Friday, November 25, 2011

Myoga Ginger

When I was first establishing my garden I promised my wife a special place for her to grow some of her weird Japanese vegetables. One of the first things she ever planted was Myoga Ginger. You can see more pictures here in my post about the 'bottom garden'.

The plants die off and come back every year without us caring for them at all. As with most ginger plants the roots are invasive, so in an effort to contain them I buried some fence pailings to try and stop the roots from taking over the whole garden. When most people see our little ginger plot they think it’s sweetcorn.

It’s only the tender new flower heads that are harvested. You can see one here...

I think you have to be Japanese to truly appreciate them. Izumi slices them up and uses them in asian style salads or as a garnish in noodley soups. This is what they look like when they’re harvested. She often gives her Japanese friends a handful when there’s more than she needs and they always appreciate this little taste from home (you can't buy it in the shops here).

There’s a lot we can learn from the various cultures when it comes to things they eat. 

At the end of the season the crop has all died off again...

But I don't need to do anything. It'll just come back again all by itself next season.


On a visit to a food market in Kanazawa, Japan in September 2012 we came across a store selling Myoga in small bags for ¥150 each (which is about NZ$2.25/US$1.86). 


These are not such a great photos, but you can probably see that the flower heads are quite plump – they’re quite a bit bigger than I’ve ever grown them. Perhaps if I start fertilising mine I can get them to grow a bit bigger. Maybe some Sulphate of Potash for better flowering and fruiting?


(Update: 3 April 2018)

Funny how you learn things about gardening... often it’s quite by accident. Let me explain.
I’ve been wondering for the last 6 years or more how to get my Myoga Ginger to grow bigger like the ones they sell in Japan. Well, I finally figured it out! 

But now I feel a bit dumb because it’s actually REALLY simple. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. Essentially, the answer was to ignore this plant even more than I normally would. 

Since Izumi passed away I don’t have so many Japanese people visiting my garden and making use of whatever Ginger I might have. Therefore I’ve not been in any hurry to harvest it. I’ve just left them and they just continue getting bigger. I left this one about a month or more longer than normal to the point where the foliage is starting to die off as the plant goes into its dormant period. It’s the first time I’ve left it so late before harvesting.

I used to worry that the bulbs which get a little yellow flower growing out the end of them, if left, would grow and continue to blossom thereby rendering the bulb inedible. Well it seems I was wrong and while this bulb actually had a yellow flower on the end of it, I simply plucked it off and a big plump bulb of ginger remained.


Read more about my Myoga Plant here

See video showing how we harvest Myoga Ginger

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mutant Tomato – Update

This is an update to a post I did back in August 2011(read here). 

At the time, the tomato pictured below (which self-seeded in my garden) was 4 months old and hadn’t shown any signs of breaking down or decomposing. It is now 7 1/2 months old and apart from changing colour it’s still completely whole!

Would you eat it?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Harvesting the Winter Crops

Some of the vegetables I planted over winter this year (around the shortest day) have taken until now to be ready for harvesting. Over the last few weeks I’ve been harvesting my beetroot and cauliflowers (as and when needed).

Beetroot are pretty easy to grow and I love them. They’re high in iron too so they’re really good for you. I gave some to my mate Bruce who boiled his and sliced them up much like the way you buy them in a can. We usually roast them like potatoes.

This year there were a couple of strange white root vegetables amongst the crop which had all green foliage. I thought they were radishes that somehow got mixed up with the beetroot but my wife reckons they’re white beetroot. Huh? I’ve never heard of that before.

This year was the best year I’ve ever had with Cauliflowers. We must have grown about 8 or 9 of them altogether. They seemed to really love the winter garden I built which catches more sun than any other part of the garden over winter. It got to the point we couldn’t keep up with eating them so there was plenty to share with friends. 

One thing I learned was that they take twice as long to reach maturity than brocolli, but they can grow to twice the size too. That probably also explains why they’re usually more expensive than brocolli at the shops — if you have to buy them that is.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bad Memories in the Garden

Saturday, November 5th, 2005 was a bad day in my garden. 
Nov 5th is Guy Fawkes day in New Zealand which is when most people go mad with fire works. It happened to be a Saturday and I’d decided to have a few friends over for a BBQ. Back then my back yard was still in it's original state with no gardens or BBQ properly built yet, there were no lovely steps or paths to walk up, so it was a pretty rough setup, although the bridge had been built by this time. It was just a grassy bank that levelled out at the top which is where we did the BBQ.

Because the garden is surrounded by bush, I made a point of asking our guests to refrain from bringing any fireworks – everything was pretty dry. There were a few families including a number of children who were running around all over the property. As it happened, the neighbors kids who were around the same age (early teens) started showing off and were letting off fireworks on their property. Then one of the neighbors kids appeared with a tennis racquet and lobbed a large firework over some trees and into the trees next to us causing the whole bush on a steep bank to erupt into flames, including a huge pine tree that was towering above us. Within seconds the flames were leaping several metres into the air and making a terrific roaring sound.

Most of my guests stood there stunned while I was thrown into a panic. I was terribly concerned that it would quickly spread and set the whole area on fire endangering the houses. I sprinted to the house and called the fire service, then grabbed as many buckets as I could find and started directing our youngsters to fill them up from a large stormwater tank in the bottom of the gully and ferry them to the base of the fire which was over the brow of the hill.
We managed to get the fire mostly under control by the time the fire engine arrived. But the pine tree was still on fire above us and there was no way we could throw a bucket of water that high.

So within a reasonably short time the fire crew had their hoses on it and managed to put the fire out. Everyone was a bit shaken and I was high on adrenalin. I was hugely impressed with one of the boys (about 14) who was quite heroic in his efforts to help me. It was all rather exciting for the youngsters who got more than they bargained for that night despite being asked to leave their fireworks at home.

While in the process of putting all their hoses away, one of our boys mentioned to one of the firemen how the fire had started. Next thing we know the police turned up to investigate (as far as I know no charges were laid). By this time night was falling...

In the mean time those in charge of our BBQ (which I'd completely forgotten about) had finished cooking all kinds of sausages and what-not and were taking the food back over to the house ready to serve.

One of the guests 'Sharon' was making her way down the bank to the bridge carrying a dish full of cooked sausages, when she slipped down the bank (the grass was still wet from the fire hoses which took the same route). She went skidding down the bank on her bottom, the sausages and dish went bouncing down the bank in all directions. She came to an abrupt stop landing awkwardly on one of her ankles. When we tried to help her up we could see she was in pain and she couldn't put any weight on it. 

One of our boys (the informant) told the fire crew what had happened. One of them came to see if he could help – he appeared to be trained in first aid. He suspected a broken bone, so then he called an ambulance. Sharon ended up on crutches for several weeks after that. 

The neighbours in the surrounding area must certainly have been wondering what was going on at our place that night with all the emergency services turning up one after the other.
Needless to say, I've decided never again to have a BBQ on Guy Fawkes night.

Sharon's little accident was a huge motivator for me to install the steps and landscaping to make the back part of our garden safer, so at least something good eventually came out of it.