well as wild tobacco tree (Solanum mauritianum). These would have potential as rootstocks if their resistance to wilt is as good as devil’s fig. The amount of suckering from these plants is unknown but it would be a bonus if they sucker less. Devil’s fig tends to be more adaptable to different soils in the wild than the other two.

  • Luffas  If you want a soft sponge, pick the luffa while its green.  If you want a tougher quality, wait till the outer skin yellows and dries out.  Ref: John Kufrovich

    The bigger ones will be tougher and make good luffas; the new little ones should be good in stir-fries. There are lots of Google sites on making luffa sponges.      Ref:  Stephen

  • Pumpkin Seeds 

    Adrian  We use the seeds to make a nice snack. We simply put a little salt on them, then pan fry them with a little bit of oil till slightly brown. They are a really good crunchy snack! No need to peel them, they’re fine as is. Harvesting around 60kg of pumpkins this year means we get plenty of pre dinner snacks!

    Jason   I have never hulled my pumpkin seeds either when roasting them in the oven. Generally I put them on a tray after having cooked something else and just let the residual heat bake them. As for pepitas, they are from a specific kind of pumpkin I believe.

    Diane  I make similar but I use dukkah seasoning instead as there are many different dukkah mixes to suit every taste – enjoy them with wine/beer instead of nuts etc. They only take a short time in the oven to puff up.