Callaloo, from LorraineGardens

In my latest book, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs, I included interviews and profiles of people around the world who are growing unusual edible plants. Some do so professionally, some are keen amateurs, but they all share their passion for gardening and growing their own veggies, and they are all growing some interesting things!

Since the book was published I have found more people with the same passion, one of whom is Lorraine from LorraineGardens. Lorraine is based in the West Midlands in the UK, and her blog is an eclectic mix of a love of gardening, foraging, healthy cooking and Caribbean flavours, all from the garden and local landscape.

Lorraine, what unusual edibles do you grow?
I don’t have a greenhouse, so I grow what I know will work outdoors either in the border, in pots on the patio or on the kitchen windowsill.

My key staples are:

  • Callaloo (Amaranthus species)
  • Scallion, a type of Jamaican green onion that is great for curries
  • Pumpkin – this year I’m trying Calabaza a Jamaican type variety which has firm flesh and perfect for soup
  • Red peas, a variety called Starkey’s Red Peas, which I’ll be using for to make Rice and Peas – that most traditional of Caribbean dishes.
  • Finally, I’m having a go at corn this year. It’s a bit of an experiment as it requires quite a bit of space and pollination came be a bit hit and miss if left to it naturally, but as this is a key Caribbean crop I’m giving it a go 🙂

Flowering Red Peas, from LorraineGardens

How and why did your interest in unusual edibles develop?
I’m of Jamaica descent, so I guess a lot of the food I’m interested in naturally whilst everyday and completed standard for me and others of a similar background may be considered usual for many in the UK. However, for me, this is essentially the taste of home. I love growing these naturally to add to my cooking pot!

How do you track down your unusual seeds and plants?
Seeds are pretty easy to come by. I’m a huge fan of Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library. They are a great organisation that promote and safeguard heritage seeds. The seeds I have used for the callaloo and the red peas are both from there the collection of which was part of their Sowing New Seeds project. These seeds have been grown and harvested since the fifties by Caribbeans who journeyed to the UK.

Do you have a favourite (commercial) supplier?
I have to say, I like to keep things local. However, Caribbean Garden on Etsy is a good source for things like Caribbean Chocolate Scotch Bonnet (the pepper used for jerk seasoning).

Scallion with cello leaves, from LorraineGardens

Do you have books and/or websites (or other sources of information) that you recommend?
I was very influenced by Alys Fowler’s Edible Garden book, which is a great read in how to lay out an edible garden. However, to really get to grips with Caribbean veg there’s no better thing than to spend time with Caribbean allotment holders and gardening fathers, aunts, uncles and friends who hold hundreds of years of knowledge passed down through generations in their heads. You learn so much from people doing this year in year out!

Do you have a favourite garden to visit that grows a lot of unusual edibles?
Allotments. Always allotments 🙂

What are your hints and tips for sourcing unusual edibles?
Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library. Buying from them is more than just buying seeds. It’s preserving heritage strains and supporting organic growing.

[Now is a good time to sign up for the Heritage Seed Library, as they send their annual catalogue out in December 🙂 – Emma]

To read more about the people who are choosing to step off the beaten path and grow unusual veg (or get started yourself!) order Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs from Amazon.