Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Longing for Tropical Fruit

Spice it Up

with Ian Hemphill
Have you ever thought about what part of a plant the clove comes from?
Is there such a thing as a clove tree or bush?
Or perhaps your thinking is more along the lines of where else can you use clove spices other than when making Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and Fruit Mince Pies? Oh, and of course in all things apple. Did you know dentists used to use oil of Cloves when putting in a filling in your tooth because of the strong antiseptic properties?
Listen to yet another amazing tale about the spice trade!

Did you catch that tip from Ian?
Next time you make that pasta sauce, add a pinch of ground cloves to add another great flavour.
Cloves contain Eugenol oil which is also found in Basil leaves, so they’ll certainly go great with all your pasta sauces.
You can also grow the Clove tree, Szygium aromaticum go to
If you have any questions about using cloves why not drop us a line by sending in your question to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll send you a copy of the Garden Guardians in return..

Vegetable Heroes: Silverbeet

SILVERBEET or Beta vulgaris is grown as a leaf vegetable in Australia.
Had you ever heard of the other names for Silverbeet?
What about Swiss Chard, Spinach, Perpetual Spinach, Strawberry Spinach, Seakale beet, Sicilian and Chilean Beet,Roman Kale, or Mangold?
Silverbeet, or Swiss Chard is a leafy relative of beetroot, another member of the Beta vulgaris species.
Swiss chard isn't native to Switzerland but actually comes from the coasts of Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean islands.

Why Swiss Chard?  Is it because the Swiss grew it everywhere?
Not exactly. It’s named that way because a Swiss botanist Koch decided the scientific name of this plant in the 19th century.
Because of that, the common name has honoured Kochies' homeland.
Do you throw away your silver beet stems? Put it in the compost maybe?
Did you know that apart from the leaves of silverbeet that’s eaten like spinach, the stems may be cooked like celery?
I can tell you they’re pretty tasty.
The seedlings can also be served in salads.
Silverbeet is a little bit like (Spinacia oleracea L.),but silver beet has a larger, coarser, milder tasting leaf.
Silver beet’s also more tolerant of cold, heat, drought and disease.
Some of us have tried to grow Spinach in warmer weather, but you might as well give up, because Silver Beet beats it hands down.
Silver beet doesn’t easily go to seed during hot weather and doesn’t wilt quite as much as English Spinach.
The stems can be white, red, pink, orange or yellow. The leaves may be smooth or crinkled.
Leaf colours vary from light to dark green to deep red.
In general, the paler the leaf colour the milder the leaf flavour.

Where and When  to Grow:

Silverbeet grows in full sun or part shade.
Although it’s fairly wind hardy, strong winds can cause leaf damage in open sites.
If you want to grow Silverbeet in a pot, no problem at all.

For temperate districts, you can sow Silverbeet from September through to next May.
 Cool temperate districts, from September to March.
Sub-tropical areas and arid areas, you can sow Silverbeet all year round, and for tropical regions, only sow Silverbeet from April to July.


Growing Silverbeet

Silver beet can be direct sown or transplanted.
When you open the packet of seeds, you’ll see knobbly cluster seeds.
Each one of these clusters has two to six seeds in it..
The cluster seed is sown 1/2 cm deep in the soil or into seed trays for transplanting.
Then the usual thing-keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge, usually in about 10 days.
Thin them out when the silverbeets are 5cm high and use the thinned out seedlings in stir fries.
Silver beet needs plenty of nitrogen and water for the fast growth of large, well-shaped, not too tough leaves.
Commercial growers often add copious quantities of animal manures, composts or green manures.
That means, Alfalfa or lucerne is grown first to put lots of Nitrogen into the soil with their nitrogen fixing nodules.
Don’t use fresh animal manures because the animal manures need to be composted to avoid nitrogen drawn down and spoiling the silver beet leaves with food poisoning micro-organisms.
Applying some blood and bone fertiliser before sowing gives silver beet crops a good start, especially on sandy soils.
Did you realise that Silver beet leaves are 93% water?
Like a lot of our veggies, we need to keep up the water in hot weather to stop them from wilting.
Having said that, if your silverbeet has wilted, it will recover after watering.

If you’re using the sprinkler, early in the morning is best to avoid fungal problems on the leaves.
The one fungal disease I have noticed is called Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola Sacc.) and is the most common fungal disease.
It produces light grey spots with brown margins on the older leaves. These spots fall out and create holes in the leaves.
The disease is favoured by high temperatures (24° to 30°C), high humidity or long periods of leaf wetness.
Cercospora leaf spot comes from infected seed, diseased host crops or weeds growing near the silver beet.
If you do get this problem, don’t grow silverbeet in that spot for another 3 years.
Silverbeet can be cut and come again with multiple pickings.
The outer leaves are picked by pulling them down to 2.5 cm above the plant base, leaving the central leaves behind.
TIP: If you pull rather rather than cut the outer leaves, you won’t damage the inner leaves as much in later pickings.
Silverbeet is really fast growing and is ready in about 8 weeks and when the leaves are about the size of a ruler, ie, 30cm long.

