Grow food. Jevan Soyer. Pumpkin.

Grow food: 10 easy crops to plant this Corpus Christi

By Jevan Soyer. “If you are going to grow food, why not try to do it as organically as possible? If you can use less than a commercial farmer, then your food has less residue from these chemicals and is already healthier.”

This time every year, most people get a green thumb. This is either because it is a family tradition, or weather allows them to plant as it is the beginning of the wet season. Growing your own foods is a great relaxing hobby as well as giving you some control over what you and your family eat. Anyone who has tried gardening no matter the scale, be it a little kitchen garden to a commercial acreage, knows it is not a simple task.

As it turns out, not all seeds are created equally, for the most part there are basically two types of seeds. Hybridised or sometimes referred to as GMO seeds and heirloom seeds. Both have their own favourable qualities. Hybridised seeds have certain qualities bred into them that suit commercial agriculture. Resistance to chemical pesticides and rapid grown are just a couple characteristics that are desirable in largescale farming operations.

Grow food organically for healthier option

If you are going to grow food, why not try to do it as organically as possible? It is not that I am against chemical pesticides or fertilisers. If you can use less than a commercial farmer, then your food has less residue from these chemicals and is already healthier.

This brings us to heirloom seeds. These seeds are often passed down through generations in a family, but can also be obtained from companies or local farmers. These seeds are not clones so there is more genetic diversity. This not just affects the appearance of the crop but its resistance to drought, pests and diseases. Heirloom varieties also have been noted to be richer in vitamins and nutrients as compared to hybridised varieties.

Here are 10 easy to grow food crops this Corpus Christi

Read more: Choosing Seeds: Hybrid and Heirloom

1. Tomatoes

60 to 100 days from seed to harvest depending on variety

Tomatoes are a staple and part of a healthy diet. It is noted that it can help prevent and treat prostate cancer in men. As a result, it should be consumed in hearty amounts. The main issue with tomatoes is that the price can be very volatile, very cheap today and very expensive the next. It will surprise you that tomatoes are easy to grow and can be planted in containers like a 7-gallon bucket (pig tail bucket).

You can buy seedlings from your local plant shop, or you can use the seeds from the tomatoes that you have in the fridge. Homegrown tomatoes not only taste better but last longer, you don’t even have to put them in the fridge. They can sit on the counter for what seems like an eternity before they go bad. The reason for this is that store bought tomatoes are picked green and ripen on the way to you. Homegrown tomatoes spend more time on the vine and get more nutrients from it. When you start to grow food, make sure tomatoes are in your garden.

Read more on Prevention Diet: Foods for an Enlarged Prostate

2. Corn

Starting a kitchen garden

From seed to harvest, 70 to 110 days, dependent on variety

Corn is another popular crop to be planted during this time of year, and is generally planted in the same hole with pigeon peas plants. They benefit from nitrogen that is deposited in the soil from bacteria that live in the roots of legumes. There are over 300 varieties of corn, some heirloom varieties even come in different colours like blue, purple and even black.

One of the benefits of trying one of these heirloom varieties is the fact that most are drought resistant and require less water. With the variations in our rainy season, this may prove to be a benefit. Corn is a wind pollinated plant and as a consequence, it would have to be planted close to each other in rows.

Before you go on a planting frenzy, remember if you plant all your corn seeds at once, they would all mature at the same time. So, before you plant ask yourself, do you have the equipment to store a large amount of corn or enough family and friends who you could give away what you don’t need?

Fresh corn can be stored in the freezer in airtight freezer bags and containers, or it can be left on the plant to dry. Dried corn on the cob can be stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container or else it may be attacked by weevils. Dried corn can be used to make homemade corn meal, which can then be used to make pastelles.

Read more:

Corn fritters another great idea for corn

Rich and creamy corn soup recipe

Corn bread quick and easy recipe

3. Melongene

6 to 9 months from seed to harvest

Melongene is a very popular food and is relatively easy to grow. It should be planted in direct sunlight as it does not do well in shaded areas. Fertile well-draining soil is recommended as it does not like water-logged conditions. It can survive drought conditions, like the dry season if irrigated adequately.

Standard of living

It is also possible to get a second crop from a melongene plant by cutting it back and letting it re-sprout. Just like corn, it comes in many varieties, even though many people are mostly familiar with only the purple variety. Melongene comes in colours from white, to yellow to black so try a variety when you grow food.

Read more: Melongene choka recipe

4. Pigeon Peas

From seed to harvest 130 to 160 days

Pigeon peas is part of our local culture, we even have a Pigeon Peas Festival. It is the principal ingredient in pelau. Pigeon peas as mentioned before is planted with corn. Unlike corn, the tree can deliver multiple crops over a lifespan of 3 to 7 years depending on the variety. It can be consumed either green or dried and with countless ways to prepare it, you can eat pigeon peas all year round.

Green pigeon peas can be stored in airtight containers and bags in the freezer indefinitely. Dried pigeon peas can be stored in airtight containers or bags away from light in a cupboard or pantry until you need to use it.

