Celeriac (turnip rooted celery)
This stuff has gorgeous great swollen roots and it’s really delicious. I’m not sure why it isn’t grown more — it’s more cold tolerant even than celery. Sow spring to mid-summer and eat in winter when roots are sweetest. In sub-tropical areas with coolish winters sow in autumn. Don’t bother in hot or arid areas.
Yes, this is related to the ornamental flower — and it does look very tall and pretty in the garden and goes to seed happily so you keep having new plants coming up. It’s also drought, heat and frost hardy, and while it’s sweeter and more tender- leafed if you cosset it, water it and feed it well, you still get tucker from it if you don’t.
We eat young amaranth leaves in salads; the older ones can be cooked but don’t bother unless you’re extraordinarily hungry. The seed can be soaked overnight then stewed to make a porridge or ground into flour — but don’t expect it to rise like bread flour, because it doesn’t.
There are specialised varieties that give you either better leaves, flowers or seeds, but I just use the leaf amaranth for everything.
Mitsuba (Japanese parsley)
This is a must-have plant for anyone who lives mostly from their vegie garden. Once you’ve grown it once and let it go to seed you always have it poking its head up around the garden.
Mitsuba is an annual, much like a coarse type of parsley. Chop like parsley, stir fry, add to soups, for example, a good all-purpose, very hardy green.
If you can get hold of loquat seeds this year, plant them, or even be extravagant and buy a tree. Loquats are one of the earliest fruits, in early to late spring depending on your climate. They lost favour for a while because they are supposed to attract fruit fly, but the birds should eat any that you don’t before fruit fly can be a problem.
Loquats are possibly the easiest fruit in the world to grow. They need no pruning, feeding or tending. Loquats don’t travel well or store, so you never see them in shops. Older varieties were all seed and little fruit. Modern varieties are fatter and juicier, and a good ripe loquat is a treat.
Loquats are evergreen, frost, heat and drought tolerant. They’ll grow from Hobart to well north of Brisbane, preferring a rich soil but still growing in almost any conditions. They flower fragrantly in early winter and grow easily from seed but may take 15 years to bear fruit but a grafted variety should fruit in four years.