Why is it good for you?
Like many leafy green vegetables, silverbeet has high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin A –
Did you know that if you’re a smoker you should eat vitamin A, rich foods?
That’s because a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke induces Vitamin A deficiency.

Silverbeet should always be included in diets of vegans and vegetarians, who should always eat plenty green leafy vegetables. 
Happy silverbeet growing everyone!

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer,

So, you want a blue and white garden, or maybe purple and white?
Is colour important in garden design? But should you religiously stick to those two colours or should you use another colour? Let’s find out….
The colour wheel is great to remember when picking colours for your garden.
That’ll help getting a gaudy mix of colours that just doesn’t work.
If you have any questions about this week’s Design Elements, send it our email address, or just post it.

Plant of the Week

LONGAN TREE, Dimocarpus longan  or Euphoria longan.  Are you looking for something different to plant in your garden? Don’t just always go for the ornamental flowering types. What about something that you can add to ice-cream? From Adelaide to Perth, Cooktown to Warners Bay, growing some tropical fruit can be achieved Try this one.



If you can’t grow Lychees but would like to, then the Longan tree is for you.
The Longan is in the same family as the Lycee tree-Sapindaceae or soapberry family.
Longan trees are more adaptable than Lychee trees.
Longan trees tolerate some frost and drier and cooler conditions.
  1. Longans , are evergreen trees with lime green foliage.
  2. The flowers are in panicles at the ends of the branches with male and female flowers in the same panicle. No problem with pollination.
  3. For fruit set of longans and lychees, cold, wind or rain will interfere with pollination when in flower.
  4. Hot dry winds will affect the crop at any time and cause fruit drop.
  5. Always plant your tree in a sheltered area.
  6. In Australia, grow Longans and Lychees from cooktown to Grafton but they have been grown in Perth (a friend who grows them there) Adelaide and in parts of Victoria.
  7. Really, Longans and Lychees are too big to grow in a pot for more than a few years.
  8. In cooler areas, plant your tree under another larger tree, and in areas where the sun is blasting during summer, protect your tree from direct sun.
  9. In the natural environment, Longans and Lychees are understorey trees in rainforests where cloudy skies and high humidity are the norm.
My friend in Perth has built a shade cloth shelter on three sides of his trees.
Water your trees regularly and fertilise with a small amount every month in the growing season.
That means around 30g per month in the first year, 50g in the second until it starts to fruit.
Then keep it at that rate each month.
TIP: In cooler districts, leave out the autumn feed.
Good tip: not attacked by fruit fly.

 Thai varieties of Longans are considered the best according to Louis Glowinski, author of Fruit Tree Growing In Australia.
A close relative to the Lychee tree but much larger, stronger and more cold tolerant.
The fruit is deliciously sweet, bearing just after the lychee,  so for Lychee lovers this is a welcomed taste variation to look forward to.
A highly ornamental tree with beautiful green leaves and clusters of yellow flowers that have a wonderful scent.

If you want to buy a Longan tree,

Some have marcotted trees-- Marcotts are a kind of cutting that strikes while attached to the parent tree. Like air layering.
In some districts, you need to do a bit more work, like build a three sided shelter for the formative years of the tree.
Keeping it away from windy locations, by perhaps growing it underneath a larger canopy tree.
The upside is the fruit isn’t affected by fruit fly. How good is that?
Longan - Kohala Seedling originally from Hawaii
The early ripening fruit is really sweet.
Longan - Haew is a late maturing cultivar. The high quality fruit is medium to large in size with a rather small seed. Being a late fruiting cultivar it tends to bear in alternate years. Marcotted trees will commence bearing in 2 years.
Longan - Biew Kiew
This variety from Thailand is well suited to the sub tropics where it receives cooler winters. It is a heavy consistant cropper with good quality fruits that come off later in the season than the Kohala.  

Extra Notes from reader Jonathon.
I am currently growing 7 longan varieties in marginal climate (50km NE Adelaide). Here Biew Kiew and Haew do better than Kohala (longer growing season and more vigorous). By far my best performing and fruiting variety is Homestead. (Not able to source this variety so far - editor's note.) | from Jonathan - Gawler, SA 15-Dec-2006

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