Dried peas may be reconstituted by soaking them in water overnight and cooking the same way you cook regular legumes. It is said that if you need the dried pigeon peas to “burst” (soften), cook it with coconut milk. It adds to the flavour as well.

Read more:

Fresh pigeon peas all year

Pigeon peas plant makes cooking easy

5. Bodi

Seed to harvest 30 to 45 days

Bodi is known by a handful of other names, like yard long bean, long-podded cowpea, Chinese long bean, bora, snake bean, or pea bean. The pod can grow as long as 36 inches in extreme cases. It is generally picked while still immature and the entire bean pod and all is edible. Seeds can be acquired from your local plant shop and a packet of seeds should yield enough vines to supply you with all the bodi you need for curries and stir fry.

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Since bodi is a vine, when planting, ensure that you have somewhere for the vine to climb, a wall, chain link fence or trellis will do. You can pick and cook the pods when they are 12 to 18 inches long. If you let it grow any longer, the pod would change to yellow or brown and the beans inside would have already turned brown.

At this point, it is virtually inedible as it would have already started to harden. The vine itself would then begin to shrivel and dry as it would have sensed that it had reached the end of its life cycle. 

6. Ochro

Seed to harvest 60 days

Ochro can be grown all year round and you will only need 2 to 3 plants to get enough ochro for household use. Just do not let the pod dry on the tree or else it would wither away. It is easy to grow, hence the reason it is on this list. There are also many varieties of ochro, green, red, purple and black. Plant a variety when you grow food.

Ochro contains Vitamins A and C, calcium, carbohydrates, protein, fibre and iron. It has become increasingly popular in the Caribbean as an aphrodisiac, for both men and women. No medical data to back up this claim could be found.

Read more Okra: Good for more than Sunday callaloo

7. Cabbage

Seed to harvest 60 to 75 days, dependent on variety

There are many varieties of cabbage. Cannonball Cabbage is more commonly known as green cabbage and is one of the most popular cabbage varieties. Then, we have Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage), Choy Sum (Chinese cabbage), Napa Cabbage (Chinese cabbage), Savoy cabbage, January King Cabbage and different varieties of Red cabbage.

As you may see, there are many types of cabbage and they each have their own flavour palette and nutritional content. You don’t even have to wait until cabbage is fully matured to eat it. A week or two after germination and you can eat the young sprouts as micro greens. These are noted to be concentrated with not only vitamins and minerals but a lot of antioxidants.

8. Lettuce

Seed to harvest 35 to 60 days

Lettuce is a true short-term crop and you can eat it from the time the seeds have started to sprout. Lettuce sprouts have been touted as a superfood. What you can do is germinate the entire pack of lettuce seeds and start eating from the time they start sprouting. Culling the excess, and eating as the lot grows to maturity. By the time a month has passed, you should be down to about 6 to 12 fully grown heads of lettuce. At this point, you can start the process all over, or if space allows, you could have a second batch already on the way.

9. Patchoi

Seed to harvest 35 to 60 days

Patchoi or Pak Choi is another short-term crop that is in some places referred to as “Chinese Cabbage”. Just like some of the crops highlighted above, there may be different varieties of Patchoi. It is an acquired taste and can be bitter at times, but goes well in a stir fry or as a side dish. It is an excellent source of nutrients and dietary fibre.

Read more: How to grow Patchoi

10. Pumpkin/Squash

Grow food. Squash.

Pumpkin is very easy to grow and if the conditions are right, one pumpkin could yield enough to last you and entire month. One way to get the seeds needed to start your very own pumpkin patch is by buying a piece of uncleaned pumpkin.

Grow food. Pumpkin flower.
Pumpikin flower

If you buy pumpkin in the supermarket, it is already cut, cleaned, sometimes already cubed and hermetically sealed in plastic film and polystyrene. To get perfect pumpkin, go to your neighborhood green grocer, vegetable stall or farmer’s market, look for the perfect pumpkin because that is what you would like your home-grown pumpkin to look like. Now, you have 2 choices, either buy the entire pumpkin or buy a piece. When buying from these smaller establishments, it costs less because it is cleaned and packed less. You should get a piece of pumpkin with seeds and all.

Grow food. Pumpkin plant.
Pumpkin plant

When you get home, scrape off the seeds and place the pumpkin in the refrigerator. Rinse off the pulp from the seeds and dry them if you plan to use them later. If you intend to plant them right away, you could do so. There is no special planting technique, at least from my experience. I have been lucky so far that I had just tossed the seeds in the yard and then I got pumpkin.

One thing before you go planting or tossing pumpkin or squash seeds, ensure that there is sufficient room for it to grow. Pumpkin and squash grow on vines that can get very long depending on the variety. Remember, the larger the variety of pumpkin or squash the longer you would have to wait.

Read more:

Pumpkin soup recipe easy to make

Pumpkin fights against cancer, diabetes and more

A STEP BY STEP PROCESS TO HOME GARDENING by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries

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